Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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31-12-2004 : Guwahati
Creative Learning

I am indeed delighted to participate in the valedictory function of the 12th National Children?s Science Congress(NCSC) 2004 organised by the Assam Science, Technology and Environment Council with the support of the Department of Science and Technology and Cotton College. You are all aware of the fury of the natural calamity faced by the citizens of our coastal states due to the impact of the earthquake.

My greetings to the student community and organizers of this science congress. I am happy to note that the theme for the National Children?s Science Congress is ?harness water resources for a better future?. This is an important subject of national priority and I am sure the Congress will provide innovative solutions for this problem. I am also happy to note that this event is integrating millions of children in the age group of 10 to 17 to work on a common theme. The topic I have chosen for discussion is ?Creative learning?.

Project Siruthuli

This is an initiative started by Coimbatoreans for Coimbatoreans. This ecological project aims to bring back the glory of Coimbatore and its rich heritage. In addition Coimbatore does not have too many water resources. Hence its preservation is crucial for a better quality of life for the fast growing city. The project is represented by people from all walks of life and professionally organized. The primary focus is on large scale rain water harvesting, afforestation, sewage / waste water treatment and solid waste management. They have already standardized five of the nine primary tanks in Coimbatore for large scale rainwater harvesting. Over 600 saplings have been planted on the bunds of the desilted tanks and are being maintained. They are moving towards a target of planting 15 lakh trees by the end of 2005. The comprehensive study has indicated outlet of the city sewage as 10 million liters per day. A pilot plant is being taken up for sewage treatment to treat one million litres per day. The treated water will be sold to the agriculturists and industrialists as a revenue earning measure. The garbage and debris to the extent of over 26,000 cubic meters in one of the city?s largest tank have been removed. These are the major achievements for developing a growing city. Waste in modern society is to be treated as wealth. Technology and management help to do that. In that process of wealth creation, we also protect and preserve nature which is our greatest wealth.


Regional linking of Rivers

Many of our rivers are carrying substantial amount of water into the sea, both during monsoon and during the lean period. I would recommend full utilization of water by construction of canals and regional networking of rivers. I have seen in Goa small rivers being connected and also in AP, there is a move to connect Godavari and Krishna rivers. Every region can consider connecting small and big rivers as a mission. Incidentally this great task can help creation of productive work for a large number of local people and sustain it later through the opportunities provided by the new water resources.

Flood control: There are certain regions in the country, particularly Bihar and Assam, which are constantly affected by floods every year. We are witnessing the situation even now. There is an urgent need to find long-term solution to control flood, store and utilize the surplus water during drought. In the Gangetic plain, I would recommend construction of layered wells in the entry points of Kosi river when it comes to India from Nepal. These layered wells can store the floodwater at different levels and can control the devastating effects on low-lying areas. The water thus stored will be useful during shortage period. Similar solutions can be found for the north-eastern region.


Thinking is Progress

Friends, we should note that human mind is a unique gift. 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 and act. Like Chandrashekhar Subramaniam discovered the black hole. Today, using Chandrashekar'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. He found the blue of the sea was due to the molecular scattering of light and was not a case of reflection of the sky in water as most people imagined. That led 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 thought "India needs freedom".

Wherever I go, I meet school children. Till now, I have met more than 5,00,000 students. Recently, I was in Himachal Pradesh visiting Shimla and nearby rural areas where I interacted with large number of school and university students. One question asked by Mr Shammi Dhiman of Class-X, Government Sr Sec School, Chachian was ?How can science and technology wipe out poverty and make India a powerful nation?? 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 Shri. C. Subramaniam and an agricultural scientist Prof. 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 Prof. 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 suggestions I can give you is not to be 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.


Hard work and Perseverance

One cannot stop at thinking and asking questions. There is need to act to solve the problems that requires hard work and perseverance. Now I would like to explain the result of the hard work and perseverance with one of my experiences which has a large bearing on our rural development. 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 give 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. Herbert 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 projectized. 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 India?s first 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. Vikram 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 hard work by technological teams. Even we can build our rockets which can be flown in foreign soil. This achievement triggered the rocket technologists in the country and it is indeed the result of hard work and perseverance of the entire team. Today, the country has the capability to build and launch any type of satellites in the orbit. The vision of Prof Vikram Sarabhai has been fully realized by our Space scientists through the launch of PSLV and GSLV. On 20th September 2004 ISRO has launched the EDUSAT exclusively for educational purposes. This satellite will provide connectivity to over one lakh fifty thousand class rooms through universal teleeducation spread in different parts of the country. This is another example of the power of technology to provide quality education to rural poor.

Now for the last two and half years, I am President. Life has taught me the importance of acquisition of three qualities - knowledge, sweat and perseverance.


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. There are good neighbours and friends too. 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.


Man Subjugates Failures

Friends, I want to share with you about the creativity of the scientists and technologists. Human flight is nothing but creativity of human mind and it undergoes several struggles to achieve excellence by exploring the space. In 1890, a great well known scientist Lord Kelvin, who was the President of Royal Society of London said, "any thing heavier than air cannot fly, and cannot be flown." Within two decades Wright Brothers proved man can fly of course at heavy risk and cost.

On the successful completion of Moon Mission in 1961, Werhner von Braun, a very famous rocket designer, who built Saturn-V, to launch the capsule with astronauts and made moon walk a reality, in 1975 said "If I am authorized, I will remove the word impossible from the dictionary".

In ancient days, Ptolemaic astronomy is a widely used system in calculating the dynamics of various stars and planets. Assumption by then was that the earth is flat. What a scientific struggle had to take place to prove that the earth is spherical in shape orbiting around the sun. The two great astronomers, Copernicus and Galileo, had to give a new dimension to the world of astronomy. Today we take it granted that earth is a globe orbiting around sun and the sun orbits in the Milky Way. All the technological advancements we have today, are the outcome of scientific exploration of scientists a few centuries ago. At no time, man was beaten by problems. He strives continuously to subjugate failures.


Neighbourhood Mapping

Coming now to the theme of ?Water?, I have a suggestion to all the children and management persons of the school I have come across a wonderful and unique experiment by the school children of Uttaranchal. Mind you, they are from ordinary schools and most of them studying in Hindi. The experiment involved use of mapping techniques to investigate and map basic socio-economic, environmental and ecological issues in the neighbourhood community. Armed with the scientific and technological tools such as Global Positioning System (GPS), Geographic Information System (GIS), Space Imagery incorporated in the hand held computers, the children are creating maps with the neighbourhood details to improve their understanding of the immediate environment. These maps will enable further the technological community to find solutions for the regeneration of fast disappearing natural sources of water, improving road connectivity, finding better locations for electricity and water distribution points, reducing traffic congestion and improved systems of garbage collection.

Friends, I suggest all of you take up this neighbourhood mapping with a focus for next two or three years on identifying water bodies, polluted waters, ground water sources, wells, dried water pumps, flooded areas, small or big canals including dry ones, tanks, rivers etc. You will develop insights about the water linkages, I spoke about in the early part of my talk. Also you can identify water bodies for charging. Then the authorities, NGOs etc. will learn from you. It is a great mission for you.


Bumble Bee

According to the laws of aerodynamics the bumble bee should be unable to fly. Because of the size, weight, and shape of its body in relationship to the total wing span, flying is scientifically impossible. The bumblebee, being ignorant of scientific theory, keeps fluttering her wings. This high frequency vibration creates a vortex which enables it to fly. With determined efforts you can always succeed against established patterns.


Story of a little bird

Recently, I met a group of students from South Korea accompanied by their exchange counterparts from Delhi Public School called on me. I asked them what they understood of the Developed India mission. A small boy from the front row belonging to Delhi Public School replied to through a small story. He said, once there was a big forest fire in a jungle. All animals and birds and living creatures were frantically trying to escape. However, one small bird rushed to the nearest waterhole and brought a beak full of water and dropped on the fire. Then the fire laughed and said what a foolish thing to do instead of escaping the wrath of the fire. However, the bird replied, see like me if we all the birds and animals bring in water to pour over you, the entire ocean will be here and you will be put off in no time. Therefore, it is important for every individual to do his bit for making India a prosperous and developed nation. I liked the spirit of this boy and I am sure if the 540 million youth of our country collectively work, India will be a developed nation much before 2020.


Conclusion: Indomitable Spirit

A nation is great, because how its people thing big. Particularly the young population of India, definitely have to have a big aim, small aim is a crime. I wish you all to excel in your studies and become Doctors, Engineers, Scientists, managers and above all the best human beings with traditional value system and societal care. The challenge in the mission of the developed India calls for an important, cohesive and focused efforts of the young. For success in any mission what we need is indomitable spirit. Let us study the characteristics of indomitable spirit. It has two components. The first component is that there must be a Vision leading to higher goals of achievement. I would like to recall a couplet from Thirukkural by the Poet Saint Thiruvalluvar written 2200 years ago.


It means that whatever may be the depth of the river or lake or pond, whatever may be the condition of the water, the lilly flower always comes out and blossoms. Similarly, if there is a definite determination to achieve a goal even if it is mountainous problems, he or she succeed. Many of us have gone through large programmes and projects. We would have experienced that success is not in sight and there are many hurdles. The same poet reminds us at this point of time through another couplet:

It means successful leaders can never be defeated by problems. They become master of the situation and defeat the problems. I consider these two Thirukkurals characterize the indomitable spirit. I am sure you all the young who have assembled here will rise to the occasion and become leaders in multiple areas. Think and practice indomitable spirit to succeed. I congratulate the participants of 12th National Children?s Science Congress, 2004 and wish them all success in their scientific and development missions. May God bless you.



1. I will pursue my education with dedication and I will excel in it.

2. I will teach at least 10 persons to read and write who at present cannot do so.

3. I will plant at least 10 saplings and shall ensure their growth through constant care.

4. I will visit rural and urban areas and permanently wean away at least 5 persons from addiction and gambling.

5. I will constantly endeavor to remove the pain of my suffering brethren.

6. I will not support any communal or linguistic differentiation.

7. I will be honest and set an example for others to follow.

8. I will work for becoming an enlightened citizen.

9. I will always be a friend of the mentally and physically challenged and will work hard to make them feel normal, like the rest of us.

10. I will proudly celebrate the success of my country and my people.


Questions and Answers Session

1. The present scenario in our country is not secured for the children. Can you make our future bright and secured?

- Sandhya Mathur, Air Force Shool, Allahabad.

Ans. Upto the age of 14, there is going to be compulsory education. I have assented to the Bill, which has now to be passed by the State Legislature. Changes are required in Primary education, which needs to bring out creativity in the child. I think, secondary education is O.K. but students need to work hard.

2. NCSC is an innovative and educative programe. Why our Government cannot make such activities compulsory in all schools of the country?

- J.G. Rini, Carmel Girls H.S.School, Trivandrum.

Ans.My view is that one of NCSC and NCC can be compulsory and the other optional. In my opinion, NCC should be compulsory, as discipline is needed in society.

3. Sir, do you think it is justified to spend huge money in missions like Chandrayan, when we have so many problems in the country?

- Nishanta Adhikary, Don Bosco High School, Assam.

Ans. Moon and Mars are humanities properties. In 50 years our fossil fuels will end so we need a new source of energy. Helium can be a source of future energy. By sending a satellite to the moon, we are taking our claim.

4. Can solar power be used in the JET ENGINE to rotate the compressor or act as a re-heater?

- Manish Kashyap, Dreamland Higher Secondary School, Chattisgarh.

Ans. Silicon cell or Gallium arsenide cell can be used to convert solar energy into electricity. It can be used to convert into a mechanical force. Definitely it can be done.

5. Sir, can you help our scientists to find measures that can at least forecast, if not avoid disasters like the Tsunami which rocked the country last week? We expect a lot from our beloved scientist President.

- C. Nikhil, New Era High School, Goa.

Ans. There are two aspects. One is earthquake. Earthquake has to take place. The second aspect is the earthquake as a energy which is generated through earth shock. Shock is embedded in the tidal wave and the tidal wave moves with certain force. What are the scientific components in it?. Following are the scientific components. (i) forecasting the earthquake whether in land or sea that is very important area and difficult area and in this area lot of research is essential. I am sure some of you can take up this task of predicting the earthquake as a research project. In Iceland they have succeeded in predicting the earthquake. Once earthquake take place in the seabed or under water, it can lead to tsunami which can definitely be predicted if the earthquake has been sensed. India is planning to have a Tsunami warning system based on the data on the occurrence of the under water earthquake.

6. Sir, we are deeply hurt at the recent Tsunami devastations. We, the children of Arunachal Pradesh would like to extend our helping hands to the victims. How can we do so?

- Roshni Nath, Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.

Ans. You can help them in many ways. For example before coming here I got a call from Lord Swaraj Paul from London. He said Mr. President we have deep sympathy with what has happened particularly children, many children got affected. I want to adopt hundred orphaned children. I want to educate them fully. There is a lady from USA she said that she has started an aid in the Internet for Tsunami affected people and she collected five million dollars. You can tell your parents and arrange for help such as medical help, habitat help and providing education to orphans.

7. What should we do to become an A.P.J. Abdul Kalam?

- Kedar Andharikar, Shri S.B. High School, Maharashtra.

Ans. Sweat, Sweat and Sweat. Sweat means hard work.




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