"Everyone has inside of him or her, a piece of good news.
The good news is, that you don’t know how great you can be!"
On the eve of the 56th Republic Day of India, my greetings to all of you, including those living abroad. I convey my special greetings, to the members of our armed forces and the paramilitary forces, who guard our frontiers on the land, the sea and in the air and also the internal security forces. While we are saddened by the wrath of the Tsunami waves, we are not disheartened. The Central and State Governments, with utmost seriousness and sincerity have reached out to those who needed help and are in the process of providing relief that will atleast partially wipe out the pains caused by the Tsunami. During this period of active relief operations, my heart was with you, but I did not make a visit because the members of the Government and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) were deployed in large numbers in relief operations, which were in full swing. Reviews were taken by our Prime Minister, Governors, the Chief Ministers of the respective states and the Lt. Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Now, I feel that the time has come, for me to join you, my fellow citizens, to study the process of the reconstruction of homes and bringing back normalcy.
Smile of Youth
I have met more than six hundred thousand children from all parts of our country, after becoming the President. During my interaction with them, they posed a series of questions, with affection. They asked:
"Mr. President, you saw us smile, when we were five years old. We smiled because we were blossoming innocently. When we came to our teens, smiles slowly faded away and the signs of concern appeared. You said that it is because of our anxiety about our future. This anxiety, almost took away our smiles. When we complete our education, the top most questions in our mind were, what would I do after my education? Will I get employment? Our parents, who have spent all their savings on our education, also share the same concern. Mr. President, will I get proper employment and be able to contribute to India, to make it a Developed Nation?" Their questions really made me to think and think.
Concerns about employment are not only for those who are fortunate enough to have school and college education. It is the same fading away of the smiles, the shattering of the dreams and the weaning away of the gleam in the eyes that we see in every cross section of youth in the country. The only answer to retain the smile from the child to the youth is to generate employment. It represents the aspirations and anxiety of nearly 540 million youth of our nation. Hence, I have selected the topic for the Republic Day address as "Action Plan for Employment Generation."
In my earlier address to the Nation on the eve of the 58th Independence Day, I talked to you on "Education for Dignity of Human Life". The whole purpose of education in a country like India is to develop and enhance the potential of our human resource and progressively transform it into a knowledge society. The knowledge society will be a society producing products and services that are rich in both explicit and tacit knowledge, thus creating value added products. The real capital of this knowledge society will be its knowledge workers. This society will be highly networked to create a knowledge intensive environment along with an enabling process to efficiently create, share, use and protect knowledge. Our education system should re-align itself at the earliest to meet the needs of present day challenges and be fully geared to participate in societal transformation.
Changing Pattern of Society
When the world was moving from the industrial to the information and knowledge era, we witnessed a changing pattern in the sectoral share of Gross Domestic Product and the number of people employed in each sector. The share of GDP percentage has undergone a considerable change. Contribution of agriculture to India's GDP has reduced from 39 percent to 22 percent during the period 1979 to 2004. During the same period the contribution of the manufacturing sector has moved from 24 percent to 27 percent and whereas the contribution of the service sector has increased from 37 percent to 51 percent. There has been considerable change in the employment pattern also. The percentage of people employed in agriculture has come down from 64 percent to 54 percent. Simultaneously, the percentage of people employed in manufacturing has gone up from 15 percent to 19 percent and in the service sector from 20 percent to 27 percent. This trend has to continue and by 2020 our employment pattern should aim at 44 percent in agriculture, 21 percent in manufacturing and 35 percent in service sectors. The displacement of 10 percent people from the agriculture sector has to be facilitated through skill enabling for undertaking value added tasks in rural enterprises so that migration to urban areas is reduced. Instead of person from rural areas going to urban towns in search of jobs in manufacturing and services sectors, PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) will facilitate creation of employment in rural areas. PURA achieves this by providing physical, electronic and knowledge connectivities to a cluster of villages thereby leading to their economic connectivity and prosperity.
National Employment Status
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill 2004 was tabled in Parliament in its last session to create employment opportunities in the rural sector. What is needed is coordinated planning and linking of the spirit of this Bill to productive and sustainable employment generation schemes for the unemployed youth. Now I would like to discuss the national employment scenario.
As per the estimates of the Planning Commission, the total number of people eligible for employment at present is approximately 400 million. Out of this, nine percent are unemployed which works out to around 36 million. In addition, there is a need to find value added employment for 10 percent of those employed in the agriculture sector in rural areas. Our attempt hence should be to find gainful employment for around 76 million people. This will add to our productivity and will ensure a sustained 10 percent GDP growth for the decade, which is an essential need for India to become a developed country before 2020.
Dear Citizens, a nation of a billion people that is capable of exporting foodgrains, a nation that is recognised for its software products and services, a nation that can build its own aerospace systems and nuclear power plants, a nation that is leading in the pharma and automobile industries, I am sure, will be able to put all its think tanks together and come up with many innovative wealth generating schemes for the productive employment of 76 million people.
Let me share with you how to generate employment. The most important sectors for sustainable national development are Agriculture, Education, Healthcare, Water and Energy. The common thread that will run across these would be the three connectivities of PURA. One of the ways by which rural agriculturists could increase their earnings is by value adding to the agricultural produce through processing and manufacturing. Farmers, either individually or through their co-operatives would market processed and value added items instead of marketing raw materials. This increase in value-addition taking place in rural areas itself is an indicator of society moving towards prosperity and a knowledge era.
I would like to suggest a few schemes that can bring large-scale employment and prosperity to our people.
We have nearly 63 million hectares of wasteland available in the country, out of which 33 million hectares have been allotted for tree plantation. Certain multi-purpose bio-fuel plants can grow well in wastelands with very minimum input. Once cultivated, the crop has fifty years of life. Fruiting can take place in two years.
Bio-fuel plants grown in parts of wastelands, for example, 11 million hectares can yield a revenue of approximately Rs. 20,000 crore a year and provide employment to over 12 million people both for plantation and running of extraction plants. It will reduce foreign exchange outflow for import of crude oil, cost of which is continuously rising in the international market. Bio-fuel is Carbon mono-oxide emission free. The oil can also be used for soap and in the candle industry. De-oiled cake is a raw material for composting and the plantation is also good for honey production. We should absorb the best of technologies available worldwide and start commercial operations immediately. One time investment needed for bio-fuel plantation to production in 11 million hectares will be approximately Rs. 27,000 crore. Capital equipment and investment in plant and machinery can come from bank loans and private sector entrepreneurs. I have seen the progress in bio-fuel plant cultivation, preparation of seedlings, tissue culture and development of non-toxic hybrid varieties in the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore. They have also worked from processing of seeds to bio-fuel production by indigenous design and development of bio-fuel plants. Anand Agriculture University at Anand in Gujarat has also made progress in bio-fuel cultivation and processing in Gujarat. Bio-fuel plants can be grown in a number of states in the Southern, Western and Central parts of the country.
Waste Land Development – Opportunities
ICRISAT with its international experience of working in arid regions, has developed short duration, disease and drought resistant varieties of important crops beneficial to our farmers. They have introduced various tillage practices and nutrition management techniques, to boost crop yields even under drought stress. This technology will enable us to reclaim 5 more million hectares of the 33 million hectares of wasteland allotted for productive farming. As per the experts, this will result in the deployment of 15 million people for dry land cultivation.
Water Harvesting and Recycling
Water harvesting should become mandatory for all. To improve the watertable, we need to build check dams, develop water sheds, desilt ponds and rivers, clear the inlets and outlets to ponds and water bodies and recharge wells. If our rural areas are made to have operational water bodies, recharging of wells will take place. The task is totally labour intensive and nation wide implementation of this scheme will provide employment for six million persons for more than three or four years. The scheme will result in an increase in storage capacity of water bodies and create additional irrigation potential for land in and enhance agricultural productivity.
This mission envisages an integrated programme of expansion of plantations of the Bamboo species, the scientific management and promotion of community level value addition and entrepreneurship. This will enable presenting raw material for industries and the industry to access and apply modern technology for producing globally competitive new generation bamboo products. This includes setting up of clusters of small value addition processing units near the resource for employment generation and benefit the local small entrepreneur. Processed raw material suitable for ultimate use in industry and the handicraft sector will be required, for economising handling cost of raw material to the location of the industry proposed to be set up in different parts of the country.
The programme envisages the cultivation of bamboo over two million hectares and promotion of technology and networking for enhancing trade. Economic and social benefits from these activities, will lead to the creation of 8.6 million jobs and market opportunities worth over Rs.6,500 crore with an investment of Rs.2,600 crore. This will be useful for the additional development of the North-Eastern region. We should use management personnel, industrial experts and business houses to provide international market connectivity for our bamboo products leading to sustainable growth, wealth generation and positive contribution to the growth of our GDP. Institutions like the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, the Indian Institutes of Management, Industrial houses, State Governments and the Ministry of Agriculture can work together to generate a number of Bamboo enterprises in different rural clusters.
Converting Fly Ash as a Wealth Generator
As you are aware, the use of coal for power generation results in an increased quantum of fly ash production, which has reached about 100 million tonnes per year. All out efforts are needed to utilise this fly ash not only from environmental considerations, but also to avoid land usage for fly ash dumping. Though there has been a steady progress in fly ash utilisation from 1990, we have a long way to go to reach the target of 100 percent fly ash utilisation. It is reported that the agricultural increase of grains is around 15 percent, green vegetables 35 percent and root vegetables 50 percent, when fly ash is mixed with soil. Toxicity tests have proved that there is no toxic element due to fly ash. But it has higher nutrients due to increased availability of iron and calcium. Fly ash can become a wealth generator by making use of it for producing "green building" materials, roads, agriculture etc. Presently, the fly ash utilisation is in the range of 1500 million tonnes per year and provides employment for over 50000 people. Full utilisation of the generating stock, will provide employment potential for three hundred thousand people and result in a business volume of over Rs.4,000 crore.
The textile industry is very important for the Indian economy. The basic raw material is cotton. India is the third largest producer of cotton in the world. However, compared to the world average of 700 kilogrammes of seed cotton per acre we produce only 350 kilogrammes of seed cotton per acre. It is indeed a technological concern for the nation. Some of the industries have adopted a village in Punjab, which has launched a cooperative movement of farmers, scientists, trainers and industry for cultivating cotton in over 1200 acres. A training programme was launched for farmers starting with soil characterisation, matching the cotton seed to the soil, water and fertilizer management.
The project resulted in increasing the average seed cotton yield of the village from 450 kilogrammes per acre to 950 kilogrammes per acre. This led to a seven-fold increase in net return per acre, due to considerable reduction in input costs. It is worth noting that in this case the yield is above the world average. This model has already been replicated in ten villages and can be emulated by many cotton-growing regions of the country. India can definitely produce 25 percent of the total world production of quality cotton compared to the existing 12 percent leading to a revenue of over Rs. 25,000 crore a year for the nation.
I would like to link cotton production to the garment export business, which is a low investment and large volume employment generator. India is presently exporting six billion U.S. Dollars worth of garments, whereas with the WTO regime in place, we can increase the production and export of garments to 18 to 20 billion U.S. Dollars within the next five years. This will enable generation of employment in general and in rural areas in particular. By tripling the export of apparels, we can add more than 5 million direct jobs and 7 million indirect jobs in the allied sector, primarily in the cultivation of cotton. Concerted efforts are needed in cotton research, technology generation, transfer of technology, modernisation and upgrading of ginning and pressing factories and an aggressive marketing strategy.
Another area, which is an employment generator, is the healthcare industry. We have only one doctor for one thousand eight hundred people, whereas in some of the developed countries the doctor to population ratio is 1: 600. For providing quality healthcare to all of our citizens, we would need at least doubling the strength of doctors and paramedical staff in the whole country. The investment for this, need not necessarily come from the Government alone. Hospitals can be setup by the private sector with certain tax concessions and subsidised infrastructural support.
Setting up of 30000 static tele-medicine stations distributed in 30000 key locations, within a zone of 3 lakh villages and providing 20000 mobile tele-medicine units will enable the reaching of quality healthcare closer to every home, which is connected to the district, state government hospitals, corporate hospitals and super specialty hospitals in the country. This is possible as India has a network of satellite communication.
How to reach healthcare for the large number of our population? An innovative method has come into action in certain states. This system provides free health cover to citizens who are members and pay Rs.10 per individual per month as an insurance premium. State and Central Governments can sponsor this insurance scheme involving the payment of a small premium of Rs.10 per individual per month by citizens in different states of the country. Such an insurance cover should be able to provide treatment for all types of diseases including expensive open heart surgery. A consortium is required to be formed in different states between the Government, insurance agencies, corporate hospitals and NGO's for providing integrated cost effective healthcare. The scheme when fully operational can provide direct employment for an additional 600,000 doctors and 1.2 million paramedical staff. Apart from providing healthcare to citizens, these corporate hospitals can attract large number of medical tourists to the country in view of our competitiveness in treating complex diseases. I am very happy to know that the scientific community for health is working on anti HIV vaccine development programme which is in an advanced stage of development. The success of this programme will be a breakthrough in containing the HIV virus.
Village Knowledge Centres
With the kind of awareness and opportunities available in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), it will soon become a reality wherein every one of our villages will have computers and connectivity available. These would be the windows to the world of knowledge for our villages and also to reap the benefits of our e-governance, tele-education, tele-medicine, e-commerce and e-judiciary initiatives. In spite of the all pervasive nature of computers they would still be far away from being a truly friendly access device for our villagers. We would need in such cases, a human intermediary who would act as the village information officer.