New Delhi, August 14;Noting the “widespread cynicism and disillusionment” with governance and functioning of institutions, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said elections next year is an opportunity to elect a stable government that will ensure security and economic development.
In his address to the nation on the eve of 67th Independence Day, he expressed serious concern over the way Parliament and legislatures function and said corruption has become a major challenge.
In what looks like a virtual commentary on the current political scene, the President referred to the general elections next year and said “this great festival of democracy is an opportunity for us to elect a stable government which will ensure security and economic development.
“Every election must become a crucial milestone in our nation’s journey towards greater social harmony, peace and prosperity.”
Democracy, he said, has given the country an opportunity to create another golden age.
“Let us not squander this extraordinary opportunity. The journey ahead calls for wisdom, courage and determination. We must work on across-the-board revival of our values and institutions.
“We must realise that rights go with responsibilities. We must re-discover the virtue of self-scrutiny and self- restraint,” Mr. Mukherjee said.
Mr. Mukherjee said, “on your decisions rests the future of our democracy.”
The President said, “Institutions are a mirror of national character. Today we see widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the governance and functioning of institutions in our country.
“Our legislatures look more like combat arenas, rather than fora that legislate. Corruption has become a major challenge. The precious resources of the nation are being wasted through indolence and indifference. It is sapping the dynamism of our society. We need to correct this regression.”
Noting that the Constitution provides a delicate balance of power between various institutions of the state, Mr. Mukherjee said this balance has to be maintained.
“We need a Parliament that debates, discusses and decides. We need a judiciary that gives justice without delays. We need leadership that is committed to the nation and those values that made us a great civilization.
“We need a state that inspires confidence among people in its ability to surmount challenges before us. We need a media and citizens who, even as they claim their rights, are equally committed to their responsibilities,” he said.
Referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s promise of self-rule based on tolerance and self-restraint and the promise of freedom from want and deprivation, Mr. Mukherjee said, “for nearly seven decades now we have been masters of our destiny. This is then the moment to ask are we heading in the right direction?”
He said Gandhiji’s vision cannot be turned into reality if the very values that were compulsory to his cause sincerity of effort, honesty of purpose and sacrifice for the larger good were spurned.
Mr. Mukherjee said India’s founding fathers created the first oasis in the desert of a colonised world nourished by democracy.
“Democracy is much more than the right to vote every five years; its essence is the aspirations of the masses; its spirit must influence the responsibilities of the leaders and duties of the citizens every day,” he said.
The President said democracy breathes through a vibrant Parliament, an independent judiciary, a responsible media, a vigilant civil society, and a bureaucracy committed to integrity and hard work. It survives through accountability, not profligacy.
“And yet we have allowed unbridled personal enrichment, self-indulgence, intolerance, discourtesy in behaviour and disrespect for authority to erode our work culture. The biggest impact of the decay in the moral fibre of our society is on the hopes and aspirations of the young and the poor.
“Mahatma Gandhi had advised us to avoid, and I quote, ’politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice’
“We have to pay heed to his advice as we work towards building a modern democracy. The ideals of patriotism, compassion, tolerance, self-restraint, honesty, discipline and respect for women have to be converted into a living force,” he said.
Concluding his speech with a reference to Bhagvad Gita where the teacher propounds his views, he quoted a verse, “even as you choose, so you do. I do not wish to impose my views on the people. I have presented to you what I think is right. Now it is for your conscience, for your judgement, for your mind to decide what is right.”