A week after issuing an order revoking the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the constitution, President Ram Nath Kovind today said that the decision will ensure development in the region and provide its people with same rights, privileges and facilities enjoyed by those in the rest of the country.
"I am confident that the recent changes made in Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh will immensely benefit those regions," President Kovind said in his address on the eve of the 73rd Independence Day.
On August 5, the government had also announced the bifurcation of the northernmost state into two union territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh - in a far reaching decision aimed at discouraging cross-border terrorism. The change will come into effect on October 31.
The President said that recent constitutional reforms introduced by the centre will now prove beneficial for the people of Jammu and Kashmir along with the rest of the country. "These include progressive, egalitarian laws and provisions related to the Right to Education; accessing public information through the Right to Information; reservations in education and employment and other facilities for traditionally deprived communities; and justice for our daughters by abolishing unequal practices such as instant triple talaq," he added.
The President observed that India, far from being a judgmental society, believes in an "easy-going, live-and-let-live principle". "Our history and destiny, our legacy and future, are a function of coexistence and conciliation, of reform and reconciliation, of expanding our hearts and embracing the ideas of others," he said, expressing confidence that the country will never lose its capacity to listen to its "feeblest voice".
Thanking the people for participating in the 17th Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, the President said every election marks a new beginning for the country. He also expressed his appreciation for the manner in which many important bills were passed "in the spirit of cross-party cooperation and constructive debate" during the just-concluded parliament session.
The President claimed he has learnt a lot from his journeys through the various states and regions of the nation. "Indians can be very different in taste and habit, but they share the same dreams. If their dream was of a free India before 1947, today they dream of accelerated development and of effective and transparent governance," he said. "But while the government inevitably has a part to play, I would argue that the greater opportunity and ability lies in the skill, talent, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship of 1.3 billion Indians."
President Kovind said that while a lot of time has passed since the days of Mahatma Gandhi, he still remains extremely relevant. "In Gandhiji's advocacy of sustainability, ecological sensitivity and living in harmony with nature, he anticipated the pressing challenges of our times. When we design and deliver welfare programmes for our disadvantaged fellow citizens and families, when we seek to harness the power of the sun as a renewable energy, we put Gandhian philosophy into action," he added.
The country will observe its 73rd Independence Day on Thursday.
(With inputs from PTI)