IN HIS address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day, President Pranab Mukherjee expressed his concern over the rise of divisive forces “in the last four years” and said attacks on weaker sections of society should be dealt with firmly.
“In these four years, I… saw with, some disquiet, forces of divisiveness and intolerance trying to raise their ugly head. Attacks on weaker sections that militate against our national ethos are aberrations that need to be dealt with firmly,” he said.
At the same time, he expressed confidence that such forces will remain “marginalised” due to the “collective wisdom of our society and our polity”. “India’s remarkable growth story will continue uninterrupted,” the President said.
It was Mukherjee’s fifth address to the nation ahead of August 15, and his last unless he gets a second term.
Divisive agendas amount to subversion of the Constitution, the President said. “Democracy is more than a periodic exercise of choices to elect the government. The great tree of liberty requires constant nourishment through the institutions of democracy. Disruptions, obstructionism and un-mindful pursuit of a divisive political agenda by groups and individuals lead to nothing but institutional travesty and Constitutional subversion. Polarising debates only deepen the fault lines in public discourse.”
He quoted former president Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan to make the point that democratic assemblies as mandated by the Constitution are the “safety valve” against standardised thinking and acting. The very essence of plurality, he said lies in cherishing the country’s diversity.
The President also talked about atrocities on women, saying, “The safety and security that we provide to our women and children determine the well-being of the State and society. Every incident of violence against a woman or a child inflicts a wound on the soul of civilisation. We cannot call ourselves a civilised society if we fail in this duty.”
Amid tension between the Executive and the Judiciary, Mukherjee said the Constitution clearly defines the duties and responsibilities of every organ of the State. “It has established the ancient Indian ethos of ‘maryada’ as far as Authorities and Institutions of State power are concerned. The spirit of the Constitution has to be upheld by adherence to this ‘maryada’ by functionaries in discharge of their duties,” he said.
The President has routinely criticised parliamentary disruptions. With the recent Parliament session logging cent percent productivity after many years, Mukherjee hailed the passage of the GST Bill. The passage of the Bill “amidst non-partisan and quality parliamentary deliberations is reason enough to celebrate our democratic maturity”, he said.
Backed by strong political will, India must strive to create a future which will economically empower six hundred million youth, build a digital India, a start-up India, and a skilled India, the President said.
India will grow only when all of India grows, he said. “The excluded ones have to be included in the development process. The hurt and the alienated have to be brought back into the mainstream.”
The President said India couldn’t rest on its laurels alone. “We should promote and reinforce a scientific temper by questioning our beliefs which are not compatible with the scientific way of thinking. We must learn to challenge the status quo and refuse to accept inefficiency and slipshod work. In a competitive environment, a sense of immediacy and some impatience are a necessary virtue… We often celebrate the achievements of our ancient past but it would be wrong to rest on our laurels. It is much more important to look to the future.”
Mukherjee also expressed his concern over terrorism. “The world has witnessed a spate of terror activities having their roots in radicalisation of people on the basis of religion. These forces apart from killing innocent people in the name of religion also threaten to disturb geopolitical divides, which could prove disastrous for world peace. The inhuman, mindless and barbaric modus operandi of such groups have been visible in France, Belgium, the United States, Nigeria, Kenya and, closer home, in Afghanistan and Bangladesh recently… The world will have to fight them unconditionally and in one voice.”