Prez seeks cooperation of MPs in smooth conduct of Parliament

New Delhi: With clouds of storm hovering over Parliament's budget session, President Pranab Mukherjee today sought the "cooperation" of all MPs in the smooth conduct of legislative business but gave no indication of plans to bring changes in the controversial land acquisition ordinance.

He, however, declared that government attaches paramount importance to safeguarding the interests of farmers and families affected by land acquisition.

Delivering his address to the joint sitting of Parliament, whose budget session commenced today, he said the government will constantly endeavour for smooth conduct of legislative business and enactment of progressive laws in the Parliament.

In the address, which is mandated before the start of the first session of the year in which the President reads out government's plans for the coming year, Mukherjee said Parliament is the sanctum sanctorum of Democracy and the people of have reposed unflinching faith in this institution for fulfilment of their hopes and expectations.

"My Government will constantly endeavour for smooth conduct of legislative business and enactment of progressive laws in the Parliament which reflects the will and aspirations of the people.

"I urge all Members of the Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibility in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation. "By channelising the patriotic energies of every citizen, we all collectively must work towards building a strong and modern India. Ek Bharat Shresht Bharat (One India, Best India). Jai Hind," he said winding up his speech that was heard with rapt attention with occasional thumping of desks.

The 18-page hour-long speech details the various steps taken by the government during its first nine months in office and lists the steps it will take during the coming days. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his ministerial colleagues, Opposition leaders in both the Houses, former Prime Minister Ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda, Sonia Gandhi and L K Advani were among those seated in the front benches at the Central Hall of Parliament.

Against the backdrop of Oppositions plans to corner the government on various ordinances including the one on land acquisition, the President gave no indication of government bringing any changes in the bill to replace the ordinance.

"My government attaches paramount importance to safeguard the interest of farmers and families affected by land acquisition.

"While taking utmost care to protect the interest of farmers, including their compensation entitlements, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act has been suitably refined to minimise certain procedural difficulties in acquisition of Land inevitably required for critical public projects of infrastructure and for creation of basic amenities like rural housing, schools and hospitals, particularly in remote areas," he said.

Declaring that terrorism and Left Wing Extremism pose a grave challenge to nation's internal security, the President said the government was firmly committed to dealing with these challenges in cohesive collaboration with the people and governments of the affected states in a holistic manner.

He said while the government has reinvigorated relations with neighbours, at the same time "we speak clearly about our interests and are fully prepared to defend our borders and secure our people".

"Recognising that our destiny is linked with our neighbourhood my Gov government has reinvigorated our relations with our neighbours and is promoting greater cooperation and integration in South Asia.

"At the same time, we speak clearly about our interests and are fully prepared to defend our borders and secure our people," the President said.

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