New Delhi: Terming India a haven of stability in an increasingly turbulent global economy, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday cited the government's initiatives for ending poverty and boosting employment and said women will be inducted in all fighting streams of the armed forces.
In his address to the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament at the start of budget session, Mukherjee said that firm and effective steps will be taken to deal with any situation arising out of cross-border terrorism.
With the past two sessions marred by repeated adjournments over a range of issues, the president said that democratic temper calls for debate and not disruption and urged MPs to discharge their duties in a spirit of mutual accommodation.
Noting the government's fundamental tenet was "Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas" (taking along everyone, progress of everyone), he also said it has pursued a bold and proactive foreign policy.
Opposition parties said that the president's address was "uninspiring" and did not mention any of the raging controversies such as concerning the Jawaharlal Nehru University but Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar defended it, saying it reflected government's commitment to the welfare of villages, poor, farmers and youth.
The over one-hour address was heard with rapt attention by members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha assembled in the central hall of parliament. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were among those present. Gandhi, who was seated next to BJP leader L. K. Advani, thumped her desk twice during the presidential address - firstly when he mentioned the role of security forces in foiling the terror attack at the IAF base at Pathankot, and then he spoke about the induction of women as fighter pilots.
The president said innovative initiatives have helped India jump up 12 places in the latest rankings by the World Bank on ease of doing business.
"India is a haven of stability in an increasingly turbulent global economy. GDP growth has increased making India the world's fastest growing economy among large economies," he said, also noting that the country recorded the highest ever software exports, the highest generation of electricity and the highest foreign exchange reserves in 2015.
The president said that government has taken a number of measures for a progressive tax regime, is engaged in simplifying procedures, apart from unlocking infrastructure development opportunities.
He said generating employment was a top priority and it is being done through initiatives like Make in India, Startup India, Mudra scheme and Skill India.
On agriculture which has suffered two successive seasons of inadequate rainfall, the president said the government was taking steps to usher in a second Green Revolution in the eastern region.
Mukherjee congratulated the security forces for successfully foiling the terrorist attack at Pathankot air base and said "firm and effective steps will be taken to deal with any situation arising out of cross-border terrorism".
Noting 'Shakti', which means power, was the manifestation of female energy which "defines our strength", he said that induction of women as Short Service Commission officers and as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force has been approved.
Noting that the overriding goal of the government was poverty eradication and the poorest of the poor have the first claim on the nation's resources, he said the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojna was the world's most successful financial inclusion programme and of the over 21 crore bank accounts opened, 15 crore were operational with an aggregate deposit of over Rs.32,000 crore.
He listed the government's particular focus on poverty eradication, farmers' prosperity and employment generation for youth.
On Pakistan, he said that the government is committed to forging a "mutually beneficial relationship and creating an environment of cooperation in combating cross-border terrorism."
Congress leader Ashwani Kumar however said the address was "utterly uninspiring and completely directionless", while CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said the address did not refer to burning issues such as the government action in JNU and its plan to "replace history with Hindu mythology".