Shillong, Oct 21: President Pranab Mukherjee Monday said the government of the day should engage in dialogue and build consensus on issues concerning the nation.
“It is the mandate of every political activist to respond to issues through engagement and dialogue with civil society groups on issues of public concern and try to build a consensus on it,” Mukherjee said, addressing Meghalaya legislators.
“NGOs (non-governmental organisations) form an important component of the Indian democratic set-up. The government should hear them out as these groups express views of the common man,” he said in his 25-minute extempore speech.
Observing that parliament and the state assemblies form “the most important cog in the wheel of India’s democracy”, Mukherjee said the judiciary, a free press and civil society are also important for a vibrant democracy and added that these democratic institutions need strengthening.
Exhorting the government to engage in dialogue with NGOs to resolve issues, Mukherjee, who arrived in Shillong amid a standoff between pressure groups and the government over the burgeoning illegal Bangladeshi immigrants issue, said: “NGOs play an important role in expressing the views of the people. It is the responsibility of the government to respond, and it is only through dialogue that consensus could be built.”
Over a dozen pressure groups have been insisting that the Inner Line Permit (ILP), a British-era law, be re-introduced to contain the migration of outsiders into the state. The ruling Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance is, however, firm in opposing such an “archaic” step and feels that it will hinder the state’s economic development by blocking investment from business.
Moreover, the government cannot be seen as obstinate, Mukherjee said adding that the Anna Hazare movement for Lokayukta was given a patient hearing by the central government and no less than eight rounds of discussions were held between a Group of Ministers and representatives of NGOs.
“The prime minister could easily have said that law is to be drafted only in parliament, but instead discussions were held between members of the Anna Hazare-led movement on Lokayukta,” he told legislators.
Appealing to legislators across party lines to have extended sessions of the assembly with fewer disruptions, and threadbare discussions on “money and finance”, Mukherjee said: “Every legislator has got his job after begging people for their votes, and after gaining their trust. It would not be fair if he does not discharge his responsibilities.”
“The cardinal principle of effective functioning of a parliamentary system is that the majority would rule and the minority would oppose, expose and, if possible, depose. But this should be done within the framework of rules framed by the legislatures themselves,” said Mukherjee, who has held a long list of political posts.
The president said the role and functions of an assembly can be described as three Ds — debate, dissent and decision.
“A fourth D, that is ‘disruption’, should be strictly avoided,” he said.
“Disruption has no role in a parliamentary democracy. It is a small minority forcing their will on all others,” the president said.