Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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21-02-2003 : Tiruppur

I am indeed delighted to be with you here. I was thinking what thoughts I can share with this young gathering. When I see such a young gathering bubbling with happiness and action oriented spirit and above all young minds, I believe, it is time for India to enter into the second vision led by the young of this country. You may all want to ask me, what is the second vision? The first vision commenced somewhere in 1857, at Meerut, which was the revolutionary thought that India should get freedom with best of leaders in multiple fields. It took us 90 years to get freedom. When India got freedom on 15th August 1947, I was a young boy like you. This atmosphere makes me to share three events on the noble leadership, indomitable spirit and birth of space science and technology in a divine environment. I am sure, all the three characteristics would help to form a strong foundation in your journey of successful life.

Noble Leadership

In 1947, at the dawn of freedom, we had the best of leaders in science, in technology, in history, in politics and in industry. On 15th August 1947, my high school teacher Rev. Iyyadorai Solomon took me to hear the mid-night freedom speech of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. We were all thrilled when Panditji spoke that the mission was achieved. On the next day, that is on 16th August 1947, I had a great experience. An experience of best of education I can think of. In the Tamil newspaper, on the front page, two news items appeared. One item was India achieving freedom and Panditji's speech. The other news item and the most important one which has been embedded in my memory is about Mahatma Gandhiji walking barefoot in Naokali, removing the pain of riot affected families. Normally as Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi has to be the first to unfurl the national flag on August 15, 1947 in Red Fort. But he was not there at the Red Fort, instead he was at Naokali. Mahatma Gandhi was an embodiment of nobility, elevated thinking and concern for human beings. What an everlasting positive impact in the mind of a school boy??


Indomitable spirit

Sir CV Raman led teaching and research in Physics and created great scientific leaders and also the birth of Raman Research Institute, Bangalore. I would like to quote Sir CV Raman, at the age of 82, while addressing young graduates. The message is still reverberating in my mind: "I would like to tell the young men and women before me not to lose hope and courage. Success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task lying in front of you. I can assert without fear of contradiction that the quality of the Indian mind is equal to the quality of any Teutonic, Nordic or Anglo-Saxon mind. What we lack is perhaps courage, what we lack is perhaps driving force which takes one anywhere. We have, I think, developed an inferiority complex. I think what is needed in India today is the destruction of that defeatist spirit. We need a spirit of victory, a spirit that will carry us to our rightful place under the sun, a spirit which will recognise that we, as inheritors of a proud civilization, are entitled to a rightful place on this planet. If that indomitable spirit were to arise, nothing can hold us from achieving our rightful destiny."

Those were the words from the Nobel laureate scientist of India. You would see the bridge of science and society. Friends, I request all who are responsible for the young, all who are creators of the young, for the children's growth, allow them to dream. Dream transforms into thoughts and thoughts result into actions.


Birth of Space science and technology in a divine environment

I would like to recall another incident which happened four decades ago. As you all know, Prof Vikram Sarabhai is the visionary of space programme in the country. He is well known for his cosmic ray research area that led to evolving the space research programme for the nation. Both Dr Homi Bhabha and Prof Vikram Sarabhai were looking for a site to establish 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 was ideally suited for ionospheric research in upper atmosphere apart from study of atmospheric structure. When Prof Vikram Sarabhai visited Thumba, the locality had series of villages and thousands of fishermen folk were living in that area. It also had a beautiful ancient church, St Mary Magdalene Church, Pallithura and a Bishop's House. Prof Vikram Sarabhai met many politicians and bureaucrats to get the place for the work of space science research. It did not move further because 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 Prof Vikram Sarabhai met the Bishop. The Bishop smiled and asked him to meet him the next day, ie 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 I had my design centre, started rocket assembly, design of filament binding machine for FPP 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 religious spiritual and scientific leaders, all converge towards giving reverence to the human life. New church and new schools were established in record time. Of course the birth of TERLS and then VSSC gave the country the capability of design, development and produce world class huge rocket system and subsequently, India has the capability of launching geo-synchronous, sun-synchronous and meteorology spacecraft, communication satellite, remote sensing satellite thereby provided fast communication, weather forecasting and also locate water resources for the country. Today, among us, Prof Vikram Sarabhai is not there, Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira is not there, but those who are responsible for creation and make the flower and blossom will themselves be a different kind of a flower as described in the Bhagwat Gita: "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 that is universal mind. Intellectually armed with noble leadership, indomitable spirit and universal mind qualities, young friends, you will be entering into various professions. Also, the nation will have a mission of transforming 'developing' country into a 'developed' country, with the tool of knowledge society.


Core competence for knowledge society

A knowledge society can be one of the foundations for a vision for the nation: Developed India. Knowledge has always been the prime mover of prosperity and power. The acquisition of knowledge has therefore been the thrust area through out the world and sharing the experience of knowledge is a unique culture of our country. India is a nation endowed with natural and competitive advantages as also certain distinctive competencies. But these are scattered in isolated pockets and the awareness on these is inadequate. During the last century the world has undergone a change from agriculture society, where natural labour was the critical factor, to industrial society where the management of technology, capital and labour provided the competitive advantage. In the 21st century, a new society is emerging where knowledge is the primary production resource instead of capital and labour. Efficient utilisation of this existing knowledge can create comprehensive wealth of the nation in the form of better health, education, infrastructure and other social indicators. Ability to create and maintain the knowledge infrastructure, develop knowledge workers and enhance their productivity through creation, growth and exploitation of new knowledge will be the key factors in deciding the prosperity of this Knowledge Society. Whether a nation has arrived a stage of knowledge society is judged by the way the country effectively deals with knowledge creation and knowledge deployment.


Knowledge Society Components

India is going to enter in another decades time into a knowledge society. What type of knowledge society it is going to be? A knowledge society can be one of the foundations for realizing the vision for the nation: Developed India. Knowledge has always been the prime mover of prosperity and power. The acquisition of knowledge has therefore been the thrust area through out the world and sharing the experience of knowledge is a unique culture of our country. India is a nation endowed with natural and competitive advantages as also certain distinctive competencies. But these are scattered in isolated pockets and the awareness on these is inadequate


Vision for the nation

We got freedom in 1947, that was the result of first vision for the nation. This vision created best of leaders in many fields like politics, philosophy, science & technology and industry. In many aspects of life, improvement in literacy, agricultural products, strategic areas, certain small and large-scale industries took place. Now more than fifty years have gone by and we are called as one of the hundreds of developing countries, in a distinct way a separation from G-8 countries. We have many challenges. Nearly 300 million people who are below the poverty line have to join the mainstream of a good life. 100% literacy, health for all, multiple industrial and agricultural productivity and life style with value system has to emerge. Hence we need the second vision for the nation to become developed.


Agenda for the young in Developed India Mission

Developed India will become a reality. The Prime Minister, on Independence Day-2002, had announced that we will become a Developed India by 2020. The largest beneficiary of this dream when realized will be you, the young. Hence it is important that you contribute in its initial stages of realization and shape it to the best of your abilities with in your academic and family confines. The biggest concern of the parents and the children in your age group is about the job prospects when you complete your education. Without worrying about minor variations in the subjects of your pursuit, your opportunities and future will be brighter if you excel in whatever subject you undertake to study. At the frontier there are no borders. The employment opportunities are many, when a person becomes very selective like Government jobs, then there is tremendous constraints comes. If you open up your thoughts for entrepreneurship,design, industry, direct participation in agriculture with innovative ideas, making IT products etc. Most important thing for future young generation is to make up its mind to contribute in all sectors. The tool can be knowledge and physical contribution. In student life inspite of various constraints you can uniquely contribute for national development.


Student Centric Literacy Movement

One of the important indicators of a developed nation is the literacy level. Educating a nation of a billion people is not a small task. It requires the participation of all the stake holders starting from the young. Many of you are fortunate enough to attend good schools for a quality education. But many of your brothers and sisters are not that fortunate, particularly those from the villages near you. A good sign of a developed nation is that it is built on societies wherein "people who have" to work hard to bridge the divide between them and "those who have not". One way of doing this is for your school to adopt a village near you. When we look at the national target of increasing the literacy level from 57% to 75% by 2010, you must set the target for the village you adopted to be in tune with the national mission. Each one of you could visit the villages on holidays and contribute to removal of illiteracy of at least two persons and light the quest for knowledge in them. Work with consortium of industries, philanthropists, NGOs and ensure that this task is sustainable and its impact can be measurable and quantified.

The educational institutions have to gear-up to evolve a curriculum that is sensitive to the social and technological needs of the Developed India. Student activities towards such missions could be seamlessly integrated with the existing curriculum so that the future members of the knowledge society are fully developed in all aspects of societal transformation.

Evolution of policy and administrative procedures, changes in regulatory methods, identification of partners and most importantly creation of young and dynamic leaders are the components to be in place. In order to generate wealth, which is the second component for establishing a knowledge society, it is essential that simultaneously a citizen-centric approach to evolution of business policy, user-driven technology generation and intensified industry-lab-academy linkages have also to be established.


Societal Transformation

The agriculture society concentrated on producing the natural products such as grains, fruits, timber, ores and natural minerals etc. The industrial society added value to these products by incorporating explicit knowledge (High Technology) to it. This not only added value to products but also increased the productivity. The Information Society adds further value by widely making available the explicit knowledge through electronic networking of information centres and thus making available information products worldwide. The knowledge society will be the society producing products and services that are rich in both explicit and tacit knowledge thus creating more valuable products. It will emerge as centre of excellence in certain institutions, which will expand to cover the entire country in a decade. The leading social group of the knowledge society will be its knowledge workers, who will have sufficient knowledge to create explicit and tacit knowledge rich products. The society will be highly networked to create knowledge intensive environment along with enabling process to efficiently create, share exploit and protect the knowledge.

The IT growth in India really has highlighted that it is possible the data transformed into the information has a business proposition. By 2010, India would aim at IT enabled services consisting of human resource service, customer interaction, finance and accounting, data search and integration and remote education. The wealth generation in real sense comes out not in series, data, information, knowledge and innovation. But how fast we move India in innovation path of business. Particularly e-business demands innovative software and hardware. Friends, as you all know, India is well placed at the dawn of the knowledge era. We should not miss this opportunity. Our culture and civilization have been enriched over the ages by great thinkers who have always taken an integrated view of life as a fusion of mind, body and intellect. Their vision of knowledge has blossomed in the form of many spiritual centers and classics. The coming decades, the enriched young, will see a confluence of civilisational and modern technological streams.


Developed India - How to realise?

With this vision of Developed India let us look at what India should do to reach that status. It is a second major movement for the country after the great independence movement. In a movement everybody has a role. From the TIFAC document Technology Vision 2020, five thrust areas around which we can take several econo-technological actions involved in such a movement. (1) Agriculture and food processing (2) Reliable and quality electric power for all parts of the country (3) Education and healthcare (4) Information Technology (5) Strategic sectors. These five areas are closely inter-related and lead to national security, food security and economic security.


Integrated action

I wish to suggest how each and every Indian, in different walks of life, can contribute towards realizing the vision for the nation. I had discussions with economists, agricultural experts, technologists from different fields, from industry, government, administrators at various levels, non-governmental professionals and activists, media persons, and political leaders at different fora. After discussions, I feel concerted efforts in the five areas mentioned earlier can lead to a major movement towards transformation of the nation.

The vision for a developed India is driven fully by economic development coupled with security needs of the nation. It is also important that the intellectuals of the nation equally reinforce the vision. What it means is: India, due to its ancient civilisation, inspite of over-powering from various invading nations, the intellectual wisdom needs to be sprung back, matched with Indian value system. The intellectuals' mighty minds built in self-confidence with compassion for the service to poorer section are the most important demand for a developed nation - happy society.



Civilisation that does not have the knowledge of technology or the technological nations without experience of civilization, cannot innovate newer economy. India has rich civilization and post independent India has focused itself as a technologically competent in Space, Defence, Atomic Energy, Agriculture and Information Technology and certain areas of Industry. This combination is high energy force multiplier. With a vision and work, India will get transformed into a knowledge and economic power.

Friends, when you look around the world, you may be at the low ebb to think that you belong to one of the hundreds of developing nations and not to the so-called developed G-8. Think of the billion ignited Indian minds. This is the most powerful resource compared to any resource on the earth, above the earth and below the earth. You are a mighty force for the nation. Your sweat will transform developing India into a developed nation. Let us start the movement for a developed India and work for the mission.




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