In the wake of Freedom, our Founding Fathers adopted parliamentary democracy as the system of governance to deal with the social, religious and ethnic diversity of our country as also to address the multifarious developmental challenges. Working within its framework, the country has made significant strides in several areas of our national life. But we cannot be complacent, as we still have to address the gigantic challenges in diverse spheres to ensure that the people enjoy all their rights as our Constitution provides for by ensuring sustained economic development. We need to constantly remind ourselves that even after 60 years of independence, different sections of our people live in different centuries.
There are millions of rural households living in conditions of dehumanizing poverty. Our country is still home to the largest number of illiterates in the world today. There are even now thousands of villages without quality educational facilities. Only less than 10 per cent of university-eligible youth have real access to higher education. Vast areas of the country do not have adequate infrastructure like good roads, sufficient power and telecom and distribution facilities. Evolving effective policies in these vital areas going beyond the compulsions of divisive politics, still remain a critical challenge for the entire political class today.
In order to realise our full economic potential, it is important to recognise that the developmental challenges before India need an integrated strategy and are not to be reduced to one of making a choice between the imperatives of industrial development and the compelling need for agricultural growth. Our strategy should take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the different sectors of our economy and should intervene according to the need of each sector and different regions.
Providing one billion Indians with the freedom to engage in a productive life and to gain the consequent rewards as individuals and as the members of society is a gigantic challenge which can be met only through the collective endeavours of all stake holders.
Economic development should not be a matter only of theoretical political ideology or political rhetoric, nor should it be subjected to political muscle flexing without caring for their destructive effect, only to suit narrow political interest. We have to be watchful of those sections in society that are out to distract people from the path of development. In pursuing narrow political agenda, not only do such elements undermine the well-conceived and important schemes of development, but hurt the long-term interest of the same people whom they pretend to be helping.
With our discernible difference on the basis of culture, language, religion, caste, creed, geographical location and different urges and aspirations, we have numerous parties with divergent policies, and priorities. For the last several decades, no single party nationally has been able to get a majority of its own leading to the formation of coalitions, on occasions, by political parties with disparate programmes and ideologies, who combine only with the object of acquiring power, which has resulted in vitiating the political morality in the country significantly.
Today politics of intense confrontation, negativism and opposition at all costs is taking the upper hand denying the space for collective and consensual approach towards major national issues. Political power has largely got polarized around identities of caste, religion, and language, thereby making the system a reflection of the existing social distortions bereft of the essential national outlook. The proliferation of political parties and groups with limited political or sectional agenda has created a situation that is in direct conflict with the need to evolve a national vision and outlook.
The various aberrations in our political functioning are matters that should worry all responsible and sensitive citizens. All our democratic institutions need to demonstrate a greater degree of sensitivity and responsiveness to the growing cynicism, disenchantment and apathy among our people with different aspects of our national life, particularly our political life. Divisive and communal politics will have to give way to a broad-based national political agenda. Consensus, not confrontation, has to be the basic philosophy of our political engagement.
A time has come when all sections of the people have to consider very seriously how our country, with its great heritage and civilization, with the magnificent history of its freedom struggle and also with the great talent of its people, should come out of the present infirmities in the system and achieve all round development at a faster pace. A developing country like ours with great potential for development should not lose the momentum due to divisive and confrontational politics.
It is imperative for all sections of our political system to view the issues of development, particularly the challenge of uplifting our rural economy, fulfilling the urgent needs of the people, like food security, education and health-care, transcending political and geographical barriers and partisan considerations so that the core of our national endeavour can be the speedy, inclusive and comprehensive development of the whole country. Various problems of national importance should be dealt with in a spirit of cooperation and that is the only way to serve the larger interest of the country. After all, politics is only an instrument to serve that interest.
Tomorrow: Wipro chief Azim Premji