New Delhi: Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday observing that institutions of democracy are under stress and "correctives must come from within".
In comments that come against the backdrop of a washed out Monsoon session of Parliament, he said, "if the institutions of democracy are under pressure, it is time for serious thinking by people and their parties".
Addressing the nation on the eve of 69th Independence Day, Mukherjee expressed concern over the apparent fractious politics and Parliament when he said "the roots (of vibrant democracy) are deep but the leaves are beginning to wilt. It is time for renewal.
"If we do not act now, will our successors seven decades hence remember us with the respect and admiration we have for those who shaped the Indian dream in 1947? The answer may not be comfortable but the question has to be asked."
Asserting that the most precious gift of the Constitution is democracy, the President said, "our instituitions are the infrastructure of this idealism. The finest inheritance needs constant care for preservation.
"Our institutions of democracy are under stress. The Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate."
Referring to social harmony, Mukherjee said Indian democracy is "creative" because it is plural but diversity must be nourished with tolerance and patience.
"Vested interests chip away at social harmony, in an attempt to erode many centuries of secularism. In an age of instant communication through ever-improving technology, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the devious designs of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people."
He said the rule of law is sacrosanct for both government and people but society is also protected by something greater than law -- humanity.
He quoted Mahatma Gandhi "you must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty".
The President said a great generation of supreme heroes faced formidable challenge when ideals and convictions that had held through the travails of an epic struggle against British rule were under strain.
"The sagacity and maturity of that generation saved our ideals from deviation or degeneration under the pressure of emotion, including rage," he said.
While stating that the country's rise will be measured by the strength of the values, the President also said it will equally be determined by economic growth and equitable distribution of the nation's resources.
Mukherjee said it is most heartening that despite a dip in last one decade, the growth rate has been recovered to 7.3 per cent in 2014-15 but said the benefits of growth must reach the poorest of the poor much before they land in the bank accounts of the richest of the rich.
"We are an inclusive democracy, and an inclusive economy; there is place for everyone in the hierarchy of wealth. But the first call goes to those who suffer on the brink of deprivation. Our policies must be geared to meet the 'Zero Hunger' challenge in a foreseeable future," he said.
"Our economy promises much hope for the future. The new chapters of the 'India Story' are waiting to be written. 'Economic reforms' is a work-in-progress," the President said.
In an apparent message to Pakistan, President said "our neighbours" must ensure that their territory is not used by forces inimical to India which rejects any attempt to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
"While we offer our hand willingly in friendship, we cannot stay blind to deliberate acts of provocation and a deteriorating security environment. India is a target of vicious terrorist groups operating from across the borders," the President said.
Asserting that India's policy will remain one of zero tolerance for terrorism, he said "we reject any attempt to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Infiltration into our territory and attempts to create mayhem will be dealt with a strong hand".
The President said except the language of violence and the cult of evil, these terrorists have no religion and adhere to no ideology.
The statement comes against the backdrop of two terror strikes in Gurdaspur in Punjab and Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir where militants infiltrated from Pakistan and killed security personnel and civilians.
While paying homage to the martyrs who made the supreme sacrifice of their lives defending India, the President specially commended two villagers of Udhampur area "who boldly detained a hardened terrorist ignoring the risk to their own lives."
The two civilians Rakesh Kumar Sharma and and Bikramjeet Singh captured Mohammed Naved Yukub, a Lashker-e-Toiba terrorist who was fleeing after carrying out an attack on BSF convoy along with his accomplice Mohammed Noman.
Two BSF personnel were killed while Noman was killed in retaliatory fire. Naved tried to escape from the scene and attempted to take Shama and Singh as a hostage. However, the duo outsmarted him and captured him.
He also talked about binding of nations with peace, friendship and cooperation and called for strengthening of connectivity, expand institutional capacity and enhance mutual trust to further regional cooperation.
"As we make progress in advancing our interests globally, India is also engaged in pro-actively promoting goodwill and prosperity in our immediate neighbourhood," Mukherjee said.
He noted it was heartening that the long pending land boundary issue with Bangladesh has been finally resolved.