ROLE OF ELITE INSTITUTIONS
Speech at the prize distribution function at Rajkumar College, Raipur Dated 03/02/1986
There may be people who speak of institutions like this (the Rajkumar College, Raipur) as elitist and therefore not in tune with the times. This is not the right approach. We still have use for these institutions, though they were started in British days under their scheme for running the empire. They had a scheme of education for drafting into their service the intelligentia and the princely rulers whom they wanted to use as instruments of governance of their empire. By giving them limited participation they used the intelligentia in running of the empire.
The educational system we have inherited owes its origin to this imperial design; but that does not make these institutions bad in themselves. We won freedom not to destroy existing institutions, but to transform them to make them useful for the people of India. We had no malice against the princes, but we had no respect for the institution of monarchy. We wanted the sovereignty to pass on to the people, and the new rulers to carry on the administration drawing sustenance from the people of India. We never wanted to destroy anything good done by the princely rulers. In fact, they had done much good in many different areas.
I come from a State where the rulers had done a lot of good things which was why we were far ahead in education and social progress. I have the greatest regard for the Maharaja of Travancore for the good things he has done. The most revolutionary act of his in modern times was opening the temples in Travancore to Harijans. But
when it came to the question of whether the present system should continue or power should be transferred to Indians, we took a different stand.
The princes in general went along with the tide. Most of them cooperated in the transfer of power. Even then the transition had its problems, some of which continue to this day.
But the institutions which have moved with the times have become useful to the people. This college was originally intended for training the rulers. Since we have to move with the times, the present-day rulers can be given training here. The institution can then serve the very purpose for which it was founded with this difference that today every Indian is born to rule his country. Your experience in educating the rulers of yester years holds good even today.
I learn that you had considerable difficulty in starting this institution and bringing the young princes to like the academic life. They were not interested in it, but in pursuits more manly and royal in nature. Your experience, I feel, will be very useful today. We now have the new princes who are not interested in education, but in other pursuits not so royal or manly. So your experience of coaxing the princes into academic life is of immense use today. I am sure, the training given here has stood many of your alumini well in their later life. Having changed with the times they are ahead of others and capable of facing the challenges of our times.
So, the real problem today is once again the one which you faced 100 years ago. How to coax our youngsters, the future rulers to learn things? How to help them develop
an academic bent of mind ? In such a situation, the presence of a few institutions that are able to carry on fairly well is really refreshing and worthy of encouragement.
When you look at the scene in India today you find two Indias: an India that is mostly urban, a small minority, and the rural India, the vast majority. The former is moving towards the 21st century, progressing, changing rapidly and proud of the industrial culture. The latter is languishing in the old days, not having yet reached the 19th century.
I do not know where to place some parts of India or some sections of the people : We are anxious to move on to the 21st century. But the crucial question is whether we will be able to take the people fully prepared into the 21st century. The India that remains backward has to be taken along with the India that is moving forward. That is where the institutions like yours have a role to play. We are hopeful about these institutions, mainly because of this. Those of you who come out of institutions like this equipped with knowledge and wisdom, will have to function as catalysts to take India along with you in to the 21st century. When I say equipment, it is equipment of a basic nature, that provides one with the right attitude, that I want you to acquire. That is what education really is.
We speak of education as a process of moulding the human character, the human personality, etc. I would compare education to the armour and weapons of a soldier. You have to play a role in the battle of life. When you go into the battle field, you must have armour as well as weapons.
What should be the armour? I would say, the armour of truth. To acquire that armour is very very difficult. Mahatma Gandhi was one man who acquired it in our time. When you are true to yourself you cannot do many things that you do today. When you are true to others, again, you cannot do many things that you do today. By being truthful you get moral courage, which protects you from any harm in your life; that is the armour you have to acquire in the class room, in the sports field; in arts competitions, in literary competitions; in your association with your teachers, friends, and classmates and in your relationship with members of your family. Once you acquire that armour, you have the moral courage to fight the world.
And then, you have to acquire the weapon of love, the strongest and sharpest of all weapons in the world. It is with this weapon that Gandhiji conquered the great empire. It saved this country from chaos and it is still sustaining this country. But we do not utilise this weapon in ample measure, because love means renunciation of greed and selfishness. It means surrender and sacrifice.
Parents love their children. They surrender their own interests for the child. The mother offers and surrenders herself to the child. That is why we regard mother’s love above all other human loves. There is the love between husband and wife. It is the capacity of the husband and wife to surrender to the other, that binds them together in the bond of love Su love means surrender, suffering.
Are you able to love your friends, your country, your s neighbours as you love yourself, and sacrifice for them ? That is what is wanting in us. We are divided into castes, religions, and races while we want to enjoy privileges at
the expense of others we always speak of one God and brotherhood of man. Love can conquer without causing any destruction, unlike hatred.
It was with this weapon of love that Gandhiji was able to carry the whole nation with him. Once you have the armour of truth and the weapon of love, you will be able to conquer the world and this conquest will mean bringing peace to yourself, to your parents, to your community, to your country and to the whole world.
All of us want education and training that can foster a civilisation capable of bringing about peace to this country and to the world. That is the new civilisation which we want to establish. When you look around, things are not very bright. You find great military powers trying to bring about peace through armaments of the most destructive nature. The more powerful the nation, the more destructive are the weapons it piles up. In our own land we find different sections of the people ready to fight one another: hatred compelling us to settle scores with our neighbours adding to violence and suffering of humanity. In such a situation how can we have peace?
India has all the resources. If only our people remain peaceful and disciplined, there is nothing beyond our reach Truth and love can bring in discipline. As I said, there are two Indias: the backward, and the one leaping forward. Those who belong to the India that leaps forward will have to have patience to take those who are lagging behind along with them, we sail or sink together.
Today, I was travelling, I read a report that said India had one lakh 30 thousand schools with one teacher. Madhya Pradesh has 16000 schools with one teacher.
We have not yet brought Madhya Pradesh even to the 50% literacy level, though we had promised the nation in 1950 that by 1960 we would have universal literacy. This job has to be taken up by the more fortunate, those who are educated and they should share their fortune with others.