President Pranab Mukherjee today termed the Budget Session of Parliament as ‘historic’ as it heralded the advancement of the budget cycle as also the merger of the Rail Budget and the General Budget.
"This is a historic session heralding the advancement of the budget cycle and merger of the railway budget with general budget for the first time in independent India," Mukherjee said while addressing a joint sitting of members of both the Houses ahead of the advanced presentation of the Budget this year.
"We gather once again to celebrate democracy and cherished value and culture that has prospered through out the long history of our country. A culture that guides my government towards 'sabka saath sabka vikas'," he added, presenting the government's narrative on what it had done during the year and what it plans to do in the new financial year, .
President Mukherjee touched upon a host of issues during his address that included demonetisation, welfare schemes, governance and security. The President lauded the valour of the defence forces for successfully conducting surgical strikes last year across Line of Control (LoC) in which several terror launch pads of militants were destroyed.
“India gave a befitting reply to repeated incursions by conducting successful surgical strikes,” the President said. “We are proud of the forces, and the exemplary courage and valour displayed by them,” he said, amid applause from members.
Touching on the demonetisation decision, the President said the resilience and forbearance demonstrated by the countrymen especially the poor, recently in the fight against black money and corruption, is remarkable.
Later again, referring to the issue, he said, "My Government has taken bold decisions in the interest of the poor."
To combat evils of black money, corruption, counterfeit currency and terror financing, Mukherjee said the government took the decision on November 8 to demonetise old 500 and 1000 rupee currency notes.
"My government's very first cabinet decision (in 2014) was to set up a SIT on black money. The passing of Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act 2015, Benami transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, Amendments to treaties with Singapore, Cyprus and Mauritius to prevent misuse of provisions in such treaties for tax evasion and movement of black money in India and the Taxation Amendment Act providing for Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, have together resulted in a comprehensive policy backed initiative against black money," he said.
He also took the opportunity to call for a constructive debate on simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies to eradicate money power.
"Frequent elections put on hold development programmes, disrupt normal public life and impact essential services and burden human resource with prolonged period of election duty. My government welcomes a constructive debate on simultaneous conduct of elections to Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. Funding of elections to eradicate misuse of money power also needs to be debated," he said.
The President said that the government will welcome any decision taken by Election Commission in this regard after consultations.
The government, he said, is also committed to combating terrorism and to ensure that perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice.
“India has been facing grave challenge of terrorism, threat to global community. My government is committed to combat terrorism, and ensure that perpetrators of these acts are brought to justice,” he said.
In the speech, the President further said that the government has provided over Rs 2 lakh crore through 5.6 crore loans sanctioned under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana.
"My government salutes the strength of janashakti (people's power) and pledges to constructively utilise it in Rashtra Nirman (nation building)," the President said.
The favourable monsoon after two consecutive droughts, he said, supplemented by farmer-oriented schemes of the government has resulted in increased crop yields.
"A favourable monsoon supplemented by farmer-oriented schemes has increased the acreage and yield of most Kharif crops. The sown area in the current Rabi season has shown six per cent increase in comparison to last year," he said.
"My government has taken various steps to transform the lives of our farmers. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana expanded ambit of risk-coverage, doubled sum insured and facilitated lowest-ever premium. Three crore Kisan Credit Cards will be converted into Rupay debit cards soon," he added.
Observing that financial inclusion was the key to poverty alleviation, the President said, “Close to 13 crore people have been covered under various social security schemes of the government.”
"To take the banking system to the doorstep of the poor and the unbanked, the Indian Postal Payment Bank was started. An unprecedented 26 crore plus Jan Dhan accounts were opened for the unbanked," he added.
Concluding his speech, the President said the vision of Mahatma Gandhi other founding fathers has laid down a great path for a resurgent India, where the path is of debate, discussion, accommodation and understanding. He said it is the rich tradition of Samvaad, Samanvay and Samvedna will continue to guide the spirit of nation building.
The Budget Session is normally convened in the last week of February but this year the government has advanced the longest session of Parliament. The Budget Session is being advanced as the government wants early allocation of funds for various schemes-- from April 1, the beginning of the financial year.
The first part has been kept brief in view of ongoing assembly polls in five states. It will have eight sittings from January 31 to February 9. The two houses will have a month long recess from February 10 to March 8 to enable the Standing Committees to consider the Demands for Grants of Ministries and Departments and prepare their Reports.
The second part of the Budget Session will commence from March 9 and will continue till April 12.
Here are the Highlights of the President's speech:
* My government reiterates commitment to fulfill aspirations of its people: President Pranab Mukherjee
* Left-wing extremism has been contained; security situation in Northeast has also improved significantly: President
* India ratified Paris agreement on 2nd Oct 2016, thereby sending a strong message of our commitment to combating climate change: President
* Jammu and Kashmir affected by terrorism sponsored and supported from across the border. Infiltration attempts, terror incidents, loss of lives in J&K is a matter of grave concern: President Pranab Mukherjee
* India has been facing grave challenge of terrorism, threat to global community. My Govt is committed to combat terrorism, and ensure that perpetrators of these acts are brought to justice: President Mukherjee
* My government is thankful to the GST council for working to resolve the outstanding issues: President
My government welcomes constructive debate on simultaneous conduct of elections to Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies: President
* Our defence forces successfully conducted surgical strike to prevent infiltration by terrorists: President Pranab Mukherjee
Four decade old demand of OROP has been fulfilled: President Pranab Mukherjee
My government has taken bold decisions in the interests for the poor.To combat black money, corruption, counterfeit currency and terror financing, Govt took decision on 8th Nov 2016 of demonetisation:President
* We are opening rail network with neighbouring countries to boost ties. By the year end, all the meter gauge tracks in the North East will be converted into broad gauge lines: President Mukherjee
* All the schemes of my government are for the poor, deprived and underprivileged, says President
* Through the Stand-Up India initiative, the govt plans to empower over 2-and-a-half lakh SCs, STs and women entrepreneurs, says President
* The government is committed to social and economic equality for the deprived disempowered sections as enshrined in the Constitution, says President
Social and economic equality for deprived sections is the first promise of our constitution, our Govt is committed to fulfil it: President pic.twitter.com/lquYkIjAfZ— ANI (@ANI) January 31, 2017
* The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme is yielding encouraging results. Mission Indradhanush commits to vaccinate “every child everywhere” against preventable diseases: Prez
PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Deepa illustrate strength of our women: President Pranab Mukherjee
* My Govt is making 'naari shakti' an integral part of our development journey, they deserve equal opportunities: President Mukherjee
Our women deserve equal opportunity #PresidentMukherjee— President Mukherjee (@POI13) January 31, 2017
My Government has taken various steps to transform the lives of our farmers. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana expanded ambit of risk-coverage, doubled sum insured & facilitated lowest-ever premium. Three crore Kisan Credit Cards will be converted into RUPAY debit cards soon: Prez
The sown area in the current Rabi season has shown six percent increase in comparison to last year #PresidentMukherjee— President Mukherjee (@POI13) January 31, 2017
* A favourable monsoon supplemented by farmer-oriented schemes has increased the acreage and yield of most Kharif crops: Mukherjee
* Soaring prices of pulses was matter of great concern around this time last year, my government took proactive steps, its now under control: President
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to ensure health and sanitation, particularly for the poor #PresidentMukherjee— President Mukherjee (@POI13) January 31, 2017
11000 of 18000 villages which were in darkness since independence electrified in record time, says President
* My Government has taken many initiatives to improve the quality of life of the poor. My Government is committed to provide shelter to every houseless poor household through the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan aims to ensure health and sanitation, particularly for the poor: President
Under Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana, over Rs. 16000 crore have been made available to SHGs in the current Financial Year: President pic.twitter.com/6wBCOWRyl3— ANI (@ANI) January 31, 2017
* To take the banking system to the doorstep of the poor and the unbanked, the Indian Postal Payment Bank has been started. Over Rs 2 Lakh Crore has been provided through 5.6 crore loans sanctioned under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana: Mukherjee
* Close to 13 crore poor have been covered under various social security schemes: Pranab Mukherjee
* Financial inclusion is key to poverty alleviation. An unprecedented 26 crore plus Jan Dhan accounts have been opened for the unbanked: President Mukherjee
* At the core of all my Govt's policies is the welfare of the garib, dalit, peedit, shoshit, vanchit, kisan, shramik and yuva. My government is guided by the Antyodaya philosophy of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya.
* Janashakti has transformed Swachh Bharat Mission into a jan-andolan. My government salutes the strength of janashakti and pledges to constructively utilise it in Rashtra Nirman: President
Budget Session Live: Our recent fight against black money is remarkable, says President Mukherjee
* We gather once again to celebrate democracy and cherished value and culture that has prospered through out the long history of our country. A culture that guides my governmnet towards 'sabka saath sabka vikas': Mukherjee
* This is a historic session heralding advancement of budget cycle and merger of general budget with rail budget with the first time:President Mukherjee
* Today a new tradition will begin; Budget will be presented earlier and will incorporate Rail Budget: PM
Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee en route to Parliament pic.twitter.com/9izbaZ9jPl— ANI (@ANI) January 31, 2017
* I appeal all political parties to participate in discussion and allow the House to work smoothly: PM Modi
* Had discussions with parties individually and collectively. Productive and detailed discussion of budget should be done: PM Modi
Pehli baar budget 1st Feb ko ho raha hai, aap sabko yaad hoga humare desh mein pehle budget shaam ko 5 baje hota tha: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/aL0adKaaPo— ANI (@ANI) January 31, 2017
* The government wants a meaningful discussion on every issue. Hope this session is fruitful: PM Modi
Government ready to discuss every issue. We have nothing to hide, worry about or fear: Venkaiah Naidu pic.twitter.com/EhnEr3No7s— ANI (@ANI) January 31, 2017
* I hope all political parties understand the importance of Budget Session and participate in meaningful and constructive manner, says Venkaiah Naidu, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.
Apart from presentation of the Budget, 34 bills will be taken up for passing and consideration during the entire session. These include three ordinances which will be replaced through bills. The ordinances relate to Enemy Property, Payment of Wages and Specified Bank Notes.
The other important legislations to be taken up include Goods and Services Tax, Central Goods and Services Tax ( Compensation for loss of revenue) and Integrated GST.