All entries for February 2005

February 27, 2005

Three Visions for India

[The following text is from where I draw my inspiration from. It is a speech given by the President of India about his 3 visions for India.]

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalaam's speech in Hyderabad

"I have three visions for India. In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards, The Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone. We have not grabbed their land, their culture, their history and Tried to enforce our way of life on them. Why? Because we respect the freedom of others.

That is why my first vision is that of FREEDOM. I believe that India got its first vision of this in 1857, when we started the war of Independence. It is this freedom that we must protect and nurture and build on. If we are not free, no one will respect us.

My second vision for India's DEVELOPMENT, For fifty years we have been A developing nation. It is time we see ourselves as a developed nation. We are among top 5 nations of the world in terms of GDP. We have 10 percent growth rate in most areas. Our poverty levels are falling. Our achievements are being globally recognized today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed nation, self-reliant and self-assured. Isn't this incorrect?

I have a THIRD vision. India must stand up to the world. Because I believe that, unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. Only strength respects strength. We must be strong not only as a military power but also as an economic power. Both must go hand-in-hand. My good fortune was to have worked with three great minds. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai of the Dept. of space, Professor Satish Dhawan, who succeeded him and Dr.Brahm Prakash, father of nuclear material. I was lucky to have worked with all three of them closely and consider this the great opportunity of my life.I see four milestones in my career:

Twenty years I spent in ISRO. I was given the opportunity to be the project director for India's first satellite launch vehicle, SLV3. The one that launched Rohini. These years played a very important role in my life of Scientist. After my ISRO years, I joined DRDO and got a chance to be the part of India's guided missile program. It was my second bliss when Agni met its mission requirements in 1994.

The Dept. of Atomic Energy and DRDO had this tremendous partnership in the recent nuclear tests, on May 11 and 13. This was the third bliss. The joy of participating with my team in these nuclear tests and proving to the world that India can make it, that we are no longer a developing nation but one of them. It made me feel very proud as an Indian. The fact that we have now developed for Agni a re-entry structure, for which we have developed this new material. A Very light material called carbon-carbon.

One day an orthopedic surgeon from Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences visited my laboratory. He lifted the material and found it so light that he took me to his hospital and showed me his patients. There were these little girls and boys with heavy metallic calipers weighing over three Kg. each, dragging their feet around.

He said to me: Please remove the pain of my patients. In three weeks, we made these Floor reaction Orthosis 300-gram calipers and took them to the orthopedic center. The children didn't believe their eyes. From dragging around a three kg. load on their legs, they could now move around! Their parents had tears in their eyes. That was my fourth bliss!

Why is the media here so negative? Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why?

We are the first in milk production.
We are number one in Remote sensing satellites.
We are the second largest producer of wheat.
We are the second largest producer of rice.
Look at Dr. Sudarshan, he has transferred the tribal village into a self-sustaining, self driving unit.
There are millions of such achievements but our media is only obsessed in the bad news and failures and disasters.

I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert land into an orchid and a granary.

It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE?

Another question: Why are we, as a nation so obsessed with foreign things? We want foreign TVs, we want foreign shirts. We want foreign technology. Why this obsession with everything imported. Do we not realize that self-respect comes with self-reliance? I was in Hyderabad giving this lecture, when a 14 year old girl asked me for my autograph. I asked her what her goal in life is. She replied: I want to live in a developed India. For her, you and I will have to build this developed India. You must proclaim. India is not an under-developed nation; it is a highly developed nation.

Do you have 10 minutes? Allow me to come back with a vengeance. Got 10 minutes for your country? If yes, then read; otherwise, choice is yours.

YOU say that our government is inefficient.
YOU say that our laws are too old.
YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage.
YOU say that the phones don't work, the railways are a joke, the airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination.
YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits.
YOU say, say and say.

What do YOU do about it? Take a person on his way to Singapore. Give him a name – YOURS.

Give him a face – YOURS. YOU walk out of the airport and you are at your International best.

In Singapore you don't throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores. YOU are as proud of their Underground Links as they are. You pay $5(approx. Rs.60) to drive through Orchard Road (equivalent of Mahim Causeway or Pedder Road) between 5 PM and 8 PM. YOU come back to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity. In Singapore you don't say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn't dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai. YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs.650) a month to, "see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else."

YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, "Jaanta hai sala main kaun hoon (Do you know who I am?). I am so and so's son. Take your two bucks and get lost." YOU wouldn't chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand. Why don't YOU spit Paan on the streets of Tokyo? Why don't YOU use examination jockeys or buy fake certificates in Boston? We are still talking of the same YOU. YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own. You who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Indian ground. If you can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country, why cannot you be the same here in India?

Once in an interview, the famous Ex-municipal commissioner of Bombay, Mr. Tinaikar, had a point to make. "Rich people's dogs are walked on the streets to leave their affluent droppings all over the place," he said." And then the same people turn around to criticize and blame the authorities for inefficiency and dirty pavements. What do they expect the officers to do? Go down with broom every time their dog feels the pressure in his bowels? In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job. Same in Japan. Will the Indian citizen do that here?" He's right. We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility. We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin. We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms.

We want Indian Airlines and Air India to provide the best of food and toiletries but we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity. This applies even to the staff who is known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, dowry, girl child and others, we make loud drawing room protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse? 'It's the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if I alone forego my sons' rights to a dowry.'

So who's going to change the system? What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbors, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But definitely not me and YOU. When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr. Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand or we leave the country and run away. Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England. When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf. When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Indian government.

Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country. Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money.

Dear Indians,

The article is highly thought inductive, calls for a great deal of introspection and pricks one's conscience too….

I am echoing J. F. Kennedy's words to his fellow Americans to relate to Indians…..

"ASK WHAT WE CAN DO FOR INDIA AND DO WHAT HAS TO BE DONE TO MAKE INDIA WHAT AMERICA AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES ARE TODAY"

Lets do what India needs from us.

Thank you
Abdul Kalaam


February 25, 2005

Time To Take Stock

The Telegraph, 25.02.2005

So far the signs for the 2005–06 Union budget are encouraging (“Before the unveiling”, Feb 23). The freedom for merger and acquisition assured to public sector banks will boost the banking sector. Despite vehement opposition from the left, the finance ministry has shown a lot of wisdom in trying to implement this measure. It will allow public sector banks to increase in size and thus gain from economies of scale, which consequently will mean cheaper products for the Indian consumer.

In this budget, the government is expected to bring in the long overdue special economic zone policy and increase FDI investment in sectors such as retail and banking. This will give a fillip to exports and with increased FDI in retail, a sector long haunted by protectionism, India might finally grow to be a retail giant. Together with the government’s commitment to implement value added tax, this will improve the fiscal scenario.


February 22, 2005

More the Merrier

The Telegraph, 22.02.2005

The inherent weaknesses in the Indian political system have been brought out vividly by Pratap Bhanu Mehta. Indian political parties possess no single ideology, they are unsure of what they really believe in and never seem to have specific policies or plans. The only thing they have in common is populism, and in toeing the populist line, they have often divided the Indians on the basis of caste, class or religion.

True, the diversity in India’s political parties has little to do with the real diversity of the country. A diverse society like the United States of America functions with two main political parties and so does the United Kingdom. But in India, all the political parties seem to be functioning with the sole objective of opposing the government in power, no matter what policies they adopt or implement. One wonders when the people will realize that they have been cheated for the past 58 years, and continue to be misled by the parties.


February 21, 2005

Far from Right

The Telegraph, 21.02.2005

The hypocrisy of the Left Front is as clear as daylight to those of us who live outside India, yet it baffles me to find that the people of West Bengal still do not seem to have seen through the great Indian communist hoax (“Left with no answers”, Feb 17). The policy of our leftists is simple — oppose any move towards liberalization or economic reformation in Delhi, but adopt precisely the same measures in Calcutta. The important point to note here is that the leftists realize only too well that economic reforms are inevitable: to gain urban votes, they will have to carry out the very policies they oppose at the Centre.

Many will remember that only a few months ago, the BBC branded West Bengal “an industrial wasteland”. This perception is not entirely misplaced. Enterprise here is strangled due to excessive regulation, which in turn stifles growth and increases poverty. As a result, revenues dry up and so do the government coffers. This leads to diminishing investment into the public sector, which breeds more poverty, corruption and crime. Corruption, in any case, prevents the meagre government resources from being fully utilized. It also inspires, and sometimes compels, venture capitalists to adopt underhand means.

Under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, West Bengal is just beginning to climb out of this hole. But if the politburo continues to throw a spanner in the works, then all hope is lost. But the people of Bengal must not let the left get away with its two-faced ways.


February 11, 2005

Making it Work

The Telegraph, 11.02.2005

Abhirup Sarkar gives a valuable insight into the abstract idea of the rural employment guarantee bill (“Working at it”, Feb 1). The proposed scheme also carries dangerous inflationary implications for these areas, as more employment might trigger speculation on the retailers’ part about the purchasing power of the local people. This could consequently mean a wholesale price raise across commodities without an actual rise in living standards of the poor in rural India.

There is another point to ponder on. Given India’s spiralling fiscal deficit and the unrealistic targets of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, it would be disastrous for the government to pump in more money into this scheme. As Sarkar mentions, political gimmickry has to be stopped if the long-term interest of the economy is to be ensured.

Cyclical unemployment is unavoidable in a market economy with its booms and recessions. However, it is structural unemployment that we have to counter. For this, the proverbial pie needs to be made bigger. We have to make it easier for enterprise to flourish. The government must give incentives to private firms to carry out infrastructural projects in rural and urban areas simultaneously. China has generated jobs in construction and infrastructure precisely in this way, and India is equally capable of doing a re-run.


February 08, 2005

War Fair

The Telegraph, 08.02.2005

How many people died in Iraq? At the most a few hundreds of thousands. And Vietnam? Again, the figure would not exceed half a million. But we are here speaking about 260 million Indians and “Rational behaviour” (Feb 4) shows that Ashok Mitra is completely insensitive to their lives. And all because the so-called Indian “support” for President George W. Bush violates some of the dubious paradigms set up by the frustrated left wing circles of the world, even at the expense of the interests of India.

All countries which initially opposed the war in Iraq, including France, Russia and Germany, are now falling over each other to grab contracts in Iraq’s reconstruction. Mitra is quick to see this fact and criticize it. However, what he fails to see is that it is purely self-interest that drives global politics today. And so it should in the case of a relatively poor country like India. If we can get some of our people employed in the companies supplying Iraq’s economy, then why not? At least it will help some Indians lead a better life.

Mitra also fails to see the benefits India can reap from the continuing war on terror. If America continues to push for regime change in various countries all over the world, it would naturally make it the US a prime target for terrorism. This would give Indians a respite from the menace. As Indians, we should look out for ways to preserve the lives of other fellow Indians. Why shouldn’t we then support the US drive against terror?

Mitra’s rant against outsourcing has become repetitive, but that doesn’t alter the fallacy of his statements. Remember, India’s IT dream began with outsourcing, and although Indian companies are venturing into software development, outsourcing still employs tens of thousands of people in India. Why should they be thrown into poverty and misery because some of us hold a grouse against the West, particularly the US?


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