Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri R. N. Ravi Ji, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Shri M. K. Stalin Ji, Chancellor Dr. K. M. Annamalai Ji, Vice Chancellor Professor Gurmeet Singh Ji, Staff and support staff of Gandhigram Rural Institute, Bright students and their proud parents,
Congratulations to all the young minds who are graduating today. I also congratulate the parents of the students. Your sacrifices have made this day happen. The teaching and non-teaching staff also deserve appreciation.
Coming to a convocation here is a very inspirational experience for me. Gandhigram was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi himself. The natural beauty, steady rural life, Simple but intellectual environment, One can see the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of rural development here. My young friends, You are all graduating at a very important time. Gandhian values are becoming very relevant. Whether it is about ending conflicts, or the climate crisis, Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas have the answers to many of today’s burning issues. As students of the Gandhian way of life, you have a great opportunity to make a big impact.
The best tribute to Mahatma Gandhi is to work on ideas close to his heart. Khadi had been neglected and forgotten for a long time. But through the call of ‘Khadi for Nation, Khadi for Fashion’, it has become very popular. In the last 8 years, the sales of the Khadi sector saw an increase of over 300%. Khadi and Village Industries Commission has clocked a record turnover of over Rs 1 lakh crore last year. Now, even global fashion brands are taking to Khadi. Because it is an eco-friendly fabric, good for the planet. This is not a revolution of mass production. This is a revolution of production by the masses. Mahatma Gandhi saw Khadi as a tool of self-reliance in villages. In the self-reliance of villages he saw the seeds of self-reliant India. Inspired by him, we are working towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Tamil Nadu was a key centre of the Swadeshi movement. It will once again play an important role in Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
Understanding Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of rural development is important. He wanted villages to progress. At the same time, he wanted the values of rural life to be conserved. Our vision of rural development draws inspiration from him. Our vision is,
“आत्मा गांव की, सुविधा शहर की”
“ग्रामत्तिन् आण्मा, नगरत्तिन् वसदि”
It is fine for urban and rural areas to be different. Difference is fine. Disparity is not. For a long time, inequality between urban and rural areas remained. But today, the nation is correcting this. Complete rural sanitation coverage, tap water to over 6 crore homes, 2.5 crore electricity connections, more rural roads, are taking development to the people’s doorstep. Sanitation was a concept very dear to Mahatma Gandhi. This has been revolutionised through Swachh Bharat. But we are not stopping at delivering just the basics. Today, even the benefits of modern science and technology are reaching villages. 6 lakh kilometres of optic fibre cable have been laid to connect nearly 2 lakh gram panchayats. Rural areas have benefited from the low cost of internet data. Studies say that internet usage is growing much faster in rural areas than urban areas. This opens up a world of opportunities. Under the Svamitva scheme, we are using drones to map lands. We also provide people with property cards. Farmers are getting connected with many apps. They are getting the help of crores of soil health cards. A lot has been done but there is much more to be done. You are the younger, brighter generation. You are greatly capable of building upon this foundation.
When it comes to rural development, we must take care of sustainability. Youth need to provide leadership in this. Sustainable agriculture is crucial for the future of rural areas. There is great enthusiasm for natural farming, for chemical-free farming. It reduces the country’s dependence on fertiliser imports. It is also good for soil health and human health. We have already begun work in this direction. Our organic farming scheme is doing wonders, especially in the Northeast. In the last year’s budget, we came out with a policy / related to natural farming. You can play an important role in creating awareness about natural farming in villages.
Regarding sustainable farming, there is one more important point youth must focus upon. The time has come to save agriculture from mono-culture. Many native varieties of grains, millets and other crops need to be revived. Many kinds of millets are mentioned even in the Sangam era. They were loved by the people of ancient Tamil Nadu. These are nutritious and climate-resilient. Moreover, crop diversification helps save the soil and water. Your own university uses renewable energy. Solar energy installed capacity has increased almost 20-fold in the last 8 years. If solar energy becomes widespread in villages, India can become self-reliant in energy too.
Gandhian thinker Vinoba Bhave once made an observatio. He said that elections for village-level bodies tend to be divisive. Communities and even families end up breaking over them. In Gujarat, to counter this, we had started the Samras Gram Yojana. Villages that chose leaders through consensus were given certain incentives. This greatly reduced social conflicts. Young people can work with villagers to develop similar mechanisms across India. If villages can be united, they can fight problems like crime, drugs and anti-social elements.
Mahatma Gandhi fought for a united and independent India. Gandhigram itself is a story of India’s unity. This is where thousands of villagers came to a train to have a glimpse of Gandhi Ji. It did not matter where he was from. What mattered was both Gandhi Ji and the villagers were Indians. Tamil Nadu has always been the home of national consciousness. Here, Swami Vivekananda received a hero’s welcome on his return from the West. Even last year, we witnessed the chants of ‘Veera Vanakkam’. The way Tamil people showed their respect for General Bipin Rawat was deeply moving. Meanwhile, Kashi Tamil Sangamam will soon happen in Kashi. It will celebrate the bond between Kashi and Tamil Nadu. The people of Kashi are eager to celebrate Tamil Nadu’s language, culture and history. This is Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat in action. This love and respect for each other is the basis of our unity. I appeal to the youth graduating here to especially focus on encouraging unity.
Today, I am in a region which has seen the power of Nari Shakti. This is where Rani Velu Nachiyar stayed when she was preparing to fight the British. I see young women graduating here as the biggest changemakers. You will help rural women succeed. Their success is the nation’s success.
At a time when the world faced the worst crisis in a century, India has been a bright spot. Be it the world’s largest vaccine drive, Food security for the poorest, or being the world’s growth engine, India has shown what it is made of. The world expects India to do great things. Because India’s future is in the hands of a ‘Can Do’ generation of youth.
Youth, who not only accept challenges, but also enjoy them, Youth, who not only question, but also find the answers, Youth, who are not only fearless, but are also tireless, Youth, who not only aspire, but also achieve. So my message to the youth graduating today is, you are the builders of New India. You have the responsibility of leading India in its Amrit Kaal, the next 25 years. Once again, congratulations to all of you.
And all the best!