Youth have a role to play in the nation-building process as they are the trustees of posterity for the future, said RIPE Shekhar Mehta, after accepting the D Litt (honoris causa) presented by PDG Ashok Gupta, Chancellor of the deemed university India International School, Jaipur. “It is the duty of every citizen to uplift the poor living without a toilet and other basic amenities in the country,” he said. Mehta was conferred the D Litt for his work in literacy.
Recalling his past, he said till 35 he had led a luxurious life with all the comforts of a well-to-do family. “I got the first look at a different world in a village 50km from Kolkata, after I joined Rotary. Here men and buffaloes shared the same water for bathing, had no toilets in their mud homes, and a school with single teacher functioned under a tree with charcoal smeared wall as blackboard.” In India, he said, people lived in two separate worlds — one in which there is so much and in the other there is so little; there are people talking of space and living in skyscrapers on one side; and in the other, families live in hutments without basic sanitation. “It is our responsibility to change the living conditions of the underprivileged by reaching out to them,” he said.
In the last Census (2011) India’s literacy was just short of 75 per cent and at present, 20 per cent of adult population (18 crore) was illiterate. “Each one of you should make literate at least 10 adult illiterates. If we can accomplish this, India will become fully literate in just one year,” he said. Reiterating his vision to make India 100 per cent literate by 2025, Mehta said that “challenges and difficult tasks were stepping stones for successful people and as nation-builders, you have to make India a strong, powerful country.” While the country is progressing towards its deserving status in the world, “you can speed up the work in this direction,” he told the graduates.
Delivering the convocation address, Prof Sukhadeo Thorat, former UGC chairman and emeritus professor, JNU, said while the gender gap in the enrolment ratio and access to higher education has narrowed, “still many girls from notified communities, backward castes and Muslims do not have access to professional courses, private colleges and English medium schools due to traditional bias, cultural factors and economic issues.” The GoI must come out with special schemes and incentives to set right these historical wrongs being meted out to Indian women, he said.
Justice Shivraj V Patil, former SC judge, who also received the D Litt, said the trinity of modern education — knowledge, skills and human values — is critical to make India a strong and happy country in the world.
Ashok Gupta, a past governor from RID 3054, recalled the International College for Girls (ICG) started in 1995 has become a centre for academic excellence in IIS which offers a wide range of progammes in science, arts, social science, commerce and management.