On her 75th birthday on Saturday, President Pratibha Patil accepted greetings from dignitaries as well as people who had come from across the country to offer their good wishes .

Hundreds of people, including students, teachers, children from orphanages, members of women’s organisations, academicians, social welfare workers, freedom fighters, doctors and professionals from various fields visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The President also participated in a function to mark the silver jubilee of the Tamana Association, which works for the welfare of differently-abled children. Ms. Patil attended a cultural programme presented by the children.

Addressing the special children, she said: “I consider it a privilege to interact with such amazing individuals today, which also happens to be my birthday. In my own life, I often recall the hard work and the effort that was required while working first as a lawyer and then in public life. Throughout this time, it was the values of perseverance and commitment that have been my guide.”

Ms. Patil said she felt encouraged when she saw hope in the eyes of children. It was important that from a very early age the concerns of children with special needs were identified and efforts made to work out appropriate strategies. “These children should be imparted training and given skills which would help in their economic independence and rehabilitation in society. The entire objective is to make them self-sufficient and self-reliant individuals who can pursue a career or vocation.”

Urging the children to inculcate perseverance in themselves, she said: “In fact, there should be no goal that is unattainable or any objective that cannot be achieved. There have been many examples where with great resolve and will power, differently-abled persons have been able to overcome the constraints of impairment. Tom Whittaker climbed Mt. Everest with a prosthetic leg in 1998. Beethoven, one of the most acclaimed music composers of all times, lost his hearing when he was just 26 years old. He did not allow this to come in the way of composing some of the greatest music in the world. Stephen Hawking, who, when diagnosed with motor neuron disease, was first disturbed, soon realised that there were ‘a lot of worthwhile things’ he could do. I am sure that many among you have the ability to overcome the impediments of disability and also to be innovative and creative.”

Ms. Patil said the role played by family, especially parents, was critical to providing the necessary encouragement to the special child and civil society could play a bridging role in this regard. “Apart from ensuring that assistive devices are available easily and at affordable prices, science and technology must be used for the development of more user-friendly systems for empowerment, rehabilitation and integration efforts,” she said.

An official of the President’s office said: “She always tries to spend her time on her birthday with organisations that work in the field of social welfare. The President said she is overwhelmed by the love and affection of the children who had prepared a special cake and a greeting card for her. The President also announced a donation of Rs. 75,000 to the corpus fund of the Tamana Association to help in its efforts to fulfil its objectives.”

Ms. Patil also sent blankets to various orphanages including Bachchon Ka Ghar, Bachiyon Ka Ghar, Madrasa Islamia, Delhi Cheshire Home, the Association for the Advancement and Rehabilitation of the Handicapped, Arya Mahila Aashram and the Home for the Blind.

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