Addressing the nation on the eve of India’s 74th Independence Day, President of India, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind said, the ethos of our freedom struggle forms the foundation of modern India. Our visionary leaders brought together a diversity of world views to forge a common national spirit. We are fortunate that Mahatma Gandhi became the guiding light of our freedom movement. As much a saint as a political leader, he was a phenomenon that could have happened only in India. Troubled by social strife, economic problems, and climate change, the world seeks relief in Gandhiji’s teachings. His quest for equality and justice is the mantra for our Republic. The President observed, he was glad to see the younger generations re-discover Gandhiji.
This year, the celebrations of Independence Day would be rather restrained. The reason is obvious. The whole world is confronting a deadly virus which has disrupted all activities and taken a huge toll. It has altered the world we lived in before the pandemic.
The central government, while anticipating this tremendous challenge, responded effectively and well in time. For a country so vast and diverse with high population density, meeting this challenge required super-human efforts. All state governments took measures in accordance with local circumstances. People also supported whole-heartedly. With our committed efforts, we have succeeded in containing the magnitude of the pandemic and saving a large number of lives. This is worth emulating by the wider world.
The President paid tributes to India’s doctors, nurses and other health workers and all essential service providers, who have been continuously on the forefront of our fight against this virus. They are our national heroes. All Corona Warriors deserve high praise. They go much beyond their call of duty to save lives and ensure essential services.
President Kovind observed, the poor and daily wage-earners were the worst hit by the pandemic. By introducing ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’, the government has enabled crores of people to earn their livelihood, and mitigate the impact of job-loss, dislocation and disruption caused by the pandemic.
Mr. Kovind said, the needy are being given free food grains, so that no family goes hungry. The largest free food distribution programme in the world has been extended till the end of November 2020 to provide succour to about 80 crore people every month. All states are being brought under the coverage of ‘One Nation – One Ration Card’ scheme.
The Government has brought back more than 10 lakh Indians under the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’. Indian Railways has been operating train services, in these challenging circumstances, to facilitate travel and transportation of people and goods.
The President said, India also helped other countries in their fight against COVID-19. India has once again showed that it stands by the global community in times of distress. The overwhelming support India got at the elections for the non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council is a testimony to the goodwill India enjoys internationally.
India’s tradition is she works for the well-being of the entire world. India’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliance) means being self-sufficient without alienating or creating distance from the world. It implies that India will continue to engage with the world economy while maintaining its identity.
President in his address said, the world now realizes what our sages had said long ago: the global community is but one family; ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam’. However, as the world community fought together against the greatest challenge before humanity, some in our neighbourhood tried to carry out their misadventure of expansion. Our brave soldiers laid down their lives defending our borders. Those worthy sons of Bharat Mata lived and died for national pride. The entire nation salutes the martyrs of Galwan Valley. Every Indian feels grateful to their family members. Their bravery has demonstrated that while we believe in peace, we are also capable of giving a befitting response to any attempt of aggression.
Concluding his address, President Kovind said, “We have learnt some tough lessons in the year 2020. The invisible virus has demolished the illusion that human being is the master of nature. It is still not too late for humanity to correct its course and live in harmony with nature”. The pandemic, like climate change, has awakened the global community to our shared destiny. Today, ‘human-centric collaboration’ is more important than ‘economy-centric inclusion’. The twenty-first century should be remembered as the century when humanity put aside differences and collaborated to save the planet.
Script: Kaushik Roy, AIR: News Analyst