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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Intolerance, violence betrayal of democracy: Pranab Mukherjee
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Intolerance, violence betrayal of democracy: Pranab Mukherjee

President's remarks in his Independence Day eve speech assume significance in context of rising incidents of communal violence in the country

President Pranab Mukherjee delivering his Independence Day eve speech from the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday. Photo: PTIPremium
President Pranab Mukherjee delivering his Independence Day eve speech from the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: In the backdrop of an increase in the number of incidents of communal tension, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday slammed those who “believe in the poison drip of inflammatory provocation", saying that progress, economic or social, is difficult without peace.

In an apparent reference to the recent controversies related to the judiciary and political parties disrupting parliament repeatedly, Mukherjee said it pained him to see India’s Constitution was “becoming increasingly vulnerable to rash excess".

“Our right to freedom continues to flourish, and may that always be the case, but what about our duty to the people? I sometimes wonder: has our democracy become too noisy?....Should not Parliament again become the great hall of sombre thought and well-debated legislation? Should not our courts of law become temples of justice? This calls for collective action by all the stakeholders," he said.

In an address to the nation on the eve of India’s 68th year of independence, Mukherjee said, “Intolerance and violence is a betrayal of the letter and spirit of democracy." India, the President said, was a “a beacon of democracy, equilibrium, inter-and-intra faith harmony. We must defend our secular fabric with vigour".

Mukherjee’s remarks assume significance in the context of rising incidence of communal violence in the country. “We can least afford to forget this message at a time when an increasingly turbulent international environment has sparked off rising dangers in our region and beyond, some clearly visible, and some crawling out of the debris of unprecedented turmoil," he said.

During the Parliament session that concluded on Thursday, political parties including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress had traded charges, blaming each other over rising instances of communal tensions in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

In his speech, Mukherjee also referred to influence of radical militias in parts of Asia and Africa who he said were attempting to “redraw the maps of nations to create a geography for theocratic ideology".

“India will feel the heat of blowback, particularly as it represents the values that reject extremism in all its manifestations. Our security and foreign policies must combine the steel of strength with the velvet of diplomacy even as we persuade the like-minded as well as the hesitant to recognize the substantial dangers that breed within indifference." Mukherjee in his speech also talked about good governance, a key theme of the new Bharatiya Janata Party government that came into office after national polls in April-May.

“Good governance is critically dependent on rule of law, participatory decision-making, transparency, responsiveness, accountability, equity and inclusiveness," Mukherjee said.

On the economy, the President said “signs of revival are visible" but high food inflation was still a “matter of serious concern" for the newly elected government.

“Fiscal consolidation measures are beginning to show results. Notwithstanding occasional spurts, inflation has started moderating.... Manufacturing sector is on the rebound. The stage is now set for our economy to move on a high growth trajectory of 7-8%, which is essential to ensure the availability of adequate resources for equitable development," he said.

He singled out poverty as the major challenge before the new government stating that the “focus of our policies now has to move from alleviation of poverty to elimination of poverty".

Though poverty ratio had declined, “nearly one-third of our population still lives below the poverty line. Poverty is not a mere statistic.... The poor cannot, and will not, wait for yet another generation to see the very essentials of life— food, shelter, education and employment—being denied to them. The benefits from economic development must percolate down to the poorest of the poor," the President said.

Mukherjee stressed the need for quality education which he differentiated from being literate. By the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17) India would have achieved a literacy rate of 80% but “would we be able to say that we have provided quality education?" he said.

“A sound education system is the bedrock of an enlightened society.... It is the bounden duty of our educational institutions to provide quality education, compassion for all; tolerance for pluralism; respect for women; performance of duty; honesty in life; self-restraint in conduct, responsibility in action and discipline in young minds," the President said.

Read full text of President’s speech here

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Published: 14 Aug 2014, 07:21 PM IST
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