“We are all born with a divine fire within us. Our efforts should be to give wings to this fire and fill the world with the glow of it’s goodness.” – Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam
It’s July 20, 2018, and we are a week away from the day which marks the third death anniversary of the legend known as the “People’s President of India” – Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. His journey – as a young boy from Rameswaram to becoming the President, of being awarded the highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna, contributing to many science and technology projects that marked our country’s presence in an elite league – has never ceased to impress us. His life is an epitome of what self-belief, confidence and hard work combined can make one achieve. It is with these principles that he had a vision for India in 1998, the vision to see India as a developed superpower, prominently titled – India 2020. While our love and respect for him is as colossal and unwavering as ever, this irresolute mind of mine makes me contemplate whether we, as Indians, have somehow forgotten his vision – India as a knowledge and economic superpower, safe India and a higher standard of living by 2020?
December 2020 is only two years away. Let us look at the factors which were considered as areas of core competence for integrated action by the man himself:
(1) Agriculture and food processing
(2) Rural development
(3) Tele-education, telemedicine, e-governance, information and communication technology
(4) Creative leadership
(5) Surface transport and infrastructure for all parts of the country
(6) Nanoscience and nano energy technology.
As per the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2016, India ranks 131 in HDI from amongst a list of 188 countries. Mahatma Gandhi once famously said – “India lives in its villages.” Dr Kalam echoed the opinion as he stressed the importance of rural development. While we do need smart cities, to achieve our goal of sustained and developed India we need smarter villages. If cities act as the steering wheel, it is the villages who are the fuel. We have been predominantly an agricultural country and even today it is this sector which has a major impact on our GDP. It is imperative that new research and practices are conveyed to the farmers to help them make the most of their land. Recently, Union Cabinet Minister Nitin Gadkari, while addressing an event, spoke about how biodiesel can be generated by farmers and the way it would reduce demand for petrol/diesel, which can make India self-reliant in fuel. We need many such initiatives from the State & Central government, where innovation drives a decision and not populism. Being a developed country also means being a leader in not one but many sectors. India can be a leader in the agriculture sector. But to be a leader, we need to be able to travel unexplored paths, which are achievable only through research and innovation.
Approximately 75% of college graduates in India are not considered employable. It’s disheartening to observe that a country with such a huge potential is unable to produce employable graduates. While we have brilliant minds, it is the system that needs to be updated. Granting students a degree shouldn’t be the sole purpose of universities. Making students capable of being employed, changing the examination pattern to check knowledge rather than memory, focusing on all-round personality development are some of the changes that need to be made at the earliest. It is overwhelming to see the youth of today exploring different paths apart from the traditionally ‘safe’ fields of engineering, medicine, CA. It is imperative that these students have a certain assurance of employability and get access to quality and creative education. The syllabus needs to be altered to make the students confident as well as job-ready.
Better connectivity within the nation leads to more exchange of thoughts, ideas, culture and so on. India is largely connected through railways. Trains remain the most popular and affordable mode of transport for the majority of people. It is time we provide people with better and faster alternatives like metros and bullet trains. While we can debate on the route of fast bullet train proposed by the Government of India, there is no doubt that India today needs a high-speed rail project. It makes connectivity faster, safer and comfortable. Introduction of something like ‘Hyperloop‘ would only make transportation better. It is time the local corporations and private entities established for the construction and maintenance of roads take their job seriously and realise the importance of safe roads. It is glad to see new options being explored for inland waterway transport and development of coastal roads.
Dr Kalam addressed the Parliament several times in his five-year tenure as the President of India. In one of the addresses, he stated that a developed country is not judged by temples, mosques or gurudwaras but by education, healthcare and economic stature and culture. He wanted political parties to contest based on development and resort to developmental politics rather than electoral politics.
Today, it is disheartening to see that it’s not just political parties, but even citizens of India, are sticking to age-old caste and communal politics. Our role doesn’t just end with voting and paying our taxes, but by making this vision of India 2020 our individual mission. In a democracy, for it to be strong and prevalent, it is necessary for opposing ideas and views. However, we sometimes get so involved in opposing each other that the development and peace of the nation is lost. And our politicians make exploit the sentiments of the people.
Communal politics is not resorted to by one political party but almost everyone. Vote bank has become more important than the development of banks. In a democracy, it’s the people of the nation who drive the thinking and outlook of a nation, the politicians can just endorse them.
When we talk about people, India is blessed with a large youth population. What made Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam believe that India can reach its goal by 2020 is this vast population of the youth. He believed that the ignited mind of the youth is the most powerful resource on the earth. The youth of today are more engaged and have a sense of responsibility towards their nation, but at times they either lack support, direction or are a victim of the unnecessary. When the young should be looking forward to employment and empowerment, the sights of a few coming onto the streets and destroying people and public properties based on caste and fake news is a major jolt to our progress. Today, when we have someone like Hima Das making our country proud, our people working at respectable positions in corporate giants, our pool of engineers, doctors, scientists, accountants making us proud globally, such incidents take us a step backwards.
For a country to be respected, it is imperative that the country is safe. It is very unfortunate, disturbing and annoying to see how unsafe women still are. Candle-light marches, sympathy messages aren’t going to stop them. Stricter, responsible and faster law would. Also, there needs to be a change in the moral policing rampant in society. Morals and ethics can be imbibed through quality education from schools, surroundings, parents and friends.
Strength respects strength! Our armed forces are highly skilled and equipped. And we are only getting better and better. The Indian Space and Research Organisation is making exponential progress and regularly producing moments of pride.
For us to be a true superpower, excelling in sports is equally important. Sport brings a country together, it teaches its people to handle success and failure. It’s pleasing to see the evolution of leagues in different sports, but we still have a long way to go make a mark in global events like the Olympics. We need better infrastructure, but more importantly, the mindset that one can earn a livelihood through sports needs to be inculcated, only then we would be able to see more people backing their kids/friends and achieve better results.
While we have lost the legend, we can’t let his vision die. Together, we can achieve a lot. All we need is a compilation of thoughts, minds and platforms! I urge all – Let us, find ways to make our country “sujalam, sufalam” in the true sense by 2020.