Don't squander opportunity provided by democracy: Mukherjee
President Pranab Mukherjee delivered the 10th Nehru Memorial Lecture on 'Nehru and Parliamentary Democracy' today at Jawaharlal Nehru University here.
Speaking on the occasion, Mukherjee referred to the forthcoming general elections in the country and said "every election must become a crucial milestone in our nation's journey towards greater social harmony, peace and prosperity. Democracy has given us an opportunity to re-create another golden age. Let us not squander this extraordinary opportunity".
He said competitive politics should not result in slowing down the progress of the country or enhancing the suffering of its people. Most issues of development and public welfare transcend political barriers. It should not be difficult to forge consensus on such issues.
Speaking about recent trends of disruption in Parliament and Assemblies, the president said disruption of proceedings cannot and should not be tolerated under any circumstance. Dissent should be expressed with decency and within the contours and parameters of parliamentary devices.
"Democracy should comprise of the three 'D's - 'Debate', 'Dissent' and 'Decision' not 'Disruption," he added.
He said 9.95 per cent of total time was lost due to interruptions in the Tenth Lok Sabha, 5.28 per cent in the Eleventh Lok Sabha, 11.93 per cent in the Twelfth Lok Sabha, 18.95 per cent in the Thirteenth Lok Sabha, 19.58 per cent in the Fourteenth and a shocking 37.77 per cent in the Fifteenth Lok Sabha (upto the fourteenth Session).
"It is most unfortunate that time wasted as result of disruptions has been steadily going up over the last two decades," he said.
The President called for collective thinking by political parties and leaders of the country on how to ensure smooth running of our Parliament and Legislative Assemblies and whether some of the existing rules need to be amended for the purpose.
"Parliamentarians must see legislation as their first and foremost responsibility. The first Lok Sabha from 1952-57 had 677 sittings in which 319 bills were passed. In comparison, the fourteenth Lok Sabha from 2004-2009 had only 332 sittings and passed just 247 bills," he said.
He said it is most unfortunate that time devoted towards legislation has been gradually declining across the country. There is need for utmost caution in matters of legislation, money and finance.
The President pointed out that for Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru people were always at the heart of the political system. He believed that leaders and the political class exist to serve people and not the other way around.
The President said in a democracy, the Parliament is the primary instrument of good governance and social economic transformation. Parliamentarians should treat it with the deference it deserves and at the same time, recognize its potential.
Parliamentarians and legislators must see the opportunity provided to represent the people as a great privilege and honour. Parliamentarians must at all times be sensitive and responsive to the problems and concerns of the people.
Mukherjee said no one who holds any elected office has been invited by the voters to occupy that office. Each one has gone to the voters and pleaded for their votes and support. The trust placed by the people in the political system and those elected should not be betrayed.
The President said the agitation for the Lokpal Bill showed that civil society can also take the lead in initiating legislation. For the first time in Indian politics, legislation ceased to be the exclusive prerogative of federal or state legislatures. Civil society demonstrated that they play an important and effective role in the legislative process and a new dimension was added to parliamentary politics.
The President called upon the faculty and students of JNU to play a major role in bringing back into the centre of debate Nehru's ideals as well as practice with regard to Parliamentary Democracy. He said as the elections to the Parliament approaches, JNU can lead the way in building intellectual opinion that creates a congenial climate for a return to the spirit and practice of the Nehruvian days.
(Posted on 18-01-2014)