(24th Annual Convocation at the Bharathidasan University)


12th October 2007



His Excellency the Governor of Tamil Nadu and Chancellor of the University,  Honourable Pro-Chancellor and the Minister for Higher Education Dr.Ponmudi, Esteemed Vice-Chancellor, Prof.M.Ponnavaikko, The Registrar, Members of the Syndicate, Senate, Members of the elected bodies, Officials from various departments,  Parents, dear Students, Faculty Members, Staff, distinguished members of audience, and media.


It is a great pleasure and honour to be at Tiruchirappalli, which is a famous part of the hoary history of Tamil Nadu and in an University which bears the name of a great son of Tamil Nadu and India, a social revolutionary and a gifted poet. The spirit and values imbedded in his poems and that of his guru Subramanya Bharati are valid even today and will be so for several millennia to come. They are eternal lights of the human soul which shine brighter when you seek and penetrate, through the beautiful and musical plays of words. I hope and request that Tamil knowing students read Bharathidasan’s poems at leisure some time. For those who do not know Tamil, I hope the University or some Tamil loving students and alumni will translate them into English, Hindi and other languages and make them available in the website, as well.


Nation just completed the sixty years of independence. But India existed several millennia ago. People who lived over many generations in this region of the world achieved a lot in Literature, Arts, Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Medicine, Crafts, Trade and in almost all forms of human endeavor and innovation. There was a time when India and China dominated world trade with a share of about 70% - not long ago - even through the early part of nineteenth century. The subsequent downfall in trade of both the countries have been due to the absence of creation of modern scientific and technological knowledge and their applications in every walk of life : agriculture to manufacturing to trade to weaving and to warfare. Though beginnings in this direction were made in a limited way by the British (in their own self-interest) in India and a few brave Indians, a lot of impetus was given only in the post-independence India.

Your University and you, are the part of that great impetus and movement. The Hon'ble Chancellor and many people of his generation, (the pre-independence generation) and people born around independence such as people like me, those who were born in sixties, seventies, eighties - the post - independence generations - (you would all be born around mid - eighties) - all have built up the momentum. India broke loose of the slow Hindu growth rate, described by Raj Krishna. Now people are confident to talk of 2 digit growth rate for the economy.

I can say for myself that while I am happy about all good things that have happened in India, there has been a huge list of missed opportunities. That is the reason our share in world trade, India's originality in science and technology, etc remain a very small percentage of world share even though our population is about 17% of the world. That indicates the huge wastage and under utilization of our human capital.

There is no use of crying over the past. If we can learn some lessons, well and good. Let us, perhaps, not waste our time and energy  in finding out what went wrong, though I do not like to minimise the importance of such academic studies. But I would like to point out that there is a large expanse of FUTURE before us - before the people of the world and therefore Indians, as well. Over the past one - and - half decades, Indians have fortunately taken many rapid steps if not great strides. The cumulative effects of such steps and some rapid strides, have created a great confidence on India within Indians and from the comity of nations. India has come within the "radar" of business persons, academics, political leaders, writers, media persons, tourists,  etc world over. But such a gathering of momentum should not lead to a mere euphoria or momentary pleasures given by  Sunita Williams, or an Indian space flight or sudden news of a trillion dollar economy (announced due to fluctuations  of rupee - dollar equivalence) or a big Indian acquisition of a company abroad. Indians and India have to achieve a lot more to do justice to its size in terms of its population, or its history. Complacency, derived from some Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) calculations or mathematical projections up to 2050, making India look like a big economy, is a great danger to India's growth and development and to the prosperity and well being of all Indians.

While PPP comparisons carry many elements of reality around them, they also hide the stark fact that many Indians are willing to live in the margins of existence, as they have little choice before them and often they do not possess the skills, knowledge and capital to take a direct plunge into the global knowledge economy themselves in which case they will earn in US dollar terms. It is their marginal existence and low subsistence levels which provide the basis of "low cost" economy. In the current phase of history, India is transitioning from its low productive phase towards knowledge intensive high productive, high value and higher efficiency economy. And especially because the past 60 years of  economic governance and science & technology (S&T) management could not lift the country's industries and S&T from the "follower" (a number of them laggard as well !) stage, we have to accept this "transition phase" wherein a large part of people live in much lower levels of existence compared to people of the developed world (even though  they work very hard !). But it is important for us to use this transition phase effectively to equip   all Indians with necessary knowledge and skills to compete in the global knowledge and skill intensive economy. If we do so, most Indians will earn in “dollar terms” – the façade of PPP can disappear.

Yes! India has to learn to excel in the world without having to put lots of its people in subsistence level to obtain a competitive edge. That means our high end agriculture, manufacturing, services, science & technology, and governance have to exert themselves much more than what they do now  by just being a follower in order for India to become the world leader in companies, or inventions or trade or research creativity.

That is the challenge I would like to place before you, dear students. You are going to shape the Independent India after its initial 60 years. What you do will shape the next sixty years.


When I venture to talk about the next sixty years i.e. up to 2067, thoughts may be crossing in the minds of the young students, whether I am losing my foothold on terra firma (i.e. whether my legs are on ground !). When I was born (1944) average life expectancy of an Indian was about 30 years. Now it is about 65 years (in spite of the fact population has gone up 5 times). But given the overall quality of life and health care conditions (nothing very great !) persons who have crossed 55 years now (they were all born at the time of 31 years average life expectancy), i.e. people like me are expected to live up to 85 years without any additional major break through in medical research. What happens to an individual may have a “quantum mechanics” like uncertainty. For example, I may die in an accident or for some other reasons,  may live upto 100 years ! But a large number of people  in this category will live up to 85 years. Along with the economic growth, the average life expectancy will go up as witnessed in the developed world. In addition, medical, bio-medical, neurosciences and pharmaceutical researches are advancing the frontiers of human knowledge about human beings  - the diseases, neurology, aging etc. All of you, dear young students will be around 80 years by 2067 and will be much more healthier and active than what we are today at 60 years of age. It is likely that the average life expectancy around 2067 world over and in India too is likely to be 100 years ! The great dream of our ancients “Paschema Sharaddassadam”, “Jeevema Sharaddassadam”, - “Let me see for hundred years and let me live for hundred years etc…” ( a long list !) will be fulfilled. Therefore my talking about 2067 is in actuality real for you. However, I do not want to bore you with such a long term proposition. Let us go step by step. For you the next ten years are very real and crucial. You and your parents have lots of dreams for those precious 10 years after you obtain your degrees.

THE NEXT TEN YEARS (2007 – 2017)

Indian economy appears to have attained a good stability for a fast growth rate. Despite several uncertainties of changes in the Central and State governments, the growth rate has picked up and showing upward trends. This growth rate has also  benefited bottom 20  percentile of the population. There is an overall sense of confidence seen in most parts of the country. Given all these and having researched into and participated in various aspects of Indian agricultural, manufacturing and services sector activities and projects for several years, I foresee that the coming decade is going to be one with major cataclysmic charges – mostly beneficial in its end results. It is a Decade of Cataclysmic Fast Growth.

Despite political and populist slogans, it will be realised that Indian agriculture requires major reforms for increasing productivity and yields per acre so that the persons dependent upon agriculture can get better incomes as it happens for those who work in organised manufacturing and service sectors. People will realise that one cannot carry on with the empty slogan that India is agricultural country with around 65% people dependent upon agriculture. Simple logic will show that one cannot deploy 65% persons in a sector that generates only 22% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Number of persons dependent upon primary agriculture needs to be brought down drastically to be under 20%. Then alone agricultural prosperity will dawn. India will also then produce surplus products! This means various forms of consolidation in agricultural lands, improved technologies and related investments and better delivery systems. There are great challenges for many of the young persons to look forward to. Yes in about 5 years time, agriculture may be viable option for well educated youth.

The released human power will go for various forms of agro processing industries, infrastructure and other village and small town based industries. Challenges of such distributed manufacturing systems ably aided by Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) are great adventures to look forward to. They will absorb best talents of science, engineering, arts, commerce, business management  and administration. In the areas of tourism, cultural - heritage - tourism are picking up as India has entered into the minds of many foreigners. The new creative Industries around folk arts, Indian festivals, ancient traditional knowledge, new look designs of traditional artisan products, herbal wealth etc – are new areas that will open up during this fast action decade. Keep your eyes and minds open. If possible skill yourselves additionally for specific areas.

Though Indian policy makers, administrators, business persons and elite opinion makers realized the importance of manufacturing rather late (having been mesmerized by ICT based services industries and empty slogans about agriculture), the past 5 years have seen a resurgence of Indian manufacturing. The slogan “ India as the Manufacturing Hub” has caught the imagination. Rapid strides in large and small manufacturing units are going to take place, not just around cities and major towns but also around third and fourth tier small towns and villages. The  distributed manufacturing systems will pose many challenges requiring India – specific innovation – not just in technologies but more in organization, personnel development, deliveries, financing, banking, administration etc. The electric power systems will limp and jump along these great adventures ! Indians will find solutions ! Along with these spread out manufacturing units, there will be great renaissance in Indian educational system at the school level – requiring drastic changes from the current near – uniform syllabus and rote system existing all over India  be it village school or elite school !

Based on a variety of observations and logical reasoning, I envisage a new wave of Educational Reforms & Liberalization releasing our Human Resource Systems from the presently  existing state of rationed scarcity through the license – permit – quota – inspector raj, in about 3 years say before 2010. It will have  far –reaching implications for Indian people, enabling many of them to equip themselves for the modern global economy. India will start emerging towards the end of the decade as a Global Educational Hub, not only for Indians but for persons from other countries. Dear students, many of you may enter into academic field as teachers and educators or investors or consultants in the new environment as Educational Services will offer major income generating jobs for youth be it in primary or in higher education or in skill imparting.

There are several areas of Services which will open up. Creative Industries, which will include  various art films and cultural events, are also a part of these services sector in addition to media, films, publications, music, dance etc. India is just inventing itself.

Foreign companies would be inventing the talents of India by opening more and more R&D Centers (currently around 300) which may be something like 5,000 in numbers by the end of the decade. The same Indians who were dubbed to have come from “mushrooming” institutions by the elites of today, will make wonders in such R&D centers.

Due to limitations of time, I am not addressing several other areas like Health care, Insurance, Old age care business etc. Also I have not mentioned about Aero Space businesses and major revolution in Electric Power and Energy sectors which need to address Climate Change issues as well. All these are major economic activities and hence will generate huge employment market and well paying ones.

All the above items are not going to occur in a systematic and planned form. As Indians, we some how have not mastered the art of systematic planning of mega actions as the Japanese, Koreans or Chinese have done. Our attempts at centralized planning for about 40 years has several plusses but many more negatives ! Perhaps we, as people especially elites, are far too independent.

Therefore we may have many independent events in many of the areas described above and also in areas not mentioned here. It may look random in the beginning. Some time tested old “biggies” may suddenly disappear ! That is why I termed the decade as a Decade of Cataclysmic Fast Growth

But if you are mentally prepared by reading and thinking about them, and prepare yourselves to be a part of them (irrespective of the discipline in which you are passing out now !), it will be a great fun. You can be the early birds that catch the worms ! The turbulent period of settling down towards a fast economic growth is behind us (1991-2003). Now India is marching ahead, though the steps may look random and jumpy.

So you are the fortunate ones who can reap the benefits of average steady state rapid growth which may accelerate too! Prepare yourselves to grab the newer opportunities.

Politically and socially also India will undergo several changes. Women work force will come in a major way into the economy and political systems. Many new groups will emerge. India’s diversity will be visible in action instead of being talked about in scholastic treatises, political manifestoes and poems. You have to be mentally prepared to adjust to the new multicultural situations you have not seen so far.

A sadder part of India will be that the coming decade will also see a series of steady actions to contain (and eliminate) various forms of extremisms and the resultant terrorist acts. These have built up in our society over the past few decades and more so during the past two decades. One cannot wish away the consequences of such a toxic build up in a couple of years. The fight will be in many fronts with several tools : technological equipment, training, laws, medical means, security measures and also through political, social, economic fronts, diplomacy, medical, etc. There will be great challenges and also business and economic opportunities. Though this will be a sad part of our society for some time, a number of persons from your generation would play a major role – as leaders, security personnel, employers, employees, technologists, medical personnel, researchers, etc. Keep a look in this front also (both boys and girls) as you will also help India to transition into a more secure level in the subsequent decades. By the end of the decade, you will just be in your thirties and have to look forward to several more decades of active lives. The internal security systems created by people of your generation during this decade will last for many more decades with continual improvements. Over several more decades too!  Don’t forget : Eternal vigilance is the price for liberty.

THE DECADE OF 2017 – 2027

This is a period in which Indian people can be proud that they have eliminated poverty and penury. It will be a period in which all Indians will have reasonable sets of works to perform and earn a good quality life. Not that everything would have been achieved. But a good base to aspire more and work further would have been established. The lives of ordinary Indians will not be a grinding misery as it is today. In fact it would have reached a level of enjoyability though not with all opportunities possible with the then-day technological and economic systems.

Having passed successfully the Decade of Cataclysmic Fast Growth, which would have been predominantly achieved through “follower type” activities, be it in agriculture or manufacturing or services or S&T or business management or even in some art forms, some Indians will “itch for” true innovations. They need not be mere imitators or followers not  just in S&T or businesses but also in modern creative industries or in commerce or business management. I expect a few daring Indian innovations to emerge at the global level and transform the way in which businesses are done in the world. Yes, a few Indian industries, laboratories, medical units, academics, and artists may  take leadership role and set trends for others in the world.

This decade is likely to  be the Innovative Decade for India. You will be starting in thirties and entering into forties, still very young and dynamic. World cannot afford to ignore India or Indians.

If you believe in such possibilities and prepare yourselves during the decade of 2017-2027 in terms of  detailed road maps and your possible paths (you can start this exercise around 2022) then you will have the early – starter advantage.

THE DECADE OF 2027 – 2037

This is going to be the Decade of Prosperous India. For the first time a large majority of Indians will enjoy prosperity. Let alone the decades of 1947 – 2007 which saw so much human misery, even 2007 – 2017 will be forgotten by most Indians. They will all feel they are prosperous. Not only your children but children of persons who are poor today will feel real prosperity.

But challenges of prosperity are also not easy to deal with. Since Indians enjoyed the Innovative Decade, many more innovations will continue in all spheres. They won’t be satisfied with the past performance. There will be many major and minor adventures by a large number of  Indians. For the first time, Indians will take a lead in mega ventures in Space, Oceans, Energy sectors, Archaeology (marine included), Literature, Medicine etc. Neurosciences will be bringing forth many new scientific truths about human consciousness. The old Indian wisdom will be revisited in the modern context. There could be tectonic shifts in people’s  outlook towards emotional, intellectual and spiritual lives. (Not just for Indians but for all human beings). Space tourism would have become a routine business as also the characterization of human genes and marginal genetic engineering to remove some problems (as we take medicines today).

Arts will take entirely new forms though essentials of effects of music, painting, performing arts, poems, literature etc on the human minds will be similar but in more sophisticated forms. Governance systems would have simplified with pervasive ICT systems and therefore with many decentralized actions. For example, the currently existing huge systems of tax collections may disappear. However, the security related surveillance  systems may increase mostly in non-intrusive forms. The so called “working hours” for earning incomes may reduce drastically but people will always be “busy” through physical exercises, mental exercises, enjoyment, creativity, etc.

DECADES OF 2037 – 2047, 2047 – 2057 AND 2057 – 2067

By 2037, if I survive through God’s Grace, I will be 93. You all would be around 50’s; still young, very active and looking forward to around two and a half to three decades of active career. Many of you will retire only during the decade 2057 – 2067, more close to the end of the decade ! These three decades are going to be the Decades of Transformation of Human Beings. Most parts of the world would have come out of the poverty – even many parts of Africa where you see conflicts now. The divisions of nation – states as they exist now and even blocks like ASEAN, European Union etc would have outlived their utility.

Humanity for the first time would feel as one – with free movements between different geographic locations. Human diversities would remain despite the advances in genetic engineering, neurosciences, evolutionary biology, systems biology etc. Human knowledge will then appreciate the importance of such diversities for the human survival. It will be a knowledge derived from scientific researches and applications. Emotions, arts etc won’t disappear. Humans will not  be robots. (though they may use lots of robots in daily lives at homes and in work). But many of the presently existing irrational fears will disappear due to better understanding of nature and other societies and cultures. Despite scientific advances and much deeper knowledge of human consciousness, human feelings are not going to be manufactured in biomedical sensors or systems. Humans may enjoy some of these devised as they enjoy music, dance, alcohol or some trance in meditation as they  do now. But it is unlikely that the individuality will be lost in a mass system. Nor will the unique human love. Humans would have understood this partly through the evolutionary inheritance and more through the modern scientific knowledge. These are areas of speculation which will be understood in much clearer terms around 2030’s. It is an exciting period for many of you. You and your colleagues all over the world will be working for this undeclared project of Human Transformation. During these decades, a sufficiently large number of human beings  may live in Space and High Oceans. Intergalactic travels would have begun as experiments. Marine archaeology and studies of marine organisms and materials would change the human understanding of the past. It is likely that some advanced predictive capabilities for natural disasters like earthquakes, etc would have been built up, though it may not be possible to prevent a earthquake or cyclone. So would be the situation vis-à -vis newer diseases. Nature may not be subjugated by the Human; but Humans may learn to coexist with nature in a much more knowledgeable manner.


We have taken a quick odyssey into the future six decades. None of what is described there will occur automatically. While there will be some elements of evolutionary processes operating within nature (and human systems), a lot (or at least part) will also depend upon human efforts at the collective and the individual levels. That is where the actions are now very important.


Before we attempt to discuss the actions, it will be useful to keep in mind certain important points about the scenarios. First of all, in reality there will be no sharp divisions of decades as if there is a ‘start’ and ‘stop’. The items mentioned for one decade do not completely disappear for the subsequent decades. For example the whole host of BPO, KPOs which are operating in India now will not disappear. During 2007-2017 they may increase and also change their content and  characteristics. Such BPO/KPOs with totally different contents and capabilities would be there even during many more decades to come. Indian companies may also outsource to others in the world. Multiplicity of work centers, working on a part of viable value chain, is the nature of globalizing world.

Similarly, the issues about extremism and terrorism and the related security measures will continue for subsequent decades as well, as a well organized system – just as the traffic police and other law and order functions take place now. The groups adhering  to extremists’ views may vary. New sects may emerge. New methods of attacks may be used. But the systems that will be installed during 2007-2017 decade will enhance, change and operate during several decades to follow.

Similarly national defense systems, missiles, nuclear bombs, conventional weapons, complex command – control – communication networks, surveillance, war games etc will not disappear for many decades though their shape, size and content may change over a period. Many of you can find an exciting career in these too if you so desire.

One should  look towards other items like agriculture in a similar manner. We will all continue to eat. Concepts of nutrition may change; tastes may become multicultural. But cultivation, food industry etc will continue to flourish.

You all have to view these continuities and changes in a holistic manner. It is a continuing dialectical progression.

One immediate action, about which you should not be ashamed of nor feel guilty about, is to build up a good career for yourselves (wherever it is and not necessarily in India) and good life for yourselves and your family. Even by doing it with boldness and imagination, you will be contributing to the changes described for the Decade of Cataclysmic Fast Growth which is unfolding before us. The foundations you make now for your careers and the paths you take and the vigil you keep for new  opportunities will have a lot of influence on your actions for the subsequent decades.

It does not  mean that there will be no flexibility later to change the paths. Yes, you have to change paths – continue changing paths all through lives even within the ‘same’ discipline of work and ‘same’ organization. But you should do those changes based on prior preparations. Then you will succeed. Since the nature of the world (society, economics etc) is complex and non-linear, you cannot stick to one narrow linear path. You need to keep a few options and prepare for those few options to adapt to changes and also to capture emerging opportunities.

It is not necessary that you should work only within India. I am saying this to all of you who are graduating now – irrespective of disciplines. Of course some of you will pursue higher studies such as post-graduate or doctoral work, which is good. More you equip yourselves, it is better. Just as I have told about employment, similarly for higher studies also, some of you may go abroad, if you have concluded that it is advantageous and of course, if you can afford.

But whatever you do now, you have time for experimentation for about 5 years after your graduation.   By that time, you should make up your mind what you really decide to do (yes, within the various constraints that exist – but some constraints can be imaginary. Therefore, question them before you decide). Then you will also have a better insight into the paths and options. You need to acquire specific specialised skills through work, discussions and also through additional training courses. There are questions of people managements – your bosses, colleagues, new comers etc. These issues are much more complex than mere studies. You should learn to be part of the team – a follower and sometimes a leader. Even while keeping a good value system for yourselves, you have to learn to deal with others who may use bad methods – jealousies, backbiting, lying etc. When one talks about “skills”, it includes all these items. The world you will work, will not be an ideal organization or society described in books or newspaper articles or public lectures.

Still let me assure you, life is enjoyable and you can achieve a lot if you are open, aware and prepared. I have written on various details about such life elsewhere and if you so desire, you may read them.

Beyond those initial five years, you need to strengthen your skills. You may change jobs but do it in a thought out manner. India will be changing a lot. You will see it in the next five years itself. Observe those changes for adapting and for capturing newer and greater opportunities.

So far about your own personal growth, and career growth. As far as contribution to India’s socio-economic progress, what can you do ? You need not sacrifice your lives or jobs or studies. You young people need to create a climate to breakaway from some of the mindsets built over past decades.

As a nation, we do not celebrate wealth creation. We need to believe that wealth creation can be done by all Indians when enabling situations are created. Poor need not be permanently at the mercy of rich and powerful. That is a feudal approach to life. Modern science, technology, economics and business management systems (and associated new forms of governance systems) can make it possible for each of them to choose their options and contribute in terms of work, create wealth for the employer/nation and get some good income. You need to work against the mindset of monopolistic centralization to ensure that such enabling systems can be established.

All spheres of our economy including education requires rapid liberalization so that the huge young population can be converted into Human Capital in a real sense. You all have to work for creating such a public opinion to make it possible. The slogans of “Super Power” or “Chak De India” “Youth is our wealth” etc can only give a temporary euphoria. By all means take that momentary pleasure. But remember that it is short lived. You need to get into root causes of the maladies which kept Indian economy from marching ahead. The Cataclysmic Fast Growth Decade which has begun will help to break such mindsets. Even while doing so there are some good values from the Indian heritage, which you can preserve.

In your youthful enthusiasm and pressures on time, many of you tend to ignore your bodies. Personal health is an important and vital component of human capital. Don’t ignore it. Build it up through regular maintenance of personal hygiene, regular eating and sleeping habits, good nutrition and regular physical exercises. If some of you have inherited health problems, do not worry. There are very good methods of Medicare (not necessarily expensive) to remove your handicaps and operate normally. But be careful to follow the regime through taking adequate precautions daily, medicines, exercises etc. Such deficiencies can be easily managed without any problem to your operational careers. Therefore remember about and practice, scientific care of your bodies, not just for looks but for its full normal functioning. Such care has to go on for decades.

Let me again repeat that the emerging future holds a lot for you personally and for Indian people. Along with lots of hard work and stresses of professional life, life will also present you many enjoyable things and moments which will be far more better than what was enjoyed by people of my generation.


Wishing you all the best.

May God bless you all.


Y S Rajan




This note addresses as to what are the technologies critical for India where major efforts are to be done by Govt. – perhaps in a Public – Private – Partnership (PPP) mode and what may be left to market forces. Briefly the role of Universities, national laboratories and industries are also discussed. Useful for S&T policy planners in Industry and Government and also for those who target technologies for purchase, R&D etc.

v  Indian S&T system as a whole has not performed well in terms of delivery of actual end use, because the resources are frittered away in almost every field.

v  Universities may be allowed in a small scale way to “dabble” in number of areas of experiments and small scale research – but basically to train the students, techniques of different fields. But Universities are starved of funds; big fishes take away the resources.

v  But when it comes to research oriented to product, process and utilisable knowledge, the game plan should be focussed. (a) Strategic vision, (b) Economic calculations and (c) tactical approach to position in the value chain should be key drivers.

v  In our country, the outdated science policy pumps money in basic research, on the vague assumption that it leads to innovation and to useful products. This assumption  was never true in life (I have a number of authoritative accounts on this and published papers) and is definitely outdated in the modern world. Most of what is happening in the world is oriented research. Also we should jettison openly the concept of our R&D self-sufficiency. It should be strategic and tactical to be used as a deterrent or “a bait” in security matters, or commercial deals or in social systems like healthcare.

v  Technology strengths of a country do not reside in its R&D labs that too national labs alone. The technology strengths or “security” given by technologies reside in :

·       Industries    Foreign / Indian

·       Industrial R&D Companies

·       R&D Labs

·       Individual Innovations

·       Technology Intermediators (Institutional, Individual or Companies)

·       Technology Commerce

·       Agricultural fields

·       User ideas

v  Vested interests in the organised S&T systems will resist changes, raise the bogey of “sell out” etc. But look at results :

¨     How much of defence products or other security products are of real Indian origin

¨     Amongst those which are, how reliable they are in field situations ?

¨     Atomic Energy : Are we really cost effective in Nuclear power ? Do we have Industrial/Commercial Competitive Capability ?

¨     Space : We still depend on all high reliability electronic components including for launching vehicles and missiles – from abroad. Real ‘soft belly’ not fault of ISRO. We cannot now achieve it any more without very heavy price – not worth it now. Also look at the loss of business opportunities as space is still not organised as business; as in other countries.

¨     Rest of Industrial R&D : Where is an Indian product in any field, which has made a difference in global terms why even domestic terms ?

¨     ICT : Almost all hardware is of foreign origin – import content very heavy. If one calculates net import in hardware minus export in software, it will be interesting. Is it a net foreign exchange earner ? But still we need to continue our ICT operations – even the way it is. It makes USA and other businesses dependent on India operations. Companies sell hardware to India even high performance computers and software. We need them !

¨     Therefore the approach should be, wherever we are weak in commercial –product supply chain in a mature sector – forget R&D also in that area. Let it be done on commercial considerations. ICT, IT are very good examples.

¨     On Energy & Water two crucial sectors, the totality of approach should be net self-sufficiency. These are two propellers or lynchpins of security of modern societies. (These two are not addressed as technologies here. They are total in themselves deserving special attention.)

¨     Items addressed here are those in which India can get a high degree of capability in select areas so much so that global commerce or global security managers cannot ignore. They will partner with India to obtain the benefits of our special strengths in the total value chain. We will be equal bargainers for getting total system benefit (of course on payment).

Denials won’t operate with equals. These are the areas in which Government focus on R&D support should be. For example, in the area of Oceans which will be a critical area of commerce, security and social well being of the future, do not try to “muck around” with fish, every chemical etc. Open those areas to others or market forces. Enable commercial exploitation by policies (i.e. removing restrictions).

They will decide which chemical can be used for extraction and marketing etc. For India to obtain Global Excellence concentrate on Underwater Robotics. Again don’t make it self-sufficient or a micro demo. Let the system chosen be such that it will be relevant for defence, security surveillance or seabed mining. Robotics also has other applications in Space (moon) and commercial (select elements). This can be a fifteen-year project but with specific target every three years. There could be strategic partners. With such a view goals and targets are given to a few select areas. Rationale to be derived from the long preamble given above.

*   Ocean  (1) : Underwater Robotics systems for a few operations in totality. ~  15 years

*   Space  (2) : While the existing strengths of independent launch, remote sensing, communications to continue -–but as  a commercial mode one specific focus on a few select elements of long duration manned presence (some support systems). Necessarily have to be international cooperative but make a few critical systems which will make us equal. Long duration manned presence in Space in vital for future security (not just surveillance satellites) ( ~  15 years )

*  ICT (3) : While the present commercial operations can continue, focus on a major ICT project which will give a few future commercial systems (also secure systems) Make India an important R&D Centre (a la C-DOT at that time) if necessary with global partners.

*  Sensors  (4) : In future almost any operations in Services, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Healthcare of Security or Education are going to be Sensing (electronic, nose, eyes,etc). We should concentrate on a few basic sensors including combinations of bio, electronics, molecular, nano, visual etc. Sensors – not all but a few items. Can sense terrorists or sensing biowarfare counter actions or conversations etc. Also huge commercial benefits. India should flood the world with sensors as Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan etc flood the world with IC Chips, memories etc (Requires multiple approach of allowing manufacturing units by foreign companies, Indian companies plus R&D Centres).

* Biomedi- cal    Equipment  (5) : Indian Health Care is good. But all equipment are foreign. When Indian healthcare develops and becomes world beater critical equipment could be blocked. Therefore make India the manufacturing base of all critical high end biomedical equipment. (Including neural science based (see linkages with sensors). In almost two to three decades human brain may be implanted and scanned (also manipulated) with micro & nano systems.

Here it is a question of policy to allow many manufacturers even for export (including foreign entities).

*Atomic    Energy (6) : Spin off Power, Medical and other applications to private sector including foreign.

Concentrate on nuclear weapons and very advanced (weapon related) research (see P K Iyengar paper in Current Science) a la USA.

*Life Sciences (7) :

 (a) Dismantle the State controlled research labs or make them extension centres to farmers. Concentrate on a few items relating the security of basic food genotypes so that under natural or artificial calamities food security is not affected.

(b) Concentrate on eradication of communicable diseases – requires govt. actions (also use NIH, USA researches buy patents to do it). This will also lead a way to gain support of less privileged countries.

(c) Neural – brain related developments. For most of the other Industrial/Commercial areas allow foreign/companies to operate in India to gain the biotech/life sciences boom (even for herbal).




NOTE:  For avoiding extreme poverty and to give a decent living to all Indians (i.e. skill giving etc), technologies are useful but not critical to have them. Most of them well known knowledge/skill bases. Therefore, they are not given in this note. They require different customized and local approaches with great care for lowering the costs  and risks to the users, who are low income groups or poor. At the same time, they should not be obsolete and should have about a decade of economic viability by which time they can go up and learn more.

KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE [Power Point presentation]



1. Most people, I find, especially in India have strange concepts about science and technology (S&T). There are some who think that all evils of modernism have come from S&T, (though often they enjoy the benefits of S&T be it for physical comforts or their own health, wealth etc). There are many others who look at S&T with awe : they think of them almost as magic. What is done by science has to be perfect. There has to be no defect. A top doctor means he should cure every patient. Sometimes we hear of news about mobs breaking hospitals where a political leader is admitted and his/her life is not saved !

2. There are many persons who think that a scientist knows everything perfectly. If one is a “big” scientist, then they expect his/her perfect knowledge in every field. (Many scientists enjoy this ignorance and try to show off their omniscience in every field, get media coverage and also high Govt. positions and patronage !!). But reality is otherwise. Any individual scientist, however, truly great she/he is, is excellent in his/her own narrow disciplines.

Due to growth of science there are thousands of super-specialities within every branch of science and many more develop very rapidly. It is the human collective past and present which advances the knowledge frontiers in science. It is the system of science, which is basically non-hierarchical  and which allows challenges to the existing knowledge bases and therefore opens up new frontiers. Such a process is true of all human equiries when they are not fettered by hierarchies and rigid orthodoxies.

3. The process of expansion or progress of human knowledge (which during the recent centuries is exemplified dramatically by progress of science) is shown in the two figures attached to this short article. First one is titled “Knowledge & Ignorance (Progress of Science”). Let us understand that figures.

4.  When we look at the human beginnings, the forest of ignorance, that is, areas unknown to human beings were very large. Primitive human beings, and later even tribal groups did not know what was Sun or moon and why they come with such regularity. But they started understanding the periods. They understood something about occurrence of rain or food. But they did not know reasons. So about many diseases; death etc. But they also found out which plants to eat, which parts of animals or birds can be eaten. Often in finding these out by practical experimentation, a number of them would have died. But their collective knowledge accumulated. The more they learned, their curiosity grew. They started asking questions about the items they did not know further. This is what is explained in the left side circle of the first figure. The circle is small. But even then forest of ignorance was also very big part of it, going to still larger (equivalent to infinity). Millennia passed by. Especially during the past few centuries human knowledge has expanded a lot.

5. The right side circle is  indeed many thousand times larger than the left hand one. Concentrating on the central circle of these two circles, that is the component of “human knowledge”, indeed of the time of millennia “HUMAN KNOWLEDGE” has grown many many times in size, especially due to scientific methods during the past few centuries. At the present time, it is growing very fast even annually.

6. But what happens to the IGNORANCE? That is what human beings know that they do not know ! If we list all the problems from the front line superspeciality scientists as to what are the still unresolved issues in their fields, they will also equally large – perhaps even larger. Yes, in fact the frontline research topics come from these unresolved questions listed by best of the minds which have detailed knowledge of their superspecialities. This collective ignorance of humanity is the rich field of frontline scientific research and future discoveries. Thus the “Ignorance” of the most knowledgeable person paves way for new knowledge. (Look at history of science in detail. This is the pattern.)

7. Let us now see the second figure. First bullet in the figure expresses what we have explained in the earlier paragraphs. What happens is that most knowledgeable person – physicist, chemist, bioscientist, or economist etc – will not yet understood. If one asks about the safety of an aircraft, she/he will not promise “foolproof” arrangements. She/he can say about probabilities. Similarly she/he (medical person) will not guarantee recovery of a patient admitted; she/he will do the best efforts, consult other specialists if required but will not say, “since you have come to us, don’t worry. Patient will recover fully!” They know the real level of knowledge and the uncertainties (due to not knowing some elements yet – not just at their levels but collective human knowledge at a given period).

8. Scientific (& in fact human) knowledge progresses through this dialectic process – lot of knowledge come in – also comes in new areas of unknown territory – you clear them through individual collective human effort – never knowledge – yet new unknown areas.

9. But unfortunately many persons do not know this. Therefore persons with little knowledge make strong, definitive statements. Many will attack knowledgeable persons. This is taken as “freedom”. Such people (with little knowledge) look so certain and therefore many take them as decisive and clear. Often some scientists succumb to this mode, as they can become instant heroes especially in country like ours where social spaces available are still not many. Therefore, those who desire quick fame (and sometimes money) resort to unscientific methods to create temporary euphoria.

10. After I finished this writing, I came across a quotation from Bertrand Russel :

       â€œThe whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts”.

        How expressive ?

11. So think for yourselves when you hear an assertive statement about a complex problem or a not well understood issue.


Y S Rajan



Demographic Dilemma [Power Point presentation]



Y.S. RAJAN     30/01/08


1. During the past 5 to 6 years, I had been concentrating on Education in India. Though I was involved in higher education system and Universities right from my ISRO days during mid 1970'’ upto 1988 as Scientific Secretary, ISRO and remote sensing education as a Visiting Professor in Anna University (1984-88) and later through TIFAC 1988 -–2002 for technology transfer, intellectual property rights (IPR’s). I have taught MBA courses in IMI, part lectures in MDI, BITS Pilani etc., real deeper insights with education began around 2000, more – as a personal study. I started realising that space technology and applications as well as technology development in industries including SME’s even for very “ordinary” items like leather, sugar, textiles, waste utilisation etc. (i.e. not the rocket science” !), though very important, cover only  a small part of Indians. I started looking at those who are left out of these activities. Their percentage is several fold larger.

2.  Completion of the major national exercise on Technology Vision 2020 through TIFAC during 1994-1995 especially in areas of Agriculture, Agro Food Processing, Marine Resources & Natural Products etc and subsequent follow up  Vision 2020 projects in Bihar, Uttaranchal, Kancheepuram, Punjab etc started showing me a stark fact that Indian poverty is to a large extent due to non-reaching of simple well known “knowledge & skills” to large majority of Indians.

3.  Exploration of these led to books like “Empowering Indians” by me. (Those who want PDF file of the whole book please write to me). Then I decided to have a direct experience higher education with large scale reach. So I took up the challenging assignment of Punjab Technical University (PTU) – a predominantly affiliating University during 2002. Punjab post 1995 (after about 15 years of troubled period) was trying to catch up in education. (It is now doing very well under the guidance of my illustrious successor Dr S K Salwan). Most colleges were coming up in all parts of rural Punjab. I started seeing different parts of India for comparing with PTU. All States are in a similar situation – some southern states have an advantage of early start of private sector colleges. IIT’s and IIM’s are too miniscule and not even a nano layer in the context of large number of Indians. I understand clearly the big divide in Indians in terms of educational opportunities. These are expressed lucidly in “Choosing Career Paths” (2002) by me. (Pl. ask me for PDF version if you need one).

4. This book ‘Choosing Career Paths” describes India’s educational dilemma. My approach was to help the youth even amidst the existing oppressive divides and insensitive educational systems which put the children and youth to guillotines of  tests and rejections. Among the several talks delivered by me, one crucial one is about the India’s Demographic Dilemma. While most people (especially elites) take pride in India’s 54% youth (under 25 years), I am painfully aware of its fine texture. These are expressed in terms of a set of vu graphs (power point) and brief explanations in the attachment to this note. While talking on it, I elaborate on each of them, interactively with the audience.

5.  In short, the realities of India are as under :

·  Each age cohort in India is about 20 million i.e. one year old is 20 million, 2 year old, 3 year old upto 25 year old, in fact even upto 30 year old is 20 million in each of the age group.

·  This trend will continue for two decades are more, as people are young; infant mortality is coming down fast. (I will come back to the question of number of older people increasing a little later).

·   But if we examine the internal structure of each of the age group, only about 2% of each of 20 million in each age group get professional education which can earn them some money in the “knowledge economy” affected by global trends. Most of the discussions are around the quality of these about 0.4 millions young persons who come to the job market (including export to the world at large !). (Increased liberalisation of higher education, allowing foreign entities etc may create competition and this 2% may become 4% i.e. say 0.8 million. The Central Government and its control institutions UGC, AICTE etc will resist it).

·   Then above this 2%, about 8% persons get ordinary higher education B.A, B.Com etc in English or Indian languages in various subjects, i.e. minimum 3 years of study after 10+2 school pass. These include advanced diplomas as well. This education swells the list of unemployed. Their education is not focussed on economy ! Even then they are better off  than others about whom we will see in a while. (Thus only about (10% of the Indian youth get higher education whereas 40% to 60% persons get higher education in developed countries; even in many developing countries this ratio is above this level of 10%; world average including all of them is about 23% !).

·   Rest of youth are in a bad situation – remedy does not seem to be in right. About 70% of them i.e. 14 million drop out before 5th  or 8th class. About 20% are 10 pass, 10 fail or 11 – 12 pass or fail. All of them are practically “useless” for “knowledge economy” i.e. about 90% i.e. 18 million are not fit for “knowledge economy” or “global economy”. (Not their fault !).

·   Why this higher education is important ? Of all of the Indians employed only 6% are in organised sector ! 94% is in unorganised sector. 50 years ago Indian industry (public and private) used to recruit less than 25% graduates, rest were school drop out and illiterates. Now more than 60% recruits are with higher education qualifications. After 10 years the ratio will be about 80% (higher education) and rest 20% with specialised globally certified skills. So whatever happens, the train of 90% (18 million) unprepared youth (joining the economy every year (assume any age of entry into economy, 15 years, 18 years, 20 years !).

·   I have given some numbers as a projection in 2015 A.D. The collective and cumulative number of these numbers of unprepared adult Indians is large. The “bottom of pyramid” is a sexy slogan, typically coined by the elite led now by Indian diaspora abroad. But the reality is that we have only a tip of pyramid of Indians which is reasonably relevant in the global context; and a small associated crust of Indians are struggling with their higher education to get some crumbs of the globalising economy. Rest of the 90% Indian youth is totally unprepared for no fault of theirs except being born as an Indian !

·  Now coming to the older population those above 60 years of age are about 100 million now. It will increase more in the coming years. Most of the middle plus rich class person  currently about 300 million will swell this rank of old people in coming years. Those who are elites and are from the group of powerful persons, intellectuals etc (i.e. most of those who ccan access some medical facility) would graduate to 80 – 85 years even without new medical breakthroughs. By 2020 the geriatric Indians will be about 250 millions.


·  The increasing number of input of persons with higher education as the number is about 2 million every year will create an euphoria of great “superpower”. Companies have a huge supply; they can sit at imperial heights, select and choose – condenscendingly say that “quality is bad – we are very selective”. A few persons will go abroad – the number in global terms will be good 200,000 or more each year! So the slogan of  great Indian Human Capital  can opiate the elite and policy makers !

·  But about 18 million each year will become voting adults with  nothing to hope for. (In fact most of them in the age of 13 – 14 years would be doing some odd jobs – struggle for a livelihood, some of them even earlier in their lives. For those who do some schooling their experience of life  from 8 to 13 years would not have been pleasant as the school system would be “telling them day in and day out” that “they are useless” “incapable” “failures” – they went there only to get some food (mid day meal). They are mostly neglected otherwise even by their parents and definitely by the society at large.

·  What will they think of India or its future ? Or about visions of developed India ? Very little. They want to earn some food and help their families. They want to survive. (They may have some dreams which their experience in life kills at a young age !).

· Purely talking in terms of elections, 18 million such persons (men and women) get into the electoral rolls every year. Election gives them a new dignity.  Each of  5 years, their number will be 90 million. Of about 650 million current electorates (of which only 50% vote), this is not a small number. Often swings in elections take places with 2% to 3% of votes. Often these persons will be voting with a vengence. (It will be good to research into this hypothesis). They do not have the memories of the past : the promises of the politicians and their poor delivery.They will take their pick; whosoever is able to capture their emotions. National level broadcasts may not impact them. Their local level experiences will influence them.

· If social scientists do some meticulous research, they may confirm my hypothesis that these persons have been the propelling force of multiple regional parties (even those with 5 – 10 M.P’s or 20 M.L.A’s) and the main reason of coalition politics over the past two decades (and the helplessness of the main “national” parties).

· In the job front, India is being confronted by a huge jobless group – one from the poor quality post 10 + 2 degree holders (higher education groups) and to a large extent from youth migrating to cities with little or no qualifications. Notwithstanding huge hype of skilling Indians, affirmative actions, reservations, etc. bulk of Indian youth have little possibilities of meaningful jobs. IT & Manufacturing sector can generate say jobs of 1.5 millions; let us assume 4 times multiplier unskilled jobs – maid servants, maintenance persons, drivers etc – still what happens to 12 – 13 million each year ? Agriculture is failing and it can survive only when it sheds large number of persons (from current 60% to 20%) from its fold, so that agriculture can give a decent living. (Reason is simple : primary sector agriculture, poultry, animal husbandry, fisheries etc cannot increase productivity beyond a point. Its contribution to GDP can only be maximum of about 20 – 25%. That means number of people in agriculture should be below 25% to have a decent living ! Ruthless market economics demands that value addition alone is paid ! Cumulative value addition is per capita GDP or national GDP !)

· So the crucial question before India is how to take care of the 90% of Indian children who are inadequately or improperly educated to meet the needs of modern economy and they grow up and face the market economy for a job and electoral politics for voting!

·  Another facet of demographic dilemma : Since the elite / intellectual groups will continue to live up to 80 – 85 years, they form the archaeological layer of Indian policy systems. Their deleterious effect is felt in scientific/academic systems already in a major way. That is the major reason young persons don’t go for science. They are being felt in other systems. Most old persons tend to resist changes in policies and procedures – domestic, foreign, military, industrial etc. This is another great danger, India has to guard against.

India’s demographic dilemma has several other facets. It is a rich area of research. And more importantly an area for immediate action to save large number of children being pushed into the “global” “market” economy without equipping them for coping with it.

Y S Rajan




Postscript 1

I should like to acknowledge the meeting at ICRIER on 29/01/08 with a brilliant presentation made by Mr Sundeep Waslekar. I made my intervention during the discussions. Comments by him, interest shown by Amb. Arundhati Ghose & Dr C Raja Mohan made me write this piece. Though I talk about these, I had not put them as a detailed write up. Even this is too short.

More  on Education etc, may be seen in my website


Postscript 2

All through my life I am more a person of action rather than theorising model builder and / or philosopher. But I look for theories, models and philosophies to guide me. However, I am ready to speculate and hypothesize beyond these models, philosophies etc. In the area of education especially for bottom 90%, I am not a mere spectator or observer. I am trying to do something to influence policies and also to do something concrete on the ground – help form networks which act. One such is Shiksha India (www. & It is not the usual one – child – one – computer utopia (or good marketing technique for computers and software ?). Even one computer in a school can help to have better content of pedagogy accessible – It is on open source – many teachers are contributing to it. Still at best it can cover 20% part of the 90%. What about 70%? As long as 600 million  Indians do not have electricity, it is difficult to reach any modern concepts to them, as CD’s, TV etc. Well education means building capacity to learn new concepts, often obstructions. I welcome others to spread the message to act to help some of these 90% - even if you cover 0.1% each year ! If 900 groups cover 0.1% each year, we would have solved the problem. Remember 0.1% means 20,000 children each year. There is a cumulative to see them through at least for 10 more years !