Asking people to celebrate “Indian-ness” this Republic Day, President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday said the country has shown an ”unmatched resolve” in the face of the extraordinary challenge to humankind posed by the coronavirus pandemic and that a strong and sensitive India is now emerging.
In his address to the nation on the eve of 73rd Republic Day, President Kovind said this year’s celebrations may be muted due to the pandemic but the spirit is as strong as ever, as he urged the people not to let their guard down and to continue following precautions.
He noted that democracy, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity form the bedrock of India and stressed that the observance of Fundamental Duties mentioned in the Constitution creates the proper environment for the enjoyment of Fundamental Rights.
In the fight against the COVID pandemic, it has now become a sacred national duty of every citizen to follow the precautions suggested by scientists and experts, Kovind said, adding that “we have to discharge this duty till the crisis is behind us”.
The President said the pandemic management was bound to be more difficult in India due to its high population and other factors.
“‘But it is only in such difficult times that the resilience of a nation shines forth. I am proud to say that we have shown an unmatched resolve against the coronavirus,” Kovind said.
”In the first year itself, we raised the healthcare infrastructure and also reached out to help others. By the second year, we had developed indigenous vaccines and launched the world’s biggest vaccination drive in history,” he said.
India reached out to several other countries with vaccines and other medical help. This contribution by India has been appreciated by international organisations, the President said.
Doctors, nurses and paramedics have risen to the challenge, working long hours in difficult conditions even at the risk of their lives to attend to patients. Others have kept the nation moving, managing supply chains and utilities, he said.
Hailing the timely interventions by the leadership, policy-makers, administrators and others at the central and state levels during coronavirus pandemic, Kovind said it is a testimony to India’s spirit in the face of adversity that the economy is on the move again and is projected to grow at an impressive rate in this fiscal, after going through contraction last year.
“The impressive economic performance is made possible due to improvement in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. I am happy to note that our farmers, especially young farmers with small holdings, are enthusiastically adopting natural farming,” the President said.
As the supreme commander of the Armed Forces, Kovind said he was glad to note that it has been a watershed year for women empowerment in the armed forces.
“Our daughters have broken a glass ceiling, and the permanent commission has now been allowed for women officers in new areas,” he said, adding that “consequently, our armed forces will benefit from better gender balance”.
Also, the talent pipeline for the forces will be strengthened with women coming through Sainik Schools and the prestigious National Defence Academy, the President said.
He said the ”diversity and vibrancy of the country’s democracy is appreciated worldwide” and it is this spirit of unity and of being one nation which is celebrated every year as Republic Day.
“India is an ancient civilisation but a young republic. For us, nation-building is a constant endeavour,” the President said.
“I am confident that India is better placed today to meet the challenges of the future,” Kovind said, adding that new opportunities await the next generation.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, President Kovind said he would have liked us to celebrate Republic Day by striving to become better human beings and contributing towards the making of a better India and a better world.
“My heartiest greetings to all of you, in India and abroad, on the eve of the 73rd Republic Day! It is an occasion to celebrate what is common to us all, our Indian-ness,” he said.
“‘Two days ago, on 23rd January, all of us observed the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who had adopted the energising salutation of ‘Jai-Hind’. His quest for independence and his ambition to make India proud inspire all of us,” the President said.
Kovind said, while the text of the Constitution, dealing with the details of the workings of the State, is quite long, the preamble sums up its guiding principles – democracy, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.
“They form the bedrock on which our Republic stands. These are the values that form our collective inheritance,” he said.
These values have been accorded primacy in our Constitution in the form of fundamental rights and fundamental duties of the citizens, the President said.
By fulfilling the fundamental duty of rendering national service when called upon to do so, crores of our people have transformed the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the COVID vaccination drive into mass movements, he said.
“A great deal of credit for the success of such campaigns goes to our dutiful citizens. I am sure that our people will continue to strengthen the campaigns of national interest with their active participation and will demonstrate the same dedication,” Kovind said.
Referring to a visit to his village in Kanpur, he also urged the people to remember their roots and work for the development of their native village, city and country.
“… A new India is emerging – a strong India and a sensitive India – Sashakt Bharat, Samvedan-sheel Bharat,” he said.
Kovind thanked the constant vigil of the armed forces securing the borders and the police personnel maintaining internal security within the country that let their fellow citizens enjoy a peaceful life.
He said it is our soldiers and security personnel who carry on the legacy of national pride.
“In the unbearable cold of the Himalayas and in the excruciating heat of the desert, far away from their families, they continue to guard the motherland. It is thanks to the constant vigil of the armed forces securing our borders and the police personnel maintaining internal security within the country that their fellow citizens enjoy a peaceful life,” the President said.
He said when a brave soldier dies on duty, the entire country feels sad.
“Last month, in an unfortunate accident, we lost one of the bravest commanders of the country – General Bipin Rawat – his wife and many brave soldiers. The entire country was deeply saddened by the tragic loss,” Kovind said.
The President said patriotism strengthens the sense of duty among citizens.
“Whether you are a doctor or a lawyer, a shopkeeper or office-worker, a sanitation employee or a labourer, doing one’s duty well and efficiently is the first and foremost contribution you make to the nation,” he said.
Kovind said the world has never been in so much need of help as now.
“It has been over two years now and humankind is still battling with the coronavirus. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and the world economy has been reeling under the impact.
“The world has suffered from unprecedented misery, and surge after surge of new variants have been posing new crises. It has been an extraordinary challenge to humankind,” the President said.
Citing difficulties in pandemic management, he said “we have high population density, and as a developing economy we did not have the level of resources and infrastructure needed to battle this invisible enemy”.
He said there have been setbacks, unfortunately, as the virus makes a comeback with new mutations.
“Countless families have gone through a harrowing time. There are no words to express our collective trauma. The only saving grace is that many lives could be saved. As the pandemic is still widespread, we must remain alert and not let our guard down. The precautions we have taken till now have to be continued,” Kovind suggested.
Wearing masks and maintaining social distancing have been essential parts of COVID appropriate behaviour, he said.
The President said the 21st century is turning out to be the age of climate change, and India has taken a leadership position on the world stage in showing the way, especially with its bold and ambitious push for renewable energy.
“I am sure that with this energy, confidence and entrepreneurship, our country will continue to march ahead on the path of progress and will definitely secure its rightful place, befitting its potential, in the global community,” the President added. PTI