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July 25, 2007

India's first woman president sworn in
India's first woman president Pratibha Patil was sworn into office on July 25, promising to fight for the rights of women and calling for an end to the widespread practice of aborting female fetuses, AFP reported.

Patil, 72, also vowed to work for the poor and said India's blistering economic growth of over nine per cent needed to be more inclusive.

"A developing country of over a billion people should live together and move forward together," Patil said in a speech after taking the oath as India's first woman head of state in the nation's six decades of independence.

"India stands at the threshold of a new era of progress, and it should be a combined endeavour. We must ensure that every section of society are equal partners in the development process," she said.

"Our combined endeavour should be to ensure that the rate of economic growth is sustained and it is socially inclusive," she said.

Patil was elected by federal and state legislators last week to succeed missile scientist Abdul Kalam after a bruising political campaign.

Under India's constitution, the prime minister wields executive power but the president plays a role in forming governments at state and federal levels, making the post hotly contested in India's fractured political landscape.

"We must banish malnutrition, female foeticide," said Patil, who was dressed in a white sari with a green border. "We must fight poverty, ignorance and disease."

"I am deeply committed to the cause of education... the empowerment of women is particularly important to me," she added in the speech to parliament.

After the ceremony, Patil was driven in a black limousine accompanied by horse-mounted presidential bodyguards to the presidential palace, where she was given a 21-gun salute. AFP

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