President calls for unity to defeat divisive forces

President Ramnath Kovid has called for unity and dedication to overcome multiple adversities facing the country and to defeat divisive forces that are trying to pull the country apart.  

It is only the unity and dedication of Indians that have enabled the country to face every crisis with fortitude, be it the Coronavirus pandemic, floods, earthquakes or major cyclones in several states, locust attack or the bird flu. 
The recent past also saw an unprecedented escalation in tension along the border. The nation stood together, battled crises on multiple fronts and surmounted every challenge. During this period, we all have also witnessed the unparalleled courage, endurance, discipline and spirit of service of our countrymen, he said.
Citing a sloka from the Shastras, “Kritam me dakshine haste jayo me savya aahitah, ” the President said, success comes only to those who persevere.
He cited the case of the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected millions of people and almost every country in the world, but India has emerged on the global stage with renewed vigor.  
Today, there is a rapid decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus and at the same time there is a significant increase in the number of recoveries, he pointed out.
He said the pandemic has in a way helped India emerge stronger. During this period, India has demonstrated its scientific capabilities, technical expertise and strength of its start-up ecosystem by developing a network of over 2,200 laboratories in a short time span, manufacturing thousands of ventilators, PPE kits and test kits thereby, attaining self-reliance. It has also started the world’s largest vaccination programme and both the vaccines rolled out under this programme are produced indigenously.  
He said, self-reliance in agriculture will further help the country move towards the goal of an Atmanirbhar Bharat. With this idea, the government has, over the last 6 years, attempted to bring positive transformation in the ‘Seed to Market’ system so that Indian agriculture is modernised and also sees growth. 
The government, he said, has decided to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee report and increased the minimum support price (MSP) for agriculture produce to at least 1.5 times of the cost of production. Government agencies have not only procured record quantities at the MSP, but also increased the number of procurement centres, he pointed out.
The government, he said, has laid great emphasis on building agriculture infrastructure like improving irrigation facilities and delivering modern irrigation techniques to farmers. The are under irrigation has gone up from 4.2 million hectares in 2013-14 to 5.6 million hectare at present.
Food grain production in the country reached levels around 296 million tonnes in the year 2019-20 from 234 million tonnes in 2008-09 while  the production of fruits and vegetables has increased from 215 million tonnes to 320 million tonnes at present.
I am happy to say that through their hard work, our farmers are augmenting the efforts of the government. Today, food grain availability in the country is at a record high. In 2008-09, the food grain production in the country was 234 million tonnes, whereas in 2019-20, the production has increased to 296 million tonnes. During the same period, the production of fruits and vegetables has also increased from 215 million tonnes to 320 million tonnes. I congratulate the farmers of the country for these achievements.
Also, with more than 80 per cent of the farmers in the country numbering over 100 million, falling under the category of small and marginal farmers, owning just 1 or 2 hectares or even less land, due to fragmentation of agricultural land holdings over the years, the President said the government has the responsibility of ensuring adequate returns to such farmers as well. 
Being mostly unorganised, these farmers are subjected to exploitation by traders and middle who usurp profits from the sale of farm produce. It is with a view to help such farmers that the government supported the setting up of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) across the country.
The target is to set up 10,000 Farmer Producer Organisations by bringing together small farmers of the country. This will ensure access of small farmers to better technology, additional credit, post-harvesting processing and marketing facilities and insurance coverage during natural calamities, on a par with the rich farmers. This also provides an alternative to farmers for securing remunerative prices for their produce and generating greater savings.
In order to provide investment support to these farmers, he said, the government has provided almost Rs1,13,000 crore directly through their bank accounts under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has also benefitted small farmers of this country. Under this scheme in the last 5 years, about Rs90,000 crore has been paid as compensation to the farmers against a premium of Rs17,000 crore.
The three important farm bills enacted by the government in September last year, after extensive  consultation, including the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill are important farm reforms and the benefits of these three important Acts have already reached more than 100 million small farmers, the President said.
Appreciating the advantages that these reforms would bring to the small farmers, several political parties too had, from time to time, expressed their support. The discussions over these farm reforms in every part of the country for over 2 decades and the demand for these reforms at different fora were also reflected during the deliberations in the House, he pointed out.
At present, the Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of these and the government, he said, is bound to respect the decision of the apex court.
At the same time, he decried the wanton acts of dishonouring the national flag and showing disrespect to the auspicious occasion of the Republic Day.  “While the Constitution gives us the right to freedom of expression it is also expected that we abide by the laws and rules with equal sincerity.”
However, the President said, the Acts have not taken away the rights and facilities available under the system prevailing before the enactment of the three new laws. Rather, through these agricultural reforms, the government has provided new facilities to the farmers and has empowered them.
In order to enhance the profitability of agriculture, he said, the government is also placing emphasis on creating modern agricultural infrastructure. The Agriculture Infrastructure Fund for Rs1,00,000 crore has also been started for this purpose.
The Kisan Rail, started throughout the country, is helping chart a new course by increasing the access of Indian farmers to new markets. This rail is like a mobile cold storage. So far, over 100 Kisan Rails have been started which have enabled the farmers to transport over 38,000 tonnes of food grains and fruits and vegetables from one region to the other.
In order to increase the income of farmers, the government has also focused on development of livestock. As a result, the livestock of the country has been increasing at an annual rate of 8.2 per cent over the past 5 years, he said.
The government has also set up a Rs15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund for creating basic infrastructure and encouraging investment in dairy sector.
Besides, the Kissan Credit Card facility has been extended to animal husbandry and fishery sectors. Efforts have been undertaken to increase the income of fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana. In this sector, an investment of about Rs20,000 crore has been planned over the next 5 years, he added.
To ease the burden on the national electricity grid, the government has launched a campaign to turn the ‘Annadata’ into ‘Urjadata’. Two million solar pumps are being provided to farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kusum Yojana. 
Government is also encouraging production of ethanol from sugarcane, maize and paddy. Due to the affirmative policies. Over the past 6 years, the annual ethanol production has increased from 380 million litres to 1,900 million litres. The production is expected to reach 3,200 million litres this year. Ethanol is emerging as a major source for augmenting the income of farmers. 
He said the government has been working relentlessly for multi-faceted development of villages and raising the standard of living of the villagers. Nearly 20 million houses have been built since 2014 for the poor families living in villages. The implementation of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana has also been expedited to ensure a pucca roof for every poor person by 2022.
The government has also made commendable progress in expanding the network of rural roads. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, construction of 6.42 lakh km of road network has been completed in rural areas of the country, he said. 
Government, he said, is also giving support to small scale industries, cottage industries and MSMEs spread across the villages and small towns. These small scale industries accounts for about 50 per cent of India’s total exports and have immense potential of making India self-reliant, he said.
For modernising the country's infrastructure, he said, the government is also working on the ‘National Infrastructure Pipeline’ worth over Rs110 lakh crore. Along with this, work on 6 new expressways and 18 new access controlled corridors under the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ is in progress.
Besides the setting up of the Emergency Credit Guarantee Scheme for Rs3,00,000 crore, special scheme of Rs 20,000 crore for MSMEs in distress and Fund of Funds, the government  is facikitqting direct purchases by government departments through the GeM portal, also ushering in greater transparency in government procurement.
Considering the vital role of women entrepreneurs in building a self-reliant India, the President said, the government has taken several steps to provide new opportunities for self-employment to women. Under the MUDRA scheme, more than 250 million loans have been sanctioned so far, of which nearly 70 per cent have been given to women entrepreneurs.
Under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - Rashtriya Grameen Ajeevika Mission - more than 70 million women entrepreneurs have become part of the network of nearly 6.6 million Self Help Groups in the country. These women groups have been provided bank loans worth Rs3,40,000 crore in the last 6 years, he said.
The country has also started emerging from the economic setback suffered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic when the focus was primarily on saving the life of each Indian citizen. This is evident from several indicators. Even in these difficult times, India has emerged as an attractive destination for foreign investors. Between April and August, 2020, a record foreign direct investment of $36 billion has been made in India, he added.
Thanks to the government’s policy of inclusion, the poor are now able to avail the benefits of healthcare facilities with ease and their expenditure on treatment of diseases is progressively reducing. Under the Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, 15 million poor people in the country have received free treatment of up to Rs5 lakh. As a result, the poor have been able to save over Rs30,000 crore. Today, benefits of Ayushman Bharat Yojana can be availed at more than 24,000 hospitals across the country. Similarly, under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Yojana, the poor are getting medicines at extremely affordable rates from 7000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras across the country. Lakhs of patients are purchasing medicines from these Kendras daily and due to their reasonable prices, are able to save Rs3,600 crore annually, the President pointed out.
Sadly, the Budget Session of Parliament got off to a stormy start with some opposition parties boycotting President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint session in support of agitating farm groups.
Sixteen of the 37-odd political parties with representation in Parliament led by the Congress, boycotted President’s address in solidarity with the protesting farm groups.