Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, Friends, I am delighted to be addressing a conference on Globalising Indian Thought at a prestigious institution like the IIM-Kozhikode. It is a matter of joy that such well known centres of learning are taking interest in subjects as these. It is no coincidence that we are talking about globalising Indian thought at a time when a life-size statue of Swami Vivekananda finds a special place on this campus. Who can forget the contribution of Swami Vivekananda in globalising Indian thought. Years ago, on 11th September 1893, Swami Vivekananda gave a glimpse of India’s ethos during his iconic speech in Chicago. As we all know, the moment he began his speech with “Sisters and brothers of America”, there were loud claps. It was magica. The magic was not in the words. What was on display was India’s conviction and commitment to universal brotherhood.
Friends, Indian thought is vibrant and diverse. It is constant and evolving. It is too vast to be put in a lecture or a seminar or even books. But, broadly, there are certain ideals that have remained central to Indian values. They are- compassion, harmony, justice, service and openness.
Friends, let me talk about what draws the world to India. First and foremost, what comes to the mind is- the values of peace, unity and brotherhood. So many states so many languages, so many dialects, so many faiths, so many customs and traditions, so many food habits so many lifestyles, so many ways of dressing. Yet, for centuries we have lived in peace. For centuries we have welcomed the world to our land. Our civilisation has prospered when many could not. Why? because one finds peace and harmony here.
Friends, it has also been our strength that our thoughts have become living traditions, guided by simplified and relatable practices. These practices are neither rigid nor …..unidimensional. The beauty in the fact that they can be practiced differently.
Friends, ours is the land that has given the world vibrant faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. In this land the Sufi tradition has flourished. Non-Violence is at the core of all of these. In the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi championed these ideals and this contributed to India’s freedom. At the same time, they gave strength to millions outside. Be it Doctor Martin Luther King Junior or Nelson Mandela or the freedom struggles in many African nations, they took inspirations from Gandhi Ji. Several Indian soldiers lost their lives in both World Wars. They fought bravely even though India had no stake in these wars. We never wanted anyone’s land or resources. But, our soldiers fought for peace. For decades, India remains one of the biggest contributors to UN Peacekeeping Operations globally.
If some of the most conflict-prone zones could breathe the air of peace, our soldiers have a role to play in that. In a world seeking to break free from mindless hate, violence, conflict and terrorism, the Indian way of life offers rays of hope. The Indian way of conflict avoidance is not by brute force but the power of dialogue.
Friends, When I say India believes in peace and harmony, this includes harmony with Mother Nature and our environment.
The Veda Says: यां रक्षन्त्यस्वप्ना विश्वदानीं देवा भूमिं पृथिवीमप्रमादम्
Mother Earth, where saints meditate has been called the giver of everything, on whom all life forms depend.
Our tradition considers the Earth as our Mother. Divinity in India is associated with many animals. Kautilya has written widely about protecting flora and fauna. We see traces of this spirit in many of the efforts being undertaken today. India has taken the lead in forming the International Solar Alliance, to harness solar energy for a cleaner tomorrow. We are devoting efforts towards increasing usage of renewable energy. India’s mass movement towards adopting LED bulbs has contributed to significant energy saving. 36 crore LED bulbs have been distributed. 1 crore street lights have been replaced by LED. This has led to cost saving to the tune of around rupees twenty five thousand crore. Over four crore tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions have reduced. Energy saving is huge as well.
Distinguished guests, India’s tiger population has doubled since 2006. Today, India is home to almost 2970 tigers. Three quarters of the world’s tiger population stays in India. We are one of the most secure tiger habitats. Back in 2010, the world had agreed to double tiger population by 2022. We achieved it way in advance!
Similarly, the Lion population in India has gone up by almost thirty percent from 2010 to 2015. In 2010 the number stood at four hundred and eleven. Am told today the number is above six hundred.
Friends, India’s forest cover is growing. The number of protected areas stood at 692 in 2014. This increased to more than 860 in 2019. There were 43 community reserves in 2014. Now, there are over 100. These facts are drawing many environment and wildlife lovers to India. You would have seen the Man Versus Wild programme. It led to great interest in India.
Friends, today, Mindful Living, health conscious eating, various types of fitness routines are becoming very popular. Do you know that many of these health practices that are popular worldwide will find their roots in India. Centuries ago, sages from India practised Yoga, and gave the world Ayurveda. Yoga is not merely a set of exercises. It is much more than that. Yoga is a means to both fitness and wellness. It leads to a fit body and healthy mind. The IIM community is one of the brightest but one of the most busy group of people. The excellent work prospects also bring with it stressful routines. I would urge them all to devote time to Yoga. You will see the positive difference it brings.
Friends, one of the most remarkable aspects of this land is the respect, importance and dignity given to women. नारी तू नारायणी . Women are manifestation of divinity. The clarion call for women empowerment has been raised century after century by Indian thought leaders. Who can forget the Bhakti Saints of India?
Who can forget the role of greats like Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar? Who can forget the efforts of Mahatma Phule and Savitri Bhai Phule?
Even while most western countries took decades to give voting rights to women, the makers of our Constitution ensured women had voting rights from the very first day!
Today, more than seventy percent of Mudra loan beneficiaries are women. Women are making active contribution to our armed forces. A group of women navy officers went around the entire world by sea! That was historic.
India has the highest number of women MPs today. Women turnout in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was highest.
Friends, India celebrates openness.
Mahatma Gandhi put it perfectly when he said:
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”
Gandhiji showed it is possible to be proud of our own culture and yet, be open to other cultures and stay in harmony with them.
In this work Bharat Tirtha, Gurudev Tagore wrote about India:
“All shall give and take
Mingle and be mingled in,
None shall depart dejected
From the shore of this sea of Bharat’s vast humanity”.
Friends, where there is openness, respect for different opinions, innovation is natural. The innovative zeal of Indians is drawing the world to India. The idea of Zero, born in our land, is perhaps the most universal and radical idea. It transformed the study of maths. We are a nation with a vibrant young population. Our demographic dividend makes us a magnet for investment. Everybody wants to be in India today. Our software industry two decades ago and our start-up eco-system today shows the power of India’s youth.
Friends, when we are talking about globalisation and Indian thought, it is also important to discuss its application. It would make everyone proud that being rooted to Indian systems and traditions, India is surging ahead on the path of development. You can see it in the manner in which India has achieved remarkable financial inclusion. Or, how we have rolled out the world’s largest healthcare programme in the world. Or, how India has given crores of smoke-free kitchen to millions. Millions of homes have been made for the poorest of the poor.
Look at our election process. Millions of voters vote peacefully. Polling booths are set up where there is even one voter, in remote areas. No wonder India’s position in the world order is rising.
Friends, Indian thought has given a lot to the world and has the potential to contribute even more. It has the potential to solve some of the most leading challenges our planet faces.
We are taught from childhood:
सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत् ।
May everyone be happy. May everyone be free from sickness. May everyone see goodness. May there be no unhappiness.
Here everyone does not only refer to India and Indians.
It refers to the world.
India believes that when India progresses the world will progress. And, when the world prospers, India will gain by it. I hope seminars such as this popularise more strands of Indian thought among people.
With this, I conclude my remarks and convey my best wishes to IIM Kozhikode.
Thank you very much!