President Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern on Friday over Parliament being turned into an “arena of combat rather than debate” as he called upon political leaders and parties for “serious thinking” on corrective measures.
In his speech on the eve of the 69th Independence Day, Mukherjee said, “The finest inheritance needs constant care for preservation. Our institutions of democracy are under stress. The Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate.”
Mukherjee’s observations came a day after the monsoon session of Parliament ended in a near washout and the Rajya Sabha clocked its worst performance in 15 years in terms of transacting business. As the session fell victim to high-decibel acrimony between the ruling party and the Opposition, the President said, “If the institutions of democracy are under pressure, it is time for serious thinking by the people and their parties. The correctives must come from within.”
In the speech drafted by Mukherjee himself, he talked tough on terror ahead of talks between the national security advisors of India and Pakistan, saying India was a target of vicious terrorist groups operating from across the borders.
“Our neighbours must ensure that their territory is not used by forces inimical to India. We reject 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. “While we offer our hand willingly in friendship, we cannot stay blind to deliberate acts of provocation and a deteriorating security environment.”
Mukherjee also batted for economic growth, saying the rise of the country would be measured not only by the strength of values but also by economic growth and equitable distribution of national resources. Amid efforts to push key reforms bills like the GST, Mukherjee said, “Our economy promises much hope for the future. The new chapters in the India story are waiting to be written. ‘Economic reforms’ is a work-in-progress.”
While the President hailed the turnaround of GDP growth at 7.3% in 2014-15 after a slowdown, he also pointed out that the benefits of growth must reach the poorest of the poor “much before they land in the bank accounts of the richest of the rich”.
Mukherjee added that every citizen had a place in the hierarchy of wealth in an inclusive economy, “but the first call goes to those who suffer on the brink of deprivation”.
Warning against “vested interests” that try to hurt social harmony and erode centuries of secular traditions, Mukherjee said in an age of instant communications through ever-improving technology, “we must remain vigilant to ensure that the devious designs of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people”.
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