Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President of India after giving away Women Exemplar Awards constituted by the Confederation of Indian Industry, in New Delhi on April 8, 2018.

New Delhi | April 8, 2018

“I am delighted to participate in this celebration to honour outstanding individuals—women who have transformed the lives of people at grass-root level and an industrialist, who created an enterprise dedicated to serving national priorities. I compliment the Confederation of Indian Industry for instituting these awards.

CII has been a strong partner of the government, industry and civil society in creating and sustaining an environment conducive for the development of India.

Although, the recipients of the awards are from different fields, they represent the same set of values—those of placing others before self, working for social good and providing outstanding leadership. Such felicitations will not only help in reinforcing those values but also help in serving as an inspiration to others.

Shri YC Deveshwar has been recognized worldwide for his legendary stewardship. He led ITC to create multiple drivers of economic growth for our country. I congratulate him on this award for Lifetime Achievement.

I also want to congratulate the women exemplars who have fought against all odds and flourished. They flourished not for their own benefit, but showed the way t thousands of others. Their work is an inspiration for others to emulate. The downtrodden people are the most vulnerable and bringing a transformation in their lives is truly an exemplary achievement.

Friends, India is transforming at a fast pace. Our economy is poised to grow at 7.3 per cent of the GDP in 2018-19 and projected to become the third largest economy in the next 10-15 years. While this is good news, what is important is to ensure equitable distribution of the fruits of economic prosperity. In other words, the poor and weaker sections should not be left behind in the growth narrative of India.

It is the duty of those who are better off to think of the disadvantaged sections and help in their uplift. Empowerment of women, who constitute almost half of India’s population, is very crucial for the country to make progress and achieve economic prosperity.

Education is the foundation and the basic tool for women to be empowered. Even 70 years after Independence, literacy rate among women is only 65.4 only per cent. It is estimated that about 68 per cent of adult illiterates in the country are women. How can we allow this situation to continue if India aspires to emerge as one of the major economies?

As has been quite aptly said educating a woman is equivalent to educating an entire family. An educated woman will not only be in a position to support the family economically but will also ensure proper nutrition and education to children. Therefore, education is vital for women’s economic, social and political empowerment.

In a bid to empower women, the government has launched initiatives such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme, Ujjwala and other schemes to promote women entrepreneurship. Niti Aayog also set up a women entrepreneurship cell to promote women’s participation in our economy. We must move beyond seeing women as beneficiaries of schemes and encourage them to be participants in designing and implementing their vision for the country.

Right from ancient times, women In India have been treated as equals and with respect. Many of our rivers are named after women. Whenever given an opportunity, they have excelled in different fields from sports to flying combat aircraft. Maitreyi, who lived in Vedic times, is considered as a symbol of the intellectual prowess of Indian women. Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, Legendary singer, Lata Mangeshkar, Astronaut, Kalpana Chawla, badminton sensation, P. V. Sindhu, boxing champion Mary Kom, cricketer Mithali Raj, Tennis star Sania Mirza and weightlifter Malleshwari, just to name a few, are among the many women who brought name and fame to India. In the ongoing Commonwealth Games too, Indian women are doing the nation proud.

Today women are heading Defence, External Affairs and Information and Broadcasting Portfolios.

However, in the modern times, the degeneration of value system is leading to undesirable trends and we are witnessing barbaric incidents like rapes, female feticides and dowry killings. No civilized society can tolerate such inhuman acts and the most stringent punishments have to be meted to the criminals, who perpetrate those crimes.

Irrespective of how many legislations we frame and implement, there has to be a change in the attitude of the people. The change must begin at home with the parents treating both boys and girls as equals and not discriminating against the girl child. If the right environment is created from childhood, attitudes will change and negative tendencies will be curbed.

As someone standing on the dais today, I see in this room and in the people present here, the ideal mix for promoting inclusive growth and development in our country.

I am aware that through their CSR initiatives, corporates are already reaching out to communities. The CSR outreach also provides an opportunity to the industry to partner with women, especially those who are leading the change at the grass-root level. These women who came here today are working with marginalised groups.

While we have 15 finalists and three winners with us today, what is truly heartening is that there were 227 applications from across the country. Just imagine- 227 hubs of courage, vision and development in small cities and villages across the country. The governments, corporates and civil society must focus on these communities.

Shri Deveshwar and other industry leaders have shown their social commitment through Rs. 9,000 crore that they have spent on CSR. Given the magnitude of the challenges before our country, partnerships are important to collaborate to find solutions to complex problems and achieve the desired results.

Indian industry has a major role to promote inclusive growth from the grass root level and we need visionary business leaders to provide resources, ideas, energy and the drive in this regard.

To herald a new dawn in our nation, we must leverage the strengths of all sectors: the resolve and resources of governments; the compassion and outreach of non-profits; the innovation, know-how, and capabilities of the private sector; and the determination and aspiration of communities especially the women. They lead differently and focus on development of their communities. Investing in women has a multiplier effect-- the good impact always goes beyond them to envelop their families and communities.

My compliments to CII for felicitating women who are leading the social change at grassroots. I am delighted that this is being undertaken through a dedicated CII Foundation set up for the purpose.

I once again congratulate all the winners and convey best wishes for all your future endeavours.