His Excellency Prof. Ganeshi Lal, Governor of Odisha; Prof. Deepak Behera, Vice Chancellor; members of the Senate, Syndicate and Academic Council; members of faculty and staff; distinguished guests, parents and my dear students,
At the outset, I thank Prof. Behera and his team for inviting me to the thirtieth convocation of Sambalpur University. I am delighted to be amongst all of you today at Jyoti Vihar, in the midst of lush green woodlands and calming serenity.
Your university is truly nestled in our country’s history and heritage. The presiding Goddess of the area, Ma Samaleshwari is not very far from here. This is also the land of Veer Surendra Sai, who had stood up against colonial rule much before even the 1857 War of Independence. The Hirakud Dam located nearby, in turn, represents the building of modern India.
Your university also holds great significance to me personally, as all three university examinations leading to my graduation were under its aegis. Interestingly, I was amongst the first batch of students whose results the university published after coming into existence. I have very fond memories of those early days!
My dear students, so many of you have received undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees, awards and medals today. I congratulate each and every one of you. This is an important milestone in your life, which you must cherish and celebrate. At the same time, however, you must look to the future, to the accomplishment of many more such milestones, building further on this foundational one.
Many of you will be leaving the university on completion of your course. When you do so, you take with you much more than your marks or degrees. You take with you years of learning. I am sure, you learnt as much outside your classrooms as you did inside. Interactions with your teachers, non-teaching staff, your peers, and even guests would have left lasting impressions. Cherish these interactions and bonds.
Also remember, what you have achieved today is an outcome of not just your own efforts, but also of the contributions of your parents, teachers and the countless more around you. Each one has played a role in your success. You must acknowledge their contributions. Always remember that no person is successful just by herself or himself.
Today, as you step into a new phase in your life, you enjoy immense possibilities and opportunities. The nation is witnessing a new sense of dynamism and awakening.
Innumerable initiatives are being taken in line with our Prime Minister’s vision of a New India! On the economic front in particular, he has set a goal of becoming a five trillion dollar economy by 2024. While this is an ambitious aspiration, we are on track and fully committed to the same.
Our economic fundamentals are strong. During the period 2014 to 2019, our annual average GDP growth of 7.5 percent was the highest since Independence. It was also the highest among the G20 countries. Macro-economic stability during the last five years has been the bedrock on which various reforms have been rolled out. We have kept inflation low, fiscal spending disciplined, and current account deficit under control. If we compare the two periods 2009-14 and 2014-19, inflation has decreased from 10.3 percent to 4.5 percent, fiscal deficit from 5.3 percent to 3.4 percent of GDP, and current account deficit from 3.3 percent to 1.4 percent of GDP.
Several fundamental, path-breaking reforms have been undertaken. Introduction of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code in 2016 was a landmark step towards cleaning up and strengthening the financial system of the country. No one would have imagined 4 or 5 years ago, that even large corporates would be held accountable if they tried to play the system, that they would lose their assets if they did not pay back their loans. Implementation of the Goods and Services Tax in 2017 also stands out as a critical measure for unifying India economically as one common market. This supports high economic growth, while bringing in transparency and improving the ease of doing business. Continuous opening up and liberalisation of foreign direct investment has resulted in unprecedented inflows of FDI into the country.
The list of initiatives taken to bring about social development and equity is equally impressive, if not more. These include landmark programs such as Ayushman Bharat to ensure access of the poor to health services; PM-KISAN for income support to farmers; and a new education policy for overhauling our educational system.
In recent months India has witnessed a slow-down in GDP. It is important to understand the various factors feeding into the same, especially cyclical ones. There is a slow-down in global growth of output. Intensive efforts to bring about transparency, prevent leakages and improve governance would have also caused some transitory disruptions. The strong corrective action of the past 5 years, of emphasising on rule of law and formalisation of the economy, are bound to have a short-term drag effect.
Nevertheless, the government is alert and active. A number of measures have been taken to reform and rejuvenate the financial sector and the real economy. Landmark steps to increase productivity of the factors of production such as land, labour and capital are also being worked out. On the whole, given the strong fundamentals, landmark clean-up drive and ambitious reform agenda initiated, India is set to grow at a much faster pace in the coming months and years. Immense economic opportunities are unfolding for all of you.
Game-changers such as the smartphone revolution, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, augmented reality, 3D printing, robotics and blockchain technology, are fundamentally transforming our world and the way we engage in it. The changes are taking place at an unprecedented pace every day. From the way we communicate and connect with one another, to the way we move from one place to another, the way we send and receive money or the way we even get our food. There is disruption everywhere! It is a different world, if one compares it with what it was even a decade ago, forget when we were in university.
These opportunities pose many challenges as well. Unless we are able to keep abreast of the changes, learn new things and compete with others, we will fall behind. This is the challenge that all of you need to keep up with. Our age-old scriptures had envisioned the value of knowledge and continuous learning. These are even more relevant in today’s fast-changing technology-driven world.
The great sage Bhartrihari spelt out the importance of knowledge, saying:
विद्या नाम नरस्य रूपमधिकं प्रच्छन्नगुप्तं धनम्
विद्या भोगकरी यशः सुखकरी विद्या गुरूणां गुरुः ।
विद्या बन्धुजनो विदेशगमने विद्या परं दैवतम्
विद्या राजसु पूज्यते न हि धनं विद्याविहीनः पशुः ॥
Bhartrihari explains how Knowledge is what enhances an individual. It is that secret wealth which no one can take. It gives us happiness and glory, it is the teacher of all teachers, and it is our friend in foreign lands. Knowledge is the supreme divinity, worshipped by Kings (Leaders) more than material wealth. One without knowledge is nothing but an animal.
Furthermore, this knowledge is not an end in itself, it leads to even deeper qualities and values. An elegant shlok from Hitopadesha captures this beautifully:
विद्या ददाति विनयं विनयाद् याति पात्रताम्।
पात्रत्वाद् धनमाप्नोति धनाद्धर्मं ततः सुखम्॥
Which means “Knowledge makes one humble, humility begets worthiness, worthiness creates wealth, enrichment leads to right conduct, and right conduct brings contentment.”
Thus, it is important to keep in mind the ancient lesson from the Subhashitani:
विद्या विवादाय धनं मदाय शक्तिः परेषां परिपीडनाय ।
खलस्य साधोर्विपरीतमेतत् ज्ञानाय दानाय च रक्षणाय ॥
For crooked people ‘Knowledge’ is meant for arguments, ‘Wealth’ is meant for ego and ‘Power’ is meant to trouble others. The opposite is true in the case of noble persons, for whom ‘Knowledge’ is meant for Wisdom, ‘Wealth’ is meant for Giving and ‘Power’ is meant for Protecting the weak.
A few days ago, the nation celebrated Constitution Day on 26th November 2019. Various programmes are lined up for the next four months, up to April 2020. The theme this year is the concept of Fundamental Duties as enshrined in our Constitution. We always think of our rights. There is a need to create awareness about our duties and responsibilities.
Gandhi ji had said that “If we all discharge our duties, rights will not be far to seek. If leaving duties unperformed we run after rights, they will escape us like a will-o’-the-wisp”. He had in fact in 1947 even declined the then UNESCO Director-General, Julian Huxley’s request to contribute an essay on Human Rights, saying: “I learnt from my illiterate but wise mother that all rights to be deserved and preserved came from duty well done. Thus, the very right to live accrues to us only when we do the duty of citizenship of the world.”
Friends, what can be a greater tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary, than to remind ourselves of this fundamental lesson of his, making us conscious of our Duties. The duty we have to our fellow beings, to our society, to the world at large and to the generations to come. To the environment and our planet as a whole. This understanding itself has the power to be the seed from which can sprout the transformative change, the world has always looked forward to from the fountainhead of India, Vishwa Guru Bharat.
To start this off, can I make an appeal to all of you, to students and teachers alike. Furthering this principle of ‘Duty’, can Sambalpur University build up for itself a vision for 2022 and 2047, as Independent India turns 75 and 100 respectively? A vision of what its duties will be, what it will aspire to give and contribute!
Dear students, in conclusion let me summarize what I have just told you. As you received your degrees and medals today, be proud of what you have accomplished. At the same time, be grateful to the countless people who have made it possible for you to do so.
You have been equipped with knowledge, ideas and connections. This is the greatest gift there can ever be. However, always remember the immemorial lesson from Hitopadesha that true knowledge makes one humble, and that humility leads to enrichment and contentment. Further, Vidur Niti, says that Knowledge has no meaning without Duty, and Duty has no meaning without Purpose:
असम्यगुपयुक्तं हि ज्ञानं सुकुशलैरपि ।
उपलभ्यं चाविदितं विदितं चाननुष्ठितम् ॥
You are entering a new phase in your life, as we move towards the building of a New India. An India of peace, progress and prosperity, for one and all. You will have unprecedented opportunities. In all of this, never forget your Duty, your Dharma. This is fundamental to our heritage and our values. It is what makes us who we are, and is more relevant today than ever before.
Also keep in mind that you are entering a world which is ever changing and fast shrinking. What you learn today will become obsolete tomorrow. And what you do today, somebody else in some other part of the world will do better tomorrow. So, you must keep learning, keep growing, and keep pushing the frontiers of knowledge!
I once again congratulate all of you, and wish you a very happy and a prosperous New Year 2020.