Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday, November 23, expressed concern over rising intolerance and violation of human rights, coupled with a widening gulf between the rich and poor with top 1% rich pocketing the lion's share of country's wealth.
He was speaking at the inauguration of the two-day national conference on "Towards Peace, Harmony and Happiness: Transition to Transformation", organised by Pranab Mukherjee Foundation along with the Centre for Research for Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID).
"The land which gave the world the concept of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' and the civilisational ethos of tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness, is now in news for rising levels of intolerance, manifestations of rage and infringement of human rights," Mukherjee said.
In the last 70 years, the former president said, the country has established a successful parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary and strong institutions such as the Election Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General, Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Information Commission that sustain and support our democratic structure.
The country needs a Parliament that debates, discusses and decides, and not disrupt, a judiciary that gives justice without delay and a leadership that is committed to the nation and those values that made us a great civilization, Mukherjee asserted.
"Peace and harmony prevails when a nation celebrates pluralism, practices tolerance and promotes goodwill among diverse communities and when we purge the toxin of hatred, envy, jealousy and aggression from our everyday lives," he said.
He said "happiness is higher in countries that ensure their inhabitants basic amenities and resources, greater security, autonomy and freedom as well as sufficient educational opportunities and access to information. People are manifestly happier in countries where personal freedoms are guaranteed and democracy is secured."
"Regardless of economic conditions, citizens are happy in a climate of peace," Mukherjee said.
Referring to the statistics, he said: If these statistics are anything to go by, we appear to be caught in a 'rising economy, receding happiness' syndrome. Our growth paradigm calls for an urgent look."
Paying tributes to Guru Nanak Dev on his 549th birth anniversary, Mukherjee said given the times we are living in, it is important to recall his message of "peace and oneness".
He also recalled what Chanakya said that "In the happiness of the people lies the happiness of the king" and the Rig Veda saying that we must live in one assembly, speak in one voice, with our minds in accord.
In a poser he asked whether the state was functioning in conformity with the preamble of the Constitution guaranteeing socio-economic and political justice, liberty of expression and thought and the equality of status and of opportunity, Mukherjee said that on the ranking of the happiness of common man, India ranks at 113, on the index of hunger, India is at 119. Similar is the situation on the rating of malnutrition, suicides, inequality and economic freedom.
Mukherjee said the conference is being held at a time when the country is passing through a “difficult phase” with newspaper headlines a painful and a distressing experience as they only highlight violence, anger and hatred
Mukherjee said, "We need a State that inspires confidence among people in its ability to surmount challenges before us. We need the media and citizens, who even as they claim their rights, are equally committed to their responsibilities."
Referring to the Parliament, Executive and the Judiciary, Mukherjee said in recent past these institutions have come under "severe stress" and their credibility is being questioned.
He said "There is a widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the governance and the functioning of these institutions."
However, former President said that to "save democracy", it was incumbent upon these institutions to "win back the trust of the people, without any delay."
Mukherjee said the conference is being held at a time when the country is passing through a "difficult phase" with newspaper headlines a painful and a distressing experience as they only highlight violence, anger and hatred.
An inclusive public policy with poor implementation is of little value to society and the nation and the country's bureaucratic system "tends to work in silos leading to poor coordination and lack of teamwork", he said.
While policy formulation is critical, it is essential to pay focussed attention to policy implementation, he said.
"In the light of these facts, we all - the politicians, the academicians, the thought leaders, the opinion makers, the intellectuals and the civil society have to work together, to carve-out the path for a violence free transformation of the society towards peace, harmony and happiness," Mukherjee said.
Former Union Minister and BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi in his valedictory address described as "disturbing" the merging scenarios where the "techno-economic system adopted to produce a democratic egalitarian world order has resulted in an exploitative, extremely unequal and fragmented world".
"Mankind today is, therefore, unhappy, more turbulent, more violent, more fundamentalist and more alienated than ever before", Joshi said.
The root cause of this "out of balance world" needs to be investigated, the veteran leader said.
He also stressed on the transformation towards creating a peaceful, harmonious and happy society.
He said the "world is one" and the concept of holistic universe where science and spirituality converge can lead to a better understanding of human relationships and goals of creating a peaceful, egalitarian, inclusive, non-violent and progressive world.