first Jagran Forum, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh stressed on the role of Indian media in development and empowerment. He emphasised that wealth should be treated as a societal trust and should not be concentrated in the hands of a few only. And the government should be an instrument in the distribution of wealth.
He affirmed that democracy should be seen as a 'populist mandate', not as a popular mandate. "Democracy empowers people as it unleashes individual creativity and restores the dignity and self-respect of the suppressed sections of society," he said.
Dr Singh insisted that professionals must take an active interest in democratic politics because they have attributes that are relevant to the nation building process. The Prime Minister also laid stress on doing away with evils like corruption and excessive bureaucracy, which stifled the working of the democracy.
The Jagran Forum for Democracy, Development and Social Inclusion was inaugurated by the Prime Minister. The forum witnessed the participation of speakers from the fields of politics and economics and raised a number of questions on the working of a democracy.
Dr Singh, Sir Anthony O'Reilly, chairman and CEO of HJ Heinz Company and executive chairman of Independent News and Media Plc., Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, Arun Jaitley, general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Dr James Manor, director, civic society and governance programmes at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, and Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean diplomat, addressed the first session.
Urging the private sector to lead the country's growth process, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, emphasised the fact that the design, monitoring and implementation of developmental programmes require active involvement of the local community in a very high measure. Highlighting the importance of women in the social democratic set-up, he urged the state to undertake work that markets cannot to make the programmes more effective. He also said that democracy and government function hand-in-hand and that rapid growth is led primarily by the private sector in India. He affirmed that strong competition is the best regulator for the private sector.
Addressing the forum, Sir Antony asserted that he would favour India over China for investments, and said that his own company, Heinz, exemplified this preference. He said that democracy was the greatest discovery of the 20th century. Kishore Mahbubani painted India as a shining example of democracy and development amongst the South East Asian countries.
Nitish Kumar, who was making his first public speech after being sworn in as chief minister of Bihar, cited the example of his own life to convey how democracy can be conducive in bringing even the lowest individual to the forefront. He asserted that development should aid in providing justice to the people; he said he considered the development of Bihar instrumental to India's development.
Providing another perspective to the issue, Prof. James Manor said that though India has been a democracy for a long time, over the years, it has become difficult to govern the country. He said that democracy was a missed opportunity in India because most state governments and Panchayats do not have enough powers. He congratulated the Indian press for its informative style of reporting and said that the Indian press was the strongest in all the Commonwealth countries. He lauded the achievements of the Indian IT sector, too.
Arun Jaitley said that the age of aspirational politics was back in a big way and that people's expectations were high since the agenda of governance had changed. Referring to the era of coalition politics, he said that the country was moving away from structured party politics. Family succession had gained feet in most political parties.
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