President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday asked Governors to “help in the shaping of a road map for the betterment of lives of our fellow citizens”, especially Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who have not benefited as much as expected from the country’s development journey.

Inaugurating the two-day 49th Governors’ conference here, the President said the Constitution gives the Governors “an exalted place in the scheme of governance”, and they are to work as “mentor and guide” to the state governments while being an important link in the federal structure.

He said the Centre had initiated several programmes for the benefit of disadvantaged people, while 115 “aspirational districts” had committed themselves to speedy development.

The country has 100 million tribal population. The Governors should take note of these facts, and guide “a spectrum of stakeholders” in their efforts to work for the welfare of the poor, including farmers and young people, he said.

Referring to the commemorative functions on the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, President Kovind told the Governors to remember Gandhiji’s talisman, and while judging “the efficacy of any action we contemplate, we should ask ourselves if it would be of help to the weakest, poorest and most disadvantaged person we know”.

Outlining an agenda for the Governors, the President Kovind said, “India is blessed with the largest youth population in the world. As Governors, you are guardians of our youth – in the sense that you can inspire young people to absorb the right moral values and you can motivate them to both pursue modern education and remain sensitive to our Indian ethos.”

He said 69 per cent of all universities in the country come under the purview of state governments. About 94 per cent of students get enrolled for higher education study in these universities. “In your capacity as Chancellors of state universities, it is for you to provide the necessary impetus and inspiration to these institutions and to enhance the level of scholarship,” he said.

“As Governors of your states, it is for you to engage the youth and motivate them to use their academic achievements for the welfare of society and of our country. We need to strive collectively for a better life for our coming generations,” President Kovind said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also addressed the inaugural session of the Governors’ conclave at Rashtrapati Bhavan. “The Prime Minister spoke at length about how Governors could leverage their experience in different walks of life, so that people derive maximum benefit of various central development schemes and initiatives. He said the institution of Governor has a pivotal role to play within the federal structure and Constitutional framework of our country,” a PMO statement quoting PM Modi said.

The PM also suggested that Governors should visit some of the recently-electrified villages “to witness first-hand the benefits of electrification”.

He said Governors in states with a large population of tribal communities could also help ensure that benefits of government initiatives in the field of education, sports and financial inclusion reach them.