Says the nation’s pluralistic character should never be compromised
New Delhi : President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday asked Governors to ensure that state governments act according to the Constitution while safeguarding the interests of the state and the nation’s pluralistic character is not tarnished in any manner. Mukherjee’s comments come at a time when Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s ambitious ‘Jan Lokpal’ bill is hanging in the balance with Lt Governor Najeeb Jung seeking Union Home Ministry’s opinion whether Centre’s concurrence is needed before passing any bill.
In his opening remarks at the 45th Conference of Governors at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President said the role of Governors is that of a bridge between states and the Centre. “Governors have to ensure that state governments act according to the Constitution while safeguarding the interests of the state. This is the unique responsibility of a governor as they represent the Centre in the State and the State at the Centre,” he said. The two-day conference, attended among others by Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram, will discuss external and internal security environment, development issues, improving the quality of higher education and making disaster management more effective. Calling upon the governors to remain “alert” and ensure that the coming general elections are peaceful and conducive to free expression of the will of the people, Mukherhee said Governors must also ensure that the pluralistic character of our nation is not tarnished in any manner. The President said the Group of Governors, constituted last year to deliberate on various issues such as the role of Governors, had submitted its report with invaluable suggestions that would serve as useful inputs for policy makers.
The group was asked to deliberate on issues relating to Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution, North Eastern Council, role of Governors as Chancellors of educational institutions in improving the quality of higher education besides disaster management.
Advising governors to spend more time touring inside the states and closely monitoring the implementation of Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights), Act, 2006, he said they should to ensure that the benefits reach tribals of Scheduled Areas.
He also underlined the need to strengthen Autonomous District Councils and extend certain features of the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Mukherjee said with India being among the “most disaster- prone” countries in the world, he said Governors should ensure that the Disaster Management Act 2005 was effectively implemented. Giving figures, he said about 58.6 per cent of India’s landmass is prone to earthquakes, over 40 million hectares (12 per cent of land) is prone to floods, 68 per cent of the cultivable area is susceptible to drought and out of the 7,516 km coast line, about 5,700 km is prone to cyclones.
He said the new Act has brought a change in the approach to disaster management, from a relief-centric to a holistic and integrated approach encompassing prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation following disasters.