It was with a lot of satisfaction I read Dr Abdul Kalam’s acceptance speech when he was awarded the Hoover Medal recently.
28/Apr/2009 : New York
Transforming billion people to prosperity
Technology is a non-linear tool for economic growth
I am delighted to receive the 2008 Hoover Medal. My greetings to the members of the Hoover Medal Board of Award and distinguished guests assembled here. I would like to thank the selection committee of the Hoover Medal Board for the honour bestowed upon me. When I think of Hoover, I recall his belief in the Efficiency Movement and that a technical solution existed for every social and economic problem. I consider it as a great honour to me for being awarded the Hoover Medal.
When I was receiving the Hoover medal award, I was thinking what thoughts I can share with you. I thought if I talk on the “Transforming billion people to prosperity” it may reflect the 1/6th of the world’s population and derive similarities for the other part of many nations.
What a phenomenal transformation that has taken place in the society during the 20th century, as we see now! Science and Technology have revolutionized our ways of life, transportation, communication, healthcare, education delivery, judiciary and in general human advancement. While nations are working to improve the lot of people and leap frog in development, there are forces at work to impede by way of extremism and terrorism. Society has to be dynamic to make progress and prepare itself for the challenges of the future.
Challenges of Modern Society
Advances in genetics demonstrating great similarity in the genome of man and animals shows that the limbic brain perhaps is the cause for all conflicts within and outside. So far human society, from origin until now has always been at war within and between groups and has led to two World Wars. Presently, terrorism and low intensity warfare are affecting many parts of the world. Simultaneously the brain is intelligent to understand the price, the humanity has paid because of such conflicts and if only this attention is diverted to development, the human civilization would have taken a shape leading to peaceful co-existence.
We have to analyze why wars have occurred so far in the human history and see, how do we avoid future conflicts. Paucity of resources, inequitable growth within countries and different parts of the world, deprivation, depleting resources, and ego are among the reasons for conflicts along with remnants of hatred from historical fights. So it becomes necessary to analyze potential sources of conflicts in the 21st century for us to spot problem zones and avoid conflicts, as far as possible. Man is fighting a war on all fronts – environmental degradation and diseases on one side and terrorism on the other side.
S&T for Humanity
How science and technology can find solution to these problems? Science, technology and humanities which bring diverse groups across the world and challenge them to take up new avenues of research for finding a suitable solution in the evolving times of the world. The technology has expanded physical travel and connectivity to a large extent, beyond any realm of imagination in the past centuries. This kind of non linear growth of technology and its improvement of quality of human life across the world is in the best interest of the entire humanity. Take any issue be it energy and environment, understanding the atmosphere, exploration of outer space, increasing outreach of science, equitable distribution of prosperity and wealth, dealing with deadly diseases, weaning people away from drugs, the family ties, in which I feel research has to the thrust area; they all require the best minds from any part of the world.
Inventions and discoveries have emanated from creative minds that have been constantly working and imaging the outcome in the mind. With imaging and constant effort, all the forces of the universe work for that inspired mind, thereby leading to inventions or discoveries. Higher the number of creative minds in an organization, the best results of invention and discoveries will emerge. Unique academic environment results into great thinking that leads to creativity. I would like to present a connectivity model for rural societal transformation which has been designed for India.
Connectivity Model: Societal GRID
India is spearheading the connectivity mission. The core of this connectivity model for Electronic Connectivity for prosperity of one billion people is the partnership between governmental and multiple institutions in the public and private domains. The strength of this partnership for collaborative growth and economic prosperity is facilitated by free flow of knowledge and information in a seamless manner cutting across levels and boundaries embracing all walks of life in the three sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing and services. In this model, four grids bring about the interfaces of three sectors of the economy: namely, Knowledge Grid, Health Grid, e-Governance Grid and the PURA Grid.
Societal Grid consists of:
1. Knowledge GRID – Inter connecting universities with socio-economic institutions, industries and R&D organizations. India is planning to connect 5000 institutions across the country with Gigabit network for collaborative knowledge sharing platform.
2. Health Care GRID – Inter-connecting the Health Care institutions of Government, Corporate and Super specialty hospitals. Research institutions, educational institutions and ultimately, Pharma R & D institutions. India has connected around 250 remote locations so far with more than 25 super specialty hospitals and provides tele-medicine connectivity.
3. E-Governance GRID – Inter-connecting the Central Government and State Governments and District and Block level offices for G2G and G2C connectivity. India is creating State Wide Area Network across the country. India has the fibre connectivity up to the block level and only it needs to be lighted up.
4. PURA Knowledge GRID – Connecting the PURA Nodal centers with the Village knowledge centres and Domain service providers. Since this is the backbone for rural development, all other GRIDs will infuse the knowledge into this GRID for sustainable development, healthcare and good governance. For example, five of the Periyar PURA villages have now connected using Wi-MAX connectivity.
Integrated Village knowledge centers will act as an inter-connected delivery mechanism for tele-education tele-medicine and e-Governance services apart from individual access by the people, within and between the Village Knowledge Centres through the PURA Grid.
Each grid is a system of multiple portals. The aim is to maximize gross domestic production and productivity of the land and people through maximizing the performance of each sector, synergized by the system of inter and intra-sectoral electronic connectivity to serve one billion people. This will bring prosperity to 700 million people in the rural areas and 300 million plus people in the urban areas. This experience can be applicable to other nations too.
Now, another area of importance, I call it Energy Independence. Let me share with you a few thoughts on this occasion.
When we analyze the critical problems facing the planet earth today, two important issues come to our minds. First one is the continuous depletion of fossil-material-derived, oil, gas and coal reserves as predicted by World Energy Forum. The second one is the continuous degradation of environment primarily due to extensive use of fossil materials for generating energy. The solution to these problems can be found through energy independence, which I have presented to my country. It may be applicable to many nations.
Energy Independence in India – A Perspective: India has 17% of the world’s population, but only about 0.8% of the world’s known oil and natural gas resources. Based on the progress visualized for the nation during the next two decades, the power generating capacity has to increase to 400,000 MW by the year 2030 from the current 130,000 MW in India. This takes into consideration of energy economies planned and the design and production of energy efficient equipments and systems. Energy independence has got to be achieved through three different sources namely renewable energy (solar, wind and hydro power), electrical power from nuclear energy and bio-fuel for the transportation sector. Energy independence throws very important technological challenges to the world: The solar cell efficiency has to increase from the present 20% to 55% through intensified research on CNT (Carbon Nano Tube) based solar cells. For thorium reactors, as it is known, thorium is a non-fissile material. It has to be converted into a fissile material using Fast Breeder Technology. In the Bio-fuel area, the challenge is bio-fuel plantation for higher yield, esterification technologies for the higher output and the modification to automobile power plants.
Integrated Water Mission
Dear friends, but when I see all, I would like to touch upon the third important mission which is the major mission of India, that is called the integrated Water Mission. The integrated water mission of India necessitates the integrated working environment of almost all major engineering disciplines, creative and innovative management, environmental sciences, water management, fisheries, inland navigation, tourism and ultimately the social engineering including humanities. This is the major challenge that will bring peace and prosperity to nation and create sustainable development environment for the nation. Water is an important requirement for the survival of humanity and promotion of bio-diversity and ecology.
There are four aspects with reference to the Water mission, which I would like to share with you:
1. What is the total requirement of water for India for drinking purposes, sanitation, irrigation and other industrial uses and what the nation gets through seasonal inputs (rain and melting of snow)?
2. One third of our population is affected by flood or drought every year.
3. Per capita availability of water varies from 10 kilo litre to 50 kilo litre for different seasons and regions.
4. What are the optimal ways of meeting the minimum needs of water for the entire population, assuming a particular population growth rate for the country. We also recognize that India has to produce 340 million tonnes of food grains by the year 2020 and part of the water is required for increasing agriculture production.
India gets approximately 4000 Billion cubic meters (BCM) of water every year from all natural sources. Out of this 700 BCM are lost in evaporation and another 700 are lost during the flow on ground. Also, the large part of water namely 1500 BCM flows into the sea due to floods. Thus, the remaining available water is only 1100 BCM. Out of this ground water recharge accounts for 430 BCM per year and the present utilized surface water is 370 BCM. The balance unutilized water which can be harnessed is 300 BCM.
Flood and Drought Situation
I was studying the frequent occurrence of flood and drought. Flood normally affects, 8 major river valleys spread over 40 million hectares of area in the entire country affecting nearly 260 million people. Similarly the drought affects 86 million people who are spread in 14 States covering a total of 116 districts. Wherefrom this flood comes? It comes from the 1500 BCM of water every year flowing during the monsoon season. If we have to prevent the damage due to the flood and reduce the severity of drought, we have to harness this 1500 BCM of water and distribute it to the drought affected areas. We can also partly store it in proper storage system so that it can be available during non-monsoon months. If we succeed in doing all these, we will not only save the loss arising out of the damage caused to the crops, properties and people by the flood to the extent of one billion dollar on an average per year, we will also save the recurring expenditure of US$500 million incurred by the government as short term relief measure. The questions which arise are how to harness the flood water? And how to regulate the out flow of flood water so that it does not go into sea and it is converted as useful water for the mankind.
Harnessing the Water
Hence our aim should be to channelise the 1500 BCM of flood water, so that it can be made use of for providing water to drought affected areas and make sufficient water available to the whole country during non-monsoon months through proper linking, storage and distribution. Our plans must consider that presently the sanitation facilities are not available in more than 50% of the dwelling units in the country. Planners must take into account this aspect while selecting schemes for harnessing and distributing the water for our growing population. We may have to align our interlinking of rivers project for meeting the growing water demands of the nation by having a hybrid scheme which can harness the additional 300 BCM per year and also the flood water of 1500 BCM.
State wise linking local river basins
While addressing many states of India, I have suggested linking of rivers within the state. For example, in respect of Andhra Pradesh, a state in central India, I have suggested, that the Godavari water which flows into the sea to the extent of 2500 tmc during floods and 750 tmc during normal conditions may be diverted into the basin area for irrigation purposes through step dams, irrigation canals and water storage lakes and ponds. This will increase the irrigated area of the Godavari basin by over 30%. Andhra Pradesh government has already implemented the scheme. Also I was informed by the Chief Minister of Goa that the Government of Goa has interlinked Zuari river with Kalay river in Mandovi basin through installation of pumps and gravity flow. This has been done to ensure availability of drinking water in this region. Every State should be asked to inter-connect their own rivers on the lines of Goa. This should form part of the State Planning. Overall planning of interlinking of rivers has to integrate the state water resource connectivity.
Our planet will encounter in the next few decades severe shortage of water if we are not careful in conserving and preserving precious water resources. In India, we have started action oriented programmes to foresee the problem and work on a mission mode before the water situation worsens. This requires extraordinary leadership to have a long term vision and find solutions for the problems of future.
So far, I have shared with you three areas of importance for societal transformation and prosperity namely Societal Grid, Energy Independence and Water mission with the application of Science and Technology, management and leadership.
Dear friends, in a democratic environment, you may have questions, how these missions are possible to bring a sustainable environment in a mission mode in time bound targets. Certainly it is a big challenge. Normally many used to say ‘not possible’, for anything. Dear friends, I am reminded of the Great Chola King Karikala Chola who had the vision for building of dikes along the banks of the river Kaveri and dam known as “Kallanai” as early as 8th century. Still it is standing as a witness to the world, as an engineering marvel which provides irrigation to almost many districts of the southern Tamilnadu in the banks of Kaveri River. He didn’t have precedence in his times. Today, Kallanai dam is in place because of the vision of Karikalan. Mahatma Gandhiji’s vision of Independent India, transformed India into a democracy. Mr. C. Subramaniam’s Agriculture vision enabled India to realize the “Green revolution”. Dr. Varghese Kurien’s Milk vision, led to India’s white revolution. Prof. Vikram Sarabhai’s space vision enabled India to join the space club. Dr. Homi Bhabha’s nuclear vision led India to become a nuclear power. Visionary political leaders of India enabled India to succeed in many fields.
Dear friends, what does it mean? Anybody can say that it is not possible. The history of the humanity is created because of some who had the vision and conviction that it is possible.
Dear friends, I have seen three dreams which have taken shape as vision, mission and realization. Space programme of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), AGNI programme of DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) and PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) becoming the National Mission. Of course these three programmes succeeded in the midst of many challenges and problems. I have worked in all these three areas. I want to convey to you what I have learnt on leadership from these three programmes.
a. Leader must have a vision.
b. Leader must have a passion to transform the vision into action.
c. Leader must be able to travel into an unexplored path.
d. Leader must know how to manage a success and failure.
e. Leader must have courage to take decision.
f. Leader should have Nobility in management.
g. Every action of the leader should be transparent.
h. Leader must work with integrity and succeed with integrity.
For success in all the missions, it is essential to have creative leaders. Creative leadership means exercising the vision to change the traditional role from the commander to the coach, manager to mentor, from director to delegator and from one who demands respect to one who facilitates self-respect.
In this context, dear friends, I would like to share with you an inspiring message from Maharishi Patanjali in Yoga Sutra:
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds, your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, you will find yourself in a new great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
I am sure, Hoover Board is in the mission of creating such leaders who can foresee the problems of the humanity and work for solutions much ahead for the upliftment of humanity and sustainable development to bring peace and prosperity with value system.
Once again, let me thank the members of Hoover Medal Board of Award for bestowing me, this unique honour of Hoover Medal.
My greetings and best wishes to all of you for success in all your missions.
May God bless you.