Scaled-up inclusive agenda, a $5 trillion economy among the top priorities
He emphasized on creating opportunities for the youth and setting up infrastructure for the 21st century
New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday set the tone for what Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s team will strive to accomplish in the next five years—make life easier for the common man, especially in rural areas, with a scaled-up inclusive agenda, and deliver economic policies that will double the size of the economy to $5 trillion.
A corruption-free rule, an uncompromising stance on issues of national security and developing insurgency-racked Jammu and Kashmir also figure on top of the agenda. On the economic front, structural reforms in the farm sector and new policies on industry and retail trade are in the offing.
The next five years of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in office will be one of continuity, with a greater emphasis on inclusion—whether it is providing access to drinking water to every household or making it easier for small firms to access credit without collateral, the President’s speech indicated. Modi, in spite of a crisis in the agrarian economy and concerns of lack of quality jobs in the country during the run-up to the national polls, had established an emotional connect with the people to win a massive mandate for his second term in office on the back of his strong personal charisma and commitment to inclusive growth.
Kovind said people had for long waited for the basic amenities, but the conditions were changing. “My government wants to make the people conscious, capable, well-provided (for) and unfettered to such an extent that they do not feel the ‘burden, force, or absence’ of the government in their daily life."
Empowering every person in the country is the main goal of the government, he added.
Political observers said the NDA government’s blueprint for the next five years favouring inclusive growth was a reflection of the transformation of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s own constituency to encompass rural and urban supporters beyond caste and religious lines. “Prime Minister Modi has shown the guts to change the political narrative rising above political parties’ usual considerations of caste and religion. Today, people feel that the prime minister cares for us. This is a paradigm shift," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst.
The President outlined the immediate steps his government was taking to ease the pain from a slowdown in farm output— ₹90,000 crore of annual income support for farmers announced in the interim budget in February—besides the longer-term measures that are in the pipeline. These include a ₹25 trillion investment in farm productivity. Modi had announced the creation of a task force of chief ministers last week to draw up a plan for structural reforms in the agriculture sector.
“Only on the foundation of a strong rural economy, it is possible to build a strong national economy. Our farmers are the pillars of rural economy," said Kovind, adding that the Union government was helping states develop this sector.
Kovind, in his address to the joint session of Parliament, said that while the second term of the NDA government goes ahead with its reform efforts and steps up the attack on black money, there will be a “zero tolerance policy" on corruption.
The steps contemplated for inclusive growth include accident insurance cover of ₹10 lakh for GST-registered traders, banking services at the doorstep, loans of up to ₹50 lakh without collateral for entrepreneurs and construction of 20 million new village homes. Steps to make India a global manufacturing hub and simplification of tax laws are part of the economic reforms agenda.
The President said the flagship Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, which offers collateral-free loans of up to ₹10 lakh to non-farm small and micro enterprises launched in 2015, will now be expanded to cover 300 million people.
Talking about financial inclusion, the President said that after the successful implementation of the Jan-Dhan Yojana that provides banking services to all households, the government is working toward making banking services available in every village.
Transparent institutions and infrastructure for the 21st century are also priorities for the government.