New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday quoted BR Ambedkar and stressed on the importance of “social democracy” that has freedom, equality and fraternity as principles of life, as he addressed the nation on his last day in the top office of the country.
President Kovind expressed faith that the 21st century would be the century of India, and said the chief goal of the government was to help the citizens discover the “joy of living”, for which fulfilling basic necessities is important.
The President said, “Five years ago, you had reposed immense trust in me, and chose me as the President of India through your elected representatives. As I demit my office at the end of my term, I wish to share a few ideas with you all.
“We all have been navigating the formal map for the democratic path, drafted by the Constituent Assembly and it included great minds from across the country.
“In his concluding remarks in the Constituent Assembly before the Constitution was adopted, Dr Ambedkar had pointed out the distinction between two kinds of democracy. He had said we must not be content with mere political democracy,” he added.
Quoting Ambedkar, he said, “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it, social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life, which recognises liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.
“These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy,” he added.
The outgoing President said, “This trinity of ideals is lofty, noble and uplifting. They must not be mistaken for abstractions.
“Our history, not only of modern times but also from ancient times, reminds us that they are real; that they can be realised, and indeed have been realised in different eras,” he added.
Talking about what these ideals mean for common citizens, he said the chief goal is “to help them discover the joy of living. For that, first of all, their basic necessities must be taken care of. We have indeed come a long way from the days of shortages of resources.”
He said education is the key, and lauded the National Education Policy brought by the government. He also said that the Covid period made us realise the importance of public health infrastructure and said the government has accorded top priority to the task.
Kovind recalled his childhood in village Paraunkh in Kanpur and said, “A young boy living in a mud house could not have any idea about the highest Constitutional office of the Republic. But it is the testament to the strength of India’s democracy that it has created pathways to let each citizen take part in the shaping of our collective destiny.
“If that Ram Nath Kovind from village Paraunkh is addressing you today, it is solely thanks to the inherent power of our vibrant democratic institutions,” Kovind added.
He said visiting his village was among the most memorable experiences of his life.
“This year, the Prime Minister also honoured my village Paraunkh with his visit. This connection with our roots has been the essence of India. I would request the younger generation to continue this tradition of staying connected with their village or town, their schools and teachers,” he said.
Kovind remembered Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, among other heros of India’s independence movement. He also mentioned Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopalkrishna Gokhale, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Sarojini Naidu and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay among others.
“I have always strongly believed that no other country has been as fortunate as India in having a galaxy of leaders, each of whom was an exceptional mind, within a span of a few decades in the early 20th century”.
Kovind is set to retire today, after serving a full term in the office of President of India. Draupadi Murmu, the President elect, will take the oath of office on Monday morning.