Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Vision 2020 — Dr Kalam's six-point plan

Dr. P. V. Indiresan, former director, IIT Madras.

Dr Kalam's vision is to make India a developed country in another 15-20 years. That raises the question, "What makes a nation a developed one?" There is a fable of a pious person who prayed to God for long years until finally God agreed to grant him a boon, but one boon only. The old man thought about it shrewdly, and then asked of God: I want to feed milk to my grandson's grandson in a golden cup while standing on top of the seven story family mansion enjoying the beauty of its garden. The boon he asked was one only, but it had many dimensions including long life, good health, progeny for several generations, wealth, good environment and the like.

We could drum up a similar situation for our own vision of development. For instance, consider: In fifteen years, all our mothers will enjoy browsing the Internet in modern, well-appointed, bungalows searching for new places to go on holiday. This definition centered on the mother ensures gender justice. The short time frame of 15 years implies rapid development. The ability to browse on the Internet pre-supposes high-quality literacy. The bungalow guarantees high quality environment. All these and the proposition about holidays are proof enough for large surplus income and substantial wealth. Such a Vision need not be a dream; it is feasible. The TIFAC Vision 2020 report on `Driving Forces and Impedances' describes its Vision in a different way. It says: "In the past 35 years, South Korea has made greater economic progress than any other country in the world. So, we can take the progress of South Korea as one possible model. Then, we may aim to attain by 2020 the levels South Korea has already reached at the present time in year 1995. Then, we would not only have emulated the South Korean miracle but would have closed the gap by ten years. Instead of being 35 years behind as we are now, we would then be only 25 years behind."

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Igniting India's mind

The nation can use its core competence in IT, natural resources and human resources to become a knowledge superpower by 2020


Words like 'vision' and 'dream' are back in currency. For long, they were inhabiting the manifestoes of political parties and the lexicon of the student who wanted to make a name in elocution. The common man did not believe in these words.

Now, suddenly he does. Many factors have contributed to this recharging of meaning. One is a President, who, by virtue of not being a regular politician, has caught the imagination of the nation. His dream of India becoming a superpower by 2020 has become the people's dream.

But between the idea and the reality falls a shadow, as the poet said. In a series of articles beginning with one penned by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam himself, we do a reality-check on this dream. Experts ranging from Bharat Karnad and M.S. Swaminathan to K. Kasturirangan and Arun Shourie give their concrete proposals on how to turn these ideas into reality. So that dreams do not remain daydreams.

The 21st century belongs to the knowledge age, where acquisition, possession and application of knowledge are the most important resources. To India, knowledge is not new. Ancient India was an advanced knowledge society with a continual process of intellectual renaissance through inspiring contributions by saints of many faiths, philosophers, poets, scientists, astronomers and mathematicians. There existed great universities like Takshasila and Nalanda where students not only from India but also from far-off countries came to study diverse subjects. Many scholars have said that India culturally conquered and dominated China for 20 centuries without sending a single soldier across the border.

However, invasions and colonial rule destroyed these institutions and robbed them of their core competence. People were systematically degraded to lower levels of existence. By the time the British left, India was at its nadir. Now, it has the challenging task of rediscovering itself and become a knowledge superpower by 2020. For this India first needs to transform itself into a knowledge society. Let us see the genesis of such a society, its characteristics and how India can transform itself into a knowledge power.

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Vision 2020...Transforming India into a developed nation

Following is the full text President APJ Abdul Kalam’s address to the joint session of Parliament:

I extend a warm welcome to you at this first session of Parliament in 2003. This is my first Address to Parliament at the start of the Budget Session.

Let me first welcome the newly elected Members of the Rajya Sabha, as also of the Lok Sabha. I congratulate the people of Jammu and Kashmir who, in the October elections to the State Assembly, replied to the threat of the bullet with the power of the ballot. The entire Nation is grateful to our Armed Forces, Paramilitary Forces, and Police Forces for their dedicated service under extremely trying conditions. We pay our homage to those who became martyrs in the call of their duty.

Today I would like all of you to join me in paying tribute to Kalpana Chawla and her six fellow astronauts, who died in the tragic break-up of Space Shuttle Columbia minutes before its touchdown on February 1. The remarkable journey of courage and determination that made this Indian woman, hailing from a small town in Haryana, a Citizen of the Milky Way will remain a source of pride for all Bharatvasis and Bharatvanshis. It will also inspire young Indians, especially women, to dream big and to work hard to realize their dreams. I commend ISRO’s gesture in naming the METSAT series of satellites after Kalpana Chawla.

This is the first session of Parliament after the National Development Council adopted the Tenth Five-Year Plan. The Plan aims at accomplishing faster economic growth with a stronger thrust on employment generation and equity. It has set the target of 8 percent annual average GDP growth rate during the Plan period, with a companion target of 5 crore additional employment and self-employment opportunities. The Plan convincingly explains why these ambitious goals are achievable. It has distinguished itself from the previous Plans by underscoring that it is not merely a Resources Plan, but a Reforms Plan. It has deepened the domain of economic reforms by, especially, providing reforms-linked incentives to State Governments. It has also broadened the agenda of reforms by showing the categorical imperative to remove numerous non-financial barriers to faster development through reforms in civil service, judiciary, education, and above all, in governance at all levels—at the Centre, States, and Panchayati Raj Institutions. I would especially like to draw the attention of the Union and State Governments to the detailed list, contained in the Plan document, of the legislative and administrative initiatives needed to translate the Tenth Plan’s goals and targets into reality.

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