Speech of Convocation Speaker

Dr. Achyuta Samanta
KIIT University and KISS
Member, UGC and NCTE

Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr. Nurul Islam Nahid, Education Minister Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Distinguished Chairman, Board of Trustees, Daffodil International University Mr. Md. Sabur Khan, Honourable

Vice- Chancellor of Daffodil International University, Professor Dr. Lutfar Rahman, Learned faculty members of DIU, Distinguished academicians, galaxy of luminaries on and off the dais, ladies and gentlemen and the last but not the least, the stars of today’s celebration, the graduates.

Namskar and a very Good morning to everyone present here.

I am, indeed, privileged and honoured to be invited to this great institution that has all the potential of becoming one of the most sought after educational hubs of Asia.

I am, indeed, overwhelmed by seeing this congregation of young people in the young institution of a young nation who will be going out to serve the world with the knowledge they acquired here.

Ladies and gentlemen, the very name Daffodil reminds me the immortal lines of Wordsworth, where he finds thousands of golden Daffodils dancing in the breeze, tossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee. I see here thousands of young children as beautiful as the golden Daffodils waiting to receive their Degrees.

When DIU’s Chairman Mr. Sabur Khan invited me to deliver the convocation address, I did not know what a lesser mortal like me will speak before a learned audience.  Without a second thought I agreed because the Rector of KIIT University who came here earlier said very high of DIU and its teachers, he interacted with. There is another reason for me to come to DIU because it has prioritized technology to be at the forefront at each step of its functional mechanism as an institution. Besides, DIU shares our vision, ‘To create an advanced centre of professional learning of international standards where knowledge and excellence shall be relentlessly pursued, unfettered by the barriers of nationality, language, cultural plurality and religion.”  When I met Mr. Khan, I was moved by the way he explained his vision in making DIU a world class institution.  I have also a liking for Bangladesh because it is not an alien country for me.  It was my country and we are in fact brothers and sisters, but the geo-political compulsions have separated us.  We have common history, common values and common cultural heritage.  We are perhaps the only two nations in the world whose National Anthems are composed by one great poet Rabindranath.  We are in fact similar in every respect.  Though India has now graduated from a developing nation to a developed one, my state Odisha continues to remain poor but rich in Human Resources like Bangladesh.  I will not discuss why we have remained poor but I am here to share with the distinguished audience how to turn poverty an effective tool to fight it out.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Before I speaking anything to this august audience, I would like to make it very clear that I have not come here to preach any sermons but to share my experience and convey my good wishes to all the students passing out from this University. Convocation is an annual affair in every University and this day the University look back with pride that it has prepared a batch of its students with all the skill and training to work for the society at large. On this day, the University thrusts upon the young graduates enormous responsibility, a responsibility which they cannot shrug off.

Each one of us would agree that there has been rapid changes in every field and the world is virtually under the grip of the most powerful economic order.  Economic power now determines almost everything.  With the growth of IT, the education scenario is also fast changing.  ICT revolution has changed the way world behaves and thinks today.  Internet has taken over the class work and teachings in the class room.  But traditional Universities still continue with interactive class room.  This helps in developing a bond between the student and teachers.  Human values and emotions have also changed due to globalization and liberalization.  Higher Education is a global business, a trillion dollar business.  In 2009-10 alone, foreign students contributed nearly 18.78 billion (1878 crore $) to the US economy. Similarly in UK, it was around 500 crore pound sterling.  Many companies are now venturing out to start Universities.  With more and more business houses jumping into business of Higher Education, the question that comes to mind, ‘Is higher education a marketable commodity or a consumer good’.

Academic community in general do not agree to this, though  governments in developing nations view it as an opportunity to expand their edu-business.  It is true that economically a country gains by making University education commercialized but we still believe that Universities must incorporate values and ethics in the curriculum.  Each one of us has a social responsibility and education must prepare us for our responsibilities.

What should be the responsibility? The answer lies within us.  We all are fortunate that God has been every kind to us.  Our parents have sent us to the Universities but have we ever thought of the people living beyond our civilization.  Have we ever thought of giving them something to lead a better life.  All these thoughts might seem ridiculous in the beginning, but we all can do it.

I would like to share my experience with you.  I lost my father when I was only 4 years old.  With great difficulties my mother raised me working in peoples house with my seven brothers and sisters.  Sometimes I had to sleep without food.  With acute poverty, I grew most of the time with only rice gruel, to till my stomach. Walking almost 8 KM to the school, I completed my school, then college with the scholarship. In the College, I had to give tuition to keep money to get admission in M.Sc in Utkal University.  I got the job of a lecturer in a city college after the study.  I could have enjoyed life thereafter.  I had money to spend but I saved some and barrowed some from my friends.  With only Rs. 5000/- in my pocket, I left the job to start a technical institute in a rented room with only 12 students in 1992.  The same institute has now grown into one of the finest multi-disciplinary Universities of the world.  This KIIT University offers, graduation, Post Graduation and Ph. D programmes in several branches of Engineering, Medical Sciences, Dentistry, Bio-Technology, Law, Management, Fashion Technology, Sculpture & Art, Humanities etc.  More than 500 students from 20 countries including Bangladesh are studying here.  It has been ranked 5th in India with bilateral relationship with 70 Universities across the globe.  I must share with you that 4 (Four) Bangladeshi students of KIIT were sent abroad to study M. Tech with full scholarship. Despite being a great University, we take pride  not for the University but for Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences which takes care of 20,000 poorest of the poor tribal children.  We give them food, accommodation, health-care and education from Kinder Garten to Post Graduation absolutely free.  It started simultaneously with KIIT in 1993 and now it has been the largest free residential institute of the world.  It is a protégé of KIIT and that exactly what we cherish as our social responsibility.

This social responsibility, I am speaking about, is related to what I believe is the

Art of Giving.  In this materialistic world, every one aspires to have more, better and bigger houses, comfort and luxury which money can buy, but most of us never ever think of the person on the street dying in hunger because we have preferred living in denial of the distressing.  The sight of grimy bodies in tattered clothes approaching us at a traffic signal makes most of us squirm. Many toss a few coins towards them. Drop a coin and move on. This has been the most general attitude towards giving. This is how most of us like to do by way of charity. Most of us walk past the countless outstretched palms on the street to enjoy our lunch or dinner in a cosy restaurant without even thinking of millions who go hungry, live without a means to earn a livelihood, fight distress with the comfort of medical care. We live in denial of that world, for which we do not want to see beyond our world.  Anything beyond our world does not exist for us.

There are few philanthropists in the world like    Michael Rubens Bloomberg or Warren Edward Buffet, Henry  Ford, Bill Gates, John Hopkins, John Davison Rockefeller, Sir Li Ka Shing and Azim Premji who first established themselves in their respective fields, then started thinking  of serving the society.  But for me charity was natural.  Altruism and generosity always make me happy, for I experienced what life means without a secure home, a steady income and an empty stomach.  I fully endorse what George Eliot said, One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.

Charity is an important tenet in very religion, because compassion is essential for spiritual life. In Indian scriptures ‘Daan’ or charity occupies a very prominent place.  Hindu mythology is full of stories of great charity, sacrifice and donation made for the welfare of the society at large. Helping those in need is literally the essence of daan. It could be giving food to one who is hungry or teaching someone the Vedas were considered to be the best ‘daan’ given to anybody.  When a hungry man comes to one’s door, he comes as a guest considered to be a ‘deva’ or God.  In India there are many stories where a poor family prefers to starve but never ever turns away a beggar.  Glimpses of such a trait still can be found in every Odia household.  Odisha,  despite being poor,  can be best example of charity.  Each household in Odisha cook some extra rice anticipating any guest or a beggar to whom it could be fed.  If someone comes, the rice is served or it is kept with water filled in it so that it does not get destroyed and the same,   known as ‘Pakhal’ – wet rice, is consumed the next day. These traditions still continues and no wonder that it has become a cultural trait for Odisha.

Religious scriptures speak about charity to be done for upliftment of humanity.  It is considered to be sensitive to human sufferings and social injustice and it is aimed to promote social service, global brotherhood and respect  the values of humanity.  While epics like Mahabharata speaks of Karna, who even gave his shield and the earrings which could have protected him from death.  In the Mahabharata there are elaborate instruction on philanthropy (Daan). Through knowledge and understanding , one can develop purity and feelings of right achievements. Shankaracharya , in the 8th century spoke of danam sam vibhagah, meaning right distribution of resources. Ramayan speaks of Rama abdicating the throne in favour of Bharat.  Puranas speak of saint Dadhicni who donated his bones to make the weapon to kill demon Vruttasura. Dharmasutras have elaborate description of charity. In all the writings the philanthropic principles are highlighted.

In Islam,  charity is held in high esteem.  While Zakat is considered to be a person’s moral obligation to the society, Sadaqa covers all forms of charity.  Quran defines  the scope in such a vast way that even the poor who can have nothing tangible to give can offer sadaqa in shape of a smile or a glass of water to the thirsty or  even speak some kind words.

Giving is essential to Buddhisim too. Giving in Buddhism includes charity or giving material help to people in need. The Sutta Pitaka lists a number of motivations for giving. The practice of giving is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one’s humanity and one’s capacity for self-transcendence. Daan Paramita in Buddhism is perfection of generosity. A generous spirit is about more than just giving to charity.It is a spirit of responding to the world. Buddha’s life is considered to be a symbol of sacrifice.Dalai Lama believes that “Being kind, attentive and honest in dealing with others, offering praises where it is due, giving comfort and advice where needed and simply sharing time with some one – all these are forms of generosity and they do not require any particular level of material wealth”.

Similarly Dana or Danavrata constitutes the fourth vow of spiritual discipline for any layman in Jainism. It requires even the lay follower to perform charity by offering food, saving lives of others in danger, distributing medicine and spreading knowledge. In Jainism, these four great acts of charity, ‘Chaturvidha Daan’ are considered to be four gifts to Human Rights which even today many aid agencies and charitable organizations are intrinsically linked with.

The term charity has also similar connotation in Judaism. Tzedakah literally meaning righteousness is used to signify charity. The concept of charity is virtually non-existent in Jewish tradition, because when a Jew contributes money, time and resources to the needy, he is not considered as generous, benevolent , rather it is considered his duty of doing what is right and just. A Jew is said to keep ten percent of his income for the people in need.

Christianity does not believe Charity as an optional extra, rather an essential component of faith. The early saints of the Church had a very radical view of charity. They believed that what God has given generously and freely is ‘stolen’ by those who   hoard their wealth instead of sharing with those in need. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with the poor and teaches that everybody would be judged not on how beautiful our altars are but on the way how we treat others. Charity for Christians is considered to be a vibrant expression of love.

Zoroastrianism considers poverty and suffering as an affliction of evil; hence it is the duty of every individual to fight this evil. Christ asked his followers to love their neighbours, Zarathustra asked his followers to attain happiness by making others happy. In the prayer the Zoroastrian child learns’ Yatha Ahu Vairo, which says he who gives assistance to the poor acknowledges the kingdom of God.

Every religion and every religious teacher uphold the philosophy of giving, but giving material goods is just one form of generosity. One can always extend an attitude of generosity into one’s behaviour. That is why we must think and follow what the great scriptures of religion say. For us giving should not just donating money. It should mean giving a little bit of our own self to help others in need.  “Happiness dose not result from what we get, but from what we give”.

I would like to share with you one more thing which I am sure would make you all happy. The chairman of DIU visited KIIT and its protégé KISS. He was moved by seeing the 20,000 poorest of the poor tribal children getting everything to pursue their study from KG to PG. As a pious soul and true believer of Allah, he came up with the proposal for setting up a branch of KISS in Dhaka Bangladesh. He even announced to donate 2 acres of land adjacent to the new campus for establishing KISS – Bangladesh, where we would be working together. It is indeed a bright example of the Art of Giving.

Ladies and Gentlemen, though Chairman Mr. Sabur Khan Saheb informed about his desire when he visited us, yet I am informing it today to the world, because this day is a very important day in the history of the world. This day, way back in 1876, the first ever telephonic transmission by Alexander Graham Bell said,  ‘Come here, I want you’ which was transmitted by the telephone, just like the way Chairman Sabur Khan told me, Come here I want you. Today the world asks you my young friends, the same thing, COME HERE I WANT YOU. This day in 1890, the world came together for a cause. The First Olympic game started to unite the nations through sports. Again on this day the greatest Renaissance Artist Michelangelo was born in 1475. There could not have been a better beginning for the young graduates who are now equipped with the knowledge given to them by their University. Once out in the world outside the class room, please remember the inspiring words of Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujibur Rahman who told a mammoth crowd of 2 million people in the Ramna Race Course Maidan just a day after, that is on 7th March in 1971, Ebarer Sangram Amader Muktir Sangram, Ebarer Sangram Amader Svadhinatar sangram, I have the same words for you, Your struggle is for your liberation from hunger and ignorance. Your struggle is for your Independence from poverty and illiteracy.    Go out to conquer the world and use your knowledge in serving the society. Think of your fellowmen and follow the Art of Giving.

Once again congratulating you, I thank everyone for giving me a patient hearing.