The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, graced and addressed the 160th convocation of the University of Madras today (May 5, 2018) in Chennai.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that from the middle of the 19th century, the University of Madras has been a cornerstone of our nation building project. It is among the institutions responsible for the strong foundations of education, intellectual advance and knowledge production in India, particularly in the south of our country. He noted that in the region it is popularly referred to as the "Mother of Universities".
The President said that the expression "change with continuity" is often used and sometimes overused. But in few institutions is it as meaningful as at the University of Madras. One of the hallmarks of this University has been its ability to incorporate change even while keeping basic values intact. This attribute has helped it stay contemporary and relevant to emerging needs of students and of society. The range of courses and subjects offered here symbolises this – and spans the traditional liberal arts to 21st century disciplines.
The President said that the University of Madras has both benefited from and contributed to a tradition of scholarship that is central to Tamil Nadu's identity. Even ordinary families in the state emphasise the value of education. This has had a direct impact on social development indices and on the economy. Tamil Nadu has a proud culture of research and innovation – whether in the pure sciences or in medicine – and of engineering and manufacturing. It has a well-regarded IT sector and a growing digital economy. These are complemented by excellence in the humanities. It is no surprise that the Tamil language is among the most ancient in the world. Centuries before many others, it was exploring the literature and philosophy of learning.
The President said that the ability to pursue education as an end in itself as well as to help fill gaps in day-to-day lives of our fellow citizens is commendable. In this context the people of Tamil Nadu, and institutions such as the University of Madras, are a model for our country. Inevitably, it is to institutions such as these that we turn for direction and leadership at the beginning of the 21st century. Universities such as University of Madras are expected to be our navigators on this journey. Institutions in Tamil Nadu have shown commendable agility in nurturing an ecosystem that helps engineers and other qualified young people to become entrepreneurs and job creators. This is the route to the future and this is the pathway for the youth of our country.
Later in day, the President also graced the 42nd convocation of the Guru Nanak College and inaugurated the Guru Amar Das Block and Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Auditorium of Guru Nanak College in Velachery, Chennai.
Addressing the gathering, the President was happy to note that the Guru Nanak Educational Society, the non-profit organisation that runs the College, is supported by 250 Sikh families living in Chennai. He said that despite the small size of the community, they are contributing to the state and to society, and doing so in the field of education which is commendable. He stated that the Guru Nanak College is taking forward a long and rich history of engagement between Punjab and the Sikh community, and Tamil Nadu. This history goes back to the period when Guru Nanak Dev, who was one of our greatest spiritual leaders and nation builders, visited Tamil Nadu as part of his journey to southern India. It is believed that he spent a few days in the holy town of Rameswaram.
The President said it was worth remembering that over 100 years ago, the family of the late A.G. Ram Singh migrated from Amritsar to Chennai. Ram Singh became one of the pioneering cricketers of our country and mentored many local players here in this city. Later two of his sons, A.G. Milkha Singh and A.G. Kripal Singh, played for India. At one time it used to be said that the leading cricket family of Tamil Nadu was a Sikh family. That sense of oneness, that unity in diversity, makes our country special.
The President was also happy to note that the gurudwara within the Guru Nanak College campus has a langar kitchen which provides a free meal to about 700 students daily. He stated that Tamil Nadu is the state that gave India the idea of the midday meal programme in schools. But a midday meal at the college level is unique.
Earlier in the morning, the President paid tributes to Giani Zail Singh, former President of India on his birth anniversary in front of his portrait in Raj Bhavan, Chennai.