NEW DELHI (July 25, 2012): Former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee called for action to tackle India’s dire poverty as he was sworn in as president on Wednesday during an elaborate display of pomp and circumstance.
The presidency is mainly a ceremonial role, but Mukherjee used his acceptance speech to appeal for India to prioritise the hundreds of millions of poor who have been left behind by recent economic growth.
Mukherjee, 76, arrived for the swearing-in ceremony in a regal cavalcade escorted by horse-mounted bodyguards and was greeted by a military guard of honour lining the route leading to the parliament building in New Delhi.
After receiving a 21-gun salute, Mukherjee addressed lawmakers and spoke of erasing poverty from the “dictionary of modern India” and striving for equality for all.
“For our development to be real, the poorest of our land must feel that they are part of the narrative of rising India,” he said.
“There is no humiliation more abusive than hunger. Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor. We must lift those at the bottom.”
Mukherjee also touched on corruption, a thorny issue that has dogged the Congress party government that he served in as finance minister until last month.
“Corruption is an evil that can depress a nation’s mood and sap its progress,” he said. “We cannot allow our progress to be hijacked by corruption.”