Immobilisation of black money should not harm poor: President

President Pranab MukherjeeThe government's move to demonetise high-value bank notes, while immobilising black money and fighting corruption, may lead to temporary slowdown of the economy, and the transition has to be carried out in a way that it causes least suffering to the poor, President Pranab Mukherjee said in his New Year address to governors and Lt governors.

''Demonetisation, while immobilising black money and fighting corruption, may lead to temporary slowdown of the economy.''

''We all will have to be extra careful to alleviate the suffering of the poor which might become unavoidable for the expected progress in the long term. While I appreciate the thrust on transition from entitlement approach to an entrepreneurial one for poverty alleviation, I am not too sure that the poor can wait that long. They need to get succour here and now, so that they can also participate actively in the national march towards a future devoid of hunger, unemployment and exploitation. The recent package announced by the Prime Minister will provide some relief,'' he said.

The President said the year 2016 was a year of mixed fortunes. It began on a very promising note with the economy performing well, overcoming the weak global economic trends. GDP growth of 7.2 per cent in the first half of 2016-17 – same as that of last year – is a pointer to the fact that our economic recovery has been on solid grounds. In 2014 and 2015, below normal rains had caused rural distress. A good monsoon in 2016 is expected to improve agricultural production and increase rural employment and incomes.

Though our exports have been affected by weak global demand, we have a stable external sector. Reviving exports will remain a challenge but we can overcome it by improving the competitiveness of the domestic industry, Mukherjee said.

On the upcoming state assembly elections, the President said the conduct of free and fair elections reflect the attitudes, values and beliefs of the people towards their political environment. ''They symbolise the sovereignty of the people and provide legitimacy to the authority of the government. They also serve the purpose of regulation of public policies and mobilisation of public opinion.''

The President has asked governors and Lt governors to use their good offices and wise counsel to help relax tensions created by competitive populism, electoral rhetoric and vote bank politics as noisy debates can deepen the fault-lines in the society.

''At times, harmony may be put to test by vested interests. Communal tensions may rear their ugly head. Rule of law must form the sole basis of dealing with any such challenging situation,'' he said.

He said, in a pluralistic democracy like India, tolerance, respect for contrary views and patience is a must. These values have to be preserved in a multi-faceted nation of 1.3 billion people, 122 languages, 1600 dialects and 7 religions.

As India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said, "It is a country held together by strong but invisible threads,'' the President said, adding that the country's strength lies in its diversity. The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special.

''There will always be divergent strands in public discourse. We may argue. We may disagree. But we cannot deny the prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. You can, through your calm influence, inculcate amongst the citizens of your state this fundamental ethos of our civilization,'' the President said.