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Enlightened citizenry is nation's greatest asset: President

President Pratibha Patil today urged the people to help the government battle the drought and the swine flu virus, saying "an enlightened citizenry" is the "greatest asset" of a nation.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2009 21:40 IST

President Pratibha Patil on Friday urged the people to help the government battle the drought and the swine flu virus, saying "an enlightened citizenry" is the "greatest asset" of a nation.

"This year, the monsoon has been less than normal impacting agriculture and availability of water. We have to be prepared to face the situation. The government is taking all possible steps to deal with it," Patil said in her address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day.

Noting that the government was "taking necessary measures" to handle the swine flu outbreak, she said: "Citizens have to come forward to contribute to the government's efforts in these areas and in other development initiatives through public-private partnerships, NGOs, community groups or self-help groups.

"An enlightened citizenry conscious of its civic duties and social responsibilities, maintaining discipline, following good habits particularly about hygiene and cleanliness, respectful towards nature's bounty and sensitive to environmental concerns is the greatest asset of a nation," the president maintained.

At the same time, Patil noted that the expectations of the people "are rising as they are becoming more aware of their rights and seek better opportunities. Facilities, amenities and services meant for them whether they are living in rural or urban areas can be delivered smoothly only if there is an effective governance system that is less cumbersome but more transparent and accountable".

Noting that there was "outrage" when money meant for welfare schemes was "pilfered" through "corrupt practices", the president said: "The flagship programmes of the government are comprehensive, ranging from health to education, employment to expanding social and economic infrastructure.

"Their implementation will have to be at optimal levels for an impact to be made on the lives of the people. Hence, the emphasis on reform of governance for effective delivery of public services is critical to change the lives of the people," Patil said.

Urging administrators to be "responsive" to the needs of the people, she said: "Their work is a public service - commitment, dedication and honesty should be the hallmarks of their work."

Patil also spoke of the need to draw the marginalised sections of society into the mainstream to ensue they reaped the benefits of development.

"Our narrative of growth should be a story of opportunity and a life of dignity for all. Social empowerment requires considerable amount of work and, hence, must occupy centre stage in our national consciousness.

"There are weaker and vulnerable sections of society who are not full partners in the growth and development process and remain on the sidelines. These sections of society need to be drawn into the national mainstream," the president said.

Noting that these sections of society need to be given access to education, health and skill-building - the tools of empowerment, Patil said: "This will equip them with abilities and capabilities and generate confidence about their future prospects. This will give them a sense of control over their destinies."

Holding that it was "within the realm of possibility to achieve this", Patil said "signs of change are becoming visible".

"Today, there are girls joining colleges, whose parents had never ever been to school. This is a development that has happened within a generation. People are today realizing the advantages of being educated and are ready to seize opportunities," she maintained.

In this context, she noted that the passage of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill was a "landmark legislation" for achieving the goal of universal education.

This apart, the National Mission on Empowerment of Women will "socially and economically empower women", who constitute 50 percent of India's population, "to play an active role in nation building.

"Giving an equal chance to everybody to get ahead in life is an article of faith for the Republic of India, and building an inclusive society our objective," Patil added.