India is at a pivotal moment and should not allow contentious issues and extraneous debates to distract the country from its objectives, President Ram Nath Kovind said in his televised address to the nation on Tuesday.
President Kovind said the country is at a juncture that is different from any other period because it is "at the cusp of achieving many of our long-awaited goals".
Universal access to electricity and elimination of open defecation, homelessness and extreme poverty is achievable and attainable, the President said in his customary speech on the eve of the 72nd Independence Day.
The presidential advice comes amid a shrill war of words between the opposition and the ruling NDA government ahead of next year's general elections over issues ranging from the Rafale fighter jet deal, the citizens' list in Assam and concern over crime against women.
President Kovind made repeated references to Mahatma Gandhi - 14 in all - who he described as the country's moral compass, citing the Father of Nation's "most noble mantra" that the power of non-violence was far greater than the power of violence.
"The power to stay your hand is far greater than the power to strike with your hand and hinsa (violence) has no place in the society, President Kovind said against the backdrop of mounting concern over mob killings in the name of cow protection or otherwise.
Last month, the Supreme Court had also worried about the recurring pattern of violence and underscored that horrendous acts of mobocracy could not be permitted to inundate the law of the land. The centre, which was seen to be reluctant to enact a law against mob killings, later agreed to set up a committee to examine if a tougher law on mob lynching would help.
President Kovind preferred to look at freedom as a broader concept.
"If we define freedom in narrow, political terms, then August 15, 1947, marks a closure... But freedom is a broader concept... a constant and relentless endeavour," he said, underlining that each citizen could contribute in the manner of a freedom fighter.
From the soldier who guards the border to the housewife who raises her family or is in the workforce, President Kovind said every Indian who sincerely does his or her job uphold the values of freedom in their own way.
Even the people standing in the queue waiting for their turn.
"I would argue that every Indian who does not jump the queue and respects the civic space and rights of those ahead in the line also lives up to the principles of our freedom struggle," President Kovind said.
He said the decisions the country takes today, the foundations we lay, the projects we undertake, the social and economic investments we make today - whether for the immediate future or for the medium term - will determine where we stand.
"The pace of change and development in our country is rapid and appreciable. And as per our civilisational traditions, it is driven by our people, by civil society and by a partnership between citizen and government. Its focus, again in keeping with the essence of Indian thought, is on a better life for the less fortunate," the President noted.
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