New Delhi: If “acche din aane wale hain” or good days are to come was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vote-pulling election slogan, India’s President Pranab Mukherjee outlined “how” in his 55-minute address to a joint session of parliament, listing the new government’s priorities in areas ranging from domestic issues to foreign policy.
The president also reminded assembled lawmakers in the Central Hall of parliament that people must come first and serving them should be their top priority, without any room for corruption, in a transparent manner with “minimum government, maximum governance”.
Listing poverty elimination and control of inflation as the two top immediate priorities of the new government, the president also said the clear mandate given by the people was to see a vibrant and prosperous India that regains the admiration of the global community.
“Brimming with hope and expectation, they want quick results,” he said, adding: “We must rise to the occasion to fulfil these great expectations. In 60 months from now, we must be able to say with confidence and pride that we have done it.”
The president’s address, a constitutional requirement, was approved by the cabinet June 4, after incorporating the suggestions given by each ministry and department. It will be followed by a debate, a reply by the prime minister and then a vote on a motion thanking the president for his address.
In the speech Monday, the president not only made simple yet welcome promises on behalf of the new government like all-weather houses for every family and basic amenities like water and electricity for all, but also sought to list and address specific needs of virtually every constituency and issue — from minorities, youth and women to education, industry and foreign policy.
To the youth, he said barriers between formal education and skill development will be done away with, and announced a national multi-skill mission. To women he promised effective measures to curb violence against them and 33 percent reservation in all elected bodies.
The president also said Indians must not tolerate indignity of homes without toilets and public spaces littered with garbage. In a bid to ensure better hygiene, waste management and sanitation, he announced a “Swachh Bharat” or a clean India mission as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
At the same time, he announced equal opportunities in areas like education, livelihood and health to not just the socially deprived and weaker sections, but minorities as well.
“Government will especially strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities and a National Madrassa Modernization Programme will be initiated,” the president said, adding care will also be provided to the specially-abled people as part of government’s vision of a caring society.
Reacting somewhat to the developments in recent months that had led to perceived policy paralysis due to fear among bureaucrats to take decisions, the president said while it will indeed set up a Lok Pal, or ombudsman to curb corruption, it will also make the environment conducive to work.
“My government is committed to providing a clean and efficient administration focussed on delivery,” he said, adding: “My government will take steps to build the confidence and morale of our bureaucracy, enabling it with the freedom to work, and welcoming innovative ideas.”
To the investing community, domestic and overseas, the president assured that the ease of doing business in India will improve and tax laws made more predictable, even as encouragement will be given to labour-intensive manufacturing and overseas capital that creates jobs.
The speech also had some specific measures to announce, such as a sea network that then gets connected with the hinterland, high-speed trains, a new energy policy, transparent allotment of natural resources, 100 new modern cities, interlinking rivers, waterways, converting employment exchanges into career centres and agri-rail networks.
With an audience that included the diplomatic corps in the visitors’ gallery of the Central Hall, the president also said the new government will continue to maintain good relations with all countries, adding that the invitation to the leaders of India’s neighbours for the inauguration event of Modi was a signal in that regard.
Apart from improving ties with countries in the immediate neighbourhood, the president specifically listed China, Japan, Russia, US and those in Europe as nations with which India would like to partner strategically and in areas including trade and investment, science and technology, and energy and education.
On security, he said a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism, extremism, riots and crime will be pursued, the defence forces will be strengthened, foreign equity norms on production of defence-related equipment will be eased and a national maritime authority will be set up.
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.
The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.
Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.
Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.
Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.
The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.
Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.
DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.
The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.
But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.
It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.
Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus
New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.
Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.
The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.
According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.
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