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Fundamentals of our economy strong: President

The fundamentals of our economy remain strong though growth has slowed down in recent times, President Pranab Mukherjee said here Saturday before winding up his two-day Odisha trip.

"Steps are being taken to contain fiscal deficit and boost industrial investment. I am confident of our economic growth being restored to the high levels seen in the past," he said at the convocation ceremony of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bhubaneswar.

Earlier in the day, addressing the second convocation ceremony of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bhubaneswar, he called for innovative changes in India's education system to reclaim its lost glory.

He said, "Improvement in our academic system calls for innovative changes. Our examination system must incorporate modern methods of evaluation. Top quality teachers must be recruited."

Mukherjee said, "A spirit of competition amongst universities must be infused. Academic regulation must be streamlined to create a more flexible, transparent and student-friendly education system."

The president also said the country's efforts at expanding the higher education infrastructure had yielded positive results but very few academic institutions in the country can claim global rankings due to lack of quality.

He pointed out: "As per international ranking, there is not a single Indian university, including the IITs, amongst the top 200 universities in the world."

Mukherjee said, "Leading universities of the West and universities even in countries like China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are ranked higher than any Indian institution."

The president added, "In the past, for about 1,800 years beginning in the sixth century BC, we had an unbeatable higher education system represented by universities like Takshila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri.

"They were a magnet for knowledge seekers from distant places. But today, we languish behind many nations," he rued.

Mukherjee arrived in Bhubaneswar Friday evening and proceeded to the temple town of Puri, about 55 km from here, where he spent the night at the Raj Bhavan.

In the evening he visited the beach and saw a sand sculpture created by internationally acclaimed sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik.

The president offered prayers at the Jagannath temple, Puri early Saturday before returning to Bhubaneswar.