India: Country passing through rising intolerance says former President Pranab Mukherjee

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDIAN NEWS AGENCY THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

‘Country passing through rising intolerance,’ says former President Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern over rising intolerance and violation of human rights, coupled with a widening gulf between the rich and poor with top one percent rich pocketing the lion’s share of country’s wealth.

INDIA Updated: Nov 24, 2018 13:42 IST

Indo Asian News Service
Indo Asian News Service
Indo Asian News Service
Former President Pranab Mukherjee addressed the National Conference on ‘Towards Peace, Harmony and Happiness: Transition to Transformation’, in New Delhi on Friday, November 23, 2018.(PTI)

Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday expressed concern over rising intolerance and violation of human rights, coupled with a widening gulf between the rich and poor with top one per cent rich pocketing the lion’s share of country’s wealth.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the two-day national conference on “Towards Peace, Harmony and Happiness: Transition to Transformation”, organised by Pranab Mukherjee Foundation along with the Centre for Research for Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID).

“The land which gave the world the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and the civilisational ethos of tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness, is now in news for rising levels of intolerance, manifestations of rage and infringement of human rights,” Mukherjee said.

“Peace and harmony prevails when a nation celebrates pluralism, practices tolerance and promotes goodwill among diverse communities and when we purge the toxin of hatred, envy, jealousy and aggression from our everyday lives,” he said.

He said “happiness is higher in countries that ensure their inhabitants basic amenities and resources, greater security, autonomy and freedom as well as sufficient educational opportunities and access to information. People are manifestly happier in countries where personal freedoms are guaranteed and democracy is secured.”

“Regardless of economic conditions, citizens are happy in a climate of peace,” Mukherjee said.

Referring to the statistics, he said, “If these statistics are anything to go by, we appear to be caught in a ‘rising economy, receding happiness’ syndrome. Our growth paradigm calls for an urgent look.”

Paying tributes to Guru Nanak Dev on his 549th birth anniversary, Mukherjee said given the times we are living in, it is important to recall his message of “peace and oneness”.

He also recalled what Chanakya said that “In the happiness of the people lies the happiness of the king” and the Rig Veda saying that we must live in one assembly, speak in one voice, with our minds in accord.

In a poser he asked whether the state was functioning in conformity with the preamble of the Constitution guaranteeing socio-economic and political justice, liberty of expression and thought and the equality of status and of opportunity, Mukherjee said that on the ranking of the happiness of common man, India ranks at 113, on the index of hunger, India is at 119. Similar is the situation on the rating of malnutrition, suicides, inequality and economic freedom.

Mukherjee said, “We need a State that inspires confidence among people in its ability to surmount challenges before us. We need the media and citizens, who even as they claim their rights, are equally committed to their responsibilities.”

Referring to the Parliament, Executive and the Judiciary, Mukherjee said in recent past these institutions have come under “severe stress” and their credibility is being questioned.

He said “There is a widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the governance and the functioning of these institutions.”

However, former President said that to “save democracy”, it was incumbent upon these institutions to “win back the trust of the people, without any delay.”

Former Union Minister and BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi in his valedictory address described as “disturbing” the merging scenarios where the “techno-economic system adopted to produce a democratic egalitarian world order has resulted in an exploitative, extremely unequal and fragmented world”.

“Mankind today is, therefore, unhappy, more turbulent, more violent, more fundamentalist and more alienated than ever before”, Joshi said.

The root cause of this “out of balance world” needs to be investigated, the veteran leader said.

First Published: Nov 24, 2018 09:49 IST

Venezuela Opposition Lawmakers Protest At Gates Of Military Headquarters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Andreina Aponte and Diego Oré | CARACAS

Venezuela opposition lawmakers placed pretend coffins and body bags at gates of the National Guard headquarters on Tuesday in protest after the latest fatality in anti-government unrest that has killed at least 75 people since April.

Footage and photos from demonstrations on Monday showed at least three members of the National Guard – a military unit with public order responsibilities – aiming and firing pistols in clashes on a major Caracas highway.

A 17-year-old demonstrator was shot in the chest and died, while several others were injured.

“You cannot keep killing people in the street!” opposition lawmaker Tomas Guanipa shouted during the early-morning protest in the middle-class El Paraiso zone of Caracas.

“Who gave the order to shoot?” asked another lawmaker Jose Olivares as soldiers watched silently from inside their base.

Venezuelan authorities said two National Guard members had been detained on Monday for what the interior minister called “presumed improper and disproportionate use of force” when thousands of protesters flooded the streets.

And President Nicolas Maduro announced that the general in charge of the National Guard, Antonio Benavides, was being replaced by another military man, Sergio Rivero.

“Win peace! That is our aim,” Maduro told Rivero, without giving reasons for the change.

Opposition leaders accuse Rivero and other military leaders appointed by Maduro of human rights violations during the recent protests.

“Generals and admirals that we denounced before the state prosecutors’ office for committing atrocities against Venezuelans are being given honors and promotions,” wrote opposition legislator Gabriela Arellano via Twitter.

The Defense Ministry and the Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue.

As well as the fatalities, thousands of people have been injured or arrested since Venezuela’s opposition began its latest street campaign against Maduro’s socialist government in early April.

They accuse Hugo Chavez’s successor of becoming a dictator and wrecking the once-prosperous OPEC member’s economy, demanding a presidential election to end his rule.

Maduro, 54, narrowly won election in 2013 to replace Chavez after his death from cancer, but has seen his approval rating halve to just above 20 percent during four years of an economic crisis causing hunger and shortages.

VICTIMS ON ALL SIDES

Maduro says “terrorists” and “fascists” are leading the protests in an effort to topple him by force as briefly happened to Chavez in 2002. Government supporters, bystanders and some members of the security forces have also been victims of the violence, with gunshot wounds the most common cause.

Though thousands turned out on Monday, many grassroots opposition supporters feel intimidated by the daily violence in cities around Venezuela, where masked youths barricade streets and hurl stones and Molotov cocktails against security forces with tear gas and water cannons.

Pro-government gangs with guns sometimes join the fray.

There is also some exhaustion setting in within protester ranks after 80 days of what the opposition calls “resistance” and the government terms “armed insurrection”.

Opposition leaders have, however, vowed to step up tactics to increase pressure on Maduro. They are seeking to halt Maduro’s plan for July 30 elections for a special assembly to rewrite the constitution, a move they say is rigged to keep him in power.

Chief state prosecutor Luisa Ortega has been leading dissent against the plan from within government, earning her a barrage of accusations from officials ranging from corruption to insanity and promoting violence.

The Supreme Court on Monday accepted a request by a ruling Socialist Party lawmaker to begin the process of taking her to trial for committing “serious offenses.”

Before any trial could take place, the Supreme Court would first have to hold a preliminary hearing to determine whether a trial is warranted.

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore and Victoria Ramirez; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Grant McCool and James Dalgleish)