President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday said Parliament is “the temple of our democracy”, which provides us the highest forum where we “discuss, debate and decide issues for the well-being of our people”. These were his first remarks since the end of the Monsoon Session of Parliament ahead of schedule.
The Monsoon Session of Parliament had been chaotic since the beginning. Opposition parties demanded that the Centre discuss the Pegasus surveillance controversy in Parliament. They also criticised the Centre for the farm laws and the sharp increase in prices of fuel and other commodities in the country. But despite repeated demands, the government refused to entertain a discussion on these matters.
During a televised address to the nation ahead of India’s 75th Independence Day, the president spoke about several topics, including the novel coronavirus, political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre’s new farm laws and Indian sportspersons’ achievements at the Tokyo Olympics.
“When India won Independence 75 years ago, many sceptics thought democracy would not survive in India,” he said. “Little did they know that roots of democracy were nurtured in this soil in ancient times, and even in modern times India was ahead of many western nations in offering franchise to all adults, regardless of any distinctions.”
The President added: “The founding fathers had reposed their faith in the wisdom of the people, and ‘we, the people of India’ have made India a strong democracy.”
Kovind also said that it was “a matter of great pride for all Indians” that Parliament will soon be housed in a new building, which is part of the controversial Central Vista project.
He added: “It will be a fitting statement of our outlook: It will honour our legacy while also walking in step with the contemporary world. It is more than symbolic that the new building will be inaugurated in the year of the 75th anniversary of Independence.”
The Centre’s new farm laws “will empower our ‘annadata’ farmers and help them get better price for their produce”, the president added.
Thousands of farmers have camped on Delhi’s borders since November, demanding that the central government repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. The farmers have hunkered down with supplies that they say will last them for months, and have resolved to not leave until their demands are met.
The president added that he was deeply pained that many lives could not be saved during the terrible second wave of the coronavirus disease in India.
The Delta variant was responsible for the devastating second wave, which, at its peak, saw more than 4 lakh cases, and thousands of deaths every day. In April and May, several states experienced crippling shortages of oxygen, hospital beds, medical supplies and vaccines, causing citizens to take to social media to ask for help.
“The second wave brought our public healthcare infrastructure under stress,” the president said. “The reality is that no infrastructure, even of advanced economies, could withstand a crisis of such enormous proportions.”
Kovind said that at the beginning of 2021, there was every reason to be hopeful as the “largest vaccination exercise in history” had been launched. “Yet, due to the new variants and other unexpected factors, we suffered from a terrible second wave,” he said.
He added: “I am deeply sad that many lives could not be saved and many more suffered immensely in this phase of an unprecedented crisis. I speak for the whole nation when I say that I share the grief of all the affected families with the same intensity.”
Though the intensity of the pandemic has come down, the coronavirus disease has not yet gone away, the president said. “If we have learned our lessons well, we know that this is the time of extra care and caution,” he said. “We shall not let our guard down. Vaccines are the best possible protection science offers to us.”
More than 53 crore vaccine doses have been administered in India since the beginning of the inoculation drive on January 16, according to data from the Union health ministry.
‘Sportspersons brought laurels to the nation’
Kovind also lauded Indian sportspersons who took part in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 for their “stellar performances”.
“India has won the highest number of medals in the 121 years of its participation in the Olympics,” he said. “Our daughters have achieved world class excellence in playgrounds overcoming many adversities.”
India won seven medals at the recently-concluded Tokyo Olympics - the medal winners being Neeraj Chopra, Mirabai Chanu, PV Sindhu, Lovlina Borgohain, Ravi Kumar Dahiya, Bajrang Punia and the men’s hockey team.