New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi Sunday said that integrity and independence of parliament must be protected at all cost and the conduct of MPs should rise to the highest ethical standards that were followed by the founding fathers of our nation.

"The integrity and independence of parliament must be preserved and protected at all cost, with no room for compromise. Our conduct must rise to the highest ethical standards that were followed and demanded by the founding fathers of our nation," Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha during a sitting to mark the 60th anniversary of parliament.

At Independence, India awakened "to life and freedom" with a bold and ambitious vision to build a legislature on the basis of universal adult franchise. "At one stroke, millions of our poor and illiterate, men and women, were given the power to change their destiny," she said.

Referring to the challenges of partition, she said millions of refugees were homeless, communal tension was rife, destitution was rampant, borders were tense and resources were scarce."The very idea of India, let alone the idea of a democratic India, was being ridiculed in many quarters...To their eternal credit and our undying gratitude, our founding fathers persisted," she said.

Gandhi said poor and illiterate masses of this country turned out to be amazingly skilled and sophisticated and voted with wisdom and purpose in successive polls. "If there is one thread running through these past six decades, it is that people's power is felt constantly at the highest levels of governance. The aam admi has become the heart and soul of our democracy and has made it our greatest triumph," she said.

She said India's freedom struggle reinvented the idea of democracy and referred to Mahatma Gandhi's vision that the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. "We can say with pride that India's parliament, elected by the largest electorate in the world and reflecting the aspirations of some 1.2 billion people, has grown into a great representative political institution," she said.

Gandhi said B.R. Ambedkar accomplished an immensely difficult task to create the constitutional framework on which the country's democracy stands.Recalling the contribution of MPs over the past six decades, she said: "They created new rights and remedies for all our citizens and have especially protected the excluded and the marginalised. Indian social legislation has today emerged as a global benchmark.

"Acknowledging the contribution of thousands of hard working staff in parliament, Gandhi paid tributes to those who laid down their lives in the 2001 terror attack on the seat of Indian democracy. She said the journey of parliament had not always been smooth or without challenge.

"Nor did we expect it to be. An anniversary is also a moment for reflection, to consider our role and place in the rich fabric of our nation's life and history."Gandhi said the members should resolve to make sure that parliament embraced not only the triumph and joys of this land but rid people of the sorrows and sufferings in their lives. "This great institution must be not only a source of law and power, but also of justice and compassion."Recalling Jawaharlal Nehru's words "Swaraj for all", she said these encapsulated the mighty mission of this great republic.



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