The following is the text of new President Pratibha Patil’s speech at the Central Hall of parliament on July 25:
My greetings to you all! I thank the members of Parliament and state legislatures for electing me to this high office. I am overwhelmed by the affection and regard shown to me by so many people across the length and breadth of the country during the past few weeks. I stand here today as the Republic’s first servant, humbled by this experience.
It will be my sincere endeavour to live up to the high expectations of all those who have chosen to elect me, and to serve the best interests of the people of India. I am fully aware of the great responsibility that has been placed on my humble shoulders.
This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the First War of Indian Independence. As I stand before you, I draw inspiration from the courage and sacrifice of all those who led our nation to freedom. One of the unique features of our national movement, of our freedom struggle, was the equal participation of men and women. Among the many who led that battle against foreign rule were brave women like Rani Lakshmibai, Begum Hazrat Mahal and Kitturu Rani Chennamma.
In a few days time we will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of our independence. I would like to remember with gratitude the great contribution to our freedom struggle made by leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and Sarojini Naidu, who fought under the unique and path-breaking leadership of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, I share the sense of pride of every Indian that the UN General Assembly has declared Gandhi Jayanti, the 2nd of October, as the International Day of Non-violence. We express our gratitude to the world community for this unique honour.
Ours is an ancient civilization but a young nation. We look back with pride to the tremendous achievements made during the 60 years of our independence in all spheres of life. More than anything else we have demonstrated to the world that a developing country of over a billion people, each aspiring for a better quality of life, can live harmoniously and move forward within the framework of a secular democracy.
As president I assure the people of India that in upholding the Constitution I will always be inspired by the stirring message of Babasaheb Ambedkar who, in his closing speech to the Constituent Assembly, emphasized the need to hold fast to the constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. Sixty years ago, speaking in these very premises, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said, and I quote, ‘Freedom and power bring responsibility.’ He reminded us that this great responsibility, I quote ‘rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India’. Indira Gandhi as India’s first and only woman prime minister, showed us that the upliftment of the underprivileged and alleviation of poverty must remain the foremost and sacred duty of those who hold public office.
Today India stands at the threshold of a new era of progress. The nation is moving at historically unprecedented rates of growth. It should be our combined endeavour to sustain this growth and ensure that it is socially inclusive. We must ensure that every section of our society – particularly the weak and the disadvantaged – are equal partners in, and beneficiaries of, the development process. We must also ensure that every region of the country participates in and benefits from the process of economic growth.
I am reminded of the words of the great seventeenth century, Marathi poet-saint, Sant Tukaram, who said:
One who befriends the poor and the oppressed, Recognise him to be a Saint, for God is with him.
Today, I commit myself to work for the well being of all our citizens. To realize the full potential of our people, we must invest in their capabilities and empower them with modern education and comprehensive health care. We must banish malnutrition, social evils infant mortality and female foeticide. I wish to express my full commitment to the protection of child rights. We must wage a relentless campaign against poverty, ignorance and disease to seek a better future for our children. We must show wisdom and foresight in protecting our planet and our environment, for the good of all living species and future generations.
I am deeply committed to the cause of education and would like to see every person, man and woman, boy and girl, be touched by the light of modern education. Empowerment of women is particularly important to me as I believe this leads to the empowerment of the nation.
We must ensure that science and technology serve our needs better, and help us develop a scientific temper that will unleash the full potential of our people, of our farmers, our workers, our professionals and our entrepreneurs.
The people of our country desire better governance, faster development and a life of peace and security. We must all stand united in the fight against such divisive and destructive tendencies as communalism, casteism, extremism and terrorism.
The world has come to regard the success of social and economic development in India within the framework of a democracy as a symbol of hope for all humanity. As I think of the future of our great nation, and our duties and responsibilities in taking it forward, I am reminded of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s invocation about India awakening into that heaven of freedom where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. Let us all rededicate ourselves once again to our Constitutional ideals and work unitedly to build such an India. Jai Hind!