MADRAS, 5 SEP :The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has called for making the twenty first century the Indian century through innovation. India of the twenty-first century will be built in the classrooms of our institutions of learning and they will remake both India and the world, he said. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion:
“I feel privileged to be here today to participate in the sesquicentennial celebrations of this great university. Today is Teacher’s Day. Today we honour our teachers, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of a great and distinguished student and teacher of the University of Madras, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. As one who started his professional life as a university teacher, I am doubly privileged and truly delighted to be here today.
The University of Madras is a unique and one of our national great institution. You have the distinction of having produced seven awardees of our nation’s highest honour, the Bharat Ratna. You have produced two Nobel Laureates Sir C. V. Raman in 1930 and Dr. S. Chandrasekhar in 1983. Shri S.R. Srinivasa Varadhan from Chennai is a winner of the Abel Prize which is an equivalent in the world of mathematics. There are hundreds of your faculty and students who have won recognition in their respective disciplines nationally and internationally. Your university has fostered the creation of several other great universities like the Andhra University, the Osmania University, the Mysore and Kerala Universities and all the other distinguished Universities of this blessed State of Tamil Nadu.
I stand here before you to salute those great men and women who made all this possible. Last year, when Dr S.R. Srinivasa Vardhan was awarded the Abel Prize, which is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Mathematics, I wrote to him to congratulate him. In his warm reply to me he told me that he owed a great deal to the early training he received here in Chennai, both at the school and at the college levels. So many of the great minds of the 20th Century, so many of our scientists, so many of our renowned engineers, our economists, men and women who have distinguished themselves in so many fields, say the same thing about the University of Madras. They say it with all sincerity that the University of Madras has made them.
I have always believed that a University is a great arena that offers us space and freedom in humankind’s eternal quest for truth. Hence, a university must essentially be a liberal institution. I have often quoted our beloved Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous conception of a modern University. I cannot resist it quoting once again. Panditji had said, in 1947, and I quote:
‘A University stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for progress, for the adventure of ideas and for the search for truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards even higher objectives. If the universities discharge their duty adequately, then it is well with our nation and our people. But if the temple of learning itself becomes a home of narrow bigotry and petty objectives, how then will the nation prosper or a people grow in stature?’
The Indian sub-continent has been a land of learning since the dawn of human civilization. It gave birth to great and ancient languages, like Sanskrit and Tamil. It gave birth to great ideas in science and mathematics, like the concept of zero and the binary system. It gave birth to so many of the great religions that are practiced even today across the world. It has been the home of great literary and artistic endeavours. None of this would have been possible if our ancestors had not nurtured a culture of learning.
If there was one fault with that culture, it was that opportunities for learning were not available to all our people. Today we are set to make good that deficiency. Today we can say with pride that democratic India is making determined efforts to extend the right to education and learning to all our citizens. Today, we as a nation are committed to the goal that all sections of our society should have access to education. Our Government has launched a new phase in the educational empowerment of our people and the educational development of our country. The investments we are now making in education, in elementary, secondary, higher and technical education, will transform our country in years to come. Our focus is not just on a quantitative expansion of educational opportunities, but also on a qualitative growth.
Our goal is to build an India where all our children are in school, where all our young adults have an opportunity to be professionally trained in marketable skills if they choose to, and all our children have the opportunity to pursue intellectual excellence.
We have to give special attention in all these to the education of the girl child and to women’s education. Soniaji has called for making universal female literacy the cornerstone of our educational endeavour as it has the maximum multiplier effects on all round social and economic development. Tamil Nadu has shown us the way forward in women’s empowerment through education. I would like the rest of India to learn from Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu’s track record in increasing female literacy and education of the girl child is most impressive. I have every reason to believe that under the inspiring leadership of the scholar statesman, Chief Minister Dr. K. Karunanidhi, this blessed State of Tamil Nadu will scale new heights of achievement in social and economic development.
I urge all our political leaders to understand the central importance of education in the development of our country. Unfortunately a considerable part of our public discourse is focused on an often extraneous short-term problems and on issues pertaining to access to what is presently available. We do not devote as much attention to questions of growth and development and to the challenge of a multi-fold expansion of opportunities for all our people. An expansion that does not compromise on standards and outcomes but at the same time makes quality education accessible to all deserving children. That is what we should be aiming at. India can not realize its full development potential if the hitherto marginalized sections of the society do not become active partners in processes of development. Education must contribute to the achievement of this goal. Democratisation of education and pursuit of excellence have, therefore, to be viewed as complementing goals. An innovative India must combine both inclusion and excellence and it is wrong to see them as two separate and contradictory goals.
A university is by definition a guild of scholars and teachers. On this day I cannot but recall the central role of teachers in the making of an educational institution and indeed the nation at large. A teacher is a mentor. We need to attract the best minds into our universities just as some other nations are doing. We need to attract them from all over the world. We have to devise ways and means to facilitate the reverse flow of global Indian talent resident abroad into our knowledge institutions. Universities all over the world have historically struggled with the question of autonomy all over the world and a mature polity must be able to resolve this quest for autonomy in the best interests of all our people.
I would like to take this opportunity to compliment the State Government and the University authorities and all those who love this beautiful city of Chennai for painstakingly restoring the glory of some of the old University buildings. Your pride in your city and in its heritage buildings, should inspire other cities across the country to preserve our valuable architectural heritage.
I take this opportunity to wish you well in your future endeavours. I would like each one of you to create the inclusive, innovative India that is in your capacity to create so that India can once again become a major power house of the evolving global polity. The creative societal challenges that our country faces today must excite the imagination of every one of you, to question and seek answers to the questions that agitate your mind. Above all, pursue excellence because our nation depends on your creativity to make this 21st century the Indian century. India of the twenty-first century will be built in the classrooms of our institutions of learning and they will remake both India and the world. May your path be blessed.