17 Sep :In her concluding address at the two-day Conference of Governors, which concluded today at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil said that after listening to the presentations of various Governors from the North East states, there is a need for everyone to consciously dispel the myth that the entire North East is a disturbed region.
As there is a downswing in insurgency in some states of this region, Smt. Patil said, such trends need to be encouraged and efforts should be made to build on the core strengths of these states. These positive developments need wider publicity so that they can help attract further investments to accelerate economic activities. At the same time, we have to speedily find a workable solution for those States where insurgency has acquired near endemic proportions, the President added.
Referring to Article 371 in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution, the President said, this article casts a special responsibility on the Governors for providing peace, good government and promotion of the welfare and advancement of the people. She urged all the Governors of the North East states to individually introspect how far the governance mechanism in their State has fulfilled the aims and aspirations of the locals and what more needs to be done in this respect. The President also once again referred to the issues in the 5th Schedule with regard to the states of this region and asked the Governors of these states to ponder over them in consultation with their respective State Governments.
Smt. Patil noted the points raised by the Governors of states affected by Left Wing extremism and related violence and said this requires careful and firm handling.
On the question of women’s empowerment the President felt that laws for their empowerment and protection exist, but often enforcement is slack. Women-specific and women-related programmes have been enunciated but often their implementation does not yield the expected benefits, she observed. The President said there is need to work towards changing mindsets and bringing about social awareness for gender equality. Smt. Patil suggested the setting up of a small committee of Governors, which would recommend ways of creating a conducive atmosphere for making women feel proud of being women. The terms of reference of this committee could center around bringing about a convergence in implementation by State Governments of various schemes on women’s development.
The Vice President Shri M. Hamid Ansari drew the attention of the conference to three aspects of the work of Governors. The first aspect was the non-functioning of state legislatures, some of which are not meeting regularly he pointed out. The Vice President urged the Governors to use the prestige of their office innovatively to initiate and develop a non-partisan debate about the dangers of this trend. The second aspect was the role of Governors as Chancellors of State universities. Shri Ansari suggested that the pattern and practice followed by Central universities be followed in this regard. This would strengthen the Governor’s role in making appointments and also shield universities from the vicissitudes of the political debate. The final aspect was with regard to the Governors responsibility when the well being of a section of the people of a state is seriously jeopardized. The Vice President said that the Constitution assigns responsibilities to Governors, which need to be explored in the context of the changing scenario.
In his address the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh said that India today stands on the threshold of a new beginning. The people have an unprecedented self-confidence in overcoming the constraints on our development. The main challenge the Prime Minister said are today at home. The economy has grown at the rate of 9 percent annually over the last four years. Despite a global economic slow down, Dr. Singh said he was confident that the economy would grow at more than 8 percent. The steps taken to revive the agriculture sector are showing good results, he added. The Government has taken many measures to control inflation to protect the poor against its adverse effects. He urged the Governors to advise their state governments about the importance of streamlining the Public Distribution System. The state governments can assist in control of inflation by keeping a strict watch on hoarders and unscrupulous traders. The Prime Minister stressed on the need to improve administrative efficiency at the state and district level for better delivery. He urged the Governors and Lt. Governors that they could make a difference in this regard, by encouraging the state governments to do so. Dr. Singh also spoke about the National Action Plan on Climate Change. He also touched on the role of Governors as Chancellors of universities and the need to reform and modernize the universities. He also said that Naxalism and Left Wing Extremism continue to pose a challenge to development in some of the most backward regions of the country. Referring to Jammu and Kashmir, Dr. Singh observed that there has been a marked improvement in security. However, recent controversies have offset some of the gains and the situation needs to be watched. In the North East, he said levels of violence have come down in most states. The serial blasts in Delhi a few days ago continue to be a reminder about the internal security challenges faced, he stressed. A number of steps have been taken to improve policing and intelligence, but more efforts are needed. The Prime Minister specifically mentioned greater emphasis on intelligence by both central and state agencies as well as cooperation between them and greater involvement of the public. Dr. Singh expressed his serious concern that dissent and agitations have increasingly been finding expression in mindless destruction of public property. He observed that while in colonial times public property was a symbol of colonial power, today it belongs to the tax payer.
Various ministers also made presentations on the concluding day. The Minister of External Affairs, Shri Pranab Mukherjee spoke about India’s bilateral relations with its neighbours, the Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Arjun Singh spoke about the role of Governors as Chancellors in the development of higher education, the Minister of Agriculture, Shri Sharad Pawar gave a presentation on the agriculture scenario and food security, the Minister of Defence, Shri A.K. Antony discussed the security scenario along India’s borders and welfare schemes for ex-servicemen and war widows, the Minister of Home Affairs, Shri Shivraj Patil discussed the issue of pensionary benefits to Governors, the Minister of Finance, Shri P. Chidambaram spoke about the economic situation and price stability strategies, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Shri P.R. Kyndiah discussed administration of Scheduled Areas and Tribal Areas, the Minister of Rural Development, Shri Raghuvansh Prasad Singh spoke about employment, drinking water and sanitation, the Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Shri Kapil Sibal spoke about issues relating to climate change and sustainable development and the Minister of State for Women and Child Development, Smt. Renuka Chowdhury spoke about gender equality promotion strategies, gender budgeting, implementation of women’s empowerment programmes and combating social evils.