New Delhi: In his first even reaction to the Narendra Modi government's demonetisation drive to curb black money, corruption and terror funding, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday warned the bold step may lead to "temporary slowdown" in the economy.
In his address to Governors through video conferencing, Mukherjee said "demonetization, while immobilizing 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."
The speech sets the tone of the next Budget which is likely to see more incentives for the poor especially farmers and daily wage labourers who were affected by the cash ban.
Private analysts have lowered India’s GDP growth projection to as low as 3.5 per cent while RBI has estimated GVA growth at 7.1 per cent in FY17 as compared with 7.6 per cent projected earlier.
While appreciating the thrust on transition from entitlement approach to an entrepreneurial one for poverty alleviation, Mukherjee said he is not too sure that the poor can wait that long. "The poor 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."
Commenting on upcoming Assembly elections in seven states, the President said "the conduct of free and fair elections has made our democracy one of the most vibrant in the world."
"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 mobilization of public opinion," he said.
"We have all experienced, elections are usually marked by competitive populism, electoral rhetoric and vote bank politics," he said while asking Governors to play an important role in easing the tensions in the society.
"Goodwill must prevail between different communities. In a pluralistic democracy like ours, tolerance, respect for contrary views and patience are a must. These values have to be preserved. The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special," he said asking Governors to inculcate amongst the citizens the fundamental ethos of Indian civilization.
The President said Governors have a "very important role" to play in the improvement of higher education in their states. "As chancellors and visitors of various universities, they can work with the academic leaders to effect holistic changes for quality up-gradation in the institutions of higher learning."
"Our interactions at the conferences at Rashtrapati Bhavan have yielded several positives in areas like faculty sourcing and development, ICT for pedagogic refinement, research and innovation, industry-academia interface, and alumni involvement. Their keen interest can rejuvenate a sector that is best positioned to support an innovation-led knowledge economy, he said.
Mukherjee also asked Governors to promote art and culture in their respective states. "With art and culture, we can experience life in its fullest and most meaningful form," he concluded.