Prez stresses on electoral reforms

Mumbai: Underlining the need to stand up to the challenges to effective democracy in an evolving nation, President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday pitched for electoral reforms saying the country`s institutions should be rebuilt in accordance with demands of the changing times.

"We need to deliberate and debate on ways to strengthen governance, legislative system, as well as judicial system. There is an urgent need for undertaking electoral reforms. "Alongside, there is also a need to reform our education system. The governments, legislators, social activists and media should come together to chart the future course of action," the President said inaugurating platinum jubilee celebration of the Maharashtra Legislature here.

Terming social harmony and tolerance as the bedrock of Indian democracy, Patil said cultivating the knack of understanding the other persons viewpoint is a must for a democracy to be successful. "It is not necessary to be in complete agreement, but we should not be obstinate and think that I am right and the other person is wrong. If we develop intolerance, we shut the door on understanding. Everyone needs to know about this," she said in her speech delivered in Marathi amidst huge round of applause from dignitaries attending it.

Noting that socio-economic conditions in the country have changed rapidly in the last two decades, Patil, who is on a two-day visit to the state, said increasing industrialisation, rise of money power, decline of value system, technological innovations, information explosion have all brought forth new challenges. "These challenges become magnified in a pluralistic society like ours as sensitivities of various groups also need to be taken care of," the President said.

Noting that Legislative Assemblies reflect the views and aspirations of the people, Patil said, "It is for the people`s representatives to discharge their duties keeping in mind the institutional and democratic norms. The world is changing fast and the people`s representatives have to rise to the occasion.

Patil, who was born in Nadgaon village of Jalgaon District of the State, had entered Maharashtra Legislative Assembly as a young member 50 years ago and later served as a minister and the Leader of the Opposition "Democracy is not a mere instrument of governance. We need to stand up to the challenges being posed to effective democracy and also realize that along with rights come responsibilities," she said during the function.

Patil gave an example of her address to the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly where both the ruling party and the opposition unanimously decided "that no member would be allowed to enter the Well of the House, and if a member did so, he would be automatically suspended".
"The legislature felt that this would lead to greater productivity and lesser disruptions as a result. We must not forget that it is necessary to protect the democratic traditions and practices of the legislatures," she said.

"Our election process is elaborate, yet we have changed governments from time to time at the Centre as well as in states in a disciplined manner," Patil said. "The world witnessed the economic recession in 2008, which affected most of the developed nations. Its impact was far less in India, and the turnaround was fantastic and we are back to 8 per cent growth. India has the distinction of showing to the world that faster economic growth is possible even under democratic regimes," she said.

Social harmony and tolerance have been the bedrock of Indian democracy, the President said.
"Despite several challenges, our belief in democracy has not been shaken. We continue to proudly display our faith in unity in diversity," she said. "As an evolving nation, we have taken steps to strengthen our democratic institutions. Through the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution we have given powers to the Panchayati Raj institutions and local self government bodies.

Speaking of her deep and long standing relationship with Maharashtra Legislature, the President recalled her stint as a member of the House and expressed her gratitude to the then senior colleagues of hers for what she had learnt from them.