Amid controversy over her foreign trips, President Pratibha Patil, in an exclusive interview to NDTV's Rahul Shrivastava, says the visits go a long way in boosting India's image internationally. She has also made it clear that the President's travel plans are drawn up by the government.
Here's the full transcript of the interview:
NDTV: Hello and welcome. India has begun the process of choosing its next President. Some have chosen to call the post ceremonial, but in the 21st century managing the aspirations of over a billion people and the diktats of a Constitution is a tough job. How tough is the job? Who better to answer the question than Madam President Pratibha Patilji. Prathibhaji really nice of you to speak to us.
President Patil: Thank you.
NDTV: We are here, perhaps at the end of your five year term, it's been a long term. It's long, perhaps peaking of long political, distinguished career in which you have virtually held every kind of post from being a young Legislator, to Minister, to Governor, to Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha. Perhaps you have seen the whole spectrum, and perhaps attained something which many can't aspire to but can't achieve.
President Patil: And a Leader of Opposition, also in Maharashtra state.
NDTV: Yes. So Madam, today as we sit and talk, how has this transition been for you? For it's such a long journey to be the President, perhaps which is totally protocol bound, and also constitutionally bound. How has this journey been for you?
President Patil: I would say this journey has been sometimes smooth, sometimes rough and but I have walked through all these years of my life for last fifty years, I think, in the service of the people of India. And I am quite satisfied about what I have been able to do. It' a long journey, but it was a difficult journey as well. But one has to overcome the difficulties and see that you proceed towards the aim and objective which you have decided for yourself. And my aim and objective was not to achieve any post, but it was for serving the people and I think I have done that all through my life. When I was MLA, when I was a Minister, when I was Governor, and now when I am the President of India.
NDTV: You were a young 27-year-old MLA, and then you were one of the first few politicians to retain your maiden name, and then as President we saw you take a leap, from being the first women President of India in a jumpsuit inside a Sukhoi. Does it; does, which one is the true Madam Pratibha Patil?
President Patil: You see being in a Sukhoi was really a unique experience and when I was asked to take this flight, whether I will do that? I said yes, why not, and then they made all the preparations. Because they have to see whether you are in a good health to take such challenges in a Sukhoi. You have to wear that...
President Patil: A very heavy helmet and you have to be in a good health. So they came, examined me medically three months before. Periodically they came for check-up, and ultimately they said that Madam you are quite fit, and you can undertake this adventure and I willingly did that. And many people asked me after that, were you not scared? I said no, not at all. Because one should be always ready to face difficult situations and take risk also.
NDTV: Where you apprehensive?
President Patil: I have taken many risks in my life and therefore I was quite pleased to accept that suggestion, and ultimately I am happy that I could undertake that, even at the age of 74.
NDTV: Were you apprehensive when you became President? Because given the kind of atmosphere, politically, which was building up at that time, did you take the challenge in the same manner as the Sukhoi challenge?
President Patil: You see it was a big challenge and I had never faced such a, what to say, criticism ever before. So it was something which perturbed me. But I said no matter what anyone has to say, my conscious is clear and I should work as per, you see, the responsibilities and duties of the post requires and it was a Constitutional post. I had been a Governor of Punjab, so I had a little idea of how the protocol is.
NDTV: Madam was it equally difficult, and were you apprehensive like the Sukhoi moment? Did you also think when you were given the, when you were asked to take over as the President of India, because initially, if you remember, the Opposition was not very charitable.
President Patil: That's true. I never had any desire, ambition or dream of becoming the President. But when you see I was asked to shoulder this responsibility. I said yes, alright I would do that. But as you have said there were some uncharitable remarks, or whatever it is, that did perturb me. Because all through my life, during the 45 years of my service, I was not required to face; this suddenly came, so I was a little bit hurt also, but nevertheless, after all this is a Democracy, people have every right to say whatever they want to. And therefore I decided that I will act according to the Constitution and shoulder the responsibility and do my duties as the Constitution requires me to do.
NDTV: Of course. I remember that night after you took over, the delegation of Opposition parties came to meet you on one state issue, and after you gave them tea and hospitality and spoke to them in their local language, they all came out very happy. But how do you sum up your five years, has it been tough? Lot of pressure, is it a pressure job? Because outside there is an impression that it is a ceremonial job. And while it's a seat of the Constitution, as the Head of the Constitution in India, do you think today things are much different, from when the Constitutional fathers created the Constitution, for a President?
President Patil: I think yes, over a period there have been lot of expectations and a lot of aspirations of the people also, and particularly when I became the President, the first woman President, naturally all the women in the country they were very delighted. Of course and they also expected that something may happen for them. So when I took over I thought that I must do something for the empowerment of women. And you see a Governor, a Governors' Conference is called by the President.
NDTV: That was your proactive intervention there. You asked for a conference? President Patil: No, that is a practice. During the five year term the President calls for a meeting of the Governors twice during their term. So I also invited the Governors and we had a Governors' Conference in 2008. I took over in 2007 July, so it was in 2008. So after two days all the discussions, where all the Ministers, Prime Minister, they also attend and I, you see, appointed a committee of Governors to go into the whole question of women empowerment. What should be done for that? There has to be some policy on empowerment of women. You see departments and ministries being on their own, some activities, some schemes that's alright. But there has to be some policy initiative, in that will give a further boost up to development of women in different fields. So I constituted this committee, I also requested them, I also discussed along with them many a times when they had their meetings. Mr Kidwai who was the Governor of Haryana then...
NDTV: Mr AR Kidwai?
President Patil: He was the Chairman. And they interacted with various organisations, workers in this field, different governments, experts. They sought to see the opinions of the lady legislators and Parliamentarians, so after having a very wide discussion and we got all the feedback, and then a report was prepared, and they said Madam, this the report and these are all our recommendations. Then you see I discussed with Prime Minister, that see this is necessary, that there has to be some policy for the empowerment of women, and some direction given to that. So he said, alright I will appoint a committee of Cabinet Ministers and ask them to examine this. Accordingly that he appointed a committee, Mr Raju Singh ji was there at that, under his Chairmanship and other seven, eight Ministers. They examined it and they recommended it to the Cabinet. The Cabinet decided to establish, according to the recommendations of the report, a Vision for the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Women. Second was the recommendation of going into the whole question of gender equality. And there should be, you think, a platform or a forum where this whole question will go in details and some policy initiatives taken. So very recently, I think in February this year, a committee under the leadership of Justice Ruma Pal, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, has been appointed to go into this whole question. And thirdly there is Rashtriya Mahila Kosh which helps women in distress for standing on their own legs, starting their own business and earning their own living. So that also is being reconstituted and that fund is enhanced for that purpose. So I think these are very major policy decisions and initiatives which have been taken by the government. This will go into the whole question. This will cover 50 per cent of the population of our India. And of course the ball has been set rolling, you won't see the results immediately, but now slowly, slowly, as it gathers momentum, you will see the thrust and the importance of the empowerment of women will gather momentum.
NDTV: Should the Women Reservation Bill be passed? Were all the political parties to come together it will be a good forward step.
President Patil: For passing...
NDTV: The Women Reservation Bill, will that empower women?
President Patil: You see of course it will empower women. But it is a decision which the political parties have to take. And they have their own opinions, own reservations, whatever it is. So I think it would be good if there is a consensus reached and some decision is taken about it.
NDTV: Madam, very importantly, while we are discussing the ceremonial element of the President's job or the duties and responsibilities of President, there is a lot of talk about the utility of the Presidential tours and for example, why does a President need to go? Why does a large entourage need to go? How do you perceive it after five years? Do you think you have been able to create some kind of a diplomatic legacy? Present India's case at a global platform?
President Patil: Yes, this is a good question. You see there are three parts of your question. One is why these visits? Secondly what is the benefit, and what are the advantages of such visits? And thirdly why President should undertake such visits? So far as why these visits? See these visits have been in the context of the growing profile and growing political engagement and economic interactions in an interdependent and integrated world.
NDTV: As India grows you are saying...
President Patil: That's true. And you see India is a member of many important forums IPSA, G20, BRICS; recently a meeting was held where five nations came....
NDTV: The ASEAN.
President Patil: The ASEAN and G-20. Also India seeks to have more and more engagement with ASEAN, European Union, African Union. India is also having a strategic dialogue with many countries. India seeks to be permanent member of the UN Security Council. India has been elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and with overwhelming votes. It doesn't happen automatically. It is the process of constant dialogue and discussion with other countries at the official level and other levels. So far as now, what are the benefits? The major benefit is that it creates goodwill among different countries. India is an emerging power and India wants to get more and more engaged with all the other countries of the world. I had been to Mauritius and I had discussions with the leadership there, I had a very detailed discussion with the Prime Minister and I impressed upon him how important and urgent to amend the double taxation avoidance agreement, and that the working group discussions were not happening. It had almost come to a standstill. So when I impressed upon him, he very graciously agreed that yes we will discuss this and now it has now been reconvened, this group has been reconvened and the process has started. So much so, that when I visited Switzerland, this same issue was there. I discussed with the President there, a lady President and you see it has amended the protocol, a ratification of this double avoided taxation and you see the ratification came close to my visit. The day I left from there I was told in the plane that they have ratified it.
NDTV: That quickly?
President Patil: So, and also when I went to South Korea, you see the agreement was signed between India and South Korea for peaceful use of Nuclear Technology. Are these things not important to our nation?
NDTV: But the question being asked is why should the President go?
President Patil: President doesn't go at, or with her own will. Government places a suggestion, which states that the President should visit and they suggest the countries the President should visit, based on some factors, based on some foreign policies. And you see, upon the suggestion and programme chalked out by the government, the President undertakes the visits. I visited Tajikistan and Spain, where never before an Indian President had visited. I visited Laos and Cambodia after 50 years of a Presidential visit.
NDTV: Does it have an impact, that people of that country do escalate or heighten their attention to the trip if President of India goes? Have you found that feeling?
President Patil: Very much, very much I tell you. Because they feel that government and particularly India has given them importance by sending their President here.
NDTV: The Senior most functionary of the government and that you see enhances the bilateral relations...
President Patil: ... the friendship and you can work closely with them.
NDTV: It is also the people-to-people interaction, business interaction.
President Patil: So many things.
NDTV: The President being there is a stimulus in creating a goodwill about India?
President Patil: President visits all the leadership there. The Parliamentary exchanges are also there, because with the President, Ministers, Members of Parliament and high officials, they also accompany. And along with this, of course, they feel they are coming close to India. I have seen that there is a lot of desire in many countries to come in close contact with India and develop their relationship. So this helps a lot in strengthening your bilateral ties and creating goodwill.
I visited China, I visited UK, I visited Russia, which are the very important members in the P5 in the United Nations Security Council. I had been to, my first visit was to Latin America and India seeks Latin America to be their important partner in the world. So that, so that goes a long way in bringing these countries to and this whole Latin American countries together. I have, as per our policy, I have visited countries in Asia, and Africa is very important for us. So I have visited South Africa also now. So these are, you see, this is the impact and you see, the people, they try to know more and more about India, and our people also come close for people to people contact and for development relations in various sectors. Formerly it was only political, now it's economic, it's tourism, it's educational, it's cultural, many types you see, sectors, they come together.
NDTV: You mean to say the dividends from a trip have gone up, in terms of the kind of qualitative dividends which can be found from a trip? If it is from the President, it gets better.
President Patil: Of course.
NDTV: Now, while we are discussing this entire business of...
President Patil: And use, excuse my interruption, and you mentioned that this is a ceremonial post. Yes some people say it, I don't want to comment on that. But I would like to say that all these visits are organised in a very serious manner. A detailed programme is chalked out, meeting the leaders, meeting the Indian community there, meeting the Parliamentarians, the business community and the Indian community there and when you see the discussions are restricted, meeting there with the Head of the State is held. There is, you see, the whole delegation sitting there along with both the Presidents. Their External Affairs Minister, from here our Minister comes and their Foreign Affairs Secretaries, our Secretaries, my Secretary is there, other officials are there and the talks are held in all seriousness. And whatever transpires, that, you see, goes in their record and follow up action is done by both Governments. So it is with all the seriousness the talks are held and thereafter follow up is also done. So people may say it is ceremonial but the visits are not ceremonial. They are serious and it has substantive connotations.
NDTV: Madam, while we are talking about trips, over the last few weeks and months, there's been a whole, this talk about your trips, family members. Has it hurt you? Has it pained you in terms that these are tangents to the trips, and perhaps have dwarfed the utility of, of the Presidential trips, not just abroad but also in India?
President Patil: You see, so far as relatives or guests accompanying the President, this has been the international practise. And in previous occasions also in the past, guests and relatives have accompanied the President. So it is not that I have set the precedent. If at all, or any legacy also, if at all any legacy which I have set is taking a business delegation along with me and which has paid a lot of dividends. When I went to Latin America first, about 17 to 18 business persons came with me. And then, next visits, there was slowly an increase in their numbers. They got interested. Because when they go along with the President, the business community of that country, their counterparts, they have discussions. They explore their possibilities of further, you see, expanding their business or setting up their business or investment and you see they get the attention of that country. Therefore, and I tell you many business to business agreements were signed there in many countries, and some of them before us, in front of us. Therefore, as they see that it is beneficial. Now you see the business delegation number is increasing, and this time to South Africa it is as much as 60, somewhere about 60 business persons have accompanied and the President of South Africa also participated in the meeting. Because first when I go, I hold internal business meetings, meeting our business people, trying to know what are their difficulties, what is happening. And then you see they meet their counterparts, they explore their possibilities for further business, for starting new business. And then when the joint meeting of both the business organisations then you see, last time, this time, President Zuma came and he said, if we will provide all the support to make trade easy and we want that business should prosper. So what more do you want? They get the assurance from the highest...
President Patil: And they see, see that this is very beneficial for them to go more into business in these countries. So I think, probably, I have been a catalyst you see, to bring about business communities to both the countries and you see the attention to them, from the respective governments. No government, Government of India has not spent anything on that. They come on their own, and this is very advantageous to our country also and business people are finding it very well. So I think this is the legacy probably I have set.
NDTV: Has it hurt you or do you think it hurts the Institution of the President? These kind of controversies?
President Patil: I think you see, this post of a President is a Constitutional post, and you see it is the duty of everyone, all citizens to see that they respect that, not me.
NDTV: The Institution.
President Patil: I will be not there after few months, so it's not a question of Pratibha Patil. It's the question of the post, so of course if anything was done wrong, they have all the right to say that, but of course it is necessary to see that what is the factual position, what is true, what is; and then you can speak about that. That will be better and then the people will also be well informed. Right now, so far there have been many misconceptions about the visits of the President, so it is good if the people of our country know what the importance of such visits is.
NDTV: You were a tough Minister, you were a tough, very efficient Minister, you were supposed to be, at one time, we used to get reports from Rajasthan that you were a copy book Constitutional head as a Governor, and you had very nice relationship with the Chief Minister. On several occasions you used to advise. In your term as a President could you, could you transfer and bring back all those habits to the President's House? Could you, could you be, could you emphasise yourself, could you talk about policy issues to the Government? A power figure on critical issues, did you emphasise, because you had said if you remember in your early interviews, there were two things asked. Madam Pratibha Patil, are you a political President or an a-political President? Your words were that you are a political President. After five years do you say you have been a political President?
President Patil: You see when I was put up as a candidate for this, I was a political person. But after becoming the President I become non-political, a-political, because President does not then belong to any political party. Whether a person should have a political background or not, that's a different question. But after becoming a President, a person becomes a-political. But I can tell you with my experience of 50 years in administration and Government and working with the people, that has helped me in discharging my duties as a President of this country. And as you have said whether you had any interaction with the Government, as I have told you before, this national mission for the socio-economic empowerment has come out because of my interaction with the Government. And now recently, and last year, the meeting, the second meeting of the Governors was held, where I again constituted a Governors committee under the chairmanship of Mr Shivraj Patil, the Governor of Punjab, and it's a very, very, the committee, so to the Governors of the north-eastern region, because that region also needs our attention and that is, you see, for suggesting ways and means, how we can improve productivity of rain-feed farming?
President Patil: Rain-feed includes also dry land farming.
President Patil: Because in our country 80 per cent people and farmers, they are rain-fed farmers. They don't have irrigation. And across our country, even if we try to expand the irrigation with all the resources, and with all the possible measures, you won't be able to exceed 50 per cent of the irrigation. 50 per cent land to be irrigated. So this is a very major issue.
NDTV: Yes you organised a, got all the Ministers, Prime Minister.
President Patil: That's true.
NDTV: ... and Chief Ministers also.
President Patil: And yes, when this Governors' committee, we are still working on that, after going back from here, that will be my first responsibility, rather unfinished task, to complete that report and give it to the Government. And a very good report is being prepared by the Governors and for sake of interactions, to take all the stake holders together. Government, farmers, organisations, universities, experts, scientists, private sectors, corporate sector, all. You see it was a one day workshop. I sat the whole day to know what are the views from different quarters. Prime Minister came and inaugurated. Our Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee came, Mr Sharad Pawar ji, the Agriculture Minister, he came, Company Affairs Minister came, Public Undertakings Minister came, and you see Tribal Development Minister came. Ministers, and there was lot of Governors also, all Governors, Secretaries from the different states.
NDTV: Yes, yes.
President Patil: And you see a very useful workshop was held, and now with all this very important feedback, the report will be prepared and sent to the Government where Government can take...
NDTV: ....some resolution?
President Patil: ... policy issues and we have suggested there should, there should be out of box thinking. So for us, you have to approach very radically to improve the lot of our farmers in our country.
NDTV: As India grows, aspirations of 1.2 billion people, federal issues are coming up for the four states, saying that we should have more rights, Centre saying this is where your rights are. Is there a, is there an advice from the President of India that says the Constitution has written everything?
President Patil: Hmm. You see, I think, our Constitution is federal as well as unitary. And therefore, according to the federal system, the states have the power. We have three lists, state list, Centre list and concurrent list. So there has been a division of work and power which has been prescribed by our Constitution. By doing so now, sometimes you see, there is, you see, this sort of a, I won't say confusion, but aspirations of the states, whereby they feel that these are the matters which we only can handle or deal with. So I think in these circumstances, there should be a balancing between the role of the state Government and the role of the state Government, ah, sorry, Central Government and state Governments.
NDTV: But you, you suggest dialogue? A constant dialogue?
President Patil: There should be a constant dialogue. And where we can, because it's not a question of any, power of any state Government or Central government, but it's a question of future of our people and our Democracy. We have to keep our democracy going on a very healthy way and therefore it is necessary that we must always have a process of dialogue, in the view of the larger interest.
NDTV: You took over at a time when the economy was booming. 2007 was a good period. Now you are at a time, after five years, you find suddenly the economy slightly faltering. Inflation is very high, a lot of states are having lots of troubles. How do you view all this, is there a sense of worry in the mind of the President of India?
President Patil: Yes there is of course worry. But only worry won't help, you have to find solutions. You have said that the economy is faltering, I don't totally agree in this respect, because in spite of the global financial downturn, it had an effect on our country also, but then in spite of that, we were growing at the rate of 6.5 per cent.
President Patil: So when the other economies, major economies, were faltering, we have been able to stand, you see, against all these odds, and now we are stabilising again so far as our economic progress is concerned. Only thing is that, our people should also think in terms of how they can also help. Not the Government, but the economy to behave strongly, because of course it is my Government and I want my Government to be very strongly doing its work. And, but at the same time I also think it is the people of this country who should stand together and see how we can work together to make India a strong nation.
NDTV: From the rice in a hill, how have you viewed this whole churning in the nation on the issue of accountability and corruption?
President Patil: Is this churning that has started and it's not bad. It should happen because there have such issues of corruption and those should be tackled, not avoided. But you see, at the same time we have to see that the ill is removed but the Institutions are not hampered.
NDTV: Protect it?
President Patil: I'll protect it. As I said before in one of my speeches, that if there are bad fruits in the tree, you should shrink the tree to bring down the bad fruits, but not the tree itself, because otherwise it would be very unfortunate for the country.
NDTV: Recently there was this, slight alarm bells were ringing, certain issues between the Government, the Army Chief, he pointed out certain deficiencies in the Army. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces and as the keeper of the Constitution did it make you wary, did it, is there some advice on some such situations in future, how the nation should conduct itself? President Patil: You see when these issues were pointed out in front of the Government, of those cases of corruptions, the Government has taken action. They started the interrogation and all that. And now I think that matter is settled. We should not carry it forward anymore.
NDTV: But these issues should be settled quietly, close door, not becoming a media circus like nowadays lot many things constantly are becoming a media circus?
President Patil: That you see with the situation as it is, media, we have a free media, and if it comes in the media, it will come.
NDTV: Do you have some advice to us as a media person that how, what should, what is the President's advice? That is there need for caution, as you said Institutions have to be protected.
President Patil: We should respect our Constitution, we should respect our Institutions, because ultimately it is in our interest to keep our Institutions strong. Because in a country like India, with a 1.2 billion population, there are lot of issues and therefore we move together and whenever I go to other countries they are surprised that how this country, with so many different religions, races, caste, creed, languages, how is the country going together and progressing and that also with the system of democracy. So this is a wonderful country, they express, which we don't realise sitting here. So I think we should realise and to see that it is our duty to have Democracy plus a healthy Democracy. And how we all can contribute in making the nation strong and making, you see, our people happy and progressive.
NDTV: Any unfinished Agendas during the President's rule that you would have liked to do?
President Patil: My one unfinished agenda, as I told, is completing the report of the farmers, which will benefit 80 per cent community of our farmers. And then you see I was always talking about that, and I feel very, very strongly about it and passionate about it to remove the evils from the society. A child marriage, maybe child marriage, female foeticide, you see the addiction to different, ah, drug addiction, addiction to liquor or whatever, you see, that is spoiling, you see the health of our country. I'll tell you one experience. When I was Minister in Maharashtra, one year there was a very severe drought and even farmers with 50 acres, 60 acres of land, they had to go on the field to, on the field there was no work, they had to go on the scarcity work started by the Government. Because crops failed, no rains, and the Government of Maharashtra started the scarcity works, giving work for everyone who comes for this, so the labourers who used to come to field for work, used to come for building roads and different tanks, percolation tanks and all that. And you see the wages were announced and you see a person going to the field to work, getting Rs 50 per day started to get Rs 70 to 80 a day, his wife also got it and his child, above the age of 18 years, that child also, boy or girl got, so their income was almost doubled. So then I was taking a round with the Collector to see work is being given or not and everything is being done properly. I said I'm interested to know what these labourers have done with this increased income? So you please make a survey and tell me next time when I come. After a week I went there and they told me that 50 per cent of the labourers, they have utilised their increased income, some have paid their loans, some people have kept in the bank, some people have purchased jewellery for the marriage of their daughter, but 50 per cent of them has spent away the money in drinking and gambling.
And believe me that was a period when Indira ji was working for 'Garibi Hatao' programme and the 20 point programme. So it was an eye-opener for me, that we think that garibi will go away, poverty will go away if we give income in the hands of people. But that's not totally true. If they continue with these addictions and spend away their money, they are going to be what they are, even if their income is increased, probably they'll hamper their health more by drinking more. And therefore it's necessary to work against this evil and you see when I was the Governor also in Rajasthan, I called a seminar of those who were interested in this, and said come on, let's think over, what we can do to save our people from this addiction. So I think along with all the economic progress we may make, whatever financial allocations we may make, but if it has to really move to over, and this is at the mass scale, labour classes are a mass scale, so we will have to have very constant and very well planned efforts to see that these evils are eradicated, and I've been talking about that at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, so when the instances came to my knowledge that a girl has refused to marry, a child...
NDTV: Itna achha apne bola hai, aap yeh pehle se bolti na to aaj yeh sab ...
NDTV: There's no paper. Did you feel like taking paper? Apko paper ki zarurat padi kya? Aap itna achha bolti hain.
President Patil: Nahi maine thoda padh liya tha, foreign tours ka tha, kahan kahan gai th, kaunse desh me gai thi...
NDTV: Child marriage, dowry, deprivation, you called the Sarpanch also, terror...
President Patil: What is going on that girl, what is her name?
NDTV: Rekha Kalinde Maam, the girl child...
President Patil: About the child marriage you see, I called the girl who protested against that, and then I called her to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, I encouraged her to do it. I said you go to your friends also, other girls, and tell them also that they should protest and it has impacted very well in that whole wide area. The girls have you see, have become very self-confident, bold and they go across and say that they don't have to have a child marriage. We will see when to marry, but first let us educate ourselves. So this is the atmosphere that is being created there. I called the ladies of scavenger's community, who have been emancipated from that job and then I called them to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and then I encouraged them. So with the female foeticide. I have attended many conferences. I had gone to Punjab and I addressed a very big rally there to stop all these practises.
NDTV: But it's amazing. Imagine a girl child is being killed every day. Do you think something newer needs to be done on all these evils? How will it change? Because people have awareness, but of course Governments rules need to be implemented more strongly. Do you think somewhere the efforts of the Government and the Government's machinery, apparatus has to be improved?
President Patil: Of course the apparatus is improved, but now they are getting more and more conscious about it. And you see what is needed is changing the mindset of the people. This has come you see, from, you see, the practice in our society. Treating a girl as less in her status than the boy. Why this? If you go into this question, it is because of the dowry system, and that has created such an adverse impact on the minds; and secondly because you see a girl, while giving...
NDTV: As a liability? President Patil: It is treated as a liability and people think why there should be a liability, so better tread warily of that, let us not give her a birth at all. And this is how, because where a boy and girl, a girl's father has to bow before the father of the boy, he's little bit less in status. That has to go away. If we treat our boys and girls equally this will go away. And just to save themselves of the humiliation that is being suffered by the parents of the girl child, this also creates a very adverse effect on the minds of the people which we have to... NDTV: When you had taken over, you had faced a very famous thing which was reported widely, is that at the time of the freedom struggle women had come out, but then they went back. Do you think something like that, the women need to do something? You had said earlier that women need to come out now.
President Patil: Women need to come out and help themselves. God helps them who helps themselves. So they will have to come out and help themselves and go and, and, create an atmosphere of awareness in our country, that we are determined now to abolish this evil practice.
NDTV: My last question to you Madam. Some Presidents retire, and then do lectures, they travel across the globe, some Presidents go back to their grandchildren. What is Madam Pratibha Patil looking forward to after she relinquishes this extremely high pressure, high expectation job?
President Patil: You see, after I retire, for some time at least, I will spend my time with my grandchildren and my family members, because all these years, 50 years, I have not been able to give my time to them. I have, they say I have neglected them, because once my daughter had asked me when she was getting her daughter ready for the school, she had asked me, did you do this thing to us when we were young? So I said no. I feel guilty for that. So that guilt is still there in my mind, but then at the same time I have done service for our people. When I could not look after them, at least there were some other people to look after them. But all through I have worked for the people of my country. And let me tell you when I was a Minister in Maharashtra, I found different corporations for the economic well-being of people from scheduled caste, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Corporation, giving them financial assistance for putting up their businesses and Mahila, for this. You see one story I'd like to tell you. I told you about this scarcity works. So when I was returning from Amravati, I had, I had to stay in Manmad which is in between a place. And the next morning I was supposed to go to Mumbai. So when I got up in the next morning, about 50, 60 ladies, they suddenly came to see me. They said they have come to know that a lady Minister, because I was the only lady Minister at that time, she has come and we want to meet her. So my Private Secretary came and said they have come and unscheduled and all that. Doesn't matter, I'll meet them, so I met them. They said, Madam you have started scarcity work that is benefiting the rural area women. In big cities, metro cities, there is no question of scarcity. But Manmad is something in between and we are not getting any work. What should we do? What are you going to do for us? So that was a big question. I said I'll talk to the Collector. They said, Madam the instructions are, where to start the work, where it is covered in the municipality. So they can't start the works here. So I went back and then I discussed in the Cabinet and then I told them that we have to do something for the women, to help them. And then you see this Corporation, Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal, that came into being and now that is doing very good work in Maharashtra. Thousands of women, they are getting, you see, an income because of that Corporation now. And you see again now scheduled caste women, I used to, when I was in the Ministry, I came first as a Deputy Minister, and I was given some portfolios along with for public health and social welfare I think so. Then you see I became a Cabinet Minister and then I used to get a senior, the Chief Minister used to ask me, what portfolio you would like to have? So I said, Sir social welfare. So he said, social welfare? These are the portfolios generally held by junior Ministers, now you are quite senior so I thought you would ask for some other Ministry. I said, no Sir, because you see, this Ministry covers the women, the scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, the physically handicapped, the orphan children, all this neglected sort of sections of the society and I want to work for them, so please give this portfolio. So this has been my passion and I think, after sometime, after retirement, after sometime, I will again do the same work so that I can go along with my brothers and sisters who are in need.
NDTV: So, you are trying to say that Pratibha Tai, Madam President, is going to go back to being Pratibha Tai.
President Patil: That's true.
NDTV: Have you any regrets of this period, something you'd like to change in these last five years, shouldn't have happened?
President Patil: No, I think a process has been started, a churning has taken place. It will at some time, stop all these, offshoots which have come out because of this churning process. But ultimately things will settle down. I remember you see, a couplet from a Hindi writer, a lady, Mahadevi Verma. As she has said that "Andhi aati hai, badi zor ki aandhi, aise lagta hai ki sari duniya ud jayegi. Par kuch ghans aur phus ke siva kuch nahi udta, aandhi chali jaati hai aur duniya apne kaam me lag jaati hai". So our nation will start its work again, become a peaceful, peace loving and, and a nation which has a very spiritual inherent power that will come again and all these other, you see, what should I say?
President Patil: Diversions or whatever it is, that will settle down. So this is a process through which we are going and in that you see everybody is being accused or some mud is being thrown, doesn't matter, but ultimately it will become, you see, settle down and everything will come clean and nice.
NDTV: On that beautiful note, Madam President, thank you very much for speaking to NDTV. We hope that you have as contributing a career ahead after you relinquish this post, as you had in these last 50 years. Thank you very much for speaking to us.