NEW DELHI :
President Ram Nath Kovind’s speech to the joint session of Parliament carried the leitmotif of ‘performance’, with attempts to blunt the criticism against the National Democratic Alliance government on vexed issues such as job creation.
Kovind emphasized the idea of a ‘new India’, with access to basic amenities in his address ahead of the last budget session of the 16th Lok Sabha and in the run-up to the general elections slated for later this year.
This assumes significance given the raging controversy over the yet-to-be-released unemployment data by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). The opposition Congress cited NSSO’s periodic labour force survey and alleged that unemployment is at its highest in 45 years.
The effort of the government is to increase the income of the hard-working middle class, provide them investment opportunities, and find a long-term solution for the problems faced by farmers, Kovind said, in an indication of the sweeteners likely to be announced on Friday by finance minister Piyush Goyal.
The President set the tone of the budget session of Parliament, which commenced on Thursday, by saying that his government has been focusing on pro-people measures that make public services accessible to all and on reforming the system to ensure social and financial equity.
Kovind outlined the progress made in flagship programmes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana aimed at providing free cooking gas connections and the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or the Saubhagya scheme, aimed at household electrification. Ujjwala is one of the Modi administration’s flagship pro-poor schemes and is considered the equivalent of the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime’s rural jobs scheme. The plan is to provide free cooking gas connections to 80 million poor families under the scheme.
The President also spoke about improving access to finance for small entrepreneurs and making toilets in rural areas, in a speech of more than 8,200 words.
“By decreasing the burden of income tax and keeping the rate of inflation under control, the government has created new opportunities for expanding the savings of the middle class. The effort of the government is to increase the income of the hard-working middle class and provide avenues for investment to further augment their incomes," he said.