"Youth will drive the nation’s progress"

The extent of the country’s progress will be decided by the energy, drive, initiative and industry of the youth, said President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday, while addressing students through video conferencing and webcasting from the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Urging students to “understand our nation and its institutions,” Mr. Mukherjee said students should read, learn and formulate views on national issues. “Choose to engage with our beautiful, complex, often difficult and sometimes noisy democracy. Understand your rights and duties well, especially towards those who are less fortunate. The voiceless deserve your voice; the weak deserve your strength; and the needy deserve your help. Make the best use of your knowledge in the service of the nation and its citizens.”

Mr. Mukherjee said the pursuit of academic excellence should be accompanied by the quest for moral development. Students’ preparedness for life should be on the foundation of essential values of patriotism, compassion, tolerance, integrity and equality.

Guiding by example

In a message to teachers, he said ‘inspired teachers’ by their own example can instil good moral values in their students. These teachers must be encouraged to share their wisdom, thoughts and experience with the larger academic community. He suggested that an ‘Inspired Teachers’ Lecture Series’ be initiated to carry forward the benefits of excellence in teaching.

Pushing for reforms in education, he said: “The standard of higher education has a direct relationship with the development of a nation and the quality of life of its citizens. Two recent surveys conducted by reputed international organisations have brought out the difference in the standards of education between institutions in India and abroad. None of the Indian universities find any place in the top 200 institutions.”

Drawing comparisons with the past, Mr. Mukherjee said that between the sixth century BC and the 12th century AD, seats of higher learning – Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramashila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri – dominated the world. “They were visited by knowledge-seekers from round the world. But now, many bright Indian students go abroad for higher studies. Nobel laureates Har Gobind Khorana, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Amartya Sen and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan did their graduate or post-graduate studies in Indian universities before they went abroad to pursue higher learning,” he said.

The New Year Message of the President was received by institutes connected over 400 locations all over the country. This is the first time that the President, as Visitor of the Central universities and institutions, has used the National Knowledge Network to reach out to the students and academic community, said an official of the President’s Secretariat.