New Delhi: In his first speech as President, Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday touched almost every grave issue prevailing in the country ranging from poverty, terrorism, economy and social equality, saying "We should learn from our past and must remain focused on the future."
Mukherjee, who on Wednesday became the 13th President of India, did not forget to share his traumatic days as a child in West Bengal.
"I have seen vast, perhaps unbelievable, changes during the journey that has brought me from the flicker of a lamp in a small Bengal village to the chandeliers of Delhi. I was a boy when Bengal was savaged by a famine that killed millions; the misery and sorrow is still not lost on me," he said.
He stressed upon the need to eliminate poverty create such opportunities for the young that they can take India forward by quantum leaps.
"There is no humiliation more abusive than hunger. Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor. We must lift those at the bottom so that poverty is erased from the dictionary of modern India," he said.
On the issue of terrorism and violence, he said, "The people of India have been a beacon of maturity through the trauma of whiplash wounds. Those who instigate violence and perpetuate hatred need to understand one truth. Few minutes of peace will achieve far more than many years of war. India is content with itself, and driven by the will to sit on the high table of prosperity. It will not be deflected in its mission by noxious practitioners of terror.”
He described the war against terrorism as the fourth world war since "it can raise its evil head anywhere in the world".
Mukherjee said that the visible rewards of peace had obscured the fact that "the age of war is not over".
"We are in the midst of a fourth world war; the third was the Cold War, but it was very warm in Asia, Africa and Latin America till it ended in the early 1990s. The war against terrorism is the fourth; and it is a world war because it can raise its evil head anywhere in the world," he said.
"India has been on the frontlines of this war long before many other recognized its vicious depth or poisonous consequences," he added.
Mukherjee said that he was proud of the valour and conviction and steely determination of the armed forces as "they have fought this menace on our borders; of our brave police forces as they have met the enemy within; and of our people, who have defeated the terrorist trap by remaining calm in the face of extraordinary provocation".
Assuming office as the 13th President, Pranab Mukherjee pledged to protect the Constitution not just in word but also in spirit as the office demands he rises above personal or partisan interests.
Making a brief acceptance speech after being sworn-in as President in the Central Hall of Parliament, he termed corruption as an "evil" and said the greed of a few cannot be allowed to hijack the progress of the nation.
"The principal responsibility of this office is to function as the guardian of our Constitution. I will strive, as I said on oath, to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution not just in word but also in spirit," Mukherjee said in his acceptance speech after he assumed the highest constitutional post at an impressive ceremony.
His speech was punctuated by repeated thumping of desks and applause.
"I am deeply moved by the high honour you have accorded to me. Such honour exalts the occupant of this office, even as it demands that he rises above personal or partisan interests in the service of the national good," he said.
"There is no greater reward for a public servant than to be elected the first citizen of our republic," Mukherjee said.
The veteran leader reminded the gathering whose majority included top leaders of political parties, MPs, chief ministers and governors that "We are all, across the divide of party and region, partners at the altar of our motherland".
Mukherjee was sworn in a President on Wednesday at an impressive ceremony in Parliament.
(With additional inputs from PTI, IANS)