Islamabad: With a host of developmental challenges facing the SAARC countries, India Monday favoured empowering the common man through "popular governance" by devolving more constitutional power to them.
Observing that the cornerstone of any successful democracy lies in being able to address the challenges and issues that concern its people, it said the Parliaments can take the lead in truly fostering economic and social advancement of the people.
"The SAARC region is facing a host of developmental challenges and only popular governance can help us overcome them. Devolving constitutional power to the common man and actively involving marginalised sections of society in decision-making is the way forward," Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said.
Participating at the sixth conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians here today, she said affirmative action is imperative to ensure a level playing field for the disadvantaged sections to increase and promote their participation in the governing processes.
The SAARC region, she said, has the highest incidence of poverty in the world as over 40 per cent of the world?s poor people live here.
"I hope we all would agree that a robust democracy thrives on the active participation of its citizenry. A democratic state relies on the mandate of its people. It is the will of the masses from which legislatures derive their legitimacy.
"This kind of participation is the bedrock of constitutional governments," she said.
She said the Indian Constitution has guaranteed formal equality which means equal protection of law against discrimination.
It contains provisions for the special representation rights of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes by way of reserved seats in legislatures and quotas in government jobs and educational institutions.
"We are also striving towards creating an atmosphere where trade and industry come forward to provide training for jobs for the socially backward groups, as is being done in the public sector," she said.
Preferences are also given to these groups as also to women with regard to provision of certain expenditures, services and ameliorative schemes such as scholarships, grants, loans, land allotments, etc., she said.
"I must also mention the Right to Information Act, 2005 which brought enormous and substantive transparency in the functioning of the government. The Act seeks to enhance accountability so as to strengthen public trust in the functioning of Government and public institutions," she said.
The General Assembly also accepted the proposal of the Parliament of Maldives to host the next Conference of the Association in 2013.