New Delhi: Her election is proof the poor can dream and fulfil them too, India’s 15th president and its first tribal head of state Droupadi Murmu said after taking oath of office on Monday, a landmark day that melded tradition with the aspirations of a modern nation.
President Murmu, who is the second woman in the top constitutional post, succeeds Ram Nath Kovind and was sworn in by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana at Parliament’s Central Hall.
The tribal leader, India’s youngest president at 64 and the first to be born after Independence, took oath of office in the name of god to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law”.
It is the power of India’s democracy that a girl born in a poor tribal home could reach the topmost constitutional post, she said in her address, marking her journey from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, one of the most underdeveloped in India, to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Murmu, who began her speech in Hindi with Johar , a traditional tribal greeting, and Namaskar , said, That I attained the post of president is not my personal achievement. It is the achievement of every poor person in India. My election is proof of the fact that the poor in India can have dreams and fulfil them too.
In an address that lasted a little over 18 minutes and often referenced her tribal identity, she spoke on a gamut of issues, including the poor, tribal communities, sustainable development as well as the government’s digital India and vocal for local initiatives’ and its handling of the Covid pandemic.
As celebrations broke out in several parts of the country, she said she belonged to tribal society and had got the opportunity to rise from serving as a ward councillor to becoming the president of India.
“This is the greatness of India, the mother of democracy,” she said to thunderous applause from the gathering that included Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ministers, former president Pratibha Patil, MPs as well as leaders such as Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who backed her election.
“It is a matter of great satisfaction for me that those who have been deprived for centuries and those who have been denied the benefits of development, those poor, downtrodden, backwards and tribals are seeing their reflection in me,” she said.
Noting that she was the first president to be born after Independence, Murmu said it was her good fortune that she has assumed the position at a time when the country is celebrating “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” to mark the 75th anniversary of its freedom.
“In our country full of diversities, we are engaged in the making of ‘Ek Bharat – Shreshtha Bharat’ by adopting many languages, religions, sects, food habits, lifestyles and customs.
“I was born in that tribal tradition which has lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years. I have realized the importance of forests and water bodies in my life,” Murmu, who also worked as a teacher decades ago, said.
“We take necessary resources from nature and serve nature with equal reverence. This sensitivity has become a global imperative today.”