The inauguration of Draupadi Murmu as India’s youngest and first tribal president is, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it, a ‘historic moment for India, especially for the poor, underprivileged and weaker sections’. She is the second woman to hold the office of president.
Murmu’s life journey has been full of struggles and incredible. Born in Uparbeda, a tribal settlement in Odisha’s tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district, Draupadi’s original Santhali name was ‘Puti’, but her school teacher did not like the name and changed it to ‘Draupadi’ in school records. She worked hard in her studies and was bright. Despite the lack of electricity in the village, she topped the class due to her hard work and also became a monitor. His school used to study only up to 8th standard so the way forward was not understood.
Draupadi did not lose heart. She met a local MLA, showed him her mark sheet and the MLA got her admitted in a public school in Bhubaneswar. After completing high school, she took admission in Ramadevi Women’s College, Bhubaneswar and started living in the college hostel. His father could only send him ten rupees every month for his expenses. After completing her graduation, she got a job as an assistant clerk in the state government and married a bank clerk. Soon after the marriage, she had to leave her government job to take care of her children. Later she started working as a teacher in Aurobindo School in her hometown Rairangpur.
Many tragedies befell Draupadi Murmu’s life. She lost her husband and both sons. He was left with only his daughter. To regain her spiritual and mental balance, Draupadi joined the Brahma Kumaris and then became a councilor in Rairangpur doing social work. Later she became an MLA, became a minister in Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s cabinet the same year and later became the Governor of Jharkhand. Murmu’s struggle is a testimony of how a tribal girl overcomes life’s challenges to become the first citizen of the country.
Draupadi Murmu delivered a speech in Hindi from the dais in the central hall of Parliament on Monday after taking the oath of office. In his speech, he said: ‘It is also a coincidence that when the country celebrated 50 years of independence, my political career started. And today in the 75th year of independence, I have been given this new responsibility.
Draupadi Murmu, wearing a handwoven Santhali sari brought to Delhi by her sister-in-law, addressed a grand gathering of Union ministers, MPs, chief ministers and governors, saying: ‘It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that the needy for centuries, those who are away from the benefits of development, the poor, oppressed, backward and tribals see their reflection in me. This choice of mine includes the blessings of the poor in the country, a glimpse of the dreams and potential of millions of women and daughters in the country.
Murmu said, “It is the power of our democracy that a daughter born in a poor household, a daughter born in a remote tribal area, can reach the highest constitutional post in India. Reaching the post of President is not my personal achievement, it is achievement for all poor people in India My election is a proof that the poor people in India can dream and make them come true.
The 15th President said, ‘We have to work at a fast pace in this Amritkal to fulfill the expectations set by our freedom fighters for us citizens of independent India. In these 25 years, the path to the attainment of Amritkal will continue on two tracks – everyone’s effort and everyone’s duty. A new journey of development for India’s bright future, we must do it with everyone’s efforts as we walk on the path of duty.
On environmental conservation, Murmu said, “I was born in the tribal tradition which has carried on life in harmony with nature for thousands of years. I have realized the importance of forests and water bodies in my life. We take necessary resources from nature and serve nature with equal reverence.This sensitivity has become a global requirement today.
Draupadi Murmu is the first president born after India’s independence in 1947. Seeing him speak fluent Hindi, it is known that he is also outspoken and has a lot of confidence. During the presidential election campaign, some opposition leaders had remarked that Murmu could not speak, but her speech in Hindi belies such claims. He began his speech with ‘johar’, a traditional Santhali greeting similar to ‘namaskar’.
He concluded his speech by reciting a line from revered Odia saint and poet Bhima Bhoi: ‘Mo jiban pache narke padi thau, jagato uddha haiu’, which literally means: ‘Though my life may be in hell, I am for the welfare of the world. I want to work for.’ Draupadi Murmu in her speech talked about great fighters of India’s freedom struggle like Gandhi, Netaji, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad on one side and Rani Lakshmibai, Rani Velu Nachiyar, Rani Gaidinliu and Rani Gaidinliu . The other remembers women personalities like Chennamma.
The election of Draupadi Murmu as the President of India has sent a clear message to the poor, downtrodden and tribal people that they too can fulfill their dreams in our vibrant republic. This is a sign of the strength of India’s democracy and also a proud moment for every Indian. (Rajat Sharma)
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