New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee Thursday described Jawaharlal Nehru as "the jewel of India" and said "India is what it is today because of Nehru".
Delivering the 46th Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture here, the president said Nehru's service to India was immeasurable and his legacy continues to lead the country to new heights of achievement.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Jawaharlal Nehru
"He was one of the greatest figures of our times. Nehru had a clear vision of what modern India should look like and he set out to realise his dreams by establishing strong pillars which would support the young nation," he said.
"India is what it is today because of Nehru, his vision and his lifetime of dedication to the nation. Let us celebrate his legacy and draw inspiration from his life to take our nation towards greater and greater glory," he said.
The lecture was held a day before the birth anniversary of Nehru. Several events have been lined up to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Nehru, who was born in 1889.
Mukherjee also referred to criticism of Nehru in later years for having accorded primacy to the government in economic matters but said these policies must be seen in the context of his times.
"Capital formation in a society, exploited for 190 years, was a huge task which could not be left to the private sector alone. Planning helped allocate scarce resources in accordance with national priorities. The relative merit of a regulated economy was widely accepted those days."
He also referred to Nehru's role in setting up the Planning Commission, which is being scrapped by the Narendra Modi government.
Referring to the change of power in the general elections earlier this year, the Mars mission and the civil nuclear agreement with the US, the president said the disparate events have a common thread and illustrate "how Nehru's legacy is not just intact, but continues to lead modern day India to new heights of achievement".
"If India has become the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity, it is because of the multi-purpose projects, the public sector undertakings and institutions of higher learning established by Nehru as well as the systematic planning process initiated by him."
He said Nehru promoted scientific temper and built a chain of scientific research laboratories across the country.
The president, who was speaking on the topic "Jawaharlal Nehru and the Making of Modern India", also recalled Nehru's role in the freedom struggle.
Mukherjee said Nehru spent 3,262 days in jail during the freedom struggle with 1,040 days during the 1942 Quit India Movement as the longest spell.
He said Nehru penned the 1,200-page manuscript of "The Discovery of India" while under arrest in Ahmednagar Fort and it was written in flowing hand using rationed war time paper with no cut, blemish or correction.
"Nehru was prodigiously productive in terms of writing and thinking during his different periods in jail," Mukherjee said, and also referred to his book "Glimpses of World History".
He said Nehru did not use the excuse of the partition of India and the consequent communal violence or influx of refugees to postpone elections and treated parliament with great respect.
He said it was because of Nehru's consistent efforts that India established itself as a secular state.
Nehru's policy of non-alignment did not mean equidistant or isolationism but independence of judgment and action.
Mukherjee said democracy has struck deep roots in India thanks to Nehru's stewardship of the nation in its early years.
"Every one of our institutions from the independent judiciary and free press to the legislatures and the Election Commission bear the hallmark of Nehru."
"Looking ahead, we must renew afresh the imperative of protecting and strengthening our democratic institutions and practices. Imperfect they may be, but they represent the best way forward for our nation as we forge ahead into the 21st century," he said.