President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the idea of secularism has to be further strengthened in the minds of the country&’s youth to build a harmonious society.

In his New Year message to institutes of higher learning and civil service academies, the president said the society must inculcate in youths the “spirit of democratic behaviour.”

“The idea of secularism has to be further strengthened in the minds of the young ones to build a harmonious society,” he said.

The president also laid stress on the importance of gender equality.

“Unless women participate on equal terms in process of nation-building, all efforts will remain incomplete… The spirit of reverence towards women must guide social conduct of an individual from an early age,” he said.

Mukherjee further asked the institutions to “create enough opportunities” to meet the ambitions of an aspirational India.

“The higher academic institutions have a clear role to play in refining the entrepreneurial abilities of their students. Teaching entrepreneurial studies as a course in our institutes will be a good beginning. A facilitative and supportive environment for free play of all creative forces has to be created.

“Nation which the youth have to build has to be an India which will ensure a decent & fulfilling life to all its citizens… Educational and civil services institutions should inculcate in their students & trainees a sense of social responsibility,” he said.

The president concluded with a unique suggestion of students teaching in government schools as well as finding solutions for problems faced by rural folks.

“Assign students to teach in nearby government schools for at least one hour per month. Deploy them to undertake community-based projects to uplift the condition of people in the vicinity. Assign them to identify problems of villages and work on innovative solutions," the president said.