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Rashtrapati Bhavan : 28.11.2014

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjeewas Chief Guest atthe Annual Convocation of the University of Calcutta today (November 28, 2014).The President, an alumni of the University, was also conferreda D Litt/Law Degree (Honoris Causa) as well as the Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Medal introduced a year ago to commemorate the 150thbirth anniversary of Sir Asutosh Mookerjee.

Speaking on the occasion, the President recollected his association with University of Calcutta. He said Suri Vidyasagar College, where he did his education, was then affiliated to this University. He also pursued a Law degree from the Department of Law and two post graduate degrees in Modern History and Political Science as an external candidate. It was his good luck to have been associated with this esteemed Institution at a time when a young, free Indian nation was making rapid strides in national development. After assuming office as President, he received a number of offers of Honorary Doctorate from many Universities, all of which he regretted. He felt as the President of India, he should not accept such offers. But, when the offer came from his own Alma Mater, his emotions and sentiments overwhelmed him. Though he may not be worthy of such honour, he felt he must accept it with all humility since it was a symbol of love and affection from his Alma Mater.

Pointing out the role of University of Calcutta in the freedom movement, the President said the colonial rulers established this institution to cater to the educational requirements of the nobility and upper classes of India. Yet, University of Calcutta in due course became the guiding light for revolutionary ideas and nationalistic pursuits. He quoted Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s address on the occasion of the Centenary Celebrations of the University in January 1957 and said "The Calcutta University was associated with the Indian renaissance and the awakening of nationalism through its alumni…… I might say that the fountain-head of this nationalism was largely opened up by the products of this University”.

The President said education must support two elemental objectives of human existence: proliferation of knowledge and formation of character. Higher education has a unique role to play in preparing the torch-bearers oftomorrowwho will endeavour in different fields - from medicine to engineering, teaching, administration, business, politics and social service – to lead our nation to the high tables of global power. It is therefore incumbent on our seats of higher learning to mould the next generation by inculcating in them the core values of patriotism, honesty, responsibility, discipline, respect for pluralism, respect for women and compassion.

The President said it is ironical that our higher education system, which is capable of producing world-class scholars, loses them to foreign universities. A serious scrutiny is necessary to counter this avoidable trend. There is no dearth of talented students or inspired teachers. Evidence of this is the fact that graduates of Indian Universities went on to win Nobel Prizes.

This release issued 1700 hrs.