New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday called for making Indian economy a launching pad for the "second freedom struggle" to eradicate hunger, disease and poverty.
In his first address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day, he also said that inflation, particularly high food prices, remains a cause of worry and several gaps are yet to be bridged in this growth story, including in the areas of infrastructure and agriculture.
Mukherjee said there is a need to fast-track the creation of high quality infrastructure and to extend green revolution to across the country.
"Notwithstanding the tremendous pressure of an adverse external environment, our economy today is more resilient and confident. Yet there are several gaps that need to be bridged.
"Green revolution has to be extended to the eastern region of our country. Creation of high quality infrastructure has to be fast tracked. Education and health services have to reach the last man at the earliest. Much has been done, a lot more remains to be done," he said.
Mukherjee further said that "two decades of steady economic reforms have contributed to improvement in average income and consumption levels in both rural and urban areas.
"There is new found dynamism in some of the most backward areas, bringing them into national economic mainstream. If our economy has achieved critical mass, then it must become a launching pad for the next leap.
"We need a second freedom struggle; this time to ensure that India is free for ever from hunger, disease and poverty," Mukherjee said.
Recalling the earlier times of the Indian economy, Mukherjee said the average annual growth rate was just one per cent between 1900 and 1947.
However, a quantum leap forward has taken the current growth rate to over 8 per cent. "... today, despite two great international crises that rocked the world and some domestic dips, we have posted an average growth rate of more than 8 per cent over the last seven years," he said.
He said that leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru believed that "free India would become, by example, an alternative model for a post-colonial world through economic equity and a social revolution inspired by harmony between communities that had been misled into hostility".
"I am not a pessimist; for me, the glass is always half full, rather than half empty. I would go to the extent of saying that the glass of modern India is more than half full," he said, while lauding the country's working class, farmers, industrialists from private and public sector and politicians among others.
Shrugging off concerns that environment protection was coming in the way of economy's growth, Mukherjee said he did not believe that there was any inherent contradiction in protecting environment and economic development.
"As long as we heed Gandhiji's great lesson: there is sufficient in the world for man's need but not for man's greed, we are safe. We must learn to live in harmony with nature. "Nature cannot be consistent; we must be able to conserve her bounty during the many seasons of plenty so that we are not bereft during the occasional bout of scarcity," the President said.