It gives me immense pleasure to welcome this distinguished gathering to the hallowed Central Hall on the Sixtieth anniversary of the First sitting of our Parliament, which resounds with the hopes and aspirations of the people. Today, we feel exhilarated by the sheer reminiscence of that memorable event in Indian history. Our hearts are filled with joy.
The abiding faith of the people of India in parliamentary democracy has enabled us to successfully complete Sixty Years of our journey. In fact, rich and poor, men and women of all religions and creed are equal partners in this journey. The landless farmers growing bountiful crops in our fields, the labourers toiling in arduous conditions, women working untiringly day in and day out and people from the weaker and deprived sections of the society deserve special mention. All of them have made invaluable contribution to make our democracy flourish. I express my heartfelt gratitude to them.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the visionary Founding Fathers of our Republic who, in their sagacity and wisdom, laid firm foundations of governance based on the cherished principles of democracy, social justice and rule of law.
According to the historians, several features of modern parliamentary system such as free discussion and decision by the vote of the majority are known to have existed in ancient India as well. It is believed that India gave the concept of democracy to the world of which Republic of Lichhavi is an example. However, the Councils and Assemblies of the Republics in those days were dominated by the royalty and people from High Castes and Classes, whereas there is representation of all sections in our modern parliamentary system. Today, our democracy draws its strength and essence from all cross sections of people without any discrimination.
Post Independence, our journey as the world’s largest parliamentary democracy began with the constitution of the first Lok Sabha, after the first General Elections in 1951-52. 13th May 1952 heralded the epoch of a new era. In this glorious dawn of democracy, our Parliament gave voice to the hitherto voiceless and marginalized people. Since then, we have successfully conducted fifteen General Elections and a mammoth electorate of over 70 crore voters were registered for the last General Elections of 2009.
India embarked on its democratic voyage at a time when the nation was facing multiple complex challenges. The vast territorial expanse and diversity of India, the stark economic backwardness, wide chasm of social disparity and darkness of illiteracy were such impediments in our path to democracy which were considered impossible to overcome and some were sceptical about our ability to face the challenges of transition. Many were apprehensive that these representative institutions would not prove suitable for a society as heterogeneous and pluralistic as ours. However, time has dispelled all such misgivings.
There are several nations where the saplings of democracy sprouted but withered away to pave way for military or autocratic rule. We are fortunate that democracy in India has blossomed into a strong and vibrant form of governance despite all the trials and tribulations. Our successful experiment with democracy is revered and admired amongst the comity of nations.
The Parliament of India stands tall as the shining beacon of democracy. It is in the Chambers of this sacred institution that our elected representatives shape and decide the destiny of over 120 crore people. It is on the floor of this supreme institution of deliberations that many far-reaching and revolutionary changes have been effected during the last six decades for the establishment of an egalitarian and progressive India. Laws aimed at bringing about meaningful and positive changes have been framed. Employees Provident Fund, Untouchability (Offences), Bonded Labour System (Abolition), Right to Information, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Right to Free and Compulsory Education and such other legislations have proved to be milestones in this direction. Many laws have been enacted for the empowerment of women so that their plight is ameliorated, they are emancipated from regressive societal practices and made a key partner in the decision making process as is witnessed in our Panchayati Raj Institutions. Laws were also framed to enable the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who have been subjected to atrocities and exploitation for centuries, to live with dignity and honour. Our Parliament is a powerful and effective medium of realizing our dream of a just and modern social order. Our association with such a Parliament not only instills in us a sense of pride but also places an onerous responsibility on our shoulders. We cannot, even for a single moment, become oblivious to the fact that the legislations, policies and programmes deliberated upon in the House decide the destiny of our people. Rising above religion, region, caste, language etc., we are here to protect the interests of the people of the entire nation, especially the marginalized who are ignored. This leaves no scope for any kind of lapse in discharging our duties.
We deliberated on 'the 60 years' journey of Indian Parliament' during the special session convened to commemorate the diamond jubilee of its first sitting. I am proud to inform respected Rashtrapati ji and other distinguished guests that the level of the debate was exceptionally high and the insightful and effective suggestions made by the Hon'ble Members will continue to inspire all of us in the everlasting journey of our Parliament. A unanimous resolution was passed at the conclusion of discussions to uphold the dignity, sanctity and sovereignty of the Parliament and once again re-dedicate ourselves to nation building.
We are privileged to have amidst us four Members of the First Lok Sabha, Hon’ble Shri Rishang Keishing, Hon’ble Shri Reshamlal Jangde, Hon’ble Shri K. Mohana Rao and Hon’ble Shri Kandala Subrahmanyam. On behalf of all of you and on my own behalf I welcome them.
I convey my gratitude to the Chairman of the Steering Committee set up to commemorate this event, Hon'ble Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal ji and all its members. I would also like to express my deep appreciation to the Secretary General, Officers and the staff of Lok Sabha Secretariat for their active role in organizing this function.
Lastly, I would once again like to thank esteemed Rashtrapati ji, Up-Rashtrapati ji, Pradhan Mantri ji and other distinguished guests. Your presence has added an aura to this historic moment.