From triple talaq to simultaneous polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday touched upon the various issues in his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' radio address.
On women's safety
The country will not tolerate those committing rape and the law passed by Parliament in this regard will play an effective role in curbing crimes against women and girls, Modi said.
The prime minister said when we move ahead in the national interest, a change in the lives of the poor, the backward, the exploited and the deprived ones can also be brought about.
"No civil society can tolerate any kind of injustice towards women of the country. The nation will not tolerate those committing rapes. With this in mind, Parliament has made a provision of strictest punishment by passing the Criminal Act Amendment Bill.
"Those guilty of rape will get a minimum sentence of 10 years and those found guilty of raping girls below the age of 12 years will be awarded the death sentence," Modi said.
He said, recently, courts have awarded stringent punishment to rape convicts after a speedy trial lasting only a few days.
The new law will play an effective role in curbing crimes against women and girls, the prime minister said.
On instant triple talaq
Referring to the issue of talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq, he said economic growth will be incomplete without a social transformation.
"The triple talaq bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha, although it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha, I assure the Muslim women that the whole country stands by them to provide them social justice.
"When we move ahead in the national interest, a change in the lives of the poor, the backward, the exploited and the deprived ones can also be brought about," Modi said.
To make the proposed law palatable to the opposition, a provision of bail for the accused from a magistrate has been added. The amendments to the bill, cleared by the Union Cabinet recently, also has the provision for settlement between the husband and the wife.
The FIR can now only be lodged by the victim, her blood relations and those who have become her relatives by virtue of her marriage. Others, like neighbours, cannot lodge an FIR to prevent misuse of the proposed law.
On monsoon session
In his address, the prime minister also referred to the performance of both Houses of Parliament, saying whenever a discussion on Parliament is held, it is about hold-ups, noisy scenes and stalling of proceedings.
"But when something good happens, it is not given much importance. The monsoon session of Parliament ended just a few days back. You will be glad to know that the productivity of Lok Sabha remained 118 per cent and that of Rajya Sabha -- 74 per cent. All the members rose above party interests to make the monsoon session most productive and this is why the Lok Sabha passed 21 bills and Rajya Sabha 14," he said.
He said the recently-concluded session will always be remembered as a "session for social justice and youth welfare".
Modi pointed out that a number of important bills beneficial to the youth and the backward classes were passed during the session, including he one to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.
"This step will prove to be the one to move forward our march towards achieving the goal of social justice," he said.
He also referred to a bill which overturned a Supreme Court order putting in place safeguards in a law on atrocities against SCs and STs.
"This act will give more security to the interests of SC and ST communities. This will also forbid criminals from indulging in atrocities and will instill confidence among the dalit communities," the prime minister said.
On Kerala floods
The prime minister also hailed the humanitarian assistance rendered to victims of Kerala floods by people from all walks of life, saying irrespective of age group or area of work, people are contributing for the cause.
He also put on record his appreciation for the role rendered by the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the National Disaster Response Force, the Border Security Force, the Central Industrial Security Force and the Rapid Action Force in relief and rescue operations.
"Yesterday was the festival of Onam. We pray for Onam to provide strength to the country, especially Kerala so that it returns to normalcy on a newer journey of development. Once again on behalf of all Indians, I would like to reassure each and everyone in Kerala and other affected places that at this moment of calamity, the entire country stands by them," Modi said.
He said loss of lives cannot be compensated, but he assures the grief-stricken families that in this moment of suffering, every Indian stands by them shoulder to shoulder.
"I earnestly pray for those injured in this natural disaster to get well soon. I firmly believe that the sheer grit and courage of the people of the state will see Kerala rise again," he said.
Disasters, he said, leave behind a trail of destruction. But one gets to witness facets of humanity, humaneness during disasters.
"From Kutch to Kamrup, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, everyone is endeavouring to contribute in some way or the other so that wherever a disaster strikes, be it Kerala or any other part of India, human life returns to normalcy. Irrespective of age group or area of work, people are contributing," he said.
On simultaneous polls
Describing the debate on holding Lok Sabha and assembly polls together a healthy sign for democracy, Modi said it was an appropriate tribute to former premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee who changed the country's political culture.
He said efforts were afoot and discussions being held about simultaneously holding Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
"The government and the opposition -- both are putting forth their view points. This is a good development and a healthy sign for our democracy.
"I must say that developing healthy traditions for a sound democracy, making constant efforts to strengthen democracy, encouraging open-minded debates would also be an appropriate tribute to Atalji," Modi said.
Political parties are divided on the issue of simultaneous polls.
The BJP, its National Democratic Alliance partners, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Samajwadi Party and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti have supported it.
The Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam Party, Left parties and the Janata Dal-Secular have opposed the proposal.
The parties have given their response to the Law Commission, which is set to come out with a legal framework required to hold the mammoth exercise.
Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat had recently said there are no chances of holding the two polls together without a legal framework.
"Koi chance nahi (no chance at all)," he had said.
"The lawmakers will take at least a year to frame a law that can be enforceable...," Rawat had said.
If simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies are held in 2019, the EC will require nearly 24 lakh EVMs, double the number required to hold only the Parliamentary polls.
During their discussion with the Law Commission on May 16 this year on the issue of holding simultaneous polls, EC officials had said they would need around Rs 4,500 crore to buy nearly 12 lakh additional electronic voting machines and an equal number voter-verifiable paper audit trail machines.
In his address, the prime minister said the country will remain grateful to Vajpayee for bringing good governance into the main stream.
"But, I just want to touch upon one more facet of Atalji's legendary personality and that is the political culture which Atalji gave to India, his efforts in the direction of bringing about the changes in our political culture, his efforts to mould it into an organised framework and which proved very beneficial for India and a bigger benefit will accrue in days to come," Modi said.
He said the 91st constitutional amendment law brought in 2003 restricted the size of cabinets in states to 15 per cent of the total seats in the legislative assembly.
"For many years in India, the political culture of forming a very large cabinet was being misused to constitute jumbo cabinets not only to create a divide, but also to appease political leaders. Atalji changed it. This effort of his resulted in saving of money as well as of resources. This also helped in improving efficiency," Modi said.
He said the constitutional amendment also ensured that the limit under the anti-defection law was enhanced from one-thirds to two-thirds. "Besides, clear guidelines were defined to disqualify the defector," the prime minister said.
Describing Vajpayee as a "true patriot," he said it was during his tenure that the timing of presenting the budget was changed from 5 pm to 11 am.
Earlier, as was the British tradition, the budget used to be presented at 5 pm because in London, Parliament used to start working at that time.
In 2001, the Vajpayee government changed the time of presenting the budget to 11 am.
He said the framing of the Flag Code in 2002 was another "freedom" for India as it brought the national flag closer to the masses.
"A number of such rules have been included in this code which made it possible to unfurl the tricolour in public places. This provided a chance to more and more of our countrymen to unfurl our national flag. Thus, he brought our beloved tricolour closer to the common man," Modi said.