Budget session 2018: Govt working to empower weaker sections, says Ram Nath Kovind

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New Delhi: The policy focus of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is to empower weaker sections, President Ram Nath Kovind said in his address to a joint sitting of Parliament on the first day of the budget session on Monday.

Kovind said the government was working to strengthen social justice and economic democracy and to “usher ease of living for the common man” even as he spoke about how a number of steps to address the issue of farm distress was being taken by the government.

“The architect of our Constitution, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar used to say that political democracy cannot survive without social and economic democracy. Guided by this fundamental spirit of the Constitution and committed to the welfare of weaker sections, my government is working towards strengthening social justice and economic democracy and to usher ease of living for the common man,” said Kovind in his address.

In the course of the speech, the President also said that there should be greater discussion on the issue of simultaneous elections in the country and there was a need for all political parties to come together on the issue. “A sustained debate is required on the subject of simultaneous elections and all political parties need to arrive at a consensus on this issue,” he said.

Kovind said that the government was committed to doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022 and was working to ensure remunerative prices for farm produce, while mandis are being connected online.

“The highest priority of my government is to remove various difficulties faced by farmers and to raise their standard of living. The schemes of my government are not only removing their hardships but also reducing the expenditure incurred by them on farming,” Kovind said.

The President also said the bill to end the practice of instant triple talaq had been tabled by the government and hoped it will soon be passed by Parliament to enable Muslim women “to live a life of self-respect”.

He also said that political parties should come together to ensure passage of the bill which gives constitutional status to the commission for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Echoing Kovind’s speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day urged political parties to come together to pass the triple talaq bill.

“I am hopeful and I appeal to all political parties that we will come together and pass the triple talaq bill which ensures protection of rights of Muslim women,” Modi told reporters.

On Monday, the NDA and opposition parties held separate meetings to discuss their floor management strategy for the budget session.

The meeting of the opposition parties was chaired by Sharad Pawar, chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and attended by key opposition parties including Congress, Left parties and National Conference.

“The meeting went well and we discussed a number of issues relevant to the ongoing Parliament session. Another meeting is going to be held on 1 February in which all the opposition parties are going to join,” a senior leader who attended the meeting said requesting anonymity.

According to another senior leader, Pawar reached out to Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the Central Hall on Monday and had a chat along with former Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

A senior NDA leader said that the meeting of the ruling alliance saw Modi stressing on the need to hold more discussions on the idea of simultaneous elections. A meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s parliamentary party was also held on Monday in which the need for greater floor coordination and presence of party MPs in Parliament was stressed.livemint