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HVK Archives: A vision for the coming millennium

A vision for the coming millennium - The Free Press Journal

M. V. Kamath ()
October 15, 1998

Title: A vision for the coming millennium
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: October 15, 1998

What will India be like, say, fifty years hence? Or, if fifty
years is too long a time to peer at, what will India he 25 years
hence? Will it be any better than what it is now? Or will things
get worse? There are some who believe that conditions in India
will progressively worsen and the nation will be in for hard
times. After eleven continuous years of normal monsoon, will we
have eleven years of drought? Are we preparing ourselves for
these drought years? Will population increase at an unacceptable
rate and drown us all in misery? Can that happen? Will there be
caste clashes and inter-communal fights bringing progress to a
standstill? Questions, questions. But they are the confirmed
pessimists who speak that way. There are others awho see a bright
future for India. Among them are A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India's
nuclear vizard and a Bharat Ratna and Y. S. Rajan, who has long
been associated with the Indian Space Research Organisation
(ISRO). Together they have produced a document (India 2020) that
should & prescribed reading for all High School and College
students. Abdul Kalam and Rajan are visionaries but not idle
dreamers. They are not unaware of conditions today in the
country.. Nobody who lives in India can be blind to what is going
on around them. Then why are they so optimistic?

For one thing they are themselves achievers and, if one might say
so, pure desi achievers. They are proud of their country and
their fellow citizens. Their great regret is that s a country
we have not yet become bold enough to set a course of our own
(and) want only to imitate what others have done, be it in
economic policy, industry, trade, science, technology, media or
even literature=94. They want their fellow countrymen to free
themselves from their self-imposed psychological shackles. And
they are so right. As they maintain in their book: omewhere
down the line in our long history, we appear to have lost faith
in ourselves. That mindset seems to persist. For a time we shut
our doors to other ideas and mainly fought among ourselves. Then
came a period when we blindly adapted whatever was foreign. We
seem to have a blind admiration of anything done outside our
borders and very little belief in our independence..." Every word
is true. But things are changing - and changing very fast. Abdul
Kalam would like us to change even faster. He points out that
Indians not only have a great learning capability but most of
them also have an entrepreneurial and competitive spirit. For
Indians everything is possible. Abdul Kalam and Rajan assert
"that India can reach a developed country status by the year
2020 and that 'the Indian people can rise well above the present
poverty and contribute more productively to their country because
of their own improved health, education and self-esteem". And
they add: "A developed India, by 2020 or even earlier, is not a
dream. It need not even be a mere aspiration in the minds of many
Indians. It is a mission we can all take up - and accomplish".

And how can that be done? Through knowledge of India's own
resources, through hard work and above all, self-esteem. Once,
the authors say, they wanted a few beryllium products for making
gyroscopes. They thought of buying them from America. An American
company refused to supply them. They turned to a Japanese source.
That sources also declined to help. "The denial of beryllium
products was one of the early lessons to me" Abdul Kalam writes.
He turned to his own countrymen. In no time the technologists of
ISRO and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) set up a beryllium
machinery facility at Vashi, Mumbai. India could thumb its nose
at both the United States and Japan. Again and again, India was
forced to rely on its own talent and its own resources. The
United States declined to help us with heavy water. It also
forbade Canada and other nations to provide us with that
important ingredient. So did we stand in a corner and weep? Or
beg of Washington to be kind? We did nothing of the sort. We
fashioned the technology to make water on our own and now produce
it at six centres and are now in a position to export it. We
needed cryogenic engines. Not only would the United States
decline to sell them to us, it even attempted to persuade the
Soviet Union not to come to our help. Now India can produce its
own cryogenic engines. It is much the same story with super
computers. When the western world would not oblige, Indian
software experts in Pune did the 'impossible' - they built a
super computer that could work a thousand times faster dm
anything the Americans have produced. The point that Abdul Kalam
makes is that what anybody anywhere in the world can do, India
can do as well and even better.

The western world is scared - and it might as well be. Nobody in
the west would like to see India overtake them in every field of
human activity. But that is precisely what India has set out to
do. And that is precisely why the United States has decided to
cripple us technologically as well as economically by applying
sanctions against us. But that won't work. It never will because
of India's indigenous talent and its determination to make good
In a competitive world. The west slights us on every conceivable
occasion. When India successfully launched the Prithvi missile
several times, the western press insisted that we had used
Russian technology! That was a lie. Prithvi is totally
indigenous and as Abdul Kalam asserts it is omparable to any
world class missile system and probably is the best in its class
in Payload capability". When India launched Agni in 1989, Germany
sought to take credit for it. And the Americans said Abdul Kalam
had his training in the United States when all that he had done
was to visit NASA for just four months! No American would have
opened his technology expertise to Abdul Kalam considering how
jealous Americans are of India! Actually, in Agni, there are many
innovations that American are not even aware of. So deep is the
jealousy against India and the determination not to give Indian
scientists any credit that when India tested several new nuclear
devices in Pokhran the rumour was spread that Israeli technology
had gone into the triggering system of the nuclear device! Indian
scientists at ISRO and BARC enjoy a good laugh at the
discomfiture of western scientists. Everything depends on us and
our self-respect. It we are lax, the country will pay for it.
It we are alert, the country will prosper by it. Abdul Kalam
tells an interesting story in this connection.

The Government of Uttar Pradesh had set up a thermal power
station at Unchahar; it was doing badly. The National Thermal
Power Corporation (NTPC) acquired it. Writes Abdul Kalam:
"Performance was improved dramatically by using debottlenecking
techniques. Prior to the takeover, the Unchahar Station had a PLF
of 18 per cent; in six months thereafter it went up to 35.5 per
cent and in twelve months to 73.7 per cent. The availability
factor which was 27 per cent at the time of the takeover went up
to 49.5 per cent six months later and about 79.5 per cent after
twelve months... These dramatic results have been obtained under
ordinary or even oppressive circumstances and despite the absence
of recognition by the system...." The point is that the station
was the same, the staff was the same... only the management was
different. There have been people telling us that it will be
hard to bring down population growth and cite the Emergency as an
example. And yet, without any coercion, three states in India,
Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu now have fertility rates below the
replacement level! Surely, what these three sites can achieve,
so can other states?

Abdul Kalam is not the only one to feel that things are moving in
India and we can look forward to greater and more substantial
achievements. His optimism is shared by several economists,
technologists and students of current affairs. There is, for
example, a report by Dr V.A. Pai Panandikar and others (Fifty
Years of Swaraj) in which they claim that by the year 2047 India
will be playing an important role in the emerging world order
with "poverty as we know it will be a thing of the past in what
will be a more integrated society". These experts believe that
the quality of life in India "will begin to improve significantly
from around the year 2015 when the demographic transition begins
to manifest itself". They expect the State to steadily withdraw
from less essential fields with many service activities performed
by the State and necessitating bloated bureaucracies and palm-
greasing being privatised and localised. They also expect an
annual growth rate of 7 per cent over the next half a century
resulting in a decline of people living below the poverty line
from the present 36 per cent to less than 10 per cent within two

According to them, by the year 2047, India's per capita income at
1996-97 prices will be $ 6,200 compared to $ 340 today. As for
Foreign Direct Investment within the next ten years, they say,
India should be able to attract inflows of $ 10 billion per annum
and may surpass China.

Are they all dreaming? Not at all. They are mentioning what is
possible, merely extrapolating the situation as of now. All that
we have to remember now is that We are One People, One Nation,
strong, indivisible.

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