INDIA@100 

by | Nov 1, 2022

On October 15, 2022, the nation observed the 91st birth anniversary of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (1931-2015). I was invited by BharatTech Foundation, primarily a group of overseas engineers of Indian origin, but also with a good base within the country, to give the keynote address. Sridhar Vembu (b. 1968), the CEO of Zoho Corporation, presided on this online event attended by more than 100 participants. 

I spoke on India@100, as if to extrapolate on Dr. Kalam’s vision of “India 2020” as a developed country. To achieve this vision, Dr. Kalam had identified in 1996, five sectors, namely, 1. Agriculture and food processing; 2. Education and healthcare; 3. Information and communication technology; 4. Infrastructure development; and 5. Self-reliance in critical technologies. Later, in 2001, he added PURA – Provision of Urban Amenities to Rural Areas.  

Dr. Kalam showed the right path for the nation, and it was spontaneously pursued. I feel we have done well on all fronts, but more is needed on the education and healthcare front. We need modern education for children at the bottom of the societal pyramid and a National Medical System backed by a world-class medical college in every district.  We also need urgent judiciary reforms to clear the backlog of petty cases, and to mitigate litigation using modern technologies such as AI, public blockchain-based contracts, and consensus-based justice delivery.

The tribal and poor have endured centuries of injustice. Natural resources – forests, mines, rivers, and so on – belong to them. India can never become a developed country without restoring the ownership of its resources to where it belongs. Emerging technologies have made it possible to enforce tamper-proof land records and financial transactions. These technologies must not be a cause of fear but must be mastered and embraced. If there is one way for India to become a Vishwa Guru, it is this road.

When I contemplated on “India@100,” which is in the next 25 years from now, I visualized technology already having taken a grip of world affairs. Futurist Raymond Kurzweil (b. 1948) predicts Technological Singularity running the world by 2045. The world is entwined with the Internet, money is moving around across national boundaries, and system science takes us to wider bands of focus that define and constrain our place in the world. It would be a pity of the gravest order if the 1.5 billion Indians are treated by this New Force as passive spectators rather than stakeholders. It is rather imperative that India@100: 

1. Leads the world in climate change mitigation and allied technologies

2. Achieves energy-independence through thorium-based nuclear power generation

3. Becomes a high-tech manufacturing hub and R&D powerhouse 

4. Facilitates the South Asia Union of “One Visa-One Market-One Currency”

5. Emerges out of the ambivalence about its cultural heritage

Dr. Homi J Bhabha (1909-1966) presented a uniquely Indian three-stage nuclear power program based on a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The three stages are: Natural uranium-fueled pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWRs); fast breeder reactors (FBRs) utilizing plutonium with depleted uranium from the first stage; and advanced nuclear power systems for the utilization of thorium, available in abundance in India. This ought to be done.

India is importing to the order of 50 million tons of petroleum products every year. There is a worrisome four-fifth of import dependence for crude oil and almost half for natural gas. India spent over 12 trillion rupees in the financial year 2022 buying oil and gas. This situation is like a hole in the boat. The remarkable progress made by the Indian economy has been perniciously burdened by this dependency. There is almost a revolution on the roll in new and renewable energy but unless this import is mitigated, nothing will suffice. There is a need to secure ownership of oil fields across the globe. A long-term treaty with Russia on this seems to be a realistic solution. 

Investing in clean technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells is not only imperative, but a commitment for India to meet the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2070, and that transition and R&D should be happening now, if not yesterday. We cannot keep importing new technology into our economy incurring enormous costs and time lag; rather, we must leap-frog and lead this technology shift.

A format of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world is in place from the United Nations. There are two imperatives before the countries in South-East Asia – starting from Afghanistan in the west to Indonesia in the east – to become a union of One Visa-One Market-One Currency and become a trade bloc with the rest of the world. The entire region had enjoyed Indic culture in the ancient times and there is an innate similarity in the way people think and feel in this region. Why must there be boundaries between similar people? The unreasonableness must be negotiated or eliminated.  

For the five initiatives to become a force multiplier, the country requires positive energy in the society. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) articulated it as Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo, where every mind is without fear and every head is held high. Vested interests in the West and their funded agencies inside the country have successfully created a doom and gloom scenario in the Indian society.  

We must learn to first take pride in ourselves, celebrate our marvelous architecture, yoga, indigenous medicine, and healing practices. We must revamp our education system to teach children to take pride in the Indic civilization and prepare them to defend ourselves with valid, scientific, and documented evidence against any Western mockery. We must create a society where religion and caste become private details and value addition to society becomes a competitive concept. 

But what is even more important and urgent is a change of mindset from within. People must qualify to become the citizens of a developed country. This is not some appellate that would come from outside. Each person must prepare and contribute in this. There are no entitlements, but responsibilities that must be accepted and discharged. 

The three divine foundations of Dr. Kalam’s life were imagination, piousness, and faith in God. These three modes of living or qualities drove his conviction of making India a developed country by 2020. It is time to embrace these three qualities and dedicate our lives to making India@100 a developed nation, where every mind is without fear and every head is held high. The time starts now!

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8 Comments

  1. Dear Sir, Thank you very much for an extremely timely and vision reminding blog. A visionary leader like APJ Abdul Kalam can only come out goal setting exercise. The first Technology vision 2020 exercise was carried out under his chairmanship and guidance. That effort could identify technology areas which need to be developed to achieve that ASPIRING TO BE DEVELOPED COUNTRY status. The identified focus areas have helped people to channelize their effort to achieve self-reliance.

    I would say that we are second to none in Space and Nuclear technologies. A lot has been achieved as per Tech Vision 2020 and of course a lot is left to be achieved. But the progress has been quite satisfactory. As a sequel to Tech Vision 2020, TIFAC has come out with Technology Vision 2035 under the Chairmanship of Dr Anil Kakodkar. This team has identified 12 prerogatives and enabling technologies to meet the demands of the ASPIRATIONAL INDIANS during the next decade and half.

    The visioning exercise gives a sense of direction and a goal to work for. We have achieved considerable success in the technology areas identified in Vision 2020 document and I am confident we will achieve the targets set in Technology vision 2035.

    For me the most important paragraph in the blog is “But what is even more important and urgent is a change of mind set from within. People must qualify to become the citizens of a developed country. This is not some appellate that would come from outside. Each person must prepare and contribute in this. There are no entitlements, but responsibilities that must be accepted and discharged.”

    Thank you very much for an inspiring blog with do’s and dont’s sir.

  2. Another masterpiece from Prof Arun Tiwari Ji on India@100

  3. Dear Sir, Your write up on India @100 is timely and apt. You have highlighted the issues to be resolved by the time we reach @100. The probable solutions have been highlighted by you. And its a big canvas. The issues are huge and the solutions are complex and therefore the efforts have to match the gigantic size of each problem whether it is hunger, safety and security, education, health, military power, etc, etc…

    The situation is like a poor farmer standing in the middle of his field and heavy wind is blowing with a storm in the sight. He has very little time to gather all his produce before it is blown away by winds and heavy storm. What is the best way to deal with such a situation ! He has to maintain steely calm, gather all his resources and get all his stuff/produce collected for betterment of his and his family’s life..

    My take on the whole issue is that Indian society as a whole has to change internally as well as externally. While adopting new technology, we have to make sure that we do not go away from nature. An equilibrium has to be maintained. It goes without saying that a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. While new technology is to be adopted, the natural way of living with Yogic and Vedic kriyas has to be adopted. As people, as society and as a nation, we will have to work on greed, envy,anger, lust, laziness and all other eges to witness an India which is self reliant, a happy and prosperious India. Such India@100 will be powerful and a force to recon with. Jai Hind.

  4. Respected sir, what an apt and insightful account to commemorate National Students Day!

    Your vision for technology power-driving India in the next 25 years is awe-inspiring, and clearly indicates the exigent nature of imparting technology knowledge and understanding to not just students at the bottom of the societal pyramid but to every individual in the key decision making echelon of the nation.

    I resonate with your view that technologies such as AI and blockchain possess the capability to propel judiciary reformation in India. I also envisage them playing a role in overhauling Edtech and incentivizing learning for Gen Alpha in the coming years.

    Thank you again for sharing your profound thoughts on the subjects close to my heart.

  5. Arun ji, thank you for reminding us about the Vision of Dr. Kalam for India as a developed nation! I think we are moving in the right direction, and unless there are political and unforeseen international challenges, we should reach there before completion of 100 years of independence.

  6. Such a promising vision for India@100. Thank you for sharing it through your blog.
    To love our country is to love our culture. The only right way of expressing cultural pride in ourselves must be to not claim greatness for oneself but rather for each community to show that it too contributes to global, historically connected cultures of humanity.
    AS our PM said “The journey of the next 25 years is the Amrit Kaal of a new India” and “the fulfilment of our resolutions in this Amrit Kaal will take us till 100 years of independence.”

  7. Arun ji, Thank you for the insights on India@100. We should own up with the three pillars to be part of the transformed India in 2047.

  8. Dear Prof, Thank you for your sharing and/or re-energizing Dr Abdul Kalam’s vision for your great nation!

    The Global South is looking for leadership and partnership from India. We wish you well as you take up the mantle with courage.

    indeed, India@100 could be a turning point in your nation’s view of its own challenges as well as its global positioning.

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