President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday lauded the government’s performance in the last three years, especially during the corona pandemic.
Addressing the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament at the start of the Budget session, the President said: “We are in the third year of the pandemic caused by a coronavirus. In these years, the people have displayed profound faith in the democratic values, discipline and sense of responsibility.”
Hailing the government’s efforts during the pandemic, he said that the example of India’s capability in the fight against Covid-19 is evident in the ongoing Covid vaccination programme. India has surpassed the record of administering more than 150 crore vaccine doses in less than a year.
While more than 90 per cent adult citizens of the country have received the first dose of the vaccine, more than 70 per cent have been administered both doses, President Kovind said. The government is also reaching out to the rest of the population through the “Har Ghar Dastak” campaign. Adolescents in the age group of 15 to 18 years have also been included in the vaccination programme from this month.
Highlighting the government’s efforts for the poor during the pandemic, President Kovind said that the government is providing free ration to every poor household every month under the “Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.” This is the world’s largest food distribution programme with an outlay of Rs two lakh sixty thousand crore reaching out to 80 crore beneficiaries for 19 months and now this scheme has been extended till March 2022.
More than two crore pucca houses have been provided to the poor under the “Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana” as a result of the efforts made in the last few years. Under the “Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Gramin,” 1 crore 17 lakh houses have been approved at a cost of about Rupees one and a half lakh crore in the last three years.
Launched with the aim of “Har Ghar Jal”, the Jal Jeevan Mission has brought about a huge difference in the lives of the people and nearly six crore rural households have been provided tap water connections despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic, he said on empowering the poor and enhancing their dignity.
To empower the farmers and the rural economy of the country, despite the pandemic, the government made record procurement to match the record production. The farmers produced more than 30 crore tonnes of foodgrains and 33 crore tonnes of horticulture produce in 2020-21.
It procured 433 lakh metric tonnes of wheat during the Rabi season benefitting about 50 lakh farmers. A record quantity of about 900 lakh metric tonnes of paddy was procured during the Kharif season, benefiting 1 crore 30 lakh farmers.
The government has endeavoured to open new avenues of prosperity for the farmers by launching “Kisan Rail Seva,” the President said. During the Corona period, Indian Railways operated over 1,900 Kisan Rails on more than 150 routes to transport perishable food items like vegetables, fruits and milk, thereby transporting about 6 lakh metric tonnes of agricultural produce. Under the “PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi,” Rupees 1 lakh 80 thousand crore have been provided to more than 11 crore farmer families.
Giving an impetus to the rural economy, the banks have extended financial help to the tune of Rs 65,000 crore to more than 28 lakh Self-Help Groups in 2021-22. This is four times the amount extended in 2014-15. The government has also provided training to thousands of members of the women’s self-help groups and made them partners as “Banking Sakhi”.
“A provision has also been made for the Gender Inclusion Fund in the National Education Policy to promote learning capability among our daughters. It is a matter of happiness that all the existing 33 Sainik Schools have started admitting girl students,” Kovind said, adding that the government has also approved the admission of women cadets in the National Defence Academy.
The first batch of women cadets will enter the NDA in June 2022. With the policy decisions and encouragement of my government, the number of women personnel in various police forces has more than doubled as compared to 2014.
On implementation of a new National Education Policy across the country, Kovind said it was part of the government’s endeavour to give shape to the resolve and potential of “Atmanirbhar Bharat.” Local languages are also being promoted through the National Education Policy.
Emphasis is being laid on conducting important entrance examinations for undergraduate courses in Indian languages as well. This year, 19 engineering colleges in 10 states will start teaching in six Indian languages, he added.
“We saw the capability of India’s youth power in the Tokyo Olympics. Giving its best-ever performance, India won seven medals. In Tokyo Paralympics too, India won 19 medals and set a record.”
With a firm belief in global brotherhood, India extended a helping hand when people in neighbouring Afghanistan were in distress due to political instability and launched ‘Operation Devi Shakti’ to airlift the Indian citizens in Afghanistan and minorities there in danger, including Afghan Hindus, Sikhs and others.
Even in such situations, “our government respected the religious emotions of our Sikh community” and successfully brought back the two copies of holy Guru Granth Sahib. Now India has been supplying corona vaccines, life-saving drugs and grains to Afghanistan on a humanitarian basis, the President stated.
Noting that India has again emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, he said that the GST collection has consistently remained above Rupees one lakh crore during the last several months. An inflow of 48 billion dollars in the first seven months of the current financial year is a testimony to the belief the global investor community has in India’s growth story. India’s foreign exchange reserves today exceed 630 billion dollars. From April to December 2021, goods exports stood at 300 billion dollars or more than Rupees 22 lakh crore, which is one-and-a-half times more than the corresponding period of 2020.
In order to protect MSMEs from crisis and ensure adequate availability of credit during the Corona period, the government started a scheme for guaranteed Collateral Free Loans of Rupees 3 lakh crore. It is evident from the recent studies that this scheme has given a fresh lease of life to 13 lakh 50 thousand MSME units and also secured 1 crore 50 lakh jobs.
In June 2021, the government enhanced credit guarantee from Rs 3 lakh crore to Rs 4.5 lakh crore, Kovind stated.
As against 90,000 kilometres of national highways in March 2014, today India has more than 1 lakh 40 thousand kilometres of national highways. Under the Bharatmala Project, construction of more than 20,000 kilometres of highways is in progress with an outlay of about Rs 6 lakh crore, including 23 green expressways and green-field corridors.
The government is committed to the sustainable development of all the states of the North East – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. In these states, basic amenities and economic opportunities are being developed at every level. Rail and air connectivity are no longer a dream for the people of the North East, they are now able to experience them in reality.
A new airport is being set up at Hollongi, Itanagar. A modern new terminal has recently been opened at the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Tripura. This development of North East will prove to be a golden chapter in India’s growth story. Efforts of the government to establish peace in the North East have attained historic success. Just a few months ago, a settlement was reached between the Central Government, the state government of Assam and the Karbi groups to end the decades-old conflict in Karbi Anglong.