Be cautious in bringing reforms: President

President Pratibha Patil said one has to be cautious in bringing about reforms so that the tree of democratic institutions does not come down.

New Delhi: In an apparent reference to the
civil society movement for a strong Lokpal, President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday said one has to be cautious in bringing about
reforms so that the tree of democratic institutions does not
come down.

"While bringing about reforms and improving institutions,
we have to be cautious that while shaking the tree to remove
the bad fruit, we do not bring down the tree itself", she said
in her address to the nation on the eve of 63rd Republic Day.

Patil did not specifically mention the anti-corruption
movement of Anna Hazare but the remarks could be seen as a
reference to the movement for the anti-corruption ombudsman.

She said India can take pride in its democratic record
but as in any functional democracy, it faces pressures and

Patil said there would be short term pressures, but in
this process the long term goals must not be lost sight of,
and everyone must work together on core national agenda.

Emphasising that those who believe in democracy must try
to see the rationale in the others` point of view, she said
concord and not discord is the way forward for a country as
large as India.

"All issues, therefore, must be resolved through dialogue
and there can be no place for violence. Negativity and
rejection cannot be the path for a vibrant country that is
moving to seek its destiny," she said.

Patil said Indian institutions may not be flawless but
they have coped with many challenges.

Indian Parliament, she noted, has enacted path-breaking
laws and Government has put together schemes for the progress
and welfare of the people.

Patil said,"our judiciary has a reputable standing. Our
media too has played an important role. With all institutions
working together for the same national purpose it will create
a stream of positive energy."

She expressed the hope that in the spirit of national
interest, matters of national importance, are discussed and
solutions found between different stakeholders. This would
strengthen the roots of our democracy and the foundations of
our nation.

"Often, we are quick to find blame with others; but, yet
are unable to give constructive responses. There seems to be a
tendency to doubt almost everything. Do we not have faith in
our own people`s strengths and in our institutions? Can we
afford distrust amongst ourselves," she said.

The President said all issues, therefore, must be
resolved through dialogue and there can be no place for
violence. Negativity and rejection cannot be the path for a
vibrant country that is moving to seek its destiny.

She said the Constitution has been and should be the
compass guiding in nation-building.

"It is the charter of our democracy. It is the document
guaranteeing individual freedoms to its citizens. It is the
basis on which institutions of the State have been created and
have derived their powers and functions," she said.

Patil said tremendous work needs to be done to move
forward on social and economic agenda to achieve fast,
economic and sustainable growth.

"Our foremost priority is the removal of poverty, hunger
and malnutrition, disease and illiteracy. All social welfare
programmes must be implemented efficiently. Agencies involved
in the delivery of services should have a strong sense of duty
and work in a transparent, corruption-free, time-bound and
accountable manner," she said.

The President said India`s foreign policy was aimed at
the promotion of an environment that is conducive to its
socio-economic transformation.

"We seek to build bridges of cooperation and friendship
with all countries of the world. We constructively engage with
the international community to find responses to global
challenges," she said.

Patil said the role and stature of India, has been
growing and the nation has been scaling up in the ladder of
the comity of nations.

"India seeks an architecture for global institutions that
is more reflective of contemporary realities. We are also
proud of the contributions of the Indian Diaspora, spread over
many countries and across continents, to the economic,
professional and political fields of the countries where they
live," she said.

The President said, "we are living in a world that is
complex and challenging. Forces of globalisation have created
an interlinked and interdependent world. No country exists in
isolation; it is continuously being influenced by external

She said all nations, developed and developing, are
facing the impact of global economic instability, as well as
problems of unemployment and inflation, in varying degrees.

"There are growing aspirations of the people, coupled
with their expectations of immediate solutions. We are
observing, an information explosion and ever-newer
technological inventions.

"These have altered lifestyles and there is also a
growing quest for materialism. There are persistent questions
about how growth and resources will be shared in a more
equitable manner," she said.

The President said education must reach every section of
the society, as must access to health.

"We need to expand health services, particularly in rural
areas. We need quality medical facilities for our population,
which are affordable. In today`s era of ICT, technology can be
very useful in our mission of health and education," she said.

Patil said science and technology was a critical input
for the growth of the nation and all sectors of the economy.

"Focus on research and development is an investment in
our future. Our agriculture, industry and service sectors need
to be working more efficiently, with greater scientific inputs
and more inter-linkages with each other," she said.

The President said agriculture is one sector whose
integration with other sectors of the economy remains

"We need to look at models of partnership, of farmers
with industry and with Research and Development institutions
in various activities, so that, not only does agricultural
productivity increase, but farmers benefit as well," she said.

Patil said special focus is necessary on dryland farming,
given its potential and, the fact that, a large proportion of
farm labour and poor farmers are dependent on it.

"At the same time, it is very important to build our
physical infrastructure - such as roads, ports and airports,
to overcome constraints to rapid growth," she said.

On the issue of women empowerment, the President said
it would have a very big impact on creating social structures
that are stable.

"An important component of women`s development is their
economic and social security. Social prejudices prevalent in
our society which have led to gender discrimination need to be
corrected. Social evils like female foeticide, child marriage
and dowry must be eradicated. Status of women is an important
indicator of progress in a society," she said.