President Pranab Mukherjee, in his Republic Day address to the nation, has said time is ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practice of the early decades after Independence when elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously.
He also said it was for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties.
“We have a noisy democracy. Yet, we need more and not less of democracy. The strength of our democracy is evidenced by the fact that over 66 per cent of the total electorate of 834 million voted in the 2014 General Elections. The depth and breadth of our democracy sparkles in the regular elections being held in our panchayati raj institutions. And yet, our legislatures lose sessions to disruptions when they should be debating and legislating on issues of importance. Collective efforts must be made to bring the focus back to debate, discussion and decision-making,” he said.
He also observed that demonetisation, while immobilising black money and fighting corruption, might have led to temporary slowdown of economic activity.
“As more and more transactions become cashless, it will improve the transparency of the economy,” he said.
He said India’s pluralism and her social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity were our greatest strengths.
“Our tradition has always celebrated the ‘argumentative’ Indian; not the ‘intolerant’ Indian. Multiple views, thoughts and philosophies have competed with each other peacefully for centuries in our country. A wise and discerning mind is necessary for democracy to flourish. More than the unison of ideas, a healthy democracy calls for conformity to the values of tolerance, patience and respect for others. These values must reside in the hearts and minds of every Indian; inculcating in them a temperament of understanding and responsibility,” he added.
Read the full text of the President’s speech here.
Brothers and sisters:
On that day, we became the largest democracy of the world.
o We have to work harder because our war on poverty is not yet over. Our economy is yet to grow at over 10 percent for an extended period of time to make a significant dent on poverty. One-fifth of our countrymen still remain below poverty line. Gandhiji’s mission to wipe every tear from every eye still remains unfulfilled.
o We have to work harder to provide food security to our people and to make the agriculture sector resilient to the vagaries of nature. We have to provide better amenities and opportunities to our people in villages to ensure a decent quality of life.
o We have to work harder to provide enhanced employment opportunities to our youth through the creation of world-class manufacturing and services sectors. The competitiveness of the domestic industry has to be improved by focusing on quality, productivity and efficiency.
o We have to work harder to provide safety and security to our women and children. Women must be able to lead their lives with honour and dignity. Children must be able to enjoy their childhood to the fullest.
o We have to work harder to change our consumption pattern which has resulted in environmental and ecological de-gradation. We have to appease nature to prevent it from unleashing its fury in the form of floods, landslides and droughts.
o We have to work harder because our pluralistic culture and tolerance are still being put to test by vested interests. Reason and moderation should be our guide in dealing with such situations.
o We have to work harder to keep at bay the dark forces of terrorism. These forces have to be dealt with firmly and decisively. The forces inimical to our interests cannot be allowed to grow.
o We have to work harder to ensure the well-being of our soldiers and security personnel who protect us from internal and external threats.
o We have to work harder because;
We are all equal children before our mother;
And our motherland asks each of us in whatever role we play;
To do our duty;
With integrity, commitment and unflinching loyalty;
To the values enshrined in our Constitution.
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.