Mumbai, 19 October 2011.
“Governments must uphold rule of law and create a just system for all”
A thriving democracy like India is staring at many challenges in a rapidly changing world, but a spirit of tolerance, upholding human rights and creation of a fair system of governance that ensures equality for all, is a goal governments and citizens must strive for, President Pratibha Patil said here on Tuesday.
Addressing a function to mark the platinum jubilee of the Maharashtra legislature, Ms. Patil said: “Mere elections don’t define democracy. Democracies are a means to ensure human rights, uphold the rule of law and create a just system for all. We have to create a system that gives people the opportunity to lead meaningful lives. If we study the reasons for India’s stability and success, the root lies in our social harmony.
“The last two decades have seen rapid socio-economic and cultural changes in the world. People’s needs have increased, the middle class has been growing, there are challenges posed by climate change, industrialisation, information explosion, changes in lifestyles and lower tolerance levels. Governments will have to think about all these changes in totality. It’s true that there are challenges before thriving democracies. Therefore, in a plural society like ours, we have to foster the spirit of tolerance that already exists in us,” Ms. Patil said.
Calling for an understanding approach in the face of conflicting views, the President said, “faith and compromise” were an integral part of democracy. “Democracy is not an administrative document, but an expression of respect towards fellow citizens.”
She cautioned that legislators need to uphold democratic traditions while representing and fulfilling the needs and desires of their constituencies. She cited a decision by the Chhattisgarh legislators of not entering the well of the House, an act which would lead to automatic suspension.
“People are eager for progress. Workload on legislators is increasing. Increasing the pace of development and addressing the needs and desires of people is an important aspect. Need to have more faith in optimism and liberal thinking,” she said.
Ms. Patil called for strengthening of administrative processes and ushering in electoral reforms. “We need to make appropriate changes to democratic institutions, processes and administrative procedures to make them more effective in a changing scenario. Electoral reforms are very important. We also have to stress on education reforms and women’s empowerment. For this, public representatives, government and media have to come together and deliberate. We have to take care that our democracy does not falter,” she said.
Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan pointed to the trend of insufficient debate in the Assembly. “Even supplementary demands are passed without debate.”
“Not having a healthy debate is not good for democracy. It will make people lose faith in the legislature,” Mr. Sankaranarayanan said. While the State had passed the bill for 50 per cent women’s reservation in local bodies, he hoped to see 50 per cent women’s participation in the legislature.
The event was attended by many dignitaries, including Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar; Governors of Punjab, Tripura, Jharkhand and Orissa; Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and other Union Ministers. A collection of 75 speeches and memoirs was released at the event.