Self-reliant India now taking shape: Murmu (2023)

New Delhi The world is looking towards India with high hopes and the country has started reaping the benefits of its self-reliance push, President Droupadi Murmu said on Tuesday, underscoring Delhi’s rising heft on the international stage and the achievements of the Union governments in helping poor people by providing basic amenities and economic empowerment.

In her first address to a joint sitting of Parliament, President Murmu underlined the government’s efforts to help marginalised communities, expand health care and stimulate manufacturing, and referred to India’s growing role in resolving world crises and being at the forefront of the fight against terror.

“The country has started reaping the fruits of success of the Make in India and the Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India) campaigns. Today India’s manufacturing capacity is increasing and manufacturing companies from all over the world are also coming to India,” she said on the first day of the budget session of Parliament.

“India has emerged as a country that is connecting today’s divided world in some form or the other. India is today among those countries that are reinforcing the trust in the global supply chain. Therefore, today, the world is looking towards India with high hopes,” she added.

Reading out a speech drafted by the Union government, Murmu presented a vision for India at 2047, the centenary of its Independence. “We have to build a nation, which not only embraces its glorious past, but also encompasses every golden aspect of modernity. We have to build a Bharat, which is self-reliant and also able to fulfil its humanitarian obligations. A Bharat which has no poverty and where the middle class is also prosperous,” she said.

This India, she added, will be a place where women and young people will be at the forefront, where diversity will be vivid and unity unshakeable.

In the nearly hour-long speech, Murmu said this was the best phase in India’s global relations. “We have strengthened our cooperation and friendship with various countries of the world…on the one hand, we are chairing the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) this year, and on the other, being a member of the Quad, we are working for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”

Her address was boycotted by the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. The last time political parties boycotted the President’s address was in 2021, when over a dozen parties gave the address a miss in protest over the now repealed farm laws.

The President stressed on the government’s pitch for enhancing indigenous production and said until a few years ago, India used to import mobile phones in large numbers, but had now become a major exporter of mobile phones. “The import of toys in the country has decreased by 70%, while the export has increased by more than 60%,” she said.

The President said India kept its national interest paramount but was the first to offer humanitarian aid in international disasters. India had extended $3.8-billion assistance to Sri Lanka in July 2022 amid an economic crisis and shipped emergency relief assistance to quake-torn Afghanistan in June last year.

Referring to India’s presidency of G20, Murmu said the country was attempting to find collective solutions to current global challenges with the mantra of One Earth, One Family, One Future, the theme of its presidency.

“Today the world is also acknowledging India’s tough stand on terrorism. Due to this, India’s voice against terrorism is being heard seriously on every global platform. In October last year, a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council Counterterrorism Committee was organised for the first time in India. In this too, India made its position clear against terrorism,” she said.

Commenting on policy decisions in the last eight years, she said whether it was anti-terror strikes or outlawing instant triple talaq, the government always demonstrated decisiveness.

“My decisive government has always kept the country’s interest paramount and shown the will-power to completely transform the policies and strategies when required. From surgical strike to a firm crackdown on terrorism, from a befitting response to every misadventure from LoC (Line of Control) to LAC (Line of Actual Control), from abrogation of Article 370 to triple talaq, my government has been recognised as a decisive government,” she said.

The country’s strategy to face the challenge of the global pandemic also found a place in the speech. “Wherever in the world there is political instability, those countries are beset with severe crises today. But India is in a much better position than the rest of the world due to the decisions taken by my government in the national interest,” she said.

The government’s decision to roll out a free ration scheme during the pandemic was hailed as a step that prevented millions from slipping into poverty.

“From Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile trinity, which is weeding out fake beneficiaries to launching One Nation One Ration Card, we have undertaken major enduring reforms. Over the years, the country has developed a stable and transparent regime in the form of direct benefit transfer and Digital India... The World Bank report acknowledges that it was only due to such schemes and mechanisms that India was able to prevent crores of people from falling below the poverty line during the Covid pandemic,” she said.

The President said that the long felt urge to end the scourge of mega scams and corruption in government schemes is now being realised and the debate is no longer about policy paralysis, instead India is being recognised for her rapid development and the far-sightedness of her decisions.

Murmu, who is the first woman from a tribal community to assume India’s highest constitutional office, also praised the government’s initiatives to empower women. “The health of women has also improved more than before... I feel proud to see that today our sisters and daughters are hoisting their laurels at the world level according to the dreams of Utkal Bharti,” she said.

The President concluded by urging everyone to participate in nation building. “In this Parliament, which is the heart of our democracy, it should be our endeavour to set goals that seem difficult and achieve them…let us fulfil the oath of the Constitution by walking on our Kartavya Path in this mahayagna of nation building,” she added.

Opposition parties were quick to react to the President’s address.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said there is “nothing new” in the speech, alleging that the Modi government used the address as a medium for its advertisement.

“The President’s address is the government’s statement that has come through the President. It is not a new thing... It is only a routine matter and she has expressed those programmes and achievements which the government wanted her to say,” he told PTI.

National Conference MP Farooq Abdullah lauded the address. “It was good. It was a good address,” Abdullah told ANI.

The BRS, which boycotted the address, urged President Murmu to advise Centre to bring “Adani Act” saying there is only “crony capitalism” now.

“We heard the President’s address today, but the issues like unemployment or price hike were not included in it. I suggest to the President to advise the PM to bring an act called the ‘Adani Act’ as there is only crony capitalism now,” BRS MP K Keshava Rao told reporters, in an apparent reference to the recent allegations of fraud against the Adani Group levelled by a report of the US-based short-seller, Hinderburg Research.

The BJP, meanwhile, hit out at the BRS and the AAP for boycotting the address, saying they “insulted” the dignity attached to the highest constitutional position and India’s parliamentary democracy.

BJP leader and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said India’s first tribal President gave her maiden speech in Parliament to mark the start of the Budget session and it was a moment to greet her. “There is a limit to political opposition and opposition parties should maintain certain norms... Some people took it to the greatest low of our parliamentary democracy namely the BRS and the Aam Aadmi Party who chose to boycott,” he told reporters.

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