Text of the First ‘Padmabhushan Dr L H Hiranandani Oration’ delivered by Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao
ext of the First ‘Padmabhushan Dr L H Hiranandani Oration’ delivered by Shri Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra at Rama Watumull Auditorium, K C College, 124, Dinshaw Wachcha Road, Churchgate, Mumbai at 6.15 pm on Wednesday 20th January 2016
Smt Pratibha Patil, former President of India, Shri Niranjan Hiranandani, President, Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board and Chief Managing Trustee of the Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Padma Vibhushan Dr B K Goyal, Padma Shri Dr Rustom Soonawala, Dr Suresh Advani, Shri Nihschal Israni, other distinguished members of the Board, Trustees of the Hospital, eminent doctors and surgeons, educationists, Principals, Members of Faculty, all the admirers and well-wishers of late Dr L H Hiranandani, students, ladies and gentlemen
Good evening and a Very Happy New Year.
I feel honoured and privileged to stand before you to deliver the first ‘Dr L H Hiranandani’ oration.
At the outset I would like to convey my appreciation to the Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital Trust and particularly to Shri Niranjan Hiranandani for instituting the oration in memory of his illustrious father, late Dr L H Hiranandani.
Dr L H Hiranandani had served as Honorary ENT surgeon to all successive Governors beginning with the last British Governor Sir John Colville until 2013, the year he passed away. It was this association of Dr Hiranandani with Raj Bhavan coupled with my own admiration for his work that brings me here.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dr L H Hiranandani would have turned 100 years this year, he fell short of a century by 3 years. Nevertheless, he achieved in a life of 97 years what ordinary mortals cannot achieve in even 200 years.
Dr Hiranandani dedicated his entire life to make specialized healthcare affordable to the common man. But that was not his only identity. Dr Hiranandani was a citizen activist – journalist who used the power and prestige of his position to write on issues of direct concern to the society.
Dr Hiranandani wrote several convincing articles demanding abolition of capital punishment, opposing the Euthanasia Bill, exposing the people engaged in Kidney Trade and on many other issues.
At the personal level, Dr Hiranandani came across as a cheerful, lovable and caring human being who touched the life of millions of people through his professional work at the municipal hospitals and with his philanthropy and social work.
Until his last, he cared for the humblest of persons he met in his life.
Three facets of the personality of Dr Hiranandani are worth mentioning.
Dr Hiranandani was a world class ENT Surgeon, researcher and a popular Professor. He was instrumental in starting Mumbai’s first full-fledged Municipal ENT Hospital that brought ENT care within the reach of the common man. As a surgeon with vast experience, he devised innovative techniques of surgery that came to be recognized as ‘Hiranandani techniques’ to cure patients suffering from oral cancer and other ENT problems. His research work was acknowledged by great academicians from across the world.
The second facet of Dr Hiranandani’s personality was his long association with various educational institutions.
Soon after the Partition of India, Sindhis had migrated to Mumbai in large numbers. This Board, the Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board was set up by educationists, teachers and other good Samaritans who had migrated to Mumbai from Sindh. One has to admire the courage and vision of these great souls, who turned adversity into opportunity.
Dr Hiranandani joined the founders of this institution Barrister H.G. Advani and Principal K.M. Kundnani in expanding the academic activities of the Board. Thanks to the work of these visionaries, Mumbai has nearly two dozen top class educational institutions offering quality education in almost all disciplines.
These institutions have played a significant role in producing thought-leaders in various disciplines. I was impressed to note that the Hyderabad Sind Board has maintained the tradition of not charging capitation fees from its students till this date. This is really commendable and worth emulating by other institutions.
Dr Hiranandani also served on the Senate of University of Mumbai and as the Chancellor’s nominee on the University of Health Sciences.
The third and the most important aspect of the life of Dr Hiranandani was his selfless service to society. Even though Dr Hiranandani had treated eminent personalities like Barrister Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Prime Minister Deve Gowda, Chief Ministers Y B Chavan, V P Naik and many others, he regarded every poor person – be it a policeman, a government servant or a slum-dweller as his VIP patients. His commitment to social service was a matter of faith for him.
As some of you might recall, Maharashtra had faced the worst drought of the 20th century during the period 1970 – 1973. An estimated 5 million people had been affected by the drought which lasted for three consecutive years. There was a fear of epidemic in the region. Moved by the plight of the people, Dr Hiranandani gave up his private practice for 8 months and lived in the villages of Marathwada and North and Western Maharashtra to supervise the medical relief. Thanks to his work as Honorary Director of Health, not a single person died for want of medical aid.
I am very happy that the Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital Trust has instituted an award in the name of Dr L H Hiranandani. There could not have been a better nominee for the award than well-known cancer surgeon Dr Suresh Advani. Dr Advani has rendered outstanding service to the medical profession and to the society at large for more than four decades. I extend my heartiest congratulations to Dr Advani on being conferred the first Dr L H Hiranandani Award.
On behalf of all of you, I would like to convey our appreciation to former President of India Smt Pratibha Patil for selecting the most deserving person for the first L H Hiranandani award.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I took charge as Governor of Maharashtra 17 months ago, in August 2014. My responsibilities as Governor, as Chancellor of 20 Universities in the State, as Head of the Scheme of Development Boards in the State and as Guardian of the rights of tribals and other communities living in the Scheduled areas, took me to the remotest corners of the State.
I dealt with various issues such as developmental imbalance in the State, improving human development indices in the backward regions and empowering the most vulnerable communities.
However keeping in mind the time constraint, I will limit myself to two areas, which according to me have a direct bearing on the progress of the nation and improving quality of life of our people.
Famous American writer and satirist Mark Twain had visited Mumbai during his famous India tour of 1896. History informs us that Mark Twain had even visited the Raj Bhavan, then known as ‘Government House’, where he had a lunch with Governor Sandhurst. I begin my talk with a quote from Mark Twain.
Mark Twain had famously said, and I quote,
“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” (unquote)
I believe that it is only through education, particularly higher education, that we can reclaim our past glory described so eloquently by Mark Twain.
Today, India has one of the world’s largest higher education system comprising 712 universities and over 36,000 colleges. The expansion of higher education network in India has enabled us to create access to higher education across the country.
However, in our pursuit of access, it is excellence that seems to have taken some beating.
Until recently none of our universities featured among the top universities in the world. I am happy that recently, two Indian institutions – the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, have been ranked amongst the top 200 universities in the world.
This little consolation apart, quality of education in our institutions of higher learning remains a big challenge. Let alone the country or even Maharashtra, there is no uniformity in the quality of education offered by Colleges even within Mumbai.
Of course, there are some higher education institutions in Maharashtra alone, including this institution, that have the potential to transform themselves into world class institutions.
However, our universities and our educational institutions, will have to lay renewed thrust on the quality of teaching, adopt innovative techniques of teaching and learning to engage students, revise content and curriculum, make research an integral part of higher education system and encourage innovation.
Please mark my words: Educational institutions paying little attention to quality of instructions and continuing with age-old teaching methods and practices will lose their relevance or even face closure in the near future.
A few engineering colleges in the State are already facing grim prospects and are on the verge of closure. Today students are demanding international learning experience, and only those institutions meeting their aspirations will survive.
All of us have seen how the revolution in e-commerce changed the entire dynamics of the retail sector in the country. The E-commerce phenomenon came as a bolt from the blue and impacted the sales of malls and retail outlets adversely.
In the same manner, technology-enabled quality teaching offered from any corner of the world could make traditional teaching – learning obsolete.
Our universities and colleges must rise to the occasion, engage and retain high quality faculty and invite visiting faculties from Industry, academia and research institutions from across the world to provide the best learning experience to the students.
One of the welcome trends in the 21st Century education has been the Inter-disciplinary learning.
The UGC has mandated all institutions to opt for the Choice Based Credit System.
The choice based credit system will enable students to opt for subjects of their choice, learn at their own pace, undergo additional courses and adopt an interdisciplinary approach to learning.
The idea of inter-disciplinary learning takes me back to our ancient scriptures which state that Lord Ganesha, possessed knowledge of 14 Vidyas and 64 Kalas or Art forms.
I am sure the new inter-disciplinary approach will help the students learn as many Vidyas and Kalas simultaneously as they can and realize their immense potential.
I expect educational institutions to take proactive steps to help students choose the subjects of their choice.
In today’s age of Smart Cities, we first need Smart Colleges and Smart Universities.
Some four months ago, I had chaired a meeting of intellectuals and business leaders on improving the standards of engineering education in Maharashtra at Raj Bhavan.
I was shocked to hear that a Survey conducted by an IT firm found that the average mathematical and problem solving ability of a 21 year old engineering graduate from India was lower than the average 15 – year old youth in OECD countries. That speaks volumes of the quality of engineering education in the country. At my instance, it was decided to identify 50 engineering colleges in Maharashtra and bring them on par with the College of Engineering, Pune which has been transformed into an IIT-like institution with the help of mentoring arrangement with IIT Bombay.
What is true of engineering is also true of other disciplines.
It would be ideal that we set for ourselves the following five specific goals:
1. Nurture at least two universities in Maharashtra which will find a place among the top 100 universities in the world.
2. Develop at least ten universities and 50 Colleges into Centres of National Excellence.
3. Develop at least one college in every Taluka or Town into a Centre of State Excellence.
4. Promote research and problem solving culture in every university and college in the State by taking up socially useful research projects; and
5. Provide every student the skills that would make him or her employable.
I do feel that premier educational institutions like the Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate Board should assume a leadership role in transforming our universities and colleges.
I will now touch upon the second topic which according to me has the potential to enrich the State, facilitate the progress and development of the State and create economic prosperity for our people.
I often say that the world is not so much talking of Communism, Socialism, Capitalism or any other ideology today. The only ‘Ism’ the world is talking today is ‘tourism’.
During my visits across the State, I found that Maharashtra has tremendous potential for tourism that has remained grossly untapped.
The State is home to four world heritage sites, namely the Ajanta, Ellora and the Elephanta Caves and the CST station of Mumbai. Maharashtra is also endowed with the most peaceful and beautiful beaches in Konkan. It has ancient forts, the natural Lonar Crater Lake, Sahyadri Mountain range, tiger reserves, wildlife parks, religious places and so on. The State also holds potential for wine tourism, adventure tourism, rural tourism, agro tourism, and so on.
Last year on a visit to Nashik, I had proposed the idea of creation of a 500 km-long Nashik to Nanded inland waterway via Aurangabad on the Godavari river. I believe that the waterway could change the face of tourism in the State.
The waterway will, not only enhance the tourism potential of the region, but will also help the State to tackle water scarcity in villages across both streams through construction of small check dams on either side.
A large number of tourists from Japan and other Buddhist countries visit Aurangabad to go to Ajanta and Ellora. Waterway will make the place much more attractive for tourists.
A few months ago, the Governor of Wakayama Prefecture of Japan met me at Raj Bhavan. He evinced keen interest in supporting the waterway project. Even our own Union Minister for Shipping and Waterways Shri Nitin Gadkari has supported the project. I think public-private partnership can help us carry the project forward.
Tourism can provide a major impetus to our rural and cottage industry and generate a large number of employment opportunities across the State.
Only yesterday, I inaugurated an exhibition of village products, handicrafts and food articles manufactured by women’s self-help group from across the State. Tourism can create huge opportunities for the products manufactured by our rural artisans and women’s self-help groups.
Last year, I spent almost one week in the hill town of Mahabaleshwar. As you know, Mahabaleshwar has the best infrastructure for tourism. The hilly region is also the world’s largest producer of strawberries. I found that Mahabaleshwar has an excellent Polo Ground lying unused for several decades. I met officials and subsequently met the Forest Minister asking them to explore the potential of Mahabaleshwar for hosting an International Polo Competition. I am sure such International Polo Tournament will put Mahabaleshwar and Maharashtra on the world map of tourism.
Ladies and gentlemen,
India has truly arrived on the global stage. With his highly visible foreign visits, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has engaged the attention of the world towards India.
There is a renewed interest among people towards India. People of the world are keen to explore India, know more about its past, see its ancient heritage, learn its Yoga, Ayurveda and Sanskrit language and so on. At this juncture, development of tourism in Maharashtra can help us benefit from this resurgence of interest in India. Tourism will also help us enrich and empower our people and make our development truly inclusive.
To sum up, I will say, higher education and tourism can act as nucleus for the holistic development of Maharashtra and the nation.
I will conclude by recalling the famous Yaksh Prashna in the Mahabharata.
It is said that, in the Mahabharata, the Yaksha asks a question to Dharmaraj Yudhishthir, “What is the greatest wonder of the world?”. The question is ‘What is the greatest wonder of the world?’
Any one in today’s world would have listed the natural and man-made wonders of the modern world such as the Niagara Falls, The Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt and so on.
But, thousands of years ago, Dharmaraj Yudhishthira gave a philosophical reply to this question. Yudhishthira said, “Day after day, countless people in the world die. And yet those who are living, feel that they are immortal, who are going to live on the planet forever.” This, Yudhishthira said, is the greatest wonder of the world.
The reply by Yudhishthira points to the certainty of death. That makes it all the more necessary for each one of us, living today, to remain ever conscious of our Existence and to live purposefully.
Dr L H Hiranandani truly lived a meaningful and purposeful life.
I will appeal to the Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital Trust to commemorate the 100th birthday of Dr L H Hiranandani by starting a Medical College and Nursing College, if possible in the tribal areas. It will be a fitting tribute to Dr Hiranandani.
I thank you for your indulgence and attention.
Jai Hind. Jai Maharashtra.