India needs principled, knowledgeable and visionary leaders to strengthen democracy, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday, 7 September. He added that to ensure continued unity, the government must deliver justice, liberty, equality and an environment that respects contrary opinions.
Singh was speaking at the JK Lakshmipat University in Jaipur, where he was felicitated with the 'JKLU Laureate Award 2019' for his contribution in public service, governance, economy and nation building.
The Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan also said that a "well conceived strategy" was needed to make India a five-trillion economy.
Here are key highlights from his speech:
On Strengthening Our Democracy
Singh further said that our thriving democracy is a shining beacon of hope and inspiration to a world that is yearning and striving to become democratic.
On Making India A Five-Trillion Economy
On Economic Reforms and ‘Tax Terrorism’
The need of the hour is to continue with economic reforms, Singh said. He suggested that the government should forbid 'tax terrorism', respect independent voices and provide for checks and balances at every level.
The Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan said that supremacy of parliament and its procedures, the rules of the government and precedents have to be respected.
On Reducing Crime and Corruption
Institutions like the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and the CBI are expected to function independently within the framework of the Constitution, Singh said, adding that a functional democracy has definite advantages over an authoritarian regime.
Citing the example of China in context of economic development, he said such countries, by persuading citizens to focus primarily on economic growth, created an atmosphere in which sacrificing personal freedom could be justified.
"In the long run, a functioning democracy has definite advantages over an authoritarian regime. The loss of freedom, in the long term run, is not a small price to pay," he said.
On Free and Independent Media
Talking about liberal democracy, he said that it is a model of good governance that includes freedom, pursuit of equality, power sharing, deliberation, periodic elections, independent institutions, and the rule of law.
On Challenges Before Democracy
The former prime minister also talked about the challenges before the Indian democracy including social inequality, communalism, casteism, religious fundamentalism, and corruption.
India has an ancient culture of tolerance and respect for divergent views and a population accustomed to political opposition and peaceful transfer of power for over seven decades, he said.
"There is no denying that efforts to tackle these challenges are continuous and ongoing, but the results are not wholly satisfactory,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)