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    Parliament becoming area of combat rather than debate: President

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    New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) India’s institutions of democracy were under stress and parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday, and called for correctives from within.

    In his address to the nation on the eve of the 69th Independence Day, the president said that roots of democracy were deep but the leaves had beginning to wilt and it was time for renewal.
    “On the fertile ground laid by our Constitution, India has blossomed into a vibrant democracy. The roots are deep but the leaves are beginning to wilt. It is time for renewal,” he said.
    Mukherjee said it was time for serious thinking by people and political parties.
    “Our institutions of democracy are under stress. Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate. If the institutions of democracy are under pressure, it is time for serious thinking by the people and their parties. The correctives must come from within,” he said.
    Mukherjee’s remarks came against the backdrop of the washed out monsoon session of parliament that ended on Thursday. The session, which saw suspension of 25 Congress MPs, was marked by acrimonious and personalised exchanges between the members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
    The president said questions have to be asked so that the country’s finest inheritance is preserved.
    “If we do not act now, will our successors seven decades hence remember us with the respect and admiration we have for those who shaped the Indian dream in 1947? The answer may not be comfortable, but the question has to be asked,” he said.
    The president recalled the closing speech of B.R. Ambedkar, the chairman of the drafting committee of the constitution, delivered in the Constituent Assembly in 1949.
    “The working of a constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the constitution. The constitution can provide only the organs of state, such as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
    “The factors on which the working of those organs of the state depends are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their parties will behave,” the president quoted Ambedkar as saying.
    Mukherjee said the birth of modern India was a moment of historic exhilaration but was also tinged with the blood of unimaginable suffering across the country.
    He said the ideals and convictions that had held through the the struggle against the British were under strain.
    “A great generation of supreme heroes faced this formidable challenge. The sagacity and maturity of that generation saved our ideals from deviation or degeneration under the pressure of emotion including rage,” he said.
    The president said India’s pride, self-esteem and self-respect, which were born from a civilisational wisdom and had inspired the renaissance that won the freedom, was distilled into the principles of the Constitution.
    “We have been blessed by a Constitution that launched India’s march towards greatness. The most precious gift of this document was democracy which reshaped our ancient values into a modern context and institutionalized multiple freedoms,” he said.
    He said the democracy had turned liberty into a living opportunity for the oppressed and impoverished and had instituted a gender revolution that has made India an example for progress. The country, he said, had abolished archaic customs and ensured change for women through education and jobs.
    “Our institutions are the infrastructure of this idealism. The finest inheritance needs constant care for preservation,” the president said.

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