President meets underpriviledged children over lunch

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New Delhi, Jul 24 (UNI) In a rare gesture, President Pratibha Patil today invited over 100 children from underpriviledged sections of the society over luncheon at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The children were from various organisations like the Nehru Bal Vikas Samiti, Arya Anathalaya, Literacy India and Bachchiyon ka Ghar. They first assembled in the majestic Ashoka Hall and were later taken to the banquet hall for lunch.

Addressing them, the President, who completes a year in office today, stressed the need to take education seriously so that they could fulfil their dreams. ''Children are the wealth of our nation and we need to nurture them and give them opportunities to bloom.

In their hands lies the future of our country,'' she said.

She also urged them to inculcate good values as education without values was of no use. Citing instances of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, she said these personalities have even made their mark across the world. ''Far away in Latin America, where I had gone on a visit, I could see how Gandhiji, Nehruji and Rabindranathji had influenced the people,'' she said.

Ms Patil also took questions from the children, ranging from queries about her vision of India and the role women could play in the country's development.

She said as women comprised 51 per cent of the population, India's development would not be possible without their well-being. ''We need to empower them with education, opportunities and strength to stand on their own feet,'' she said.

Later, the children were taken to the banquet hall for lunch.

The walls of the hall adorn with life-size portraits of former Presidents including that of the last incumbent Dr A P J Kalam.

Eight children shared a table with the President, who chatted with them freely.

''The President asked me what I wanted to become when I grew big and I told her I wanted to be a mediaperson, a TV anchor to be specific. I said though I come from a poor family, I articulate well. The President then said I should be determined and pursue my goal in earnest,'' said Saurabh Pawar, a teenager.

Reshma, a Class VIII student of Jama Masjid area said Ms Patil asked them about their families and their ambition in life. ''I told her I wanted to become a doctor.'' They said it was a memorable experience and enjoyed their lunch which was a lavish spread of goan fish curry, butter chicken, paneer pasanda, and lauki ka kofta. ''But my favourite was the mango ice-cream and gulab jamuns,'' said Sophiya of Bachchiyon Ke Ghar.

The children were also taken on a tour of the President's House and the Mughal Gardens.

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