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Kalam for cheaper degrees

Chennai, June 19: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today said the cost of studying engineering “should be brought down”.

Interacting with the audience at Anna University here this afternoon after delivering a special lecture on Engineering Education and National Development, Kalam said engineering colleges need to find ways to slash costs.

But he dubbed the problem of “brain drain” as an “imaginary animal”. When, on an average, three lakh engineering and science graduates come out of “our universities and institutes” every year, there was nothing wrong if about 10 per cent of them went abroad to “learn and sometimes earn”, the President said, breaking into Tamil now and then.

Urging Engineering Colleges not just to focus on technology, Kalam said they could succeed only if they sensitised students to “role models of moral and entrepreneurial leadership”. Students must also be shown how to manage failures, he said.

In the morning, Kalam had told the students of the Ramakrishna Mission Boys’ Home that they should “never fear defeat”.

The President regaled his audience at Anna University with a story about political parties and a ghost that a Class X student at Ramakrishna Mission told him on his visit to the orphanage.

God had come to the earth, accompanied by an angel and a bootham (ghost), to see the status of his creations, Kalam said. While the angel said he would need a million years to take a good look at earth and rectify all that has gone wrong, the ghost quickly counted all the stars in the galaxy and even the grains of sand on earth.

Impressed by the bootham’s enthusiasm for numbers, God asked him to visit India and count political parties, Kalam said. The bootham obeyed God’s diktat and promptly went to India and he has still not gone back, the President said, sending the sedate audience bursting with laughter.

After Kalam had delivered his lecture, a teacher from the audience asked the President what his suggestions were to reduce the number of political parties in India. “That guy (bootham) has gone to find out and he is going to come,” quipped the President amidst laughter.

Later, Kalam sparkled in his mother tongue Tamil, in the presence of chief minister Jayalalithaa, and Governor P.S. Ramamohan Rao, at a function to mark the completion of 151 years of the Government Museum in Chennai. Jayalalithaa also spoke on the occasion.

The President threw open the museum, renovated at a cost of Rs 4.4 crore, and called for sustained efforts to discover the original palm leaf manuscript of Tamil saint-poet, Thiruvalluvar’s immortal work, Thirukkural.

Kalam also inaugurated a new cancer cure centre in Chennai. In the afternoon, he took an air force helicopter to Enathur near Kancheepuram to open the new post-graduate block at the Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Vishwa Maha Vidyalaya (a deemed University) and inaugurated the master’s programme in communications engineering.

The President later visited the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt at Kancheepuram, where he met Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati and then offered prayers in an old mosque adjacent to the mutt, before returning to Chennai on his way back to Delhi.

Kalam said science was “innocent” and had nothing to do with religion. Most religions were “beautiful”, he added, but they remained “islands”. The task was to bridge all religions with “love”, the President said.

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