Vice President's Secretariat

Text of the Vice President’s speech - 2nd Dr. Rajendra Prasad Memorial Lecture at IIPA

Posted On: 29 MAR 2023 6:54PM by PIB Delhi

It is indeed an honour to deliver the 2nd Dr. Rajendra Prasad Memorial Lecture, in a sense it is a dream come true. Dr. Saab is remembered as the first President of the country. But what is more relevant and significant is that he was the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. In that capacity, Dr. Saab set the highest standards that need to be exemplified by all.

Friends, as you know the Constituent assembly, was in session for three years and during those three years the world witnessed some of the highest quality deliberation, discussion, debate. One thing that was missing from that theatre was disruption and disturbance. Something that was just not seen there was - confrontation.

As the President of this Institute of national repute, I acknowledge and appreciate that IIPA brings administration and scholarship together. In this Amrit Kaal, when the country is on the path of becoming the 3rd largest economy of the world, we need scholarly foresight to aid administrative systems. It was in September 2022 when India had the honor of being the 5th largest economy on the planet and that was a significant milestone also for the reason that in the process we overtook our erstwhile colonial rulers.

In recent years, the profile of civil administration has changed. It has become socially more inclusive.

A very significant change has taken place in power corridors in the last 8-9 years, it has been sanitized of power brokers, it has been sanitized of the people who could leverage governance through extra legal means and this is a great achievement that is having impactful reflection in our governance.

Young talent from remote villages, from humble families, from marginalized communities is joining the Civil services. I have had the occasion to interact with trainees and I can tell you being myself from a village having seen what education means and how difficult it is to get it, when I found the profile of those young trainees... this observation is a ground reality.

These young people have closely seen the positive role that public administration plays in eradicating poverty and improving chances of realizing their full potential. A big change that has taken place, I can tell my young friends, is that we have evolution of an ecosystem now. Thanks to the affirmative government policies. Gone are the days when a young person could not translate idea into reality because of the lack of financial support or government policy coming in the way

It is also heartening to see that more and more talented young girls are joining civil services, ready to face the challenges of public administration. It is not only limited to civil service, Presence of this gender is being seen in all walks of life including defence and their performance is becoming increasingly envy of my gender.

Today, India is on rise as never before. It is inspired by the surge of aspirations and innovations and validated by the achievements of our citizens.

Friends, certain things are happening in a very silent manner. For example, the concept of smart cities, you feel that difference.

Identification of those districts, it was a challenge to the people living there, and as the honorable Prime Minister once reflected, no one wanted to be a district magistrate of that district. Now, they seek to be there because they are inspired to deliver and things are changing.

Look at it from a global perspective. We are the favorite global destination of opportunity, innovation and investment. Our ninety thousand innovators Start Ups are the partners in this astounding phenomenal success.

In this scenario, expectations of the people are going to go up and they must go up. As citizen expectations and requirements evolve and transform on the basis of development achievement norms, it is heartening to note that service delivery efficiencies and satisfaction levels are also showing tangible results.

Just reflect on a few years back, there used to be long queues to make payments. We don't see them anymore. At a global level, we are a country that has effected unprecedented direct transfer to the citizen and not only to the citizen, to a vulnerable class also, be it farmers or women working anganwadi and that's a big achievement and a big relief.

Today, the mantra of new India is ‘Less Government, More Governance.’ The Executive is facilitating “Ease of Doing Business” with the larger objective of “Ease of Living”.

I have seen it myself. As the governor of the state of West Bengal, I was heading  a group of 10  Governors on ease of doing business and we engaged into serious deliberative sessions and this is happening in every walk of life. But these are subterranean, silent developments that impact us hugely and that help us optimize our working capacity. 

The next 25 years are going to be crucial for the country, particularly because of the last nine years. In the last nine years, we have laid a foundation, a series of affirmative steps, that in 2047 when the country will be celebrating the centenary of independence, we have to be at number one and my young friends will be there and warriors of 2047. Some of us may not be around but we all are very confident about the kind of ecosystem that has come to be evolved and the kind of stability that has come to be afforded, there is no doubt India will be number one in the world at that point of time.

Governance is a dynamic concept and Public administrators have to remain in tune with the changing expectations and requirements of citizens.

In coming years, emerging technologies like Digital platforms, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Science and Internet of Things will be an essential part of Public Administration - to meet the demands of an Atma Nirbhar economy as we become the hub of global value chain, to facilitate a new entrepreneurial culture and to support innovator Start Ups.

In the last two years, during the Covid, not only did we gear up our own capacities to develop and produce medicines, equipment, and vaccines, set up hospitals and oxygen plants, we also developed digital platforms to monitor the spread of pandemic and provided all citizens with Digital certificates of vaccination.

The Government ensured that healthcare and social security was made available equitably, efficiently and promptly to every citizen. You would have more medical colleges, more hospitals, more diagnostic centers, more para medical staff, and nursing colleges. There was some kind of a plateau development in the health sector. And that has really been the greatest of assistance to us, when pandemic challenged us.

We are rightly called a pharmacy of the world. I will add an adjective to that. We are the most effective pharmacy in the world, giving the best value for money without compromising quality.

When pandemic COVID challenged us, we did not forget our civilization ethos. We supported more than 100 countries by making available our vaccines and too many of them as a friendly gesture. Many people were worried about what would happen, particularly with respect to food security.

While all this is happening, friends, I need to share and I cannot help myself but to share it with you all, worrying trend before this august audience. An intense assault on India's values, integrity and its institutions is emanating from a well maintained incubator out to defame us.

An ecosystem is being shaped and nurtured to combat India's emergence as Global power.

It is the favorite theme of some outside institutions to attack India's legitimacy as a nation state and its Constitution.

I have a wise regard for our industrialists, they are contributing to the growth of the nation. But even the best of minds, sometimes need to be cautioned.

Some of India's Billionaires and intellectuals, unmindful of consequence have fallen prey to such pernicious designs by funding these institutions.

Their benevolence can be more fruitfully utilized if they make financial contributions to our institutions of excellence IITs and IIMs rather than going outside. There is a need to reflect seriously on it. Why do they do it?. I firmly believe as an individual whatever CSR fund is, it must be utilized within the country. I don't want to give figures but when I come to know that 200 crores have been given by a billionaire to an institute in the US or in 2008 the government of India itself gave 20 crores to another institution, we need to revisit our thought process, we do not need certification from anyone. The Best Collaboration has to be within the country by our own people.

Elites in industry and intelligentsia, I make a fervent appeal to be thoughtful. This is not in an accusatory sense but merely caution because their intent is certainly not against India.

First President of the Republic of India, Rajendra Babu was closely associated with the making of our Constitution as the President of the Constituent Assembly. As the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, I relate to him, remember him virtually every day. He must have had something very special in him that he created a situation in the Constituent Assembly when contentious issues, divisive issues, or thrashed out by deliberation, dialogue, discussion and debate. And there were no disruptions.

I appeal to the political spectrum of this country. Never underestimate the intellect of the people. They know all that is happening, they are very discerning.

Nothing can be more concerning for them than when Parliament, which is maintained by the public exchequer at huge cost and it doesn't function day after day, is very painful. They want to hold us accountable. How paradoxical it is to send representatives to the Parliament to hold the government accountable and they are entertaining a different thought at the moment.

There can be no greater freedom of expression for an individual than in parliament. For a simple reason. There is an immunity provided to parliamentarians from civil and criminal action.

I recollect, On 26th November 1949, in his Valedictory address to the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad made a remark, which I remember turned out to be prophetic. He said: 

“a Constitution like a machine is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of the men who control it and operate it, and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them.”

In this Amrit Kaal of our independence, we should make an honest appraisal in the backdrop of Rajendra Babu’s serious observations.

All the three organs of the State derive legitimacy from the Constitution. It is expected that these three organs will develop a collaborative synergy to achieve the Constitutional objectives as enunciated in the Preamble of the Constitution.

Constitutional Governance is about achieving the dynamic equilibrium in the healthy interplay among the three organs.

Friends, there will always be issues between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, they are bound to be there as we are in dynamic times. But all these issues have to be determined in a structured manner, keeping in the spirit of the Constitution, a sense of constitution, and certainly not through confrontation.

The Democratic polity bestows law making powers primarily upon the elected legislature that reflects the expectations and aspirations of people. I have never been in doubt, neither Raja Sabha nor Lok Sabha can dispute a judgment of the Supreme Court that is not the job of Parliament, it is the exclusive domain of the Judiciary. Similarly, there are certain exclusive preserves, for the Executive and the Legislature. There is an urgent need for these institutions to scrupulously adhere to their respective domains.

Primacy of mandate of the People, it is the will of the people that has to prevail, which is reflected through their representatives in a legitimized platform, and this according to me is inviolable.

Legislation is the exclusive privilege of the parliament and is not required to be analyzed, assessed, or intervened by any other theater. Any attempt to undermine the intent of the legislature would amount to a situation which will not be wholesome and disturb the delicate equilibrium.

I had indicated about constructive dialogue, but now since we have seen in public domain that there are reflections emanating from those at the helm of these institutions. I would appeal that a serious thought be based on evolution of a certain mechanism. So that those at the helm of institutions are in a position to periodically exchange their thought process and that will generate bonhomie, much needed for the country.

I would make a reference to the National Judicial Appointments Commission as an example. There was unanimity in the parliament, the Lok Sabha voted for it with no abstention, same with Rajya Sabha with one abstention. As constitutionally required, 16 state legislatures endorsed it. The Hon’ble President of the country invoking its constitutional authority under article 111 of the Constitution, signed it and it took the shape of constitutional prescription. I, as the Chairman Rajya Sabha wonder, what happened to it, no one reverted to us. I am sure institutes like you, the intelligentsia of the country, would base your attention on this.

The Basis of any Basic Structure has to be the supremacy of Parliament in law making… which means supremacy of people.

Regarding the issue of Concurrence of Chief Justice of India in the selection of Judges. When we were given this constitution by such an illustrious Constituent Assembly, presided over by Dr Rajendra Babu, the constitutional prescription was consultation. By a judicial order, this consultation became concurrence. Article 370 of our constitution is one article that uses the word consultation and concurrence both, which means the framers of constitution were alive, irrespective of the meaning of the lexicon to these words, that there is a fundamental difference between consultation and concurrence. The Judiciary held that consultation would be concurrence. On that, I am reminded that Dr. Ambedkar had, on 24th May 1949 in Constituent Assembly, strongly opposed such a suggestion:

“With regard to the question of the concurrence of the Chief Justice, it seems to me that those who advocate that proposition seem to rely implicitly both on the impartiality of the Chief Justice and the soundness of his judgment. I personally feel no doubt that the Chief Justice is a very eminent person (…and we have one at the moment. A man with impeccable credentials. A man of great learning…nationally and globally). But after all the Chief Justice is a man with all the failings, all the sentiments and all the prejudices which we as common people have; and I think, to allow the Chief Justice practically a veto upon the appointment of judges is really to transfer the authority to the Chief Justice which we are not prepared to veto is the President or the Government of the day. I, therefore, think that is also a dangerous proposition.”

Friends, there are people who do not share the blossoming of democracy in our country. Who do not share our joy of increasing the economy and growth trajectory, and they therefore want to throw a spanner. And they do it by taking to social media, by writing articles and holding seminars in the country and mostly outside the country also, including in institutions that are by and large fiscally assisted by our billionaires. And that being the situation, I would urge, we have to be extremely alert because, if we do not act in time and observe silence, … even the silent majority will be silenced and we can not afford to do that.

Another aspect on which I want intelligentsia and people at large to put pressure on the political ecosystem- we don’t have to look at all issues from political partisanship. For example our judicial decisions can not be seen in a political or partisan stance.

It is imperative that Members of Legislature distinguish between their legislative obligations and party compulsions. Prolonged disruptions and disturbances as part of political strategy can not be appreciated. How can something that is antithetical to the essence of democracy, which dilutes our democratic values, can be a political strategy.

Our Legislative bodies must provide leadership, lay down the ideological contours for public policy and guide the public administration for the larger welfare of the society.

And I say with a sense of caution and concern, if these temples of democracy – the theatres where debate should be the main thing, if they yield to disruption, disturbance, there will be people around to fill the vacuum, therefore in any government or democracy, will be a dangerous trend. The issues we are facing are required to be thrashed out in these theaters. If they don’t do it, someone else will do the job, and that will not be in consonance with the spirit of the constitution and we’ll be unnecessarily straining our founding fathers in heaven.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad had expected a set of honest men with interest in the country before them, to run India. In this Amrit Kaal, I wish that we live by Rajendra Babu’s sublime wishes.

It is heartening to note that there is increasing reflection of the humane face of governance visible from the more inclusive growth guided by the spirit of Sabka Sath, Sab ka Vikas, Sab ka Vishwas, Sab ka Prayas.

I wish you the very best in your endeavours.

Jai Hind

 *****

MS/RK



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