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A 10-point agenda for Pranab

B.S. Raghavan
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‘Preserving’ the Constitution means not allowing it to be trampled upon, and not being a mute spectator when the institutions it has created are defiled. Mr Pranab Mukherjee will have to bear in mind his accountability to the people in this respect.

Here are the 10 ways through which Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who is taking the oath of office today as the President of India, can leave his distinctive mark on the job and be a role model:

Adopting simple and austere lifestyle: Contemporary India itself has seen examples in this respect set by the likes of Nripen Chakraborty, Chief Minister of Tripura, Ms Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, and Mr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. Mr Mukherjee, even if he cannot match them, can at least eschew ostentation and opulence, starting with drastically cutting down foreign jaunts with extended family members.

Being accountable to the people: In his very first observations after the announcement of the result, Mr Mukherjee has referred to his oath of office and pledged to conduct himself worthy of the trust reposed in him.

That oath requires him not only to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law, (the part mentioned by him), but also to devote himself to the service and well-being of the people of India.

‘Preserving’ the Constitution means not allowing it to be trampled upon and not being a mute spectator when the institutions it has created are defiled and subverted.

Mr Mukherjee will have to constantly bear in mind his accountability to the tribunal of the people in this respect.

Being sensitive and responsive to people’s representations: Mr Mukherjee has to sensitise his secretariat to the imperative need to respond promptly to, and follow up on, the letters and representations received from the people.

Hitherto the practice has been to forward them to the concerned Ministries/agencies, with a copy endorsed to the sender, and then forget about it.

He should introduce the practice of his secretariat ascertaining from the Government the nature of the action taken and informing the sender.

A time limit of two months should also be fixed for taking action.

Visiting various parts of the country, especially the farthermost corners, frequently: This can be with five objectives in mind: To be visible and accessible to all sections of people; to enthuse individuals and institutions engaged in worthwhile public causes; to put heart into the weaker sections of society by having a running awareness of their problems; to maintain contact with youth and women, in particular, so as to channelise their energies towards nation-building activities; and to inspect schemes and projects undertaken by the Government so as to keep those implementing them on their toes.

Diligently scrutinising Cabinet papers and proposals coming to him: The Constitution gives the President the right, “generally or otherwise”, to require reconsideration of any advice given by the Cabinet, although he is bound to follow the advice received after such reconsideration.

Under a centuries-old convention, sanctified by Walter Bagehot’s treatise, the British Monarch on whom India’s Presidency has been modelled, enjoys the right to advise, encourage and warn the Ministers in furtherance of national interest. India’s President can also press this into service.

He should have the Bills and other proposals properly scrutinised, and not accord them routine approval.

Keeping abreast of developments: There is already s practice in Britain of the Prime Minister having lunch with the Monarch every Tuesday during which there is an informal and comprehensive exchange of views and information.

In India too, it is desirable to adopt a similar practice. It can also be extended to cover heads of political parties and Members of Parliament.

The President, of course, should be liberal in giving as many visitors from the different parts of the country as possible opportunities to meet him, and earnestly pursue the matters needing attention at his level.

Briefing himself on the quality of governance: The President can also meet periodically functionaries such as the Central Vigilance Commissioner; Chairman, Union Public Service Commission; Secretaries to Government and heads of Public Sector Enterprises to get an overall picture in regard to the quality of governance.

Using Rashtrapathi Bhavan to generate new ideas or launch non-political initiatives: Even within the Constitutional parameters, a keen and creative President can use his stature and influence to bring together leading lights in various fields such as agriculture, industry, science, technology, education, population trends, social service and environment, and encourage them to do out-of-the-box thinking on current and emerging issues of importance and forward to the Government or the concerned agencies recommendations for further course of action.

This was what C. Subramaniam used to do when he was the Governor of Maharashtra, thereby converting the Raj Bhavan into a veritable power-house of ideas.

Keeping a watchful eye on Defence and security: The Constitution vests the supreme command of the Defence Forces of the Union in the President, stating that the exercise of his authority by the Supreme Commander should be regulated by law. No such law has so far been passed. Arguably, while the President qua President is bound by Cabinet advice, the Supreme Commander, with a distinct and separate role in its own right, should be empowered to act in his best judgment when the nation’s defence demands instant decisions in grave situations.

Otherwise, he will be neither supreme nor a commander. Mr Mukherjee may like to have this question settled at the earliest. In any case, if he surfs through the Internet he would come across a number of Web sites in which former Defence personnel at all levels have been spreading hatred and disaffection against civilian political and administrative establishments. This is an alarming trend and the Supreme Commander will do well to go into the causes.

Time-lines for definitive disposal of references on various issues: As at present, there is no time limit prescribed for giving Presidential assent to Bills, especially those received from the States. The delays in dealing with petitions for clemency, pardon, and the like have reached scandalous proportions. Generally, despite the passage of 65 years after Independence, a sense of time is still foreign to Ministers and bureaucrats. Enforcement of time-lines by the President may tone up the system all the way down.

(This article was published on July 24, 2012)
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Comments:

One point which takes precedence over all other points is to ensure that his son
gets to contest the Parliamentary seat vacated by his father..... rest of the points
will just evaporate. God helps those who help themselves is a great saying for the
Indian political families.

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Jul 25, 2012 at 07:07 IST

I appreciate Mr. B.S. Raghavan for giving a clear cut agenda for the New President of India. If the new President follows these suggestions, the country will march rapidly in all fields and thus the office of President will become more viable, fruitful and meaningful.

from:  KV Suryanarayanan
Posted on: Jul 25, 2012 at 12:47 IST

Ten point agenda for the President sworn today is comprehensive and idealistic.The Great
Lord only created Luzifer the angel who sang melodius song to the taste of human ear,but
was thrown out from heaven when he refused to see,hear and respect human
beings.Luzifer is let loose in the universe.Great warrier and Grant Father(Pithamaha)
Bhishmer could not stop kauravas from fighting with rightful panda vas in Kurukshetra
battle.Those be the case,elimination of injustice,inequality,iniquity,gender bias,caste and
creed prejudices and above all unequal opportunity and widening divide between rural and
urban India,ideological differences ,hegemony of capitalism etc etc are emerging scenarios
which the First citizen of India will be tested for comming five years.Destiny of a nation with
280 million people going to bed without a meal is staring the new president.Practical
wisdom,life long experience,will to succeed and faith in God Almighty will make a turning
point in the history of India.

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Jul 25, 2012 at 18:07 IST

A very simple but timely reminder. Except 3 suggestions which the President has
to do himself, the rest of the suggestions tend towards improving the efficiency of
government. If President could do all this with vigour making the best possible use
of his vast experience in government, he will have rendered a great service. In
India we do not do the obvious. For some reason or the other, things are not done
as a matter of course and are allowed things to drift. If the President could closely
monitor all that the government is doing and become its friend, philosopher and
guide, nothing like it. A good president is Lok Pal and President rolled into one.
His interactions with government functionaries from time to time will go a long
way in setting things straight. Hope Mr. Pranab Mukherjee will rise to the occasion
and leave a lasting impression on the public mind. Expectations from Mr.
Mukherjee are high. Only time will tell whether they get enhanced or diminished.

from:  Dr. K. U. Mada
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 07:44 IST

Think that these are basic requirements of the office that the President holds.However, over a period of time if not reminded , the specific aspect of the job is considered to be dropped and no longer required.Thanks to Mr.B.S.Raghavan for flagging important requirements and expectations.

from:  R.Raghavan
Posted on: Jul 26, 2012 at 08:24 IST

It is a 10-point agenda perceived to have been specially designed by the eminent writer for the new Prez. As eulogised elsewhere, However, even while glancing through, what comes to one's mind is what is the generally accepted de facto position; that is, as President holds the coveted status of the constitutional head, further is the enviable First Citizen of the nation. However, if considered from a de jure perspective, a disturbing thought that inevitably tries to take over is, how far the widely prevailing belief that at best, President has simply the unique distinction of a figurehead, with no exacting or overriding powers vested so as to prevail upon others in the offish set-up / environment at the centre or in any state, not to ignore but accord due consideration to his advice or suggestion offered in the public interest. Just to test one’s personal reservation, consider , for example, one of the 10 points being “Diligently scrutinising Cabinet papers and proposals coming to him: The Constitution gives the President the right, “generally or otherwise” to require reconsideration of any advice given by the Cabinet, although he is bound to follow the advice received after such reconsideration.” This, if carefully reflected on, does not seem to imply any power (‘right’ is, in one’s opinion, a misnomer), even remotely, to insist that the advice received after such reconsideration but still has failed to consider his directive to the cabinet adequately or in proper light hence requires to be accorded yet another reconsideration by the cabinet. Only a constitutional expert may be competent to throw sufficient light on this prevailing grave doubt as to whether or not President is just a figurehead, nothing more.

from:  vswami
Posted on: Jul 31, 2012 at 18:00 IST
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