Vice President Addresses 34th Convocation of Gandhigram Rural Institute

New Delhi: The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has said that Mahatma Gandhi’s thoughts are of eternal value and would be relevant irrespective of the times. He was addressing the 34th Convocation of the Gandhigram Rural Institute in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu today.

The Vice President asked teachers, doctors, engineers and other professionals to take pride and prestige in serving in rural areas. Adding that serving in rural areas would help them understand the hardships of people, he urged people to develop an undying fascination for rural service.

The Vice President argued in favour of providing basic amenities in rural areas on par with urban areas. He insisted that one cannot be denied basic amenities just because he or she is living in a remote area. Our governance and administration should be developed in such a way that the last person living in remotest part of the country should have access to services.

The Vice President asked the younger generation to be as progressive as the older generation was dogmatic. He expressed hope that the youth of the country would make Gandhiji’s dream of a ‘castless, classless’ society a reality. He warned that it would be an uphill struggle but reassured the students and faculty that the end result would justify the hardships.

The Vice President said that we as a nation could pay tribute to the father of our nation only by eliminating the evils in society such as poverty, untouchability, hidden hunger and by achieving cleanliness. “It is our duty to see that the gap between the rural and urban areas is bridged at the earliest”, he added.

The Vice President said that one cannot think of rural development and community development without talking of the Mahatma and revisiting his vision for India. He lived with people, understood their suffering and came out with mottos to lead a clean and peaceful life, he added.

If the dream of inclusive development has to be realized, we cannot ignore the development gap between urban and rural areas, the Vice President said. He lamented that unequal access to basic facilities, like education, health, drinking water, sanitation, transportation, markets and economic opportunities has created a great divide between the rural and urban areas.

The Vice President presented degrees to students on this occasion. He also conferred Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) upon Smt. Krishnammal Jagannathan for her lifelong contribution to social justice and sustainable human development and Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) upon Dr. R. Kausalya Devi for her work in the field of medicine and social service in rural India.

The Minister for Forests, Tamil Nadu, Shri Dindigul C. Sreenivasan, the Chancellor, Gandhigram Rural Institute, Dr. K.M. Annamalai and other dignitaries were present on the occasion. More than 500 students, faculty members, parents of graduating students and other well wishers also bore witness to the convocation ceremony.

Following is the text of Vice President’s address:

” I am glad to have this opportunity to address you at the 34th Convocation of the Gandhigram Rural Institute, an institute that has carved a niche for itself in the higher education system of our country.

Thanks to the visionary leadership of the the founders, Dr. G. Ramachandran and Dr. T.S. Soundaram Ramachandran, Gandhigram Rural Institute (GRI) has emerged as a leading centre of education for rural development encompassing within its ambit aspects like rural development, agriculture, cooperation, health, sanitation and village industries.

I am well aware of the good work being done by this Institute. Though 11 Rural Institutes were set up by Government of India way back in 1956 for giving impetus to the implementation of Community Development Programme in India, the Gandhigram Rural Institute alone evolved into a deemed to be University in 1976 and continues to reflect the spirit of national development ethos.

Sisters and brothers,

I am blessed to be in this place sanctified by the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi on 7th October 1947 with a powerful message “Success Attends where Truth Reigns”.

I am happy to be here with all of you in this auspicious year when we are starting the commemoration of Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary.

We cannot think of rural development and community development without talking of Mahatma and recollecting his vision of India. For him, “To serve our villages is to establish Swaraj. Everything else is but an idle dream. …Exploitation of villages is itself an organized violence. If we want Swaraj to be built on non-violence, we will have to give the villages their proper place”.

If the dream of inclusive development has to be realized, we can hardly ignore the development gap between urban and rural areas. Unequal access to basic facilities, like education, health, drinking water, sanitation, transportation, markets and economic opportunities has created a divide between the rural and urban areas.

Successive governments since independence have made consistent efforts to bridge this gap but there is still a huge unfinished agenda.

Education is a significant catalyst for growth and progress on other dimensions of development. No country has made sustainable progress without improving the quality of education.

This aspect of our national development strategy assumes a greater significance today more than ever before, because nearly 65% of our population is below the age of 35 years.

This demographic ‘statistic’ has to be converted into a ‘dividend’. This can be done only by revamping our education systems to ensure our young children and adults acquire the competencies and skills required for the knowledge economy and the interconnected world of the 21st century.

We have to bridge the rural-urban divide and also the other divides that still challenge us.

Institutions like Gandhigram, which have been established with the objective of providing good quality education to rural children and youth have a crucial role in this regard.

True patriotism lies in ensuring that all children get good education among other essential public goods. As Gandhiji had said, “Love requires that true education should be easily accessible to all and should be of use to every villager in this daily life. “

I have been witnessing the growth of this unique institution from the time I served as the Union Minister for Rural Development. I am glad that during the past six decades of existence of this Institute, our villages in and around Tamil Nadu, especially in this southern region of the country, have made notable progress in many areas of rural economic activity and social equity.

I am happy to learn that the efforts of Gandhigram Rural Institute, especially its educational initiatives for pre-school children, out of school children, remedial training and adult literacy have made a big difference in the educational landscape of this region.

Your integrated approach and outreach efforts have been quite laudable.

You have successfully integrated health in the training, awareness activities and health camps. Your focus on women empowerment through education and training, capacity building, awareness activities and facilitation of self-help groups is a step in the right direction. So also are your skill development programmes.

With agriculture continuing to be the mainstay of rural populations, you have quite justifiably given maximum attention to agriculture programmes.

I am sure you will continue these activities with greater vigour and sense of urgency because the country has set for itself a very ambitious goal of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022.

Education leads to empowerment both social and economic. We should aim at a holistic view of education that Indian thinkers have been advocating for a long time.

It is good to remind ourselves what Gandhiji had to say on how we should move away from a narrow definition of education and how we should broad base it.

It is also note worthy that Gandhiji wanted the gender discrimination also to end and that equal attention should be given to girls’ education as much as we give to education of boys.

He said, “The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. The girls, we say, do not have to earn; so why should they be educated? As long as such ideas persist there is no hope of our ever knowing the true value of education.”

Dear sisters and brothers,

I am delighted that Gandhigram is awarding degrees to successful candidates today and so many bright young students are moving on to higher education or entering the world of work.

Both the world of education and the world of work are changing very rapidly across the world.

Knowledge and skills are becoming the key markers of development.

India cannot afford to lose the opportunity to capitalize on the demographic advantage. Universities must reinvent themselves significantly to lead the change process.

Mediocrity should be shunned. We cannot afford to have a poor quality human resource if we want to build a robust new India that will be at the forefront of global development.

The curriculum, the teaching methodology and the attitude towards teachers and learning must be reviewed and transformed. The entire system has to be brought on par with the best in the world and, if possible, even become better than the best.

Dear faculty members,

Let me congratulate you on this occasion for the yeoman service you are doing. You are truly shaping the new India in your classrooms. You are fine tuning the value system of the next generation through your conduct. You are setting benchmarks for knowledge acquisition through your research and teaching. I would like to see many of you emerging as academic leaders in your individual disciplines.

In this context, I would like to quote Gandhiji’s advice on how teachers should be good learners as well. He had said, “A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion, worthless. Whenever I talk with someone I learn from him. I take from him more than I give him. In this way, a true teacher regards himself as a student of his students. If you will teach your pupils with this attitude, you will benefit much from them.”

Sisters and brothers,

The Indian higher education system has been expanding in terms of the number of institutions.

Its quality, however, has been rather uneven.

We must now focus on this important aspect. We must define quality, measure quality and constantly strive to attain higher benchmarks. There is no reason why we should not be among the best institutions in the world.

Let us not forget that ours is a country that has welcomed noble thoughts from across the globe. We should be open to new ideas and opportunities that are opening up. With our feet firmly on our traditional grounds, we must absorb the best practices from any part of the globe. That’s the only way we can grow.

Sisters and brothers,

On this happy occasion of the 34th Convocation, I congratulate the students, the faculty members and the parents of the students as well as the distinguished awardees of degrees Honoris Causa.

I wish the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Natarajan, and his team all the very best in the years to come as they build this institution into a centre of excellence in education and foster a new generation of learners who are global citizens with Indian roots.

Jai Hind!”