Organised by the Jagran Foundation, Jagran Forum, which was held in the Capital on December 8, revolved around the theme of ‘Democracy, Development and Social inclusion’ and paved the way for debating ways and means to strengthen the process of social inclusion and of making the system work for the benefit of all, especially the disadvantaged.
Speaking to gathering at the forum, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh affirmed that democracy should be seen as a populist mandate, and not as a popular mandate. He said, “Democracy empowers people as it unleashes individual creativity, restores dignity and self respect of suppressed sections of society.”
Singh also underlined the growth of the Indian media by saying, “One of the important aspects of our development process in the past two decades has been the impressive growth of the Indian language media, both in print and television. This is testimony to the spread of literacy, and the rising political and social consciousness of our people. It has contributed to the strengthening of our democratic processes and institutions. It has also benefited our development process, contributing to greater social inclusion. This explosive expansion of Indian language media has helped bring issues of development and empowerment onto the national political agenda.”
The Prime Minister’s speech was followed by a session chaired by Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission. The panel included Sir Anthony O’ Reilly, former Chairman, President and CEO of HJ Heinz Company and Executive Chairman of Independent News and Media Plc; Nitish Kumar, Bihar chief minister; Dr Kishore Mahbubani, First Dean at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; Dr James Manor, Director of the Civic Society and Governance programme at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex; and Arun Jaitley, BJP general secretary.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia stressed on the need for active involvement of the local community in the design, monitoring and implementation of the developmental programmes and went on to add that “Political institution has to be supported by effective inclusion of power, effective inclusion of administrative control and effective inclusion of financial capability.”
Sir Anthony commenced the session by defining democracy in the words of Winston Churchill saying, “Democracy is not the best, but it is the best we have” and added that it was the greatest discovery of the Twentieth Century.
He also highlighted the advantage that India had over China in terms of investments, citing the investments made by his own company, Heinz, as a measure of his preferred investment in India over China.
Taking over from Reilly was Mahbubani who painted India as the best and shining example of democracy and development amongst the South East Asian countries. He pointed out, “though eventually all of us have to move towards democracy, spreading virtues of democracy and development in other societies is not that easy.”
He enumerated free market economies, rule of law, political accountability, social justice, and education as the five elements that could be virtues of good governance.
Nitish Kumar, the newly elected Bihar CM, gave the example of his own life to convey how democracy could be conducive in bringing to the forefront everyone. He asserted that development should also aid in providing justice to the people and said that he considered the development of Bihar instrumental to India’s development.