New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee, in his Independence Day eve broadcast to the nation, did not mince words to convey serious concern over Parliament turning into an “arena of combat rather than debate”.

Mukherjee said, “Our institutions of democracy are under stress. Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate.”

Mukherjee recalled what B R Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, said while making his closing speech in the Constituent Assembly in November 1949.  

Mukherjee said, according to Ambedkar, “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 depend 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?”

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 noted.

The President’s reference was seen as a clear allusion to the just-concluded monsoon session of Parliament which

was a washout due to the stand-off between the government and the Congress over Lalitgate and Vyapam scam. 

Mukherjee also expressed worry that "vested interests chip away at social harmony, in an attempt to erode many centuries of secularism. In an age of instant communication through ever-improving technology, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the devious designs of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people. For both government and people the rule of law is sacrosanct, but society is also protected by something greater than law: humanity."

The President wanted faster economic development for equitable distribution of the nation’s resources. "Our economy promises much hope for the future. The new chapters of the ‘India Story’ are waiting to be written. ‘Economic reforms’ is work-in-progress." 

Though India's  performance over the last decade has been commendable, Mukherjee felt that "the benefits of growth must reach the poorest of the poor much before they land in the bank accounts of the richest of the rich."

Mukherjee was especially concerned about the quality of education. 
"Our educational institutions multiply as the aspirations of generations continue to exceed supply. But what has happened to quality, from base to apex? Students, teachers and authorities must pause and introspect."

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