Jaipur: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the Supreme Court, the Election Commission of India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and other such institutions are expected to function independently within the framework of the Constitution.
"To strengthen, our democracy we need principle, knowledgeable and visionary leaders. It needs political parties committed to safeguarding values enshrined in our Constitution. For our continued unity, the government has to deliver justice, liberty, equality, and environment that respect the contrary opinion," said Singh while addressing the students at the JK Laxmipat University in Jaipur.
"We have to respect the supremacy of Parliament and its procedures, the rules of the government and presidents. Serving the federal structures like the Supreme Court, the Election Commission of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the CBI, Vigilance Commission, the Information Commission and various other commissions constituted by the government from time to time are expected to function independently within the framework of the Constitution. We have to ensure that they do so," he added.
Major Opposition parties including the Congress have been accusing the central government of misusing institutions like the Election Commission and the CBI.
Dismissing arguments that democracy is inimical to economic development and authoritarian regimes made phenomenal economic progress, the former prime minister said that India has shown how a democratic setup has led to 'general improvement' in the living standards of the people since economic liberalization was introduced in 1991.
"India since the economic liberalisation in 1991 has shown how a democratic set-up has led to a general improvement in the living standards of our people. Since then, millions of people have risen above the poverty line. There have been several policy measures undertaken by the successive governments that have led to more inclusive growth in India, particularly under MGNREGA and well-designed programmes of universal health care and education," said Singh in his address at the university.
"With more purchasing power in their hands, demand in the economy goes up encouraging private investment, more government revenues and taxes to fund infrastructure needs, good roads, railway and reduction in social conflict. Thus, it is clear that democracy does increase economic growth," he said.
It may be noted that Singh was the finance minister when the liberalisation policy was implemented in the country.
The former prime minister, himself a noted economist, said that some have argued that democracy is inimical to economic development and cited authoritarian regimes like China which have made phenomenal economic progress.
"It has been argued that although one-party has its drawback, when it is led by an enlightened group of people it can also have great advantages. By persuading citizens to focus primarily on economic growth, these countries created an atmosphere of fear in which sacrificing personal freedom could be justified," he said.
"This allowed these regimes to impose politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move the economy forward. But over time as incomes grow, it changes the aspirations of people which ultimately strive for a democratic structure. In the long run, the functioning democracy has definite advantages over an authoritarian regime," Singh added.
He further said that today there is a stressful time for democracies across the world and for them Indian democracy is a beacon of hope and inspiration.
"It is a stressful time for democracies all over the world ... democratic India is not only the world's largest democracy but also one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. It is perhaps India's greatest achievement ... Our shining democracy is a beacon of hope and inspiration to a world that is yearning and striving to become democratic," said Singh.
He underlined that "the strength of our democracy lies in the Constitution of India, which has framed and defined tenets of democracy as all-encompassing and reflective of fundamental values of equality, liberty, fraternity, secularism, and justice."
Singh stressed that population explosion, poverty, social inequality, and corruption, etc are challenges for the democracy in India.