NEW DELHI: Assuming office as the 13th President, Pranab Mukherjee today pledged to protect the Constitution not just in word but also in spirit as the office demands he rises above personal or partisan interests.
Making a brief acceptance speech after being sworn-in as President in the Central Hall of Parliament, he termed corruption as an “evil” and said the greed of a few cannot be allowed to hijack the progress of the nation.
“The principal responsibility of this office is to function as the guardian of our Constitution. I will strive, as I said on oath, to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution not just in word but also in spirit,” Mukherjee said in his acceptance speech after he assumed the highest constitutional post at an impressive ceremony.
His speech was punctuated by repeated thumping of desks and applause.
“I am deeply moved by the high honor you have accorded to me. Such honor exalts the occupant of this office, even as it demands that he rises above personal or partisan interests in the service of the national good,” he said.
“There is no greater reward for a public servant than to be elected the first citizen of our republic,” Mukherjee said.
The veteran leader reminded the gathering whose majority included top leaders of political parties, MPs, chief ministers and governors that “We are all, across the divide of party and region, partners at the altar of our motherland”.
“A modern nation is built on some basic fundamentals: democracy or equal rights for every citizen; secularism or equal freedom to every faith; equality of every region and language; gender equality and perhaps most important of all economic equity. For our development to be real, the poorest of our land must feel that they are part of the narrative of rising India,” Mukherjee said.
Touching on the issue of corruption, he said the weight of office sometimes becomes a burden on dreams. The news is not always cheerful.
“Corruption is an evil that can depress the nation’s mood and sap its progress. We cannot allow our progress to be hijacked by the greed of a few,” he said.
Calling for erasing poverty from the dictionary of modern India, he said, “There is no humiliation more abusive than hunger. Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor. We must lift those at the bottom.
“Our national mission must continue to be what it was when the generation of Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, B R Ambedkar and Maulana Azad offered us a tryst with destiny: to eliminate the curse of poverty, and create such opportunities for the young that they can take India forward by quantum leap,” he said.
He stressed that India’s true story is the partnership of people maintaining “our wealth has been created by farmers and workers, industrialists and service-providers, soldiers and civilians.”
Dubbing terrorism as the “fourth world war”, Mukherjee said it is a world war because it can raise its head anywhere in the world. Mukherjee said that India has been on the frontlines of this war long before many other recognized its vicious depth or poisonous consequences and expressed confidence that the country “will not be deflected in its mission by noxious practitioners of terror”.
He said the people of India have been a “beacon of maturity” through the trauma of whiplash wounds and have defeated terrorist trap by remaining calm in the face of extraordinary provocation.
Mukherjee said that peace is the first ingredient of prosperity. “History has often been written in the red of blood but development and progress are the luminous rewards of a peace dividend, not a war trophy.”
He also quoted Swami Vivekananda’s saying that India will be raised not with the power of flesh but with the power of the spirit, not with the flag of destruction but with the flag of peace and love.
“Bring all forces of good together. Do not care what be your color-green, blue or red, but mix all the colors up and produce that intense glow of white, the color of love. Ours is to work, the results will take care of themselves,” he said quoting the Indian monk.
He noted that education is the true alchemy that can bring India its next golden age.
“As Indians, we must of course learn from the past; but we must remain focused on the future. In my view education is the true alchemy that can bring India its next golden age.
“Our oldest scriptures laid the framework of society around the pillars of knowledge; our challenge is to convert knowledge into a democratic force by taking it into every corner of our country. Our motto is unambiguous. All for knowledge and knowledge for all,” he said.
Mukherjee said that he envisaged an India, where the unity of purpose propels the common good, where Centre and State are driven by the single vision of good governance, where every revolution is green, where “democracy is not merely the right to vote once in five years but to speak always in the citizen’s interest”, where knowledge becomes wisdom and where the young pour their phenomenal energy and talent into the collective cause.
He also recalled the massive Bengal famine. “I was a boy when Bengal was savaged by a famine that killed millions. The misery and sorrow is still not lost on me. We have achieved much in the field of agriculture, industry and social infrastructure but that is nothing compared to what India, led by the coming generations, will create in the decades ahead,” Mukherjee said. -PTI