Text of President Pratibha Patil’s Parliament speech

The text of the address by President Pratibha Patil to Parliament on Thursday.

Written by Press Trust Of India | New Delhi | Published: February 12, 2009 12:43:54 pm

Following is the text of the address by President Pratibha Patil to Parliament on Thursday.

Honourable Members,

I convey my good wishes to you and to all our people. On behalf of all of us,let me greet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. We are happy that he is recuperating fast. We wish him a speedy recovery for continuing with his onerous responsibilities. I also convey my special greetings to members of our security forces keeping vigil to protect us.

We have been through an eventful year–a year that challenged our open society and our open economy. A year that tested by fire the principles that our country has always lived by-communal amity,tolerance,compassion,justice and peaceful coexistence.

Looking back,we see hope. We have not only withstood the challenges but also emerged stronger. The spirit of ordinary people rising together as one overcame the challenge to our nation from terrorist violence. The calibrated and prudent economic reform pursued by our government is helping us to weather the extreme adversities of the global economic meltdown.

In both these disruptive events,it was our abiding commitment to the principles of democracy that has been our strength. Our economic reform was catalysed through our deliberative democracy. Challenges to our nationhood were again thwarted by our functioning democracy.

The record turnout of people in Jammu and Kashmir to cast their votes in the elections to the State Assembly in a peaceful atmosphere was a resounding affirmation of their faith in democracy and a rejection of terrorism and violence.

The elections have brought new hope to the people of that state. Our functioning democracy has set for my government exacting standards to judge its performance. People measure government not on the basis of what it says but on the basis of what it does. In a democracy,government is measured on a simple maxim aam admi ko kya mila? When democratic,secular,progressive forces came together in this government it sought to make itself accountable to the people through a National Common Minimum Programme.

Today,after close to five years in office,my government believes that it has acted on nearly all the commitments made to the people through the National Common Minimum Programme.

The commitment to inclusive development articulated in the NCMP has been translated into laws,policies and programmes by my government. A right to work for people in our rural areas was guaranteed through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act,2008,will facilitate provision of social security to 43 crore unorganized workers. Through the Act on Right to Information,government has been held accountable to citizens for governance.

Through the Scheduled Tribes and Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act,historical injustice to tribes and traditional forest dwellers was corrected to confer land rights. A Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act ensured reservation to students of Other Backward Classes in educational institutions.

A Bill on Right to Education,a Bill for amending the Land Acquisition Act along with a new Bill for Rehabilitation and Resettlement and a Constitution Amendment Bill providing for Reservation for Women in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures stand introduced in Parliament.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,which now covers the whole country,is the first such intervention anywhere in the world where a country has guaranteed employment for a specified number of days to any category of citizens.

In 2007-08,nearly 3.4 crore rural households were provided employment under this programme. Out of those provided work,55 per cent belonged to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and 49 per cent was women.

Over 46 lakh works have been taken up under the programme so far of which 19 lakh have been completed. Water conservation,irrigation and land development account for 83 per cent of the work in 2008-09 contributing to agricultural productivity. It has consolidated grassroots democracy working through panchayats.

Payments under the programme are being effected through post offices and bank accounts which now hold nearly 6 crore account holders making it a remarkable case of financial inclusion. This programme is keenly watched all over the world as an Indian innovation in combining the twin objectives of providing for consumption expenditure of the poor as well as improving rural productivity and income.

Results of the programme in the last three years show increased agricultural productivity,reduced migration and increase in wage rates for agricultural employment across the country. As India is entering the sixtieth year of the republic,the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is moving India towards a Republic of Work.

Along with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,the social security framework has been further strengthened through introduction of the Aam Admi Bima Yojana,the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and the revamped Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme now extended to all old persons below the poverty line.

My government promised a new deal to rural India through the revival of agriculture on which nearly 60 per cent of our population is dependent. Through carefully crafted policies in the agricultural sector we have been able to revive our agricultural economy from the trap of low investment,low productivity and rural indebtedness.

My government increased by three-fold the credit to agriculture from Rs 87,000 crore in 2003-2004 to Rs 243,000 crore in 2007-2008. Short-term agricultural credit was made affordable at 7 per cent through an interest subvention.

My government waived around Rs 65,000 crore of outstanding credit owed by 3.7 crore farmers who had fallen on bad times to revive their credit cycle. Remunerative prices were given to farmers through unprecedented enhancements in the Minimum Support Price which was raised from Rs 630 in 2004 to Rs 1080 per quintal in 2009 for wheat and from Rs 550 per quintal in 2004 to Rs 900 including bonus in 2008 for paddy.

The efforts to create a unified national market through changes in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Acts bore fruit. Investment in agriculture has increased from 10.2 per cent to 12.5 per cent of the GDP.

Agricultural diversification was promoted through the National Horticulture Mission and a National Rainfed Area Authority was set up to provide technical assistance to increase production from drylands.

A Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana with an allocation of Rs 25,000 crore and a National Food Security Mission with an outlay of Rs 4,822 crore have been put in place to increase production and crop productivity. Special attention was given to distress-affected districts through a special package.

A special package was also extended to farmers growing plantation crops. My government ensured that the interests of our farmers were fully protected in the protracted negotiations in the World Trade Organisation.

Fertiliser is a very crucial input for our farmers. Owing to the unprecedented increase in prices of crude oil and chemicals in the international market,the prices of fertilisers had increased manifold. My Government,however,did not increase the prices of fertilisers even once in the last five years.

At the same time steps are being taken to secure supply of fertilisers from abroad at reasonable prices through investment by Indian companies in fertiliser units abroad. A special purpose vehicle called Urvarak Videsh Ltd. has been incorporated for this purpose.

As a result of concerted efforts,this year the agriculture sector has grown by 4.5 per cent. Production has increased in almost all crops between 2004 and 2008.

In the case of wheat it has gone up from 68 million tonnes in 2004 to 78 million tonnes in 2008,in the case of paddy from 83 million tonnes in 2004 to 96 million tonnes in 2008,in the case of cotton from 164 lakh bales in 2004 to 258 lakh bales in 2008 and in the case of soyabean from 68 lakh tonnes in 2004 to 99 lakh tonnes in 2008.

Through the farmer-first policy,the country has been able to achieve record production of food grains of 230.67 million tonnes in 2007-08 and ensure food security.

The gaps in rural infrastructure that denied opportunities for farm and rural non-farm employment have been systematically addressed through Bharat Nirman,our time-bound plan for rural infrastructure. Under Bharat Nirman,5.6 million hectares have been brought under irrigation.

The Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme has been assisting states to complete ongoing irrigation projects. My government initiated a major programme for Repair,Renovation and Restoration of water bodies to augment community level water security. At the same time,14 major irrigation projects have been taken up as National Projects and are being assisted with 90 per cent grant from Government.

Through consensus created with states,the river interlinking projects like Ken-Betwa,Par-Tapi- Narmada and Daman Ganga-Pinjal have moved ahead.

Under the Rural Roads programme,work on 25,000 villages has been completed to provide market connectivity to farmers. Over 50,000 villages have been provided electricity under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana. Today 98 per cent of our villages have telephone connectivity and mobile telephony is spreading fast in rural India.

Under the Indira Awas Yojana,component of Bharat Nirman,60 lakh houses were to be built and this target has already been achieved with another 16 lakh under construction. Rural water supply coverage and funding under the programme have considerably increased. Bharat Nirman has served to integrate rural India more centrally into the growth process and unlock its potential.

Lack of adequate health care has been a major cause for rural poverty. My government initiated a National Rural Health Mission,which is now radically transforming health care provisioning in our villages.

A major network of over 6 lakh Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs has been created to attend to basic health needs of rural households. Rural public health infrastructure of Sub Health Centres,Primary Health Centres and Community Health Centres has also been considerably strengthened.

The success of these efforts is evident from the fact that institutional delivery has gone up seven-fold since the mission commenced thereby reducing maternal and infant mortality. There is a still a long way to go.

The campaign for total sanitation in rural areas,vitally important for health has seen unprecedented success increasing coverage from 27 per cent in 2004 to 60 per cent by January this year. The sanitation campaign received a boost through the Nirmal Gram Puraskar which has been awarded to 17,969 panchayats and Sikkim has become the first Nirmal State in the country.

Separate departments have been set up for Medical Research and Aids Control and a Food Safety and Standards Authority has become functional to ensure consumer protection.

Government is considering setting up a National Urban Health Mission to focus on the health needs of the urban poor commencing with selected major cities.

Drugs and pharmaceuticals play an important role in healthcare. My Government has set up an independent Department of Pharmaceuticals,and has taken effective steps to keep the prices of essential and life saving drugs in check. Public Sector Undertakings which had been set up to manufacture critical bulk drug formulations and antibiotics have been revived.

In order to promote education and research in pharmaceuticals,the Government has set up National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research at six places.

The gaps in educational facilities in elementary education stand substantially met through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. There is near universal coverage of primary education.

The focus is now on enhancing quality. Enrolment has increased from 15.6 crore children in 2004 to 18.5 crore in 2008. The number of children out of school has come down from 320 lakh in 2004 to 76 lakh in 2008. The Mid-Day Meal programme implemented by my government as an incentive for retention of children in schools covered 15 crore children last year.

Over 8 lakh teachers have been recruited with the support provided to states through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. To meet the demand generated through near universalization of elementary education,my Government has announced an equally ambitious programme for secondary education through the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and 6,000 model schools as exemplars of quality are also being set up throughout the country.

Government has been focusing on empowering women through micro finance. Under the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana,self-employment of women is promoted. About 31 lakh self help groups have been set up of whose membership,two-thirds are women.

My government is considering the recommendations of the Committee of Governors for speedy socio-economic development and empowerment of women.

Infants and children below six need special attention. Universalisation of Integrated Child Development Services programme has been given a very high priority and nearly eleven lakh habitations have now been covered.

To promote girls’ education around 11 lakh scholarships would be given each year. Under the Scheme for Early Attraction of Talents for Science,each year 2 lakh scholarships will be given. Another scholarship scheme for College and University students will benefit 82,000 students every year.

Over a crore of students will now begin to get scholarships each year through all these schemes. For the first time,reservation in educational institutions was extended to Other Backward Classes by my government.

To further strengthen social and economic inclusion of minority communities,my government set up the new Ministry of Minority Affairs and announced the Prime Minister’s new 15-point programme for the Welfare of Minorities.

The Sachar Committee set up by government examined the status of Muslims in a comprehensive manner to enable the government to respond to relative gaps in development attainments.

Through the initiatives of government,close to 8 lakh students belonging to minority communities would be provided scholarships this year itself. The coverage will go up to nearly 40 lakh students over the next four years. More than 10,000 new Primary Schools and Upper Primary schools have been constructed in areas that have substantial minority concentration. Entrepreneurs from minority communities have been provided assistance under the Swarna Jayanti Grameen Swarozgar Yojana. Under Indira Awas Yojana,2.39 lakh houses have been allotted to minorities during 2008-09.

The flow of credit to minorities has increased sharply and is expected to go up to 15 per cent. Public Sector Banks have opened more than 500 bank branches in minority concentration districts. With a view to bridging the development gaps in socio-economically backwards districts with minority concentration a Multi-Sectoral Development Programme has been launched to cover 90 minority concentration districts of the country. The representation of minorities in public services,para-military forces,Railways,Banks and financial institutions has considerably improved in the last two years.

Needs of the disabled in society should become a central concern for any caring government. Mindful of the challenges faced by this category of people,my government has framed a national policy for persons with disabilities which is now being implemented.

In addition to special schools for the disabled,schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan will provide for addressing the special needs of disabled children. Employment provision in public services to the disabled was made applicable to All India Services.

When my government came into office the plight of weavers was alarming in many parts of the country. A comprehensive package consisting of provision of technology,credit and marketing support together with health insurance was extended to weavers. Cluster-based development plans are in operation.

Under the Textile Upgradation Fund Scheme textile industry has been modernized to benefit from the post-quota regime.

Rapid growth in industry,and services,is essential to provide avenues for employment required by our youth. My government has put in place appropriate policies which have promoted growth and employment opportunities.

In particular,my government enacted the Special Economic Zones Act,which has already facilitated incremental investment of Rs 90,000 crore,and generated direct and indirect employment for over 7 lakh persons. My Government has constituted the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC) for developing an industrial corridor along the Dedicated Railway Freight Corridor between Delhi and Mumbai.

The proposed industrial corridor will pass through six States of the country and infrastructure facilities will be developed at identified locations in consultation with the States concerned.

My Government has come out with a new policy for promoting investment in Petroleum,Chemicals and Petrochemicals sector through development of Investment Regions. Significant progress has been made towards setting up Petroleum,Chemicals and Petrochemical Investment Regions in Andhra Pradesh,Gujarat and West Bengal. India is a nation of young people. India’s demographic dividends can be realized only if the country invests in developing skills to make our youth employable.

Through a planned investment in skill development the country holds the potential to account for a fourth of the global work force by 2022 when India will mark 75 years of its independence. My government has made skill development a major national priority and has put in place coordinated action for skill development through a National Council for Skill Development chaired by the Prime Minister.

A National Skill Development Coordination Board to synergize public and private streams for skill development and a National Skill Development Corporation to promote private sector led action have also been set up.

India realizing its potential in the new knowledge economy is critically dependent on building institutions that nurture creativity and innovation. It is a tribute to the Nehruvian vision that the Indian Institutes of Technology set up in the early decades of our independence led to India’s emergence as global power in software development by the end of the century.

My government has undertaken a second wave of investment in higher education through the creation of 8 new Indian Institutes of Technology,7 Indian Institutes of Management,5 Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research,and 15 new Central Universities. The core of the Eleventh Plan is knowledge-investment with allocations growing four-fold.

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