President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday said he was confident that the recent changes in the status of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will immensely benefit the residents there. Kovind said this during his address to the nation on the eve of the 73rd Independence Day.

The president was referring to India’s recent decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution. The government also split the state into two Union territories that will come into existence on October 31.

“They [the recent changes] will enable the people to access and enjoy the same rights, same privileges and same facilities as their fellow citizens in the rest of the country,” the president said. “These include progressive, egalitarian laws and provisions related to RTE [Right to Education Act]; accessing public information through RTI [Right to Information]; reservations in education and employment, and other facilities for deprived communities; and justice for our daughters by abolishing unequal practices such as instant triple talaq.”

The president also congratulated Indians for turning up in large numbers to vote in the recently-concluded general elections. “Earlier this summer, people of India participated in the 17th general election, the largest democratic exercise in human history,” he said. “For this, I must congratulate our voters. They turned up at polling stations in large numbers and with much enthusiasm.”

The president added that he was happy that the recently-concluded Parliament session was productive. “Many important Bills were passed, in a spirit of cross-party cooperation and constructive debate,” he said. “I am confident this is only an indicator of what the coming five years have in store. I also urge that this culture percolates to all our legislative assemblies.”

A reading of the mandate, the president said, would make their aspirations clear. “And while the government inevitably has its 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,” Kovind said.

“Universal availability of toilets and household water have meaning only if they empower the women of India, enhance their dignity and become a catalyst for them to go out into the world and achieve their ambitions,” he added. “They can achieve their ambitions as they choose: as mothers and homemakers – and as professionals and individuals with their own destiny.”

Similarly, he said fiscal reforms and easier regulations for business will only have meaning if entrepreneurs “use these to build honest and imaginative enterprises and create sustainable jobs” and rural roads and better connectivity “have meaning only if farmers use them to reach bigger markets and get better prices for their produce”.

The president added that the greatest gift that the country can give to its upcoming generations “is to encourage and institutionalise a culture of curiosity”, especially in classrooms. “I say this with the confidence and belief that India will never lose its capacity to listen to the feeblest voice, that it will never lose sight of its ancient ideals, that it will forget neither its sense of fairness nor its sense of adventure,” he said, adding that India has rarely been a judgemental society.

“Rather, it has had an easy-going, live-and-let-live organising principle,” the president said. “We respect each other’s identity – whether born of region, language or faith, or even the absence of faith.”

In his last year’s address, the President had urged citizens not to get distracted by contentious topics and extraneous debates at a “pivotal moment” in the country and had said India was at the cusp of achieving many long-awaited goals.