Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate and India’s demo cratic institutions are under stress, President Pranab Mukherjee said in his Independence Day eve address.
Expressing concern over the washout of Parliament’s monsoon session that also saw 25 Congress MPs being expelled for unruly behaviour, Mukherjee said, “The finest inheritance needs constant care for preservation.”
The President quoted B R Ambedkar to say the Constitution could only provide the organs of state while their working depended on the people and political parties.”It is time for serious thinking by the people and their parties. The correctives must come from within,” he said.
“The Constitution has gifted India a democratic culture and institutions. Democracy reshaped our ancient values into a modern context and institutionalized multiple freedoms. Our institutions are the infrastructure of this idealism,” he said.
Mukherjee also expressed concern over the challenges to India’s plural, tolerant and patient culture. “Vested interests chip away at social harmony, in an attempt to erode many centuries of secularism,” he said.
Expanding on the reference, he said the age of instant communication demanded that Indians remained vigilant to defeat the designs of a few. “Humanity is the glue that binds a society over and above rules and law,” he said.
In a reference to recent terror attacks, the President sounded a sombre note, saying, “India is a target of vicious terrorist groups operating from across the borders. Except for the language of violence and the cult of evil, these terrorists have no religion and adhere to no ideology.”
Reiterating that “our policy will remain one of zero tolerance”, he said India rejected any attempt to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. “Infiltration into our territory and attempts to create mayhem will be dealt with a strong hand,” he said.
Though the President stuck to major issues currently under discussion, he made a strong reference to declining education standards. “What has happened to quality , from base to apex?” he asked, adding, “Society respects and recognizes the merit and scholarship of the teacher. Is that happening in our education system today?”
Calling for equitable growth, the President, while expressing satisfaction that the economy had recovered to a 7.3% growth rate, said, “The benefits of growth must reach the poorest of the poor much before they land in the bank accounts of the rich.”