President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday addressed the nation on the eve of India's 70th Independence Day.
In his speech, the president focused on the passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for GST, intolerance and attacks on "weaker sections" of the society, obstructionism in politics, the sanctity of the Constitution, India's development, foreign policy and terrorism.
Here are the highlights of President Mukherjee's speech:
On intolerance and attack on weaker sections of society
At a time when several attacks on Dalits are being reported throughout the nation, the president said that such attacks need to be dealt with firmly to protect the nation.
"In these four years, I also saw with, some disquiet, forces of divisiveness and intolerance trying to raise their ugly head. Attacks on weaker sections that militate against our national ethos are aberrations that need to be dealt with firmly. The collective wisdom of our society and our polity gives me the confidence that such forces will remain marginalised," he said.
"One unique feature that has held India together is our respect for each other’s cultures, values and beliefs. The very essence of plurality lies in cherishing our heterogeneity and valuing our diversity," the president further said.
On the GST Amendment Bill
President Mukherjee also said that in the last four years, he had seen the ruling party and the Opposition coming together to take a decision for the welfare of the nation.
"In the just-concluded session of Parliament, the passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for the introduction of GST amidst non-partisan and quality parliamentary deliberations is reason enough to celebrate our democratic maturity," he said.
On India's foreign policy
At a time when ties between India and Pakistan are especially strained due to the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, President Mukherjee said that there will be no stepping back from India's "neighbourhood first policy".
"We are in the process of forging new relationships based on shared values and mutual benefit with all countries, especially our immediate and extended neighbourhood. There will be no stepping back on our 'neighbourhood first policy'. Close bonds of history, culture, civilization and geography provide the people of South Asia with an extraordinary opportunity to carve out a common destiny and to march together towards prosperity. This opportunity must be seized without delay," Mukerjee said.
"India’s focus in foreign policy will remain on peaceful co-existence and harnessing technology and resources for its economic development. Recent initiatives have enhanced energy security, promoted food security, and created international partnerships to take our flagship development programmes forward," he further said.
Stressing on how terrorist forces around the world kill innocent people and threaten to disturb geopolitical divides, the president said, "The inhuman, mindless and barbaric modus operandi of such groups have been visible in France, Belgium, United States, Nigeria, Kenya and closer home in Afghanistan and Bangladesh recently. These forces now pose a danger to the entire comity of nations. The world will have to fight them unconditionally and in one voice."
On obstructionism in politics
The president said that democracy was also a responsibility rather than just the freedom to elect a government.
"The great tree of liberty requires constant nourishment through the institutions of democracy. Disruptions, obstructionism and un-mindful pursuit of a divisive political agenda by groups and individuals lead to nothing but institutional travesty and Constitutional subversion. Polarizing debates only deepen the fault lines in public discourse," he said.
On inclusion of weaker sections in development
"India will grow, only when all of India grows. The excluded ones have to be included in the development process. The hurt and the alienated have to be brought back into the mainstream. In this age of technological advance, machines are being pitted against men. The only way to survive this is to acquire knowledge and skills, and learn to innovate. Inclusive innovations linked to the aspirations of our people can benefit a wide spectrum of society as well as preserve our diversity," the president said.
"As we build an Indiaof hundreds of smart cities, towns and villages, we must ensure that they are humane, hi-tech and happy places leading to the creation of a technology-driven but compassionate society. We should promote and reinforce a scientific temper by questioning our beliefs which are not compatible with scientific way of thinking," he further said.
On the sanctity of the Constitution
Lastly, the President also talked about the importance of the Constitution and the need to uphold the spirit of the Constitution.
"Our Constitution is not only a political or legal document but also an emotional, cultural and social contract," said the president. "The Constitution has clearly defined the duties and responsibilities of every organ of the state. It has established the ancient Indian ethos of "Maryada” as far as Authorities and Institutions of State power are concerned. The spirit of the Constitution has to be upheld by adherence to this "Maryada” by the functionaries in the discharge of their duties," he said.