National consensus needed on vital issues
H K Dua
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 21st 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? 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.
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. Vigilance 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 for a 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.
Then, 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 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.
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 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.
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. On the judicial reforms which have been promised in the President’s Address, I hope, the political parties will support.