On the eve of the 54th anniversary of our Independence, and the first Independence Day of the twenty-first century, I have great pleasure to offer to my fellow citizens, whether in India or abroad, my greetings and salutations.
I extend a special word of gratitude to the brave men of our defence and para-military forces who guard our frontiers, to our kisans, mazdoors, artisans and entrepreneurs, our teachers, doctors, engineers, scientists and technologists, and the youth and the women of India, whose toil and hard work have put India among the front rank of the nations in the world, preserving the values of our ancient civilization.
My fellow citizens, on this anniversary eve let us remember with gratitude and pride the freedom fighters and the founding fathers of our Republic who sacrificed so much to gain our independence. We particularly remember Mahatma Gandhi who pitted his soul-force and organized the power of our "dumb millions" against the mighty empire that ruled over us. It is they who laid the moral foundations and the political framework that made India a resurgent nation and enabled all of us to hold our heads high in the world.
On any reckoning the independence of India was a landmark event in history. Speaking in the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947, our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said and I quote his words, "On that occasion, I felt the past crowding upon me, and I felt also the future taking shape. We stand on the razor’s edge of the present. I felt that we are coming to the end of an age. I had a sense of our forbears watching this undertaking of ours and possibly blessing us. It was a great responsibility to be trustees of the future and it is also some responsibility to be the inheritors of our great past." My fellow citizens, may I greet you on this anniversary as the inheritors of a great past and the trustees, I believe, of a greater future.
Friends, the last 54 years of our independence despite all our shortcomings and frustrations, have been perhaps the single longest period in our long history, when relative peace, progress and a sense of unity prevailed in this vast country of ours with hope for the future rising in the minds of the millions of our people. It is possible to find a hundred faults and failures, during the over fifty post-independence years, but the fact of our having made forward strides during this period has to be recognized, because it is then only we can build a better and brighter India.
We are today a united nation. This unity has not been brought about by blood and iron but by the softer and by the more enduring methods of tolerance and the human approach, in short through the gentle and genuine method of democracy. The biggest achievement of ours since independence has been this, the patient building up of a democracy and of unity in the midst of all our bewildering diversities and overwhelming difficulties. This achievement of unity and democracy has been hitched to an unprecedented experiment in social democracy, all our endeavours and our arms stretching constantly to human freedom and social justice. It is imperative that we should strive to maintain this balance between freedom and justice.
It is this essential and basic balance at the heart of our system that has enabled us to continue to serve our poverty-stricken people in the face of the tidal wave of globalisation that is sweeping the world today. It might sound an impossible thing to do. But I have great faith in our people, the millions of our ordinary people, what Gandhiji called the "dumb millions" who are becoming to-day more and more articulate and impatient. Let the better off amongst us ask themselves what they can do for our people and for our country, to be the inheritors of our great past and trustees of our future. Our future is in our own hands.
Let me on this anniversary greet you once again with the challenging victory cry, ‘Jai Hind’.