President Ram Nath Kovind, in his last address to the nation while in the post, urged youth to be mindful of their roots in villages and towns and made a strong appeal to countrymen to take care of the environment, stating that, “Mother nature is in deep agony and the climate crisis can endanger the very future of this planet.”
“As the first citizen, if I have to give one advice to my fellow citizens, it is this,” he said.
Mr. Kovind, India’s 14th President, completes his term on Sunday, and his successor, Droupadi Murmu, will be sworn in on Monday. In his customary remarks on the eve of demitting office, he said that in his five-year term, he had discharged his responsibilities to the best of his abilities, he had tried hard to be a worthy successor to great presidents like Rajendra Prasad, S. Radhakrishnan and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. “My predecessor, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, also shared his wise counsel with me,” he said, adding however, that whenever he did feel that he needed to think over a certain path of action, he remembered Mahatma Gandhi’s talisman which enjoined that whenever in doubt over a course of action, one need only to ask whether this action would help the poorest person around.
“I would urge you all to spend some time everyday going over Gandhi-ji’s thoughts and words,” he said. Mr. Kovind said some of the most unforgettable parts of his Presidency for him had been to visit his ancestral village near Kanpur, and reconnect with and take the blessings of elderly teachers there. “To think of occupying any Constitutional post or even to conceive of what it meant was quite beyond the scope of my imagination as a child or of those around me, but our democracy has given ways and means for people to find ways of contributing to serve the country,” he said. He urged young people to stay connected to their roots in villages and towns and their teachers and elders.
He remembered the final speech of Constitution framer B.R. Ambedkar before the Constitution of India was adopted. He pointed out that Dr. Ambedkar had said that mere political democracy was not enough, that social democracy, embodied in the phrases liberty, equality and fraternity, should underlie political democracy. “These values must not be mistaken for abstractions,” he said.
“And what do such ideals mean for a common citizen today? I believe the chief goal is to help them discover the joy of living. For that, first of all, their basic necessities must be taken care of,” he said, after which he added, “The next requirement is to let each citizen pursue happiness by discovering their potential and letting them do what they alone are destined to do.” He praised the New Education Policy as making it possible for young Indians to connect with their heritage and also find their feet in the 21st Century.
He signed off his speech with a strong appeal to take the climate crisis seriously. “Mother nature is in deep agony and the climate crisis can endanger the very future of this planet. We must take care of our environment, our land, air and water, for the sake of our children. In our daily lives we must be more careful to protect our trees, rivers, seas and mountains as well as all other living beings. As the first citizen, if I have to give one advice to my fellow citizens, it is this,” he said.