Unity of Minds: Address to the nation by the President of India

August, 2002
My dear citizens of India,

On the eve of the 55th anniversary of our Independence, I have great pleasure in offering you my best wishes for your well-being and happiness. My salutations to all of you both in India and abroad.

May I extend a special word of gratitude to the men of our defense who guard our frontiers on the land, on the sea and in the air and paramilitary forces. May I also convey my special appreciation to our farmers who toil on the fields, technicians who keep the wheels of our industry moving, teachers who create knowledge products to the society and doctors, engineers, scientists, technologists and other professionals and administrators who are the prime movers of national development. May I wish the youth of India whose purposeful hard work with sweat will be a major transforming force for prosperous India.

I met some of the freedom fighters a few days ago at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Each and every one of them was the live force for our freedom movement. On this day, I salute all men and women of India who fought for our freedom and sacrificed their lives to achieve our Independence. Seeding a great vision and an indomitable spirit to achieve India's freedom took place around 1857. For 90 years, there were a number of intensive struggles for freedom. Many of our people and leaders were in jail and their sufferings got transformed into freedom movement, with national ethos under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. I have tried to capture the essence of the freedom movement. Two aspects have come out: as a result of supreme sacrifices and dedicated and focused efforts, we got our Independence. The second aspect is that the vision driven movement...  itself created many leaders in different spheres of politics, economics, industry, science, arts and culture.

After Independence, India has made significant achievements in agriculture and food production, energy, healthcare, education and various fields of science and technology. Particularly we have made our mark in the international arena in the fields of pharmaceuticals, information technology, mass media and communication, space, defense and nuclear science.

Similar to the first vision, which created a movement to achieve freedom with unity of minds of our people and the unity of purpose in actions, we need a second vision, which will integrate people from all walks of our society towards a common purpose. The second vision of our nation is to transform it from the present developing status to a developed nation by integrated actions simultaneously in the areas of agriculture and food processing, education and healthcare, infrastructure development including power, information and communication technologies, and critical technologies. This greater vision will aim to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. When the minds of the people of our country are unified and fused towards this vision, the dormant potential will manifest as a mammoth power leading to a happy and prosperous life of a billion people. This vision of the nation will also remove the conflicts arising out of differences and small thinking.

Dear citizens, I would like to reiterate that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. It is not an international issue. India is ready for bilateral dialogue once the cross border terrorism is brought to a complete end. Normal election process is on in Jammu and Kashmir. It is essential to ensure its successful completion and dawn of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

We also have many challenges in front of us. We have to find a solution to the repeated droughts and floods; we have to eradicate communal and other divisive clashes sprouting in certain parts and remove the pains of our people whether it is in Jammu and Kashmir or in any other part of our country; we also have to find a permanent solution to combat terrorism.

Let us now look at a long-term problem. It is paradoxical to see floods in one part of our country while some other parts face drought. This drought - flood phenomenon is a recurring feature. The need of the hour is to have a water mission which will enable availability of water to the fields, villages, towns and industries throughout the year, even while maintaining environmental purity. One major part of the water mission would be networking of our rivers. Technological and project management capabilities of our country can rise to the occasion and make this river networking a reality with long term planning and proper investment. In addition, the vast sea around us can help by providing potable water through desalination as a cost effective technology. There are of course short term techniques such as water harvesting by revitalizing rural ponds, water recycling to water conservation. Such programmes should have a large scale people participation even at the conceptual and project planning stages. The entire programme should revolve around economic viability leading to continued prosperity for our people with larger employment potential, environmental sustainability, grass root level motivation and benefit sharing.

I would now like to share with you friends, another crucial requirement and necessity for our country. We cannot sustain a second vision for the country without Unity of Minds of all our people. Our great strength is our pluralistic tradition and civilisational heritage of nearly 3000 years. I have always been asking myself what the strength of our heritage is. A unique fusion has taken place with multiple cultures, religions and the way of life of many parts of the world and that has become the foundation of the Indian life. One can trace from 1857 to date, the type of good experiences we have had and also the strife resulting out of the differences in thoughts.

I have just now returned from Gujarat after interactions with various cross sections of people, leaders, officials and rehabilitation workers in the areas affected by recent disturbances and earthquake. I also visited the Sabarmati Ashram which was established by Mahatma Gandhi for the purpose of our countrymen to carry on the search for truth and develop fearlessness. I sat in silence for a while in the Ashram and remembered the life of Gandhiji. One dominant thought came to my mind. If we can go above our own personal hardships and see the problems of others and decide to work for a larger cause, then there is natural elevation of our minds. When we are lax in this, then our level of thinking goes down. I felt confident that all of us can be elevated to the level of noble minds, if we just decide to understand others and to practice tolerance. I realized that Gujarat has given the noble leader - Mahatma Gandhi, unifier of the nation - Vallabhbhai Patel and the great visionary in science and technology - Vikram Sarabhai and many more. Time has come for every one of us to put the thoughts of these great souls into action for nation's welfare.

Non-violence, tolerance, acceptance of all religions and different ways of life, search for truth and fearlessness are the values the Mahatma taught us and they are the cornerstones of our civilisational heritage and, therefore, of Indian polity. Any act by anyone anywhere in India that runs counter to these eternal values would pose a threat to the fabric of free Indian nation which was born and nurtured by the supreme sacrifices of countless noble souls. We should all work together to achieve the mission for Unity of Minds to preserve what we so preciously earned and reach greater heights in the future.

When I interact with school children and youth, wherever I go, one question comes often. They ask me "who are our role models?" Parents and teachers have to show them by example to live as enlightened citizens. Children also look for role models at national level in different fields. I have described earlier the role models from Gujarat. Each state of our country has many such examples of the past. It is now time we create more role models from the present. I suggest that members of our Parliament and Legislatures can shape the future of our children by becoming good role models. Parliament and Legislatures have a crucial role in giving the vision of developed India and value based polity. Our children should see the members of the Parliament debating the vision of developed India, providing action plans and putting forth great thoughts and challenges to them. Looking at the national leaders, the children will find their role models for their development and growth.

I am sure, our leadership and our people can achieve the second vision of developed India. Let us take a vow on this Independence Day that the nation is more important compared to any individual, party or organisation.

I pray to the Almighty for Unity of Minds and our success in every aspect of life.

Jai Hind.
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