Speech of HS at the Inaugural Ceremony of 17th Annual CPA, Indian Region, Zone-III Conference held in Guwahati, Assam on 08th October, 2018
Hon'ble Chief Minister of Assam, Shri Sarbananda Sonowalji; Hon'ble Speaker, Assam Legislative Assembly, Shri Hitendra Nath Goswami ji; Hon'ble Presiding Officers; Distinguished Delegates; and Ladies and Gentlemen:
1. It is, indeed, a matter of great pleasure for me to be here today amidst you for the inauguration of the CPA India Zone III Conference. A significant event that is coinciding with this conference is the launching of the North-East Chapter of SRI, here in this historic and beautiful city of Guwahati, the capital of beautiful state of Assam. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the North-East Region Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for having organised this Conference. Entire North-East has been richly endowed with the bounties of nature and blessed with a rich and composite cultural heritage. The North-East occupies a pride of place in our country. It is also one of the most diverse regions of Asia and a meeting point of many communities, faiths and cultures. Even in our Indian philosophy and Vastu-Shastra North-East is considered as a place of sanctity and the most auspicious direction where most powerful, positive and progressive energies are generated, so peace, harmony and development in North-East is very important for our country.
2. I am touched by the warm welcome extended to us by the people of the State. I thank and compliment the Hon’ble Chief Minister and Speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly and all others associated with the planning, organization and execution of this Conference.
3. Friends, as we all are aware; the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is composed of over 180 Branches formed in Legislatures in Commonwealth countries and India constitutes one of the nine regions of CPA. Within the India CPA Region we have created four zones. The idea being to focus on various regional issues peculiar to that particular region and also promote contacts among legislators as also between the legislators and the people. I have attended the Zone I and Zone IV conference in Dehradun and Shimla respectively. The North East Region CPA, which has more than 500 MLAs, is very active and it is heartening to note that it has been organizing useful events at regular intervals for the benefit of the legislators.
4. The topics chosen for the CPA Zone III Conference for two working sessions (i) ‘Women empowerment in NE Region’ and Collective approach to remove insurgency in NE Region’ are very relevant and deserve intense discussion.
5. Women are the fountainhead of life. No debate on the global political, economic and social situation will be meaningful unless it addresses the issues relating to women, who constitute half the world population I feel happy that gender mainstreaming has become the central focus of many policies and programmes at the Governmental and non-Governmental levels. Parliaments and parliamentarians are also making significant contributions in terms of progressive legislation in the direction of women’s empowerment in political, economic and social spheres. We had successfully organized the first ever National Conference of Women Legislators in New Delhi in March, 2016. The theme of the Conference was “How the empowered women can empower the Nation?” It was a unique event. The women legislators committed to work for transparent, accountable and inclusive governance and to contribute for the task of building a resurgent India.
6. However, the limitations of the law as a means of social change must be understood. The fact is that law can only guide the external behaviour; it cannot bring about attitudinal changes. That needs a sustained social campaign. The imperative of respecting women must be inculcated in the mind from a young age. In the ethnically and culturally diverse North-East India, women have shared a significant social space as compared to most of their contemporaries living in other parts of the Indian sub-continent. Their commendable participation in and contribution to the social, cultural, economic and political affairs of the region deserves due recognition. Spiritual and political leader Rani Gaidinliu, Boxer and fellow parliamentarian M.C Mary Kom, Gymanst Deepa Karmakar and Weightlifter Kunjarani Devi, young Athlete Hima Das are some of the glorious examples of women achievers from the North-East.
7. The other topic chosen for deliberation is Collective Approach to resolve Insurgency in the North Eastern Region. This is indeed a theme of great relevance not only to the North Eastern region but to the country as a whole. The region is rich in natural resources still then; infrastructure and governance, combined with limited market access pose huge challenge to development. It is also a matter of concern that the region still faces insurgency and ethnic conflicts. No economic or social development is possible without peace in the region. That being so, the need of the hour is to harmonize and transform these conflicts into healthy competition for the progress of the people and the Region. While safeguarding the distinctive ethnic and cultural identity of the people of the North-East, it is equally important to bring about emotional integration between the people of the North-East and the rest of the country. Collective, coordinated and cooperative approach towards handling issues always yields good results.
8. Legislators and Parliamentarians play an important role while performing three broad functions, that of legislation, budget approval and oversight of the Executive. The oversight function is a very important responsibility of Legislatures and they must discharge this responsibility with utmost sincerity and as a noble duty. It is important for the Legislators to be equipped with authentic and up-to-date information on critical issues of governance, so that they can reflect the hopes and aspirations of the people on the floor of the House. Friends, it is a fact that today governance and policy making has become a highly complex process. The emphasis is on good governance based on transparency, openness and accountability. In this scenario, in order to perform our duties effectively, it is essential to seek the guidance of domain experts in several areas which are technical in nature. We need to accept the fact that we are not experts in all subjects though we might have a bird’s eye view of many issues. In order to address this issue, it was decided to bring in domain experts to orient members by creating a perspective on various important issues. It was thus that the Speakers’ Research Initiative (SRI) was established in the Lok Sabha in July 2015.
“न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते। तत्स्वयं योगसंसिद्धः कालेनात्मनि विन्दति।।”
(Indeed, there is nothing purifying here comparable to Knowledge. One who has become perfected after a (long) time through yoga, realizes That by himself in his own heart.)
9. SRI focuses on identifying core areas/issues of long term, strategic policy and generate high quality research inputs and devise appropriate mechanism for interaction with members of both the Houses of Parliament for the purpose of information dissemination and capacity building. SRI has got eminent people and domain experts associated with it. SRI has so far organized 32 workshops on key issues, receiving all round appreciation from Members of Parliament.
10. In fact, the popularity of SRI has reached beyond the shores of India also. Recently during my visit to Belarus, Latvia and Finland all the three countries not only appreciated the concept of SRI but also have expressed a desire to benefit from the working of SRI and get associated with Internship and Fellowship programs. We have decided to welcome foreign participants also.
11. I am indeed happy to note that the Presiding Officers of the North Eastern States had passed the Imphal Resolution urging to have a Chapter of the SRI based at Guwahati. You have realized the advantage of having such a forum which could contribute to the capacity building processes of Legislators by providing interactive information inputs from domain experts for their effective functioning.
12. The inaugural Session of SRI North East Chapter is planned to be held with two working sessions. The subjects chosen for this are (i) Skill Development for sustainable growth of Organic farming in the Region and (ii) Connectivity for Economic Development of the North Eastern Region. Both the topics have been chosen with great care. Organic farming is fast catching up in this region and today Sikkim is the first state in the country to achieve this distinction.
13. There is no doubt that connectivity in all aspects would enhance the growth potential of the region. As you all are aware Prime Minister Modi has taken several initiatives and laid special emphasis on the development of the NE region. The ‘Act East' policy includes a big push for road and railway infrastructure and various steps to boost the regional economy. Today North-Frontier Railway directly or indirectly serves all the eight north eastern states. It has a target to reach all state capitals of North East by 2020. While most of the infrastructural projects are at various stages of completion, when these projects are fructified, North-East will immensely benefit. The 1360-km long India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, which is to be completed in 2020 is a centerpiece of ‘Act East' policy. This highway will boost the regional economy. The inauguration of the new airport in Sikkim by Hon'ble Prime Minister a few days back is a step in that direction only.
14. I trust you would find the SRI sessions tomorrow useful and informative as they are relevant to the region. You must plan events at frequent intervals and that will also lead to strengthening the potential of SRI. It has proved to be a highly useful platform in our Parliament by providing an additional layer of informed opinion on contemporary issues for the benefit of Members. Our ultimate aim is to serve the people better. 15. With these words, I once again thank you for inviting me to this Inaugural Function. I am sure, the deliberations will be fruitful and evoke new ideas and perspectives. I wish the Conference a grand success.