‘Pranab Mukherjee is a grassroots person’

The nation is engrossed in the hype and persona that surround President-elect Pranab Mukherjee.

Updated: Jul 24, 2012, 11:00 AM IST

Ashok Kumar/ OneWorld South Asia

New Delhi: Even as the nation is engrossed in the hype and persona that surround President-elect Pranab Mukherjee, OneWorld South Asia gets talking to some key people in the Indian development sector to bring out their perspectives on how will the new President fare in shaping nation’s sustainable development agenda.

Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, 76, who is set to take over as the 13th President of India, has been known to continuously fire-fight for the United Progressive Alliance government. He had a strong and able contender in former speaker PA Sangma.

Rajesh Tandon, founder of Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), highlights three expectations which he has from the newly elected President.

Firstly, he says the new President should carry out a critical review and public dissemination of the Governors’ annual status reports on Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). Tandon says according to the Constitution of India, the Governors of all states are required to present this report on SCs and STs to the President but the Governors have not been taking it seriously.

He would also like Mukherjee to exercise his Presidential powers to ask the Election Commission of India and Government of India to implement electoral reforms pending for more than a decade, and take steps to remove legislators against whom corruption and criminal charges are pending. “One-third of the MPs and MLAs who voted for him have criminal backgrounds”, says Tandon.

“I also strongly wish that the newly-elected President asks the Government of India to legislate and implement a strong new Lokpal by December 2012. He can make his mark if he can accomplish all the three things, otherwise history will forget him like other Presidents,” Tandon adds.

Harsh Jaitly, CEO, Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), says Pranab Mukherjee being a grassroots person knows the social sector very well. We expect him to raise questions over laws which are anti-development in nature. He understands that the private sector alone cannot do everything in the development sector; he can therefore, through his speeches impress upon the government to be pro-active in this regard.

Ashok Bharti, National Coordinator of NACDOR and Convenor World Dignity Forum, says the election of Pranab Mukherjee as the President of India is a good news for the development sector.

“He understands that development sector is emerging as a powerful sector. He has been engaged with the civil society as a Finance Minister. Unlike a bureaucrat President, Mukherjee’s political persona will bring him closer to the civil society and would be more accessible. His political background will help him better understand the people’s need and worries,” Bharti said.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE, recalls the time when former president KR Narayanan, who was also the chief patron of the Centre for Science and Environment, once went all the way to Alwar in Rajasthan to award a grassroots endeavour by the community in bringing a river to life. She is positive that Mukherjee too will show similar sensitivity towards sustainable development as this can help influence public policy.