no excuse for assault on democracy: President
Anger against corruption is legitimate but there will be chaos if
street protests become endemic, Pranab Mukherjee warned Tuesday in
his first public speech as India's new president. "Anger against
the bitter pandemic of corruption is legitimate,
Here is the text of President Pranab
Mukherjee's speech on India's 66th Independence Day-eve:
My fellow citizens:
It is a great privilege to address, for the first time, my fellow
Indians living within our country and in a hundred corners across
the globe, on the 65th anniversary of our independence. Words
cannot adequately express my 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. We are all equal children before our
mother; and India asks each one of us, in whatsoever role we play
in the complex drama of nation-building, to do our duty with
integrity, commitment and unflinching loyalty to the values
enshrined in our Constitution.
It is important to remember, on Independence Day, that in the age
of empires freedom was never given; it was taken. It was won by a
generation of giants, led by a mighty man of destiny, Mahatma
Gandhi, who fought with selfless, unflinching conviction against
the mightiest power in history, with a moral force that
transformed political thought and whose reverberations echo in
great events all around us today. If the rise of European
colonisation began in 18th century India, then the rallying cry of
"Jai Hind!" also signalled its end in 1947. The final call to
victory, "Jai Hind!" was given by Subhas Chandra Bose, fondly
known to every Indian as "Netaji". Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Baba
Saheb Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad,
Sarojini Naidu and many others charted the roadmap of independent
India. These extraordinary men and women sacrificed their todays
for our tomorrows. That tomorrow has come, and there is a question
we must ask ourselves: have we honoured the great vision of these
stalwarts, as a nation and as a society?
I was a toddler when Netaji, as Rashtrapati of the 51st Session of
Indian National Congress in Haripura, on the banks of the river
Tapti, reminded us that "our chief national problems are
eradication of poverty, illiteracy and disease". His speech echoed
through my home, as it did through millions of others. My father
was a freedom fighter and through those long years when freedom
seemed an illusion, we were sustained by faith in ourselves, in
our leaders, in the strength of non-violence, in the courage of
Indians liberated from fear. But we knew then, as we do now, that
freedom must mean both bread and dreams.
Netaji and Nehruji believed that India could seize the future by
an application of synthesis, samyavada, of what might seem on
surface to be implacable opposites. They believed that free India
would become, by example, an alternative model for a post-colonial
world through economic equity and a social revolution inspired by
harmony between communities that had been misled into hostility.
Propelled by freedom of faith, gender equality and economic
justice for all, India will become a modern nation. Minor
blemishes cannot cloak the fact that India is becoming such a
modern nation: no faith is in danger in our country, and the
continuing commitment to gender equality is one of the great
narratives of our times.
My fellow citizens:
I am not a pessimist; for me, the glass is always half full,
rather than half empty. I would go to the extent of saying that
the glass of modern India is more than half full. Our productive
working class; our inspiring farmers, who have lifted a
famine-wrecked land to food-surplus status, our imaginative
industrialist entrepreneurs, whether in the private or public
sector; our intellectuals, our academics and our political class
have knit together a modern nation that has leapt, within mere
decades, across many centuries in economic growth and progressive
We cannot appreciate how far we have travelled, until we
understand from where we started in 1947. As Jawaharlal Nehru
pointed out so often, in his speeches and prose, India was not a
poor country when our independence was snatched away. No one, I
may add, travels thousands of miles to conquer a poor country.
Statistics published by contemporary international scholars are
proof for sceptics. In 1750, seven years before the fateful battle
of Plassey, India had 24.5 percent of World Manufacturing Output
while United Kingdom had only 1.9 percent. In other words, one in
every four goods on the world market was manufactured in India. By
1900, India had been left with only 1.7 percent of World
Manufacturing Output and Britain had risen to 18.5 percent. The
western industrial revolution was in its incipient stages in the
18th century, but even in this regard India slipped from 7 to 1 in
per capita industrialisation in that period, while Britain vaulted
from 10 to 100. Between 1900 and 1947 India's economic growth was
an annual average of 1 percent. From such depths we climbed,
first, to 3 percent growth, and then took a quantum leap forward:
today, despite two great international crises that rocked the
world and some domestic dips, we have posted an average growth
rate of more than 8 percent over the last seven years.
If our economy has achieved critical mass, then it must become a
launching pad for the next leap. We need a second freedom
struggle; this time to ensure that India is free for ever from
hunger, disease and poverty. As my pre-eminent predecessor Dr.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, speaking from this platform on the 18th
anniversary of freedom, said, "Economic progress is one of the
tests of democracy."
If progress falls behind rising aspirations, particularly of the
young, rage will manifest itself. We are a nation that is becoming
younger both in age and spirit; this is an opportunity as well as
a challenge. The young thirst for knowledge that will lift their
skills; and for opportunity that will put India on the fast track
to the first world. They have the character; they need the chance.
Education is the seed; and economy is the fruit. Provide good
education; disease, hunger and poverty will recede. As I said in
my acceptance speech, our motto must be: All for knowledge and
knowledge for all. Vision cannot be an open-ended vista; it must
be focused on our youth.
My fellow citizens:
Notwithstanding the tremendous pressure of an adverse external
environment, our economy today is more resilient and confident.
Two decades of steady economic reforms have contributed to
improvement in average income and consumption levels in both rural
and urban areas. There is new found dynamism in some of the most
backward areas bringing them into national economic mainstream.
Yet there are several gaps that need to be bridged. Green
revolution has to be extended to the eastern region of our
country. Creation of high quality infrastructure has to be fast
tracked. Education and health services have to reach the last man
at the earliest. Much has been done, a lot more remains to be
The monsoon has played truant this year. Large areas of our
country are in the grip of drought, some others are devastated by
floods. Inflation, particularly food inflation, remains a cause of
worry, While our food availability remains healthy, we cannot
forget the plight of those who made this possible even in a lean
year; our farmers. They have stood by the nation in its need; the
nation must stand by them in their distress.
I do not believe that there is any inherent contradiction in
protecting our environment and economic development. As long as we
heed Gandhiji's great lesson: there is sufficient in the world for
man's need but not for man's greed, we are safe. We must learn to
live in harmony with nature. Nature cannot be consistent; we must
be able to conserve her bounty during the many seasons of plenty
so that we are not bereft during the occasional bout of scarcity.
Anger against the bitter pandemic of corruption is legitimate, as
is the protest against this plague that is eroding the capability
and potential of our nation. There are times when people lose
their patience but it cannot become an excuse for an assault on
our democratic institutions.
Institutions are the visible pillars of our Constitution, and if
they crack then the idealism of our Constitution cannot hold. They
are the interface between principles and the people. Our
institutions may have suffered from the weariness of time; the
answer is not to destroy what has been built, but to re-engineer
them so that they become stronger than before. Institutions are
the guardians of our liberty.
The vigilance on our frontiers has to be matched with vigilance
within; we must restore the credibility of those areas of our
polity, judiciary, executive and legislature where complacency,
exhaustion or malfeasance may have clogged delivery. The people
have a right to express their discontent. But we must also
understand that legislation cannot be wrenched away from the
legislature or justice from the judiciary.
When authority becomes authoritarian, democracy suffers; but when
protest becomes endemic, we are flirting with chaos. Democracy is
a shared process. We all win or lose together. Democratic temper
calls for dignity of behaviour and tolerance of contrary views.
Parliament will live by its own calendar and rhythm. Sometimes
that rhythm sounds a bit atonal; but in a democracy there is
always judgement day, an election. Parliament is the soul of the
people, the "Atma" of India. We challenge its rights and duties at
I say this not in a spirit of admonition, but as a plea for
greater understanding of the existential issues that lurk behind
the mask of the mundane. Democracy is blessed with a unique
opportunity for redress of grievances through the great
institution of accountability - free elections.
Old fires that threaten the stability of our nation have not been
fully doused; the ash continues to smoulder. It is particularly
painful for me to witness the violence in Assam. Our minorities
need solace, understanding and protection from aggression.
Violence is not an option; violence is an invitation to greater
violence. Concrete attempts have been made to heal the wounds of
Assam, including the Assam accord conceived by our young and
beloved former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. We should revisit
them, and adapt them to present conditions in the spirit of
justice and national interest. We need peace for a new economic
surge that eliminates the competitive causes of violence.
It is a fact of our geopolitical environment that some problems
transcend borders. SAARC was created 27 years ago to find
solutions through dialogue, and by mutual cooperation create the
rapid economic growth that is the only long-term answer to
problems like migration and uneven development. SAARC must acquire
vigour to fulfil its mandate.
The SAARC should be a major instrument in the common war against
terrorists. Great success is possible by international
cooperation. All SAARC nations must cooperate to bring to justice
those who believe in mayhem against innocents. There is no other
way towards peace on the subcontinent.
I am proud of our brave armed forces and our valiant police
forces, who have done so much, at such great personal risk, to
curb this menace of terrorism. It is their vigilance which has
prevented more havoc. If we sleep in peace it is because they are
awake and vigilant in the desolation of desert and mountain and
forest; and in the vast loneliness of the seas. I salute their
commitment and their patriotism. It is heartening that the armed
forces not only guarantee our peace, but also produce medal
winners at Olympics. I congratulate all who have done their nation
proud at the recently concluded Games, by winning as well as by
participating. The number of trophies may not be too large but it
is a remarkable improvement upon the last count, Four years later,
when I hope to address you again, I am sure, we will celebrate a
My fellow citizens:
If there is one man in history whose name is synonymous with
peace, then it is Gandhiji, the architect of our independence.
India is a land of plenty inhibited by poverty; India has an
enthralling, uplifting civilization that sparkles not only in our
magnificent art, but also in the enormous creativity and humanity
of our daily life in city and village. When Indira Gandhi reached
for the stars, she believed that this would be within the grasp of
India in just another generation. But there is neither a present
nor a future, except in a climate and culture of national unity
My fellow citizens:
Let us leave behind the way of hatred, violence and anger;
Let us put aside our petty quarrels and factions.
Let us work together for our nation with the devotion of a child
towards a mother.
Let us repose our faith in this invocation from Upanishads:
May God Protect us.
May God Nourish us.
May we Work Together with Vigour and Energy.
May our Studies be Brilliant.
May there be no Hostility amongst us.
May there be Peace Peace Peace.
Peace must be our ideology, progress our horizon.