Book: J. R. D. Tata Keynote

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Accent on Education and Health Care
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Push the Young Forward

 

Speech at the Eightieth Anniversary of the Indian Merchants Chamber, Bombay, September 7, 1987.

 

he Indian Merchants Chamber was the first public commercial body that I ever knew when I joined business as far back as 1922 or 1923, and for many years thereafter, it was the only one I knew anything about. I discovered that Tatas had been represented on the first Committee of the Chamber by a Parsi gentleman called Sohrab Warden of whom I have no recollection whatever. I, however, remember well Mr. B.F. Madon, whose bearded portrait still hangs in the Committee Room of the Chamber today, who was my economist guru in Tatas and had been closely associated with Jamsetji Tata.

We are all aware of the Chamber's high record of service and devotion to the interests of Indian trade and industry in the many decades during which they were subjected to foreign influence and exploitation. I feel that today we can rejoice in the fact that the Chamber is, so to speak, reborn as an affiliate of ASSOCHAM, under whose umbrella it will continue to serve Indian trade and industry with equal ability and distinction.

Now the question might be asked, 'What is the future for us, or what is the role that we as members of the Chamber, and in the larger context as members of ASSOCHAM, should play?' The answer may not be a simple one, but it is a clear one. I think that, first and foremost, we need to ensure our credibility when we say something, or take up a stand. It has, I think, been a fact that some chambers in this country lost credibility ,allowing vested interests unduly to dominate them. It is important that the Indian Merchants Chamber, both by itself and as part of ASSOCHAM, in whatever it says or whatever cause it supports, retains credibility vis-a-vis the Government, Parliament, the Press, public opinion and its own members.

I think the next thing we must do is to regain confidence amongst ourselves. It is somewhat depressing to realise that in recent years, and particularly recently, we have begun to lose confidence in ourselves. We may have had good reason for dissatisfaction, but the kind of pessimistic image that one begins to distinguish in this country is not justified by the realities of events and trends and is not worthy of us and of the traditions and potential of this great country. Yes, traditions have got to be followed. It is easy to follow proud traditions that were established long ago, but we must also go on establishing new sound traditions as we go along. That is a role that I think ASSOCHAM and the Chamber will have to play in the economic life of our country. We must inspire confidence in others, but we must also have confidence in ourselves, in our own work, in our country. There is, I think, today undue denigration of what has been done or failed to be done. Our country today is very different from what it was when I was a young man. Quite apart from the fact that we made ourselves free forty years ago and while we may not have achieved all that we could or should have achieved, a lot to be proud of has been done in the steps we have taken towards turning ourselves into a modern – I don't want to say power – but into an economically powerful and prosperous country.

One failure of ours, about which I do not want to bore you, but which has been very much on my mind for the past thirty-five years, is our failure to curb our excessive population growth, which has become perhaps the biggest problem our country faces today.

I have, in recent years, been addressing students, bright young people, from the IITs and the IIMs. I refuse to make speeches to them but hold question-and-answer sessions with them. I have been doing that in the north, in the south, in the east and in the west. Yet, not one of them has ever asked me how they, their children and grand-children will be affected by our population doubling again to a billion-and-a-half in the next century.

As we stand on the threshold of a new century, I think we are poised for spectacular achievements. Problems about guns and submarines and things of that kind are not going to remain with us for ever. And I hope that we will come back to discussing and worrying about and working for matters and tasks of real relevance to our future. There is a tremendous job ahead for all of us.

So long as this country remains poor, so long as we see the kind of pitiful conditions that exist for so many of our people in this great city of ours, any one with a little sensitivity of heart cannot but view them with great sorrow, especially during the monsoon in Bombay, when thousands of women and children live in the streets, when we see the crowding and the congestion and the kind of non-housing they have to occupy; and when we see and when we know that 35 to 40% of our people still live at a level below what the Government themselves think is the minimum that should be ensured to ordinary people, then we know that there is a tremendous challenge ahead of us.

It is not old men like myself who are going to set things right. They can talk about it, try to ginger up people. But it is the young to whom we must look for action, and I think a great task for the Chamber and ASSOCHAM is to inspire the younger people to come forward, to see that they take an interest in the real problems of our country and not only in the political problems. Our obsession with politics is one of the main things holding us back, and I think it is time that we turn to the relevant issues, to the needs of the country, its opportunities and possibilities, and stop protesting and arguing about almost everything we do.

 

Expanding Literacy Should be a Priority

 

Speech on receiving the Dadabhai Naoroji Memorial Prize, Bombay, September 12, 1989.

 

Of all the awards and decorations that I have received in my life, I may say quite truthfully, none have, for me, matched the moral value and the intellectual value of this Award. Not so much because this great man in whose name I am being honoured was a great politician, a fine scientist, even a businessman – which I did not even know – or because of his great intellectual gifts and accomplishments, but, more so, because of what he made the main purpose of his life.

Dadabhai Naoroji was endowed with intellectual gifts and ability in various fields, in which his achievements were quite remarkable considering the time and environment in which he lived over a hundred years ago. More than anything else, however, the fact that so early in his life – when he was still a young student – he came to the extraordinary belief that his good fortune in having a good education had really been paid for by the poor. This extraordinary thought would never have struck me. It was that as schooling was paid by the government mostly then out of indirect taxes and borne mainly by the poor consumers, he owed his own education to the poor, to whom it was his duty to repay in any way he could. I was stunned by the idea of this young man that the best and perhaps the only way he could repay the poor was by personally helping to educate young children of poor families who otherwise would not have any education at all.

It is a tragedy that nearly seventy-five years later there is still such a dearth of education, even literacy in our country. I happen to be obsessed, as you may have heard, about the over rapid growth of our population. Some of you may not be aware of the co-relation between education, or the lack of it, and the fertility of our people. This is proved by the fact that in four of our States, namely, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, about half of our total population's average rate of literacy – let alone education – is such that out of every 100 girls born today, about 90 do not and will never know how to read. They have the highest birth rate and it is the lowest in Kerala where the rate of literacy is the highest. The lack of literacy is something that should make us angry at its neglect in our country.

Dadabhai understood, as too few do today, that there is nothing more important than education in giving our people a chance to grow and prosper.

 

Excellence in Health Care

 

Inaugural speech at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Tata Memorial Centre, Bombay, February 28, 1994.

 

The Tata Memorial Hospital, as it was known at first, was one of Sir Dorab Tata's pioneering projects of national importance, of which we in Tatas are, I think, justly, proud. At the time of its inauguration in 1941, the Governor of Bombay, Sir Roger Lumley, made the following remarks, which I think are worth quoting even today: "What has impressed me most,' he then said, 'is the greatness of the conception, and the care and the patience with which it has been executed.'

He added, speaking long before the establishment of the other public institutions founded by the Dorabji Tata Trust, such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, where we are meeting today: 'Of all the philanthropic projects connected with the Tata name, none would attain a greater importance for the people and, therefore, reflected greater credit to its founder than the Tata Memorial Hospital.'

While the Tata Memorial Centre, as it is now known, may not match, in terms of the magnitude of the investment in buildings and physical facilities, the large similar institutions in Europe, America and elsewhere, it certainly compares well with the best in the world in regard to its equipment and the professional competence and dedication of the medical, surgical and other technical staff who manned it during the past fifty years. In the process, they rendered immense service and benefits by way of advice, diagnosis, care and treatment to thousands of citizens of Bombay and elsewhere in the country and reassurance to their families. The first thing I feel I must therefore do today, is to pay the high tribute they deserve, and express deep gratitude, esteem and admiration for the men and women, some of whom like Dr. Ernest Borges died in harness.

The greatest problem facing, even today, any private institution with limited financial resources in the area of public medical care and service, is how to cope with the ever-increasing demand for its services. By 1957, the trustees of the Dorab Tata Trust realised that they could not on their own cope fully with such demand and they appealed to the Government of India in the Ministry of Health. Even this ministry, despite its large financial, technical and organisational resources found it impossible adequately to meet the ever-growing needs of the Centre. It was, at this juncture, that the distinguished Chairman of the Government's Atomic Energy Department, Dr. Homi Bhabha, intervened with a proposal to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, to transfer the responsibility of running and maintaining the Tata Memorial Hospital to the Atomic Energy Department on the analogy of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which, because of its concern about radiation, ran cancer research hospitals in the U.S. Pandit Nehru acceded to Dr. Bhabha's request, and that is how it has been possible, over the years, to give to the Tata Memorial Centre the large resources needed to operate and improve its facilities for treatment and research. Successive Chairmen of the Atomic Energy Commission have thus been at the helm of the management of the Centre.

However large the resources which the Government of India and the Atomic Energy Commission may budget for the research and treatment established at the Tata Memorial Centre, money is far from being all that is needed that can provide a total solution of the problem on a fully national scale, in such a huge country with such a large population as ours. Particularly in the case of so dreadful and complex a scourge as cancer, usually requiring observation and patient care over many years, even two or three centres like the Tata Memorial Centre would not meet all the country's needs in the long run. We must, therefore, give our thoughts and our support to the endeavours of Dr. Praful Desai, the dedicated Director of the Tata Memorial Centre and his colleagues, who, with the support of the Government and the Atomic Energy Department, are trying to establish well-equipped and highly-manned centres for cancer treatment and research elsewhere in India. If this laudable effort is to succeed, the relatively new units established elsewhere must seek to be developed as centres of excellence so as to command amongst the people the kind of trust they repose in the Tata Memorial Centre. Unless this happens, the ever-increasing pressure for admission to the Tata Memorial Centre will continue unabated. All of us must therefore hope that other centres of excellence, will come up soon in different parts of the country.

Towards this national objective, the Tata Memorial Centre has acted as a powerful catalyst, and promoted projects for establishing cancer centres elsewhere in the country such as the one in Assam and the rural centre near Sholapur, aimed at making it possible for poor patients in those areas to receive treatment near their own environment, their villages and towns. By the year 2000, an estimated six million cancer patients will be seeking help and treatment, the majority of them too poor to pay normal charges and fees. As it is, the Tata Memorial Centre alone is providing treatment, free of cost, to about ten thousand cancer patients annually. In fairness to our already over-worked staff, the task must be spread amongst others with their help and advice wherever necessary.

It is not enough to praise the Tata Memorial Centre or its fine and dedicated team of doctors and staff for their ungrudging service to the people. It is time for business houses, industrial companies and charitable foundations to express their gratitude in tangible terms and help positively in this great humanitarian task.

 

"There is a wonderful opportunity to serve this country..."

 

Speech by J.R.D. Tata at a function in Bombay where he was felicitated by Tata employees after he received the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, March 31, 1992.

 

I am sure or hope that all of you would agree with me that while perhaps I have done well by the firm, I have done the best 1 could and as honestly or simply as I could. After all, what I have done is not something of individual monumental significance. It has been to me an easy task, a simple task. All I had to do in my approach to business, in my relations with my colleagues and in my attitude towards business and Tatas, was to let myself be inspired by the example of Jamsetji Tata. From the day that I joined this firm in 1925, I had been to Jamshedpur, and to one or two other places created by Tatas. I was from the start enormously impressed and proud of bearing the name and also of being with the firm created by Jamsetji Tata.

Today, Tatas are still by world standards a relatively small enterprise, although it has achieved a figure which would be recognised anywhere in the world. But what is more important is that Tatas are now known in the world, not only known as a company or a firm that has created industries but known to be a firm of honour. It has created a reputation which is known in India as well as abroad and I am proud of that.

All of you sitting there – 2,000 of you – are to me typically the real cause, the real means by which here and elsewhere in India we have achieved the heights that we have. Not only that but everyone thinks well – including the Government, including nowadays the politicians – of our role and our services.

A few days ago I was in Poona, in connection with the launching of a car by Telco by Mr. Ratan Tata. I enjoyed that and I was proud of it. But what I enjoyed much more was that something I did not know was going to happen. The General Manager of Telco took me round every one of the factory departments where I was greeted as I passed in a jeep or in a car and a little of it walking. I went around to greet, to meet these people. But I was the one who was greeted, and it brought warmth to my heart. In fact, I may say, this perhaps in the many years that I have lived up to now, the one thing that has made life worthwhile is the feeling of being esteemed. It is rather wonderful to find the way that people whom I have never met, people who are not in Tatas, greet me as I pass them by. And the feeling of being admired, of being esteemed, of being loved, is a great feeling. It is one that we should cultivate.

But cultivate only by means of doing what is wanted, or having the heart which others can see at once responsive to them.

One thing I can feel lucky about and 1 have total confidence about is that this group of companies is going to continue to operate and grow and earn profits as well as get the eulogy and compliments of everybody.

Whatever it is, I have had a good life. I have souvenirs, I have memories to be proud of. I had, in retrospect, a great privilege of meeting very fine outstanding people of our country. And I look forward to the prediction given by one American some time ago, that in some years, India would be an Economic Super Power. I don't want India to be an Economic Super Power. I want India to be a happy country. I want a country of which no one is afraid or a country whose spiritual and intellectual resources, and abilities and performance would be recognised and appreciated.

It gives me a tremendous feeling of warmth in my heart to know that though I may not know you individually, you are my friends, my children. And I want and I hope that the situation in my country will continue to improve to the extent that you and your families will have a better life than that enjoyed by the older generation.

It can be and it will be, I think, a great country. But it will mean a lot of effort, giving up precast beliefs and giving up the idea that we know better than others. There is no room for self-righteousness, or overconfidence. There is much to be done in the way of serving this country. There is a wonderful opportunity to serve this country or to do things that, even if they don't serve directly, will be helpful to the country or to the town where you live. It's a good feeling to know that we can do something about it as I am sure that your families, your children and your grandchildren, will participate in this regulation of our country.

 

Need for Disciplined and Educated Citizens

 

Following the conferment of the degree of Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, J.R.D. Tata addressed the faculty and students of the Institute, Bombay, February 12, 1993.

 

When the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, of which I am the Chairman, decided to create an institute of learning for training young people in social work, I realised, though I did not know much about problems of demography or population economics, how important education and training in social work were for a poor country of impoverished men and women whose chances of a good livelihood were limited.

I am sorry to admit that while the heavy cost of illiteracy is known to most of us, I only learnt a few months ago from the Family Planning Foundation, which I created some years before, that in the northern Indian States, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, for every 100 girls born every year 90 would remain illiterate all their lives and not more than perhaps nine or at the most ten will ever attend school. To me, this came as a shock and I can only be all the more grateful to know that if I have received any felicitation or any recognition it has come from what is to me a very distinguished institute of learning.

At this juncture, the recent upheavals in Ayodhya and Bombay have brought so much unnecessary suffering and even loss of life for so many people on grounds that to me seem to be totally irrelevant to their needs. I am one of those who suffer from the waste of the country's energy and peaceful activity on issues of religious faith. I find it difficult that so many people seem to be more interested in the building or destruction of temples or other shrines of worship in the country than in building for ourselves a peaceful, an intelligent and educated society. I feel sad about it as I am sure that many of you, even those of you who have not suffered from this upheaval, have felt the same and I hope, by and large, most of our people who have gone through this experience are themselves worried and desirous of a different way of life, particularly at a time when more than half of our population continues to be illiterate and most of all the women of India, except in one or two places like Kerala or Goa, have to accept that our children and particularly our girls, are growing illiterate.

One thing I have learnt of this life and the needs of this country is that India's many problems will not be solved in my time or even in yours unless we manage to develop a disciplined and educated citizenry. That it is not so much the size or growth rate of the population, which deserves to frighten us, but more the low quality of that population which can only be improved through education.

 

 

 

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Making his personal contribution to it, Mr. Tata gave the amount of this Award to the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust of which he was one of the founding Trustees.

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