Education is the best antidote for violence, intolerance and inequality, President Pranab Mukherjee said here on Wednesday.

After laying foundation stone for two separate hostels of tribal students in one of the worst naxal-hit districts of Chhattisgarh, he said faith in humanity must be restored in the minds of youths so that the country can find its rightful place in the world.

“Education-embedded in values of peace, tolerance and humanity, which is at the same time relevant to society and the economy-is the best antidote for violence, intolerance and inequality.

“The time to act, my young friends, is now. Do not miss opportunities which come your way,” he said in his address after visiting the Ramakrishna Ashram here.

Mr. Mukherjee urged the youths to work for development of the society.

“The country is growing. Today we don’t get doctors in villages. We have hospitals and buildings there. But they do not want to go there. 70 per cent of our population lives in village. There are over six lakh villages. Unless the feeling to work for the society or the country doesn’t come from within, nobody will like to go there,” he said.

Mr. Mukherjee reminisced as to how he earned a post graduate degree by paying Rs 268 as total fee for a two-year course in Kolkata.

“Today people are becoming IIT engineers, IIM graduates.

They do not want to work in villages. I feel the government should collect taxes and develop more institutes like IITs and IIMs so that people can acquire required skills,” he said in his address in Hindi amid clapping from the audience which comprised a number of tribals.

The president appreciated the exemplary services being rendered by the ‘ashram’ for the socio-economic development of the people of Abujhmarh —— home to particularly vulnerable tribal groups.

Mr. Mukherjee, who is on a two-day visit to the state, also took part in the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda.

He said Vivekananda believed that in order to improve economic condition of marginalised people, it was necessary to teach them advanced methods of agriculture and village industries.

Mr. Mukherjee also laid the foundation stone for the ashram’s industrial training institute here.

The ashram, surrounded by thick forests of Abujhmarh, focuses on empowerment of the people through residential schools. It runs hospitals, health camps, manages Anganwadi centres, and runs vocational training centres.

The president urged the youths to learn from the ideals of Swamiji and equip themselves in every possible way to contribute to the development of the country.

“It is good to be important. But, it is better to be good,” he concluded and asked people to work for the society.

He interacted with young children of this tribal area and expressed happiness to know that they want to become doctors and engineers.

Heavy security arrangements were made for Mr. Mukherjee, who flown in a chopper for about an hour from state capital Raipur to visit the Naxal-hit district of Narayanpur.

Hundreds of young students were present during the function. The president was presented bouquets by young children amid chanting of religious songs.

Chief Minister Raman Singh announced creation of an annual fund of Rs 5 crore to supplement asharam’s efforts for the all-round development of youths.