Addressing the 45th convocation ceremony of the state-run Utkal University at Odisha capital Bhubaneswar, the president said the recent increase in cases of brutal assault on women and children has shaken the collective conscience of the nation.
"These unfortunate incidents underscore the urgency for our society to pause and introspect at the erosion of values and our repeated failure to ensure safety and security of our women and children" he said.
"Such criminal depravity is a threat to the civilised functioning of society. We must identify its causes and find solutions to it. The society must ensure the dignity and respect for women," he added.
Mukherjee called upon those who educate and nurture the minds of the youth and those who wield moral authority in society to set this process in motion.
"Our universities and academic institutions must take a lead in imparting education which would help us meet the moral challenge of our times," he said.
"It must help us build a modern democracy based on values of human dignity and equality," he added.
The president, who arrived here Wednesday evening on his first visit to the state after assuming office, would visit the Jagannath temple at Puri, about 55 km from here, before leaving for New Delhi Thursday.