If the prime minister had missed focusing more on women’s issues at Davos, the president has made up for it in his address to the joint session of Parliament. Indeed, women’s welfare seemed to be the central theme, as Ram Nath Kovind spoke of the government’s efforts to eradicate indoor pollution from coal and wood fire cooking. No less than 3,30,00,000 free LPG connections have been handed out to BPL households. As an achievement, of course, that has a double significance.
The conversion to cleaner energy helps crores of individual women breathe cleaner, while enabling India to keep its commitment to the Paris climate accord. The focused drive in sanitation, away from open defecation to private toilets, too was a headline theme. No wonder, for the Swachh Bharat Mission has reported a substantial 22.53 per cent increase from the 38 per cent figure of 2012.And yes, there was triple talaq. Kovind hoped parties would rise above politics to ensure the passage of the legislation, keeping aside niceties of the debate and focusing on the substantial freedom from oppression it denotes for Muslim women.
More in that vein: solo Haj pilgrimages for women. He also cited the increase (from 28 to 40 per cent) in women’s savings in banks. President Kovind set the tone for all this by recalling Ambedkar’s line that political freedom has to be followed by social and economic freedom.On one big area of concern, unemployment, he waxed theoretical. Instead of a litany of achievements, the president spoke of a shift in focus, highlighting schemes like Mudra that seek to generate wider avenues for employment.
On the other realm that has filled news pages with dismal news—farm distress—he took care to list steps to ensure better MSPs, etc. The obligatory nod at the notion of the farmer as the nation’s food provider came, but perhaps this was not the place to entertain profound questions on farm policy. However, the tone and tenor was welfarist. In it, perhaps, lay a hint about which way the Modi government’s last full budget before 2019 would go. That’s in two days time.