Journalism has played a major role in the history of modern India, Mr Ram said.

N. Ram, Chairman, Kasturi and Sons Ltd., has said centres of excellence in higher learning can come to the aid of the media at a time when the roles or functions of journalism, its professional standards and templates, its intellectual and social framework and its vision and values, have become more important than ever before.

Speaking at an event on Wednesday where Mahatma Gandhi University conferred honorary doctorates on him, besides scientist C.N.R. Rao, artist A. Ramachandran and musician V. Dakshinamoorthy, Mr. Ram termed it an “unexpected recognition of the intellectual and social value of serious journalism.”

Mr. Ram said Mahatma Gandhi University had taken on the challenge of developing into “an institution with the highest standards of excellence without losing sight of the importance of social equity.” He added that he believed this took one to the heart of the educational challenge in India. “It is the challenge of striking a balance between, or reconciling, two great objectives,” the pursuit of quality and excellence on the one side, and the imperative to make education at all levels accessible in a progressive modern sense on the other. Quality and accessibility, excellence and affordability, aiming high and throwing the gates and the doors wide open — these must not be seen as contradictory, conflicting goals, even if it is easier to reconcile these goals in principle than in practice, Mr. Ram said.

He believed this formulation applied as much to journalism as it did to academia. “Journalism has played a major role in the history of modern India. It is in rapid growth mode in our country, with positive features that benefit society as well as distortions, which need to be corrected urgently. The press, television, radio, and the online, digital media face complex challenges as well as exciting opportunities today. Many traps abound in the media marketplace. These curses include the practices of ‘paid news’ hyper-commercialism, sensationalism, tendentiousness, motivated propaganda, and dumbing down.”

A. Ramachandran, one of the finest Indian painters, underscored the importance of familiarising the average art-lover with original works to promote the appreciation of art. According to him, till the 1990s, the average Malayalee art-lover remained obsessively loyal to the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, since he or she never got a proper exposure to later developments in Indian art.

“Fortunately, recent art events like the Kochi-Muziris Biennale have made a deep impact on public perception of trends in Indian art movements,” he said.

Prominent scientist and Bharat Ratna awardee C.N.R. Rao noted that this was the 60th honorary doctoral degree that he was receiving from a university. He expressed confidence that his work would continue to remain worthy of attention by peers and colleagues.

Kalyani Dakshinamoorthy, who received the honorary D. Litt on behalf of her late husband V. Dakshinamoorthy, said in a speech made in Tamil that she would have been much happier to see “Swami” himself receiving the honour.  

Mechanism for review

Delivering the convocation address, Governor and Chancellor Nikhil Kumar stressed the need for a mechanism for constant review of the academic climate in centres of higher learning so that the challenge of ensuring quality in higher education could be taken up effectively.

Referring to Mr. Ram, the Chancellor said he embodied all that was expected of a true journalist as he epitomised the qualities of a journalist. He could not only educate and empower the public with critical consciousness but also lead them.

Mr. Kumar said that while Mr. Ramachandran had established himself as a painter, sculptor, graphic artist, designer of international renown, he was more impressed by the three decades Mr Ramachandran had spent as an art teacher at Jamila Millia Islamia University. The Governor said music had the power to transcend linguistic barriers, and though he could not understand Malayalam and tamil, he could enjoy Dakshinamoorthy’s music.

Pro-Chancellor and Minister for Education P.K. Abdu Rabb said the time had come when universities and governments had to set out on a bold path of educational reforms.

The ceremony started with a ceremonial procession of dignitaries. Following this, the Chancellor declared the purpose of the gathering and the citations were read out by Vice-Chancellor A.V. George.

Later, the degrees were conferred on the dignitaries by the Chancellor.