President Kovind makes pitch for swadeshi to build 'a better tomorrow'

New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind addresses a joint session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (LSTV Grab/PTI Photo)
Hearkening back to the post-independence decades, when the slogan was “be Indian, buy Indian”, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday appealed to the people to “transform the philosophy of ‘buy local for a better tomorrow’ into a movement”.

In his address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, a customary address that details the government’s programmes and policies at the start of the first session of a new year, the President “urged every Indian to give priority to local products”. 

The Budget session of Parliament started on Friday.

“By using locally manufactured products, you will be able to help the small entrepreneurs in your area to a great extent,” Kovind said, adding that the fundamental mantra of independence was a self-reliant India. 

In his independence day speech from Red Fort last year, his first in his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had exhorted people to buy locally — at the village, district and state levels — to help local cottage industries and small 

The President’s appeal comes as India has reported the worst unemployment rates in 45 years, with consumption at a low and dwindling tax collection. 

Not only had India refused to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in November over fears that such a pact would harm domestic industry, there are demands to review its existing free-trade agreements as well with Asean member states. 

Kovind said the government was committed to attaining the goal of making India a $5-trillion economy. He did not give any timeline, which until now has been 2024, but the Economic Survey for 2019-20, tabled in the Lok Sabha, said it was 2025.

Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens marred the President’s speech. MPs of the Congress and some other opposition parties wore black-arm bands as a mark of protest. At least three Trinamool Congress MPs wore white shirts with the slogan “No CAA, No NRC, No NPR” painted in red, and the rest stood up to raise similar banners when the President spoke about the CAA. 

After the President referred to the CAA in his speech, ruling National Democratic Alliance MPs applauded for half a minute, followed by cries of “shame shame” from some opposition MPs.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, refused their designated front-row seats and joined party MPs in the fifth row of the Central Hall. 

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