In his last Republic Day-eve address before his term ends this July, President APJ Abdul Kalam – the only public figure after Jawaharlal Nehru to invest as much time on the country’s children – asked every Indian to make eradication of cruelty towards children a mission.
The macabre Nithari killings seemed to weigh heavily on Kalam’s mind as he addressed the nation on Thursday. Kalam had decided to speak on how citizens could contribute to making India a developed country by 2020 but before he wrapped up, the president made it a point to speak his heart – for the first time - on the killings that had left "deep scars in all of us".
"Cruelty to children is against the fabric of society which cannot be tolerated at any cost," Kalam, who had put children at the centre of his presidential tenure, said. He has interacted with lakhs of children during the last few years and thrown open doors of the presidential palace for them.
"Some recent incidents of crime against children have shocked the whole nation," Kalam, a missile technologist before assuming office over four years ago, said, describing children as "our national wealth".
The president said concerted action by everyone was the need of the hour: watchful neighbours, fast action-oriented police machinery, vigilant media and speedy exemplary punishment to perpetrators of crime by the judiciary system.
Kalam also called for use of modern psychological test aids "to identity people who have such tendency in society".
"Eradication of cruelty towards children should be the mission of every Indian since they are our future," the president said in his address that dwelt on the "ambience" in 2007 and 2020. He had titled his address: "What can I give to my nation?"
"If we perform in an integrated way with development politics as the focus, in mission mode with transparency, I visualise even before the year 2020, that a prosperous nation is possible", Kalam who has often spoken of his vision of India becoming a developed country by 2020, said.
The president, who reiterated his call for making development the centre of politics, said a national movement of development was essential to make India a developed country. In this movement, Kalam said, there was a role for everyone to play.
Right from the corporate sector that should think of reaching the unreached as an essential component of 'Corporate Social responsibility' to homemakers, who can play an important role besides shaping the family.
Noting that no Indian youth should be without either a world-class higher education or without world-class skill sets, the president wanted steps for evolving a global human resources cadre by the country for the task of acquisition, imparting, creation and sharing of knowledge.
"Systems must be designed in such a way that no aspiring competent students should be denied quality education," Kalam, who had earlier called for making reservations irrelevant by expanding the coverage of higher education, said. The president also wanted orientation for entrepreneurship to start right from schools and steps by the government to facilitate an environment for provision of venture capital for innovative ideas without collateral security.
The president said the number of people living below the poverty line has come down to 22 per cent and the literacy rate would soon touch 75 per cent. Without referring to a spate of suicides by farmers in various parts of the country, Kalam said NABARD and banking and financial institutions have to work together to find hassle-free methods of providing micro-credit investment to needy farmers. This, he said, was necessary to wean them away from the clutches of elements who exploit them.
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