President Pratibha Patil's remark seen as a tacit allusion to the civil society campaign for a strong Lokpal
In what appears an indirect reference to the civil society movement for a strong Lokpal, President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday said one should be cautious while bringing about reforms so as to not bring down the tree of democratic institutions itself.
“While bringing about reforms and improving institutions, we have to be cautious that while shaking the tree to remove the bad fruit, we do not bring down the tree itself,” she said in her address to the nation on the eve of the 63rd Republic Day.
Emphasising the need for resolving issues through dialogue, she said: “Concord — and not discord — is the way forward for a country as large as India. Negativity and rejection cannot be the path for a vibrant country that is moving to seek its destiny. I do hope that in the spirit of national interest, matters of national importance are discussed and solutions found between different stakeholders.”
Greeting the nation and complimenting citizens on their contribution to nation-building, she said India could take pride in its democratic record but as did any functional democracy it faced pressures and challenges. “There would be short-term pressures, but in this process the long-term goals must not be lost sight of, and everyone must work together on the core national agenda.”
Noting that our institutions may not be flawless, Ms. Patil said nevertheless they coped with many challenges. “Our Parliament has enacted path-breaking laws. Our government has put together schemes for the progress and welfare of people. Our judiciary has a reputable standing. Our media too has played an important role.”
Pointing out that the Constitution had been and should be the compass guiding nation-building, the President said it was the charter of our democracy and document guaranteeing individual freedoms to its citizens. It was the basis on which institutions of the state had been created and had derived their powers and functions.
Asserting that tremendous work needed to be done to move forward on the social and economic agenda to achieve fast, economic and sustainable growth, she stressed the removal of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease and illiteracy as “our foremost priority.”
Expressing concern at global economic instability and related problems of unemployment and inflation, she said these raised questions how growth and resources would be shared equitably.
“There are worries about the direction in which the human community is heading in this age of globalisation, knowledge and technology. For us in India, the discourse is about how an ancient civilisation and a young nation will move ahead. For us, economic prosperity alone is not enough. We look to an India where there is equity and justice.”
The answer lay in a positive attitude and “our aspiration to grow,” she said, emphasising the need for reinforcing education and health, particularly in rural areas.
Maintaining that the status of women was an important indicator of progress, she said drawing women into the mainstream and empowering them would have a big impact on creating a stable social infrastructure.
Underlining the need for the agriculture, industry and service sectors to have inter-linkages and scientific inputs, she pointed out that the integration of the farm sector with other sectors of the economy was “inadequate.”
“We need to look at models of partnership with farmers, with industry and with research and development institutions so that not only farm productivity increases but farmers benefit as well,” she said adding there should be focus on dry land farming and development of infrastructure for rapid growth.
The President highlighted India's global economic stature and pitched for reforms of global institutions to reflect contemporary realities. The role and stature of India had been growing and the nation had been going up the ladder in the comity of nations, she said.
India's foreign policy, she said, was aimed at promoting an environment that was conducive to its socio-economic transformation. New Delhi should build bridges of cooperation and friendship with all countries.
Ms. Patil also lauded the Indian diaspora, spread over many countries and across continents, for its varied contributions.