Innovation Led India
Today we are celebrating the 65th Republic Day, having completed 65 years as a ‘Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic’ which had in the Preamble to its Constitution vowed to secure to all its citizens
Justice, social, economic and political;
Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
Equality of status and of opportunity; And to promote among them all
Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.
Sixty years ago when India declared itself to be a Republic, many of you were not born. Many grew up in the early years of the Republic as toddlers and young people. They have seen the changes that have happened. At that time life expectancy was very poor (32 years), infant mortality was very high (145.6 per 1000), health care was pitiable, and adult literacy was at abysmally low level (12 %). No Hospitals and schools in most of our villages. Colleges and universities were remote. Transport and communications were ancient. No proper tarred roads, no telephones, no electricity in most villages. Newspapers were not heard of in most parts.
The founding fathers with foresight laid the foundation of a modern India, an India to be guided by scientific spirit. Institutions were built up, despite vehement opposition from old and new colonial powers. Technology and medicines were denied to India. Limited private enterprises in India did not have sufficient capital or capacity to make large investments in education and health sectors and also to set up mega industries. The government had to spend public funds to build up infrastructure, large basic industries and pharmaceutical companies. Besides, hospitals and medical colleges, universities, IITs, IIMs, etc. were established. Even institutions for space exploration and atomic research were set up, when they were not in existence even in most of the developed world. Many of us were beneficiaries of this public largesse. Wherever needed policies were adapted, though not to the liking of many abroad.
Today, things have changed much. Food scarcity is a thing of the past. (No longer we talk of roti, kapda aur makaan or garibi hatao. Today we talk of vikaas). India is now the pharmacy of the world. Most things are now at arm’s length or a call from your mobile. Indian scientists, medical personnel and technicians, and managers are in huge demand all over the world. Today we boast of the largest population of science graduates in the world. We have long roads and highways, one of the largest networks of railways and so on. We are a nuclear power. We had launched our own rockets and satellites. We are deep into space exploration. Our satellites have landed in Mars and Moon (Chandrayan and Mangalyan). Despite cynicism and downplaying in our own county, most of the world has been perceiving India as a country moving forward fast, a nation emerging from its shadows. But young and old are demanding fast development.
But the world today is led by technologies. It is an innovation led world. That country which innovates first gets rights all across the world, thanks to the WTO regime. Knowledge is now power and money; it is property; intellectual property. Some six countries are ahead of us, we are seventh only in the Innovation table. We have to catch up with those six. Otherwise we will be left behind. And we are a huge population. Lagging behind means less progress for a large chunk of humanity (17.5 %). We cannot afford it.
The pace of technological changes is very fast now. Products and processes become obsolete not in centuries or decades but in years, because better products and more efficient processes enter the market.
Every generation in the past has carried forward the torch of knowledge, starting from that guy who invented the technique to make fire; the people who made the first stone implements; those who designed alphabet and numbers; the person who invented wheel to the current generation exploring the outer space. Now we talk about micro-Sims and miniscule computers that can do crores and crores of calculations in a jiffy. Nano technologies today lead the world. Medicines may soon become obsolete once stem cell manipulation is fully managed. The computers and mobiles that you are having today may well be junked once bio-chips are developed.
Where will we be in this fast changing, fast moving world? India had led the world upon a time in science and technology, in civilization. Past should inspire us, but should not languish in that. We have to move forward. I recall the words of Robert Frost
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.
We have to reclaim the leadership of the world for the betterment of humanity; for the betterment of those deprived sections of humanity all over the world. We have to show a new light to the world.
I have hope and trust in the young generation. When I travel across the villages and towns of India, I find inspired and ignited young minds who invent, innovate and come out with bright new ideas. But somewhere in the formal education system, they get lost. They have to suppress their novel ideas. They find very little means to develop their talents. We have to nurture them. We have to facilitate the fructification of these young people. We have to have proper innovation and incubation centres. We who gained from what our predecessors had done, including those who made political freedom a reality, those who laid the firm foundation of this Democratic Republic, those who created the education, health and other facilities rudimentary though they were in many cases, owe it to those past generations to provide better opportunities and facilities to new generation. We have to nurture the young minds in scientific spirit, spirit of enquiry and innovation with a sense of fellow feeling. Creativity and innovation with a human face should be the guiding words. We have to strive to achieve them.
The great words of Swami Vivekananda should inspire us: Uthishtatha, Jagratha,prapymanatha. Awake, arise, and rest not until the objective is achieved. Create a better world than what we had inherited should be the aim of us all. It is an achievable goal. Our forefathers had done it. Let us also do it. Then only the great prayer of Rabindranath Tagore will become reality: A nation
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
… … …. …
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action.
So let us rededicate on this Republic day to that ideal. Let us forget the small squabbles, and differences, which are nothing if you stand fifty feet away and look at them. Life is not too long. It is brief in the time-space continuum. But that short life has to be well spent. Then only you will have satisfaction in the end and others will remember you well. So let us vow to make India great and cheer loudly:
Bharat Mata Ki Jayate.
(c) T C James, 26 January 2015 Address at Nava Kairali CGHS, Dwarka