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In her first address as President of India, ahead of the nation’s 74th Republic Day, Droupadi Murmu felicitated the government for its timely interventions and policies in a variety of areas, including the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), and the Digital India campaign.
Murmu said such initiatives — “meant to transform all aspects of governance and unleash creative energies of the people” — have made the world look at India with new respect.
She mentioned the Group of Twenty (G20) Presidency in this regard as an opportunity, “to promote democracy and multilateralism”. The G20 represents about two-thirds of the world population, she noted.
Murmu’s unqualified support of the policies of the government included the New Education Policy, which she said had introduced ambitious changes. She appreciated the role of technology (tech) and addressed the twofold aim of education as an instrument of economic and social empowerment and as a means “to explore truth”.
Murmu also said that those who shaped the modern Indian mind had welcomed progressive ideas from abroad and from all directions, “following the Vedic advice, ‘let noble thoughts come to us from all directions’”. The Prime Minister used the same phrase in his speech to the Global South after India assumed the G20 Presidency.
Murmu said India survived as a nation, notwithstanding its diversity, because of the Constitution.
“That essence was at the heart of the Constitution, which has withstood the test of time,” she said.
“A long and profound thought process culminated in our Constitution… We have succeeded as a democratic Republic because so many creeds and so many languages have not divided us, they have only united us. That is the essence of India” she said.
Murmu said the national movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, was as much about winning Independence as about rediscovering India’s ideals.
“Those decades of struggle and sacrifice helped us win freedom not only from colonial rule but also from the imposed values and narrow worldviews. Revolutionaries and reformers joined hands with visionaries and idealists to help us learn about our age-old values of peace, brotherhood, and equality,” she said.
She said that India owed a lot to B R Ambedkar – but also to jurist B N Rau, “who had prepared the initial draft, and other experts and officers who helped in making the Constitution. We are proud of the fact that the members of that Assembly represented all regions and communities of India and that they included 15 women too”.
India had traversed a difficult path after Independence. But it had notched up many successes.
“Last year, India became the fifth-largest economy in the world. It needs to be underlined that this achievement comes against the backdrop of high economic uncertainties around the world. The pandemic has entered its fourth year, affecting economic growth in most parts of the world. In its initial phase, Covid-19 also hurt India’s economy badly. Yet, guided by our able leadership and driven by our resilience, we soon came out of the downturn and resumed the growth saga. Most sectors of the economy have shaken off the pandemic effect. India has been among the fastest-growing major economies. This has been made possible by timely and proactive interventions from the government,” she said, adding that Atmanirbhar Bharat and sector-specific incentive schemes have evoked a good response.
But the government did not overlook low-income groups, she observed. She had special words of appreciation for PMGKAY, noting that after several extensions, the scheme will continue through 2023.
“With this historic move, the government has undertaken the responsibility of caring for the weaker sections while also enabling them to benefit from economic development,” she said.
“As we have come to realise since the early days of Covid-19, tech offers life-changing possibilities. The Digital India mission is striving to make information and communication tech inclusive by bridging the rural-urban divide. More and more people in far-flung places have been reaping the benefits of the internet and are receiving a variety of services provided by the government as the infrastructure expands. We have reasons to be proud of our achievements in the domain of science and tech,” she said.
But adding that even as India reaches for the stars, it keeps its feet on the ground, she mentioned the Gaganyaan space mission, while adding that government schemes for women’s empowerment deserve a pat on the back.
“The same vision of empowerment guides the government’s approach to the marginalised communities, including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The aim is not only to remove hurdles and help them in development but also to learn from them. Tribal communities, in particular, have rich lessons to offer in many areas, ranging from protecting the environment to making the society more cohesive,” she said.
Murmu did not weigh in on the current debate on the role of the judiciary or the proposal to change the profile of the armed forces, beyond congratulating soldiers for successfully defending India’s borders. The President is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.
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First Published: Wed, January 25 2023. 21:49 IST