Mumbai: President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said there should be no room for "intolerance, prejudice and hatred within our educational institutions" that are meant for free exchange of views.
He said ancient India, with its centres of learning like Nalanda and Takshshila, was known for a high level of philosophical debate and discussion. The country was not a mere geographical expression, but reflected an idea and a culture, Mukherjee said in his speech at a special convocation of the University of Mumbai here, held to confer an honorary D.Litt. on renowned agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan.
"Conversation and dialogue are part of our ethos and life. They cannot be done away with. We should embrace free conversation and even argument, leaving behind narrow mindsets and thoughts," the President said.
The lesson for a modern Indian university is to ensure that this great tradition finds new life and vigour within its precincts, and they must act as "flag-bearers for the coexistence of multiple views, thoughts, and philosophies," he said.
He said the higher education ecosystem has a crucial role to play in national developmental efforts and influences various growth centres in the economy.
"Economy's growth depends on higher education in important ways. The quality of training provided to students employed by the economy determines its competence. Induction of quality manpower is the first point of contact that the economy has with the higher education system," the President said.
The graduates must meet the skill-set requirements of the domestic economy and the curricula must be attuned to industry needs, he advised. For this, the President said, it will be beneficial to have corporate experts advising academic managers on industrial requirements in the course curricula.
President Mukherjee said the 21st century is expected to be an 'Asian Century' with the Asian countries regaining pre-eminence in the world through all-round development.
President Mukherjee said it was a rare opportunity to honour Swaminathan at the University of Mumbai, whose alumni include Mahatma Gandhi. Others conferred honorary D.Litts in the past were prominent personalities like Sir R.G. Bhandarkar, Dadabhai Naoroji, Sir C.V. Raman and Sir M. Visveswaraya.
Lauding Swaminathan, the President said his work has brought about a sea change in the nation's life. It was due to his pioneering efforts that Indian was transformed from a ship-to-mouth existence to one of the leading producers and exporters of food grains in the world now, Mukherjee said.
In the past 65 years, Swaminathan, 91, collaborated with scientists and policy-makers on varied problems in basic and applied plant genetics and agriculture research and development.
Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao, Vice-Chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh, state Education Minister Vinod Tawde and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.