PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS TO THE NATION ON THE EVE OF
India’s 70th INDEPENDENCE DAY, 2016
New Delhi 14.08.2016
1. Onthe eve of sixty-ninth anniversary of our Independence, I extend warm greetingsto all my brothers and sisters in the country and abroad.
2. As wecelebrate our seventieth Independence Day, I respectfully bow to the heroes ofour independence struggle - known and unknown - who fought, suffered andsacrificed their lives to win freedom for us. Mahatma Gandhi’s luminous leadershipfinally made the British Quit India in 1947. When we gained independence in1947, nobody believed that India will survive as a democracy. Yet, sevendecades later, one and a quarter billion Indians with all their diversity haveproved those forecasts wrong. The strong edifice of democracy built by ourfounding fathers on the four pillars of justice, liberty, equality andfraternity has withstood several threats from both within and without and hasgrown from strength to strength.
3. Thisis for the fifth time that I speak to you on the eve of Independence Day. Inthe past four years, I have seen with some satisfaction a stable andprogressive democracy in full play with peaceful transfer of power from oneparty to another, from one government to another, and from one generation toanother. Notwithstanding the different hues of political thought, I have seenthe ruling party and the opposition coming together in pursuit of nationalagenda of development, unity, integrity and security of the nation. In thejust-concluded session of Parliament, the passage of the Constitution AmendmentBill for the introduction of GST amidst non-partisan and quality parliamentarydeliberations is reason enough to celebrate our democratic maturity.
4. Inthese four years, I also saw with, some disquiet, forces of divisiveness andintolerance trying to raise their ugly head. Attacks on weaker sections thatmilitate against our national ethos are aberrations that need to be dealt withfirmly. The collective wisdom of our society and our polity gives me the confidencethat such forces will remain marginalized and India’s remarkable growth storywill continue uninterrupted.
5. Thesafety and security that we provide to our women and children determines thewell-being of the state and society. Every incident of violence against a womanor a child inflicts a wound on the soul of the civilization. We cannot callourselves a civilized society if we fail in this duty.
6.Democracy is more than a periodic exercise of choices to elect the government.The great tree of liberty requires constant nourishment through theinstitutions of democracy. Disruptions, obstructionism and un-mindful pursuitof a divisive political agenda by groups and individuals lead to nothing butinstitutional travesty and Constitutional subversion. Polarizing debates onlydeepen the fault lines in public discourse.
7. OurConstitution is not only a political or legal document but also an emotional,cultural and social contract. My distinguished predecessor Dr. SarvepalliRadhakrishnan had said on the eve of Independence Day fifty years ago and Iquote: “We have adopted a democratic Constitution. It helps us to maintainour individuality in the face of mounting pressures for standardized thinkingand acting…….. Democratic Assemblies serve as safety valves for social tensionsand prevent dangerous explosions. In an effective democracy, its members shouldbe willing to accept law and lawful authority. No man, no group can be his orits own law giver” (unquote).
8. TheConstitution has clearly defined the duties and responsibilities of every organof the state. It has established the ancient Indian ethos of “Maryada” as faras Authorities and Institutions of State power are concerned. The spirit of theConstitution has to be upheld by adherence to this “Maryada” by thefunctionaries in the discharge of their duties.
9. Oneunique feature that has held India together is our respect for each other’scultures, values and beliefs. The very essence of plurality lies in cherishingour heterogeneity and valuing our diversity. In the networked environment oftoday, a caring society can only be developed by harmonizing religion withmodern science. Swami Vivekananda had once observed and I quote: “What isneeded is a fellow-feeling between the different types of religion, seeing thatthey all stand or fall together, a fellow-feeling which springs from mutualrespect, and not the condescending, patronizing, niggardly expression ofgoodwill” (unquote).
10. Itis true, as was pointed out in a famous speech made on this very day 69 yearsago by Pandit Nehru that in a nation’s history, moments come when we step outfrom the old to the new, when the soul of a nation finds utterance. But it isalso important to realize that such moments are not strokes of luck that comeupon us by surprise. A nation can andmust strive to create such a moment. We must take destiny in our own hands tobuild the India of our dreams. Backed by strong political will, we have tocreate a future which will economically empower six hundred million youth,build a digital India, a start-up India, and a skilled India. As we build anIndia of hundreds of smart cities, towns and villages, we must ensure that theyare humane, hi-tech and happy places leading to the creation of atechnology-driven but compassionate society. We should promote and reinforce ascientific temper by questioning our beliefs which are not compatible withscientific way of thinking. We must learn to challenge the status quo and refuse to accept inefficiency and slipshod work. In a competitiveenvironment, a sense of immediacy and some impatience is a necessaryvirtue.
11.India will grow, only when all of India grows. The excluded ones have to beincluded in the development process. The hurt and the alienated have to bebrought back into the mainstream. In this age of technological advance,machines are being pitted against men. The only way to survive this is toacquire knowledge and skills, and learn to innovate. Inclusive innovationslinked to the aspirations of our people can benefit a wide spectrum of societyas well as preserve our diversity. We as a nation must nurture creativity, scienceand technology. Here, our schools and institutions of higher learning have aspecial responsibility.
12. Weoften celebrate the achievements of our ancient past but it would be wrong torest on our laurels. It is much more important to look to the future. It istime to join hands to cooperate, innovate and advance. India has had remarkablegrowth in recent times, often growing above eight percent per annum over thelast decade. International agencies have acknowledged India’s status as thefastest growing major economy in the world and recognized major improvements inindices of ease of doing business and logistics performance. The start-upmovement and the innovative spirit of our young entrepreneurs have alsoattracted international attention. We must build on our strengths so that, thislead can be sustained and furthered. A normal monsoon this year gives us reasonto cheer, unlike the past two years when below normal rains created agrariandistress. The fact that despite two consecutive drought years, inflation hasremained below 6 percent and agricultural output has been stable, is atestimony to our nation’s resilience, and to how far we have progressed sinceIndependence.
13. Ourforeign policy has shown considerable dynamism in recent times. We havereinvigorated our historic bonds of friendship with traditional partners ofAfrica and Asia Pacific. We are in the process of forging new relationshipsbased on shared values and mutual benefit with all countries, especially our immediateand extended neighbourhood. There will be no stepping back on our“neighbourhood first policy”. Close bonds of history, culture, civilization andgeography provide the people of South Asia with an extraordinary opportunity tocarve out a common destiny and to march together towards prosperity. Thisopportunity must be seized without delay. India’s focus in foreign policy willremain on peaceful co-existence and harnessing technology and resources for itseconomic development. Recent initiatives have enhanced energy security,promoted food security, and created international partnerships to take ourflagship development programmes forward.
14. Theworld has witnessed a spate of terror activities having their roots inradicalization of people on the basis of religion. These forces apart fromkilling innocent people in the name of religion also threaten to disturbgeopolitical divides, which could prove disastrous for world peace. Theinhuman, mindless and barbaric modus operandi of such groups have been visiblein France, Belgium, United States, Nigeria, Kenya and closer home inAfghanistan and Bangladesh recently. These forces now pose a danger to theentire comity of nations. The world will have to fight them unconditionally andin one voice.
15. Forall the challenges that we see in front of ourselves I have a great belief inour innate and inherent capacity as an ancient country whose soul and jijivisha-the will to live and excel can never be suppressed. Various forces externalas well as internal have tried to smother this soul of India over millennia butevery time this soul has emerged more powerful and more glorious havingneutralized, assimilated and incorporated every challenge that it faced.
16.India through its unique civilizational contribution has repeatedly conveyedthe message of peace and harmony to the trouble-torn world. In 1970, historianArnold Toynbee had the following to say about India’s role in contemporaryhistory. I quote: “Today, we are still living in this transitional chapterof the world’s history, but it is already becoming clear that a chapter whichhad a Western beginning, will have to have an Indian ending, if it is not toend in the self-destruction of the human race” (unquote). Toynbee furtherwent on to say that at the cross roads of human history, the only way ofsalvation of mankind is the Indian way.
17. Onthis occasion, I convey my special greetings and gratitude to the members ofour armed forces, paramilitary and internal security forces who are at the forefront of guarding and preserving the Unity, Integrity and Security of ourmotherland.
18. Inthe end, I would once again invoke the Upanishads as I had invoked in my firstaddress on the eve of Independence Day four years ago. For this invocationshall live forever, as will Mother India:
“May God Protect us;
May God Nourish us;
May we Work Together with Vigour and Energy;
May our Studies be Brilliant;
May there be no Hostility amongst us;
May there be Peace Peace Peace.”