Calling for a nation built on the principle of equality for all people, and one that combines “the wisdom of an age-old Bharat and the science of contemporary India”, newly elected President Ram Nath Kovind said on Tuesday that each citizen was a “nation builder” and “a custodian of the legacy that we will pass on to coming generations”.
In his first address inside the Central Hall of Parliament after being sworn in as the 14th President by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, Kovind said, “We need to sculpt a robust, high growth economy, an educated, ethical and shared community, and an egalitarian society, as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and Deendayal Upadhyaya ji (the Jana Sangh leader)”.
Addressing a gathering that included Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Union ministers, governors, chief ministers, Supreme Court judges, MPs and diplomats, Kovind said, “We must combine tradition and technology, the wisdom of an age-old Bharat and the science of contemporary India. There is no dichotomy there, no question of choice.”
Stressing that “nations are not built by governments alone”, Kovind said, “The government can at best be a facilitator, and a trigger for society’s innate entrepreneurial and creative instincts… Each citizen of India is a nation builder. Each one of us is a custodian of India’s well-being and of the legacy that we will pass on to coming generations.”
Elaborating on this idea, the President underlined that from farmers to scientists, from doctors to entrepreneurs, they contribute to build the nation in their own way.
“That farmer toiling in the blazing sun to feed fellow citizens is a nation builder…That scientist concentrating tirelessly and 24×7 to send an Indian space mission to Mars, or invent a vaccine, is a nation builder…That nurse or doctor helping the sick to recover and fighting disease in a remote village, is a nation builder…. that young person who founds a start-up and becomes a job creator is a nation builder,” he said, while also referring to the security forces and people in various other walks of life.
Striking a strong nationalistic note — he concluded his speech with “Vande Mataram” — Kovind said that India of the 21st century “will be one that is in conformity with our ancient values as well as compliant with the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
“We take pride in the soil and water of India; we take pride in the diversity, religious harmony and inclusive ethos of India; we take pride in the culture, heritage and spirituality of India…,” he said.
“India’s voice counts in today’s world. The entire planet is drawn to Indian culture and soft power. The global community looks to us for solutions to international problems – whether terrorism, money laundering or climate change,” said the President.
Kovind also described India as the land of the Buddha and invoked Mahatma Gandhi, who “led” the freedom struggle, Sardar Patel, who “integrated our nation”, and Babasaheb Ambedkar, the “principal architect of our Constitution”. However, he made no reference to members of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Addressing all sections of society, the President said, “The key to India’s success is its diversity. Our diversity is the core that makes us so unique. In this land we find a mix of states and regions, religions, languages, cultures, lifestyles and much more. We are so different and yet so similar and united”.
He advocated the need for building an India that was “an economic leader as well as a moral exemplar”.
But Kovind also said while India had achieved a lot as a nation, the “effort to do more, to do better and to do faster should be relentless”, especially with the country approached its 75th year of Independence in 2022.
India should focus on its ability to “enhance access and opportunity for the last person and the last girl-child from an underprivileged family in the last house in the last village”, he said.
Kovind, the former Governor of Bihar, had won the presidential election last week receiving over 7 lakh votes and defeating Opposition candidate Meira Kumar.