68th Republic Day: Tolerance still being put to test by vested interests, says President Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi : President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said that country's pluralistic culture and tolerance were still being put to test by vested interests, while also noting that the time was ripe for a debate on the need for simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
In his address on the eve of 68th Republic Day, he said that happiness and well being of people should be touch stones of public policy and "inclusive innovation" a way of life.
The President said more than the unison of ideas, a healthy democracy calls for conformity to the values of tolerance, patience and respect for others and these must reside in every Indian's hearts and minds to inculcate in them a temperament of understanding and responsibility.
He also said that demonetisation carried out by the government on November 8 last year may have led to temporary slowdown of economic activity but it will improve transparency of economy as more transactions become cashless.
The President, who assumed office in 2012 and delivered his last address of the present term, outlined nine points to "work harder than ever" in order to redeem promises made to people.
"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.
He said people have to work hard 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."
Mukherjee said India's pluralism and social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity are its greatest strength and "values of tolerance and respect for others must reside in minds of every Indian".
He said India's tradition has always celebrated the "argumentative" Indian, not the "intolerant" Indian and multiple views, thoughts and philosophies have competed with each other peacefully for centuries.
The President said a wise and discerning mind is necessary for democracy to flourish, and expressing concern over disruptions in legislatures, called for a collective effort to bring focus back on debate and decision-making.
He also said "time was also 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".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pitching for a debate on the need of simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and state assemblies. Mukherjee said that India's journey since Independence has been "eventful, sometimes painful, but at most times, exhilarating" but "we will have to learn to adjust our sails, quickly and deftly, to the winds of change".
Noting that three generations of citizens, born in Independent India, do no carry baggage of colonial past, he said it sometimes makes it easy to for them to take freedom for granted.
"Democracy has conferred rights on each one of us. But along with these rights come responsibilities which have to be discharged."
The President said that youth were brimming with hope and aspirations and they look for a job as well as a purpose in life, but lack of opportunities leads to frustration and unhappiness which manifests itself in anger, anxiety, stress and aberrations in behaviour.
Emphasising on job generation, he said education system will have to join hands with innovation to prepare youth for life-long learning.
Noting happiness is fundamental to the human experience, he said: "We must make happiness and well-being of our people as the touchstones of public policy."
Dwelling on country's achievements, he, noting that per capita income has shown a ten-fold increase, poverty ratio has declined by two-thirds, average life expectancy has more than doubled and literacy rate has shown a four-fold increase, said people have to work harder as one-fifth of the countrymen were still below poverty line.
He said more hard work was needed to provide safety and security to women.
"We have to work harder because we are all equal children before our mother," he said, adding that the motherland calls upon people to do their duty with integrity, commitment and unflinching loyalty.