Acceptance Speech – Honaris Causa

Rajendra Shende, Chairman TERRE Policy Centre, Former Director UNEP and IIT Alumnus

Chief Guest Dr G Madhavan-ji Nair-ji, founder President Dr Vishwanath-ji Karad, Executive Presidents Prof Dr Mangesh-ji Karad, my IIT Bombay colleague Vice Chancellor Sunil-ji Rai,

Distinguished Guests, young, successful and jubilant Graduates and Post-graduates, their beaming and proud parents and grandparents, professors and faculty, friends, brothers0sisters, ladies and gentlemen.

Namaste!

Welcome to the Tomorrow of Reality, Congratulations!

Let me begin by congratulating the oven fresh graduates and post-graduates. for their hard-earned success. Well done, friends! You have made it and now you crossed the threshold of this beautiful and smart campus of MIT ADT and are on the way to embrace the complexity of the world-wide-web and perplexing challenges of the real-life. Till now you were getting answers to the problems from the textbooks, from professors and from the google search with a simple click on your keyboard. Now onwards you have to use the springboard of your talents to get the answers. You now have to click on your creativity, innovations and integrity. Algorithms that you wrote would no longer be of help to you in discharging your responsibilities in your professional career. You will now need your own personal logarithm of mindfulness. The designs you sketched have to be on wider canvass of accountability and the equation that now you have to solve would be about the efforts needed for life changing transformation and how to be responsive to the changing world.

It is indeed a super occasion. You are all graduating in the beginning of the most important decade, called by the United Nations as the action of decade for

Sustainable Development Goals. 17 SDGs that span the planetary horizon will have to be attained by 2030. SDGs will be the buzz word in your professional career. Those SDGs are to be achieved by 2030. 2020 is also declared by United Nations as super year for the nature and biodiversity.

Welcome to the future of challenges. Welcome to your challenging world of opportunities!

University of Ambition, Determination and Transformation

But let us also talk about my own world of today! How astounding this day is for me to get Honorary Doctorate, ‘Honoris Causa’ from the MIT ADT University. I am enormously proud and exceedingly privileged and equally humbled by MIT ADT’s recognition of my contributions to the global environmental cause and local initiatives. For me MIT ADT University is not just about Art, Design and Technology but it is an amazing place where A stands for Ambition, D stands for Determination and T stands for Transformation. You are graduating from the university where skills are built to realise sky-high Ambition by nurturing the rocky Determination, for the lifelong Transformation.

I am hugely delighted that the doctorate is being offered in presence of former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Padma Vibhushan Dr G Madhavan Nair, better known for his extraordinary contribution to India’s Polar Satellite Launching Vehicle-PSLV and GSLV. He is known as India’s ‘launch-man’, the way former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was known as India’s ‘missile-man’. I just cannot imagine any other Chief Guest for today’s event where fresh graduates are launching their own career!

Indeed, if Dr Madhavan-ji allows me to use some phrases from space technologies, today you all young graduates have attained ‘escape velocity’ and firing your missiles to leave behind the academic orbit and enter the higher orbit of professional career. You soon would be in trajectory to achieve your moon!

There is yet another exceptional reasons why I feel especially proud and privileged. I am being honoured in the presence of a towering educationist and professor, who never taught me in the classroom, but he tutored me under this

very magnificent dome-roofed classroom that too when it was under construction. When I met him, this dome, which then became the largest dome in the world, was full of scaffolding of steel. He schooled me here not on his favourite subject of thermodynamics but on the dynamics of philosophy of the life that needs scaffolding of the spiritualism. He is none other than the visionary founder of MAEER and the MIT group of institutions, practicing educationist par excellence, UNESCO Chair Dr Vishwanath Karad.

And then there is a reason that tops all. My mother, Ms. Vimalabai Shende who missed being at IIT Bombay convocation , when I got the graduation degree at the hands of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, now here she is in the front row witnessing me receiving Doctorate of Philosophy.

I have very deep sense of gratitude today , which I had expressed about one and half year back when I got life-time achievement award from Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University .

Allow me to express me express that again here in the Philosopher Sant Dnyaneshwar World Peace Prayer Hall and library.

By honouring me under the world’s largest dome, MIT ADT University is really honouring the central role of the traditional wisdom of the Indian rural area where I did my schooling.

It is honouring the life-lasting value-added education imparted by IIT-Bombay where I did my graduation. It is honouring the honest struggle of my parents , my father who was music teacher and my mother a primary teacher.

By honouring me, MIT ADT is honouring my grandmother who took me under her wings during my secondary education in the small town of Rahimatpur and my uncle, a Gandhian, freedom fighter and national promoter of Bee-keeping, Bapusaheb Shende who took me to Bombay for education in the college before entering IIT- Bombay .

By honouring me MIT ADT is honouring the charter of United Nations where I worked for 20 years for the protection of the planet. The most importantly,

by honouring me you are honouring the work done by my not-for-profit organisation, TERRE Policy Centre, with the universities to connect their campuses through cloud for SDGs through a tool called Smart Campus Cloud Network-SCCN.

Today we are in unprecedented crisis of planetary proportion. Climate change is running faster that our actions. The concentration of Carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has crossed 410 PPM , not seen for last 800,000 years and we humans are breathing the air containing such a high concentration of Carbon Dioxide that no human has breathed before.

Globally 24 billion tons of the top-soil is getting washed away every year and 12 million hectares of land is getting degraded every year which means 23 hectares every minute , depriving humanity of the land for the food production. 12 million hectares of forest was lost due to fire in 2019 world over attributed mainly to the global temperature rise. Antarctica temperature this summer reached more than 20 deg centigrade more than the night temperature in Pune at the same time. Due to human activities and rise in CO2 concentration we are trapping the heat in the atmosphere equivalent to 500,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding every day.

As per Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if we have to limit the temperature rise to 2 deg C as agreed in the Paris climate agreement, the world has to reduce the CO2 emission by 45 percent as compared to 2010 emissions, by 2030 and full caachieve rbon neutrality ( net zero emissions ) by 2050. Any delay in taking action towards such emission reduction would lead the planet on the verge of disaster.

Fortunately , the pace of development of the modern technology is also unprecedented . 30 billion IoT devices are talking to each other and soon they would be 75 billion . Today there are 15 billion smart phone users and 4.1 billion internet users globally. The cost of use of data in India is the lowest in the world i.e. USD 0.26 per GB as compared to USD 10 in China and 12 in USA. Cost of generation of the solar energy has touched the new low of INR 3 per Kwh ( Unit). We are now talking about not just ROBOTs but COBOTS where two or more ROBOTS cooperate with each other to perform.

There is growing evidence that environmental damages can be halted and even reversed by the digital and modern technologies. The deployment of the IoT, AI, Big Data and cloud networking can accelerate the implementation of SDGs by 20-30 percent.

The role of university campuses in this regard is critical. University campuses are the pilot plants for the smart cities and for accelerated implementation of SDGs and Carbon Neutrality The campuses can mould the minds of the tomorrows policy makers and incubate their talents . Smart Campus Cloud Network -SCCN-, project of TERRE Policy Centre has been supported by UNESCO , UGC and AICTE.

72 campuses are already in the Smart Campus network including MIT ADT, which has been declared as the best university campus award in the country . With already 55 percent of the total electricity use from renewable sources, MIT ADT under the leadership of Prof Mangesh-ji Karad has set itself on the path towards carbon neutrality.

I would like to conclude that fight against degradation of the nature or the sustainable future is formidable but not impossible . I have steered the global efforts by 146 developing countries for the protection of the life-shield Ozone layer to unique success. But global combat against the climate change has been dismal failure till now. And the engaging the students in campus for SDGs that includes climate action heralds the hopes towards another success.

Our DNA sends the messages of respecting the nature. The sustainable development is part of our genes. 5000 years back, Prithvi Sukta of Atharva Veda, with its 64 hymns, laid out the principle of living with the nature and not living on the nature. In spite of the teachings of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Swami Vivekanand that principle has been lost somewhere in our greedy trek leading to West. Fortunately, we now have a leadership in our Prime Minister Narendra Modi who can bring us back on the track and make us look towards East.

Hon Minister Prakash-ji Javadekar inaugurated the Smart Campus digital dashboard in MIT WPU, on the day when MIT WPU received the approval for the status of the University. UNESCO Regional Head Erik Falt did the same at MIT ADT, when TERRE launched the road map of carbon neutrality. I would like to continue those efforts by dedicating my Honorary Directorate in pursuit of making the campuses SDG-ready and make them Carbon Neutral, zero waste, Minimising water footprint, make them free from single-use-plastic, all with help of digital technologies. With Dr Mangesh-ji Karad’s stewardship, I have no doubt that it would be achieved before the IPCC’s targets.

Charity begins at home. Let scientific innovations, spiritualty and sustainability begin at the campus.

Thank you.


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