The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee addressed the faculty and students of 1172 Central Universities/Institutions from Rashtrapati Bhavan through National Knowledge Network today (August 5, 2014) on commencement of the academic year.
Addressing the students, the President said a sound education system is the bedrock of an enlightened society. Our institutes of higher learning are the cradle of future administrators and policy makers. The seeds of progressive thinking have to be sown and nurtured here. Core civilizational values of love for motherland; performance of duty; compassion for all; tolerance for pluralism; respect for women; honesty in life; self-restraint in conduct, responsibility in action and discipline have to be inculcated in these institutions.
Speaking on the topic of ‘Democracy and Governance’, the President said our Constitution is a living document which has evolved with time and within its spacious provisions accommodated the changing needs of a growing democracy. It is a constant reminder of our civilizational values, which we at times tend to forget. We will do well to remind ourselves, at least occasionally, that these values are sacrosanct in the functioning of our democracy.
The President said good governance is not a given in any system. It has to be nurtured by carefully developing institutions of democracy. Distortions happen when one institution does not function in the manner expected of it leading to overreach by others. What is required then is strengthening, re-invigorating and re-inventing these institutions to meet the needs of the time. It calls for wider involvement of the civil society. It entails free and open participation in the political processes by the people. It calls for ever-increasing engagement of the youth in the institutions and processes of democracy. It calls for ethical and responsible behaviour from the media. Good governance is critically dependent on pre-requisites like inviolable adherence to rule of law, existence of participatory decision-making structure, responsiveness, transparency, accountability, corruption-free society, equity and inclusiveness. In short, good governance implies a framework that has well-being of the people as its focal point. Progressive legislations provide an enabling environment and empower citizens to access entitlements. Some examples are the right to Information, education, food and employment.
The President said novel legislations can work only with robust delivery mechanisms. Corruption leads to denial of equitable distribution of benefits. Complexity and opacity of rules and procedures, discretion in the exercise of power, and weak enforcement of legal provisions are factors contributing to corruption. While we might need some new institutions to fight corruption, the solution lies not merely in creating more institutions but in strengthening and reforming the existing institutions to deliver results.
The President called upon students to contribute to a healthy democratic society and good governance practices in all spheres of functioning. A democracy cannot be healthy without informed participation. Students are amongst the brightest young minds in this country. The society has invested in them, and in return, they owe something to the society. They are entrusted with the people’s hopes and expectations. The President said ‘Read, learn and formulate views on national issues. Make the governance of this country your passion. Choose to engage with our beautiful but sometimes noisy democracy. As the future practitioners of governance, you have to play an active and positive role in ensuring that these institutions perform their duties with responsibility’.