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There will be chaos if protests become endemic: Pranab

President Pranab Mukherjee today made a veiled attack at "endemic" protests against corruption warning that the country would be "flirting with chaos" if its democratic institutions come under an assault. Full speech

delhi Updated: Aug 14, 2012 20:49 IST
President Pranab Mukherjee,Independence Day,news

President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday made a veiled attack at "endemic" protests against corruption warning that the country would be "flirting with chaos" if its democratic institutions come under an assault.

The President said when authority becomes authoritarian, democracy suffers "but when protest becomes endemic, we are flirting with chaos."

"Democracy is a shared process. We all win or lose together. Democratic temper calls for dignity of behaviour and tolerance of contrary views. Parliament will live by its own calendar and rhythm.

"Sometimes that rhythm sounds a bit atonal but in a democracy there is always judgement day, an election. Parliament is the soul of the people, the atman of India. We challenge its rights and duties at our peril," Mukherjee said.

He said he was saying this not in a spirit of admonition but as plea for greater understanding of existential issues that lurk behind the mask of the mundane.

President Pranab Mukherjee addresses the nation on the eve of the 66th Independence Day. PTI

"Democracy is blessed with a unique opportunity for redress of grievance through the great institutions of accountability -- free elections," Mukherjee said.

Mincing no words in underlining the dangers in undermining institutions like Parliament, he said legislation cannot be wrenched away from legislature or justice from judiciary.

The President's comments against the backdrop of anti-corruption protests of Anna Hazare and Ramdev came in his maiden address to the nation on the eve of 66th Independence Day.

Mukherjee said, "anger against the bitter pandemic of corruption is legitimate, as is the protest against this plague that is eroding the capability and potential of our nation.

"There are times when people lose their patience but it cannot become an excuse for an assault on our democratic institutions," he said without referring to either Hazare or Ramdev.

The President, a veteran parliamentarian, said the institutions were the visible pillars of the Constitution and if they crack, then the idealism of the Constitution cannot hold.

"They are the interface between principles and the people. Our institutions may have suffered the weariness of time the answer is not to destroy what has been built, but to re-engineer them so that they become stronger than before. Institutions are the guardians of our liberty," he said.

Asserting that legislation cannot be taken away from legislature, Mukherjee said the people have a right to express their discontent.

"But we must also understand that legislation cannot be wrenched away from the legislature or justice from the judiciary.

The President also covered a variety of subjects in his speech, ranging from education and economy to diplomacy and India's glorious past.

Mukherjee said he was not a pessimist.

"I would go to the extent of saying that the glass of modern India is more than half full."

He pointed out how British colonial rule had made India a poor nation. Today, however, India was on the path of economic progress, despite the global financial crisis.

In his address, the President said if Indian economy has achieved critical mass, then it must become a launching pad for the next leap.

Earlier last month in his acceptance speech after his election to the post, Mukherjee had said that trickledown theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor.

"We need a second freedom struggle this time to ensure that India is free for ever from hunger, disease and poverty."

Two decades of economic growth had done wonders, he said, but quickly added that "a lot more remains to be done". He called for extending the green revolution to the country's eastern region.

The President said large areas in India were now in the grip of drought because of poor monsoon. At the same time, inflation, particularly prices of food items, remained a cause for worry.

Referring to last month's horrific violence in Assam, Mukherjee said that minorities needed solace, understanding and protection from aggression.

"Violence is not an option; violence is an invitation to greater violence," he underlined.

"We need peace for a new economic surge that eliminates the competitive causes of violence."

In a speech that covered India's emergence as a stable democracy and its economic growth post-Independence, the new President also warned that if progress fell behind rising aspirations of the youth "rage will manifest".

The President said the young thirst for knowledge that will lift their skills and for opportunity that will put India on the fast track to the first world.

"They have the character they need the chance. Education is the seed and economy is the fruit. Provide good education disease, hunger and poverty will recede.

"As I said in my acceptance speech, our motto must be: All for knowledge and knowledge for all. Vision cannot be an open-ended vista it must be focused on our youth," the President said.

Although India won only six medals at the London Olympics, sportspersons had done the country proud, Mukherjee said.

"The number of trophies may not be too large but it is a remarkable improvement upon the last count," Mukherjee said.

"Four years later, when I hope to address you again, I am sure we will celebrate a medals spring!"

Read President's full speech

First Published: Aug 14, 2012 19:14 IST