September 20, 2017

Speaking at Somaiya Vidyavihar’s 59th Foundation Day Celebrations, in Mumbai

Our very beloved Lila Ben, somebody whom I have known since my childhood, probably, I knew Lila Ben even before I came to know Sameer. Shri Prakash Bhai Mehta, honorable Minister, government of Maharashtra, Sameer Bhai, Mr Ranganathan, former Chief Secretary. All the distinguished guests who have assembled for this very important 59th Foundation Day of Somaiya Vidyavihar, ladies and gentlemen.

I think it was truly a delight to hear Dr Bhide welcome us in Sanskrit, probably, the first time in my life that I have had such an experience. My late father was very keen that I should study Sanskrit, somehow I never got down to it, but hearing Dr Bhide today, it actually sounded quite simple. He made it so comfortable that we could get a fair sense of what he was saying, so am almost tempted to see if I can spend a few days in Mumbai and study Sanskrit here.

In fact, I had accepted this invite when I was not the Railway Minister and after I took charge of railways, and I realized the dimensions of the job. I cancelled all the engagements, because I thought it’s important as Mr Ranganathan will appreciate to really get a grip on the job, understand what I am supposed to do. But, my relation with the Somaiya family goes back so many years and my father’s relation with Shanti Bhai before that, Shanti Lalji, that this was one programme I could not cancel and I actually came in to Mumbai last night at 12:30.

We had a meeting with the Chief Minister and the railway officials and the government officials till 3 o’clock last night, and I thought that since I am coming to Somaiya Vidyavihar I might as well use the opportunity to do some good as the Provost was just mentioning. Of course, I may not be able to get you your license as a University immediately but, we can still do some good in other ways.

The Provost also mentioned Prakash Bhai does not trouble too much, actually, whether it is Prakash or me, we would love to trouble you a lot. The problem is we don’t get anywhere when we try to trouble you and that is the beauty of this institution why we respect Somaiya Vidyavihar. The very fact that they have been able to resist all sorts of pressures and I am privy to some of the pressures that his father and Sameer, both have faced over the last 30 years and the very fact that they have maintained the dignity of the institution, the value systems of the institutions and the merit-based processes of admitting good students, deserving students is something we are all very proud of Sameer, keep it up.

And why I drew upon this issue was, because I have been appealing to the business community, to youngsters all across the country over the last three and half years, to my own chartered accountant brothers, that ultimately it is only we all, who can make a difference to our destiny.

The provost was right and the Prime minister has been appealing to it, Karamshi Bhai demonstrated it with his work that unless we all get together to transform India, it is not going to be possible for one individual, one government, one organization, to be able to make that change, to make that difference that we all want to see in our lifetime happening in India. It will only happen when all of us collectively decide that we will not pay a bribe, it will only happen when all of us collectively decide that we will pay our taxes honestly, it will only happen when we all decide that whatever the process, whatever the law, whatever the legal framework, Somaiya will continue to persevere from 2013 till now or whenever, but we will still follow the law and the process, will not try to take a shortcut, we will not try to find a solution, an extraneous solution, but will ensure due respect of the law.

And when the entire nation takes this as the guiding philosophy of our world that is when we can truly transform India. And that is what I would appeal to all the 31,000 students in this campus or the 39,000 students that study and are privileged to get this high quality education at Somaiya, to keep as the beacon of your very existence that value system which made Karamchi Bhai start this institution years and years and years ago, let that be our value system.

I often appeal to my Chartered Accountant friends and I think the Prime Minister appealed to them on 1st of July, when we celebrated our Foundation Day that if all of us Chartered Accountants alone, we are about two and a half lakh, if all of us decide, we will not pay a bribe, just imagine the transformation that could happen in the tax structures, the tax systems. After all कोई देगा तभी तो कोई ले पायेगा ना, अगर हम सब तय कर लें हम देंगे नहीं तो लेने वाला कहाँ से आएगा, कहाँ जायेगा? और कब तक आपको तकलीफ दे पायेगा|

And I think that is the spirit of Karamchi Bhai, Shanti Bhai and Sameer over the last 59 years of this institution that has maintained the integrity of this institution, that has ensured continuous success and the fact that they did not mix philanthropy and businesses. Unfortunately, a lot of philanthropy is moving towards becoming a part of business these days. For the Somaiya family, this has always been a part of their charitable bent of mind, it’s something that they want to give back to society. No donations, the provost was just mentioning, I think the entire world, every citizen of Mumbai, everybody, knows this is one institution you cannot take a shortcut. You cannot pay a donation, you cannot get admission out of turn – transparency.

And, while he mentioned that Karamchi Bhai did not receive formal education beyond the 7th standard. I think running an organization, running  a business or for that matter running a government is not about education, is not about what you learn in school, in college alone. It’s about integrity, it’s about what you believe in, it’s about your value systems, it’s about what you believe is good for the nation, is good for society. And if any organization stays the course on values, I think there is no way one will see failure ever.

The entire story that we are trying to craft in the last three and a half years, we have got some moderate successes, we have a long road ahead of us to create the New India of Prime Minister Modi’s dreams. A long way, but very little time. The journey is big, but the aspirations of the people today, are urgent. Balancing the aspirations of a billion people, yet maintaining institutional integrity, maintaining fundamental principles of good governance. After all, whether Sameer runs the educational institution, whether he runs his business or Prakash Bhai and I try to run our political process or the government, I think the guiding principles or the commandments are all the same.

We need to have the highest level of transparency. We need to have accountability. We need to monitor the work that is happening. We need to bring innovation into our work. We need to have more and more stakeholder consultations, involve society, involve the customer, involve the people who are going to be affected. Again, whether in the college, whether in the business or whether in our government, everywhere, the principles of good governance are broadly the same.

And, as long as we all work towards maintaining that institutional integrity, I think nobody can ever go wrong, no business, no government, no organization will ever have to taste failure. Of course, we all make mistakes, mistakes is a part of life. In fact, when I was reading through the Times of India on 15th August, some of your students also have given some comments on Independence Day. One of the comment that a Somaiya student gave and I am very proud of that student, I don’t know who it was, he or she said, “I want freedom of choice, even if that means making mistakes.” It is a very powerful statement.

Who doesn’t make mistakes in life? In fact, mistakes define our very existence, our very effort that we put in. It is said that, if you don’t make mistakes, it means that you haven’t tried hard enough, because if you really go that extra mile you are going to make mistakes. But, in that process, success is ensured.

I believe Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, has probably written about a thousand and one mistakes that he made. But it’s only those mistakes that define his success today, and in that sense, to my mind what quality of education one is receiving in this august institution is truly remarkable for its effort to excite the imagination of students. What we saw today as we came in, I had the experience of an NCC team of girls, which somehow I feel is almost becoming non-existent in our country.

I used to be a cub, and then a boys scout in school. I regret the fact that we haven’t made a thing like that compulsory in this country. Of course, fortunately, I don’t think there is press here. Otherwise, I was in trouble, the headlines tomorrow was, ‘the Modi government wants to make inculcating discipline in students compulsory and, therefore, we are against freedom or we are intolerant.’ But I do believe the nation needs to have some value system, some disciple, inculcated in students at the grooming up age.

I remember and Sameer you will remember, we had the moral science lecture in school in the good old days. I suspect it’s not there. I don’t know if the children of today receive moral science lectures in school anymore, and what were we taught? I was in a Christian school, the Christians used to go to the Church in our school, Don Bosco, right around our neighbourhood, and we were all given moral science lectures, and what was that all about? Respecting your elders, caring for the environment, for nature, working with discipline, working hard, respecting the opposite sex. All of these were simple value systems that we were taught at a young age.

I don’t know if some of you may recall or know. On the 15th August, 2014, when Prime Minister Modi was giving his first address on Independence Day. Of course, it’s very sad reflection on our society that on such an important day like, 15th August also, I suspect nowadays not too many people get up at 07:30 to hear the Prime Minister’s address, which is in a way a report card, in a way a vision, which he is articulating for the nation. I don’t know how many parents today make their children get up to listen to that, forget the political ideology behind it or the party in power. It could be Dr Manmohan Singh few years ago, it will be Prime Minister Modi now.

But these are occasions when we inculcate values into our children, even values of respecting our independence. The fact that Mahatma Gandhi and scores of people gave up their life for us to be having that freedom about which we are talking today. But to come to the point on 15th August, 2014, Prime Minister Modi had made a very-very important observation. My daughter who was than in India from her studies, was by coincidence in India that day and she was sitting on the ground below the Red Fort and Prime Minister said, ‘why do we always tell the girls how to behave, to take care, to not go out, do this, do that. Why don’t we start with the boys? Have we all ever told our boys how to respect the girls, how to look at people from the other sex, how to behave with them?’

And I tell you that it had such a profound impact on my daughter, who was at that time probably not even 18, a 17-year old girl, that the leader of the nation is looking at the basics, doing a root cause analysis, what needs to be done to impact and transform society. I don’t know, if you are aware, he is very passionate about the girl child getting education, becoming an integral part of the society, a self-reliant respectful part of society. In fact, all his salary that he gets and all these mementos, which are received by dignitaries, go into an auction and the proceeds of that go to teach the girl child, for girl child education. If I recall correctly, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, just out of these mementos, which otherwise can be kept at home, by auctioning them 28 crores or some such figure was collected and went to girl child education.

What I am just trying to say that all of us will have to become the integral part of the change that we want to see in this country, that transformation to New India, an India where everybody has a home, everybody has electricity, water in his home, a good toilet, good education, good healthcare in the neighbourhood. That is the absolute basics that one can hope to give to our lesser fortunate brethren. After all, if many of us would reflect we would have our roots in some villages somewhere? Don’t the children there deserve what we all are enjoying over here, and which is why I think the fact that we still have philanthropists like the Somaiya family coming down three generations and maintaining value systems, is something that we are all extremely proud of, is something that encourages a person like me also to try and give back to society in whatever role I get at different points of time. Not necessarily always in government, but in every walk of life – be it a teacher who is trying to give back through educating her wards. But being honest to her job, sincere, maintaining discipline, maintaining the time, doing his/her best to give back to her children. Be it the businessmen who pay their taxes, which help to fund so many social programmes, be it a banker who runs financial inclusion programmes and helps the people from lower strata of society also stand up in life, be it through the Mudra Yojna, be it through farmer loans, be it a civil servant who dedicates his whole life to keep sanity in administration, in the government, in the country. Or be it the sweeper who has kept this beautiful auditorium so nice and clean.

As the Prime Minister said, the most important person in our life, because after all, would you have come to an auditorium which was littered with plastic bottles and garbage all over this place? Would any of you have liked to be a part of a programme like that?

Every individual has a role to play, and in that role we all have a role to help him/her play that role better, which is nature, which ties us all together in different forms. We have some diplomats here, in a globalized world, they play an important role in bringing nations together, keeping peace and tranquillity in the geo-political international arena in engaging with each other to fight the serious challenges, be it terrorism, be it climate change.

Each and every one of us has a purpose why we are here, and it is that purpose, if implemented with principles, with values, with respect, with concern from the heart, I have no doubt in my mind that India will become the super power that we were at one point of time, that we are destined to be and which we are committed to making India a super power, where every citizen has a pride of place, where every citizen is self-reliant, where every citizen is respected and where every citizen contributes to the future of the country, to the well-being of the rest of society.

I am delighted that Somaiya Vidyavihar has played such a important role in shaping the destiny of Mumbai, in shaping the destiny of, probably by now millions of students, over the last 59 years. Making millions of ambassadors of goodness, who have all gone in different walks of life, who have all served society in different walks of life.

I wish this institution, all success in the years to come. I wish the Somaiya family, more particularly, Leela Ben long and healthy life in the service of society, and I wish all of you teachers, parents, students, the trustees. Maharaj ji is 93 years old, but has still chosen to come all the way from Madhya Pradesh to be amongst all of us us.

उनका जुनून कम नहीं हुआ है 93 साल की उम्र में और हम सब युवा-युवतिओं के ऊपर ज़िम्मेदारी है कि उनके उस जुनून को हम पूरा करें, पूरे रूप से उसको सफल बनाये | और जब यह ज़िम्मेदारी हम सब मिलके अपने कंधे पर ले लेंगे तो मुझे पूरा विश्वास है कि महाराज जी भी संतुष्ट होंगे कि मैं एक ऐसे अच्छे काम के साथ जुड़ा जिससे इस भारत के नव निर्माण के लिए, इस भारत के transformational new beginnings के लिए यह देश तैयार है और यह देश उसमें पूर्ण रूप से सफलता पायेगा |

आप सबको बहुत बहुत शुभकामनाएं|

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