President’s address: Kovind outlines roadmap for NDA 2.0

Outlining the agenda for PM Narendra Modi and the NDA government, President Ram Nath Kovind laid down the roadmap for NRC implementation, doubling farmer’s income, and passing the triple talaq bill in his customary address to the joint sitting of Parliament.

Addressing lawmakers of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, he applauded the BJP for its landslide win last month, thanking India for re-electing the Modi government.

“In this Lok Sabha elections, more than 61 crore citizens cast their vote and set a new record,” he declared, adding that the mandate is a green light for continuing India’s development under the tenets of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”.

Calling for muscular nationalism, the President hailed February’s surgical strikes against Pakistan as necessary. He concluded his speech stressing the importance of BJP’s proposed One Nation, One Election, calling it “development-oriented” and “the need of the hour” for “the country [to] grow faster”.

Security and economy

Expositing NDA government’s objectives for “New India,” President Kovind in his address at the Central Hall of Parliament on Friday said, “My government is moving ahead to create a strong, secure, and inclusive India.”

With national security and economic development as the primary objectives, the government plans to make India a $5-trillion economy by 2024 and implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on a priority basis in areas where infiltration is rife, Kovind said.

“Foreigners entering India illegally are a great threat to internal security. My government has decided to implement the process of the NRC on a priority basis in areas facing the infiltration problem,” the President said of the contentious debate, which disenfranchised 40 lakh of Assam’s population last year.

The Centre is working towards modernisation of the Indian Army through the manufacturing of arms under ‘Make in India’, he added.

Speaking of the cross-border tensions in Kashmir, Kovind assured that the government will keep the region safe. According to Kovind, India has already demonstrated its intentions and capabilities by first carrying out surgical strikes and then the air strikes on terrorist targets across the border, following the Pulwama attack.

“In the future also, all possible steps will be taken to protect ourselves,” he said, adding words of praise for Mission Shakti.

“The successful test of Mission Shakti has added a new dimension to India’s space technology capability and the country’s security preparedness,” President Kovind said of DRDO’s first-ever successful anti-satellite mission, which shot down a low-orbiting satellite, drawing international scrutiny and flak from NASA over space debris.

Speaking of the economic progress and more to come, the President claimed, “India is now on the way to becoming the world’s 5th largest economy in terms of GDP. In ‘Ease of Doing Business’, India has leap-frogged 65 positions during the last five years, from a ranking of 142 in 2014 to 77.”

“Now, our goal is to be among the top 50 countries of the world. With the implementation of GST, the concept of ‘One country, One tax, One market’ has become a reality. Efforts to further simplify the GST will continue,” he added.

Inclusive India

Development of farmers and empowerment of women also featured on Modi government’s agenda, he said. The government, he added, will champion the passage of Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, which will effectively criminalise triple talaq and nikah halala.

He said the removal of these draconian practices is vital for equal rights of women. Referring to the large opposition to the Ordinance, Kovind said, “I would request all members to extend their support to these efforts to make the lives of our sisters and daughters more dignified and improved.” 

Also read: Triple talaq back on table: Recap of arguments for and against it 

For farmers, Kovind announced ahead of the Parliamentary Budget Session that the PM-KISAN scheme would be extended to all of them. Under the revamped policy, the government will double farmers’ income by 2022 by increasing the MSP and introducing 100% FDI in food processing industries among other initiatives. This follows in the wake of furious agitations farmers and activists led to demand complete loan waivers and higher MSPs.

He also noted that the government would continue to conserve forests, wildlife, and the environment. The establishment of the Jal Shakti Ministry is the right step to solving the nation’s burgeoning water crisis, Kovind said.

The President claimed the government is looking to use more space technology to promote human welfare, by providing an early warning of impending disasters, identifying the location of natural resources, providing signals to various means of communication, and ensuring national security.

Pro-enterpreneurial strategies

Furthermore, a total sum of $25 trillion will be invested in the coming years on rural development and to increase agricultural productivity, especially in those designated as “aspirational districts”.

Collateral-free loans up to Rs 50 lakh will be introduced for non-farm small and micro enterprises under the PM-Mudra Yojana to develop self-employment, to cover 30 crore people (as opposed to 19 crore earlier), Kovind announced. The goal is to 50,000 start-ups by 2024.

The government will also create over 2 crore additional seats in higher education institutions by 2024, he outlined. To strengthen this effort, there is a proposal to establish a ‘National Research Foundation‘.

Also read: New draft education policy is out. Here’s what it proposes

What it misses

Criticised for being hollow, lacking a personal touch, and a regurgitation of BJP’s 2019 manifesto and PM Modi’s victory speech, the President asked MPs to work in a way that inspires people’s faith in the democratic way of governance. During his address, DMK lawmakers raised the Cauvery issue, asking the President to address the urgent need for its resolution.

Among other issues that Kovind overlooked in his address were the impending hearing of the eviction of a million forest-dwellers, women’s security (except demanding tighter punishment for it), and growing Islamophobia.

He also barely touched upon public healthcare delivery system, which has been deteriorating as leprosy returns and AES outbreaks kill hundreds, except issuing an assurance that “1.5 wellness centres are likely to function by 2022″.

Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius

Narendra ModiNDA governmentram nath kovind