President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday used the occasion of the inauguration of a new think tank by the publishers of The Hindu to criticise the culture of “disruption” that was overwhelming Parliament and making it more difficult for policies and problems to be debated and discussed — in the House and, by implication, the country at large.
In an extempore speech delivered after inaugurating the The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy — an institution set up by the publishers of The Hindu to undertake research, promote dialogue and debate on the country’s problems — Mr. Mukherjee reflected on what he had learnt about the essence of democracy over the years. “My political science teacher taught me the three Ds essential for democracy — debate and discussion, dissent and finally decision — but when I retired on the day of my election as President I found another D injected in between — disruption.”
The function at Rashtrapati Bhavan was attended by Delhi’s who’s who, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda, CPI(M) leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, several Union Ministers, MPs, bureaucrats, diplomats and dignitaries from various walks of life.
The President made a plea for strengthening institutions that support democracy like an independent judiciary and a free press, and reminded the audience of the diligence with which parliamentary work was undertaken in the years following Independence.
He said that while Parliament was the sole authority to approve government expenditure, not enough time was being devoted to discussions on financial matters there. Citing the example of the discussion that took place over four days in 1951 to finalise the first Plan size which was only Rs. 2,000 crore, he asked if enough time was being devoted to budgetary and financial discussions.
Referring to the Centre, N. Ram, Director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd (KSL), the company which publishes The Hindu , said there was a great deal of superficiality and dilettantism not just in mainstream Indian journalism but also in public discourse on key issues that matter. “The way the Justice J. S. Verma committee went about its work and came up with what could be a game-changing contribution within the 30-day deadline it set for itself is an inspiration and a model for all of us,” Mr. Ram added.
The Centre’s Director, Malini Parthasarathy, said the Centre should be an agent of change, rather than solely engaging in theoretical explorations at a …
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