Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Monday said though the country has made significant strides of progress on the economic and technological front, increasing cases of discrimination based on caste, community and gender are still a cause for great concern.
Ending caste discrimination was the need of the hour, he added.
The caste system in the country is a "vicious cycle" and India of the future must be "caste-less and classless", he said here inaugurating the 87th Sivagiri Pilgrimage Meet at Sivagiri Mutt, located over 45 km away from the state capital.
He urged religious heads of churches, mosques and temples to work towards eradicating discrimination on the basis of caste.
Naidu said Sree Narayana Guru, founder of the Mutt, was a great saint and revolutionary humanist who had boldly rejected the caste system and all other divisive tendencies that turn people against each other.
"Though India has made significant strides of progress on the economic and technological front, I fear that there are pockets in the nation where social evils persist," he said.
"We live in times of turbulence. Increasing cases of discrimination based on caste, community and gender are a cause for great concern. It is time for us to retrospect and take pragmatic steps," the Vice President said.
Stating that the country should be a safe space for diversity and dissent to thrive in, he said the notion of the 'other' should be dispelled.
"The nation we aim to build must have a place for everyone to reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives by providing equal opportunities to one and all," he said.
Though the Constitution has already criminalised the abhorrent and inhuman practise of untouchability and the government can make laws in this regard, the implementation of these laws in "letter and spirit" depends a great deal on the mind-set of the society.
"The movement to dispel the caste system must come within the heart and mind of society. It must be an intellectual revolution, a compassionate revolution, a humanitarian revolution," he said.
Hailing Guru's life and teachings, Naidu said coming to Sivagiri Mutt has been a deeply spiritual experience for him.
"Sree Narayana Guru was a great saint, social reformer, philosopher and revolutionary humanist. His life and teachings have crossed the borders of our country and have touched lives and inspired people all across the world," he said.
The Vice President noted that Guru's teachings are of significant contemporary relevance, especially in the context of our efforts to promote social justice.
Though Guru was a Hindu by birth, he was not biased towards any religion and "respected and treated all religions equally."
The Guru boldly rejected the caste system and all other divisive tendencies that turn people against each other, Naidu added.
On the annual Sivagiri pilgrimage, he said the increasing number of pilgrims, year after year is a clear indication that Sivagiri has become the supreme centre of worship for followers of Guru, the personification of the synthesis of all religions.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Union minister V Muraleedharan, former chief minister Oommen Chandy and state minister Kadakampally Surendran were among those who participated.