YCMOU_29th Convocation Address


His Excellency,  Hon’ble Governor of Maharashtra and Chancellor of the university Shri Ramesh Bais ji, Vice Chancellor Prof. Sanjeev Sonavane, Deans of the various Faculties, other dignitaries present for the ceremony, faculty, staff, graduating students and their parents, ladies, and gentlemen, 
I am indeed honored and delighted to be amongst you for this very special and auspicious occasion, the Convocation Ceremony 2023 of Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University.   Convocation ceremony is a solemn occasion in every one’s life. This is the day when you are charged with empowerment to be a professional. You are authorized to take up the challenges faced by the society to make the human life more orderly and comfortable.  
My heartiest congratulations to all the graduating students for achieving their goal of getting a degree. I also congratulate the parents of the new graduates for their sacrifice and never-ending support to their wards.
The faculty also deserves a word of praise for transforming the raw material into a finished product.  Although the students entering the colleges generally have high dedication, without proper training and mentoring, their potential cannot be realized.  The faculty selflessly carry out this job and create tomorrow’s professionals, leaders, thinkers and what not. The distance education is a novel concept for making the higher education far more inclusive. It facilitates higher education for those who have high aspirations for university education, but for some unavoidable reasons cannot join full time degree program in a university. The distance mode of education has far-reaching implications. It facilitates the education to the remotest corner of the state with affordable price. Use of modern technology can further strengthen this mode and enhance the Gross Enrolment Ratio of the country. 

    Generally, it is expected that in a Convocation Speech, thought provoking ideas and words of wisdom should be shared with the graduating students.  Somewhere I read a life changing quote: ‘a bird sitting on a tree has no fear of fall, not because it is sitting on a solid branch but because it has faith in its wings’. The education which you have received in your respective programs is the strength of your wings. With that strength now you can fly all over the world without any boundary. More you fly, stronger will be your wings. You have got a treasure which is never ending, rather multiplying with usage. More you use it more it will grow.  
    In today’s globalization, India is standing at a crucial juncture.  In its quest to become knowledge superpower in next one decade, it needs a higher education system of international standard.  The system must be transparent, efficient, merit based, and accessible to every stratum of the society.  Today India is one of the developing countries that has a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of only 26%.  For the developed nations it is more than 55%.  To make the GER of India comparable to that of other developed nations, we need to establish more than 1500 new universities.  This is a very challenging task for many reasons. Firstly, it is apparent that these universities cannot be established in the major cities due to already over stressed infrastructure.  Secondly, continuing the higher education only in bigger cities, keeps the rural regions underdeveloped.  The higher education model therefore needs a change in long run.  Instead of universities coming to cities, we need to build cities around the universities. More self-contained university towns away from metros will help in establishing equitable distribution of higher education in the country. This will help in reducing 
rural–urban divide.  While the new universities get developed in rural areas, the distance mode of education is the best option.  
    Today innovation is the key to success. The educational curriculum therefore must promote innovative thinking.  An innovator applies principles of science to achieve high material comforts.  A scientist discovers nature for intellectual curiosity.  He is interested in unveiling the nature to the finest details.  An innovator on the other hand applies the scientific knowledge for human benefits.  The innovative approach requires a non-conventional thinking.  While a scientist explains why the things are the way they are or why things happen the way they happen, an innovator challenges the conventional way and asks, why the things can not be different than what they are or why the things can not be done differently than what the conventional wisdom suggests? The education therefore needs to provide space for innovative ideas.  It should encourage nonconventional thinking.
    An innovative idea or innovative product is the one which makes a leap in the benefits–to–cost ratio in some area of endeavor. Another way of saying this is, an innovation lowers the cost and/or increases the benefits of a task.  The cost always does not mean money. The cost can be in terms of money, difficulty level, required skill level, physical pain, harm, and risk thereof, inconvenience, embarrassment, boredom, pollution etc.  The benefits can be in terms of effectiveness, safety, speed, pleasure, health, fun, comfort etc.  A successful innovation is the one which increases the benefits-to-cost ratio to such an extent that it enables us to do something which seemed we could not do at all before or did not even know that we wanted to do. 
For example, two centuries ago no one in his wildest dream would have imagined the things like, photocopying, video conferencing, airplanes, computers, air-conditions, electricity, the list is endless.  
The important question is how does an innovation happen? Or what is needed for innovations to happen?  The web of innovation has been and will always be highly interconnected.  Each innovation brings forth a paradigm shift which enables other innovations that were unthinkable in the previous paradigm.  The classic examples are internet and personal computers.  The internet was unimaginable before the personal computers arrived, and many applications like e-learning, e-commerce, tele-medicine, were beyond imagination without internet.  Due to interdependency of the innovations, the time is very important for an innovation to succeed. Sometimes even great innovations die if they arrive before their time.  At times even revolutionary innovations are not accepted immediately. Some examples like arc lamps, vaccines fall into this category.  On the other hand, some innovations like internet, cell phones, and personal computers got immediate acceptability in the society. 
It is well known that the economic status of a nation is directly related to the scientific research carried out in that country. Research is an important component of national development. Worldwide the cutting-edge research is carried out in the universities. In India however the research is confined to only few institutions. Our educational institutes lack quality research. Generally, there is misconception about research among students. Most of the students think research is beyond their reach. Also, there is relatively low investment in R&D in our institutions. In India, we spend only 2% of our GDP on research whereas in the developed nations the expenditure on research is 5-6%. For India to become technologically advanced, cutting-edge research must be conducted in educational institutions. With brilliant minds and demographic advantage, India can outperform any country in research provided we define our objectives right. We cannot be in a complacent mode. We need to be aggressive and dedicated for producing cutting edge research which is globally competitive but at the same time locally relevant.   
Industries have good understanding of the societal needs, and therefore they can play a great role in identifying innovations which have potential to succeed. They can also help in defining directions for innovations.  The educational institutions hence must have strong linkages with the industries. The academic output of institutions must feed the industries which in return mentor academics.  Let industries challenge academic minds to develop innovative ideas and products and share the wealth generated through that.  Innovative research supported by industries is the key to success in the globalized market. My dear friends, those of you who join industries, can be the bridge between the industry and academia.  You can be pro-active in contributing to curriculum development and in suggesting reforms to make education in India a world class education.  I will also urge that those of you, who have inclination towards research and teaching, do contribute to nation building. Set high goals for yourself. It is better to fail with high goals than to succeed with mediocre goals.
In today’s’ liberalized market we cannot remain contented with the best at the local level. We must compete internationally.  For that to happen, our education needs a thorough restructuring. The education policy NEP-2020 has envisioned the future challenges and has proposed a forward-looking education policy. The policy has three main pillars namely, inclusiveness, student-centric flexible education, and revival of Indian knowledge system. The policy amply emphasizes the role of technology in education. It also provides thrust on developing scientific and social innovation. With technological advancements, we are entering an exponential world where things change very rapidly. The knowledge is exponentially increasing day by day.  At the same time, the lifetime of a technology is getting shorter and shorter. What that means is, the education which you have received in your student days becomes obsolete in next few years. How would you then survive in such a dynamic exponential environment! You need to develop habit of self-learning. Learning, Un-learning and Self-learning is the Mantra to success in the exponential world. Thankfully, there are ample resources available for self-learning irrespective of one’s social or economic status. One must then learn how to use these vast resources for developing unique new innovative ideas for addressing societal problems. It is imperative that every citizen must become conversant with the contemporary technology, must become digitally literate. As the time moves, more and more services are going to be in digital domain. India has done extraordinarily well in digital transformation. The digital technology has reached to the remotest corner of the country. This has provided equal opportunities to every citizen and empowered every section of the society irrespective of language, cast, religion, and economic status.   Under Digital India project, citizens are provided facilities in education, healthcare, agriculture, governance, banking, and many other essential sectors. 
The major challenges that the 21st century faces are the sustainability and preservation of Humanity. The rapid development in the last century has put excess pressure on natural resources. It is forecasted that with the current trend of development, by the end of the century, while the population of the world will increase by 50%, the fossil fuel fill be depleted by 80-90%, the energy requirement will be up by 200%, electricity demand will increase by 300%, and water scarce population will increase by 300%. Many of these factors are going to impact the Asian countries most including India. The awareness about the sustainability therefore will have to become the core of the education system. The Vedic lifestyle was based on principles of sustainability. However, in the race of the development with the so-called ‘developed nations’, we deviated from the Vedic value system. Taking cognizance of this, the NEP-2020 has provided thrust on the Indian knowledge system.  
The second challenge that is the preserving humanity is due to rapid growth in the field of Artificial Intelligence. The AI is fast changing the social fabric. Inculcating a value system that nurtures empathy, cohesiveness, happiness is the need of the hour. The education system therefore must provide a thrust to the holistic development of the students so that we create great humans, citizens, and professionals from our country.  
Today only 20% of the world population lives in the developed nations and India is at the border of developing and developed nations. One section of India lives a life that is even better than that in the developed nations. But a large fraction does not even meet the basic needs of life. This is not a stable situation. Our sustainability is in inclusiveness. We need to develop products and services which can be affordable to the large masses of the country. The approach of the modern world will not be directly useful for Indian masses. We therefore need to develop an India-centric model of growth. In fact, such a model will be followed by many underdeveloped and developing nations where more than 80% of  the world’s population lives. India can again become a guide, Vishwaguru, to the world as it had been in the ancient times. 

Before I conclude, I would like to say that whatever you achieve in life, achieve it with high moral and ethical values keeping your head high with pride. May come what, do not compromise on your Value System. Work with the highest ethical standards and high integrity.  Get rich not only in terms of money but also in terms of thinking, ethics, social sensitivity, dedication to nation, love, compassion, peace, and sustainability. March towards excellence and make your Alma Mater and your country proud. Once again hearty congratulations to you for your achievements and best wishes for your future endeavors. 
Thank you.  Jai Hind.  Jai Maharashtra.



Dr Raghunath K. Shevgaonkar is a scientist and academician who provided dynamic leadership in Engineering Education in India for more than four decades. An alumnus of, MITS Gwalior, IIT Kanpur, Indian Institute of Astrophysics/Raman Research Institute Bangalore, and IIT Bombay, his research spans over a wide range of areas like, Radio Astronomy, Fibre Optic Communication, Electromagnetic’s, and Antennas.

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