XLRI- Xavier School of Management organized the 3rd “Dr Verghese Kurien Memorial Oration on Sustainable Development” on Saturday, September 24, 2016. The oration was organised by XLRI under the aegis of Fr Arrupe Center for Ecology and Sustainability (FACES) with the aim to provide a platform to listen to and learn from thought leaders, social entrepreneurs, development sector professionals and policy makers who have made a significant contribution to the idea of an empowered, prosperous and sustainable society.
Dr. Ela Bhatt, eminent social activist and Founder of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) delivered the oration on the topic “Living with Anubandh: A Way to Sustainability”.
Explaining what “Anubandh” stands for, in her oration Dr. Bhatt said, “Anubandh means to follow a connection. It is a worldview that encourages us to follow the links of mutual interconnectedness towards a sense of wholeness. We are all bound to each other and to the land. The world is sustained by the sum of all our correlated actions. Growth in one area is dependent on growth in other areas. For example, one’s economic wellbeing affects one’s mental and physical health, as it affects one’s social standing.”
In her speech, she emphasized on the need for interconnection between the consumer and the local producers. “As consumers, when we buy hand-made goods, we are making clear statements with our money. We are saying that we support the poor village craftswoman and her empowerment; we value the rich cultural heritage of our country.”
She expressed her concern on how globalization has left a declining impact on local producers – “Globalization is exciting, but the excitement of the new and wondrous has dulled our awareness of what is happening under our nose, in our own back yard. Our concern for the local has been steadily declining. We believe that non-industrial modes of production too have a place in our economy. We are saying traditional crafts are not our past; they are also our future,” she said.
She said, “I suggest we begin by building an active relationship with the world around us. We do it in a way that the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the objects we surround ourselves with in our daily lives not only reflect our own values but also activate the values of our society. This is a two-way process. Let us build a fair and prosperous society, by approaching problems in an ethical and holistic way, so that our natural resources are equitably distributed, and our labour is fairly rewarded. Let us build local communities that are interlinked and lively. Let us not impose systems and practices in the name of modernization if it leaves the people at constant disadvantage, feeling inadequate, and vulnerable to poverty and exploitation. I would like to see us turn our liabilities into assets. We do that by carefully looking at our local conditions and seeking solutions grounded in local reality. We can solve a lot more problems by using multi-pronged, integrated, and sustainable approaches. Let us revive those old bonds wherever we can, create new bonds and new links between people, professions and products to enrich not only our economy, but also our culture.”
“Useful education must be relevant to daily life as well as to future life. Education must equip us to become aware of our role in the economy as producers and as consumers; of our role in society as peacemakers as well as agents of change; and of our rights and duties as responsible global citizens. I believe that if we can live with an awareness of Anubandh in our lives, as individuals, as family members, as members of a community, and as local and global citizens, our world is much more likely to be balanced, holistic, and peaceful. All it takes is awareness,” she said in her oration.
In his address, Fr. E Abraham, S. J. Director of XLRI said, “Dr. Verghese Kurien best known as the “Father of the White Revolution in India” is recognized globally as an extraordinary social entrepreneur who envisaged the ‘billion-litre idea’ or Operation Flood – the world’s biggest agricultural development program. His remarkable life and achievements are an embodiment of his faith in the ability of the common man to exercise control over his destiny. This faith helped him to create world-class institutions that become shining examples of excellence (e.g., GCMMF, IRMA, NDDB, etc.), which enabled ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results. He strongly believed that by placing technology and professional management in the hands of farmers, the living standards of millions of rural poor could be improved. His creation of community-owned co-operatives empowered millions of rural families, most of whom were landless and small farmers, in India.”
“We decided to institute this Annual Oration to commemorate Dr Kurien’s legacy – because his life and work exemplifies the model for a responsible management leader, combining business skills with the larger good of the society and nation-building. Ela Bhatt, the “gentle revolutionist,” is a determined, and dedicated visionary. She works for the improvement of all. She has silenced her skeptics, sent change makers back to school, and given evidence that regardless of how poor, illiterate, oppressed one may be, through self-empowerment and trust, lives can be changed for the betterment of all. We are thankful to her for graciously accepting our invitation and are truly privileged to have her address the Third Dr. Verghese Kurien Memorial Oration at XLRI” Fr. Abraham added.
Quoting Dr. Kurien in his speech, Fr. Abraham said, “Life is a privilege and to waste it would be wrong. In living this privileged life, you must accept responsibility for yourself, always use your talents to the best of your ability and contribute somehow to the common good.”