New Delhi: In an apparent reference to the civil society movement for a strong Lokpal Bill, President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday said one has to be cautious in bringing about reforms so that the tree of democratic institutions does not come down.
"While bringing about reforms and improving institutions, we have to be cautious that while shaking the tree to remove the bad fruit, we do not bring down the tree itself", she said in her address to the nation on the eve of 63rd Republic Day.
Patil did not specifically mention the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare but the remarks could be seen as a reference to the movement for the anti-corruption ombudsman.
She said India can take pride in its democratic record but as in any functional democracy, it faces pressures and challenges.
Patil said there would be short term pressures, but in this process the long term goals must not be lost sight of, and everyone must work together on core national agenda.
Emphasising that those who believe in democracy must try to see the rationale in the others' point of view, she said concord and not discord is the way forward for a country as large as India.
"All issues, therefore, must be resolved through dialogue and there can be no place for violence. Negativity and rejection cannot be the path for a vibrant country that is moving to seek its destiny," she said.
Patil said Indian institutions may not be flawless but they have coped with many challenges.
Indian Parliament, she noted, has enacted path-breaking laws and Government has put together schemes for the progress and welfare of the people.
Patil said,"our judiciary has a reputable standing. Our media too has played an important role. With all institutions working together for the same national purpose it will create a stream of positive energy."
She expressed the hope that in the spirit of national interest, matters of national importance, are discussed and solutions found between different stakeholders. This would strengthen the roots of our democracy and the foundations of our nation.
"Often, we are quick to find blame with others; but, yet are unable to give constructive responses. There seems to be a tendency to doubt almost everything. Do we not have faith in our own people's strengths and in our institutions? Can we afford distrust amongst ourselves?," she said.
The President said all issues, therefore, must be resolved through dialogue and there can be no place for violence. Negativity and rejection cannot be the path for a vibrant country that is moving to seek its destiny.
She said the Constitution has been and should be the compass guiding in nation-building.
"It is the charter of our democracy. It is the document guaranteeing individual freedoms to its citizens. It is the basis on which institutions of the State have been created and have derived their powers and functions," she said.
Patil said tremendous work needs to be done to move forward on social and economic agenda to achieve fast, economic and sustainable growth.
"Our foremost priority is the removal of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, disease and illiteracy. All social welfare programmes must be implemented efficiently. Agencies involved in the delivery of services should have a strong sense of duty and work in a transparent, corruption-free, time-bound and accountable manner," she said.
The President said India's foreign policy was aimed at the promotion of an environment that is conducive to its socio-economic transformation.
"We seek to build bridges of cooperation and friendship with all countries of the world. We constructively engage with the international community to find responses to global challenges," she said.
Patil said the role and stature of India, has been growing and the nation has been scaling up in the ladder of the comity of nations.
"India seeks an architecture for global institutions that is more reflective of contemporary realities. We are also proud of the contributions of the Indian Diaspora, spread over many countries and across continents, to the economic, professional and political fields of the countries where they live," she said.
The President said, "we are living in a world that is complex and challenging. Forces of globalisation have created an interlinked and interdependent world. No country exists in isolation; it is continuously being influenced by external developments".
She said all nations, developed and developing, are facing the impact of global economic instability, as well as problems of unemployment and inflation, in varying degrees.
"There are growing aspirations of the people, coupled with their expectations of immediate solutions. We are observing, an information explosion and ever-newer technological inventions.
"These have altered lifestyles and there is also a growing quest for materialism. There are persistent questions about how growth and resources will be shared in a more equitable manner," she said.
The President said education must reach every section of the society, as must access to health.
"We need to expand health services, particularly in rural areas. We need quality medical facilities for our population, which are affordable. In today's era of ICT, technology can be very useful in our mission of health and education," she said.
Patil said science and technology was a critical input for the growth of the nation and all sectors of the economy.
"Focus on research and development is an investment in our future. Our agriculture, industry and service sectors need to be working more efficiently, with greater scientific inputs and more inter-linkages with each other," she said.
The President said agriculture is one sector whose integration with other sectors of the economy remains inadequate.
"We need to look at models of partnership, of farmers with industry and with Research and Development institutions in various activities, so that, not only does agricultural productivity increase, but farmers benefit as well," she said.
Patil said special focus is necessary on dryland farming, given its potential and, the fact that, a large proportion of farm labour and poor farmers are dependent on it.
"At the same time, it is very important to build our physical infrastructure - such as roads, ports and airports, to overcome constraints to rapid growth," she said.
On the issue of women empowerment, the President said it would have a very big impact on creating social structures that are stable.
"An important component of women's development is their economic and social security. Social prejudices prevalent in our society which have led to gender discrimination need to be corrected. Social evils like female foeticide, child marriage and dowry must be eradicated. Status of women is an important indicator of progress in a society," she said.