Debate on the President’s Address

Transcript of a speech made by H K Dua in the Rajya Sabha on February 23, 2011 in the debate on the President’s Address to the joint session of Parliament.

National consensus on vital issues needed

SHRI H.K.DUA (NOMIATED):   Thank you, Mr Vice-Chairman, for giving me time. I have heard the debate, during the last two days, on the President’s Address.  Members of all shades of opinions have expressed their opinions on the President’s Address and the various issues confronting the country.  In a nation of one billion people, there are bound to be differences of opinion, but I do find that despite the acrimony witnessed during the last several months in the country, despite the different views expressed in the House and outside, there is no difference of opinion among the leadership of various parties and the people that this country should emerge as a major economic, political and military power of the 21st century.  There is no difference of opinion on this central aim which has emerged after 64 years of freedom.  This is not an armchair  dream of any one political party, but this is the national aim.  Everybody, whether on the Treasury benches, or on the Opposition benches, realizes that the country has achieved the potential of becoming a major power of the 21 century.

The world is also acknowledging, possibly; the world is acknowledging this, more liberally, than we are doing ourselves, considering a sort of cynicism and cynical mood that has developed over the last few months or over the last few years.

But are we, as a nation, doing all what needs to be done to emerge as a major power of the 21st century? And if we examine this question, in detail, the answer will be, “NO.” All that is sought to be done, all that needs to be done, we are not doing.  If we have to build this country into a big military, political and economic power, befitting a nation of a billion people, then we need to do much more.

And one of the things which we need to develop is, to evolve a national consensus on some essential issues. This kind of attempt — although feeble — has been made, often during the last few years to evolve a national consensus on some issues, but these efforts have not succeeded. The time has come now, fairly in the beginning of the 21st century, to evolve a consensus over some issues on which the parties should sink their differences and evolve a consensus and approach which facilitate achieving that potential aim which we can possibly achieve.

What are those issues? Considering the time, at my disposal, I will be brief, Mr Vice-Chairman.  Issues of national security, for instance, deserve  national consensus. I do not find anybody, in this House, who will place any obstacles in evolving a national consensus on security issues, both internal and external. There are formidable challenges to national security  Terrorism is one; nobody can differ on the need to combat terrorism. In the last few months there has been no real big terror strike. But that does not mean that the threat of terrorism has disappeared from the country.

SHRI H.K. DUA (CONTD): One weapon which the terrorists have, which we can’t anticipate, is the weapon of surprise. They can strike anywhere they like, at any time they want, unless there is a danger to them on a crucial occasion. The vigilance which the President’s Address speaks about fairly in the beginning of the Address is necessary. But that should have the backing of all shades of opinion and a national consensus which is necessary.

Another is the Maoists’ threat. It is not, in a sense, a threat that cannot be tackled.  Over all, there are 160, or 180, districts affected by Maoists threat. Out of them, 60 districts have been identified as very sensitive. Even 60 is not a small number.  Essentially, the Maoists threat to the State is very serious and can’t brook a partisan approach. It has to be met with a national approach.

Not only the parties have to cooperate with each other, but  also the Central and the State Governments, irrespective of the denomination which governs there, have to cooperate to find a way to tackle this national menace.  The Maoists also strike a surprise. Dantewada was one where 76 people of the CRPF were killed one night. Now they have the temerity to kidnap a District Collector in Orissa and keep him in custody. He is a public-spirited officer, which is a very rare breed these days. He is popular among the people and that popularity itself is nagging the Maoists.  They captured him and wanted some of their  people to be released. I am glad that he has been freed and some praise should go from this House for the brave officer like him.

But the essential message which comes out clearly is that the Maoists are not relenting in their efforts to disturb peace in the country and they want to strike wherever they want. They do spring surprise, some time in Chhattisgarh, another time in Jharkhand and the third time in Orissa, and tomorrow they can do it at another place.

Sir, I will keep it brief. There is a need for national consensus also on…

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF P.J. KURIAN): Your time is going to be over. What can I do? There is so much of time constraint.

SHRI H.K. DUA: I WILL CUT IT SHORT. Mr. Vice-Chairman. I am sure, you will give me marks for patience.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN; TAKE TWO MORE MINUTES.

SHRI H K DUA; There is a need for consensus on Kashmir. I am afraid, this has been lacking and even if some consensus was evolved a few years ago,  I find  it is disappearing. There is no political consensus on it now.  The fact is that we have been promising autonomy to Kashmir over the years. Successive Prime Ministers have promised autonomy. Mr Narasimha Rao had promised autonomy to Kashmir; Mr Vajpayee had promised autonomy to Kashmir; and the present Prime Minister Dr Manmohan singh has promised autonomy to Kashmir.  I don’t think that we should relax on that aim. How the consensus can work in Kashmir is evident from the President’s Address acknowledgement of the mission of All-Party Delegation which visited Kashmir a few months ago and came back with the impression that it was possible to evolve a solution of Kashmir. The message will go much deeper if all the parties agree on Kashmir.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF P.J. KURIEN): Okay, Duaji.

SHRI H.K. DUA: I will cut it short. I will take just two minutes.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN; I am unwillingly saying. I am also helpless.

SHRI H K DUA:  Just a couples of minutes more and I will be done with this.

On foreign Policy issue, we require a different Foreign Policy for the 21st century from the earlier one. It is no longer a bipolar world. It is a multi-polar world. I think that a consensus on foreign Policy will help the Government to deal with the rest of the world better.

But one other thing certainly needs to be done and I would like to lay emphasis on it in my concluding remarks. We need to have a consensus on how to run this Parliament; how to bring about  judicial reforms which are very badly needed and how to bring administrative reforms because they are  key to the governance of the country.

I am sorry to say this – I am a new Member comparatively – that the way  Parliament has conducted itself for some time does not enjoy the support of the people. The judiciary is also losing support of the people when  cases are not decided for twenty years, or thirty years and some times after a person is no more.

SHRI H K DUA (CONTD): At the district level, at High Courts level, prestige of the courts has suffered, and somehow, the Supreme Court lately is also hitting the headlines for wrong reasons which I don’t  have the time to elaborate. On the judicial reforms which have been promised in the President’s Address, I hope, the political parties will support.

Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chairman.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF. P.J. KURIEN): Duaji, in fact, an erudite person like you should be given more time, but I am helpless. There are three speakers and the time allotted is 17 minutes.

Confrontation will harm Parliament, nation

These are not happy times in India and it looks as if it will take quite a while for it to recover from what is certainly a crisis it has allowed itself to slip  into.

The crisis has brought out not only the way the political system has been mauled during 63 years since Independence, but also it has bruised the conscience of the nation.

The Constitution and political system the founding fathers of the Republic  left behind is often blamed by the chatterati. The fault,  however, may not be of the Constitution, or the system, or the stars — but of the men who have been fiddling  with the values enshrined in the constitutional scheme  for their narrow, petty ends across the land.

This is evident from the way vital organs of the State – Parliament, the judiciary and the executive – have fallen in public esteem.  And no political leader, whatever the political affiliation, is making a serious effort to stop the rot, which is affecting the health of the nation.

Parliament, which represents a nation of over a billion people, who are keen to see a better future in their lifetime, is lying paralysed, almost dysfunctional.

The worthy members sitting on both sides of the divide do not know how to resolve the crisis by talks, or a give-and take approach that is always of help in a democracy.

Consensus among political parties is essential in a democratic polity. What we are seeing is however, a sustained attempt to create an atmosphere of confrontation that can spill over from Parliament to the country.  Unchecked, it will have serious consequences for the country and the political system,  or whatever is left of it.  The resultant tensions will add to the people’s agony.

The 2G guilty must be punished, but the JPC is not the only way to get the truth out of the government on the scam. Properly made use of, other ways can also be effective. One of them is that the Public Accounts Committee, which is headed by a senior BJP leader, should be entrusted with the task.  A no-confidence motion on the scam can also be moved in the House in the current session. But not to let Parliament discuss it and to force daily adjournments of the House by raising a ruckus cannot be regarded as service to Parliament.

It has been seen from experience elsewhere in the world, that the moment a parliament loses public respect as an institution, it loses its legitimacy.  The Hon. Members need to ensure that Parliament continues to enjoy public confidence.

Not much can be said about the executive branch’s performance during the last 60 years. The so-called “Steel Frame” has become  corroded to the bones. Senior bureaucrats at the Centre and in the States have developed cosy relationship with unscrupulous politicians, just to share the cake. Greed is cementing the nexus and breeding corruption.

Scores of officers of the babudom, IAS, IPS and others services  are facing criminal trials and there are others who ought to be proceeded against,  but the people tend to believe that nothing will happen to anyone.

In most States, the administration is distant, callous and unresponsive. And the people do find that the rich and the influential are able to find their way through the corridors and the red tape, while others are kept at bay.

Over the years, the judiciary’s image has also suffered.   Most people, who thought that it is their last hope, no longer think it can dispense justice to them and in time. This is mainly because of the long delays, high costs, frequent adjournments –which are often managed– and  corruption.

Justice S P Bharucha once said in a public statement that 20 per cent of judiciary was corrupt.  That was years ago, and you have to take into account the cost of the rise of the index of inflation.

None else than the Attorney General of India, C.M. Vanahavati pointed out in the Supreme Court  the other day how difficult the judiciary will find it to apply the criterion of “impeccable integrity” to judicial appointments. His brief was of course to defend the controversial appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner.

The judiciary is rightly jealous of its independence and the people also have a high stake in it. But it pre-supposes that it is prepared to guard its freedom from encroachment by the Executive, Parliament or those with the power to buy justice or influence in several courts in the country.

The reports from various high courts and the subordinate judiciary should have caused greater concern at the apex level than it has. The Supreme Court should have been listening to the woes of the common people who daily have to knock the kacheheri’s doors only to go home disappointed.

That some wrong men were allowed to come to higher judiciary and it has had no way to tackle their greed is amply illustrated by the two cases of Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran of the Karntaka High Court and Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court, have been sent to Parliament for impeachment, because the Supreme Court itself  could not weed the rotten apples out.

And now we will have to see the irony of a Parliament, which  itself is writhing in a disfunctional state, is supposed to decide the fate of the two errant high court judges who have been in the headlines for wrong reasons.

And now a section of the media, which has been boldly reporting and commenting from the sidelines and acquiring a sort of moral superiority a watchdog likes to enjoy, is also earning  public sneers for the inclination of some well-known names to become facilitators in the games the politicians and big business are used to playing.

The people who do not seem to be worried are the illustrious members of the big businesses for whom the current state of the political system is a matter of discussion at  cocktail time. Even some of the respected names, who have often bragged about the social responsibility of the business, have been caught in the Niira Radia tapes. They reveal an extra-curricular interest Niira Radia and her illustrious  client has taken in the induction into the Union Cabinet last year – of none else than A Raja —the source of much trouble to the Government, Parliament, the judiciary and the media.

The malaise is much deeper than a JPC will be able to tackle.  The moral fibre of the nation has become weak and there is no one around to check its daily attenuation.

– The Tribune, December 1st, 2010

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