On the eve of the 54th Republic Day of India I greet all the billion people of our country living in India and abroad. I also greet the members of the armed forces and paramilitary forces who guard our frontiers on the land, the sea and the air.
Meeting the People
During the past six months I visited 17 states. I had the opportunity to interact with a very large cross section of people, majority of them were young. I also had occasion to visit a large number of rural and drought affected areas and I could share the concerns, grief and also aspirations of the people living there. I also met a number of leaders, spiritual personalities, artistes, craftspeople, grass-root innovators and social workers among others.
I am happy to share with you that I have already met and interacted with more than a hundred thousand children. I was asking myself what I gained out of these interactions. In spite of flood, drought, drinking water scarcity, poverty and societal instability in few places, everywhere I could see the unabated enthusiasm of the young for learning. Learning should bring out the spirit of creativity in the young minds. Creativity gives knowledge. Knowledge is indeed an asset for the nation. I recall a question raised by a Nagaland student when I visited Tuensang, "Mr. President, I want to live in an India which is prosperous, happy and safe. Tell us how we will be guided to such an India? How can I contribute for achieving this?" Such questions from young minds made me feel proud as an Indian as they are thinking about their future and that of the country, where they are living now and where they will work in the future. They are ready to contribute their mite in the journey of transformation of our country to a 'developed' nation. It is, therefore, essential to evolve action-plans to guide, motivate and effectively utilize the power of the younger generation to progress in all our endeavors.
Science and Technology
On my recent visits to research laboratories, I could see our young scientists ceaselessly working in bio-technology and other emerging fields of bio-medical engineering to unearth the mysteries of human creation and the characteristics embedded in the DNA structure for providing better healthcare to humanity. That filled my mind with hope and re-assurance that such research will ensure that we will be part of the human endeavor to provide quality health care, diagnosis and treatment.
Our space missions have demonstrated the high calibre scientific and technological inputs in transforming research to applications resulting in benefit to our country. My felicitations to our space scientists and their partner institutions and industries for achieving a series of successful launches and orbiting satellites for various applications. I am sure our scientists and technicians will march ahead in delivering higher pay load in the orbit for the given take-off weight with cost effective solutions for applications like solar energy exploitation.
Our defence scientists have proved themselves again by realizing powerful systems for strategic applications. Also we have force-multiplied our defence systems with electronic warfare capabilities, radars, under water sensors and weapons. Our nuclear scientists are currently constructing eight nuclear power reactors, the highest number of units that are being constructed anywhere in the world this year. Sea water desalination plant at Kalpakkam has also commenced operation.
Natural resources and human resources are our core competencies. Particularly, the rich bio-diversity is the wealth of our nation. Herbal research has to lead from molecule to drug. Integrated efforts on mission mode have to be further strengthened by academia, R&D labs and industries so that cost effective medicines are available to the people and the export potential is also increased. Trained cadre of human resource has to be created for reinforcing employment potential and thereby spurring economic growth. In this context, I am happy to know that a major mission has been launched for cultivation of bamboo and increasing products made from bamboo.
I was recently in Kolkata interacting with 9000 children at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. One boy suffering from visual impairment asked me, "Sir, what kind of education facilities are provided in the Knowledge Society, for visually handicapped children like me?" There are many like him. Let me share one thought with you. I had met many physically and mentally challenged children at Rashtrapati Bhavan and also during my visits to various States. My belief all along was reconfirmed that these children like all others have an equal urge to pursue their studies and work. We have to provide solutions to their problems with the aid of Information Technology, by developing audio books, talking websites, voice assistive interfaces and other devices. Public buildings and educational institutions need to provide friendly facilities that offer easy access and reach.
Recently, I had an occasion to meet a group of people from International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) along with several Indian teams who are working on the development of HIV/AIDS vaccine. This programme is very vital for the nation for preventing HIV cases in future. This challenge needs an accelerated and time bound action.
Our people have started seeing the benefits of Information and Communication Technologies. Reaching the target of nearly 10 billion dollars in exporting software development has increased the opportunity for our youngsters. The economic slow down in the West and events like September 11, have not affected our industry drastically. India has also responded well to the wireless revolution and today we see the cell phone penetration on a steady increase - a sign of good economic growth. The convergence of ICT, nano technology and biological sciences is in the horizon. India is even better placed to exploit this revolution than any other nation.
India, as the largest democratic country can really be proud of the conduct of free and fair elections in Jammu & Kashmir and Gujarat. I compliment the exemplary performance of the Election Commission and the Central and State Government machineries. The media, the political parties and independent groups have also contributed to this process in spite of the passions of competitive politics. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have to be particularly congratulated for the immense courage they showed in upholding the democratic traditions in spite of cross border terrorism. People of our country have shown to the world that democratic traditions are deep rooted in our civilization and that is our strength. In fact all of us on this day should pledge ourselves to build upon this unique heritage.
Parliament and Vision of Developed India
It was indeed a tribute to our democratic parliamentary system that it has done exceptionally well in the 11th session of the 13th Lok Sabha. During that session, both Houses of the Parliament passed 42 Bills and I have accorded assent to 40 Bills that were sent to me so far. The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 passed by the Parliament, which makes free and compulsory education for children between the age group of 6 to 14 years as a fundamental right is particularly praiseworthy. I trust this tradition will continue and all our Members of Parliament will continue to excel themselves for the cause of national development.
Our Prime Minister, in his Independence Day address on 15th August 2002, announced that India would become a 'developed' nation by 2020. The National Development Council has since approved the 10th Five Year Plan with economic growth rate of 8%. It is equally gratifying that a task team has been formed by the Government for networking of rivers to transfer water from our surplus basins to areas of deficit. Considerable care, I am sure, will be taken about the environment and people related issues.
I am also sure that our Parliament, which is celebrating its Golden Jubilee, will discuss and evolve action plans for our vision of transforming India into a 'developed' nation by 2020.
During the last century, the world underwent a change from agriculture society, where manual labour was the critical factor, to industrial society where the management of technology, capital and labour provided the competitive advantage. Then the information era was born, where connectivity and software products drove a part of the economy of a few nations including our country. In the 21st century, a new society is emerging where knowledge is the primary production resource instead of capital and labour. Efficient utilisation of this existing knowledge can create comprehensive wealth for the nations and also improve the quality of life - in the form of better health, education, infrastructure and other social indicators. Ability to create and maintain the knowledge infrastructure, develop knowledge workers and enhance their productivity through creation, growth and exploitation of new knowledge will be the key factors in deciding the prosperity of this Knowledge Society. Whether a nation has arrived at the state of knowledge society is judged by the way the country effectively deals with knowledge creation and knowledge deployment in all sectors like IT, Industries, Agriculture, Health Care etc.,
Second Green Revolution
It is the right time for India to embark upon the Second Green Revolution which will enable it to increase its productivity in the agricultural sector. The production of cereals needs to increase from the present 200 million tonnes to over 300 million tonnes by 2020 in view of population growth. But the requirement of land for the increasing population as well as for greater afforestation and environmental preservation activities would demand that the present 170 million hectares of arable land will have to be brought down to 100 million hectares by 2020. All our agricultural scientists and technologists have to work for doubling the productivity of the available land with lesser area being available for cultivation. The type of technologies needed would be in the areas of biotechnology, proper training to the farmers, additional modern equipments for preservation and storage etc. The second green revolution is indeed graduating from grain production to food processing and marketing as visualised by the late Shri. C.Subramaniam. While doing so, utmost care should be taken for various environmental and people related aspects leading to sustainable development. Knowledge Powered PURA (Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas)
More than two thirds of our billion population live in the rural parts of India. The vision of transformation to a 'developed' India can only be realized if we launch a mega mission for empowering the rural people. My visits to the rural parts of India have confirmed that the problem of rural India depends on the extent of connectivity available there. The connectivity that I refer to, would include four components. Physical connectivity by providing roads in rural areas, electronic connectivity by providing reliable communication network and knowledge connectivity by establishing more professional institutions and vocational training centers. Schools with best infrastructure and teachers who love teaching, primary health centres, silos for storage of products and markets for promoting cottage industries and business, employment opportunities for artisans are some of the elements of PURA. All this connectivity needs to be done in an integrated way so that economic connectivity will emerge leading to self actuating people and economy. Such Model of establishing a circular connectivity among the rural village complexes will accelerate rural development process by empowerment. I am sure that removal of poverty will call for Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas (PURA). The model envisaged is a habitat design that would improve the quality of life in rural places and make special suggestions to remove urban congestion also. Instead of village population coming to urban area, the reverse phenomenon has to take place.
The PURA has to be a business proposition economically viable and managed by entrepreneurs and local people and small scale industrialists, as it involves education, health, power generation, transport and management. Government's support should be in the form of empowering such management agencies, providing initial economic support and finding the right type of management structure and leaders to manage and maintain.
Towards IT Enabled Administration
What type of scenario will be there in India in the coming decades? As we are crossing the information society and leading to knowledge society, irrespective of rural or urban area, distance will be shortened using information technology. In such a situation an electronic connectivity should emerge between the various State and Central Government Departments for fully committed transparent administration. A networked database with real time updated data exchange will ensure speedy service to the people under one roof for all their government/non-government service requirement. Transparency will have to emerge in governance.
Wherever I have been, I have seen that people definitely want to live in a prosperous India. In the rural area when I visited primary schools, they wanted high schools, when I visited High Schools they wanted Colleges, when I visited Colleges they wanted Professional Colleges. The right type of higher education has become an essentiality from both the students' and parents' points of view. However, scarcity of good teachers is visible everywhere. Good teaching and interactive teaching are possible through tele-education and inspired teachers. Healthcare facilities for rural and remote villages can be provided by Mobile Clinics. This is one example of extending the available limited facilities to more and more rural people. Both the centre and the state governments should encourage such mobile diagnostic and treatment clinics in rural areas on priority.
Dear citizens, I would like to conclude with a mission statement: India can become a developed nation only if everyone contributes to the best of his or her ability and capacity. The mission is: In transforming India into a developed nation by 2020, what can be the role of every citizen in addition to the governmental initiatives of launching programs for the vision of developed India. I have already explained that there has to be integrated development programmes with empowered management structure. In addition, I would like to suggest various missions for our people. For example, the student community can take up the task, during holidays to make a certain number of people literate in their area where their schools or houses are situated. Only a burning candle can light another. Teachers and parents can assist them in this task. The Government and R&D labs can provide technological upgradation to our small-scale industries so that production can be increased and be competitive. The youth would need to aspire for entrepreneurship rather than conventional employment. Large-scale industries have to increase their contribution to economic growth, particularly growth of GDP. Here, industries can concentrate on maximum output and cost effective products, so that demand will increase. They can aim at becoming multinational companies, for e.g. in the areas of sugar and agricultural products, power, cement, manufacturing and knowledge products institutions. The farming community, with advanced water conservation and management methods, has to increase their productivity. The Information Technology and knowledge workers have got a tremendous responsibility to contribute in the areas of tele-medicine, tele-education and e-governance for rural areas apart from their business role. In this vision period, the whole Government agency has to build a name for itself, by fast decision making and transparent administration. Media should become a partner and promoter critic in national development. This type of dynamic environment with motivation will indeed be a great foundation for our vision of transforming India into a 'developed' nation by 2020.
May God bless you.