President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday said the Independence Day celebrations would not be the same this year as the coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives. He was addressing the nation on the eve of the 74th Independence Day.

“This year, the Independence Day festivities will not take place as usual,” Kovind said. “The reason for this is obvious. The whole world is grappling with a killer virus that has caused massive damage to life and hindered all kinds of activities. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives. Nation is indebted to doctors, nurses and other health workers who have been continuously on the forefront of our coronavirus fight. Unfortunately, many of them have lost their lives battling the pandemic. They are our national heroes.”

He added that the coronavirus crisis does not recognise any artificial divisions created by the society. “The invisible virus has demolished the illusion that human being is the master of nature.”

Kovind said the Narendra Modi government responded to the pandemic effectively and took steps in advance. He added that the Centre has been operating repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission and brought brought back more than 10 lakh Indians. “We are committed to taking care of our people stranded anywhere in world,” he said.

Speaking about the prime minister’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, Kovind said: “India’s self-reliance means being self-sufficient without alienating or creating distance from the world. It implies that India will continue to engage with the world economy while maintaining its identity.”

The president said that it is necessary to protect both life and livelihood during the health crisis. “We have seen the current crisis as an opportunity to revive the economy by bringing about appropriate reforms in the interest of everyone, especially farmers and small entrepreneurs,” he said.

He also praised the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. “The government has enabled crores of people to earn their livelihood, and mitigate the impact of job-loss, dislocation and disruption caused by the pandemic,” he said.

The president said the youth of India should feel proud for being citizens of a free nation. “We are fortunate that Mahatma Gandhi became the guiding light of our freedom movement,” he added. “His quest for equality and justice is the mantra for our Republic. I am glad to see the younger generations re-discover Gandhi.”


Ladakh clashes

Kovind said the entire nation salutes the 20 Indian Army personnel, who were killed during the clashes with China on June 15 in the Galwan Valley.

“Our brave soldiers laid down their lives defending our borders,” he added. “Every Indian has a feeling of gratitude towards his family members. At a time when the world needs to live as one family, our neighbour was giving shape to their expansionist policies. Though we believe in peace, we can give a fitting reply if anyone challenges us.”

Ram temple construction

On the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the president said the entire country displayed great faith in judiciary and every section showed maturity and patience. The 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya was claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. In November last year, the Supreme Court permitted the construction of the temple and directed the government to acquire an alternative plot of land to build a mosque.

“All concerned parties and the people respectfully accepted the verdict of the Supreme Court and displayed before the world, Indian ethos of peace, non-violence, love and harmony,” Kovind said.

Cyclone Amphan & NEP

Kovind recalled the destruction caused by Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal and Odisha in May. “During this disaster, the united efforts of disaster management teams, agencies of the Center and States and vigilant citizens helped to reduce the loss of life and property,” he said.

Kovind also talked about new National Education Policy as an important step towards youth empowerment.