SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA SHRIMATI PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL ON THE OCCASION OF THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PARLIAMENT OF INDIA
New Delhi, 13th May, 2012
Dear Members of Parliament,
I am very happy to participate in today's function which celebrates a very significant event in the history of free India. Sixty years ago, on 13th May 1952, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha held their first sessions, after the completion of the first General Elections in the country. On that day, the newly elected Members of Parliament took oath, and it is fortunate that four of them - Shri Rishang Keishing who continues to be a Member of Parliament, Shri Reshamlal Jangde, Shri Kandala Subrahmanyam and Shri K. Mohana Rao are here with us today. I warmly congratulate them and also all those present here.
As the world's largest democracy, India can be proud that since winning its freedom and adopting a Constitution, it has continuously walked the path of democracy. Sceptics, in those early post-Independence days, doubted whether democracy in such a large and diverse country could possibly survive. We proved them wrong. Over and over again, repeatedly, in accordance with the Constitution, representatives to Parliament, State Legislatures and Local Bodies have been chosen through electoral exercises, which have been fair and open. Our record has been remarkable and there is widespread acclaim about the tenacious manner in which we have adhered to democracy.
However today, democracies of the world are operating in complex situations. Pressures are developing on account of many reasons - demands for development are louder, people are articulating their demands very vocally and many shades of opinions are emerging. There is always the requirement of finding a balance between various expectations. There are now fractured mandates. Governments are mostly coalitions and legislatures are composed of many parties. There are regional aspirations as well. The last decade has also seen an explosion of the media. Hence, democracy now functions in the midst of various new scenarios, which are internal as well as those emanating out of complex international situations, in a world that is more integrated and inter-dependent. Against this background, India is committed to take the nation forward on the path of peace, development and progress, through a democratic system of governance, while protecting the sanctity of the institutions established by the Constitution. The big challenge is for democracy to proceed towards being a vibrant but healthy democracy. It is, therefore, necessary to walk ahead carefully, with determination, so that the main aim of establishing a progressive and healthy democracy is never lost sight of. For this, various aspects are important and need to be taken into consideration. I will speak of some of them.
Elections are the foundation stone of any democracy and therefore, the first pillar of any healthy democracy is sound electoral practices. Our Election Commission, as an independent entity, has performed remarkably well in organizing elections of a huge electorate. However, we must constantly improve our systems, and remove all corrupt and other malpractices from our electoral processes, and from our society.
Parliament is the repository of the will of the people. Therefore, people's growing aspirations and expectations need to be translated here into policy decisions and necessary legislation. Discussions can be difficult and divergent, but yet solutions have to be found through discussions in Parliament, and resolved through established parliamentary practices. Parliamentarians serve the people. In this connection, the words of Mahatma Gandhi in his poem entitled, 'A Servant's Prayer' are very important. He said and I quote, "As a humble servant and a friend of the masses, may we never part from those whom we wish to serve". Unquote
Democracy, in the true sense of the word, also means a shared responsibility. Democracy can survive, flourish and grow when there is respect for all stakeholders, and for differing opinions, and where institutions of democracy are functioning in harmony in general. Whether it is the Legislatures, the Judiciary, the Executive, or the citizens or the media, they have a role to play but with responsibility, and they must uphold the Constitution as well as the rule of law. Democracy can be sustained when there is sensitivity to national interest, social objectives and towards each other. As Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar said and I quote, "Democracy is not merely a form of Government. It is primarily a mode of associated living of conjoint, communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow-men." Unquote
Again, democracy must be participatory. A major leap forward was the decision taken by the Parliament when it passed the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, which provide for elected representatives from different sections of society, including our tribal people, backward classes and also women who form 50 percent of the population, to Panchayati Raj Institutions and Local Urban bodies. This expanded and deepened the reach of democracy at the grass roots level.
Most importantly, we must have unity of purpose. Our ultimate aim is to have development and freedom, while preserving and protecting the age-old values of our Indian culture, and the principles of tolerance and harmony, which reflect on the image of India on the world platform. We must take a call at this juncture, after our journey of 60 years, and resolve to work collectively for this goal through a well-built democracy. As is said in a Shloka -
which means, unity is the strength of any society and society is weak without it.
Uptil now, India has demonstrated its unflinching commitment to democracy through a consultative and participatory approach. Democracy cannot be allowed to falter, for it is the very essence of our nationhood. It is the fruit that we are enjoying of the sacrifice of our great freedom fighters and of our long and unique independence struggle under the illustrious leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, a historical responsibility is placed on our shoulders. We must rise to the occasion. We have made progress, we are looked upon as a nation that has much potential. We can together achieve greater heights. I would like to remind all the distinguished Members of what Swami Vivekananda said, and I quote, "Great things have been done in the past in this land, and there is both time and room for greater things to be done yet." Unquote. With the sincere efforts of all stakeholders of this generation, I hope that our chariot of democracy, surmounting every difficulty and challenge, will carry forward the nation towards progress and prosperity. With these words, I once again convey my very best wishes to all present here, and to all the people of our country on this auspicious occasion.