.........NEW DELHI: The Budget Session commenced on Monday with a customary joint address to Parliament by President Ram Nath Kovind who exuded confidence that Parliament will soon pass a Bill to criminalise instant triple talaq and that a sustained debate would be held on the issue of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.
In his maiden inaugural speech for the Budget session, the President focused on achievements of the government over the last four years, touching upon a range of issues, including steps taken by the government for empowerment of minorities, farmers and women, such as the extension of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Kovind also dwelt upon the government’s favourite topics such as doubling farmers’ income by 2022 and benefits of Aadhaar, saying the initiative had helped the government in “eliminating middle-men” and save over Rs 57,000 crore.
Backing the idea of holding simultaneous polls, which is often advocated by the Prime Minister, Kovind said that frequent polls impose a huge burden on human resources and impede development due to the promulgation of the model code of conduct. “...Therefore, 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.
He also made an impassioned plea for passage of the triple talaq Bill even as the opposition and the government remained at loggerheads on the contentious issue. He said, “For decades, the dignity of Muslim women has remained captive to political cost-benefit. Now the nation has an opportunity to emancipate them from this situation. My government has tabled a Bill on triple talaq in Parliament. I hope that the Parliament will soon pass it into a law.”
In his 45-minute address, which was peppered by frequent applause by the PM, Union ministers and members of the ruling dispensation, the President spoke about Narendra Modi’s “New India” initiative too and said that each citizen had a role to play in “nation-building”.
Kovind said there has been “significant improvement” in the internal security of the country, with the reduction in incidents of Maoist violence and the “befitting response” given by the Army, paramilitary forces and the Jammu and Kashmir Police to the perpetrators of violence.
Kovind said there has been a new found respect for India because of the government’s “successful diplomatic efforts”. He added, “Today, Indians residing in any corner of the world are confident that in case of a crisis, their government will provide them with a safe passage. More than 90,000 Indians stranded abroad have been safely brought back since 2014.”Highlighting the government’s “efforts” for the economic, social and educational empowerment of minorities he said the government believed in “empowerment and not appeasement” of minorities.
Kovind said for the first time since Independence Muslim women, above the age of 45 years, would be able to go on Haj in groups of four, without being accompanied by a male relative.