In his address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on the eve of the Union Budget, President Pranab Mukherjee referred to the government’s demonetization decision to fight black money and corruption and the surgical strikes across the LoC as bold decisions and favoured a constructive debate on simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assemblies and funding of polls to eradicate money power.
“Frequent elections put development programmes on hold, disrupt normal public life and impact essential services and burden human resource with prolonged periods of election duty,” said the President, adding the Government would welcome any decision taken by the Election Commission in this regard after consultation.
In his marathon speech, which is essentially the Government’s narrative on what it did during the year and what it plans to do in the new financial year, the President spoke at length on various schemes of the Modi government painting a promising picture of the country in the coming future.
Referring to the surgical strikes, Mukerjee said the government had taken decisive steps to give a fitting reply to the repeated incursions on India’s territorial sovereignty.
“On September 29, 2016, our defence forces successfully conducted surgical strikes at several launch pads along the Line of Control to prevent infiltration by terrorists. We are proud of the exemplary courage and valour displayed by our defence personnel and owe a debt of gratitude to them,” he said.
Defending the government’s demonetization decision, he said the resilience and forbearance demonstrated by citizens, especially the poor, in the fight against black money and corruption has been remarkable. To combat evils of black money, corruption, counterfeit currency and terror financing, Mukherjee said the government took the decision on November 8 to demonetize old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes.
On the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the President said the Government was thankful to the GST Council for working to resolve outstanding issues.
He also said India has been widely acclaimed as the bright spot in the global economy at a time when global growth has been slow. The rate of inflation, balance of payments, current account deficit and fiscal deficit have been consistently reduced since 2014.
Mukherjee said foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign exchange reserves have reached record levels.