New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday celebrated his 79th birthday by inaugurating several public service projects and adding new chapters to his dream project of opening the portals of Rashtrapati Bhavan for the public.
Mukherjee, who cut two birthday cakes, one with a group of elderly and another with specially-abled children inside the President's Estate, dedicated and unveiled a trove of 113 fine paintings, unseen till now, and they will be available for public viewing on the official website of the Bhavan.
"I am an old man...Let elder people have it (cake)," he said when the gathering rang out the birthday song for him while he cut the cake during the community initiative 'Samagam' for senior citizens.
Subsequently, the President also gave away health cards to some of the residents of the President's Estate aged 60, as part of this initiative.
The day began with Vice President Hamid Ansari being the first visitor to wish the President on his birthday, followed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and present Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In the afternoon, 79-year-old Mukherjee was wished by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and later by the three service chiefs.
Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, who presented a bouquet to the President, said Mukherjee "continues to guide all of us."
As part of his desire and idea to make the Rashtrapati Bhavan people-friendly, a set of classic art pieces, which have been kept hidden inside the iconic address of the country, was also unveiled by the President.
This includes a painting by famous Polish artist Feliks Topolski, which uncannily foreshadows Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. Other renowned paintings have also been chronicled under an electronic art catalogue titled 'Art Heritage of Rashtrapati Bhavan'.
Also, among the exhibits is the arm-chairs used by first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad.
The President also launched an educational programme with an aim to inculcate the understanding of financial literacy, a subject close to him, as he had faced challenges emerging out of these issues in his earlier role of Union Finance Minister.
Young students of the Dr Rajendra Prasad School inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan premises will be trained in financial literacy and related subjects using dummy banking and literacy classes conducted by the SBI.
The National Payment Corporation of India has also created a financial library in the same premises which will act as a repository of knowledge and references on these subjects.
Mukherjee laid the foundation stone for a new housing
complex for employees and residents of this grand estate atop Raisina Hills and also flagged off a cycle team aimed at promoting environmental awareness.
As part of the second-leg of these events, the President will tomorrow inaugurate a new 2,200 sqm ceremonial hall, an extended part of the integrated Rashtrapati Bhavan cultural centre housing an art gallery, multi-purpose halls and auditorium.
The hall will host the 'At Home' receptions and 'Guards of Honour' for visiting foreign dignitaries in case of inclement weather when these ceremonies cannot be held in the open.