PRESIDENT’SADDRESS TO THE NATION ON THE EVE OF
INDIA’S69TH INDEPENDENCE DAY
New Delhi: 14.8.2015
1. On the eve of 68th anniversary of our Independence I extend warm greetings to you and to allIndians around the world. I convey my special greetings to members of our armedforces, paramilitary forces and internal security forces. I also congratulateall our sportspersons who have participated and won laurels in varioustournaments in India and abroad. My congratulations to Shri Kailash Satyarthi,Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2014, who has done the country proud.
2. On 15th August 1947, we won political freedom. The birth of modern India was a momentof historic exhilaration; but it was also tinged with the blood of unimaginablesuffering along the length and breadth of our country. The ideals andconvictions, that had held through the travails of an epic struggle againstBritish rule, were under strain.
3. A great generationof supreme heroes faced this formidable challenge. The sagacity and maturity ofthat generation saved our ideals from deviation or degeneration under thepressure of emotion, including rage. India’s pride, self-esteem andself-respect, born from a civilizational wisdom which inspired the renaissancethat won us freedom, was distilled into the principles of our constitution bythese extraordinary men and women. We have been blessed by a constitution thatlaunched India’s march towards greatness.
4. The most preciousgift of this document was democracy, which reshaped our ancient values into amodern context and institutionalized multiple freedoms. It turned liberty intoa living opportunity for the oppressed and impoverished, offered equality andpositive discrimination to the many millions, who had suffered social injustice,and instituted a gender revolution that has made our country an example ofprogress. We abolished archaic customs and laws, and ensured change for womenthrough education and jobs. Our institutions are the infrastructure of thisidealism.
5. The finestinheritance needs constant care for preservation. Our institutions of democracy are understress. The Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather thandebate. It is time to recall what Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the DraftingCommittee of the Constitution, said while making his closing speech in theConstituent Assembly in November 1949 and I quote:
“The working of aconstitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the constitution. Theconstitution can provide only the organs of state, such as the legislature, theexecutive and the judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organsof the state depends are the people and the political parties they will set upas their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can sayhow the people of India and their parties will behave?” (unquote)
If the institutionsof democracy are under pressure, it is time for serious thinking by the peopleand their parties. The correctives must come from within.
6. Our country's risewill be measured by the strength of our values, but it will equally bedetermined by economic growth and equitable distribution of the nation'sresources. Our economy promises much hope for the future. The new chapters ofthe ‘India Story’ are waiting to be written. ‘Economic reforms’ is awork-in-progress. Our performance over the last decade has been commendable;and it is most heartening that after a dip, we have recovered to 7.3% growth in2014-15. But the benefits of growth must reach the poorest of the poor muchbefore they land in the bank accounts of the richest of the rich. We are aninclusive democracy, and an inclusive economy; there is place for everyone inthe hierarchy of wealth. But the first call goes to those who suffer on thebrink of deprivation. Our policies must be geared to meet the ‘Zero Hunger’challenge in a foreseeable future.
7. The symbiotic relationship between man and nature has to bepreserved. A generous nature when violated can turn into a destructive force leadingto calamities resulting in huge loss of life and property. Even as I speak,large parts of the nation are barely recovering from floods. We need immediaterelief for the afflicted as well as long-term solutions for the management ofboth, water deficiency and excess.
8. A nation whichforgets the idealism of its past loses something vital from its future. Oureducational institutions multiply as the aspirations of generations continue toexceed supply. But what has happened to quality, from base to apex? We recallthe guru-shishya parampara with legitimate pride; why then have weabandoned the care, devotion and commitment that is at the heart of thisrelationship? A guru much like the soft andskilful hands of a potter, moulds the destiny of shishya. The studentwith devotion and humility acknowledges the debt of the teacher. Societyrespects and recognizes the merit and scholarship of the teacher. Is thathappening in our education system today? Students, teachers and authoritiesmust pause and introspect.
9. Our democracy iscreative because it is plural, but diversity must be nourished with toleranceand patience. Vested interests chip away at social harmony, in an attempt toerode many centuries of secularism. In an age of instant communication throughever-improving technology, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the deviousdesigns of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people. For bothgovernment and people the rule of law is sacrosanct, but society is alsoprotected by something greater than law: humanity. Mahatma Gandhi said and Iquote: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a fewdrops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty” (unquote).
10. Peace,friendship and cooperation bind nations and peoples together. Recognizing theshared destiny of the Indian sub-continent, we must strengthen connectivity,expand institutional capacity and enhance mutual trust to further regionalcooperation. As we make progress in advancing our interests globally, India is alsoengaged in pro-actively promoting goodwill and prosperity in our immediateneighbourhood. It is heartening that the long pending land boundary issuewith Bangladesh has been finally resolved.
11. Whilewe offer our hand willingly in friendship, we cannot stay blind to deliberateacts of provocation and a deteriorating security environment. India is a targetof vicious terrorist groups operating from across the borders. Except thelanguage of violence and the cult of evil, these terrorists have no religionand adhere to no ideology. Our neighbours must ensure that theirterritory is not used by forces inimical to India. Our policy will remainone of zero tolerance for terrorism. We reject any attempt to useterrorism as an instrument of state policy. Infiltration into our territory andattempts to create mayhem will be dealt with a strong hand.
12. I pay homage to the martyrs who made the supreme sacrificeof their lives defending India. I salute the courage and heroism of oursecurity forces who are maintaining an eternal vigil to safeguard theterritorial integrity of our country and the safety of our people. I alsospecially commend the brave civilians who boldly detained a hardened terroristignoring the risk to their own lives.
13. India is a complexcountry of 1.3 billion people, 122 languages, 1600 dialects and 7 religions.Its strength lies in its unique capacity to blend apparent contradictions into positiveaffirmations. In the words of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, it is a country heldtogether and I quote: “by strong but invisible threads….. About her there isthe elusive quality of a legend of long ago; some enchantment seems to have heldher mind. She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision, and yet very realand present and pervasive” (unquote).
14. On the fertileground laid by our Constitution, India has blossomed into a vibrant democracy.The roots are deep but the leaves are beginning to wilt. It is time forrenewal.
15. If we do not actnow, will our successors seven decades hence remember us with the respect andadmiration we have for those who shaped the Indian dream in 1947? The answermay not be comfortable, but the question has to be asked.