Tuesday, August 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Growing intolerance worries Narayanan
Blasts criminal-politician nexus; chides media
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Aug 14 — In a candid and bold Address to the Nation, President K.R. Narayanan today expressed concern over the emergence of a new intolerance in society and chided the media for “glamourising criminals”.

The President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, in his Address on the eve of 54th Independence Day, drew attention to an “unholy alliance” between criminals, politicians and important people in the society and signs of breaking down of tolerance among different faiths and ideologies.

In an oblique reference to the ongoing hostage crisis involving Kannada film actor Rajkumar, the President said: “It is time that civil society and the lawful government asserted their authority and primacy over the dare devil heroes of crime and banditry.”

Referring to the growth of violence in society, Mr Narayanan said, “Indeed, crime and violence and the links between criminals, politicians and important people in society, has become an almost unholy alliance. Criminals are being glamourised by the media and are treated as the new heroes of crime and banditry.

Strongly criticising the media, Mr Narayanan said it was ‘openly celebrating with impunity’ malaise like child marriages, ‘receiving publicity in the sensation-crazy sections of our media’.

“At every social and political level there is a crying need to speak out against crimes and violence of all kinds, but even such rhetoric is absent in India today. On the other hand, there is a tendency to romanticise them.”

The President drew attention to the “dark clouds” of prejudice and callous unconcern over the problem of rape and atrocities on women and suggested rewriting of laws so that a deterrent against such crimes existed in the society.

Mr Narayanan said ‘the precious heritage of tolerance of different faiths and ideologies, which has been cementing force in our complex pluralistic society, is showing signs of breaking down and a new intolerance, resulting often in violence, is manifesting itself in our society.’

He referred to the resurgence of old superstitions and outmoded social practices retarding the progress of society along modern lines. He mentioned the malaise of child marriage that continued to exist, gruesome stories of dowry deaths, and crimes against women. “There are dark clouds of prejudice and callous unconcern hanging over our society with regard to the problem of rape and atrocities on women”, he added.

The President said there was a crying need at every social and political level to speak out against crimes and violence of all kinds, but “even such rhetoric is absent in India today and there is a tendency to romanticise them.”

Dwelling on the phenomenon of globalisation, Mr Narayanan said in the face of “blind and inexorable march of globalisation eroding even national sovereignties, an answer to the problem might well lie in a radical decentralisation of power to the grassroots institutions.”

He said with the initiative and the innovative capabilities of grassroots institutions and of ordinary people enhanced through decentralised democracy, it would be possible for India to be an effective player in the globalised world that was emerging.

Speaking of the experiment launched in Kerala a few years ago, Mr Narayanan said: “This decentralisation and devolution of funds have given economic power to people at the grassroots level, aroused their enthusiasm for developmental work and enabled them to work together for their own advancement in their respective areas”.

The President said: “We do not want the village communities to remain fixed in the times past, but to change and keep pace with the times present and times future. Our new panchayats in which people have become active and conscious of their rights and upon which have been bestowed financial and administrative powers in a decentralised scheme, can be made strong and self-reliant units of democracy, capable of standing on their own feet and also of strengthening the identity and the sovereignty of the larger nation.”

Elaborating on the role of women, the President said they were in the forefront to spread literacy and education among the people as “literacy has awakened their consciousness, empowered them and brought about significant changes in their lives.”

Quoting Swami Vivekananda who had said “the land of India is soaked with the tears of widows,” Mr Narayanan said: “Today it is soaked by the tears of women in general, and even girl children, who are ill-treated and murdered”.

“Literacy movement helped to lift the veil off women and has also helped them to organise credit and thrift societies and fight against liquor, the dowry system, meaningless rituals and oppression and discrimination against them. It is because of their empowerment that women are now restless to further widen their opportunities,” he said.

Mr Narayanan said the literacy movement had opened many avenues for the ordinary people. For example, new watershed management programmes had witnessed participation of large number of poor women and men for harvesting rain water, recharging ground water level and reviving rivers and lakes.

“Our tribals, poor women and men are the best protectors of the environment,” he said.

Watershed programmes in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, river revival and cleaning programmes in Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and roof top rain-water harvesting programmes in Mizoram, were some of the examples which showed the involvement of people and voluntary organisations to face the crisis of water shortage and environmental degradation in the country, Mr Narayanan said.

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