25 Jul, 2012
On the eve of demitting office of the President, I express my personal greetings and good wishes to all of you. During the last five years, I had the opportunity to interact with a number of citizens from different fields and walks of life. I received great respect, affection and support from you and I convey my heartfelt gratitude.
When I assumed office it was the hundred and fiftieth year of our First War of Independence and the sixtieth anniversary of our Independence. Three years later, we crossed another milestone, the sixtieth anniversary of India becoming a Republic. The fifteenth General Election was held in the country in 2009. On these momentous occasions, it was but natural, that the strength of freedom and the power of democracy found resonance in the minds of the people. Elections in our country have, invariably, impressed all observers for their free and fair nature and for the enormous mobilization undertaken for their conduct.
Elections are now bringing in Governments that are mostly coalitions and legislatures composed of many parties. There are regional aspirations as well. Expectations are rising and the people are seeking quicker responses to their problems. It is in these settings that promises are to be met, duties to be performed, and results to be delivered. Even as we seek progress, we must not forget that nation building is a collective endeavour and each one has a role to play and contribute according to his or her might. Each one will have to work hard, maintain harmony and be disciplined, for the growth of the nation and the well being of society. Democracy has given every citizen of the country a participatory stake in its freedom and its progress. The essence of democracy should also be internalized so that it is reflected in our patterns of behaviour.
Negative attitudes spread cynicism and despair, which is not in the interest of our country. We cannot be dismissive and, insensitive to the needs of others and callous about what is happening around us. Stability and success of democracy in India, rests on social harmony, responsible behaviour, positive attitude and commitment to values. The Constitution of our country must be fully respected and there should be adherence to the Fundamental Duties, elaborated in the Constitution, which call for excellence, harmony, rejecting violence and upholding the unity and integrity of India. Always remember, the words of Gandhiji, who said and I quote, “No people have risen who thought only of rights. Only those did so, who thought of duties.” Unquote
You have always shown an ability to understand events happening around you; expressed your views and I am sure you will not fail in building a strong, progressive, cohesive and corruption-free India. Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be got rid of. Both the Government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective.
Along with healthy democracy, there should also be a healthy society. It is a matter of deep distress that, even today, social evils that stagnate the growth of our country, in so many ways, continue to exist – dowry and child marriage, the practice of female foeticide and female infanticide which are causing a lop-sided gender-ratio. Instances of violence against women are very disturbing. These are totally unacceptable and must be opposed by one and all. Government, social organizations, NGOs and other voluntary bodies all have to work collectively.
Laws on these subjects have been passed and could be reviewed. Also, I believe, passing laws is not enough by itself. There has to be a social effort for creating awareness, beginning with the family, so that young minds imbibe the right values. They should be made aware that drug abuse and alcoholism can debilitate a person and cause disharmony in the family. There are too many cases of people getting trapped into an unending cycle of debt and poverty due to these addictions. This is especially so when it involves the poor. When citizens stand up against social malpractices, they become the messengers of change. They must get the support of Government and society. This will give a more active thrust to this fight against social evils and to build a more compassionate society at all levels.
Education, which should also include physical education, is very important for every boy and girl for an enlightened society. I call on school and college students to focus on acquiring knowledge and developing progressive and humane attitudes so that they are ready with skills to meet the requirements of the new, dynamic knowledge era.
Today, innovation is the key to change. It is, therefore, appropriate that the ongoing decade was declared as one of innovation in India. A spirit of creativity should exist at every level of society. A lot rests on our educational institutions, research organizations and scientific bodies, to come out with new technologies and new innovations. The nation has high expectations from them. However, I have also seen that at the grassroots level, ordinary citizens have come out with many innovations based on practical requirements and experiences. They too must be encouraged and supported.
Enhancing agricultural productivity is a national imperative for our food security goal. A paradigm shift, where, in addition to, physical inputs for farming, a focused emphasis placed on knowledge inputs, can be a promising way forward. This knowledge based approach will bring immense returns particularly in Rainfed and Dryland farming areas. I hope that agricultural research institutions and knowledge extension systems, working at the ground level with gram panchayats, will bring technology and good farming practices to the doorsteps of the farmer.
Agriculture is a sector that also needs greater integration with other sectors of the economy, including much more engagement with industry. This can work when the rights of farmers on their land is fully protected. Farmers also need to be empowered and their bargaining abilities enhanced, so that they deal with other sectors, whether for procuring inputs, or for marketing and processing their output, with confidence.
Improved farming and development of rural areas, I believe, is of great importance to national growth. We are, however, living in times, when towns and cities are coming up at a faster rate than before. These should be developed as living habitats where the environment is clean, and amenities as well as livelihood opportunities are made available. Sustainable urban habitat is a very important concept for India.
It essentially encompasses environment sustainability and inclusiveness. Residents should organize themselves and fully participate in various activities to make their cities sustainable. As a small measure, to make this concept a reality, I launched the Roshini Project for Rashtrapati Bhavan, with an environment management committee through the participation of residents, coupled with a livelihood programme by organizing Self Help Groups of women and a creche for children.
I believe that the potential of women has not yet been fully realized. Therefore, their issues received my constant attention during my Presidency. Women have talent and intelligence but due to social constraints and prejudices, it is still a long distance away from the goal of gender equality. I observed that though Government has many programmes and schemes for women, at the implementation level there was a lack of push, convergence and coordination. I hope the efforts of the ‘National Mission for Empowerment of Women’, set up two years ago with the aim of achieving gender equality and justice as well as holistic development of women through co-ordination among stakeholders, will bear fruit. I also feel that women contribute to building a more decent and compassionate society, as the feeling of caring and nurturing is inherent in their nature.
For a nation, its value system is its anchor. India has a long tradition of tolerance and harmony, because of the very nature of its society, which is multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic. The message of love, sympathy and tolerance intrinsic to all religions, and propagated by their respective saints, has had a bearing on the ethos of the country. It has taught us to strive for a higher purpose. Gurudev Tagore spoke of how the future was waiting for those who are rich in moral ideas and not in mere things. I hope that in line with these words of Gurudev, India will continue to strive to be a country that upholds civilizational values and the high ideals of our Founding Fathers, even as we prosper and grow. It is this, that will define India as a unique country on the world platform.
India is also an example of how economic growth can be achieved within a democratic framework. I believe economic growth should translate into the happiness and progress of all. Along with it, there should be development of art and culture, literature and education, science and technology. We have to see how to harness the many resources of India for achieving common good and for inclusive growth. Gandhiji had taught us that worthy ends could only be achieved through worthy means. India will be what we are and our actions will shape the future. To build a nation, people must make sacrifices. Here, I would like to appreciate the important role of our Armed Forces in guarding our borders and of our security forces in maintaining law and order in the country. With terrorism and extremism in our region, we cannot let down our guard.
We must also remember that the work of nation-building is endless. Generations come and generations go, but the life of the nation goes on. Every generation during its time must make a qualitative difference. Swami Vivekananda said, and I quote, “Our ancestors did great things in the past, but we have to grow into a fuller life and march beyond even their great achievements.” Unquote. So let us all unitedly resolve to take our nation to higher heights!
On this journey, never forget that you belong to a great nation, rich in history and culture, the home of sages and heroes, the cradle of one of the most ancient continuous civilizations, that has the promise and the potential of being one of the most prosperous countries of the world. In a pluralistic society, the most, utmost strength lies in unity. It is only when we are united that every challenge will become surmountable. Do not let any divisive agenda take root or sway you. As more than one billion people use this collective strength to create a symphony, so that the world waits to listen to you.
I end with the quotation:
संगच्छध्वं सं वदध्वं,
सं वो मनांसि जानताम् ||
Which means – Go together harmoniously, speak together and understand each other’s minds.
With these words, I wish you peace, prosperity and happiness in your lives in a prosperous India. As I step down, I once again thank you profusely for the warmth and affection showered on me.