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NEW DELHI : Droupadi Murmu in her maiden address to the nation as its 15th president spoke of her humble beginnings as a Santhal tribal, born in a small village in Odisha.

“From the background that I come from, it was like a dream for me to get even elementary education," said Murmu, who was born in Uperbeda village in Mayurbhanj district .

By any reckoning, it was a watershed moment in India’s history when the 64-year-old Murmu took the stage for her swearing in—and began with the Santhal greeting: “Johar".

“I belong to tribal society," she said. “I have got the opportunity to rise from serving as a ward councillor to becoming the President of India. This is the greatness of India, the mother of democracy," she said, adding that she feels pride to lead “such a progressive India".

“The poor in India can not only dream, but also fulfil those dreams."

Speaking in the 75th year of India’s Independence, Murmu reminded the nation of the role played by tribals in India’s freedom struggle.

“From the Santhal revolution, Paika revolution to Kol revolution and Bhil revolution, all these revolutions had strengthened the tribal contribution in the freedom struggle."

Murmu was elected President last week to succeed Ram Nath Kovind. She was a member of Bharatiya Janata Party and a minister in Odisha. From 2015-2021, she was also the governor of Jharkhand.

Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “The entire nation watched with pride as Smt. Droupadi Murmu Ji took oath as the President of India. Her assuming the Presidency is a watershed moment for India especially for the poor, marginalised and downtrodden. I wish her the very best for a fruitful Presidential tenure."

Santhals are the third largest tribal community in India with a population of about six million.

The community is largely spread across Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.

In her speech, Murmu noted that in its 75 years of parliamentary democracy, India has carried forward the resolve of progress through “participation and consensus". The president stressed on a range of issues, including the need for collective efforts and duties of citizens.

“In our country full of diversities, we are engaged in the making of ‘Ek Bharat—Shreshtha Bharat’ by adopting many languages, religions, sects, food habits, lifestyles and customs," she said.

She noted that India’s journey to the 100th year of Independence will be based on two paths, “Sabka Prayas aur Sabka Kartavya"—everyone’s effort and everyone’s duty.

Calling on women to take part in India’s growth, President Murmu said that in the past few years, a new energy has been infused in the country due to the decisions taken and policies formulated for women empowerment.

“I want all our sisters and daughters to be empowered more and more so that they continue to increase their contribution in every field of nation building," she said.

President Murmu observed that next 25 years will be a period of new resolution for India and hailed the people and the healthcare sector for the resilience amid the pandemic.

“Today I see my country inspired and ready to welcome this new era with new thinking. Today India is adding a new chapter of development in every field. The kind of capability that India has shown in combating the global crisis of corona pandemic has enhanced India’s credibility all over the world,“ she said.

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