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Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s address at 57th Annual Convocation of IIT Kharagpur

Monday, August 22, 2011
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Kharagpur: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh addressed the 57th Annual Convocation and Launching of Diamond Jubilee of IIT, Kharagpur today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister's speech on the occasion.

My greetings to the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur - the oldest, the largest and the most diversified of our IITs, on its Diamond Jubilee. I am happy to be amongst you to address the 57th Annual Convocation of the Institute. The IIT system which we are so proud of blossomed here in Kharagpur.

It was almost sixty years ago on the 18th of August 1951 that Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, while opening the IIT at Kharagpur, visualized an institution that would be on par with the world's best technological institutions, particularly the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The founders of the IITs were clear in their aims. The institutes were being set up not only to produce the country's best engineers but also to produce leaders who would build modern India.

While laying the foundation stone of the majestic main building and addressing the first Convocation of the Institute in 1956, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said and I quote "……Here in the place of that Hijli Detention Camp stands this fine monument of India today representing India's urges, India's future in the making. This picture seems to me symbolical of the changes that are coming to India….."

I deem it a privilege to be here with you on this momentous occasion celebrating the achievements of an institution created by the vision of the founders of our republic. I venture to say that the IITs have redeemed in great measure the high expectations they had from these temples of learning and excellence.

After independence, IIT Kharagpur played a pioneering role in developing technical education in the country to meet the needs of national reconstruction and development. The Institute introduced many unique engineering programmes such as Agricultural Engineering, Naval Architecture, Mining, Aeronautical Engineering, Architecture and Regional Planning in the early years. The Institute has the distinction of introducing B.Tech Programmes in the areas of Computer Science, Energy, Manufacturing, Industrial Engineering, Biotechnology and Entrepreneurship among others for the first time in the country. Among the IITs, Kharagpur is also the first to have a Business School, a School on Intellectual Property Law and a School of Medical Science and Technology.

I congratulate all those who have worked to build and nurture this outstanding Institution. In recognition of the good work that has been done and the ambitious agenda ahead, I am happy that the Government of India has provided for a special grant of Rs.200 crores in this year's budget for the development of IIT Kharagpur.

I am happy that IIT Kharagpur alumni are also among the largest donors to the Institute. I commend and congratulate them for returning the debt of obligation they owe to the Institute that made them what they are today. One hears that many IITians are returning home from the US and elsewhere. If the IITs are to get plugged into the global technology chain, we must think imaginatively how to attract this rich pool of talent back to their alma maters.

Today IIT engineers are in positions of influence in universities, governments and corporations around the world. IITians have been the spearhead behind the transformation of India from a brick and mortar economy to a knowledge economy.

But a new century is upon us. New challenges beckon. New opportunities present themselves. Staying connected with a changing India is essential if the IIT system is to continue to flourish and prosper in the 21st century.

The Indian economy has gone through an agricultural revolution, a manufacturing revolution and an information technology revolution. But none of these sectors individually can be a panacea for the problems of such a large and diversified economy as India's. Each of these sectors has to develop and grow together.

We need to develop the soft skills necessary to multiply output and productivity from our huge intellectual and physical resources. We need managerial and technical software to power the next generation of growth and development in each sector of the economy. This can only happen if we are able to fire the creative and innovative instincts of our engineers, managers, teachers, farmers and bureaucrats. We have to usher in a soft revolution in our academic, business and administrative culture.

India has declared the current decade as the "Decade of Innovation". We have to change the way we work; think differently about how to solve problems and constantly seek to be at the top of the scientific and technological curve that defines the pathway of modern civilisation.

We must find technical and scientific solutions to the complex problems that confront our society - whether it is rapid urbanisation, climate change or energy security. Our scientific and entrepreneurial energies should be channeled to spark the second Green Revolution, find new pathways for sustainable growth and living and make green growth a profitable business proposition.

Our scientists and engineers have shown that, given the right conditions, they are capable of being the best and producing the best whether in India or abroad.

The Anil Kakodkar Committee on the functioning of the IIT system has made a number of important recommendations. The Committee noted that the number of PhDs that come out annually from the IITs is very small in comparison to similar technology institutions in the USA and China. The Committee therefore emphasized the importance of technology and innovation linked to advanced research. It suggests that the IITs take on the challenge of creating an advanced research based innovation eco-system with the involvement of industry and national technology related programmes.

The key words should be excellence, flexibility, high quality infrastructure and a system of strong incentives. It is only with a strong nurturing environment that the IITs will attract top class faculty and researchers. High quality talent is essential if the IITs are to make the kind of impact on India's development process that they can and should. The recommendations of the Anil Kakodkar Committee will soon be considered by the Council of the IITs and then by the Government of India.

The industrial renaissance of Eastern India and Bengal should start from this soil that has sowed in the past such riches of knowledge and culture.

IIT Kharagpur can provide a fertile breeding ground to drive innovation by creating a strong R&D environment and entrepreneurial support systems.

There is abundant land. If a Science Park can be created with all the requisite infrastructure, industries can locate their R&D units here. The units can work in close collaboration with the faculty and students. This synergy of talent and enterprise will inevitably create globally competitive products, processes and technologies.

Your institute has pioneered a capability in agricultural engineering, an area of profound importance for the Indian economy. The Agriculture and Food Engineering department is unique in being located in an IIT where it has the tools and resources to develop multi-disciplinary approaches to teaching and research. The research capabilities of the department should be expanded manifold and its vision should expand to aim not just to produce quality agricultural engineers but to become a technological hub of innovation and advance in agricultural sciences.

The School of Medical Science and Technology at IIT Kharagpur has done good work in Medical Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering. It has sought to produce a new breed of doctors who are highly technology savvy, skilled in e-health monitoring, e-medical recording, tele-diagnostics, tele-surgery and tele-medicine.

I understand that IIT Kharagpur is proposing to establish an Institute of Medical Science and Research which would be named after a great visionary, an outstanding doctor and the first Chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT Kharagpur, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. This innovative model will integrate the two diverse disciplines of engineering and medicine and signal new directions in medical education and healthcare delivery.

On this day, I convey my heartfelt felicitations to all degree recipients and award winners. To them I say that an IIT degree opens the door to a career path that can take you as far and as high as you can dream. And it is important to dream. Whether it is international politics or the economy, what seemed impossible only a decade or two ago is today the norm. These momentous changes happened because men and women of vision and determination, some as young as yourselves, dreamt of the impossible.

Dear graduates, As all of you seek your fortunes in the world, I urge you not to lose the zest for learning that brought you through these portals in the first place. I urge you never to forget what this great institution has taught you – the curiosity to learn; the skills to understand and finally, the techniques to apply your knowledge for social good.

India is poised to play a leading role in shaping this new century as an era of peace, prosperity, innovation and growth. The nation looks to the IITs and IITians to play a commensurate role in this endeavour. And if all of you gathered here today remember what you see in the logo of the Institute – Yoga Karma Sukoushalam – I am confident that you will.

Finally, I join everyone present in wishing the graduates and award winners every success in life and in their efforts to build a vibrant India and a better world.

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