‘Common school system is an important founding stone for equal society’

Describing “hunger for equality” as the most spiritual aspiration of a human being, Jnanpith award winner U.R. Ananthamurthy said the challenge before premier institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Management was to redefine “intelligence” and “arhata” (merit) in keeping with this aspiration.

Delivering the 40th foundation day lecture at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) on Monday, the Kannada writer said “arhata” is not a fixed idea; there is a need now to reinvent it to include not a certain kind of cerebral activity alone, but taking cognisance of many kinds of intelligence and knowledge systems among all classes of people. “Real excellence can be achieved only through equality,” he said, adding that caste system in India had stymied it for a long time. “We are not getting the best out of the population because of this,” he said.

A common school system that provides equal education to all children is an important founding stone for an equal society, said Prof. Ananthamurthy, adding that his own experiences in a common school in a village had broadened his horizons and made him a writer.

Modi and growth

Speaking on the need to rethink the idea of “development”, Prof. Ananthamurthy said there was a need to ask ourselves if technological strides had resulted in “sarvodaya” (welfare of all) or if it was at the cost of tribal people and the downtrodden.

Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, he said, was a man who believed in achieving a certain kind of “development” through “authoritarian rule rather than systemic change”.

Such a person, he said, might be able to “ensure that trains run on time in the country as they did during the Emergency, but such a society will not make us better and equal human beings.”

Alumni award

The IIMB event saw Malavika R. Harita, chief executive officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Focus Network, being given the Distinguished Alumni Award. The first woman to be given the award, she called upon women to “never see gender as a barrier”.

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