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FULL TEXT: Republic Day speech of Shankar Dayal Sharma

Sunday, 26 January 2014 - 6:00am IST Updated: Saturday, 25 January 2014 - 10:05pm IST

Shankar Dayal Sharma, 9th President of independent India, on the eve of Republic Day of 1997, the year in which India completed 50 years since independence prayed for India's advancement and striving towards becoming a major superpower in the years to come. Dr Sharma recalled the inspiring words of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, whose birth centenary India was celebrating in 1997, who wanted through India's liberation, Asia and the world to move forward towards larger goal of human emancipation. The former president of India also talked about the extent to which India have progressed in attaining the goals, problems and difficulties that the country has encountered and the steps taken to overcome the challenges. The speech also puts light onto the crimes against weaker sections and women, acts of violence and intimidation, that challenge India's claim of building an egalitarian society for all. As for the future of the country, the president wanted the approach to be value-based and people-centred.

I pray for India's advancement from strength to strength, rising and powerful nation, leading the world in the years to come, to a higher level of civilisation.

Indeed, this has been the dream, the vision, of the great stalwarts in our struggle for freedom. In India's emancipation they saw a new hope for humanity.

I recall the inspiring words of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whose birth centenary we are celebrating this year. In a broadcast over the Azad Hind Radio on the 19th of February, 1942, Netaji had said: ''through India's liberation, will Asia and the world move forward towards the larger goal of human emancipation.''

Almost fifty years have passed since India became free. Half a century may not seem much to us Indians as citizens of a nation whose history spans several thousands of years. Yet this period is special, as our ancient nation renews itself, recreates itself, and rediscovers, absorbs and assimilates the essentials of the democratic way of life.

This process of transformation involves reinstating in our national life the values, norms and ideals which were our own contribution to the world's heritage of humanistic thought. Central to India's consciousness, these empowered our nation's greatness. When India moved away from these ideals the dark periods in our history occurred.

Equality, unity, an outlook of friendship and co-operation, a sense of duty and responsibility towards the nation, an approach based on integrity, selflessness and the spirit of service -- are aspects of a composite code of ethical and moral values that must inform, permeate and pervade our national life.

A high level of commitment in this respect is a sine qua non for the successful working of our elaborate, sensitive and interlinked systems of constitutional, political and administrative functions.

Republic Day, particularly in this auspicious golden jubilee year of Independence, is an appropriate occasion to review dispassionately our achievements, the extent to which we have progressed in attaining our goals, the problems and difficulties we encounter and the steps we must take to overcome the challenges that confront us.

We citizens can justifiably be proud of India's achievements after Independence. Despite a variety of difficulties, it is readily acknowledged that in every sphere and sector, primary, secondary and tertiary, there has been tangible progress and positive attainment. Our nation has gained almost five decades of experience in the functioning of the parliamentary form of governance in a federal system.

We are pressing ahead with democratic decentralisation through panchayati raj. We are well aware now of the strengths and advantages that democracy confers. Equally, we ought to be sensitive to the principles and proprieties that need to be safeguarded to maintain and develop democratic institutions and processes on a wholesome basis in tune with interest of our nation and people.

Today we have the infrastructure for dynamic growth and progress. We have the constitutional, political and administrative framework that can be drawn upon to take India into the 21st century, closer to the goals that we have set ourselves -- the goals of growth with social justice and the building of a welfare State.

And yet who can deny the range of problems and deficiencies which cry for solution? Abject poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance torment many and raise questions as to the validity and efficaciousness of our policies and programmes.

Crimes against weaker sections and women, acts of violence and intimidation, challenge our claims of building an egalitarian society. The fruits of progress to a substantial extent are negated by our burgeoning population and the complexities innate to the task of equitable distribution in a country of India's diversities and dimensions.

More than seven decades ago, Mahatma Gandhi had cautioned against what he termed as the seven social sins. Writing in Young India in 1925, Bapu raised his finger against politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, education without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity and worship without sacrifice.

I feel we need to ponder over Bapu's words. I feel convinced that India's need today is for a profound moral and ethical rejuvenation, the building of a nationwide commitment to our national values and goals and the integration and unification of the people.

Simultaneously, there must be a forthright and outright rejection of casteism and communalism with its invidious, sinister nexus with corruption and criminality. Increasingly it is evident that India's failing to rid herself of these evils will aggravate the ills and vulnerabilities that vex our nation and lead to grave consequences. I sincerely hope the nation heeds Bapu's worlds.

As we look to the future we must keep two critical aspects clearly in mind. Our approach will have to be value-based and people-centred. Our many institutions of democratic governance and progress -- Parliament, the judiciary, the executive, the civil services, the press -- can only be as effective as those responsible for the functioning of these institutions wish them to be.

To safeguard our institutions from erosion, and to build their strength and make them more efficient and responsive to the aspirations of the people, we must bring to bear the spirit of patriotic fervour, commitment, dedication, integrity and selfless service which imbued our struggle for freedom. These are the value that were illumined by our great national leaders.

It is obvious that only by making these values an integral part of our life and work can we take our great nation forward and provide a productive and fulfilling life for our people.

It is only in this manner that we can succeed in reinvigorating our public life and dispelling the cynicism, despondency and disenchantment, that appear to be affecting the national atmosphere and mood.

Every citizen of India bears an immediate and direct responsibility. Patriotism requires a constant striving for excellence by every citizen as his or her own contribution to national reconstruction.

We must all develop a broad nationalist outlook whereby we view every issue not in a limited, narrow or parochial perspective but in the context of the good of the nation.

We must remain deeply conscious always that progress by individuals or groups in society is possible and meaningful only with national advancement.

The world today is witnessing significant global trends towards integration, both economic and political. New regimes for international economic exchange have been set in train.

Powerful regional blocs have situation involving these dynamic trends and to safeguard and advance national interest in the rapidly changing population with her vast pool of highly technically trained manpower, and institutional infrastructure will have to ensure that scope is created for participation on a just and equal basis in the emerging world order.

Within our own region following several landmark developments, there are now significantly improved prospects of peace, security and cooperation for mutual benefit. We will persevere in these efforts, and shall continue to play a vigilant and creative role in world affairs for the good of all humankind.

On the occasion of Republic Day, my thoughts are with our brave and valiant soldiers, sailors and airmen. The Indian armed forces serve the nation with professionalism, devotion and dedication under difficult and trying conditions.

They deserve the nation's gratitude and tributes for their selfless service and sacrifice. On our part we have to ensure that our defence forces are well-equipped and prepared to safeguard the nation's territorial integrity and security.

Tomorrow when we unfurl the national tricolour, let us salute our flag of freedom, reiterate our national resolve and rededicate ourselves to our motherland. The greatest democracy in the world must prove herself as a powerful force striving for universal values and ideals and contributing to global peace, friendship and progress.

Brothers and sisters, may reason guide us and may every citizen be a light unto himself and a friend to his neighbour. So may India be glorious.

Jai Hind!

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