With polls around, President talks about Triple Talaq Bill, Citizenship Amendment Bill

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New Delhi, Jan 31:  Clearly with elections looming large, the Modi government on Thursday set out its agenda for the short period ahead by indicating that it will push for the contentious triple talaq bill and the Citizenship amendment Bill in the Budget session of Parliament even as it described the passage of the law providing for 10 per cent quota for the economically weaker sections as “historic”.

Recounting all the major decisions taken in the last four-and-a-half years in a 25-page-long speech to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, President Ram Nath Kovind also said the government was seeking to find permanent solutions to the problems of farmers like providing better facilities and assistance to them in their entire spectrum of activities.

The hour-long speech was marked by repeated thumping of desks by MPs of the BJP and its allies and it peaked when the President referred to the security situation in the country and mentioned the surgical strike across the LoC in the aftermath of the Uri terror attack in 2016.

“Through the surgical strike on cross border terror posts, India has shown its new policy and strategy. Last year India joined the handful of countries that possess the Nuclear Triad capability,” the President said.

Amid opposition from several allies of the BJP to the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the President said it will help secure Indian citizenship for those who are persecuted and compelled to seek refuge in India. He said these people cannot be blamed since they were victims of circumstances.

“Mindful of the prevalence of injustice and deprivation in the society, my government has been working towards reforming the legal system so as to ensure social and economic justice. The Citizenship Amendment Bill will help in the securing of Indian citizenship by those victims who were persecuted and were compelled to seek refuge in India. These people cannot be blamed since they were victims of circumstances,” he said.

The entire northeast, including the allies of the BJP, are bitterly opposed to the Citizenship Bill that seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha and the government is expected to push it during the the Budget session in the Rajya Sabha where it is short of numbers. BJP ally JD-U is also opposed to the measure.

Referring to the other contentious legislation that seeks to criminalise triple talaq (instant irrevocable divorce), Kovind said with a view to liberate Muslim women from a life of fear and anxiety and to provide them with equal rights to lead their lives on par with other women, the government “is striving hard to get the triple talaq bill passed by Parliament”.

He said a historic decision was taken in the winter session to pass the Constitution amendment bill that would extend the benefit of reservation to the poor people belonging to the “general” category.

“This is an effort to provide justice and equal opportunity to those poor young men and women who felt left out because of poverty. To ensure that this dispensation has no impact on the existing reservation, the number of seats in education institutions are being increased proportionately.”

Devoting considerable time to address the farmers’ issues, the President said the government was working to double the farmers’ income while work was being carried out with a new approach for reducing the cost of farming, providing them with fair price and access to new markets besides helping them with additional sources of income.

He also touched on the government according priority to taking strict action against corruption and black money and said his government had come down heavily on the menace in the last four-and-a-half years.

Listing the various steps inside and outside the country against black money, he said demonetisation was a “defining moment” in the government’s war against corruption and black money. “This decision struck at the very root of the parallel economy thriving on black money; and the money outside the formal system was brought within the ambit of nation’s economy,” he said.

He said as a result of direct benefit transfer (DBT), more than Rs 6 lakh crore have been transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. Of this, Rs 1,10,000 crore have been saved from falling into wrong hands.

The President also hailed the implementation of GST which he said was proving instrumental in establishing an honest and transparent system of trade and commerce and enhancing the ease of doing business across the country.

In the international context, he said while India is a strong supporter of friendly ties with all countries, there is also a need to constantly strengthen the country’s capabilities to tackle any challenges.

Concluding his speech the President said his government has commenced its journey towards building a new India in which every person has access to basic amenities, he is healthy, secure and educated and gets justice with dignity.