For the Kisan World

Article – 1




Appeared in KISAN WORLD December:2010 Vol.37, No.12



Complying to the desire and to the gentle command of Arulchelvar N. Mahalingam, I am attempting a series of articles in the Kisan World. The articles will try to weave together many facets of the complexities of the world as it is evolving now. Naturally several aspects of globalization, Indians domestic realities, the opportunities given by as well as compulsions resulting from the new developments and innovations in science and technology will be addressed. Our focus is on the methods of deriving the benefits from the newly emerging world, world for providing prosperity, welfare and well being of all Indians. Land based primary sector of the economy will also receive important consideration not merely for the food and fodder but also because the current phase of evolution demands a close living with nature.


Evolution of earth from the sun and solar system, subsequent phases of evolution leading to the appearance of life on Earth, and further evolution leading to human beings,……. it is an amazing chain of continuing process. Human beings, about 10,000 years ago, invented agricultural processes and changed the way the earth feeds them. The transition from the pastoral society to agricultural society led to the major transformation of human knowledge and society. Great epics, intricate philosophies, discovery of abstract processes like mathematics and logic, exploration, mining and metallurgy, early health systems………. all these added strengths to human beings who multiplied their species many fold, explored the earth, and discovered nature’s laws.

These processes led to the industrial revolution, discovery of the processes of modern scientific methods and engineering systems (technology). These in turn led to the explosive growth of knowledge, elimination of many fatal diseases, ability of human being to have high speed mobility, …… a great “power over nature”, including, of course, destructive power over inanimate matter, and other organisms, species. This power and the feeling of the power, led to many wars between human beings, as well.

Human knowledge continues to grow. Wealth continues to grow starting with the global trade enabled by industrial revolution and later through the continuing knowledge revolution.

So much so the paradigm shift of LAND – LABOUR – CAPITAL – TECHNOLOGY (KNOWLEDGE) became the slogan during the last quarter of the twentieth century.


 In the euphoria of the growth of Information Technology (IT) Industry, many in India (including the powerful policy makers and the influential elites) advocated that India can skip the LAND – LABOUR – CAPITAL part which symbolize Agriculture (Primary sector) and Manufacturing (Secondary sector) and usher into the KNOWLEDGE world and master the world through the Services Sector (Tertiary Sector), capital becoming a part of it.

As a result financial and knowledge / skills investments for the Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors started getting lower priority since mid – 1990’s. Worse still was the fact that the entire attention of policy makers was on the IT sector. Therefore the growth of agricultural sector slowed down. In the overall contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), share of agriculture started declining. But the percentage of Indians dependent on agricultural income did not come down. Since manufacturing was also neglected, those who were getting impoverished in the agriculture sector could not move to that sector. Also growth of infrastructural projects like road making (which could have absorbed a number of landless agricultural labourers and marginal farmers) were not given priority till early 2000’s through golden quadrilateral and the Prime Minister’s rural road projects.

So bulk of the rural – to – urban migration was absorbed in the growth of cities around ICT (Information and Communication Technology) knowledge workers, - in the construction of apartments, domestic servants, retail shops, restaurants etc. Later the ICT employees with better incomes started the (market) demand for automobile sector. Thus manufacturing picked up again. Some policy attention went to that sector as well; however sufficient attention was/is not given to the creation of a large number of skilled workforce and enabling infrastructure for attracting greenfield investors in manufacturing sector (of various types of modern products). India is yet to make steps to make it a good destination for the global markets. It can then become a great source of income generation for many poor Indians. It is also important in the context of modernizing agricultural sector, which needs to shed many persons dependent on it at subsistence levels now.

Amidst all these developments, agricultural sector is yet to receive concrete policy support and more importantly the modern hard and soft infrastructure required to lift it to greater heights.

Let us illustrate these infrastructure aspects with examples from the IT sector.

 i.       A large number of private engineering colleges and other professional colleges which grew since 1970’s especially in the southern part of India gave a large skilled human resource base for the IT industry. Many private actors also emerged to further fine tune this human resource to the global standards. Now it is a continuing process. These are examples of   soft infrastructure.

 ii.       Communication satellites and fibre optics cable networks all over the country were laid with huge government investments to begin with. They are the part of hard infrastructure

 iii.       Various policy measures such as zero or stable tax structures, simplification of procedures for private actors, etc were done for ICT sector enabling the explosive release of entrepreneurial activities by Indian companies and later foreign actors as well. These are policy support measures.

We have given only a few examples.

Can we think of such orchestrated and synergized support systems being given to the agricultural sector?


It was done for the Green Revolution at least in some parts of the country.

i.       Many dams and large irrigation systems (hard infrastructure)

ii.       Introduction of new high yielding seeds, supply of right fertilizers etc (hard infrastructure).

iii.       Training and extension services for the farmers and agricultural workers through the institutes of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and State Agricultural Universities (soft infrastructure).

iv.       Various policy measures for easy purchase of the produced grains from the farmers through Food Corporation of India (FCI) and support prices (policy support).

Once the country was out of the crisis of food imports, actions for extending the basic processes of the green revolution to other parts of India took a back seat.

Some initiatives in the milk sector like Amul etc. gave some relief systems for the farmers to earn additional incomes.

But the totality of farm sector (grains, fruits and vegetables, cash crops, animal husbandry, poultry, fisheries etc) did not get as much attention since by the time the country’s focus shifted towards building huge industries.

No doubt many Indian entrepreneurs despite the difficulties of the license – permit – quota raj made some bold ventures in many agro – based industries: sugar, textiles, leverages etc thus giving some good demand pull to the agricultural sector.

However since the orchestrated and synergized support systems were (are) not in place India is not able to make giant strides in agriculture.


India’s potential in agriculture is very high. India has a rare distinction of having about 26% of its geographical area as arable. Despite the lower geographical size in terms of absolute amount of arable land India is number 2 next only to USA.

Though India’s land mass is only about 2.45% of the land mass of the earth about 4% of useable fresh water resources are available for India. Of course, we have about 16% of the world population; that is no doubt a challenge but also opportunity.

About 60% employed Indians are in agriculture sharing the very poor and uncertain income from the agriculture. About two – thirds of our agricultural lands are not irrigated; the fact alone leads to the miseries in the agricultural sector.

But without any new R & D, it is possible to reach excellent irrigation (not in the current wasteful mode) to all Indian farms. Remember that most parts of India are far better in “available” water resources than Israel which is a leader in agricultural based incomes for its people. 

India’s human resources (even with the current average and below average performance of our educational systems and agricultural institutions,) is reasonably adequate to begin a process of transformation of Indian agriculture. If oriented, enabled and empowered well, they can skill many more people. Still our goal should not be to retain all the 60% of the population to agriculture. That has to be reduced by three times and the surplus trained and enabled for other sectors of the economy. Similarly in a number of places there has to be efforts to aggregate the land holdings. This is to be done in a rational and humane manner.

We will explore several facets of these issues in the forth coming articles. In the process we will notice that the sharp divisions of Agriculture, Manufacturing and Services will to blur. The paradigm of Land – Labour – Capital – Knowledge will not become a process of one shifting out the other. It will be a continuum of existence, with the modern human beings living as a wise part of Nature, being close to it, enjoying its bounties and also enabling all natural forms to sustain and to flourish; not merely for the benefit of human beings but also far a balanced life of all living beings and non – living elements

This is the mission for the 21st century.






Vande Maataram (Three times) Whenever I see our flag flying high in the flagpost, I am reminded of the poetic lines of the great National Poet “Subramanya Bharati” who foresaw Indian Independence, emergence of modern India, new Indian women etc more than hundred years ago and celebrated it in his great poem-songs:

“Thaayin Manikkodi Paareer, - Athai

Thaazhnthu Paninthu Puhazhnthida Vaareer”

“Hey All! See high above the great flag of the Mother”

“Come on let us bow to it humbly and sing in praise”

Dr. Kushal, a dynamic and forward looking leader of the DAV system, Smt. Bhattacharya, Principal DAV School, New Panvel, Smt. Sen Gupta Principal KVS, Nagpur, Teachers, Staff, Parents, Other Eminent persons, Media persons, dear Students, I intend to talk to you, rather interactively on a topic



During the twentieth century, about a century ago, life in general all over the world had started moving very fast. This is partly due to the growth of science and technology (S&T), its impact on industry and business, as well as wars, communications, transport, agriculture and health sector. It appeared as if the humanity was cutting loose from the millions of years of slow and steady evolution.

Many countries got liberated during the middle of 20th century from the foreign colonial rule. The colonial masters possessed the new found S&T knowledge, industry, warfare etc for more than two centuries before that and they could dominate the world. They are still the developed countries having large influence in the world.

Huge countries like India and China were among those who got their independence during mid-20th century.

India is a free country for the past 64 years. “We the people of India” was the proud slogan; we used to describe how we organize our governance, life, society, economy etc. Nehru’s famous speech” Our tryst with destiny….”resonated in the hearts of all Indians and they had great hopes for India. Since then, there are lots of achievements and many more missed opportunities.

Looking back the 64 years, it had two broad phases: 1947-1991, 44 years of centralized rule from Delhi on most aspects of economy, S&T, financial systems etc. Lots of socialist slogans were used, including emotional ones like “Garibi Hatao”. But Indian economy acquired a derogative name of having a “Hindu rate of growth” slow 2 to 4% growth. There was scarcity all over. But we had used high moral sounding standards, total control of innovation & enterprise through license-permit-quota-inspector raj-all these leading a widely spread corruption and black money. Though poverty removal was very slow, the slow economic growth created rich and powerful classes: in politics, in business; in villages; and in the underworld.

Still we have to also see positive parts: this governance system created several modern systems in India in higher education; in some fields of S&T; continued the strengthening of the British trained modern defence forces which respect rule by the civilians; fairly good administrative and judicial infrastructure; a reasonable health care system; independent free press; - yet all struggling to reach their best potential.

But the terribly slow growth rate frustrated the aspiring middle classes which have grown in size especially due to growth in higher education. Then with a major economic crisis, the country broke open many of its unnecessary economic fetters during 1991; it is now twenty years since then. But it was not a full economic and social freedom. Vestiges of earlier laws (thousands in number) and autarkic procedures (many hundred of thousands in number) still mark the governance and judicial systems.

Therefore even as the nation is trying to run faster in the economic and social front, coming close to a steady 7 to 8% growth rate, there are many injurious falls, bleeding and worrying confusions.

Some call for more and more controls by the Central Govt and Supreme Court. We look for an apex ultimate inspector and a cleaner of public life through a Lokpal. We feel that media trials of the guilty will clean up the system. We feel one single uniform curriculum, admission, and entry examinations will solve the problems of education.


You young children are in the midst of this chaos. You were born after the liberalization of the economy started picking up the speed, when the slow economic growth rate was the thing of past. In our book Indian 2020 the national exercise, which was done during 1994-95, there were persons who opposed assumption of 6-7% growth of GDP, being very unrealistic. But it is a thing of past. You can soon see 10% growth of GDP.

Most of your teachers would have been born around 1980’s. They would have been entering teenage or just getting out of their tens during 1991. They have seen some glimpses of the scarcity of the past.(Forget our generation born around 1947 we grew up in scarcity, rationing, long waiting lists for years for a phone or scooter, very limited choices even for clothes and shoes, not TV etc). The teachers have seen the growth and would have more of hope that things can really change in India.

But even the teachers now would have been overtaken by the GLOOM-of corruption, of power politics, of terrible uncertainties even for admitting their children to schools, colleges, sky rocketing cut off marks etc.

At the same time all of you, - teachers and students-enjoy many material goods too; you have so many choices. Of course, you have stress of competition and uncertainties. You ALSO FEEL THE SUFFERING BY COMPARISION WITH OTHERS who have better clothes, better shoes, cell phones, better two wheeler, cars or houses etc.

Yes, you are at a situation of GREAT CHURNING OF INDIAN SOCIETY. On one side, there appear to be a whole lot of new opportunities for growth, better lives, greater freedom of choices etc. on the other side, you see many UNCERTAINTIES, constantly changing “rules of the game” favoring the rich and powerful, increasing price rises knocking down some of your dreams, and also media feeding you with mostly bad news; the one or two hypes of national ICONS, they project for sometime FALL DOWN badly! Also poverty figures seem to be increasing!! I don’t want to add to your miserable feeling by quoting you statistics as to now India performs in global comparison, in trade, S&T, industry; innovation, business friendliness or agricultural production.

Do you have a HOPE in future of India? (Ask the audience)

Do you have a HOPE for YOUR OWN GOOD FUTURE? (Ask the audience)


“Don’t worry, India will become a developed country by 2020. All your worries will disappear!”

Will you believe me, if I just assert in loud voice?! (Ask the audience!)

We have only NINE MORE years to go. What is said in the 25 reports of TIFAC or the book is not wrong. The conclusions were derived from more than 5000 experts. The book has described WHAT CAN INDIA DO RELAISTICALLY. But is required several highly disciplined hard work to develop internal strengths-as was done by Japan, Korea, Israel, Singapore, Taiwan or China for two decades or more. A lot has been achieved over the past twenty years since liberalization-that is the reason you teachers, students and parents are here in a much better situation than during the 1980’s. But lots of the actions were one-off type, shallow, or quick fixes.

To develop strengths in technology, business, economy, society, knowledge sectors, security sectors etc, a lot of actions HAVING DEPTHS are required. Big trees have long roots-going very deep! Remember this simple law of life.

Do we still have hope of India playing its legitimate role in the world; in economy, trade, S&T, arts, music, literature, culture, politics, sports, media, agriculture, ecological stabilization, innovation, enterprise military etc?...

Come on…… reply….

My answer is YES, provided that the younger generation including those in the teachers’ generation, are ready to break many mindsets which have seeped into the system. We all know these old clichés don’t work, but still keep “mouthing” them, thus making the whole nation hypocritical.


1.   Political career is for service to people and sacrifice of one’s own life

     Â·This is hypocrisy now. May have had truth at the time of independence.

Right approach is to say:

   Â·Political career is like any other career. Those who like it may take it up. The national system should be such as to enable such persons also to live a good life by ethical, legal means.

2.   Wealth generation is not good. Profit making is a sin! Give away all that to the poor as a social service.

·This is hypocrisy

Right approach is:

       Â·Generating wealth by legal means is good for the country, for creating employment in the country, to contribute to public good of the society through paid         taxes.

       Therefore those who are desirous of more wealth may enter into such careers, including becoming entrepreneur.

       While philanthropy is good, out of wealth earned by individuals, no society can live on philanthropy alone. Society has to learn to create reasonable income             earning opportunities for all and also give opportunities to people to enhance their skills to earn more.

       YES, all of you, especially the young persons, do not repeat the same mistakes of the past. Learn form some good experience. But do not load yourselves with       unachievable apparently nice sounding phrases of the past.

3.   Don’t get into the ICON praising mode: each one of you has great strengths in your own way. Bring them out. Learn to respect yourselves. There need to be no leader no follower. It should be a TEAM of different individuals with different types of capabilities. The common goal should be to finish the tasks at hand efficiently, in time. That should be the BINDING FORCE, DISCIPLINING force. I had used a word “Indian-time-rate-interaction “just like Hindu growth rate, in my paper on Administrative Reforms. As a country we are very slow in decision making, even if all agree. It takes 7 years to take up a good idea. This has to change. It is a FAST world. Windows of opportunities are for 2-3 years. You MISS IT, IT IS GONE. So TIME is important.


1.   Centralization kills initiative India is a huge country. Even now, it is a huge economy; if it grows fast, it will be VERY HUGE. So work for decentralization, delegation trust between persons should be major role of governance. Of course, all these within the framework of well defined work packages (which are discussed in TEAMS and later, after decision, adhered to as a discipline. No CHEATING I WORK PLEASE!

2.   All India uniformity is a myth. In the past 64 years, this concept has caused major havoc with our society, economy, education, politics, law etc.

INDIA’s greatest strengths lie in its DIVERSITY. Make laws, administration, education etc to capture the strengths of DIVERSITY. India will grow stronger. Local empowerment strengthens the real India concept.

3.   Globalization per se is not bad. We should learn how to capture its opportunities for our own advantages as some countries have done. Remember what I said about TIME AND SPEED of decision making and action a little before. This demands SPEED IN ACTIONS, AGILITY, QUICKER DECISION MAKING, LARGE AMOUNT OF DELEGATION WHILE COORDINATING HUGE PROJECTS etc.

We should learn how to blend GLOBALIZATION with LOCAL NEEDS. This is called GLOCALIZATION.

There cannot be one GLOCALIZATION MODEL for India, because it is diverse. So adopt flexible approach. It is a beautiful form of INTERDEPENDENCE: on the world, on local areas, etc, but with a strong INDIA emerging out of it.

4.   Education should be uniform for all-is the big hoax we delivered on the society-in the processes controlled EDUCATION, Rationed the available opportunities. Also we tried to fix many square plugs into circular holes.

Let us realize each one of us have different capabilities-often multiple-but not the same.

Let students, elders etc learn different curricular contents in language, maths, science, art, handwork, skills etc.


Let us give opportunity to at least 50% of our people to study 3 to 4 years beyond 10+2 and even more. (HIGHER EDUCATION). They need not study continuously; they can work and do or do after some discontinuity, by distance methods etc.

But all should learn more & more of-what they want; what can help them in their lives. So the educational system should be MODULAR with various options.

Other 50% of persons who do not go for higher education also should have opportunities for various economic & social skills and also go for higher education later in their lives.

5.   Do not divide science and Humanities. Let there be a mix.

6.   Do not discard Indian languages, thinking that they are useless for modern social and economic life. WRONG. If you are only doing “Copy Cat” OR “low value work given by foreign countries”, you are partially correct. But any creative work in law or science or engineering or politics or medicine or security etc require innovative thinking-originality. Originality can come only through IMAGINATION. Remember what Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Imagination comes mainly through the Culture: the myths, mythologies, folklore, tribal cultures etc of the society. Language embeds them.

Therefore, if you want to be innovative in a world scale, if you want to be world class, in addition to English, master one Indian Language. Not just to be literate-but to be capable of enjoying its literature-past and present.

7.   Respect Science and technology. Its logical, rational and experimental methods. Do not reduce it to a MAGIC. No technology or medicine can be 100% faultless.

8.   Internet search is not end of all of knowledge. Not the SMS, YES, NO, I DON’T KNOW surveys. It is much deeper. Critical and creative thinking is required.

9.   Internal security against terrorism, extremism and vandalism are critical. As also external SECURITY. India cannot afford to be a SOFT STATE, as it is now – a target of so much violence. We have to be tough; have TOUGH laws.

10.  Above all think about your fellow Indians-about 700 million underprivileged. Don’t give them doles but help them to be independent earner, as it said is Bible. Teach them ‘FISHING, Don’t give ‘FISHES and forget them later! Also what Prophet Mohammed has said, Tell them “Be learned or, Be a learner or, Be a listener or else, Be of help to the above”. Solutions are not UNIFORM. Remember Gandhiji: “Vaishnava janato tene kahiye jey peed parayee jaane re!” Empathize with others; customize the solutions.

I can say more-You can add more by FRONTALLY capturing what is told to you and by critically analyzing them. This does not mean disrespect to the elders or peers. It is a search for TRUTH, which is how this great Indian civilization was built up.


In addition to several elements I had mentioned earlier, all of you-teachers and children assembled here and who are elsewhere in India, are specially going to face a great real challenge which was not seriously met during the fast 64 years.(Sins of the past have accumulated and may visit on you).

I had at the beginning of this talk, mentioned about the slow evolutionary process of human beings getting speeded up during 20th century. But now all of humanity, which is now, about five times the population of 1950’s, is all aspiring to draw from Nature.

Is it sustainable? Well one can fight with developed countries to reduce their consumption of energy, resources and food.

Even in our country the 100 million rich and 400 million middle class persons will resist sacrificing their consumption for the sake of 700 million underprivileged.

But even so NATURE is not going to wait. Resources are depleting; be it coal or water or uranium. Even while maintaining the geopolitical fights with the developed countries in different forums. India and Indians will benefit very much, if we find alternate standards of living which will reduce wastage, reduce over chemicalisation, reduce energy consumption. It may mean different standards of products, habitats etc; of different standards of living, not the one quality blared out in television.

YES, this is a great challenge conceptually. There may not be equality in purely numbers’ game of how many units of electricity, steel, etc consumed. But still a good life with a different perspective. India is still surviving and growing in a competitive world, because our people willy-nilly have adopted different standards out of necessity (because they can’t afford). It requires a lot real thinking and use of S&T not the “copy cat” of west or developed world, but real original thinking. You can do it.

Can we give a scientific, rational and emotionally balanced view of these? Not to push a class of people in slums but an integrated society with different types of CONSUMPTION.

This is challenge, you will understand after a few years from now.


You have a great life before you, if you are ready to throw away the earlier mind sets, discover new ones with a good dose of pragmatism.

You can take India and Indian people into a new direction. That will give fuller Independence to you and to all of them- and to India. Then India will be respected and perhaps loved by all the people of the world. It can be one of the great places in the world to live.


Let me read an extract from my book “A-Z for Success: A comparison for Youth” p.161

Quote: Ignite

There is an ignition key for the car. A space launch is ignited for lift off... Unfortunately a bomb is ignited to explode!

You should ignite your mind for better causes, better goals ...not for destruction, hatred.

Instead of ‘igniting’ your passion, your energy against somebody or against something, ‘ignite’ it for something positive including success defined in a positive manner. Yes, you have to ignite your mind, to release the energy. All of us carry with us lots of energy inside us. It remains inert, and unmoving like an unignited car or rocket or launch vehicle. Once ignited it lifts off or speeds up.

Don’t wait for others to ignite you. You may hear best people or read about them or their writings or see them.

But let me tell you, self-ignition is the best ignition Unquote.


Jai Hind

15th August 2011



Many phases, Changing Paradigms. 



(A Talk to be delivered at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai as Prof.B.D.Tilak Visiting Fellowship Lecture)



It is much more common and fashionable now to use the word ‘knowledge’ so much so that many persons hyping on innovation totally leave out the word ‘technology’. But truth of the matter is that modern economy, military, security, innovation, healthcare, entertainment, many social functions including culture, etc heavily rely on use of modern technologies. Even while some persons may accuse technologies of spoiling the environment, many real solutions to ecological sustainability, protection of biodiversity, natural disaster management and mitigation, addressing issues of arresting climate changes etc need more and more smarter use of right technologies. Some of these technologies may result from a revisit of the traditional technological heritage of human beings and adapting them in the modern forms. 

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It is indeed a special honour for me to be delivering a talk in the memory of a great son of India – Shri Champrajbhai Shroff, the founder of the Excel Industries Limited. I should like to thank the organizers for giving me this opportunity. A gem has several facets. Four distinguished speakers before me have explored many facets inspired by this gem. I am benefitted by them. I also read and reread the ordinary looking booklet brought out by Excel Industries Limited giving a few glimpses of the great person – C.C.Shroff, who left us about 42 years ago, in a dramatic fashion as if he was ‘changing trains from one to another.’ (his own words to describe his desired death.)............ 

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(Based on talk delivered at a Seminar on 27 – 11 – 2010 at New Delhi on Inclusive Education organized by Dayanand Institute of Education Management and Research (DIEMR))



Inclusion in education is a laudable concept. It has several dimensions. If one considers the Indian demography, and the social – economic stratification, we can identify various diversities and many large pockets of exclusion. Superimposed on them are several historically derived distortions. Often many persons and policy analysts consider only a few of them as they are easy for analysis and also for special focus activism. While these are helpful in their own ways to highlight issues and draw the attention of the powers – that – be, oftentimes, such approaches themselves lead to special lobbies of their own. They in turn, lead to several other exclusions.

In the overall context, education in India has not spread to people. Only about 11% of the youth are able to obtain higher education (HE); of this only 2 to 3% re able to get some good form of HE, suited for the modern economy. Other 8 – 9 % persons with HE have to struggle for some jobs. They in turn compete with persons who do not reach HE levels at all (10 (pass or fail), 11, 12 etc completed about 20%). Then there is a huge bulk of about 70% who are mostly 5th pass or less or 8th pass or less. Such is the huge wastage of newly formed human resources (which continues at the rate of about 20 million each year).

The slogans of youthful India (54% 25yrs ad below) sound hollow in front of the above facts. There is huge exclusion of about 90% of our youth. Our children are filtered out of (guillotined in) the system before they reach 11 or 12 years of age.

Add on to these numbers, the number of Indians who are upto say 45 years. Most of them are ill equipped for meeting the demands of modern economy. What will happen to them say a decade from now when they have to still work for a meager livelihood? We need to include them also as a process of continual education of newer skills or life long learning.

Therefore I am excluding the word INCLUSION as it can lead us to very narrow channels: new silos, new grooves! I would suggest that we address education for all – children, youth and adults.

The reason is because the world has entered into the stage of Learning Economy and it is the responsibility of the State and all of us who are educated, to help all Indians to be ready for The Learning Economy.



Human evolution has brought our grand old ancestors from the forests to farmlands and human made habitats. Therefore LAND became importamt.

LAND is still important. But its use is different from what it was 10000 years ago or 5000 years or even 500 years ago. Science, technology and engineering have brought in many changes. Agricultural productivity is very high per unit area of land. Also human beings have packed a large number of habitats in an unit area. Also there are many new demands on land: for transportation; for leisure; for aesthetics; for industries; for ecological preservation etc. 

In ancient times LAND and LABOUR together were formidable power: labour in agriculture, artisanal goods, transportation etc. That led to economies away from and much prosperous than, the earlier subsistence and pastoral economies. That led to increased trade, growth of art, architecture and literature and also big empires. Trade expanded the wealth. Such societies invented many technologies which not only increased productivity and efficiency but also led to use of many new materials, building big boats and ships etc.

Growth of trade led to increased CAPITAL. Later coupled with the Industrial Revolution which displaced human labour by automotive equipment led to speedy growth of the (current) developed world. The earlier economies of China and India who dominated the world trade till even upto 1800 A.C.E lost out due to superiority of engineered products churned out by automotive equipment, faster movement of automotive ships, better metallurgical processes etc.  

With the growth of colonialism (which started in search of raw materials for the new factories), CAPITAL in the (now) developed world dominated. It is still important even as LABOUR is also important but LABOUR is bought in wage market and the dominant role of labour is taken by machinery.

By around middle of 20th century TECHNOLOGY (machines, electronics, software etc) took over every aspect of life. Even while CAPITAL is needed, those who possess technology were dominant. In the process much of the LABOUR force were transformed to highly skilled category – hence there was a much greater demand for HE and several new highly specialized course.

Medical profession also for sub-divided with many super specializations Business Management methods had to be transformed to understand and manage the huge and complex systems spreading all over the world (globalization). There are thus diversities of and multiplicity of technologies. Also no single technology alone can provide a modern product or services. Look at any item: microwave oven; or a cell phone or shoe or medical equipment, there are confluence of many technologies.


Thus TECHNOLOGY is ubiquitous even is trade, commerce, finance or banking. Thus knowledge becomes dominant. 

Thus around 1980’s onwards even as globalization was expanding the world was also ushering into KNOWLEDGE economy. Peter Drucker describes such a world which is dominated by TECHNOLOGY though of course CAPITAL is also important. But it is handled through technology. LAND use also has greatly changed. Agriculture started getting transformed through biotechnology and information technology. LABOUR now becomes a KNOWLEDGE WORKER with much more HE and continual acquisition of newer skills. Corresponding by those who do not acquire new knowledge and skills started getting into the wrong side of the knowledge divide.

 With the beginning of the 21st century, demand for generation of and utilization of knowledge is at such a pace that many scholars have started using the word LEARNING ECONOMY to describe such a state of economy and society.


It is not intended to deal with it in detail here, except quoting from a chapter of a book Innovation Policy in a Global Economy, edited by Daniele Archibugi, Jeremy Howells and Jonathan Michie, Published by the Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. Chapter 2: Technology policy in the learning economy by Bengt – Ake – Lundvall. The quotes appear in a later section.


It has become essential for all societies and nations to orient and to enable all its citizens to be LEARNERS. Creation of such enabling systems and mechanisms cannot be left to the elite groups and / or market forces.



Under the colonial rule the earlier learning systems in India were systematically eliminated. Modern (western) forms of educational systems including a few Universities and colleges were functioning. It is remarkable that these institutions also produced world renowned scientists, some getting Nobel prizes as well.

In the post – independent India there was a rapid expansion of HE as well as primary / elementary / secondary school system. While the expansion was remarkable, it was not adequate. While we have some excellent world class institutions, we are yet to be front runners. We still find that bulk of the children and youth as well as adult population, is left out of the learning systems. Our recruiting systems (which incidentally do not have enough openings for all aspirants) keep on raising entry qualifications but the State or civil society is not providing adequate systems for the children / youth / adults to learn. Driver’s qualification is raised to 10t standard; lowest levels of police recruitments may be raised to 10th or 12th standard, as they have to deal with modern forms of crimes! But the guillotines in the school systems continue to operate eliminating children at the early stages of their school.

Why so?


          We like to go around the “grooves” of slogans.

  • In the name of uniform standards in education or well planned industry etc. we adopted massive centralization around Delhi. A few institutions like Govt. Departments, UGC etc were supported to be the sole guardians of the fate of Indian people.
  • We continually missed many emerging opportunities under the slogan (groove) of self reliance such as the entire electronics revolutions, microelectronics etc around 1970’s. India could have been a  global electronics power had we followed pragmatic policies of foreign investments and private sector freedom in electronics,
  • In the education sector it was still worse. (It is still regulated severely with central uniform standard groove!)
  • The “Grooves” of 1960’s: Too much spread of colleges are not good for quality. Therefore limit entrance to HE. Too much power to UGC and such central institutions.
  • Under uniformity of school education, we tended to accord single pattern of text books under NCERT, CBSE schools.
  • For ordinary masses the 3R’s Read, wRite and aRithmetic or literacy and numeracy was emphasized. What about economic skills. ITI’s, paramedical education etc were neglected. Skill education in schools was totally abandoned, through in between ‘vocational education’ was talked about. The groove of Literacy / Numeracy created many unskilled persons who later lost faith in education. That is why we have so many drop outs at elementary stages.
  • When the economy opened up and as many new industries were coming up or getting expanded, we started the groove of “Markets will decide!” and ignored the tasks of preparing the citizens / children for newer skilled required for textiles, herbals, automobiles, retails, construction etc which will place the learner at the right type value – skill – chain required for the global economy. It is remarkable that a number of Indians adapted to meet the newer demands.
  • In the process of such adaptation by Indians to get modern skills many private sector self financing educational institutions started coming up. (It was a good business too.) Then we got back to the grooves of “uniform standard” “Quality” “Equity” etc and created many new grooves of “Rules” and “Regulations” without any care for ground realities.
  • The groove of “equity” and “justice” created new “grooves of objectivity” – cut off marks, objective Entrance Tests etc. They led to “ROTE”. In the process we are destroying “CREATIVITY” and “DIVERSITY”. Instead of increasing inclusion, they create more of exclusion. Only those who can afford private tuition can get through.
  • The new grooves which have come to increase the lip services to the poor are “RIGHTS” RTE etc. And the new carrots “WORLD CLASS UNIVERSITIES” for upper middle class.
  • Also expanding reservations etc. becomes corollary issues of “equity”.
  • In reality most of Govt. (public) funds are poured into the existing already well funded institutions – IIT’s, IISc, Central Universities etc While SSA is good, it is yet to address softer aspects of enabling diversities.

So we continue to exclude as we go round and round the “grooves”.




“…..the learning economy. This concept emphasizes that we today find ourselves in an economy in which the competitiveness of individuals, firms and entire systems of innovation reflects the ability to learn. Part of the reason for speaking about the learning economy today is new trends in production and in the labour market,. Changes in the structure of the labour market and production show how the economy is to an increasing extent becoming knowledge based. This naturally means that knowledge building and learning are becoming more and more crucial for economic growth and competitiveness.”……………

“The analysis also showed how this shift in the demand for labour reflects two types of changes in industrial composition occurring simultaneously. Firstly, within each sector, there is an increase in the proportion of qualified labour, and secondly, there is a tendency that employment growth is most rapid within these sectors that are most intensive in their use of highly skilled workers.”………….

“One of the things which serious economists normally agree upon is that the pure market cannot as matter of course deal with the trading of knowledge. Nobel prize winner Kenneth Arrow, who is adept at reducing complicated matters to apparently simple paradoxes, has observed that people will only pay for knowledge they do not have – but that, on the other hand, it is difficult to assess how much to pay when you do not know what you are getting to assess how much to pay when you do not know what you are getting for your money (Arrow, 1973).”……………

“An important consequence of this new perspective is that social cohesion and trust play a growing role in determining the long – term performance of the economy.”………….

“As a rule, what enables some people (and organizations) to earn more money than others is that they have access to knowledge which does not readily lend itself to codifying – they have access to tacit knowledge. This type of knowledge, which is associated with any kind of professional activity, can generally only be acquired by means of an apprentice – master relationship and by practical experiences gained in a close interaction with colleagues. Here it is absolutely imperative that a minimum of respect and mutual trust exists for the transfer of knowledge to take place.”…………….

“In the learning economy pure markets can only thrive on the fringes of the system where standardized products with stable traits are bought and sold.”……………

“The general conclusion is that when shaping industrial and technology policy in the learning economy a pragmatic and practical approach should be adopted. It is pointless to latch on to ideological simplifications and opt for a pure planned economy or a pure market economy. The learning economy is perforce a mixed economy where the markets can only function if they are firmly anchored in a functioning social context and if they are supported by organizational elements.”………………

“The negative aspect of the learning economy. An accelerating rate of change in terms of technology and organization places heavy demands on the ability of the individual to learn.”

We can meet these needs only when we go out of our present grooves and face the real life of diversities.



          Basic principles for getting out of our current “excluding policies” into a phase of “education for all” are relatively simple:


  • Recognize the DIVERSITY of needs (of society), of people and their abilities, and of the country. Recognize the strengths of our DIVERSITY, be it biodiversity, cultural diversity, skill diversity etc.
  • Change the mindset of DEAD UNIFORMITY – firstly the civic society should understand that there is nothing like uniformity in education. It is highly contextual. Our rules, regulations etc which are created with the mentality of dead uniformity need to be jettisoned.
  • Discover the Children (all) during the PRIMARY stages. The diversities in them will manifest then. Instead of suppressing their diverse capabilities with a uniform yardstick discover them. This cannot be done by central, state or district level standards. It can be done only be empowering (trusting) the TEACHER(S) in the classes of these children. TRUST them. Such a discovery is not around traditional subjects like languages, maths, sciences etc but should extend to all skills needed for the society: gardening, carpentry, story telling, dancing, music, art, nursing etc etc. Also we need to recognize that all children have MULTIPLE capabilities. We need to discover and encourage all these capabilities. Let us not create new strait jacketed filters in such discovery of children.
  • Keep a whole CONTINUUM of all these skills in the whole pipeline of education. Pre – school to 1st to 5th to 8th to 10th to 12th (or other specialized courses like ITI’s etc) to Diplomas to degrees to PhD’s. These should capture the real complexity of world and life. What is after all complexity? It is made of many hundreds and thousands of simple elements but interconnected beautifully.

Why not B.A. in gardening, carpentry or hairdressing? Or a B.A.(paramedic) which imparts training in softer aspects of dealing with patients, old age persons, etc. Later some of them even going to PhD’s.     

  • To enable selective use of ICT technologies to spread education and skills and to provide these to dropped out youth and adults as well, ENSURE good electricity to each schools (govt or private) enough to operate a functional COMPUTER, TV, DVD’s and a projector.
  • Remove all Centralizing Control structures on Schools / Colleges etc.

Education is the MOST regulated sector in India more than what DGTD did to Indian Industries in the hey – days of license – permit – quota – inspector – raj.

Post – 1991, with liberalization Indian Industries grew rapidly.

If education in India is liberated, (but along with availability of Govt. funds to take care of social dimensions, without Govt. interference with newer approaches to public accountability). I can see a possibility that about 60% Indians will get the right type of HE relevant for India and the globe. Rest 40% will be talented in various skills giving them dignity and steady income.

Yes it is possible.

If we all, especially the middle class, go out of the GROOVES and explore the beauty of diversity.

It will be a real inclusion in practice, an EDUCATION FOR ALL.

Thank you.

Y.S. Rajan is Dr. Vikram Sarabhai Distinguished Professor, ISRO, Bangalore.