New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday gave a strong message of religious tolerance as he referred to the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi and quoted him more than once saying “religion is a force for unity” and “we cannot make it a cause of conflict” as wisdom of India always teaches “unity is strength, dominance is weakness.” Pitching for making the country safer for women on the eve of the 66th Republic Day celebrating the theme of ‘’Nari Shakti, the President said only a nation that respects and empowers its women can become “global power”.
Speaking about the menace of terrorism, Mr Mukherjee made a veiled reference to Pakistan as he referred to the repeated ceasefire violations along the LoC saying the country’s “adversaries” will stop at nothing to disrupt India’s progress. “Repeated violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control and terrorist attacks must get an integrated response through incisive diplomacy and impregnable security mechanisms. The world must join India in fighting the menace of terrorism,” he said.
Without directly referring to the raging controversy over religious conversion and reported hate speeches being made by political leaders time and again, the President said, “The freedom inherent in democracy sometimes generates an unhappy by-product when political discourse becomes a “competition in hysteria that is abhorrent to our traditional ethos. The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people’s hearts.”
In his address to the nation on the eve of 66th Republic Day, Mr Mukherjee also cautioned the government against the Ordinance route to bring legislations saying enacting laws without discussions “breaches the trust” reposed by people and is not good for democracy. Mr Mukherjee said that after three decades, people have voted a single party to majority for having a stable government. “The voter has played her part; it is now up to those who have been elected to honour this trust. It was a vote for clean, efficient, effective, gender-sensitive, transparent, accountable and citizen-friendly governance,” he said.
On the menace of terrorism, the President said, “While peace, non-violence and good neighbourly intentions should remain the fundamentals of our foreign policy, we cannot afford to be complacent about adversaries who will stop at nothing to disrupt our progress towards a prosperous and equitable India.’’
Asking countrymen to take a pledge to ensure women’s safety, “Atrocities of rape, murders, harassment on the roads, kidnapping and dowry deaths have made women fearful even in their own homes.” Quoting Benjamin Franklin, he said: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”
The President said the country’s future will remain both visible and elusive “if we do not discover the ability to continually cleanse ourselves of retrograde habits and social ills.” Over the past century, some have died, others have faded, but many still exist, he said.
He said while the country is rightly focused on celebrating, this year, the centenary of Gandhiji’s return to India from South Africa in 1915, perhaps we should cast a glance on what Gandhiji did in 1901 when he picked up a broom . “No one followed his example in 1901. 114 years later, let us follow his example, and become worthy children of a magnificent father,” the President said making an oblique reference to the Swachchh Bharat Abhiyaan started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr Mukherjee said the Constitution is the holy book of democracy and a “lodestar” for the socio-economic transformation India. Referring to India’s image as a “soft power”, he said, “the most powerful example of India’s soft power, in an international environment where so many countries are sinking into the morass of theocratic violence, lies in our definition of the relationship between faith and polity.
On the economic issue, the President said 2015 is a year of hope and key economic indicators provide for “much optimism”. He said five per cent plus growth rates each in the first two quarter of the current fiscal is “healthy sign for an early reversion to the high growth trajectory of 7-8 per cent.
Highlighting Gandhi’s vision once again, Mr Mukherjee said the call for “Purna Swaraj” was given under his leadership at the Congress conclave in January 26, 1929. He said Gandhi started celebrating January 26, 1930 as Independence Day. “From then on, the Nation took a pledge on this day every year to carry on the freedom struggle till we attained it,” Mr Mukherjee said.
The President said the framework of a Constitution was constructed out of Gandhi’s philosophy. The country’s resolve to eliminate poverty through inclusive development has to be a step in the direction of Gandhi talisman for the country’s rulers which said whenever you are in doubt...Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself...Will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?”, he said.
The President further said we must strive for the highest quality in our educational institutions. The youth must lead the way to mastery of technology and communication in a universe where the cloud has become a library without frontiers, and vast opportunity awaits within the computer in your palm.
“The 21st century is within India’s grasp.” the President said....