New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday batted strongly for simultaneous elections to Parliament and Assemblies and backed the demonetisation drive, two issues on which the government has focused its attention.
He asked the Election Commission (EC) to carry forward the idea of simultaneous polls in consultation with political parties. In his Republic Day eve address to the Nation, the president also asserted that the country’s strength lies in is pluralism and diversity and that India has traditionally 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,” he said. Mukherjee underlined that strengths of India democracy but cautioned against disruptions in Parliament and State Assemblies.
“We have a noisy democracy. Yet, we need more and not less of democracy,” he said. But, he said, it is right time to acknowledge that systems are not perfect and those imperfections have to be recognised and rectified. “The settled complacencies have to be questioned. The edifice of trust has to be strengthened. The time is also ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practise of the early decades after independence when elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously.
“It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties,” Mukherjee said. The President said the depth and breadth of Indian democracy sparkles in the regular elections being held in 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.
On demonetisation, the president said it may have led to “temporary” slowdown in economy but will bring more transparency in the system. “Demonetisation, while immobilising black money and fighting corruption, may have led to temporary slowdown of economic activity. As more and more transactions become cashless, it will improve the transparency of the economy,” Mukherjee said.
“In the first half of 2016-17, it grew at a rate of 7.2%—same as that last year—showing sustained recovery. We are firmly on the path of fiscal consolidation and our inflation level is within comfort zone,” he said.
The president said what has brought thus far will take the country further ahead but country will have to learn to adjust our sails, quickly and deftly, to the winds of change. “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 said.
Advising people to remember that the tree of freedom needs constant care and nourishment, Mukherjee said along with the rights which have been conferred to use because of democracy there are responsibilities which have to be discharged.
“Born in independent India, three generations of citizens do not carry the baggage of colonial past. These generations have had the privilege of acquiring education, pursuing opportunities and chasing dreams in a free nation. This sometimes makes it easy for them to take freedom for granted; to forget the price that extraordinary men and women paid to win this freedom; to forget that the tree of freedom needs constant care and nourishment,” Mukherjee said.
He said democracy has conferred rights on each one of us but along with these rights, come responsibilities which have to be discharged. The president said youth today are brimming with hope and aspirations. “They pursue their life goals, which they perceive will bring them fame, success and happiness, with single-minded devotion. They consider happiness as their existential objective, which of course is understandable. They search for happiness in the highs and lows of day-to-day emotions, and in the fulfilment of the objectives they have set for themselves,” he said.
He said the country needs to work harder on the fronts of reducing poverty, to provide food security, to provide enhanced employment opportunities, to provide safety and security to our women and children, to prevent environmental and ecological de-gradation by changing consumption patterns. Mukherjee said the country needs to work harder to keep at bay the dark forces of terrorism and to ensure the well- being of our soldiers and security personnel.
“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,” he said.