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Who is Scientist? What is Science?

We use the words science and scientists rather loosely. This leads to disappointments and also distortion of policies. We need research & development (R&D) for knowledge and also for applications. Industry needs R&D which are focused for end use, markets and profits…..A comprehensive paper addressing all aspects can be seen.” 

Different Songs & One Symphony

“DIFFERENT SONGS & ONE SYMPHONY”

AGENDA FOR NATION BUILDING

 

 

INVOCATION

One India One People is a powerful message. When I saw that title, my mind was full of the roaring Tamil poem by the great national poet Subramanya Bharati which came from him during October 1908 about 100 years ago. Its English translation as given in Bharati Padalgal published by The Tamil University, Thanjavur. Part extracts are given below.

“Three hundred million

Her faces are;

But all, all of them

Throb with one vibrant life

Eighteen are her languages

That she speaks;

But animating them all

Is only one thought”

This translation by a great English & Tamil scholar is beautiful. Original Tamil is very powerful. This poem has fired my imagination since my age of 10.

This poem was sung before partition of India. Now in the India as it is now as a nation, there are one plus billion faces and fifteen languages (and a few hundreds of dialects, though many of them are slowly dying out).

But can we assert now like Bharati in 2009 that all the faces are throbbing with one vibrant life? And there is only one animating thought ?

 

REALITY CHECK

A few latest statistics flashed by media from the Central Statistics Organisation (CSO) inform that the monthly per capita income of an Indian has gone up to Rs.3000. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has gone up to Rs.14 lakh crores and population is now around 1160 million (going up daily).

Economic growth news is good considering worldwide downturn. Still let us pose a question: per capita monthly income means Rs.36000 per year per person. Assuming a family of five, an Indian family will get about Rs.160000, that is Rs.1.6 lakhs. If every Indian family even at the bottom can get this amount, do we have poverty? There are millions of Indians whose family income is around Rs.25,000 per year. That too through daily struggles for jobs and meager incomes – right from childhood through their old age. Not that post-independence India did not achieve a lot, but it has been too slow for most Indians.

It is a fact that about 100 million Indians are superrich by Indian standards. About 400 million Indians are in the middle class driving the economic growth and driving themselves towards some level of prosperity; their lives are full of stresses in all walks of life. They have dreams of becoming rich. But only a very few can climb up; most others struggle and get some rewards. Rest 700 million Indians struggle for day to day existence – as a marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, migrant workers, domestic servants, casual workers, petty traders, crafts persons, mechanics, etc. Some amongst them are better than others; they aspire to move upwards towards the middle class and join their ranks. The lower parts of the 700 millions still have some hopes of better lives (despite oppressive poverty over 60 decades of independent India) as is demonstrated by their participation in voting. They try changing their elected representatives in the State and at the national levels, hoping that something will change for good. Many politicians promise a lot to get votes and some of them become powerful. They run governments. A few things change. Many things turn from bad to worse too !

But the poor Indians have realized that the key to their better life comes from the governance – not merely through the elected government but also through the permanent structure of State apparatus – the administration, judiciary etc.

GOOD GOVERNANCE

There are hundreds of scholarly treaties on this subject : about efficiency; effectivity; transparency; accountability etc. But perceptions of what is meant by good governance varies depending upon which economic class one belongs to and what one is looking for.

An investor is very happy and will praise the governance system if she/he gets quick approvals with no hassle afterwards. She/he hardly cares whether the approval mechanism is corrupt (she/he will pay it as a part of the business plan !) or whether rules are violated. A middle class person’s attitudes and expectations are different depending on the stage of life he/she is. While a student she/he desires easy admissions and jobs with good salary after passing exams. Further wants to be able to acquire good things in life soon like motorbike, car, domestic appliances etc.; it does not matter if they have to be obtained through loans. After marriage, one expects easy admission to an excellent nursery school for children; is ready to pay extra money through loans ! …. The older person looks for pensionary benefits, lower cost medical check up, jobs for children, being able to travel by air to see sons and daughters….

If a middle class person is assured all such items hassle free with very minimum taxation, she/he thinks that the governance system is good. They don’t care if the government is corrupt, whether many other Indians suffer or Indian security is compromised. They may read media flashes and breaking news; all these become “infotainment” as long as it does not affect their lives. If huge garbage dumps grow outside their sight, then no worry !

What about the poor Indian who mostly is working in unorganized sector or is self-employed. It is a day to day living for them. Can I get my income for the day or for week or for the month. Can I get food supplies? Education of children etc are luxury or something which are not related to their existence. They often think that it is a dream beyond their means. Then another worry is when they fall ill; they need to access a cheap doctor and cheap medicines for quick relief. It is their functioning body that gives them work. They don’t have leave pay; they don’t have medical allowance; provident fund etc. Often medical expenses and the loss of income from an earning member of the family, push many families into poverty. Agricultural income is becoming a nightmare. Govt. enters only to ensure cheap food supplies to cities and towns as otherwise the middle class will get vociferous and media will scream on onion prices! Govt. stops exports, and imports food grains or onions to reduce prices. Such actions do not help the rich or poor farmer.

Thus perception of governance varies even among the poor. But one thing will be common. Most persons will be happy to do full honest day work and get some minimum assured income to live in dignity. Then they will worry about building the future of their children through education and better health.

FAST ECONOMIC GROWTH : FIRST TASK OF GOVERNANCE

To assure most of the above expectations to different classes : rich inventors, upward mobile middle classes (middle and lower) and assorted groups of poor persons etc., it is essential to have a fast economic growth.

At this point of Indian history, to emphasise economic quality is an unrealistic dream. The rich and superrich will not part with their money. High taxation regime in India, created only black Indian money abroad ! So let the governance systems be such as to allow these rich and superrich from India and abroad to invest more and more in India. But let the direction be such that it is not just a financial jugglery in the stock markets. Those who develop GREENFIELD projects on the ground – agriculture, manufacturing or services – should be preferred in the economic reforms. That will create more jobs for the middle class and poor persons.

Let us be courageous to accept that over past several decades, all the powers – that – be have accumulated lots of black money through corruption and other illegal and criminal actions. This “dark money” is in India and abroad. In an effort to be pragmatically clean up this huge reservoir of money, which distorts Indian governance systems and politics, let us as a nation and as a people allow this money to flow into the country especially for the rural India and for the 5000-odd tier 3 and tier 4 towns and cities. Let us not penalize those who invest in select sectors. (See my website www.ysrajan.com for more details of select sectors under the section Articles).

Spurring fast economic growth is vital for sustainable good governance.

SECOND TASK OF GOVERNANCE : SIMPLIFY RULES AND PROCEDURES

The second task will be to simplify the plethora of government rules and procedures which choke the delivery systems. Media projects only the Bills enacted and policies announced. But nothing reaches because of archaic rules and procedures based on suspicions. Good governance for more people will mean good delivery : a working hospital with reasonable changes (govt. or private); a good school which charges reasonable fees only; reasonable electric power; reasonable roads; etc. Delivery is choked in India because of procedures built up over years under the false pretext of accountability. A good honest government executive is always in trouble : there will be an audit objections and vigilance cases waiting. With RTI there are more problems for honest govt. servants.

SIMPLIFY GOVT. RULES AND PROCEDURES. Then ask for transparency.

THIRD TASK OF GOVERNANCE

Decentralise execution. Let the elected representatives in Centre and State approve programmes and broad allocations. Ministers also may get into one further level project formulations. Beyond that, let empowered executives at the district level execute / implement projects (WITH SIMPLIFIED RULES AND PROCEDURES). They may be at the level of Joint Secretary to Govt. of India or above but with full authority to execute without reference to State Capitals/Centre.

They should compulsorily have monthly consultative meetings with local community, not just the local leaders but ordinary citizens including minorities and women. They should openly declare projects, start date, completion date etc. Otherwise, they will have full authority to execute. They should not be transferred for 5 years by any govt.

All districts big or small shall have this system, with full authority and local information wise accountability.

CORRUPTION

If the above mentioned measures are implemented (it will require lots of understanding and cooperation from civil society and media, to help the transition) corruption will disappear over a period. Complicated rules and costly elections are the root causes of corruption. Now since lots of black / dark money – much bigger than Govt. budget – has accumulated over the past several decades, a new factor has crept in : it is GREED AND EGO ! I have so much money. Money helps to do anything: getting a parliament seat to fame to awards !

So it will be foolish to expect corruption to vanish instantly. If we allow the accumulated dark money to flow without penalties and simplify rules and procedures and decentralize execution, then it is possible to bring corruption to a very low level – almost eliminate at operational levels. A few high level cases may remain !

CIVIL SOCIETY

Beyond thinking of oneself, the middle class and media may concentrate on the issues of poor : One National GOAL can be : have reasonable income through productive work for all Indian families. Anything that helps it, should be pursued. If 700 million persons get better incomes, GDP will shoot up; middle class will get more than the present; rich will also become richer !

Is it UTOPIA? No ! This one single goal and pragmatic approach (not uniform solutions please !) can make it happen. For that CIVIL SOCIETY has to change. Media has to move away from current fads and petty topics, to this one single national task.

If civil society desires it, works for it then all other items will fall in place be it legal system, police, or government. One good thing about politicians is that they change with nanosecond speed, if they sense that the popular mood has changed. Let the 400 million middle class build up a broad coalition with the poor 700 million Indians and create conditions for better incomes at the bottom.

Then the NATION WOULD HAVE BEEN BUILT !

YES, WE CAN, IN ABOUT ONE – AND – HALF DECADES !

Then 1400 million faces will hum different songs but as ONE SYMPHONY !

 

Y S Rajan

1/06/09

 

BRIGHT FUTURE THROUGH EDUCATION FOR ALL

BRIGHT FUTURE THROUGH EDUCATION FOR ALL

Fifth Graduation Day Address at the

Aalim Muhammed Salegh College of Engineering

 

- by Y.S. Rajan

Alhaj. Dr. S.M. Shaik Nurddin Saheb, Alhajiyani. M.S. Habibunnisa Sahiba, Janab Sheikh Athaullah, Janab Ansari, Prof. Dr. M. Murali Krishna, Alhaj. S. Segu Jamaludeen, Prof. Indra Mohan, the members of faculty and staff of the College, distinguished guest gracing the function, members of media, parents and guardians of the students, dear students,

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be with you all on this important day. This may look like any other function with their own set rituals, speeches etc. But if one looks at the matter deeply, for the graduating students it is a great milestone in the great marathon of Life. Dear Students, take it from me as more and more years pass by you will vividly recall the fact this day is a recognition of an important step you took in higher education.

Of course learning does not stop here. Some of you may pursue higher studies. Some get into jobs. Some may get into business or on other professions. Every time you will find there is something which comes from your existing learning that helps. It may not be the precise formula or an equation or a text. The integrative effect of formal education has some effect on you. If you have understood the fundamentals of the subjects you learned, they stay much longer, they grow in you and as you experience in life, they give you deeper and clearer insights. Don’t worry, if you have not mastered the basic fundamentals because of the pressures of tests, exams, and preparations for the competitive tests etc. you can learn them throughout your life.

But more importantly the transition from a College/University life and education, in the actual field of work is very crucial. Your text books represented a beautiful structured, linear world. Some of you, sometimes might have hated them ! All the same, they are simple compared to how actual work life is and what it demands of you. I would not call it tough. But the knowledge and skill bases required for it are very different from writing exams or doing practical in the class. If you have done industrial projects sincerely, as a part of one of the semesters, you would have had a glimpse of it.

But the work life is beautiful and challenging. There is so much you can learn and more importantly so much you can contribute in terms of practical application of your knowledge, not mere text book knowledge, but something which comes from inside you; yes it comes from inside you due to foundations laid by higher education, your own listening and observational capabilities. You listen to your bosses, customers, colleagues etc. You observe others doing. Then you integrate them in your mind. You plunge into the real work of the company, institution, or business or whatever else. You find results over a period. Learn from good results and failures. Yes sometimes there will be tensions of group work and so called “politics” inherent in human interactions.

If you are a learner, if you are confident of yourselves, if you have deep inner faith in success – you will find life will unfold many of beautiful happy spots to you.

 

STAGES OF LEARNING

When I was reflecting about these issues in order to share with you some important ideas and experience in simple terms, I recalled what I saw in the information brochure of your institution. It is quotation from Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)

 

“Be learned or

Be a learner or

Be a listener or else

Be of help to the above”

 

If you reflect on it, meditate upon it, not just one day, but throughout your life, this saying will unfold several new meanings to you. I passed my M.Sc. Physics with Electronics in 1964 when I was just 20. I used to read many things beyond physics, maths etc. It was a devouring passion to read economics, philosophy, religion, politics, history etc.

Since 1964 for now about 45 years, I am learning, reading, thinking, sometimes getting confused, get clarifications from myself or others, it goes on.

I still do not dare to call myself learned sufficiently. Yes there has been some learning – good amount, still going on, God’s Grace.

At this point I would like to quote a few parts of my Tamil poem in my book, Azhiyatha Uyirkal, a poem in reply to Jancy who had just joined TIFAC then. She is a senior technologist now. Being impressed by my knowledge on several topics, she wrote a poem. In response I wrote :

  • Jancyin Kavithai
  • Jancykku Padhilkavithai

These words are still true in my life.

Being learned (to some extent) is the foundation stone.

Then you have to be a learner. Yes it is a lifelong process of learning – not just tests and / or writing exams and getting degrees alone. You will read a lot of materials.

Above all, you have to learn to observe nature, others, and importantly listen. Most of us don’t even hear what others are speaking to us or to others. Listening is much higher level of cognition than hearing. It will also teach how to UNLEARN something. UNLEARNING is a part of life long learning.

We should therefore graduate from

Learner to

ALSO Listener

(I broadly interpret it as listening and also observing). If you can reach that stage, you really acquire all the so-called SOFT SKILLS which are being talked about nowadays.

Fundamentals of soft skills lay in understanding others and being able to empathise with their needs. Team work, customer satisfaction, leadership etc – all these have their roots in understanding what others feel, need, what they express, etc. Then you can deliver to them as per their needs, feelings, etc.

 

All that comes from LISTENING, observing.

 

After all these self mastery, and mastery in doing your jobs from the three steps :

 

Learned

Learner

Listener

 

you transcend to another stage that

BE OF HELP TO THE ABOVE

That is true leadership. That is one of the greatest service one can render to other human beings.

These four steps or stages are not exclusive. They are not one after another being left behind after fulfilling the first, second etc. It is a continuous process of one’s own upliftment in life.

Alhaj Saheb and Alhajiyani Sahiba in addition to fulfilling the greatest religious duty of Hajj pilgrimage have helped and are helping the highest step of learning process. This is very commendable.

Before ending this section, it will be appropriate to learn about and understand the great importance attached to education by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). I have extracted a few quotes from a book “Islam and Peace” by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan.

“When the Qur’an began to be revealed, the first word of its first verse was “Iqra” that is “Read”. Education is thus the starting point of every successful human activity.”

“The very great importance attached to learning in Islam is illustrated by an event in the life of the Prophet. At the battle of Badr, in which the Prophet was victorious, seventy of his enemies were taken prisoner. Now these captives were all literate people. In order to benefit from their erudition, the Prophet declared that if each prisoner taught ten Medinian children how to read and write, that would serve as his ransom and he would be set free. This was the first school in the history of Islam, established by the Prophet himself. It was of no matter to him that all its teachers were non-Muslims, all were prisoners of war, and all were likely to create problems again for Islam and Muslims once they were released. This Sunnah of the Prophet showed that whatever the risk involved, education was paramount.”

I need not add any further comment to these quotes.

IMPORTANCE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Human beings are in a continuous process of learning and also sharing the knowledge and skills. That is why we have now reached a high stage of knowledge intensity, in every phase of our ordinary tasks in life: operating a cellphone or driving a car or in agricultural operations involving many chemicals, machines, markets etc. It is found all over the world that those who get about 4 – 5 years of higher education beyond 12 years of schooling invariably have much higher incomes. Today in India only about 11% of the eligible youth get higher education. You are very fortunate because you get it also in a much better institution.

We all have to work to increase this percentage called Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) to about 40% - 50% which is an average in the developed world. The rest 60% to 50% should be able to get a good school education, not necessarily the current type of ‘uniformized’ syllabus but with a great diversity and above all many economically oriented skills – be it in construction, agriculture, manufacturing, carpentry, maintenance and repair, hospitality, paramedic, para legal, para accountant etc.

Universal education and skilling is crucial for Indians to get out of poverty and its resultant problems.

Our educational systems should be such that persons who are in such skilled jobs are able to get higher education of their choice. It may be to change a profession or just for fun of learning as their high skilled job may give them good income.

I am mentioning these thoughts to you, dear graduating students because in addition to making your careers, for which I wish you “all the best”, you need to shape Indian economy and society, as well.

You need to break out of old paradigms of over-centralisation, cliched thoughts on “excellence”, awe about icons, getting mesmerised by hypes. Think differently. Think of creating diversity. Creativity can only come out of diversity and boldness of approach.

I don’t want to dwell on the details of the above, and I would suggest you look at my website www.ysrajan.com especially the articles section. I would value your feedback too.

You are blessed with higher education. You excel in your life and add prosperity to yourself and your family. Also enjoy many things in life. Along with those achievements, please remember the four stages described above. And at some point of life, do also what is given in the fourth stage of learning process. That is BE OF HELP TO ALL THE OTHER STAGES OF LEARNING. In that process, you will help all other Indians and eventually many other people in this beautiful planet.

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Influencing the Financial Policy Initiatives for the Elder Care Products and Services in India

Influencing the Financial Policy Initiatives for the Elder Care Products and Services in India

1. There is very little awareness in the country about some simple facts about the elderly. Most policy makers, public information moulders etc., get lost in the statistics of young India – 54% below 25 years. But they forget the elderly are 10% means 110 million and growing at the rate of about 4 to 5 million annually. This size is bigger than the total population of many countries in the world. Of course, reflecting the demographic class distribution within India, only about 10 to 15% of this 110 million will be under the influence of transactional (market) economy; much smaller percentage will be covered by pension schemes or medical influence. It is a pity that bulk of the others just survive, as they had continuously struggled in their earlier six or seven decades ! Even without confining to the elderly alone, of the Indian population of about 1.1 billion about 700 millions have marginal quality of existence.

2. Those who suggest or implement any financial policy measure have to keep in mind this existential reality of India for the elderly. This paper is written with this reality in mind.

3. For the bulk of the elderly, the very existence is under daily threat. Two simple meals, a reasonable bed, to attend to natural calls without great difficulties, being able to bath and be treated by a doctor (any person who can be kind to them, even if they are not most qualified or effective) when necessary and above all to be sure of these. Any other item above these such as a place to walk, some social get together etc will be considered a boon. Most such people will be in the rural areas. Since many of the young persons and even middle aged persons have to earn their livelihoods in towns and cities, they often do not have the safety net offered by families (whatever they were in the past). However, on the positive side, many villages in India are better connected by road and telephones. Therefore relatives can come when they are in trouble. And also most critical medicines for fevers, cough etc are available in shops in town relatively cheaply. They can get from the shops (without prescriptions thus avoiding the doctor’s cost); though this can be considered “illegal” in a strict sense, this has been a great safety-net for many people in India (even for the middle class in cities !).

4. Very little special intervention can be done for them in terms of providing food availability or cloth availability as the delivery of them will be difficult. Public Distribution System (PDS) have been very ineffective. Whether availability of inexpensive pre-cooked food which require very little effort to prepare can be encouraged to be brought out by the usual market forces can be explored. Govt. agencies like DST (Department of Science & Technology) can take a lead in developing them and write off developmental cost and transfer technologies to the private companies. Govt. can waive taxes for such products. The question will arise whether other adults will avail of these products as well, thus cheating taxes on their normal food products. All schemes of cheap food grains or cheap cloths have languished. But to a limited extent Special Functional Foods mainly focused on old people may be useful. Good medical scientists may not agree on such a food composition as they would prefer assurance of normal nutrition, as empirical evidence does not exist about superiority of any such special product. Thus we just have raised the issue and would leave it there for further discussion.

5. As regards some health interventions for the bulk of the elderly’s, there is definitely a scope through mobile diagnostic centres as they exist in Uttarakhand (a TIFAC – Uttarakhand Govt. Project) successful for more than 5 years. It has also been adopted for Govt. of India’s Rural Health Mission for all the districts. Basically excellent medical diagnostic facilities are put in a Bus along with 15 KVA Generator. It visits on fixed days. In addition to Govt. initiatives, private initiatives can be encouraged by Govt. with income tax concession (say 100% reduction of the capital expenditure). Let them use it for commercial uses as well. But 1/3rd of the patients should be for total free medical check up for Below Poverty Line (BPL) people and also elderly people. For the elderly these units to cover at least one week medicine as a condition to have Govt. benefits of tax relief etc.

6. Coming now to the other elderly persons who are in the middle class and relatively well-to-do sections (i.e. abut 15% to 20% of the elderly depending on the definition) some of the financial incentives can be :

  • Tax waiver on their pensions, savings from which in turn go for purchase of assistive devices and other services
  • For those who do not draw pension, still pay income tax, purchase of assistance devices and services (including the expenses for staying in old-age homes) should be deductible from income tax. Expense limit for deduction can be Rs.1 lakh each year. This will also stimulate the market and grow its size so that the prices of these products and services can fall down, because of economies of scale.
  • Govt. may give land on long term low cost lease for middle income type Old Age Homes with minimum fittings of assistive facilities, availability of old age care services etc.
  • Govt. may also encourage infotainment services (films, broadcasts etc) for old age persons by providing them tax reliefs.
  • Allow in these areas FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) as well, providing them also certain tax benefits.

7. The above mentioned tax – reliefs need not be considered as loss to the exchequer as currently very little is accruing. It is in fact for the stimulation of a new Industry in India, just as Govt. of India did during 1998 for IT Industry. Look at its growth. In fact if an Elderly Product & Services Industry (EPSI) grows within Industry sector, it not only will do yeoman services for at least part of its elderly population but also with lead to various job opportunities for many qualified and not-so-qualified persons. In the process, it will contribute to national GDP and also provide many additional indirect taxes. Those who are employed or provide supplementary support services will pay other usual taxes. In addition, it can also lead to export avenues. In the medium term one can expect that these products and services of EPSI may become 1% of GDP and growing more later as elderly population grows more rapidly towards 2020 and beyond.

8. Lastly, keeping in view a longer term perspective, Govt. may set up a Technology Development Board (TDB) for Elderly Products & Services (TDB – EPS) to allow for localized adaptions for technologies sourced abroad as well as for development of innovative technologies for local or global applications. In the final analysis, India would need to aspire technological leadership in this area. An initial fund of Rs.100 crores professionally run can make a good beginning.

9. The above mentioned items are not exhaustive. But most of them are actionable in very short period. It is essential to make a beginning in most of the above items and do improvements based on performance.

 

Y S Rajan

Principal Adviser, CII

(views personal)

03/05/09