Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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27-12-2002 : Mysore

I am indeed delighted to inaugurate the National Children's Science Congress-2002 organised by Karnataka Rajya Vignana Parishat with the support of Department of Science and Technology and Government of Karnataka. I am happy to understand that the children from all over India are participating in this congress with their innovative solutions to the focal theme and the issue: "Food Systems - Towards Nutrition for All". My greetings to the student community and the organizers of this congress. I was thinking what thoughts I can share with young minds here. The topic I have selected for discussion is "

Marvels of the Universe

Friends, have you heard about Thumba? It is in Kerala on the sea shore. This is the place from where Indian space program commenced. It is a big story how Thumba was selected for space program. Prof Vikram Sarabhai, a Cosmic rays Scientist and Homi Bhabha a Nuclear Scientist were searching for a place from where they can launch sounding rockets for atmospheric research, ionospheric research and meteorological research. After seeing various places, they came to a conclusion that Thumba is the right place as it is very close to the Equator which will help the space research in equatorial zones. That's how NIKE CAGUN - a two staged rocket was launched in Nov 1963. That was a Indo-US cooperation Program. Within six years time, Prof Vikram Sarabhai unfurled the space mission for India that should build Satellite Launch Vehicle capability, to put communication satellite in the geo-synchronous orbit and remote sensing satellite in the polar orbit. Also, he envisaged that launch vehicles built in India should be launched from Indian soil. This one visionary thought led to intensive research in multiple fields of science and space technology. Today, India with her 20,000 scientific technological and support staff in multiple space research centres have the capability to build any type of satellite launch vehicles, any type of rockets and launch it from Indian soil. I had the fortune to be part of Prof Vikram Sarabhai's vision and my team and myself to participate in India's first satellite launch vehicle programme to put the satellite in the orbit. Friends, can you please tell, what did you understand from this experience.


Thinking is Progress

Let me start this talk with some of the questions posed to me by the children recently during a personal interaction. The questions were from Vikrant Nahal Arya of Sanskriti School and Rupanjali Lahiri of St Thomas School, New Delhi, They asked me very simple question which led me to think. The question was : " Your birthday has recently gone by. What were your thoughts on that day?." They wanted to know what my birthday meant to me. It meant for me that I had completed 71 orbits around the sun, and had entered my 72nd orbit. Think of our Universe. I am amazed and always inspired by the dynamics of our universe. Our star (sun), its planets, every celestial object has a purpose. If the Earth stopped rotating around its axis, what would happen? No earth, No night, no day. If Sun does not orbit, sun will not be there. Think of it. The sun also orbit around the Milky Way. Isn't it. It takes the Sun 250 million years for one orbit around Milky Way, our galaxy. Compare that to my 72nd orbits. What does that mean? One single citizen completing 71 orbits. It is an insignificant event, compared to dynamics of universe. But human mind is innovative and can think and explore the marvels of universe .


Thinking is Progress

Friends, we should note that human mind is a unique gift. Marvels of universe you can enter into it only if you have curiosity and thinking. I suggest to all of you, thinking should become your capital asset, no matter whatever ups and downs you come across in your life. Thinking is progress. Non thinking is destruction to the individual, organization and the country. Thinking leads to action. Knowledge without action is useless and irrelevant. Knowledge with action brings prosperity.

As a student, I would like you to have a mind to explore every aspect of human life. Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires to give the best to those who dream. Like Chandrasekhar Subramaniam discovered the black hole. Today, using Chandrasekar's limit we can calculate how long the sun will shine. Like, Sir CV Raman looked at the sea and questioned why the sea should be blue leading to the birth of Raman Effect. Like, Albert Einstein, armed with the complexity of the universe, asked the question how the universe was born. The famous equation E=mc2 arrived. When E=mc2 is in the hands of noble souls we got electricity using nuclear materials. When the same equation was in the hands of extreme political thinkers, destruction of Hiroshima took place. Millions of people walk in this universe. But during last millennium one noble soul walked and walked in the Indian soil giving application of ahimsa dharma leading to the Indian independence. Freedom for India resulted in 1947 on a single question "India needs freedom". In 1950s there was a tremendous shortage for food. We had to depend on wheat ships that come crossing Atlantic ocean to prevent famine in India. The political leader C.Subramaniyam and an agricultural scientist Mr. M.S. Swaminathan asked a question in 1950s. How long India can depend on the imported food from developed countries? Let us become self sufficient in food. That thought led to green revolution resulting from technology, agricultural science and farmers participation. Similar thoughts when came to Mr. Verghese Kurien, the milk man of India, India could attain surplus Milk Production. We produce Milk and Milk products in excess of our requirement. What is science? Science is asking series of questions and finding the right answer through hard work result into laws of nature or technological advancements. So children, who are attending the science congress, one of the suggestion I can give you Don't get afraid of asking questions. Go on asking till you get satisfied answer. Only questioning minds have made the world to live livable in spite of world's non-linear dynamics.

Wherever I go , I meet school children. Till now, I have met more than 100000 students. Recently, I was in remote village in Rajasthan, Malva ka chaura visiting a tribal area hostel. During an interaction with the students, one 4th class student got up and asked a question, "Sir, I want to become the President of India like you. How to become?" A beautiful question from a fresh mind. I thought of it and I said "In my life, for more than 50 years, it turns out engineering student, technologists, and scientist. Now for the past six months I am the President. Life has taught me three aspects or acquistition of three qualities.


Knowledge, sweat and perseverance

The best part for a person is his or her learning period in school childhood. The prime learning environment is 5th to 16th years' of age. 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 study, eat, play and sleep. 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 for them to become good citizens. This reminds me the echo from Bestolozzy, a great teacher's 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, school campus and home have to have an integrated mission: education with 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. I also consider learning is a continuous process and knowledge acquisition continues.

Now I would like to explain the result of the hard work and perseverance with on e of my experience. It was in conjunction with Prof Sarabhai's vision for space programmes. Design project of India's first satellite launch vehicle was approved. Design of each stage of rocket, heat shield , guidance system was given to selected project leaders. I was given the 4th stage of SLV-3, that is upper stage rocket to give final velocity to put Rohini into orbit. The 4th stage SLV, uses an apogee motor, it should give the maximum thrust with minimum weight condition. It has critical technology. Hence, it was made out of composite structures which gives light weight. It is in early 1969 I remember, I received a call from Prof Sarabhai from Ahmedabad stating that he will be visiting Trivandrum along with Prof. Curien, President of a French Space organisation. I was asked to give a presentation about the 4th stage to Prof Curien's team. When the presentation by my team was over, we realised that SLV-3 4th stage is also being considered for a French 4th stage launch vehicle 'Diamont' P-4 and French Organisation was looking for an apogee rocket motor nearly double the propellant weight and also size of the stage what we had designed. A decision was taken in the same meeting that SLV's fourth stage should be reconfigured to match and suit both French satellite launch vehicles and Indian launch vehicles. I would like to give the picture of the status at that time of our rocket technology. It was in the drawing board and of design status. Here is a visionary whose dream that Indian scientists will build an upper stage rocket system compatible both for Indian and French satellite launch vehicle system. What a confidence he put on the Indian scientific community?

A decision was taken that this upper stage has to be designed and developed and it was projectised. This event was remarkable and motivating for us. We went on full swing. A series of reviews took place between the two teams. The 4th stage graduated from drawing board to developing stage. Then in 1971 Prof Sarabhai passed away at the same time the Diamont P-4 programme was called off and to be reconfigured in future. When the 4th stage was developed and series of tests were going on a new requirement appeared in the horizon that is India building small communication satellites to be integrated as one of the piggy back satellite in the Ariane programmes (European Space Launch Programme). For our Indian Apple programme that is communication satellite - the SLV-3 4th stage exactly fitted and we flew in 1980s integrated in the European space launch from French Guiana Kourou. The vision seeded in 1969 by Prof Vikhram Sarabhai was indeed realised when the apple satellite started transmitting a communication to Indian earth stations. This gives some insight of a visionary with committed scientific and support, we can realise the vision. Even we can built our rockets can be flown in foreign soil. This achievement triggered rocket technologists in the country and it is indeed is the result of hard work and perseverance of the entire team. So dear friends, carry on you shoulder the angels and they are hard work, sweat and perseverance.


The Vision for the nation

After 50 years of progress, the aspirations are mounting that India should become a developed country. This is the second vision for the nation. When you are just entering into your life after education, you will enter in to the theatre of action.

To become a developed India, the essential needs are (a) India has to be economically and commercially powerful, at least to be one of the four top nations in terms of size of the economy. Our target should be a GDP growth of 9% annually and that the people below poverty line to be reduced to 10%. (b) near self-reliance in defence needs of weapon, equipment with no umbilical attached to any outside world. (c) India should have a right place in world forums. Technology Vision 2020 is a pathway to realise this cherished mission.

We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for an integrated action. (1) Agriculture and food processing - we have to put a target of 360 million tons of food and agricultural production. Other areas of agriculture and agro food processing would bring prosperity to rural people and speed up the economic growth. (2) Reliable and quality electric power for all parts of the country. (3) Education and Healthcare (4) Information Technology - This is one of our core competence. (5) Strategic sectors .

These five areas are closely inter-related and lead to national, food, and economic security. A strong partnership among the R&D, academy, Industry and the community as a whole with the Government departments will be essential to accomplish the vision.



India is a nation of a billion people. A nation's progress depends upon how its people think. It is thoughts which are transformed into actions. India has to think as a nation of a billion people. I am sure, your thoughts in this science congress will enrich the decision making process. Let the young minds blossom-full of thought, the thoughts of prosperity. My greetings and best wishes to all the young innovators.




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