SPEECH BY HER EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SHRIMATI PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE CLOSING CEREMONY OF THE CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF SHRI P.N. PANICKER
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, 13th August 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to participate in the Closing Ceremony of the Centenary Celebrations of the father of the Library and Literacy Movement of Kerala, Shri P.N. Panicker. Literacy culture has become a part of the ethos of Kerala with education receiving encouragement. In this, the contribution of Shri P.N. Panicker has been immeasurable. His vision, his identification with the common people and his commitment to improve their lives has made him a legendary figure worth emulating.
Considered as one of the principal architects of modern Kerala, Shri Panicker lived a life devoted to the cause of literacy and to the development of the State. Shri Panicker was deeply interested in educating agricultural workers, encouraging them to study, which is all the more necessary these days. His area of work gradually expanded. With his - "Read and Grow" slogan, the library and literacy movement started by him spread to every nook and corner of Kerala. So good was his work through the Aksharakeralam project that Kerala became the first fully literate state in the country. The project and its approach provided valuable inputs and lessons for the National Literacy Mission. Shri Panicker's name, thus, is linked not only to the cause of literacy in Kerala, but also to it at the national level.
Shri P.N.Panicker was also the driving spirit behind the concept of Kerala Grantha Sala Sangham set up in 1945 with 47 rural libraries. It was designed for adult and non-formal education activities to be undertaken in an organized manner in Kerala, with 6000 libraries drawn into this network. Shri Panicker spearheaded the setting up of these libraries and reading rooms as community centres for social activities through useful discussions, seminars and symposia on social and developmental issues. In this way, libraries fulfilled their role as social institutions capable of shaping attitudes and values of people.
Libraries are a common heritage as they are the repositories of knowledge about human history, its development and diversity. It is a gift from one generation to another. From ancient times, the building and setting up of libraries have been a measure of civilisational progress. Across the world, libraries have contributed to providing people with opportunities for gaining knowledge and for promoting intellectual advancement. In ancient India, Nalanda University was a renowned seat of learning and housed one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world. Its collection was so extensive that when the University was ransacked in the 12th Century AD, the burning of the manuscripts of the library continued for several months. Just as destruction of libraries, the store houses of information, is inexcusable, their preservation is important for future posterity. Indeed, systems must be established by which the wealth of information contained in libraries, which have been built assiduously over long periods of time, are preserved properly.
There is also need for modernizing libraries and building global access. Libraries now have the possibility of developing extensive external networks by using technologies. They can develop partnerships with other libraries, educational institutions and research centres. The exchange of information between libraries would help in adopting better practices for libraries, such as cataloging and preservation of records. They can also share with each other perspectives on how to deal with new concepts like e-libraries and digital libraries, which provide a platform for giving access to libraries. Who can access, how and on what terms are some of the issues which can be discussed between the libraries of the world. In this context, it is of interest that the P.N. Panicker Foundation has in recent times been harnessing technology in its attempt to popularize e-reading, through making available computers to rural households and connecting them with the internet. This initiative, I understand, has paved the way for the establishment of 25,000 rural home libraries.
The Government of Kerala every year observes June 19th, the day Shri Panicker passed away, as Vayanadinam - the Day of Reading. Inculcating the habit of reading in our children and youth is very important. Besides being a source of knowledge, reading develops their mental ability and improves concentration levels. This is especially important in our times, as children have many other sources of entertainment which provide instant gratification, such as the television, the internet, electronic games and social networking sites. The challenge is to make our children read more and attract them to read books that tell them about our heritage and cultural values.
Apart from the literacy and education work, Shri P.N. Panicker was deeply concerned with the development of Kerala, in particular the rural areas. He spent a considerable amount of time in travelling to distant parts of the State, meeting tribal people in backward areas, to understand their problems and help them find solutions. He would impress upon them to give up habits like tobacco and drinking liquor which affected their health, causing difficulties for their families and disturbing social peace. It is important that this work of Shri Panicker continues.
Shri Panicker was also a man who was a firm believer in Gandhiji's concept of living a simple life. Usually clad in Khadi, a frail figure, he was warmly welcomed wherever he travelled in Kerala. Individuals like Shri Panicker have taught us that a life of values, commitment to a cause and selfless service can bring many positive changes in society. It is, therefore, important that we keep their memories alive, and teach their ideas and vision to succeeding generations, so that they are inspired to work for the welfare of others. I am, therefore, glad that in Kerala activities are organized at schools and public institutions to honour the contributions of Shri P.N. Panicker to the cause of development, literacy, education and the library movement.
I would also encourage the Panicker Foundation to continue to carry on his legacy. I am aware that it is undertaking a large number of socio-economic activities. I am informed that one of the activities relates to establishing litigation free Panchayat communities, so as to create social harmony among people. Such activities that promote a peaceful and harmonious environment are essential for our society and the nation. I am also sure that the efforts of the P.N. Panicker Foundation in the myriad areas that it is working with, amongst the people of this State will bear even greater fruits in the future. With these words I convey my good wishes to all present here and inaugurate the Closing Ceremony of the Centenary Celebrations of Shri P.N. Panicker.