President calls for inclusive growth in his farewell address

Our Constitution provides for equal opportunity for all, and, for development to be real, we must ensure that the poorest of the land feel that they are a part of the nation's narrative, President Pranab Mukherjee said at a farewell function on Monday.

 
Vice president Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan presnt outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee a souvenir  

He said a modern nation is built on some essential fundamentals - democracy or equal rights for every citizen, secularism or equal freedom to every faith, equality of every region, and economic equity.

''The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance. India is not just a geographical entity. It carries a history of ideas, philosophy, intellect, industrial genius, craft, innovation and experience.

''Plurality of our society has come about through assimilation of ideas over centuries. The multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance. It has been part of our collective consciousness for centuries. There are divergent strands in public discourse. We may argue, we may agree or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away,'' he said.

Mukherjee, 81, who will move from the 340-room sprawling Rashtrapati Bhavan to a bungalow today, after handing over the baton to Ram Nath Kovind, said he had tried to spread happiness to a few villages in the neighbourhood in the last five years.

"We tried to build a humane and happy township," said Pranab Mukherjee in his last address to the nation as the president.

''Five years ago, when I took the oath of office of the President of the Republic, I promised to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution, not just in word but also in spirit. Each day of these five years, I was conscious of my responsibility. I learnt from my travels across the length and breadth of the country. I learnt from my conversations with young and bright minds in colleges and universities, scientists, innovators, scholars, jurists, authors, artists and leaders from across the spectrum. These interactions kept me focused and inspired. I strove hard. How successful I was in discharging my responsibilities will be judged, over the time, by the critical lens of history,'' he said.

As one advances in years, so does one's propensity to sermonise. But I have no sermon to make. For the past fifty years of my public life my sacred text has been the Constitution of India; my temple has been the Parliament of India; and my passion has been the service of the people of India.

Mukherjee said the country seems to lose the capacity for compassion and empathy, which is the true foundation of our civilisation, adding, ''Only a non-violent society can ensure the participation of all sections of the people, especially the marginalized and the dispossessed in the democratic process.''

Nature, he said, has been kind to us in its bounty. But when greed exceeds need, nature lets loose its fury. We often see some parts of India affected by devastating floods while others reel under severe drought. ''Climate change has put farming sector under tremendous stress. Scientists and technologists have to work with millions of farmers and workers to revive the health of our soil, arrest the decline in water table and restore the ecological balance. We all have to act together now for the future may not give us another chance.''

The President also dwelt on the importance of education, which, he said, ''is the alchemy that can take India to its next golden age.

''A reordering of society is possible through the transformative power of education. For that, we have to upgrade our higher institutions of learning to world-class levels. Our education system must accept disruption as a norm and prepare our students to manage and build upon the disruptions. Our universities should not be a place for rote-memorizing but an assembly of inquisitive minds. Creative thinking, innovation and scientific temper have to be promoted in our institutions of higher learning. It calls for application of logic through discussion, argument and analysis.''

The President said he was overwhelmed by a deep sense of gratitude to the people of India for the trust and confidence they reposed in him. He was humbled by their kindness and affection. He stated that he had received much more from the country than he had given.

He congratulated and extended a warm welcome to President-elect Ram Nath Kovind and wished him success and happiness in the years to come.