ADDRESS AT THE LAUNCHING OF THE CENTENARY ENDOWMENT SCHEME OF CALCUTTA CLUB LIMITED, KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL
17-05-2007 : Kolkata
Dynamics of Peace and Prosperity
"Virtue is Knowledge" - Socrates
I am delighted to address and interact with the eminent thinkers of Calcutta Club Limited. My greetings to the President, CEO, Managing Committee Members and all the other professional members during the centenary celebrations of the Club.
West Bengal is famous for innovative thinking and was responsible for many initiatives in literary and poetic excellence, social reforms, spiritual awakening, pioneering scientific innovation and generation of many Nobel laureates. As I am with this distinguished audience, I was thinking what thoughts I can share. How to achieve a peaceful, prosperous and happy India? This indeed is a challenging mission for us today. Keeping this in mind, I have selected ?Dynamics of Peace and Prosperity? as the topic for initiating discussion today.
Unity of Minds
I was studying the classic ?Dialogues of Plato?, where Plato brings out ?our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole? 2400 years ago. Similarly, during the same period Tamil poet Saint Thiruvalluvar said,
That is, "the important elements that constitute a nation are: being disease free; wealth; high productivity; harmonious living and strong defence". We have to find how we can provide all these elements to all the citizens of the nation on an equitable basis for happiness for all. This may result in an extremism free world, a peaceful world. I would like to first discuss with you my personal experience in exploring what brings happiness to the human beings.
During the year 2003, in the beautiful Arunachal Pradesh, I visited a Buddhist monastry at Tawang 3500 m. altitude. I stayed and spent some time nearly for a day. I observed a unique situation in all the villages nearby where young and experienced were all radiating happiness in spite of severe winter environment. Then, I visited the 400 years old Tawang monastery itself and there also I saw monks of all age groups in a state of serenity. I was asking myself what is the unique feature of Tawang and surrounding villages which makes people and monks to be at peace with themselves. When the time came, I asked the Chief Monk, how in Tawang villages and monastry, I am experiencing peace and happiness being radiated by everyone. There was a pause, the chief monk smiled. He said, "You are the President of India. You will be knowing all about us and the whole nation. Again I said, "It is very important for me, you please give me your thoughtful analysis".
There was a beautiful golden image of Lord Buddha radiating smile and peace. The Chief Monk assembled nearby all his nearly 100 young and experienced monks. The Chief Monk and myself were sitting amidst them. The Chief Monk gave a short discourse, which I would like to share with you. Chief Monk said, "In the present world, we have a problem of distrust, unhappiness transforming into violence. This monastery spreads: when you "Remove ?I? and ?Me? from your mind, you will eliminate ego; if you get rid of ego, hatred towards fellow human beings will vanish; if the hatred goes out of our mind, the violence in thinking and action will disappear; if violence in our mind is taken away, peace springs in human minds. Then peace and peace and peace alone will blossom in the society". I realized the meaning of beautiful equation for peaceful life, but difficult mission for the individual is how to remove the ethos of ?I? and ?ME?. For this, we need the education inculcated in the young age as propagated by Indian philosophers.
In my search for evolving a peaceful and prosperous society, I got part answer. My search for real truth continues. I saw an ancient Christian monastery in Bulgaria, where I had a discussion with highly experienced monks on the message of Tawang. The Monk added that forgiveness is also the foundation of good life. Now coming nearer, in the birth place of Swami Vivekananda, I explained the Tawang experience to the disciples and they too felt the Tawang experience indeed is beautiful and they added "Trait of Giving " will add to peace and happiness. Then I visited Ajmeer Sharif where I participated in the Friday Namaz. Here, the Sufi expert told me that Almighty's creation, the man, has been challenged with another powerful creation of Shaitan. Only good deeds lead to good thinking, good thinking results into actions radiating love as commanded by Almighty. While talking about good deeds, I am reminded of the advice given to Gandhiji by his mother. She says:
"Son, in your entire life time, if you can save or better someone's life, your birth as a human being and your life is a success. You have the blessing of the Almighty God".
This advice has made a deep impact in the mind of Gandhiji, which made him to work for the humanity throughout his life. During the 100th birthday of His Holiness Sree Sree Shivakumara Swamiji of Sree Siddaganga Math, Tumkur, Karnataka, a southern state of India - a message of ?Giving? came to my mind celebrating his contribution, which I would like to share with you:
"Radiating message on Giving"
"O my fellow citizens,
In giving, you receive happiness,
In Body and Soul.
You have everything to give.
If you have knowledge, share it.
If you have resources, share it with the needy.
Use your mind and heart,
To remove the pain of the suffering,
And, cheer the sad hearts.
In giving, you receive happiness.
Almighty will bless all your actions."
What message do we get from all these experiences? All these experiences give an insight that human beings can attain lasting peace and happiness only when they rise above their selves and work towards serving others without external temptation. Is it utopian goal or is it practicable in day-to-day life? I have come across many incidents where people have, irrespective of their normal professional affiliations, have come forward for great societal missions by giving.
Societal mission for reviving the river
Last year, I was in Punjab, a northern state of India. There, I visited Sultanpur Lodhi and saw the marvelous development which has taken place on the river Kali Bein. I was delighted to see the rejuvenated Kali Bein, the place where the revered Sikh Guru Gurunanak Devji is said to have received enlightenment. Over the years this rivulet had turned into weed choked drain. Now, river is clean due to the efforts of Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, a priest in a Gurudwara temple and his team. Babaji had organized people?s participation in stopping the massive flow of sewage into the Bein and cleaned 160 km long polluted and choked rivulet within the last five years by deploying on an average 3,000 kar sevak (volunteer pilgrims) per day. Today one can feel the flow of fresh water in this rivulet released from the Tarkina Barrage by the government. The revival of the rivulet has recharged the water table as the hand pumps that had become dry for the past 4 decades are now pumping out water. Also, I saw speed boats running on the river. The 3 kms stretch which I physically saw was a beautiful site to watch with nice bathing ghats, tree orchards on the bank of the river and well laid out roads parallel to the river. I also saw the great happiness of giving on the faces of the volunteers who had physically participated in this task. This is a great example of giving and happiness arising out of giving. We need in every worshiping place initiatives like that of Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal to keep water bodies and neighbourhood of the worshiping place clean.
Now, I would like to talk to you about the present ambience in India and the dreams of national prosperity and world peace.
India is in an ascending economic trajectory, with continuously rising foreign exchange reserves, moderate rate of inflation, global recognition of our technological competence, energy of 540 million youth, umbilical connectivities of 20 million people of Indian origin in various parts of the planet. India as the largest democracy in the world has the reputation for providing leadership to one billion people with multi-cultural, multi-language and multi-religious backgrounds. Our technological competence and value systems with civilizational heritage are also highly respected. Foreign Institutional Investors are finding investing in India attractive. We are in the process of accelerating our clearance system of investment proposals. Our industrialists are also investing abroad and opening new business ventures. The Indian economy is growing with an average annual GDP growth rate of over 8 to 9%. Very soon, we will be reaching the target of 10% GDP growth rate. Now, I would like to talk to you about the possible Indian ambience in 2020.
Possible Ambience in 2020
I visualize a prosperous India well before the year 2020. We expect the people below the poverty line to come to near zero and our literacy must be nearly 100%. The Human Development Index of India will be less than 50. Every Indian will have either a good university degree or quality training with globally competitive employable vocational skill. E-governance would be in position for all Government to Government (G2G) and Government to Citizens (G2C) transactions making the governance system transparent with a National ID card in position. Tele-density will reach over 75%. All our villages will have reliable, uninterrupted quality electric power supply. 600,000 villages will have all three connectivities such as physical connectivity, electronic connectivity, knowledge connectivity leading to economic connectivity through the programme of PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas). The interlinking of rivers and water bodies and use of technology for water collection, water recycling and water management will result in equitable distribution of water for drinking, irrigation, industry, navigation and as natural beauty. There will be no shortage of water in any part of the country nor will there be disasters due to floods, water logging etc. India would have realized energy security and would be working towards energy independence. Good sanitation facilities will be available in homes in every part of India and for all Indians and tourists. We will be using more of renewable energy such as solar energy, wind power, bio-mass, mini and micro Hydel and thorium based nuclear reactors which are environment friendly energy sources.
Through responsive and innovative venture capital systems and entrepreneurial training both in schools and colleges, we will have more enterprises leading to a large number of employment generators rather than employment seekers. A pro-active healthcare system delivered through innovative schemes will provide quality healthcare access at an affordable cost to all the people including those living in remote areas. Everyone will have an opportunity to take up and complete courses of choice in higher education. In addition to the above economic, social and human development, India will also have a visible global presence in strategic sectors and will contribute to world peace. All our technological and economic advances while enhancing our prosperity would embed our value system derived from our civilizational heritage. This unique combination will make our growth robust and sustainable and will lead to a peaceful, secure, happy and prosperous society. For achieving Vision 2020 from the present ambience, we need a measurement tool which can guide us in our growth path. Since we are looking for inclusive growth for our one billion people, we need a comprehensive measure of our growth in terms of the National Prosperity Index.
National Prosperity Index
While our economy is very much in the ascent phase and our GDP is growing at nearly 9% per annum, it is evident that economic growth is not fully reflected in the quality of life of a large number of people, particularly in rural areas and even in urban areas. Hence, we have evolved what is called a ?National Prosperity Index (NPI)? which is a summation of (a) Annual growth rate of GDP; plus (b) improvement in quality of life of the people, particularly those living below the poverty line plus (c) the adoption of a value system derived from our civilizational heritage in every walk of life which is unique to India. That is NPI=a+b+c. Particularly, ?b? is a function of availability of housing, good water, nutrition, proper sanitation, quality education, quality healthcare and employment potential. ?c? is a function of promoting the joint family system, creation of a spirit of working together, leading a righteous way of life, removing social inequities, and above all promoting a conflict free, harmonious society. This will be indicated by peace in families and communities, reduction in corruption index, reduction in court cases, elimination of violence against children and women and communal tensions. There should also be progressive reduction in the number of people living below the poverty line leading to its becoming near zero by 2020. All our efforts are directed towards improving the national economic performance guided by the measured National Prosperity Index of the nation at any point of time.
Prosperity of nations is important for the prosperity of the world and to avoid conflicts and war. The centuries of learning from different civilizations should enable us to formulate ideas and systems to bring prosperity and reduce disparities. One of the main drivers would be human values bridged by spirituality of religions. We also need to find ways and means of rooting out the fundamental causes of extremism. We have to find solutions for depleting sources for energy, continuously degrading environment and the scarcity of water threatening the humanity. I believe that humanity as a whole has to work with focused national and regional missions which itself will be a major unifying factor and pave the way for peace and prosperity to the whole nation.
Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
With these words I am happy to launch Centenary Endowment Scheme of Calcutta Club Limited which is an important societal mission.
My greetings to all the members of the Calcutta Club Limited during this Centenary Celebrations and my best wishes for success in their mission of providing useful intellectual input to the West Bengal Government for transforming West Bengal into a developed state well before 2020.
May God bless you.