"I express my gratitude to the organizers for having invited me to deliver the first Prof. Yashwantrao Kelkar memorial lecture.
I recollect him as a selfless, simple, affable, affectionate and a caring individual. He was a friend philosopher and guide to many people.
Yashwantrao was a man of high intellect, knowledge and great qualities of head and heart and it was impossible for anyone who came in contact with him to remain untouched by his illumination.
One of his great qualities was the immediate connect he used to establish with the younger generation. He always used to have animated discussions with them and believed in instilling samskara and nation first attitude. He used to stress on sharpening the intellect of the youth and involving them in nation-building activities. He had inspired and shaped thousands of students to work selflessly for the country throughout their lifetime.
He was the main architect of ABVP and he conceptualized, designed and successfully implemented a unique working methodology of ABVP.
The important organizational principles he believed in are --planning in advance and planning in detail; Everybody is important but nobody is indispensable; Each one is incomplete but when many such incomplete individuals come together, they form a whole; Teamwork is the essence of an organization.
He used to say that we are human beings and not machines. We can make mistakes, so accept everyone as he is, but develop him as we want him to be.
These are the principles he inculcated in ABVP and had thus built a strong, vibrant, forward-looking, sensitive and nationalistic student’s organization.
He gave purpose and goal to the life of thousands of students and youth and made them participate in all walks of life with nation-first attitude. The Indian philosophy with its unique definition of the relationship between individual, society, nature, creation and the creator and its distinct concept of human happiness provides the basis for meeting the multi-pronged challenges faced by the world community today.
India is an ancient civilization and always believed in the philosophy of Vasudhaika Kutumbakam. India was the knowledge hub in ancient times and was known as ‘Vishwaguru’. World famous learning centres like Nalanda, Pushpagiri and Takshshila attracted scholars and knowledge seekers from far and wide.
Although, India was a flourishing trading centre and contributed up to 25 per cent of the world GDP some centuries ago, we never attacked anybody or entertained designs to conquer an alien territory. We always believed in peaceful co-existence with all, including our neighbours. Our country has achieved great heights by enlightening the world with its intellectual and spiritual wisdom. From zero to yoga, India has made numerous contributions to the enrichment of the world’s intellectual and spiritual progress.
While taking pride in our accomplishments and achievements from ancient times till now, we all should strive to preserve, protect and promote India’s rich culture, traditions, values and ethos. A corollary of the concept of seeing the whole world as one family is the attitude of empathy, of sharing and caring, of a sharp focus on alleviating the agony of fellow human beings.
There is a need to promote nationalistic outlook among the youth and involve them in constructive nation-building activities. All of us must strive to build a New India that is free of poverty, hunger, discrimination and inequalities based on caste, creed and gender.
Student organizations such as Vidyarthi Parishad must instill the feeling of ‘nation first’ among the youth and encourage them to actively participate in national development.
We have a great demographic dividend and more than 65% of our population is young. We need to impart knowledge and skills to our youth for effectively meeting the challenges of technology-driven the 21st century. This is the age of innovation, incubation and start-ups and we must fully tap the entrepreneurial potential among the youth of the country.
Even 70 years after Independence, the country is facing challenges on different fronts—about 20 per cent of the population is still living in poverty and an equal percentage of people are not literate; instances of social, gender discrimination and atrocities against women are happening now and then; then there is the canker of corruption; casteism and religious fundamentalism. On the external front, India is constantly facing the problem of cross-border terrorism.
One of the most glaring challenges is the urban-rural divide. With the advancement in technology, expansion of new and modern healthcare facilities, we have a tremendous opportunity to bridge the gap between urban and rural areas. Planned and systematic initiatives are needed to revive the rural economy. For that to happen, there is an urgent need to make agriculture more sustainable and profitable.
As you all are aware, the village economy relies mostly on agriculture, while the cities and urban centers have seen a growth led by services and manufacturing sectors.
We need to create economic avenues for rural artisans, farmers, women, and the youth by ensuring education and empowering them to use technology.
The critical challenge is to deploy the best possible ideas in the innovation-led development of the rural areas of the nation, where 60 percent of its population lives. Changing the face of our rural and backward villages is an essential component of inclusive development.
It is extremely important for the youth to participate in a big way to eradicate the social evils, poverty and illiteracy. They also should be in the forefront of eliminating casteism and religious fundamentalism. In spite of the challenges, India is marching ahead in various fields from space exploration to sports with our men and women bringing laurels and global recognition to our country.
As mentioned earlier, we need to fully tap the youthful energy into fast-tracking the nation’s progress and make India a five trillion dollar economy in the coming years. Young India’s aspirations and their united efforts would determine the future of the country.
Another important issue that I have been flagging often is the need to completely overhaul the education system to prepare students to effectively face the challenges of the 21st century.
We need an education system that transforms a student to become a complete human being, who is sensitive to the needs of others, understands the other point of view and respects and values others for what they are.
We need to revamp the education system and reorient the curriculum to suit the needs of the 21st century, while upholding the Indian values and ethos at the same time. I have also been advocating that education should inculcate morals, ethics, empathy, sensitivity and respect for women and elders. The New Education Policy must focus more on incorporating a complete and comprehensive history of India, apart from our rich culture and heritage.
There is also a need to make it education more equitable and inclusive. Policy makers and the educationists must ensure that every child receives holistic education.
India should once again become a Vishwaguru and the hub of innovation and knowledge. For that to happen, we have to drastically revamp the education system to make our institutions of higher learning and universities the centres of excellence with international standards.
Dear youngsters, I would also like you to be in the forefront of protecting our natural resources.
As you all are aware, climate change is real and affecting all species on the planet. For long, we have tinkered with nature and it is showing its fury on us. I feel that a people’s movement is needed to conserve water resources, ensure a sustainable model of development and maintain the ecological balance. Protect nature and preserve culture for a better future.
Before concluding, I call upon the youth to work with a missionary zeal and determination to transform India into a prosperous and happy nation.