President Pratibha Devisingh Patil cheered the impressive strides of the Indian economy in her maiden Republic Day eve speech on Friday but made it a point to remind the country about the other half that had been left out from the high growth rate story.
“In all good faith, we cannot look at the future without first addressing the needs of the under-privileged and the disadvantaged sections of our society,” Patil said. She will be the first woman to take the salute at the Republic Day parade on Saturday.
This century will belong to Asia and India will be one of the main driving forces, she said, confident that the nation would be able to achieve the its growth targets. “It is now time for realising India’s tryst with destiny,” she said.
However, she pointed out: “Our pledge will remain unfulfilled until, as Gandhiji had said — we have wiped every tear in every eye,” she said.
Patil played the role of the nation’s conscience-keeper, emphasising on moral values and social justice to give progress a “more gentle and human touch”.
With an eye on internal threats like Naxalism and terrorism, she firmly rejected use of violence but called for handling the menace firmly and described continuing terrorist attacks as reminders of the need to take collective action.
The President also spoke about her concern about the slow growth of the agriculture sector and the farmers committing suicide as well the challenging task of implementing the government’s flagship programmes. Patil said greater participation of the people was the key to improving implementation standards.
In between, she also referred to the scourge of corruption and called for greater transparency. She also called for laws for empowerment and protection of women. “We need to address social evils like child marriage, female foeticide, female infanticide and dowry,’’ she said.