‘Despite rapid growth, our country is home to largest number of non-literates’

N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman Emeritus and founder of Infosys Ltd., has said that students should be secular because that is the only way all Indians can participate in nation building.

Delivering a lecture at the MES College of Arts, Commerce and Science here on Monday, he urged students to “shun parochialism, chauvinism and jingoism”.

Mr. Murthy said that he had “mixed feelings” about India’s development in the last six decades. “We produced many great scientists and engineers, but we lacked confidence and the respect of the world,” he said.

Terming the present as “an important fork” in the country’s history, he said that the national economy was growing much faster, had attracted much greater inflows of foreign investments, and enjoyed the status of being “the software factory of the world”.

“We are at the high table in most multilateral fora,” he said. Despite the rapid growth, the country is home to the largest number of non-literates — 250 million — in the world, Mr. Murthy said. More than 450 million Indians earned less than Rs. 36 a day; more than 750 million have no access to “decent sanitation”, and half the rural schools in the country have just one teacher. “Pollution and hunger kill more people than bomb blasts,” he said.

Opposing reservation in education and jobs, Mr. Murthy said, “We are the only nation in the world where people fight to be called backward.”

Mr. Murthy told the students that they are “fortunate” to get access to education, and urged them to “contribute to society”, at least a fraction of what they had gained. “Do not be cynical. The best way to escape a problem is to solve it,” he told them.

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