BY DR. A P J ABDUL KALAM & DR Y S RAJAN
This is perhaps one of the best known books penned on India’s Growth Imperatives in its search for developed country status, penned by one of India’s favourite sons- our beloved Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Former President, Nuclear Scientist – and, as it turns out, thinker extraordinaire with a tremendous passion for India and all things Indian. It has been co-authored with Dr Y S Rajan, who used to be the Scientific Secretary to the office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. He was also associated with ISRO and the Department of Space
This book, as it turns out, is far more than a mere problems/challenges-and-solutions stuff… it is the dream of a great Indian, a man who had given his entire life in the service of the nation. It is in every way a vision, a passionate dream; but one that is well presented, sorted out, supported with extensive research, facts & data – and does justice to most of the problems and challenges our nation faces in its quest for developed nation status. It justifies its title in letter and spirit : A Vision For The New Millennium.
THE NEED FOR A VISION
Before delving into the specifics of the challenges, the book looks at the need of a national vision. The best part about this section, covered in 3 engaging chapters, is the usage of real world examples of visions – both from India as well as from the rest of the world. The Indian vision : The Struggle For Freedom… this drives home the point of how, when the majority of the people come to dream one single dream – the impossible becomes suddenly within reach and feasible.
The book then moves onto real world examples of how a vision document was created in other countries, and how it was implemented, giving a more practical, deeper insight into the concept of a vision and its applicability in the Modern World. The best part – appealing to both the emotional, historical and practical aspects of the first challenge, that of selling the concept of a vision is remarkable, and indicative of a person of high intellect as well as emotional maturity, which is of course well known to all of us!
THE VISION AND THE CHALLENGES
This isn’t a coffee table analysis, done on the basis of experience – this is the result of hard, painstaking research, with solid data, field work and a series of discussions with Government, Quasi Government and private professionals from various fields, with an effort to understand as well as analyse each and every aspect of the presented points. This is a veritable treasure of data, and not just an ideation session that seeks to implant ideas in your mind. This is a seriously put together document that needs attention and repeated referencing for it to be properly assimilated and understood by the serious reader.
The first task taken was then to identify the specific areas or industries where we can develop a competitive advantage, and go onto build world class infrastructure, institutions and companies in these areas. And this is where the book really hits home, and hard : as opposed to the current penchant of grand projects, high tech fields, bullet trains, and smart cities that we currently dream of – the book takes off an entirely different tangent… and succeeds in developing a workable vision for all of us. Question is : are we working on it?
That is where the concept of a Vision comes in. The authors have identified all key variables that impact and influence the current status : population distribution and dependency, GDP factors, social variables, income distribution etc in a short but deeply incisive chapter that sets your grey cells on overdrive. From that exercise, the strategy to be adopted flows effortlessly, giving a complete picture of each sector, with a chapter devoted to each :
Note the selected points and areas : no mention of Power, Education, Infrastructure, Roads, Internet Connectivity, and other terms we are so used to hearing. Think for a moment about that : why should it be so? That is the leap of thought, the leap of insight we as a people urgently require. All the ones we eulogise about are in reality the enablers, not the end-objective. We don’t need power for power itself, it is a means to production. Similar is the case with the other points mentioned.
By focusing on the means and only the means, we are leaving the what-to-so-with-these unplanned, and at the vagaries of the market; there is no conscious plan, no strategy industry wise, where we deal with the hindrances & the available opportunities to us as a people. This reduces the efficacy, as market forces alone will never ensure competitive strength; it requires a series of inputs and plans to ensure a competitive strength in a defined area.
The chosen sectors are broad enough to ensure flexibility, and yet have, with sufficient details inside each section, core areas of concentration identified. That brings me to my second observation – if a Nuclear Scientist can understand, given the income distribution, people dependency on and status of Agriculture – that it has to be the thrust of any developmental effort that dreams to make India a developed nation, then why cant we? Food for thought. High time we, the people of India, started giving Agriculture the attention and respect it so richly deserves!
The book was authored in 1998, and 18 years have passed since then. We are very near the target date taken for the national vision: 2020. It would be pertinent to look at how far we have progressed on the dream of a developed India as put forth in the book. That, however, is a herculean task, given the vast number of data points given, industries covered, sectors analysed with solid data – and cannot be the subject of a single article; this will require subject matter expertise, and research on each topic… I do hope some people do this exercise. On my part, I will attempt an analysis of the area of my speciality in this : the field of my graduation – Agriculture. I hope to present it someday…