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President Pranab Mukherjee addresses Parliament, talks about demonetisation, surgical strikes

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday favoured a constructive debate on simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assemblies and funding of polls to eradicate money power.

The government, he said, is also committed to combating terrorism and to ensure that perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice.

In his address to the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament marking the opening of the Budget session, Mukherjee referred to the government's demonetisation decision to fight black money and corruption as also the surgical strikes across the LoC as bold decisions, both of which were received with thumping of desks by members.

"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."

 President Pranab Mukherjee addresses Parliament, talks about demonetisation, surgical strikes

File photo of President Pranab Mukherjee. Reuters

"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.

In the speech, which is the Government's narrative on what it had done during the year and what it plans to do in the new financial year, the President said Government would welcome any decision taken by Election Commission in this regard after consultations.

Referring to the surgical strikes, Mukherjee 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.

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 8 November to demonetise old 500 and 1,000 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.

On the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the President said the Government is 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 the global growth has been slow.

The rate of inflation, the balance of payments, the current account deficit and the fiscal deficit have been consistently reduced since 2014.

Mukherjee said foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign exchange reserves have reached record levels. The country's macro economic fundamentals are very strong, creating a platform for sustained high growth.

FDI inflows in 2015-16 were USD 55.6 billion, the highest-ever for any financial year and the government further liberalised FDI policy provisions in various sectors in June 2016.

On terrorism, the President said India has been facing the grave challenge for the last four decades.

"Terrorism poses a serious danger to the global community. India will actively collaborate with other nations in decisively defeating these forces. My government is committed to combating terrorism and to ensure that the perpetrators of such acts are brought to justice," he said.

Mukherjee said Jammu and Kashmir has been affected by terrorism sponsored and supported from across the border. The attempts of infiltration, incidents of terrorist violence and loss of precious lives of civilians and security personnel remain a cause of grave concern.

He also noted that there has been a considerable success in containing left-wing extremism over the last three years with the surrender of 2600 extremist.

The security situation in North Eastern states has also shown significant improvement.

The President said the government is committed to the philosophy of partnerships for peace and progress and continues its active diplomacy aimed at facilitating national development, enhancing security and ensuring greater Indian influence in global fora.

Referring to 30 million overseas Indians settled in almost every corner of the world, he said the Government will maximise the strength of Indian diaspora in nation building and for deepening global outreach.

The President said Indians today have a deep sense of pride in the awakening of India caused by the momentous steps government has undertaken.

"Our fellow citizens have exhibited great solidarity with our endeavours in transforming India. My Government reiterates its commitment to fulfil the aspirations of our citizens," he added.

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Updated Date: Jan 31, 2017 13:31:06 IST