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Noted rationalist and social activist makes a clarion call for social democracy at Sankara Nethralaya’s R-Day celebration.

The Nation’s Republic day was celebrated with great fervor by Sankara Nethralaya, a huge gathering comprising Consultants, Researchers, Fellows and staff members their families, including jubilant kids selected for recognition for their good academic performance dressed in their best, had gathered in good number at the Sankara Nethralaya Main campus for the grand celebration. If the oratory and chaste Tamil evident in the presentation of the day’s proceedings by Ms. Gayathri Karthikeyan, Junior Research Fellow CSIR project and welcome address and introduction of the Chief Guest by Ms. Sivasankari, Senior Research Fellow, ICMR Project at the RS Mehta Jain Department of Bio- Chemistry&Cell Biology, Kamalnayan Bajaj Institute for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology had a wonderful chemistry with the Chief Guest’s well known mastery over the language, the soulful rendering of the National Poet’s immortal lines ‘Aaduvome Palli Paduvome’ by Shruthi Meenakshi, Aishwarya and Swathi students of the Elite School of Optometry underlined that talent at the ESO extended beyond optometry.

The esteemed Chief guest of the day, noted rationalist, social thinker and orator Shri Suba Veerapandian unfurled the national tricolor which was followed by the rendering of the national anthem by the entire gathering. The star speaker started his address on a humble note that he felt honoured to be the Chief guest of an institution of the high stature of Sankara Nethralaya, run by a highly revered personality like Dr SS.Badrinath, adding in lighter vein that he had always believed that one day he would enter the premises of the Sankara Nethralaya as a patient but never dreamt that he would grace the place as a Chief Guest on such an August occasion. Shri Subaveera Pandian is known as a historian, strong advocate for social causes and upliftment of the downtrodden and a rationalist and all these facets in him exemplified themselves as he held the audience spell-bound with rapt attention with his legendary oratory. Sharing interesting snippets on the national flag he had just unfurled he observed that it was the image of the ‘Spinning Wheel’ the Mahathma’s symbol of self reliance which was originally planned to be in the centre of the national flag but it was replaced by the ‘Ashoka Chakra’ the national emblem to differentiate it from the congress flag, adding that interestingly the place where India’s tricolor was first hoisted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is currently outside India (Lahore, Pakistan). The eminent speaker observed that while the nation can be justifiably proud of achieving a high degree of political democracy, what the founding fathers of the constitution termed as ‘Social Democracy’ or equality still remained elusive after so many years of independence. He emphasized his point by highlighting that while every citizen is welcomed with great zest and vigour to the polling booth to exercise his democratic right/duty of casting his vote, places of worship still remain out of bounds to a large section of the citizenry comprising of downtrodden classes and no one welcomes them here. He emphasized the need for pluralism, tolerance and respect for each other’s views capturing the spirit of ‘Unity in diversity’ rather than an attempt to bring about uniformity of thoughts and ideologies as an initiative towards unity. Shri Pandian recalled the rich tradition of political stalwarts of yesteryears who were strongly opposed in ideology and beliefs, not letting the same to hinder the personal equation with each other and exhibiting great warmth, respect and courtesy to each other when they met in person, wondering if the country would witness such exemplary public conduct ever again. A sentiment expressed by Shri Gopal Krishna Gandhi at the recently held centenary celebration of Shri Kamalnayan Bajaj. He shared the concern and anxiety expressed by Rashtrapathi Shri Pranab Mukherje in the Republic Day speech made earlier in the day, at the nation’s capital on the issue of women safety and rising crime against women; in his characteristic style he remarked that even the mother’s womb was not a safe place for the female child in the country, referring to the inhuman practice of female foeticide.

Shri Subaveera Pandian closed his speech with the rich compliment that the real greatness of Sankara Nethralaya did not lie in the long years of its service or in the large number of patients that it had treated successfully during this period but in the fact that it had treated 1/3 of the total patients, belonging to the socially/economically backward sections totally cost free, to the thunderous applause of the audience. The day witnessed the honouring of staff members who had competed long years of service with the institution and distribution of merit certificates and scholarships to wards of staff members who had excelled in their academics.

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