NEW DELHI: Asserting that the country is passing through a difficult phase, former president Pranab Mukherjee has said that the land which gave the world the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is now in news for rising levels of intolerance, manifestations of rage and infringement of human rights.
Speaking at the inauguration of a two-day national conference on 'Towards Peace, Harmony and Happiness: Transition to Transformation', Mukherjee stated, "We are holding this conference at a time when the country is passing through a difficult phase. Reading the newspapers in the morning is a painful and a distressing experience. The headlines are all about violence, anger, and hatred. The land which gave the world the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and the civilizational ethos of tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness, is now in the news for rising levels of intolerance, manifestations of rage and infringement of human rights."
"Peace and harmony prevail when a nation celebrates pluralism, practices tolerance and promotes goodwill among diverse communities and when we purge the toxin of hatred, envy, jealousy, and aggression from our everyday lives," he added.
Stressing on the need of providing basic facilities to the citizens of India, Mukherjee said happiness is higher in countries that ensure their inhabitant's basic amenities and resources, greater security, autonomy, and freedom as well as sufficient educational opportunities and access to information. "People are manifestly happier in countries where personal freedoms are guaranteed and democracy is secured. Regardless of economic conditions, citizens are happy in a climate of peace," he noted.
"For peaceful and harmonious social transformation, the society must have the capacity to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential. Where people are largely dependent on the governments for basic amenities, good governance has a vital role to play in such transformation," he said.
Mukherjee also touched upon the issue of widespread "cynicism and disillusionment growing with the governance and functioning of the institutions such as Election Commission, Comptroller And Auditor General (CAG) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)".
"Institutions are a mirror of national character. To save our democracy, these institutions must win back the trust of the people, without any delay. Our constitution provides a delicate balance of power between various institutions of the State. This balance has to be maintained. We need a parliament that debates, discusses and decides. We need a judiciary that gives justice without delays. We need leadership that is committed to the nation and those values that made us a great civilization. We need a state that inspires confidence among people in its ability to surmount challenges before us. We need media and citizens who, even as they claim their rights, are equally committed to their responsibilities," the 82-year-old leader said.
Pranab Mukherjee also spoke on the poor quality of education in India and said that improving it should be placed on the top of the priority list. "India has one of the largest education systems in the world but the quality of education is far from satisfactory. India ranks second from the bottom in a list of 12 countries where some Grade 2 students were found to be unable to read a single word from a short text. Improving the standards of education at the primary, secondary and university level has to be our top priority. Our educational institutions should take the lead in meeting the moral challenges of our times and ensure that our civilizational values of love, compassion, tolerance, the performance of duty and respect for women and elderly get deeply entrenched in young minds," the veteran opined.
In his concluding statement, Mukherjee urged everyone, including the politicians and academicians, to work together, to carve out the path for a "violence-free transformation of the society towards peace, harmony, and happiness".