India's President Pranab Mukherjee slams nation's failures during Republic Day address

(From left to right) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Barack Obama, India's President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari attending the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
(From left to right) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Barack Obama, India's President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari attending the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian President Pranab Mukherjee gave a stern assesmement of India 65 years after it declared itself a republic, criticising parliamentary dysfunction and the overuse of decrees in a message that might also resonate with his visitor, United States President Barack Obama.

In a Republic Day address on the eve of the celebrations, India's largely ceremonial president was also scathing about rampant violence against women in the world's second most populous nation.

Mr Mukherjee said the opposition should debate laws responsibily rather than disrupting the houses of Parliament, and warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government against governing by decree.

He was referrring to 10 "ordinances" issued by Mr Modi, including ones to raise the foreign investment limit in insurance, auction coal mines and ease land acquisitions. "Enacting laws without discussion impacts the law-making role of the parliament. It breaches the trust reposed in it by the people," Mr Mukherjee said in a televised address on Sunday. "This is neither good for the democracy nor for the policies relating to those laws."

Mr Modi issued most of the decrees after opposition parties prevented parliament from functioning in protest at comments against religious minorities made by members of the ruling party.

Mr Mukherjee's message might be of interest to Mr Obama, who was in town as chief guest for the 66th Republic Day celebrations. At home, Mr Obama has sidestepped a fractious Congress by issuing executive orders.

Mr Mukherjee said there can be "no governance without a functioning legislature".

Elected last May, Mr Modi has broken logjams in the economy and foreign relations.

Mr Obama sat behind Mr Mukherjee as he saluted soldiers at a military parade in the capital New Delhi on Monday. Mr Obama is the first US president to attend the annual Republic Day celebrations, part of a three-day visit that aims to cement ties between the world's two largest democracies.

The ceremony featured marching contingents of women soldiers and a woman officer led the guard of honour that greeted Mr Obama, although India has become notorious for abuses and violence against women.

In his speech, Mr Mukherjee expressed anger that women are"fearful even in their own homes" because of widespread rape, murder, harassment on the roads, kidnapping and dowry deaths.