January 19, 2018

Speaking at the 5th Annual Convocation of SGT University, in Gurugram, Haryana

Shri Ram Bahadurji, honourable Chancellor of the SGT University, somebody whom I have known almost for more than 3 decades now, and a person who has stood for values, who has stood for very high literary standards in journalism and whose contribution to saving democracy in this 0country will always be remembered. Thank you very much Ram Bahadurji for having agreed to lead this university as Chancellor and give it direction and give it a good future.

Dr Suryavanshi, Vice-Chancellor; Shri Manmohan Singh Chawlaji, Managing Trustee, somebody who has very passionately given his time and nurtured this temple of learning. I believe the process started in 1999 and it’s a long two-decade journey, building up the concept, getting into the field and then I think for the last few years really taking care of this university very passionately to make sure that the high academic standards continue to prevail, and good administrative management of the university. My compliments to you Chawlaji, to Madhupreet Kaur Chawlaji – Chairperson, and the entire managing committee for the good work you have done.

Ms Jyoti Arora has been my colleague in the Ministry of Power for nearly 3 years, tough officer I must say, and as Principal Secretary, Education, Higher Education, Technical Education, I am sure she will bring a new dynamism to the education sector in the state of Haryana. Shri Shyam Singlaji, the Pro-Chancellor, Shri Dileep Singhji, Pro-Vice Chancellor, all the members of the managing committee, all the distinguished faculty members, proud parents of the graduating class of 2017. And, of course, most importantly, the 661 freshly minted alumni of this university today. I think you are all now going to be ex-students and entering the alumni association of SGT University, my heartiest congratulations to each and every one of you.

As was already informed to you, my apologies, but we were on the runway for a 8 o’clock flight when we were told that fog has suddenly descended in Delhi and it took us 2 hours and 20 minutes on the runway. We could have cut it short by about half an hour, but just when we were allowed to take off, two passengers decided that they want to disembark. And then the whole security drill, and by the time that was getting over, we had a fresh set of passengers wanting to get off. And we literally had to plead with them ki please, aap abhi aur shuru karoge to sham tak yeh silsila chalta rahega of passengers getting off.

So we really took off at 10.20 and my apologies that I delayed the entire programme. I had actually requested the management that you go ahead with the programme, I would join in whenever the flight takes off, but my apologies to each one of you who has had to wait for so long. While they are saying that you are a patient group of students and parents, frankly, if I was amongst you I would have been cursing by now, the chief guest.

But I had no choice. I was in Bangalore last night. I reached Bombay only at about 1.30 in the morning, and there was no other way to come any earlier than this. And I am sorry that the impact of climate change has cost your convocation programme very dear. I was asking somebody just know whether there used to be as much fog 30 years/50 years ago, and I was told it’s getting worse by the year. And no better person than the Railway Minister to know, because every day I get a report of how many trains are delayed, thanks to fog. But now having tasted the airlines’ misery also, I think we will get into a competitive space ki trains zyada delay hoti hain ki planes zyada delay hote hain fog mein.

Both are equally bad, and which is why I think we spent the last few years trying to bring an awareness about climate change in this country. I hope each one of you graduating students will really care for the environment, will look at environment, climate change, concerns of pollution very seriously in your careers as you go forward. Be it the doctors who are going to take on a different field, be it the students of engineering, be it students of law, each one of us in this country has an opportunity to contribute to a better future, a better environment for this nation.

And I do hope that all the graduates of the SGT University will look at climate change as a very serious concern, not only for India, but for the world as a whole. Of course, your own institute, your own university over the last 5 years has done some absolutely outstanding work in different areas that you pursue. The figure of research papers that was just mentioned by the Vice Chancellor itself was quite a surprise for a 5-year old university to have over 200 research papers published is truly a remarkable achievement. I would not have imagined that to be the case.

And in that sense, being in this Gurugram area, this was the land of learning, this was the land of knowledge. I myself come from Haryana, by the way. My ancestral roots are in Haryana. And in that sense, it gives me great pride to see such a beautiful university, from the moment you enter the precincts of this university, you can see a sense of dynamism in the place – different colleges, different centres. And the fact that this has been started when we were celebrating the tricentennial of Guru Gobind Singh Ji is itself very-very ominous. It itself gives you a lot of piousness to the university.

And I am sure it will continue to hold the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, his brave deeds, his noble thoughts will continue to guide this university in the days and years to come. One other very interesting feature that I was told about was the rural upliftment programme that the university is focusing on; dovetailing it with the Sansad Adarsh Yojana, which Prime Minister Modi has initiated.

Unless we can take development to the villages of India, to rural India, we are never going to be able to come out of the problems, the multifarious problems that we have in this country. If one looks at various thesis written on development of India, almost universally it is accepted that unless rural India is integrated with the development cycle, gets an opportunity to grow and be a part of modern India, we will never be able to take India out of the depths of poverty, of underdevelopment.

In fact, recently, we have started a new initiative for which only last week I had the first meeting for the districts of Maharashtra. But we have identified 115 very-very backward districts in the country, and while, traditionally, we have been looking at such districts as backward districts for many years, we have now made an attempt to look at these districts in a different fashion. We are now looking at these districts as aspirational districts.

Unfortunately, in India, over the years, we have seen a certain sense of privilege associated with being poor or with being backward. We have more effort going in to try and remain below the poverty line and continue to get the benefits of that than the effort we do to get out of the poverty line. And I think some of you may have seen that movie, was it called Hindi Medium? It was Hindi Medium. Aapne dekhi hogi kuch logon ne? The effort that the person has to do just to get admission for his child in a school, right up to becoming a BPL family and living in the slums, something which nobody does out of choice, is more out of compulsion, is more out of lack of equal opportunity.

And, therefore, unless we can change the narrative of backwardness to becoming a narrative of aspiring for a better future, of aspiring to come out of backwardness, this country will never be able to prosper, country will never be able to truly reach its potential as a superpower, as a developed nation. And, therefore, we are trying to nurture these 115 districts across the country, four of which have been identified even in a developed state like Maharashtra.

We are trying to create robust development programmes which can help those districts come out of the problems that they have been facing, get connectivity, get electricity 24/7, get quality education, quality healthcare, good drinking water, good connectivity through telecom, get children fair nutritional value, so they come out of malnutrition, improve the quality of education that we provide to these children and truly get them board the train, get them connected with the development journey that this country is going through.

I think each one of us in this room today is a privileged lot, all the children who are graduating, all our parents are privileged that we have got a quality education, which I believe will hold us in good stead in our careers going forward. But graduation is not only a concept. It’s not the end of the journey. In fact, life begins today for each one of you. In real life, we are students, day in and day out. It’s a 24-hour, 365-day journey of learning.

And I promise you, my own three and a half years as a Minister have taught me that every single day a new challenge comes before you, provides you a new opportunity to learn, provides you a new opportunity to do something better, to serve the nation, to serve the people, create a better framework for the future of the country. And I do hope each one of you graduates today will look at this as a process of learning. You have only crossed one threshold today. You have miles to go before each one of us can consider ourselves truly educated.

And in that sense, a formal degree, a formal process of education that we undergo in a university helps us with the building blocks. And these building blocks will help us in our life as we go forward, to do better and better, to analyze situations, to learn from experiences, to participate and contribute in this development journey. As reasoned concepts come to us, we will be able to learn and unlearn both. And when we proceed in this journey; one must remember our time is limited. Every single day that goes is a day gone by. And, therefore, without having the luxury of time, without wasting a single moment in our lives, each one of us will have to proceed at a very fast pace in our own careers, in our own work.

I do hope each one of you will follow you heart, follow your intuition and not go down the journey which, in some sense, we saw in the movie ‘3 Idiots.’ I hope we don’t go down a rigid path which is drawn up because of circumstances, but actually pursue our dreams. That will be the critical difference between success and failure in each one of our careers.

I remember, I started my own studies after schooling in the 11th standard in the science stream. I even attended – if anybody is from Mumbai, he will know there is a famous Agarwal Class there, which prepares you for IIT entrance exam, the Join Entrance Exam. So, I even started my morning classes at Agarwal Classes to prepare for IIT and to become an engineer, going down the typical traditional family path where your father is an engineer, your brother is an engineer, your brother-in-law is an engineer, everybody coming out of IIT, so that’s your aspirational goal.

But somewhere along the line, I think it was actually the first week of January in 1980, when I was chatting with my brother who was studying in America that time, my father and I, and I was saying I really don’t want to be an engineer. I am more comfortable with numbers. I enjoy the look and feel of money, and I want to pursue accounting and management and get into the business world. Whereas, traditionally, it was a family which was in service, and midway in my 11th standard I moved to commerce. I didn’t get admission easily, because I was moving midway, and then pursued from 12th standard onwards commerce, did chartered accountancy, did law.

But I was more comfortable. I was enjoying those studies. I was (inaudible), my own industry along with my studies, because it was something which I was enjoying. I was not doing it under any pressure. And that’s the kind of life I wish each one of you leads as you move out from here today.

In fact, only a few days back, I think it was about 20-25 days back, in December, we had Sonam Wangchuk. He is an educator from Leh, Ladakh. The person on whom the movie ‘3 Idiots’ has been patterned or has been taken from, his own life and his own career. And if I can quote from what Sonam Wangchuk has said – ‘Don’t study to earn, study to learn. What you learn today is what you will become tomorrow.’

And I do hope, each one of us, maybe sometimes even if we take on a degree to become a doctor, may choose that that is not the path that you are ordained to do, that is not what really excites you. So, my own private secretary today is a doctor, a trained MBBS doctor, but decided to go into the service, the Indian Administrative Service, become an IAS officer. And he is such a big asset in my work that he uses his education that he’s secured to pursue his MBBS, the analytical skills that he learned to become an MBBS doctor while doing his work with me where we are trying to transform the railways and take it to the path of a modern railway, a railway which can truly transform the way people travel in India and become an engine of growth for the Indian economy.

So, each one of us has a choice. Don’t get straight-jacketed because of the degree you have got today or because of the particular field that you pursued your career in. In fact, not the most appropriate thing to talk about while on a convocation ceremony, but some of the most successful people have been college dropouts. I believe Bill Gates never completed his education at Harvard, and so did Mark Zuckerberg, who dropped out of Harvard.

And, in that sense, maybe I am also lucky that I didn’t pursue my full programme at the Harvard Business School. After my first year in the Executive education programme I became a Minister and, therefore, haven’t been able to really get my degree at Harvard. But, possibly, I think I am better off without that degree than with that degree.

But, ultimately, it’s the hard work that each one of us puts in that’s going to hold us in good stead. Degrees are useful, I mean, no question about that. I am glad that I did my law and my chartered accountancy, because I can use it every single day in my work in my government. Every single day a paper come where I can use something I would have learnt as a student of chartered accountancy or in my law studies.

In fact, right in the car just now, I was studying a judgment of the Supreme Court related to mining and was trying to plan what I will do next. So, everything that we learn is going to be useful, but use that knowledge to pursue your dreams. You need not necessarily do what your parents tell you to do, or what society forces you to become.

That’s the most critical element to success as we go forward in life. In fact, I don’t know if you are aware of the story of the Nobel Peace Prize, the person on whom the Nobel Prize has been named. About a 100 years ago, a man was reading the morning newspaper and he saw an obituary on his name in the newspaper, whereas he was alive. It turned out that there was a mistake and his brother had passed away, but by mistake the obituary was written on him. But then he was curious to know what people talk about him now that he had been declared dead. So, even though he was in shock, he started reading what are the obituary references written about him in the newspaper.

One obituary read ‘Dynamite king dies.’ He was the founder of dynamite. Another said ‘he became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than  ever before.’ The rich scientist, who was an inventor, he was an industrialist, asked himself this question – ‘is this how I am going to be remembered, as a person who helped kill people faster than ever before.’

I think that’s the day he got in touch with his feelings, he recognised his true inner self and decided that he would change his life’s pattern; he would change his life’s course. From that day onwards, he started working towards peace. That was Alfred Nobel, the person on whom the Nobel Peace Prize is named, who then dedicated his life to peace, who then dedicated his entire career to finding solutions to the problems that the world faces and recognizing and acknowledging people of peace, people of high learning, people who contribute to make the world a better place to live in.

And I hope each one of you would like to be remembered for something unique, something great. I hope each one of you would like to be remembered for your own unique achievements, leave behind a legacy, and not just be one of those also-rans. To my mind, the education that we get, the degrees that we earn are enablers to help us lead a very fruitful life; lead a life of fulfilment, of success.

I do hope to see some of you becoming job-creators, becoming entrepreneurs, becoming leaders of Fortune 500 companies. I do hope to see some of you invent a new patent, invent a new product, discover something which has never been done before. I hope to see some start-ups amongst you which will break traditional barriers and really introduce new concepts, new ideas, new ways of working in this age of artificial intelligence, in this age of 3D manufacturing when all the old barriers are changing.

Gone are the days where a structured company would generate large amounts of electricity, which would then power our homes and factories. This is the age where new technologies are overtaking the traditional way of working in almost every field. And I think it’s a great day to commit yourself to this new journey.

In fact, the Bhagwat Gita also says that let’s not only look at the fruit, but let’s do our Karma. And that Karma is something that each one of us has to design for himself or herself. Each one of us has to choose what I will like to do, what will be my karma. And I can only tell all the young boys and girls today that once you choose your Karma, once you decide what you want to do, there is no way the fruits of that Karma will not come your way.

And I am quite confident given the wonderful education each one of you has received at the SGT University, we have 661 really proud set of parents, we have 661 successful citizens of this country coming out of this university today becoming leaders of tomorrow for India, becoming leaders for which this nation and each one of us here and each one of the parents assembled here will be proud.

I wish all of you the very best in the journey ahead and I pray for your success. I pray for your well-being and I pray for a glorious future for you and your families. My best wishes to all of you.

Thank you.

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