The Tribune - Spectrum

Special Issue
Views of eminent experts and thinkers on the occasion of Republic Day of India.

Hari Jaisingh

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

M.V. Kamath

D. C. Pathak

S.D. Muni

Barjinder Sodhi

A.P.S. Chawla

V. N. Sharma

Ujjal Dosanjh

Gurcharan Das

J.N. Dixit

Yash Pal

I. K. Gujral

Arun Jaitley

Jaipal Reddy

Prakash Karat


Symbols of greatness


Sunday, January 26, 2003
Tribune special

Vision for becoming a developed nation

World War II resulted in nuclear warfare, killing millions of people but gave birth to the United Nations. The code of war ethics and human rights in war was evolved, symbolising the elevation of human civilisation standards and concern for fellow human beings, says A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

THE evolution of human society has followed the path from agricultural society to industrial, information and to the present-day knowledge society. In agricultural and industrial societies, humans and machines dominated warfare. In the information and knowledge society, intellectual capacity would dominate. Intellectual domination is represented by ideologies, principles and faiths. Whenever they cross paths between individuals, societies and nations, the human rights are violated. The suffocation and loss of human rights by the present generation of people due to the backwardness-induced economic status or pushed down by caste differentiation or frustrated by denial of timely justice at an affordable cost is the right cauldron from which revolution will start giving birth to a standard human being.

When the child is empowered by the parents, at various phases of growth, the child is transformed into a responsible citizen. When the teacher is empowered with knowledge and experience, good young human beings with value systems take shape. When an individual or a team is empowered with technology, transformation to higher potential for achievement is assured. When the leader of any institution empowers his or her people, leaders are born who can change the nation in multiple areas. When women are empowered, society with stability is assured. When the political leaders of the nation empower the people through visionary policies, the prosperity of the nation is certain. When religion transforms into a spiritual force, people become enlightened citizen with a value system. The road map for graduating into a standard human being will have to include.

a) education with a value system.

b) religions graduating into spirituality.

c) removal of poverty and an economically strong nation.

d) responsible judiciary and human rights.

I believe a standard human being can be created when all these four elements are properly combined.

Education with a value system

The best part for a person is his or her learning period in childhood. The prime learning environment is from the fifth to the 16th year. Of course, at home love and affection are imparted. But again most of the time in a day is spent in preparing school’s homework and studying, eating, playing and sleeping. Hence, the school hours for children are the best time for learning and need the best of environment and mission-oriented learning with value system. During this stage, they need value-based education in school and at home to become good citizens. This reminds me of Bestolozzys (a great teacher) saying, "Give me a child for seven years. Afterwards, let the God or devil take the child. They cannot change the child." For parents and teachers, the school campus and home have to have an integrated mission: education with a value system. If the child misses the value-based education of 25,000 hours in the school campus, no government or society can establish a transparent society or a society with integrity. Up to the age of 17 years, the father, the mother and the teacher lead a child to become an enlightened citizen. If the child misses the period of learning for the reasons as it is today, the nation loses an enlightened citizen.

Religion transforming into spirituality: The universal mind

I would like to recall an incident which happened four decades ago. As you all know, Prof Vikram Sarabhai, the visionary of space programme in the country, is well known for his cosmic ray research area that led to evolving of the space research programme for the nation. Both Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai were looking for a site to establish a space research station in the equatorial region. These two great scientists visited a number of places. Thumba in Kerala was selected by the scientific community for space research as it was near the equatorial region and ideally suited for ionospheric research.

When Vikram Sarabhai visited Thumba, the locality had a series of villages and thousands of fishermen were living in that area. It also had a beautiful ancient church, St. Mary Magdalene Church, Pallithura, and a Bishop’s House. Vikram Sarabhai met many politicians and bureaucrats to get the place for the work of space science research. It did not move further because of the nature of the place. He was asked to see the Bishop of Trivandrum, at that time in 1962, His Excellency Rct Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira. It was a Saturday when Vikram Sarabhai met the Bishop. The Bishop smiled and asked him to meet him the next day, i.e. Sunday. In the morning service, the Bishop told the congregation, "My children, I have a famous scientist with me who wants our church and the place I live for the work of space science research. Dear children, science seeks truth by reasoning. In one way, science and spiritualism seek the same divine blessings for doing good for the people. My children, can we give the God’s abode for a scientific mission?" There was a chorus of ‘Amen’ from the congregation and the whole church reverberated.


Subsequently, the big event took place in 1962. His Excellency Rct Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira, the Bishop of Trivandrum, took the noble decision to dedicate the church in recognition of the national goal for the establishment of the Indian Space Research Organisation at Pallithura, Thumba. That was the church where we had our design centre, started rocket assembly, design of filament winding machine for FRP product and the Bishop’s house was our scientists’ place. Later, the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) led to the establishment of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and multiple space centres throughout the country.

When I think of this event, I can see how enlightened spiritual and scientific leaders, all converge towards reverence of the human life. Today, among us, Vikram Sarabhai is not there, Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira is not there but those who are responsible for creation and making the system flower and blossom will themselves be a different kind of a flower as described in the Bhagavadgita: "See the flower, how generously it distributes perfume and honey. It gives to all, gives freely of its love. When its work is done, it falls away quietly. Try to be like the flower, unassuming despite all its qualities." What a beautiful message for all generation of this nation, on integration of minds and universal mind. Above all, we see a great scientist and religious leader transforming into a spiritual force and spreading it to the young: good human beings do live in our country.

Removal of poverty through vision for the nation

People, who are economically or socially in the lower strata, are vulnerable to human rights exploitation by those who are in the higher strata. One way to reduce this exploitation is to narrow this divide. In our country, about 300 million people are below the poverty line. After five decades of progress, the aspirations of people are mounting because they want that India should become a developed country. This is the second vision for the nation. How can we prepare ourselves to meet this challenge? India has to be economically and commercially powerful with near self-reliance in defence. Our target should be a GDP growth of 9-11 per cent annually. People below poverty line to be reduced to nearly zero. This would also include providing of sufficient employment opportunities to the physically and mentally challenged. How are we going to achieve this? Technology Vision 2020 is a pathway to realise this cherished mission.

Five mega projects to transform the nation
into a developed country

The Technology Vision 2020 consisted of 17 well-linked technology packages in core sectors. We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for an integrated action. These are:

Agriculture and food processing.

Reliable and quality electric power and surface transport for all parts of the country.

Education and healthcare.

Information and communication technology.

Strategic sectors.

These five areas are closely inter-related and if well would lead to national, food, economic and security. A strong partnership among the research and development, academics, industry and the community as a whole with government departments will be essential to accomplish the vision for a developed India.

Majesty of human rights and judiciary

Every citizen in the country has a right to live with dignity; every citizen has a right to aspire for distinction. Availability of a large number of opportunities to resort to just and fair means in order to attain that dignity and distinction, is what democracy is all about. That is what our Constitution is all about. That is what makes life wholesome and worth living in a true and vibrant democracy. At this point, I would like to remind all of us that at social levels it is necessary to work for unity of minds.

The increasing intolerance for views of others and increasing contempt about ways of lives of others or their religions or the expressions of these differences through lawless violence against people cannot be justified in any context. All of us have to work hard and do everything to make our behaviours civilised to protect the rights of every individual. That is the very foundation of the democratic values, which I believe is our civilisational heritage and is the very soul of our nation. The system cannot be a mute witness to this inhuman act.



Getting the forces together

Determine that things can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way. —Abraham Lincoln

THE vision of a developed India can be realised only if we recognise that wealth generation and wealth protection are two sides of the same coin. A nation’s wealth represents the sweat and hard work of its people. The famous Tamil poet Andal, who was regarded as one of the thirteen Vaishnavite Alwars, in her famous work Tiruppavai invokes the blessing of God to provide in plenty neengatha selvam (stable wealth) to the land. This is possible only with an integrated approach towards development. Granted planners look individually at the activities of various ministries and approve their action plans. However, if these proposals were to be looked at not in isolation but in the context of multiple-use planning, the benefits would multiply. Thus a technology, product or a service resulting out of a particular programme of a department/ministry should be mandated to be available to other departments/ministries at the stage of plan approvals. This would provide the needed integration at the planning stage. A similar approach needs to the put in place at other downstream activities. An integrated mission approach would permit interweaving of measures to generate wealth with similar steps for wealth protection. This is the hallmark of a developed country and hence the key to a developed India.

Another aspect of a developed country is global competitiveness of its industry. It is not only catering to the home market but also aiming for a large market outside it. Hence, its contribution to GDP is also very large. This is a prerequisite for India too in its development. Indian industry has to show the same competitiveness and innovation so that we can have our own multinationals.

Universal literacy and access to education for all is another fundamental requirement for a nation to be truly developed. Education would result in the creation of a large base of people who excel in various fields as well, an invaluable resource for any country.

At present, however, there is a high degree of asymmetry in the educational system. While there are many who aspire to higher education, quality institutions to impart this are few. This creates a large mismatch of demand and supply in quality manpower and is starkly evident in emerging sunrise areas such as information technology, biotechnology, environmental engineering and manufacturing technology. The economic liberalisation taking place will only intensify such demand in coming years. Moreover higher education has also to be made more relevant to industry and society, an aspect in which it is inadequate at present.

One solution lies in fostering institutions with expertise to industry and society. Some of the institutions which have excelled this far could provide templates for the new ones. Lastly, the solution should be implemented in a mission mode — only the mission objectives should be paramount and all else subservient to these objectives.

To develop to the desired level, industry also needs to recognise the importance of forward and backward linkages. Which linkages with bridging institutions such as think tanks, technical/consultancy services, other firms involved in similar activities as well as customers constitute the forward linkage, partnership with universities, R&D labs and technology-providing institutions would form the backward linkage. Investment in higher education is therefore crucial for forming this backward linkage which would serve as a springboard for Indian industry to make the jump to becoming a global player. We should not hesitate to take a fast decision for establishing twenty more IITs and medical institutions; whether they are promoted by Indian or foreign groups does not matter as long as the bottom line remains excellence.

On 15 October 2000 a website designed for me by friends in the Ponn Group was launched by the Infosys Chairman, N.R. Narayana Murthy, in the presence of Prof N. Balakrishnan of the IISc. Some of my friends asked me to post a few questions on the website. My questions were three. First: ‘India has been a developing country for more than half a century. What would you as young boys and girls like to do to make it a developed India?’ The second question was, ‘When can I sing a song of India?’ and the third , do we love anything foreign in spite of our capabilities in many fields, whereas other countries celebrate their own success?’ My only stipulation was that the answer should come from youth aged under twenty.

More than a hundred answers and suggestions were received from within the country and abroad. Five of these answers are relevant here.

One young man from Chandigarh responded, ‘I will become a teacher (rather, a professor of engineering) since I am good in, as well as enjoy, teaching and I believe that one of the best ways in which to serve one’s nation is to be either a professor or a soldier...’ A girl wrote from Pondicherry, ‘A single flower makes no garland. I will... work for a garland leading to unity of minds, as this is needed for transforming India into a developed country.’ A twenty-year-old youth from Goa responded, ‘Like an electron ceaselessly moving in its orbit, I will work ceaselessly for my country, now onwards.

With reference to the second point I had raised, a young man from Atlanta wrote: ‘When India becomes capable of imposing sanctions against any country, if they are needed, then I will sing a song of India.’ What the young man meant was that economic strength brings prosperity accompanied by national strength. The fifth answer is actually something that 30 per cent of the respondents said: the need for greater transparency in various facets of our life. One crucial fact often overlooked is that India has a population of 700 million people below the age of thirty-five. These are 700 million people with the inclination, the ability and the enthusiasm to take the nation to greatness. It is a very big force for change indeed.

How can one ignite the young minds? How can one attract and involve the young in the task of nation building? Only a united vision launched with renewed vigour will bring the young force into action.

The subject of transparency and values brings to my mind Gandhiji. I happened to meet in Delhi his granddaughter, Sumitra Kulkarni. I asked her, ‘Sumitraji, is there a particular incident (in respect of honesty in public life) that you always remember from your grandfather’s life?

She narrated to me this story. ‘Every day, as you all would have heard, Mahatma Gandhi had a prayer meeting at a fixed time in the evening. After the prayers there would be a collection of voluntary gifts for the welfare of harijans and others. The devotees of Gandhiji used to collect whatever was given by the people of all sections and this collection was counted by a few members suggested by Gandhiji. The amount so collected would be informed to Gandhiji before dinner. The next day, a man from the bank would come to collect the money for deposit.

‘Once the man reported that there was a shortage of few paise in the money handed over to him and the amount informed to Gandhiji the previous night. Gandhiji, on hearing this, was so upset that he went on fast saying that this is a poor man’s donation and we have no business to lose any of it.’ This episode is a unique example of transparency in public life. Well, in the same country we are witnessing the best and the worst. We should all, particularly the young generation, launch a movement for a transparent India, just as our fathers fought for our freedom. Transparency is a cornerstone of development.

Excerpted from Ignited Minds, authored by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam