President Ram Nath Kovind exhorted the Governors to play the role of the “friend, philosopher and guide” in states of their posting while inaugurating the 51st conference of Governors, Lt Governors and Administrators at Rashtrapati Bhavan today (November 11, 2021).
The one-day conference was also attended by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and moderated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The President’s views were echoed by the Vice President and the Prime Minister who in their speeches emphasised the critical role played by the institution of the Governor in protecting the constitutional values and integrity of the country.
The conference began on a solemn note when the Union Home Minister pointed out that the physical Conference of Governors was taking place after a gap of two years on account of the pandemic. The last conference was held in 2019, he said.
The President in his address pointed out that Governors had a very important role in creating awareness among the people about the national goals and ensuring public participation and that to fulfill this commitment, they must spend as much time as possible in their state and maintain connect with the people.
Referring to the ongoing 26th annual summit of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow, the President said that India has shown its commitment and capability in front of the world community on a number of global issues and emerged as the only major economy that has made tangible progress on the ‘Paris Commitment’. He also referred to five objectives – expanding non-fossil power generation capacity to 500 GW; meeting half of the energy requirements with renewable energy; reducing projected carbon emissions by one billion tonne; reducing the carbon intensity of the economy by 45 percent by 2030; and to achieve the target of net zero emissions by the year 2070 – as major commitments to tackle the challenge of climate change. The President said that Governors can play a motivating role in fulfilling these national goals. They can make a significant contribution in this direction by raising awareness among the state governments and public representatives.
The President particularly referred to ‘Har Ghar, Nal Se Jal’ as incredibly successful programme which changed the lives of people and urged Governors to help ensure active participation of educational institutions, government organisations as well as NGOs. Drawing attention to the areas dominated by the Scheduled Tribes, the President said that Governors have a special constitutional role in the development of these areas. By contributing to the progress of these tribal people, they can play their part in the inclusive development of the country, he pointed out.
The day-long conference was marked by a session of reporting by all participants who spoke about the progress made in their respective states. Most of the states discussed the effective manner in which they had tackled the pandemic with the help of the centre. Five states – Gujarat, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Telangana – and the union territory of Ladakh made separate presentations on their best governance practices. Gujarat’s emphasis on organic farming and Uttar Pradesh’s special efforts for upscaling education and eradicating tuberculosis found mention in these reports.
After these sessions, the Vice President urged the Governors to play a proactive role in monitoring the various central government projects and schemes and ensure that the money intended for people’s welfare is spent for the right purpose. He reminded the Governors to maintain high standards and win over people’s confidence in taking up issues like climate change. He said that the awareness about the climate change should be spread among people to motivate them to join the campaign to check this situation. The Vice President also asked the governors to take the messages of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav and rope in educational institutions, NGOs and other social organisations to enhance people’s participation in it.
Taking cue from the speeches at the conference, the Prime Minister said that the Conference of Governors was a good beginning as the event took place out of the shadow of the deadliest pandemic in a century. He however pointed out that the institution of the governor is a critical connect between the centre and the state. He said that the governor’s office should be lively and active, and live up to people’s expectations.
He urged governors to travel to remotest villages of the state and interact with neighbouring governors regularly to know about people’s problems. In a particular reference to the states that share international borders or are coastal states, he requested Governors to travel to villages along the borders or the sea coast and spend time with people. At the same time, he urged governors to hold regular interaction with central government officials working in their states.
Referring to the presentation of best practices given by five states and a union territory, the Prime Minister emphasised that an institutionalised mechanism should be created for frequent interactions among governors to learn about the best practices in their states and emulate them in other states. He also referred to the significance of social media and technology, and pointed out that such tools should be adopted by governors to streamline their functioning and to reach out to people.
The Prime Minister particularly referred to the NAMO app which carry positive news every morning in order to make them more aware of development around the country. He pointed out that he had faced criticism during the raging pandemic from economists for not following the path of printing currency notes and distributing it as doles. But now the economists in all over the world were looking up at India as the country had given a new economic model to the world by not only salvaging the situation but also giving a fillip to growth, he said.
Asking governors to share their experiences in the state for his ‘Mann ki Baat’ after traveling across the state, he highlighted that the governor’s institution was critical in maintaining integrity of the nation. He asked them to be cautious against any attempt to go against the spirit of the constitution. He sought their active cooperation in the vaccination drive and urged them to keep constant connect with people and officials to know about its status. The Prime Minister urged governors to expand their social outreach, meet people in order to instill confidence in them.
In his welcome speech, the Union Home Minister referred to the effective leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, and said that India has achieved the milestone of 100 crore vaccinations and is moving forward with good pace. He said that the world was appreciating India’s success in the battle against the pandemic which was fought under the leadership of the Prime Minister with the motto of ‘Ek Rashtra, Ek Jan, Ek Man’.
The Home Minister said that this year’s conference has special importance as the nation is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. On the Independence Day this year, the Prime Minister has made an appeal to celebrate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ in the spirit of ‘Sab ka sath, sab ka vikas, sab ka vishwas aur sab ka prayas’ with maximum public participation. He said that in enhancing public participation in this Mahotsav, governors and Raj Bhavans can play an important role. He said that the government will not limit the Amrit Mahotsav with the 75th year only but also celebrate the next 25 years as ‘Amrit Kaal’, make a commitment for ‘India at 100’ and work to achieve it. ‘Amrit Kaal’ will be a period for achieving new heights of success and prosperity for the people and the country. He expressed confidence that governors will actively participate and contribute in this endeavour.
He said that the National Education Policy 2020 envisions education with Indian values. He noted that according to an estimate, about 70 percent universities in the country are state universities in which around 80 percent of the total student population of India is getting education. And governors are chancellors of most of these universities. He said that, therefore, the role of governors in implementing the National Education Policy is very crucial. Guidance of governors is very important in appointments of teachers, admission process and improving the level of education in these universities.
He said that the Government of India has decided to celebrate November 15, the birth anniversary of Bhagvan Birsa Munda, as ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ every year. He said that as we are celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ this year, we will celebrate ‘Gaurav Week’, instead of Gaurav Divas, during November 15-22. From next year, November 15 will be celebrated as Janjatiya Gaurav Divas. By celebrating Janjatiya Gaurav Divas, we are honouring the contribution of the tribal community in the freedom struggle, conservation of environment and development of the nation. He appealed to Governors to celebrate the Janjatiya Gaurav Divas in their respective states.
In his closing remarks, President Kovind urged governors to adopt in their states the best practices discussed in the conference. He said that earlier in this forum we had discussed ‘cooperative federalism’ and ‘competitive federalism’. Cooperation and competition have a prominent place in social life. This gives a momentum to life. But this era is of collaboration. If people are benefited by a new experiment of one state, that experiment should be adopted in other states too.
The first Conference of Governors was held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in 1949 which was presided over by Shri C. Rajagopalachari, Governor General of India. Since then, 51 such Conferences have been organised in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.