April 2010
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Meeting Nobel Minds : Abdul Kalam


By Jyothi Gosala

Profile: Born on 15th October 1931 at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, specialized in Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology. Dr. Kalam made significant contribution as Project Director to develop India's first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully injected the Rohini satellite in the near earth orbit in July 1980 and made India an exclusive member of Space Club. He was responsible for the evolution of ISRO's launch vehicle programme, particularly the PSLV configuration. After working for two decades in ISRO and mastering launch vehicle technologies, Dr. Kalam took up the responsibility of developing Indigenous Guided Missiles at Defence Research and Development Organisation as the Chief Executive of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). He was responsible for the development and operationalisation of AGNI and PRITHVI Missiles and for building indigenous capability in critical technologies through networking of multiple institutions. He was the Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and Secretary, Department of Defence Research & Development from July 1992 to December 1999. During this period he led to the weaponisation of strategic missile systems and the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in collaboration with Department of Atomic Energy, which made India a nuclear weapon State. He also gave thrust to self-reliance in defence systems by progressing multiple development tasks and mission projects such as Light Combat Aircraft.


As Chairman of Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) and as an eminent scientist, he led the country with the help of 500 experts to arrive at Technology Vision 2020 giving a road map for transforming India from the present developing status to a developed nation. Dr. Kalam has served as the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, in the rank of Cabinet Minister, from November 1999 to November 2001 and was responsible for evolving policies, strategies and missions for many development applications. Dr. Kalam was also the Chairman, Ex-officio, of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SAC-C) and piloted India Millennium Mission 2020.


Dr. Kalam took up academic pursuit as Professor, Technology & Societal Transformation at Anna University, Chennai from November 2001 and was involved in teaching and research tasks. Above all he took up a mission to ignite the young minds for national development by meeting high school students across the country.


In his literary pursuit four of Dr. Kalam's books - "Wings of Fire", "India 2020 - A Vision for the New Millennium", "My journey" and "Ignited Minds - Unleashing the power within India" have become household names in India and among the Indian nationals abroad. These books have been translated in many Indian languages.


Dr. Kalam is one of the most distinguished scientists of India with the unique honour of receiving honorary doctorates from 30 universities and institutions. He has been awarded the coveted civilian awards - Padma Bhushan (1981) and Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna (1997). He is a recipient of several other awards and Fellow of many professional institutions.


Dr. Kalam became the 11th President of India on 25th July 2002. His focus is on transforming India into a developed nation by 2020.


Excerpts from interactions with a noble mind...


How does one distinctly profile India 2020?


I visualize the following for India by the year 2020.


 A Nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line.


 A Nation where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water.


A Nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony.


A Nation where education with value system is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.


A Nation which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors.


A Nation where the best of health care is available to all.


A Nation where the governance is responsive, transparent and corruption free.


A Nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed and crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated.


A Nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, devoid of terrorism, peaceful and happy and continues with a sustainable growth path.

  A Nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership through creative and effective leadership in Parliament, State Assemblies and other institutions of the State.

How do you view the present National Missions & Opportunities?

While thinking on typical important missions that will bring societal transformation through competitiveness and propel the vision 2020 missions of India, we could find common grounds for new challenges and opportunites for investments in India. They are the following:


Agriculture and food processing: We are in the mission of generating 400 million tones of food grains with reduced land, with reduced water and with reduced workforce from the present 200 million tonnes. New technology needed in agriculture area from seeds to cultivation to grain, food process and marketing. Value addition in the farm produce will be the focus in our 11th plan period for the reason that it will have impact in the increase in productivity and economic growth. This entire chain will enable employment particularly in rural areas in a big way.


Infrastructure: At this juncture, infrastructure development is a crucial area for development in India. India is aspiring to build hundred million homes within next ten years. The infrastructure development in metropolitan and tier-2 cities needs to be enhanced in the form of new bridges, airports, marketing complexes and industrial units. 40% of the rural areas need to be covered with all weather roads; we need to double the present national highways ratio per 100 square kilometre area. Simultaneously, we are in the process of developing ports, railway systems and airports. For example, the Indian Construction Industry employs over 31 million people for its asset generating activity of around $80 Billion (Rs. 310,000 crore) which includes expenditure of $50 Billion (Rs. 200,000 crore) incurred by the Government. This will need development of specialized quality human resource in all the spectrum of infrastructure activity.


Energy: When I addressed to the nation in 2005, I have set a goal of realizing Energy Independence (coming out of fossil fuel) by the year 2030. When our population may touch 1.4 billion people, demand from power sector will increase from the existing 130,000 MW to about 400,000 MW. This assumes an energy growth rate of 5% per annum. Electric power generation in India now accesses four basic energy sources: Fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal; Hydroelectricity; Nuclear power; and Renewable energy sources such as bio-fuels, solar, biomass, wind and ocean. We need a major thrust in solar energy and wind energy for generating over 120,000 MW by 2030 through these two renewable energy sources. Similarly we are planning to harness over 65,000 MW from hydro power sources and 50,000 MW from nuclear energy sources.


Water Mission: We have a mission on the Networking of Rivers and the task team is evolving the plan of action. Meanwhile, I have also suggested to the state governments interlinking of rivers and other water sources within the state. Number of state governments is actively pursuing this mission. This mission will eliminate the periodical problem of floods experienced in a number of river basin states and manage the draught in most of the time and ensure availability of water and power throughout the year. In addition nation has to embark on water harvesting and desalination of sea water as national missions. Simultaneously another major mission is to create and strengthening the inland waterways programmes and convert into smart waterways.


Water Mission: We have a mission on the Networking of Rivers and the task team is evolving the plan of action. Meanwhile, I have also suggested to the state governments interlinking of rivers and other water sources within the state. Number of state governments is actively pursuing this mission. This mission will eliminate the periodical problem of floods experienced in a number of river basin states and manage the draught in most of the time and ensure availability of water and power throughout the year. In addition nation has to embark on water harvesting and desalination of sea water as national missions. Simultaneously another major mission is to create and strengthening the inland waterways programmes and convert into smart waterways.


PURA Mission: The entire country will have 7000 PURAs (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) encompassing over 600,000 villages. The theme of PURA, apart from concentrating on reinforcing agriculture, will emphasize on agro processing, development of Rural Craftsmanship, dairy, fishing, silk production, so that the non-farm revenue for the rural sector is enhanced, based on the core competence of the region. Also the rural economy will be driven by renewable energy such as solar, wind, bio-fuel and conversion of municipal waste into power. In this approach, the aim is to make sustainable development using the core competence of the rural sector.


The programmes which I have mentioned above has social, research and technological content. It has substantial amount of business opportunities leading to economic growth in the globalized scenario.


What are the foreseeable factors for Integrated actions for development?


The integrated actions for development of the country are: Education with value system for all leading to entrepreneurship and employment opportunities, Healthcare and Nutritional Security for all, containment of population growth rate to be within a small band and excellent infrastructural facilities including water and energy to be addressed on priority for maintaining the momentum of the economic growth.


Development of agriculture, agro-food processing industries and down stream marketing network would be useful in providing good returns to the farmers. Progressive shift of the workforce from agriculture to manufacturing sector and to the service sector should take place through well conceived industrial and service sector growth. Due to the need for doubling of agricultural production in a decade through technological and managerial inputs in reduced area and training of the farmers in soil enriching, pre and post harvesting and marketing, it has become necessary to reduce the manpower to be deployed for agriculture, resulting in their availability for manufacturing and service sectors. Physical, electronic and knowledge connectivities of seven thousand PURA clusters will result in economic development of the region as a whole.


How does one create value parameter in creating a knowledge based society with more innovations in science?


An incident about Sir CV Raman –a Nobel Laureate in Physics for discovering Raman Effect. Raman gives the view that the colour of sky is blue due to molecular diffraction, which determines the observed luminosity, and in great measures also its colour. This led to the birth of the Raman Effect. Raman was in the first batch of Bharat Ratna Award winners. The award ceremony was to take place in the last week of January, soon after the Republic Day celebrations of 1954. The then President Dr. Rajendra Prasad wrote to Raman inviting him to be the personal guest in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, when Raman came to Delhi for the award ceremony. Sir CV Raman wrote a polite letter, regretting his inability to go. Raman had a noble reason for his inability to attend the investiture ceremony. He explained to the President that he was guiding a Ph.D. student and that thesis was positively due by the last day of January. The student was valiantly trying to wrap it all up and Raman felt, he had to be by the side of the research student, see that the thesis was finished, sign the thesis as the guide and then have it submitted.


Here was a scientist who gave up the pomp of a glittering ceremony associated with the highest honour, because he felt that his duty required him to be by the side of the student. It is this unique trait of giving value to science that builds science.

 
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