Nations consist of people. And with their effort a nation can accomplish all it could ever want. Motivating India's people, and its youth especially, is the central theme of Ignited Minds, which continues the trajectory of thoughts taken up in my earlier two books, Wings of Fire and India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium, written with my friends Arun Tiwari and Y.S. Rajan. I have chosen to write about this subject of igniting young minds so that India turns into a developed nation by the year 2020 because all through my career in the field of technology and its management, I relied on the power and potential of youth. My strength has been my young teams who never let me down. And what satisfaction there was in working with them on some of the most complex projects in some of the most challenging situations! Given the freedom to achieve and guided properly, I am convinced the young of India can accomplish far more.
As I began writing, I wondered if I was not overreaching myself. I thought: Who am I to write about this capacity of India to realize its destiny as a developed nation? What do I really know about how this can be accomplished beyond what I have learned in my projects and missions evolved around science and technology? Isn't this an area that political leaders, economists, thinkers and other competent people would address better? How am I qualified to tell others about an ability that has been generally ignored?
At first as I was putting down my experiences with youth, I had no idea of what I would have to say. However, I put aside my doubts and began to examine what I hear from the people I meet during my visits to different places, particularly children, saints and seers, teachers, scientists, industry leaders and even political leaders. I am sure on my part that India has the ability to transform itself into a developed nation. Through my projects in space, defence and nuclear sectors, I know that our people have the ability to achieve the best in the world. They have a fantastic mix of belief and knowledge that sets them apart from any other nation on earth. I also know that their potential has gone untapped because we have become used to being subjugated and docile. What better project can I undertake than to tell my people that what they dream of can become possible, that they can have anything that comprises a good life: health, education, the freedom to pursue their goals, and above all, peace.
My quest for answers as to how this could be done took me to schools, the countryside, ashrams and many other places which were not part of my itinerary earlier. It was a new kind of experience, a very stimulating one at that. The paddy fields in Bihar left to an ad-hoc cycle of agriculture, the untapped mineral wealth of the newly formed state of Jharkhand and the unattended biodiversity of Tripura, throwing a great challenge to the knowledge era that is dawning. In Assam the sight of the mighty Brahmaputra almost mesmerized me. Its vast expanse of water filled me with a strange sense of helplessness too-the river's untapped flow was taking a gigantic mass of water into the sea. It made me think, that as a nation too we were failing to utilize our tremendous energies.
Where are we making a mistake? What is it that needs to be corrected? We have a roadmap in our five-year plans that covers some of the things we need to achieve. We have most of the necessary resources. There seems to be an attitude problem, as if we cannot shake ourselves out of a mindset of limited achievement. This book is all about breaking away from the forces that would prefer us to remain a nation of a billion people selling cheap labour and raw materials and providing a large market for goods and services of other nations.
I am writing this book to make my young readers hear a voice that says, 'Start moving.' Leadership must lead us to prosperity. Young Indians with constructive ideas should not have to see them wither in the long wait for approval. They have to rise above norms which are meant to keep them timid in the name of safety and to discourage entrepreneurship in the name of trade regimes, organizational order and group behaviour. As it is said, Thinking is the capital, Enterprise is the way, Hard Work is the solution.
Every nation has struggled to achieve its goals. Generations have given their best to make life better for their offspring. There is nothing mysterious or hidden about this, no alternative to effort. And yet we fail to follow the winning track. More than the problems outside-globalization, recession, inflation, insurgency, instability and so on-I am concerned about the inertia that has gripped the national psyche, the mindset of defeat. I believe that when we believe in our goals, that what we dream of can become reality, results will begin to follow. Ignited Minds is about developing that conviction in ourselves, and discarding the things that hold us back.
This was, in fact, a central thought that I kept in mind as I wrote. Share my dream of a developed India and see it made real in your own and others' lives. In my own way, I have tried to follow my beliefs, to do what I loved doing. I have tried, however, to guide but not to impose my views on others.
You will find in this book plain speaking: Surge ahead as a developed nation or perish in perpetual poverty, subservient to a few countries that control the world politically and economically. There are no other alternatives.
In the nine chapters of this book, I take up various themes. I begin with a rumination on peace, without which there can be no progress, and on the shift in the direction of my own life that occurred after surviving a helicopter crash. There is a chapter based on my interaction with children allover India. Other chapters contain the insights I gained in my meetings with saints and seers, scientists, outstanding thinkers and others. There are accounts of some promising experiments in agriculture and in the medical field. Elsewhere I deal with concepts that carry the seed of solutions. The contents essentially come from the people of this nation, from what they have taught me.
I have written this book as an expression of my faith in the potential of India and my countrymen. We have all the resources we need, whether it be people, talent, natural bounty or other assets. India is truly blessed with a real, though latent, abundance. Scarcity of resources is not the cause of our problems. Our problems originate in our approach towards them. We are spreading our resources too wide and too thin. With our resources and the money we spend we could easily accomplish three times what we do, in half the time we normally take, if we were to operate in mission mode with a vision for the nation. The vision generates the best in every field.
We must change tracks. It is imperative that our policy making become more responsive and efficient so that the stifled entrepreneurship is liberated. Key to that is better coordination among the various departments, rather than emphasis on priorities according to the preferences of individual departments. There are more reviews than views available. Every channel appears blocked by some obstacle or the other. The trapped energies and the suppressed initiative need to be freed and properly harnessed. Nor do we particularly need every time to borrow models from elsewhere. I don't think the American, Japanese or Singaporean solutions will work for us. Knocking at others' doors will be futile. Instead of importing theories and transplanting concepts we need to grow our own solutions. Instead of searching for answers outside we will have to look within for them.
I hope that when you go through these nine chapters you will be given the guidance that I got from the people of my country and feel connected to the wisdom that is so special to this soil. The reality of a developed nation will become part of your daily life. Twenty years from now I may not be around. But I am sure many of you will be there to share in the glory of success and agree that I was right in being so confident.
Many friends and associates helped me put this book together. I am grateful to them all. My special thanks to Mr Y.S. Rajan, and Dr M.S. Vijayaraghavan for shaping my thoughts with their vital inputs. Dr- A. Sivathanu Pillai has worked with me for a long time and his contribution has been both timely and invaluable in giving shape to ideas and thoughts. I am fortunate to have his friendship. I am grateful to Mr H. Sheri don who directly keyed in my dictations into his laptop computer with outstanding skill. My co-author in Wings of Fire, Mr Arun K. Tiwari, did his usual craftsmanship with words on the manuscript and I appreciate every bit of that. It was a great pleasure to work with Mr Krishan Chopra of Penguin Books. From the - emanation of my thoughts to the book's realization, his constant interaction was of great support.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
1. The Dream and the Message (1)
2. Give Us a Role Model (21)
3. Visionary Teachers and Scientists (40)
4. Learning from Saints and Seers (70)
5. Patriotism beyond Politics and Religion (100)
6. The Knowledge Society (119)
7. Getting the Forces Together (138)
8. Building a New State (159)
9. To My Countrymen (179)
Song of Youth (196)