“It gives me immense pleasure to be here on the occasion of the 50th convocation of Utkal University in this beautiful temple-city of Bhubaneswar. I am glad to know that the Utkal University is the mother university of the state of Odisha and the 17th university of undivided India. With its 27 post graduate departments, 8 centers of excellence and an International Cell, the University is truly the educational lodestone of Odisha. I compliment Utkal University on being accredited with A+ Grade by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in India in 2016. That itself is a reflection of its high educational standards and its uncompromising adherence to excellence.
Needless to say, the day of convocation marks an important day in your lives—yet, this milestone is the beginning of a journey.
To get to this point was an important achievement in itself to which I commend you. The personal competencies that got you here—passion, perseverance, tenacity, an open mind to learn—will be important to you throughout your lives. Nurture them. These attributes will guide you throughout your lives.
Many of you will be moving out of the sheltered confines of a university and entering the real world replete with its own set of challenges and issues.
The process of transition will not be easy, but I am sure that with the value system and training that you have gained from this university, you will be able to face the world with confidence. New Education Policy focuses primarily on instilling in our students this ability to “face the world with confidence”. The aim of education is not only cognitive development, but also building character and creating holistic and well-rounded individuals equipped with the key 21st century skills.
We must not forget that India has had a glorious tradition of international education. The ancient Indian universities Takshashila, Nalanda, Vallabhi and Vikramashila had thousands of students from India and other parts of the world studying in vibrant multidisciplinary environments.
We should bring back this great Indian tradition to create well-rounded and innovative individuals who will have the distinctive ability to transform the country both socially and economically.
Odisha has a rich and inspiring history. This great land of Kalinga taught the lesson of peace to Emperor Ashoka who began to follow the policy of conquest through dharma (Dharma-Vijaya). The kings of Odisha played an important role in building cross-cultural links with South East Asia and the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism there. The Kalinga Empire was also known for its glorious maritime traditions. Such was their dominance over the sea that Kalidasa in his famous work Raghuvamsa referred to the King of Kalinga as the ‘Lord of the Seas’. The daring ocean-faring merchants of Kalinga established trade links with Srilanka, Java, Borneo, Sumatra, Bali and Burma. Presence of the large number of coins and artefacts including Roman objects in excavations points to a flourishing trading society in ancient Odisha.
Even today, the people here celebrate a festival - ‘Bali Yatra’ in the memory of their maritime ancestors whose skills and entrepreneurship made Kalinga a prosperous empire of its time.
I want you to take inspiration from their stories and imbibe the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. Our universities and educational institutions also have an important role in this. They should equip the students with requisite skills so that they can emerge as job creators not mere job seekers.
I also want to remind you of Odisha’s Bhaumakara dynasty that had a long succession of women rulers in 9th -10th century. Bhaumakara queens defied patriarchal norms and ruled successfully for some 200 years. These are the shining examples that should make every Indian proud. I urge upon the younger generation to read about such stories and pledge to fight against gender discrimination. In fact, our youth should be in the forefront of fighting all social evils like casteism, communalism, corruption and violence.
Odisha is also special in the way that it has a sizable tribal population. The State is home to 62 different tribal communities who constitute 23% of the state’s total population and 9.17% of the total tribal population of the country. Therefore, the development and welfare of these tribal communities should be our priority.
Here, I would emphasise that we should approach the tribals with respect and sensitivity. Paternalistic attitude is wrong. Truth is that we have a lot to learn from the tribal communities who live a simple life in harmony with nature.
A study by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI) revealed that the tribal population in Odisha was largely untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. The unique customary practices and traditions of tribals have been credited for keeping the infection at bay. The study notes that by habit, the tribals walk mostly in rows, instead of in groups; and while walking, they maintain a reasonable distance from one another. Such safe distancing and hygiene norms, rooted in the tribal culture coupled with the natural food have helped them stay safe during pandemic.
I suggest that universities should focus on these positive aspects of tribal communities and include them in their curriculum. I would also like institutions like Utkal University to take up research on issues faced by tribals and actively contribute to policy formation for their development and well-being.
Another topic that I find very important for states like Odisha is—disaster management. You have seen regular occurrence of cyclones, floods and droughts in the state. Therefore, it is imperative to make disaster management an integral part of our education from early days. This would prepare us better to face any such calamity in future. I hope Utkal University will take a lead in this regard.
You are our next generation of academicians, researchers, managers, civil servants, lawyers and leaders.
You must remember that your future is intertwined with the future of this country and this is not mere rhetoric. You should never forget that discipline, honesty and hard work are the key to success in any field, including public life. You must be sensitive to the needs of the excluded.
We have great economic potential and can improve the human development index on all counts. We can fight hunger, disease, ignorance and every other evil that retard our growth.
And youth is the key for change. It is social awareness and sensitivity that can usher the change we dream of.
I wish you the best for your lives.
I urge you to embrace the challenges and get ahead of change.
Find your purpose and take your share in shaping the new world.
Become creators of the future.
You can do it and my best wishes are with you.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Shri Shaktikanta Das, Governor, Reserve Bank of India, Shri Girish Chandra Murmu, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Kumari Justice Sanju Panda, Orissa High Court, Dr. Ajit Kumar Mohanty, Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and Dr. Bijaya Kumar Sahoo, Advisor, Government of Odisha for being conferred Honoris Causa from this prestigious university.
I once again congratulate the recipients of the degrees, doctoral degrees and the Gold Medalists.
I also extend my best wishes to the faculty members, teaching and non-teaching staff, and the family members and guardians of the graduating students on this momentous day.