Pratibha sworn in as India's President
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Pratibha sworn in as India's President

In her speech Patil stresses the need to sustain economic growth, report Saroj Nagi and Anil Anand.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2007 04:11 IST
Saroj Nagi and Anil Anand
Saroj Nagi and Anil Anand
Hindustan Times

A milestone was reached in India's history on Wednesday with Pratibha Patil being sworn in as the first woman President at a ceremony in Parliament.

The 72-year-old from Maharashtra, who was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, made an appeal for socially inclusive economic growth, women's empowerment and a united fight against communalism and terrorism.

Patil took her oath in English and subsequently read out English and Hindi versions of her speech in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, UPA and Left leaders, several chief ministers, governors and bureaucrats, and her family members, led by her husband Devi Singh Shekhawat.

After the swearing-in, Patil exchanged seats with outgoing president APJ Abdul Kalam amid the thumping of desks by the gathering that included her opponent Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and the BJP top brass.

In her speech, Patil emphasised the need to sustain economic growth and ensure that it was socially inclusive. "We must ensure that every section of our society -- particularly the weak and the disadvantaged -- are equal partners in and beneficiaries of the development process," she said. "We must also ensure that every region of the country participates in and benefits from the process of economic growth."

Patil quoted the 17th century Marathi poet-saint Sant Tukaram: "One who befriends the poor and the oppressed/Recognise him to be a saint, for god is with him.''

Committing herself to working for the well-being of the people, she said, "The people of our country desire better governance, faster development and a life of peace and security. We must all stand united in the fight against such divisive and destructive tendencies as communalism, casteism, extremism and terrorism.''

Urging people to fight poverty, ignorance and disease, Patil said India stood at the threshold of a new era of progress. She said the empowerment of women led to the empowerment of the nation.

"We must banish malnutrition, social evils, infant morality and female foeticide,'' Patil said, adding she was committed to the cause of education, protection of child rights and the well-being of the planet.

She referred liberally to the warriors of India's first war of Independence and those who fought for freedom and contributed to nation-building: Rani Laxmibai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Kitturu Rani Chennamma, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Sarojini Naidu, BR Ambedkar, Rabindranath Tagore, Indira Gandhi and Mahatma Gandhi.

By taking their names, Patil expressed her appreciation for the support she received from UPA allies and other supporting parties for her candidature, including M Karunanidhi (DMK), Mayawati (BSP) and Sitaram Yechury (CPM) — all of whom were present at the ceremony.

First Published: Jul 25, 2007 16:43 IST