New Delhi, Aug 14: Emphasising that the poor “cannot and will not wait for another generation” for betterment in their lives, President Pranab Mukherjee said Thursday that the focus of government’s policies needs to move from alleviation of poverty to elimination, which has a time-defined objective. In an address to the nation on the eve of the country’s 68th Independence Day, the president also said that though India’s economy has been subdued at below 5 percent in the last two years, he could “sense renewed vigour and optimism in the air”.

In his speech, his first under the Narendra Modi government, President Mukherjee stressed on a sound educational system, which he said must also inculcate “the core civilizational values of love for motherland; compassion for all; tolerance for pluralism; respect for women” and other values. The president said the “decisive challenge of our times is to end the curse of poverty. The focus of our policies now has to move from alleviation of poverty to elimination of poverty. The difference is not mere semantics: alleviation is a process; elimination is a time-defined objective”.

He remarked that while in the past six decades the ratio of poverty had declined from over 60 percent to less than 30 percent, “even then, nearly one-third of our population still lives below the poverty line. “Poverty is not a mere statistic. Poverty has a face, which becomes unbearable when it scars the visage of a child. The poor cannot, and will not, wait for yet another generation to see the very essentials of life – food, shelter, education and employment – being denied to them.

“The benefits from economic development must percolate down to the poorest of the poor,” he said. Touching on the nation’s economy, the president said in the past decade India’s economy grew at an average rate of 7.6 percent per year. “Though the growth rate was subdued at below 5 percent during the last two years, I sense renewed vigour and optimism in the air. Signs of revival are visible. Our external sector has strengthened. Fiscal consolidation measures are beginning to show results.”

He said that “notwithstanding occasional spurts”, inflation has started moderating; but food prices still remain a matter of serious concern”.  Touching on the positive points, he said, record food grains production last year helped the agriculture sector to grow at a healthy 4.7 percent. Employment has increased by an average of about 4 percent per year in the last decade. Manufacturing sector was on the rebound.

“The stage is now set for our economy to move on a high growth trajectory of 7 to 8 percent, which is essential to ensure the availability of adequate resources for equitable development.” While economy was the material part of development, “education is the essential part of it.  “A sound education system is the bedrock of an enlightened society. It is the bounden duty of our educational institutions to provide quality education and inculcate the core civilizational values of love for motherland; compassion for all; tolerance for pluralism; respect for women; performance of duty; honesty in life; self-restraint in conduct, responsibility in action and discipline in young minds.

“By the end of the 12th Five Year Plan, we would have achieved a literacy rate of 80 percent. But would we be able to say that we have provided quality education and skills to our children to be good citizens and successful professionals?” he asked.