President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday warned against the rise of divisive and intolerant forces and said nobody believed that India will survive as a democracy when it gained Independence from the British rulers in 1947, but “Indians have proved those forecasts wrong”.
“The strong edifice of democracy built by our founding fathers on the four pillars of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity has withstood several threats from both within and without and has grown from strength to strength,” the President said in his address to the nation on the eve of the country’s 70th Independence Day.
He said that despite the different hues of political thought, he has seen the ruling party and the opposition coming together in pursuit of the national agenda of development, unity, integrity and security of the nation.
“In the just-concluded session of Parliament, the passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for the introduction of GST amid non-partisan and quality parliamentary deliberations is reason enough to celebrate our democratic maturity,” the President observed.
This was Mukherjee’s fifth address to the nation as President on Independence Day eve.
“India will grow only when all of India grows. The excluded ones have to be included in the development process. The hurt and the alienated have to be brought back into the mainstream,” the President said.
He noted that despite two consecutive drought years, inflation has remained below six per cent and agricultural output remained stable.
“India has had remarkable growth in recent times, often growing above eight per cent per annum over the last decade. International agencies have acknowledged India’s status as the fastest growing major economy.
“The fact that despite two consecutive drought years, inflation has remained below six per cent and agricultural output has been stable, is a testimony to our nation’s resilience, and to how far we have progressed since Independence,” he said.
Mukherjee urged the nation to “take destiny in our own hands” to build the country of our dreams.
Mukherjee stressed the need for “inclusive innovations” and to nurture scientific temper. He called for institutions of higher learning to pitch in for the same.
“Inclusive innovations linked to the aspirations of our people can benefit a wide spectrum of society as well as preserve our diversity. We as a nation must nurture creativity, science and technology. Here, our schools and institutions of higher learning have a special responsibility,” he said.
“We should promote and reinforce a scientific temper by questioning our beliefs which are not compatible with scientific way of thinking,” Mukherjee added.
The President also spoke of harmonizing religion with modern science to create a caring society. He also stressed the need to respect each others’ cultures, values and beliefs.
“In the networked environment of today, a caring society can only be developed by harmonizing religion with modern science,” he said.
“One unique feature that has held India together is our respect for each other’s cultures, values and beliefs. The very essence of plurality lies in cherishing our heterogeneity and valuing our diversity,” he added.
Mukherjee stressed the need to look ahead instead of looking back in history.
“We often celebrate the achievements of our ancient past but it would be wrong to rest on our laurels. It is much more important to look to the future,” he said.
He said that as we build an India of hundreds of smart cities, towns and villages, we must ensure that “they are humane, hi-tech and happy places leading to the creation of a technology-driven but compassionate society”.