"I consider it a proud privilege to deliver the 8th Convocation address of this esteemed University that occupies a place of pride in the comity of State Veterinary Universities in the country.
My best wishes to young friends who are graduating from the portals of this centre of excellence in Veterinary, Fishery and Dairy Sciences.
This convocation ceremony is a crucial milestone as it marks a new beginning of your careers. Today, you will be granted degrees and medals which bear testimony to your hard work, perseverance, merit and scholarship.
Let me take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to each one of you.
A special mention has to be made of the hard work and dedication that your teachers had put in to bring out the best in you and to make you truly worthy of the degrees that are being conferred upon you today. India reveres the ‘Guru’ as being an earthly manifestation of the divine.
I would also like to congratulate the parents of the graduating students for the sacrifices they make every day to enable their children get quality education. It is because of your unconditional love, support and trust that your children are here today, receiving coveted degrees, making you proud.
My dear young friends,
You have indeed chosen a noble profession!
Veterinary science is a multi-disciplinary subject which includes research on diagnosis, control, prevention and treatment of animal diseases and also deals with the basic zoology, welfare, and care of animals.
It should be noted that all activities of animal science affect human health either directly or indirectly. Veterinary Science at a fundamental level is a human health activity.
Veterinary scientists protect the human health and well-being by ensuring food security and safety, preventing and controlling emerging infectious diseases, protecting environment and ecosystem, advancing treatment and control of non-zoonotic diseases, contributing to public health, and engaging in medical research.
I am happy to know that Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University was the first in the country to start a Diploma Programme in Animal Husbandry. I understand that you have provided leadership by example to other Universities for developing much needed courses for para veterinary staff, thereby providing gainful employment to a large number of youngsters from rural areas.
It is indeed a matter of great pride that the University has chosen Mahatma Gandhi’s words “The Greatness of a Nation and its Moral Progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” as its motto.
Indeed, livestock are integral to our lives. It is said that cattle wealth is national wealth.
We are a civilization that has, since time immemorial considered animals to be sacred beings. The deep respect for all life forms is an indestructible hallmark of our culture. The hallmark of Indian ethos has been the great reverence for nature and animals.
The diverse flora and fauna are considered manifestations of the single divine principle pervading the entire universe.
Among the ten incarnations of Vishnu are the fish, tortoise and the boar.
Gods and goddesses have birds and animals as their Vahanas or vehicles.
Kartikeya rides on a peacock, Vishnu on an eagle and Saraswati on a swan. Krishna is known as Govardhana because he is a cowherd who protects and nurtures cows. Lord Shiva is also called “Pashupatinath” (the head of all animals) and has serpents as his ornaments and bull as his vehicle. Ganesha rides on a mouseand Durga on a tiger. Ramayana, our most ancient epic, has monkeys, bears and even squirrels helping the divine mission.
Clearly, all birds and animals, big and small, wild and mild, have a value and are worth protecting and preserving.
There can’t be a more eloquent testimony of our commitment to preserving our planet’s biodiversity than our ancient Indian epics and rich iconography.
This world view of ours was based on a symbiotic relationship between humanity and nature.
It is this perspective that can make us realize the sustainable development goals we have set for ourselves as a world community.
We have always attached tremendous importance to the welfare and humane treatment of animals even while using them for commercial purposes.
My dear students,
One of the important prerequisites for ensuring a sustainable and inclusive growth in India is to shape a healthy and robust agricultural sector.
We have to make farming a lucrative career opportunity, especially for the youth, by making agriculture economically viable and financially rewarding, if we are to harvest the dividend from our demographical advantage comprehensively and ensure food security.
Fortunately, you are directly connected with the farming community at the village level and can contribute substantially to the development of rural economy and empowerment of women through the fortification of the agriculture sector. The national Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) estimates that rural India had an estimated 90.2 million agricultural households. Facilitating sustainable income for all these households should be your primary endeavour.
Livestock production and agriculture are intrinsically linked and both are crucial for overall food security. Agriculture industry contributes 17% of India’s total GDP, out of which, the 27% comes from Animal Husbandry.
Overall, the dairy, poultry and aqua industries contribute 4.4% to the nation’s GDP. The numbers signify the crucial role played by these sectors in our economy. They also employ nearly 16 million people across the nation.
Animal husbandry is vital for ensuring a more inclusive and sustainable agriculture system. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) estimates that livestock is the principle source of income to nearly 23% of agricultural households in the country with very small land holdings of less than 0.01 hectares.
Integrated farming practices will certainly help in doubling farmer's income by 2022. Hence ensuring health and improving productivity of our livestock is paramount.
Farming households with livestock will be able to better withstand distress caused due to extreme weather conditions and crop failures. In fact, a study has shown that there were no suicides in families of farmers who diversified into allied activities like poultry, dairy or aquaculture.
As you all are aware, India is the number one milk producing nation in the world since 1998. I compliment veterinary professionals and farmers for achieving this phenomenal distinction. Dairying has become an important secondary source of income for millions of rural families particularly for marginal and women farmers.
Fisheries and Aquaculture sector has emerged as the single largest group in agricultural exports of India with 10.51 lakh tons in terms of Quantity and Rs. 33,442 crores in value. In view of India’s long coastline and abundant inland water bodies, aquaculture and fisheries have great potential to contribute towards employment and economic growth.
India is blessed with a huge biodiversity of indigenous cattle that have survived over hundreds of years in local habitats. But unfortunately, their number is declining.
Hence, the need of the hour is to conserve and improve the productivity of our indigenous breeds.
I am glad that this University has taken up measures to conserve the two important cattle breeds of Ongole and Punganur and the native Nellore breed of sheep. It is also one of the 15 Invitro Fertilization Centers to conserve native breeds and improve their productivity.
I urge Universities to continually collaborate with each other and develop linkages with industries to develop human resource, augment technology and find solutions to problems faced by the farmers.
The National Bovine Genomics Centre for Indigenous Breeds (NBGC-IB) is one such scheme that will pave way indigenous animal improvement using highly precise gene-based technology.
Some of the issues that require immediate attention are reproduction problems, shortage in livestock feed resources, disease prevalence, emergence of new diseases, climate stress and lack of adequate infrastructure for post-production preservation and value addition.
To improve labor productivity and bargaining strength of farmers in the market, livestock, dairy and fishery sectors need greater on-farm value addition and processing.
A quantitative analysis of the supply and demand of veterinary manpower in India reveals that there is a mismatch between the demand and supply of veterinarians in India. India needs 72,000 graduate veterinarians, but the current availability is about 43,000. India needs many more veterinarians to look after the huge livestock population and to fill positions in 50,000 academic, R&D, extension and field institutions.
My appeal to the academicians and administrators is to revamp and continually improve, expand and update the veterinary education system in our country to address these issues.
All Veterinary Universities and Agricultural Universities should have engineering wings and most importantly IT Departments to make use of the endless possibilities of technology in general and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in particular.
Conscious efforts should be made to usher innovation by leveraging technology. Let me place before you the example of e- pashuhaat, a web portal launched under the scheme "National Mission on Bovine Productivity, which aims to connect breeders and farmers on the availability of bovine germplasm, thus eliminating middlemen.
There is scope for many such innovations. New ideas should flow from universities and research centers.
My dear students,
You should be able to access new knowledge and use it for your advancement as also for the welfare of the people around you. Always remember that the ultimate aim of any technology or advancement is the betterment of the lives of people.
Let me also remind you at this critical juncture of your lives to never falter when it comes to preserving the environment.
Our biodiversity, our natural habitats, our forests and our oceans are being destroyed due to the reckless exploitation of natural resources and thoughtless disposal of waste.
I urge each and every one of you to be crusaders on a mission to protect and conserve nature and all its life forms.
As students of life sciences, you understand better than anyone, the nature of life.
I encourage you to put your knowledge to the best possible use and do the best you can to reverse the consequences of the damage we have caused to the environment.
Before I conclude I would like to remind you what the Mahatma Gandhi said: “A man of character will make himself worthy of any position he is given”.
I hope that you will prove yourself worthy of the degrees that you are receiving today and any position of leadership that will be offered to you tomorrow.
My best wishes to you all in your future endeavors!