I am delighted to be with you today on the occasion of the Annual Convocation of the Institute of Management & Technology (IMT) and the Institute of Law & Research (ILR), Haryana. I am informed that both these institutes were the pioneers in private education in their fields in Haryana and have played a significant role in imparting management and law education. I compliment the managements and faculty of these institutions for their achievements.
Dr. Thambi Durai ji came to my Office last month to invite me for this occasion. I cannot tell you how delighted I was! We who are in politics, I am also speaking on behalf of Dr. Thambi Durai ji, we are always invited to functions which are political in nature. We function and work in a field which I am sure you think is very harsh. When we are invited to a function like this where there are young and bright people or to an educational institution we find it very energizing, very refreshing and very rejuvenating. We draw a lot of strength after we have met and talked to you. So, it was really such a very kind invitation from you, Dr. Thambi Durai ji and you have done me great honour in giving me a chance to be present here with all these very bright people of our country.
I also want to say that I personally very much like to go to the educational institutions. Of course, this institution is in a developed stage. Haryana is progressing very fast. It is close to the Capital. You have so many opportunities but there are institutions which do not have these opportunities. We have small schools in rural areas, in inaccessible areas which do not have the kind of opportunities and exposures that you are fortunate to have. But I like going there. I will be happy to inform you that the children I meet, the young people I meet there are just as bright. After I meet them and after I meet young people like you, I always feel convinced that the future of our country is safe and is very bright.
I firmly believe that education should be aimed at preparing students to make right choices in life. It should inculcate a sense of social responsibility and enable them to blossom into conscientious and active citizens. We must remember that all the stakeholders have to be equal partners in the progress and prosperity of communities and societies. Therefore legal and management courses must include an in-depth study of the constitutional provisions for equality of opportunity and of corporate social responsibility. Contributing to the welfare of communities will build stable social structures and create a congenial environment for national development.
The economic reforms initiated in 1991 opened up our economy and liberalized systems and procedures. These reforms were aimed at unleashing the potential of Indian entrepreneurs. The success of the reforms is evident from the fact that India is today among the world's fastest growing economies. I get opportunity to visit other countries - the developing nations of Africa, Austria and recently I was in Latin America. I also visit developed countries like Europe and United States. I would like to share with my young friends that everywhere I find unequivocal admiration for India. This is because of two counts; first, the way we have developed our democracy. We are a nation of a billion plus people. In our last General Elections, which were held in 2009, there were more than 714 million voters who voted. This is more than all the voters of Europe together. Yet, I think we are progressing. Earlier we used to have the ballot papers and then ballot papers became so large that they used to be of the size of a newspaper. I am sure you are concerned with the environment and ecology was disturbed as we needed to cut trees. But now we have the electronic voting machines. I always tell the Election Commissioner that he is holding green elections in India. So, everywhere in the world there is so much surprise and an element of wonder as to how we manage to hold these elections at regular intervals and how our voters come out to vote. How everything is held peacefully? It is a tribute to the people of India, to the common Indian living in rural, semi-urban and urban areas, our working class. Our elections create the largest level playing field in the world. Even if somebody has a very big house, palatial house, battery of cars, big bank accounts, he has just one vote. And somebody who is living in a hut and cannot afford even two square meals also has one vote. This is the philosophy of India. This is what our Constitution guarantees, that is the equality and this equality is exercised most prominently when India goes for elections. So, the whole world wonders at it. Of course, you will say that we are having disturbances or turbulence in the Parliament. I do not give up hope. I am very optimistic. These are transitional phases. You have read the history of UK. They have gone through the worst. It was called the murder of democracy. So, we have a transitional phase. We should not give up hope. Democracy has taken deep roots in Indian soil. This is being admired and appreciated the world over. I thought I would share this with you.
What is actually the context, the more relevant to the audience that I am addressing, is the way we have dealt with our economy. After we have opened up after the economic reforms, our economy has become progressive and has become stronger and stronger. Of course, there are a few occasions when it has slowed down but I would say that steadily it has progressed. At a time when we had the reverse order, financial and economic break down, our GDP growth rate was 7.2 per cent. At that time it came down to 6.7 per cent but it never went down beyond that. But in Europe so many, very strong, very powerful economies were even struggling to keep their zero per cent GDP growth rate. They had registered negative growth rates in Europe, United States, the powerful economies. From 6.7 per cent in 2009, we bounced back to 7.2 per cent. Last year we recorded 8.6 per cent growth rate. So, there is great admiration, appreciation for that. We must realise that.
There is another challenge also. I met the President of Paraguay. I was amazed and you will also be surprised to know that they have 15 per cent GDP growth rate. I said: “I congratulate you. We feel very happy that we have a growth rate of about 8 per cent but your growth rate is 15 per cent and still you are a worried man.” He said: ”Yes, but we want to make it inclusive. We want everybody to benefit from this economic growth”. This is the challenge that India also faces. We have a growth rate with which we are satisfied but we want that the fruits of this growth much reach the last man, the weakest, the humblest. I am saying all this because I addressing an audience which understands this and which has the commitment to do this in future.
India is today amongst the world’s fastest growing economies and as it has surged ahead into the 21st Century, we have witnessed a remarkable change in our people's mindsets. Education and opportunities have led to social and economic mobility and progress. There is an exponential rise in expectations and young Indians are very much more innovative, enterprising and aspirational. It is the energy, creativity and dynamism of the new generation of Indians that is driving our nation’s growth and socio-economic transformation.
While we can and should be proud of our successes, we are also aware of the multiple challenges that we are faced with. Our growth processes have created wealth and prosperity among large segments of society and lifted millions of our people out of poverty. But we still have to address the issues of poverty, unemployment and socio-economic disparity.
The Millennium Development Goals adopted to combat hunger, poverty and disease have to be attained. We need to bridge the vast infrastructure deficit and the regional, disparity and ensure food and energy security for our teeming masses. We have to focus on upgrading skills and boosting manufacturing for generating employment opportunities for our young people.
For our high growth to be sustainable, it has to be inclusive and equitable. There are immense business opportunities in our country with its population of over 120 crores. We have to harness this potential and ensure that we generate employment for our masses living below the poverty line and in inaccessible and remote areas. With 68.84 per cent of our population living in villages, we have to rejuvenate our rural economy and ensure that the fruits of development reach the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak.
Our global competitiveness will depend on our ability to produce quality manpower at all levels. Our educational institutes must now prepare our youth for the demands of an interconnected world which is witnessing sweeping scientific and technological advances. They must equip their students with necessary expertise and skills to maintain the competitive edge of Indian economy. In addition to the traditional curriculum, they must also familiarize students with new instrumentalities especially e-commerce and e-governance. At the same time, these institutions should proactively engage in finding solutions for the enormous development challenges facing our country and help in the establishment of an inclusive society. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should be an integral part of the curriculum of all such institutions. As responsible citizens, all of us are stakeholders in nation building. We have to be agents of change. This is very important. Each one of you must be committed that you are an agent of change, that you are going to transform your society, your country for the better. We have to be the agents of change and take the lead in making a difference to the lives of the vulnerable and marginalized sections. I am confident that all of you will play a key role in propelling our agenda of inclusive growth and be role models for others to emulate.
The students of the Institute of Law & Research who are amidst us today know that the founding fathers of our Constitution had envisioned a just and fair social order. The cherished ideals of equality, justice and liberty are enshrined in our Constitution which makes it incumbent upon the state to strive towards securing justice — social, economic and political - to each and every citizen of our country. Convinced that an independent and impartial judiciary is the bedrock of a just and fair social order, the framers of our Constitution had ensured that the judiciary remains independent of the other organs. The legal fraternity at the helm of the judicial administration is the most vital link for quick and efficacious justice delivery system. Therefore all of you have to crusade for the rights of the weak and disadvantaged persons and uphold the Rule of law.
Our Parliament has always championed the cause of the vulnerable sections and has enacted several forward looking legislations like the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, Protection of Civil Right Act, 1955, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 for securing equality of status and opportunity to one and all. However, elimination of social and economic inequality remains a daunting challenge for our Government even today. It is for this that all of us have to strive. It is only when we achieve socio economic empowerment, can we claim to have given real meaning and content to our democracy. The rights of the marginalized sections of our societies and their aspiration for a decent and dignified existence must be recognized as the most fundamental of all human rights.
There is no doubt that each and every educated person has to play a significant role in changing the mindsets of the people and establishing an inclusive society. We must usher in a new system of transparency, accountability, responsiveness, social sensitivity, equality and Rule of Law. This is the only way in which we can eradicate the deeply entrenched prejudices based on centuries of conditioning. The task is undoubtedly astounding, but I am confident that our determined efforts will be instrumental in achieving the objectives of establishing a just, inclusive and egalitarian India as envisioned by the Founding Fathers of our Constitution. When India was still reeling under the foreign yolk, of course, the first war of Independence was there. The first war of Independence started in 1857 but after that there were sporadic attempts for gaining independence. It was only after the Mahatma came from South Africa, after successfully having experimented with truth and non-violence that the freedom movement gained momentum. At the call of the Mahatma, everybody, even the women who were till then called ‘Surya Sparsha’, meaning even the rays of sun have not touched them, came out on the roads and joined the freedom struggle. They went to jail. They faced the lathi charge. They participated, the weaker section which was hitherto marginalized and ignored also came out and joined. When this freedom struggle was taking place, a very important question was asked by those who were marginalized, those who were on the fringe of the society- the outcaste said who will benefit from this freedom. You will get incentives and you will have positions but what will happen to them. Then those who were leading the freedom movement said that they had three very important tasks on their agenda. The first one is to gain political freedom which we gained on 15th August, 1947. The second very important task on the agenda was to have economic freedom. Third was to have social emancipation, social freedom. We gained political independence more than 60 years ago but we are still struggling. I am sure all of you are going to join this struggle for economic and social freedom. All this education is meant to prepare you to join that struggle. India will only be truly free only when it is free politically and economically. We are all struggling and we are all putting in whatever available efforts but you also have to make future plan. This has to be an important item of your agenda.
Convocation Day is a memorable day in the life of any student. All of you who have been nurtured in your institutions will enter the real world today. I congratulate all the students passing out of the Institute of Management and Technology and the Institute of Law and Research, Faridabad, Haryana and wish them all success in their careers. I would also like to convey my deep appreciation to the organisers of the Convocation for inviting me here and giving me this opportunity to interact with our bright students and share my insights and perspectives with them.