New Delhi: On a day that melded tradition with the aspirations of a modern nation, Droupadi Murmu took over as India’s 15th president on Monday, the country’s first tribal head of state and the second woman in the post.
“My election is proof of the fact that in India, the poor can dream and also fulfil those dreams,” Madam President Murmu, who succeeds Ram Nath Kovind, said in Hindi after being sworn in by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana at Parliament’s Central Hall.
Murmu, India’s youngest president at 64 and the first to be born after Independence, took the oath of office in the name of God to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law”.
It is the power of India’s democracy that a girl born in a poor tribal home could reach the topmost constitutional post, she said in her address, marking her journey from Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, one of the most underdeveloped in India, to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The country’s deprived, poor, Dalits and tribals can see their reflection in her, a matter of immense satisfaction, she said and recalled her growing up years in a small tribal village where even getting primary education was like a dream.
Murmu, who was born in a Santhal family, went on to become the first person in the village to enrol for college education.
In her speech to the gathering, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ministers, former president Pratibha Patil, MPs as well as leaders such as Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who backed her election, Murmu touched on various issues. These included the government’s digital India and vocal for local initiatives and its handling of the Covid pandemic.
Murmu, who started public life as a councilor and was a former Jharkhand governor, said she wanted to reassure all Indians, particularly the youth and women, that their interests will be supreme for her as president.
The prime minister described Murmu taking over as president as a watershed moment.
“In her address after taking oath, President Droupadi Murmu Ji gave a message of hope and compassion. She emphasized on India’s accomplishments and presented a futuristic vision of the path ahead at a time when India is marking Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav,” Modi said.
India’s new president was given a 21-gun salute after which she signed the oath register amid thunderous applause and thumping of desks.
In tribute to her remarkable journey through personal tragedies and triumphs, there were celebrations in several places, including Ranchi and Bhubaneswar.