The Hon’ble Ms Pratibha Devi Singh Patil
President of Republic of India,
Newspapers of Monday, the 26 of March inform me that you have undertaken 12 foreign trips covering 22 countries across four continents during your tenure, mostly accompanied by your family members.
The news report cares to tell me that your trips cost the public exchequer a whopping Rs. 205 crore. The report also conveys that before the end of your five-year tenure you may be off to South Africa.
I have noted that Air India had incurred over Rs. 169 crore on use of chartered aircraft. A sum of Rs. 36 crore has been incurred on your accommodation, local travel, daily Allowance and miscellaneous expenses, during these tours.
Spending a total of 79 days abroad, you have been to Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Bhutan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Spain, Poland, Russia, Tajikistan, the UK, Cyprus, China, Laos, Cambodia, the UAE, Syria, Mauritius, South Korea, Switzerland and Austria.
Your immediate predecessor Dr APJ Abdul Kalam undertook seven trips to 17 countries during his tenure and remained out of the country for 47 days. KR Narayanan covered 10 countries in six trips. SD Sharma visited 16 countries in four trips.
Though the journalist writing the report is not sure as details of other Presidents were not available but it is unlikely that your record of foreign travel is matched by any of your predecessors.
While congratulating you on this feat of yours, Hon’ble President Madam, may I remind you that you are the President of India where two foremost points of debate relate to poverty.
One issue is that whether the percentage of poor in the country is more than 70 percent of its total population or is it slightly less than that. The other issue being debated is that whether a person who earns Rs. 29 should be considered out of ambit of poverty or should he still be considered a poor.
A majority of our population cannot afford two square meals a day. I think you have better resources to get exact figures of how many people go without food daily in this country, how many people remain underfed, how many children are undernourished, how many people don’t have a room to live in and how many parents could not afford to send their wards to schools.
No, I can’t dare to offend you as I know that you are entitled to all this as President of India and it is your prerogative to fly out of country as many times you like, for as many days you decide and with the people of your choice and the family always comes first, I know.
No you have not done anything wrong Madam and you have not committed any act of impropriety but still I don’t know, why I wish, people occupying such high offices should lead by example, be an example and when they quit their office, they should be remembered for their exemplary deeds.
May I hope that I stand a chance to be excused if I wish that people sitting on chairs as high as that of a President and a Prime Minister should represent the country they belong to and use all the resources at their command for the welfare of the people of the country more so if the majority of the population of the country happens to be undernourished, underfed, undereducated and is blessed with a label of being underprivileged.
I feel that it is sheer blessing of the Almighty that one gets to adorn such thrones and one should take the opportunity by the leap to pay back to the Almighty by doing a yeoman’s service for the people of the country, for the people of the GOD Himself.
‘This is an ornamental post, a rubber stamp actually’, that is what they say about the post of President but may I remind you that in recent times your immediate predecessor Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam chose to be different, chose to be innovative, down to earth, inspiring, motivating and emerged as a leader who sought to lead by example. He took the post of President of India to newer heights and raised its pedestal.
Reading crafted speeches and addressing convocations with stereo-type addresses is not the only thing what Indian people expect from their President or even for that matter the Prime Minister.
Somebody argues with me that Rs. 205 crore is not a big sum for the foreign junkets of a President of India. I wish I would have agreed with him had he been able to tell me what good these foreign trips brought along, what ideas were brought home and how the country and its people benefitted from all this.
This country is changing Madam and a changing country needs leaders who can lead the charge for the change. I have not lost hope and don’t want to lose it.
So, Hon’ble President, be my hope, be the hope of the country you live in, the country you represent, the country which has given you an opportunity to rise to this august office of the President of India.
More than 120 million Indians need someone to look up to. So, be their hope, be their motivation, be their inspiration and lead them like a leader, lead them by example because it’s your country and because it is your responsibility.
With deepest regards,
H S Bawa
(One, representing many of the 120 million Indians)
March 26, 2012.
-A Yes Punjab Editorial