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Constitution my sacred text in past 50 years: President Pranab Mukherjee in farewell address

Outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee addresses the nation in his farewell speech. Image courtesy: PIB Photograph: (Others)

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Jul 24, 2017, 02.35 PM (IST)

Outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee, who demits office today, stressed the need for "pluralism and tolerance" in his farewell address to the nation.

Advocating freeing public discourse from "physical as well as verbal" violence, Pranab Mukherjee asserted that the country derived its strength from tolerance.

"But every day, we see increased violence around us. At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear and mistrust. We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal," Pranab Mukherjee said in his last televised address.
 

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The outgoing President, 81, said only a non-violent society could ensure the participation of all sections of the people, especially the maginalised and the dispossessed, in the democratic process.

"The power of non-violence has to be resurrected to build a compassionate and caring society," Mukherjee, 81, said.

The president reminded the people of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy, and said the creation of an inclusive society had to be an article of faith.

"Financial inclusion is at the core of an equitable society. We must empower the poorest of the poor and ensure that the fruits of our policies reach the last person in the line," he said.

He said the capacity for compassion and empathy was the "true foundation" of the country's civilisation.

"Multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance. We may argue, we may agree or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away," Pranab Mukherjee said.

The Presiden thanked the people of the country for "the kindness and affection bestowed on me" and said how successful he was as a president would be judged over time "under the lens of history".

"I am overwhelmed by the feeling of gratitude towards the people of this great country. I am humbled by the kindness and affection bestowed on me. I have always believed that I have received much more from the people of this country than I have been able to give them. I congratulate and extend a very warm welcome to Shri Ram Nath Kovind, the president-to-be and wish him all the success happiness and a comfortable in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. I also welcome Mrs Kovind on this occasion.

Five years ago, when I took oath as the 13 president, I promised an oath in the name of god to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution not just in words but also in spirit. Each day of these five years, I was conscious of this responsibility. I learnt from my travels across the length and breadth of the country.  I learnt from my conversation and engagement with young and bright minds in colleges and universities, scientists, innovators, scholars, jurists, scholars, parties and leaders. These interactions kept me focused and inspired. I strove hard. How successful I was in discharging my responsibility will be judged over time under the lens of history," Pranab Mukherjee said.

The outgoing president said that for the last 50 years of his public life, his "sacred text" has been the constitution and "temple", the Parliament of India.

"For the past 50 years of my public life, my sacred text has been the constitution, temple has been the Parliament of India, my passion has been the service of people. During my five years of service, we also tried to build a happy township in the presidential house. We found happiness associated with joy and pride, smiling, good health, safety and positive actions. We learnt to laugh at life connect with nature and get involved with the community. And then we extended our experience to a few villages in our neighbourhood. 

The journey continues. As I get ready to leave, let me repeat what I said in my first address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day in August 2012 and I repeat: My words cannot express the gratitude to the people and their representatives for the honour of this high office even as I am deeply conscious of the fact that the highest honour in our democracy does not lie in any office but in being a citizen of India, our motherland."

Referring to the "transformative power" of education, he called for upgrading higher educational institutions to world-class levels.

"Our education system must accept disruption as a norm and prepare our students to manage and build upon the disruptions. Our universities should not be a place for rote-memorising but an assembly of inquisitive minds," he said, adding that institutes of higher learning must promote "creative thinking, innovation and scientific temper".

"It calls for the application of logic through discussion, argument and analysis. These qualities have to be cultivated and the autonomy of the mind has to be encouraged," he said.

The President thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for assuring him that nation-building efforts would continue. 

I am deeply touched by the prime minister of the nation when he said the work will continue and the government will support and I have no doubt that the president who is going to be sworn-in tomorrow will look after this, therefore, my self and my team, secretary to the press, additional secretary to the president and all others including the national innovation council from whom I have received utmost cooperation in the last few years will feel happy and secured. 

The president ended his speech by saying that he would leave Rashtrapati Bhavan like any other ordinary citizen, "a pilgrim like all of you in India's onward march towards glory".

He emphasised that good governance, social inclusion and poverty eradication could ensure people's right to lead a happy life.

Talking about the need for protecting the environment, the president stressed the need for sustainable development and cautioned that "when greed exceeds need, nature lets loose its fury".

He asked scientists and technologists to work with farmers and workers to revive the health of the soil, arrest the decline in water tables and restore ecological balance.

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