Address by Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, Honourable Vice President at the 48th Convocation of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi on August 21, 2023.

New Delhi | August 21, 2023

A very good afternoon to everyone!

Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya ji, Hon'ble Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India and President, AIIMS. A man of vision, a man of action. A man who never has an ego and contributes to the growth of the institutions he works for. His total involvement with his work and swift execution, being in sync with those who serve the institution is remarkable. I envy his patience, his commitment and dedication. I am sure what he has said is very inspirational, very motivational, not only for professionals but also for every citizen.

Professor S. P Singh Baghel, Hon'ble Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, a man of great commitment.

Professor M. Srinivas, Director, AIIMS, this is my first visit to AIIMS not as a patient. I have been here as a patient on a dozen occasions. Let me tell you, the kind of dedication which the doctors have here, they give trying times to their family members. Can you beat their commitment, dedication, involvement with patient health factor? I have seen it for myself, in all situations, while being the Governor, being the Vice-President, while being MP, while being Minister in 1990. But when I came here as an ordinary person, that touched me very greatly, AIIMS का कोई मुकाबला नहीं है, AIIMS का देश में कोई substitute नहीं है. It is on account of such kind of leadership, which the director is providing, he shares his credit with everyone else except himself.

As Vice-President of the country and Chairman Rajya Sabha, a difficult hat which I wear, I therefore cannot miss mentioning Dr. Anil Jain, a member of Rajya Sabha. Much depends on him and his colleagues on how much productivity we can generate. We will try to match up to institutes like AIIMS.

Shri Ramesh Bidhuri, a fire brand leader among the masses, MP, Lok Sabha.

Dr. Randeep Guleria ji, Padma awardee in 2015, and known to the nation for his great contributions.

I had direct connect with each of the lifetime achievement awardees. I will leave this place being fully blessed by them. They are source of inspiration, motivation and commitment.

Spinal strength of an Institution is its faculty, its staff- my greetings to all of them. Most important are the students, who are taking their degrees today. Congratulations to you. Congratulations to your parents, whom you have made proud. All your life you will remember that teacher or the faculty who was tough in class, because he shaped you, he mentored you, I am sure, and you will never let them down.

Friends, I come from legal profession. I know, what professionalism means. A slight dilution, slight commercialisation, slight ethical deviation, can be ruinous for those who seek to serve. Therefore being an institute like AIIMS, on the great occasion of 48th convocation, I am delighted. It is a moment for me to ever cherish.

AIIMS has earned global recognition and for that much hard work has gone in. I will not take your time as your Director already- in all humility, in an unassuming manner- has imparted all details that will make any institute proud. What you are doing in AIIMS at every level is worth emulation by other Institutes and health organisations.

The convocation is taking place after a period of three years. This gap reminds us of the COVID pandemic. This interregnum is spelt out how the world successfully and Bharat particularly, home to 1/6th of humanity, combatted it, contained it. This was primarily due to painstaking efforts of health warriors, all of you are in that category.

Can you imagine when everyone was facing the pandemic challenge, non-discriminatory challenge on the planet with the global spectrum, our health workers fully vindicated our civilizational ethos at the cost of their own lives. They took risks and came to our rescue.

The vision of the Hon'ble PM, his innovative strategies and seamless execution secured unprecedented participation of the people. Friends, I had the occasion to be Governor, state of West Bengal then. The world never thought of a strategy of mass involvement, as the Hon'ble Prime Minister did. That was people's curfew. The entire nation cooperated and it yielded geometric results on all fronts, to contain and combat COVID.

The challenge to humanity has also revealed, to the entire world that we in Bharat are not in isolation. We believe in Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, not for the sake of it. On one hand the government in a committed manner was taking care of 1.3 billion people. At the same time, the government took to Vaccine Maitree and helped around 100 countries. In such a situation, it is imminently befitting that this is the motto of G-20 of which our Bharat at the moment is the president. "One Earth One Family One Future", it is definitive of our civilizational essence. It is a moment of great pride for all of us that while we battled with COVID at home, successful hand holding was there and we simultaneously helped several countries. I have been abroad on three occasions, several heads of governments have conveyed to me during those stressful times, India took care of them, which is the remarkable global achievement and a soft power which is functional at this stage in our country.

While Bharat was tackling the COVID pandemic, I would not reflect more, but it was painful to find some irritating voices raising concern, not believing in our ability, that as a nation we need to escape- it does not help anyone.

Convocation is a moment to be ever cherished in the lives of those who are before me, to get fruits of their hard work and were waiting for this great day. My greetings to the six faculty members connected to this Institute who were endowed with lifetime achievement awards, their presence will generate a live contact, and give you the kind of energy and strength which you will cherish all your lives.

I would appeal to all the youngsters, who are getting their degrees today to read the lifetime achiever’s profile, to go behind the person, the commitment made by them, the results they brought for us, how and why they could come to this level. There can be no greater achievement in life, than to be honoured by one's own institution, and one's own peers.

It is a proud moment for every parent because the AIIMS tag has a very high valuation. You have only to say, “I am from AIIMS" and you will know the person will give you a different look. That tag you will carry all your life. You are walking out of this place into the larger world with a degree, but trust me you will always have to be a student because that is what AIIMS teaches you.

Congratulations to those who are receiving MBBS, MS, MD, DM, MCH, Ph.D, today. When you will spread out across the country you will become an epicentre of quality healthcare and  welfare to the people at large.

The message you carry is encapsulated, in your motto which is: A healthy body is the vehicle of all our virtues. Our virtues have no meaning if health is not in order. That speaks volume about its importance.

Growth of every nation is rationally correlated to the health of its populace. If the populace is not healthy, you cannot have achievements, let alone incremental achievements.अपने तो समाज में कहा जाता है, 'पहला सुख निरोगी काया' and 'Health is Wealth', इस पर ध्यान देना हर सरकार का काम है, हर नागरिक का काम है, खास तौर से स्वास्थ्य से जुड़े हुए सभी लोगों का परम कर्तव्य है। यह किसी धर्म से कम नहीं है। इसको  व्यवसाय नहीं बनाया जा सकता। यह पैसे का साधन नहीं हो सकता। मैं जानता हूं कि जो डॉक्टर AIIMS से निकलते हैं, या यहां कार्यरत हैं, उनको कहीं भी यहां से ज्यादा पैसा मिलेगा, they will be having many avenues in the country and outside. The kind of satisfaction and the kind of sublimity, the kind of feeling you get in serving the people at large, ओर कहीं नहीं मिलेगा।

आदमी समझ नहीं पाता कि इस संस्था में कितने लोग आते हैं, I can tell you that there is zero dissatisfaction of a patient after he comes to AIIMS. He takes it, that I have met my maker, God has been kind to me that I am being looked after by Doctors of AIIMS. Rest he leaves to his destiny. This satisfaction is a great success at your end.

I find it extremely relevant the reflections in the Shloka from our scriptures:

पुनर्वित्तं पुनर्मित्रं पुनर्भार्या पुनर्मही।

एतत्सर्वं पुनर्लभ्यं न शरीरं पुनः पुनः।।

which means: Everything in life can be regained- your relative, kingdom, friend and wealth. The only thing that you can't ever regain is your body.

Therefore we have to take full care of it. This body if in order has enormous potential. It can exploit your full talent, unleash your total energy, and you can contribute for the welfare of people at large. But if the body is not in order, your calibre, confidence, expertise or exposures are meaningless.

I congratulate the Director, the Faculty, and Hon'ble Minister for sustaining the incremental progress trajectory of AIIMS that has earned top ranking amongst the country's medical institutions in the National Institutional Ranking Framework but to me it was obvious, because everything is so authentic, full of commitment and direction. It had to happen but this will be a source of inspiration to many other institutions. It is the dedication and devotion of doctors and paramedical staff that has evoked wide appreciation and has resulted in milestone achievements. This can't be the work of one individual. I recollect a movie in which there was a reflection that every person in a hospital matters and that dedication one can see here, commitment to service and deep sense of duty is worth emulation by all.

I take the occasion to congratulate and express my respect to everyone who is working in AIIMS as doctor, members of the faculty, paramedicals and other staff members. It is heartening that AIIMS has created an ecosystem of excellence by forging partnership with other premiere institutions like IITs of Delhi, Kharagpur and many other institutions within the country and abroad. These are times when we must bring about convergence of talent of thinking, of innovation, Research, Development so that all those who converge can benefit and there can be larger results.

I had the occasion to discuss, once I was having my medical check-up after I became the Vice President of the country and the director who was indicating to me a master plan to make AIIMS Delhi a world class Medical University. I have no doubt with the Hon'ble Minister being here, this will fructify. And let me tell the Hon’ble Minister this is the need of the hour. This needs to be there. AIIMS has rich human resource. It needs to have a matching infrastructure of a global level.

Series of affirmative steps and imaginative policies executed in recent years have secured for the common man an extremely effective and affordable health mechanism. It was not there when in late 80s my father was suffering heart ailment and we in the country did not have bypass surgery facilities. He was taken to London. The doctor treating him looked at me and asked. Is he on stage grant? I said no. Is he on insurance? I said no. Who will sustain his medical bills? I said, I will do that. Those days and now imagine Ayushman Bharat. September 23 2018- a gift for economically vulnerable people, middle class. They can get that advantage and they are getting that advantage. It's a novel idea. It has contributed hugely to the economy also. In the absence of Ayushman Bharat, many families would have been fiscally ruinous. A great step taken.

Government has executed several policies but medicines have to be good value for money. That unfortunately was not a scenario few years ago. Now there is an all Indian network of Janaushadhi Kendras and there are more than 9000 such kendras all over the country and people are getting great benefit of it.

Imagine the physical impact it has on the middle class and lower middle class. Their economy grows because they are assured that Ayushman Bharat is full assurance to their health and that is what is happening. Whenever I go abroad I find people saying India is a Pharmacy of the world. We have that skill, that human resource but we have to work more to make medicine available to the common man. The government has done massive in this direction but we have to create an ecosystem that everyone falls in line, that this is an area that you cannot monetize commercially to that level as can be done by ordinary business. This has to have a service element inbuilt.

India's rich human resource can be impactful globally and it is a matter of satisfaction that of late in last few years there has been a real growth in the number of medical colleges. We have increased number of admissions to the MBBS and MD. We need to take it to a much greater height and once that happens, I have no doubt that the globe will feel the impact of our health warriors all over.

The rise of AIIMS in the country from number 7 to 23 of which 15 are fully functional and some are yet to be functional. Now we have to have a positive attitude. Everything is being done. Let us not look into the holes. There are bound to be challenges but I am quite sure a way will be found out.

Having 23 AIIMS is a remarkable achievement. It is a matter of time and all of them will be fully functional and they will become centres to give relief to the people and ease some burden from AIIMS Delhi. 

Friends, 2nd October 2014 and 15th August 2014 are two very remarkable important dates. When our visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi spoke from the ramparts of Red Fort- Swachh Bharat, some people made light of it, how come Prime Minister of this great country is speaking about Swachh Bharat? They forgot that Mahatma Gandhi did so and did so by exemplifying his own action but it was formally launched on 2nd October 2014; it has given rich dividends.

All of you, particularly the seniors present here- whenever we go abroad, we will never throw a banana skin out of our car. At the moment we are back to this country we think this is our national right. But no one does it now. That awareness has reached peak. As a matter of fact, Swachh Bharat has given rise to many startups and many entrepreneurs have come forward to take advantage of it.

What a scene it was when we go to our beaches and we found plastic and bottles all around. That thing is declining but we need to still inculcate in the people a great habit. I was elected to Parliament in 1989 and was a Minister also for some time. What we could never visualise, never dream, never conceptualise is a ground reality now.

It was unthinkable for a mind to think that in every household we will have a toilet, it's a ground reality now. Open defecation free villages make us proud and things are taking right shape. That also contributes to good health of people at large.

In 1989, I had 50 gas connections. That was a great power in my hand. I could gift 50 gas connection to anyone I like. I could never imagine that there would be a visionary Prime Minister who will do it and 170 million households will get it for free. The impact lies in the health of those families. They become part of our growth stories. It is because of such contributions that there is rise in India’s economy. We are number 5 at the moment, a milestone that we achieved in September 2022 overtaking our erstwhile colonial ruler UK. By the end of the decade we will be third. The economy grows not only on the account of industry, business or trade. It grows on the account of overall satisfaction of the society.

Health and education are vital to that. There are certain diseases the world is dealing with it. Diabetes is one, cancer is another. Dialysis was a problem which has now been nearly resolved, otherwise it gave a family a panic state of mind.

Heart ailments, people put them as lifestyle diseases. You know better as it is your stream but all I know if you look back into a civilisation ethos our Upanishad, Vedas, we have enough to know how to combat them. Time for us to focus on that and a great lead was taken by the Prime Minister. Yoga is there in our scriptures; yoga is our gift to the world. How vital and important it is. Its importance for health is indicated in our country for thousands of years. But it was on 11th December 2014- a moment of great pride for all of us- the United Nations, 175 countries, came together to declare International Yoga Day. The lead was taken by Indian Prime Minister. Never in the history of this country such a global lead by Indian Prime Minister received such a wide support from the countries in such a short time. I have the occasion to be at Jabalpur when the nation celebrated the last yoga day and the Hon'ble Prime Minister was there in the United Nation premises. I could find how people are involved. How they are inspired. That has changed the lifestyle and that is taking off some burden out of such institutions like AIIMS.

We have to always subscribe to our treasures. If we do not tap the resources which are there in our country for centuries, we will not be doing service to humanity at large. On November 9 2014, another large step taken by Prime Minister. A separate AYUSH Mantralaya was formed.

If I go to official statistics that all these steps that have been taken by the Government, the community impact thereof, then a recent study conducted by UNDP and NITI Aayog suggest that in five years from the year 2015, India could uplift 13.5 crore citizens out of multi-dimensional poverty by improving their prospects in respect of education, healthcare and overall standard of living. What is this in terms of population? Twice the population of United Kingdom!

I would call upon everyone that competitiveness that got into our way. I keep on telling my lawyer friends that we Indians have strong litigating mind. We wouldn't rest unless we have knocked on the doors of Supreme Court. Similarly, the situation with respect to competition. We need to create an ecosystem that there is enough in this country to be contributed and I will tell you why. In my position, as the vice president I had had the occasion to receive trainees, probationers of IAS, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Forest Service, Indian Information Service, Indian Defence Accounts Service and I find doctors are there, IITians are there, those from IIMs are there, lawyers are there. The underline concept is very clear. You will find your place. Don't get too much involved with competitiveness. Go for your aptitude and you will be able to contribute enormously. If you go against your own decision making process, then you will be taking uphill task and that may not be good.

There was an indication about the pledge the medical practitioners take: I will attend to my own health, wellbeing and abilities in order to provide care of highest standard. Now certain things are easier said than done. But I dare say from this platform: there will never be a doctor on this planet, more so in our country, who will sacrifice the welfare of a patient for his own health. He will give his heart and soul to save the patient. That is a great tribute to the service in which you are going to be engaged. 

In conclusion, I join millions in this country and outside in saluting our doctors and health warriors in helping us successfully overcome COVID pandemic. I extend my warm greetings to those who are here for the convocation today and gratitude to the hard work of the faculty members; particularly it is a proud moment for the parents. Their respect in society has certainly gone up as their progeny happens to be from AIIMS. 

Thanks to the series of significantly impactful steps, including in the health sector, India is on the rise as never before. Now our rise is unstoppable. Our rise is phenomenal. International Monetary Fund says we are the brightest spot of investment and opportunities. Surely this is an occasion for all of us to take pride.

I would therefore conclude: Always keep your Nation first. This is not optional, this is not imperative, this is the only way. You have to keep your Nation always first. We have to believe that we are proud Indians and take pride in our historic accomplishments. If there are some voices here and there I wouldn't reflect much on that but all of us owe duty towards this nation to neutralize them. Our silence on that front may not be very wholesome. 

Friends let us take pledge to do all we can to reduce human misery, secure healthy life for all.

ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः

सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।

May all be happy, may all be free from illness.

Once again I express my deep sense of gratitude to the Hon’ble Minister who is the president of AIIMS, and the Director for affording me such an opportunity and such an audience who will act all their life as warriors for Bharat at 2047, when we will be celebrating centenary of our independence.

Thank you so much!

Jai Hind!