MAINTAINING THAT “disparities between the haves and have nots” have increased, former President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said that between 2013 and 2017, 71 per cent of the wealth generated in India was “appropriated by 21 per cent of the population”. “Between 2013 and 2017, 71 per cent wealth in the country was appropriated by 21 per cent of the population, leaving 71 per cent of the population with just 29 per cent of the wealth. On one hand, development has increased, but on the other, so has conflict and disparities between the haves and have nots,” he said while addressing young entrepreneurs at an event organised by the Young Indians chapter of the CII in Kolkata.
“This situation cannot be allowed to continue but must be changed. And the responsibility of the change lies with you — young India. I can no longer change this, but you must,” he added. On life after the presidency, Mukherjee said: “What am I going to tell young India? I am too old. I recently celebrated my 83rd birthday. My predecessors, eminent in their own fields, did not return to their professions (after their tenure ended). Rajendra Prasad did not return to politics, Radhakrishnan did not return to academia and the youngest, Dr Abdul Kalam, built no missiles after he left the presidency. I think that is indication enough for me to stop.”
“In the 1970s, I became the youngest finance minister when I was not even 45 years old. I hope someday soon, this record will be broken,” he added. Speaking on the role of the youth, Mukherjee said that by 2020, 64 per cent of the population will form the country’s work force.
“This is a great demographic advantage. By 2022, India will have the world’s largest population. It will be in a position to supply manpower — the world’s work force. The oldest civilisation is getting younger and younger. We must make sure that this demographic advantage does not become a demographic disaster.”
“For this, education and employability are paramount. It is your responsibility to curb prejudice, social inequality and prejudice. I was both disappointed and frustrated to see in a recent international report that in the 40 least developed countries out of the 185 UN countries, only 35 per cent girls are enrolled in schools and 11 per cent women get basic healthcare. You must pay attention and direct your efforts toward eradicating these disparities,” he told the gathering.
“You have to look at what is happening in some parts of the country today. In the 3.3 million sq km of our land with 1.32 billion population, you will find all ethnic groups — Caucasian, Dravidian and Mongoloid. We speak 160 languages and practice all of the seven major religions of the world. And yet, we all live under the same Constitution and administration,” he said.
“To my mind, this is what makes India unique. The country must be free of violence. Free of injustices and inequities. This is what will make the country worth living in,” he added.