Articles

KALAM : A MAN OF SCIENCE AND PEOPLE

Y.S.RAJAN

 

(OCTOBER 2002)

 

1.KALAM THE MAN

It was in early September 1996. The location is fourth floor of India Habitat 

Centre, New Delhi, a small room at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, the mighty Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister of India with hundreds of critical responsibilities came inside the room and discussed with a few young professionals of the Technology Division of CII about the vision for Indian Industry and possible tasks for the CII Technology Division. He described some contours of paths for realizing the Technology Vision for India 2020. A series of documents with that title was generated by TIFAC (Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council)an autonomous institution under Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India, after a massive national exercise of two years. They were released by the then Prime Minister of India a month earlier (August 2, 1996). The three young professionals were so excited that a Technology Vision for CII was born.

Why did he come there? Of course, Industry Associations like – ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI call him for many of their top functions. He shares his experiences, dreams and concrete action plans. Why did he then come there?

That is because a person who had been associated with him for a long time in his life and who was Adviser in the Deptt. Of Science & Technology (DST), Govt. of India had just taken an early voluntary retirement when he had still several years to go for retirement. That person had been in Government job all the time. How was he going to perform in an entirely different atmosphere ? Many persons would have wondered in hush. No so with Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

He wanted to show his affection; his solidarity at a time when that person would feel alone and when he had to adjust to a great change; conveying a nice feeling of security and a special warmth. He came to show it amidst his busiest schedules. While that was the primary objective, he also converted the opportunity to create a new Mission for his friends and also for the young professionals with whom he would work further. It fits in also beautifully the major task of creating a Developed India, a cause to which he is passionately committed to.

That person who Dr Kalam went to meet was I (Y S Rajan). Amidst all these serious discussions he also saw out of the large glass window a lot of parrots sitting on the modern architectural structure. He told with a lot of excitement, “Rajan see outside there! A lot of parrots. A place which the parrots make as habitat should be a very happy place……….. So you are going to be very happy!”

I elaborated this narration because it described a good many facets of “Kalam: the Man”.  A deep concern for friends and colleagues and a quick and timely touch of encouragement at times when probably they might be in trouble; also not to have such a touch as a mere ritual of “hello”, “get well” alone but also try to provide them with a meaningful action plan – a plan which can take them to greater heights. Such a help is similar to what is described as a unique feature of true friendship by Thiruvalluvar, the great saint poet who has written a masterpiece called Thirukkural about two millennia ago. (Dr Kalam quotes from /thirukkural often). Thiruvalluvar says that the nature of friendship is similar to the hand, which rushes to set rights the dress when the dress worn by a person tends to slip from the body.

In addition to taking care of the friends and colleagues he also wants to encourage others. He did not want my other CII colleagues feel they were left out. He spoke to them; took them to great heights. Also his talking was not empty. He has a vision – a Mission, which can last many years. Their tasks in fulfilling the Mission will make them intellectually and emotionally strong and in addition, it will help the people of the country.

A similar pattern will be there in most of his interactions. That is what makes him so naturally popular with young and old, irrespective of the chairs he occupies. That is because of the innate humanism in him.

 

2.KALAM: THE MAN OF PEOPLE

A recent event when Dr Kalam as Rashtrapati visited Almora to launch the “Mobile Diagnostic Clinic and Research Centre” – TIFAC Vision 2020 project jointly implemented with Uttaranchal Government (for more information visit at www.tifac.org.in). The mobile unit is meant to reach most modern diagnostic tools and services to hill regions of Uttranchal which have very little access to medical facilities. Such units can serve most parts of India, almost one or two per district. Such is the potential reach. It can be of great help to the poor people of India, by extending modern medical services. Therefore Dr Kalam, the Rasthrapatiji was there. He wants to encourage such efforts. Dr Col. (retd.) C S Pant, an eminent radiologist from New Delhi who is also the Project Director for the mobile unit told me “He (Kalam, the President) saw all the facilities and seeing them doing well, he held my hand and congratulated the team and asked a question “How much you will charge the poor, those below poverty line?” “None Sir.” I said. Dr Kalam pressed my hand almost a minute with great affection and with a glow in his eyes “That is a promise! A promise! Will you keep it?” I said, “Yes Sir”.  I was touched by his deep concern for the suffering and the poor people of our country.

Kalam, the Human is driven to a large extent with his heart felt mission of removing the pain of out people – pain of poverty, helplessness due to illiteracy and lack of skills etc. The intellectually articulated Developed India concept by him is a sublimated version of his deep human feeling and a great commitment to the well being of all human beings.

All those who are familiar with him and those who are not, are struck by the great simplicity and humility. He is reachable and accessible any time to people from all walks of life. He listens. He consults. He encourages. He remembers you.

He works hard. He loves children. He really enjoys interacting with them. He draws out energy from them for himself and for the nation. He respects all religions and spiritual leaders and practitioners. He is respectful to everybody including those who do not agree with him. He is at ease with poets, philosophers, politicians, business leaders and scientists, technologists and also ‘ordinary’ persons. His kindness to a number of persons who had earlier harmed him or attempted to harm him, is his unique human quality, so difficult to acquire. I know many such events personallty and for obvious reasons I will not give examples.

Does it mean that Dr Kalam is a giant figure always possessed by ideas and actions? Not so. He enjoys small things as well. Streaming hot rice. Certain nicely cooked vegetables. Sambar, Dal, Rasam. Certain sweets and variety of hot pickles. He has excellent sense of humour. He can “put legs” through jokes and would also cut jokes on himself too. He is attached to his family. When he meets them, he talks with everybody even for a few minutes discussing simple items of importance to them.

I had travelled with him to many parts of India before he was awarded Bharat Ratna, later, and also earlier after he left the Government of India position of Principal Scientific Adviser (a Cabinet Minister rank position) to work at the Anna University, Chennai as a Professor for Technology and Societal Transformation. I had travelled with him when he was being nominated for the election as the President of India. Also I am fortunate to travel with him during a few trips when he is Rashtrapatiji. I find that he draws people to him as much as he is drawn to people. Despite the constraints of security he manages to communicate with them through a smile or waving of hands or saying a few words or listening to them.

People of India in every part of the country be it Gujarat, Tripura or Manipur or anywhere else are excited and enthused to see him and respond beautifully to the positive call he makes for Developed India. His ‘Song of India’, ‘The National Prayer’ etc. are becoming so popular in different languages.

His reach is also to those who are physically and mentally challenged and to those who work for them.

 

3.KALAM : THE MAN OF SCIENCE

I am using here the word ‘science’ in a Nehruvian fashion – search for knowledge about nature, a whole set of view point about life which Nehru called scientific temper, application of science and technology and all aspects concerning reaching of the benefits which can be derived from the utilization of scientific and technological knowledge to the people, especially to the poor and deprived ones. Providing national security also forms a part of the overall thinking of applications of science.

Kalam’s primary training has been as an aeronautical engineer or technologist. After joining ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) he not only applied certain elements of the knowledge to rocket and launch vehicle development but also graduated as a par excellence Project Manager  of multi-disciplinary teams to deliver products in time and within budgets.

Tempered by failures, strengthened by successes and with an indomitable spirit, he also mastered the skills and leadership quality required for long-term vision and planning. He became the focal point planning and technology development of Launch Vehicle programme in the country. Even while doing so, he applied his mind within the severe constraints of time (as the rocketry and launch vehicle tasks were very demanding) to social and economic spin-off from these technologies. For example, being the pioneer in the country for Advanced Fibre Reinforced Plastics products, since they were required for rockets, he also attempted applications such as boats and food grain silos.

The list of his achievements in ISRO and later in DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organisation) are well known and reasonably well documented. Therefore, I do not repeat them. Since his main aim was (is) to deliver operational and products in time and keep on progressing further and further to make India ‘Number One’, and creating motivated teams, he hardly concentrated on writing scientific and technical papers in his name. He had motivated thousands of others to generate reports and papers. He has supported many persons from the academic sector to pursue research. At DRDO he also encouraged spin off especially in the biomedical sector.

Full growth of his ideas regarding technological contributions for about social and economic transformation, took place during his leadership of TIFAC as its Chairman. This led to the magnum opus of 25 documents “Technology Vision for India 2020” (see www.tifac.org.in).

 

4.KALAM: THE POINT

He writes poems in Tamil and English. I am quoting from a recent article in POET October 2002 by Manoranjan Das ‘Human Feelings and Philosophy in Prof. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s poetry’.

“He did not believe the autonomy of arty, or separation of art from other activities. He promotionally, affirms a poet’s idea is a mirror, which holds and images forth the universal scheme and working of the world …. His own realization of fundamental unity of the world and poetry, and the spiritual reality immanent in, it removes the ideas of separate existence from thought, and it reveals the wide spread of spirit. This spiritual understanding has its effect upon life. It allows an experience of the vastness of being, richness of life and wide amplitudes of harmony and reveals the secret of an ideal unity behind the apartment divided concreteness of life where the eventful day, river, cloud, divine, silence, heavenly display and beautty are roamed about…. On the whole Prof Dr AAPJ Abdul Kalam’s poetry is revolved in the arena of men’s mind, by acknowledging the unique meaning of life through the base of universal whiteness of reflection like sun-ray in the sky.”

 

5.KALAM: THE EMERGING WORLD STATESMAN

Thus one finds in Dr Kalam a unique integration of many human qualities: an intellectual, a dreamer, a visionary, a leader, a mission director, a project manager, a writer, a poet and a man with deep innate sensitivity for other fellow human beings. He has also imbibed in him the best traditions of spirituality. At the same time, he is also like any other simple person enjoying simple things in life and interacting with everybody at an equal level.

It is fortunate that such full rounded man is now the President of our nation. In a number of ways, he represents the great and noble civilizational heritage of India. Over about 37 years, I had the opportunity to get the glimpses of his multifaceted personality; its generic inner strengths; and ability to adapt to new situations and grow further and excel. Therefore, I believe that world will soon witness a great Statesman emerging from his persona.

TECHNOLOGY AND KNOWLEDGE INTERMEDIATION [power-point presentation ]

(For presentation on 1 February 2007)

 

 During the research work of N.S.Siddharthan on global business and the role of technologies, the author had opportunity to assist on technology aspects through case studies on technological processes and results. These have been reported in a book by N.S.Siddharthan and Y.S.Rajan entitled “Global Business, Technology and Knowledge Sharing – Lessons for Developing Countries” (MacMillan).

In that book a new concept of “Technology Intermediation” (TI) is explained which appears to be crucial for introducing innovation into business processes. While basically it (TI) is a process of technology and knowledge sharing, Technology Intermediation requires a few important features which are described in the book. The phrase “Technology Intermediation” was, during the joint work, told by N.S. Siddharthan to describe various processes. It was found that such a process is also important in the developed world as well, which is described in the book.

Later the present author has found that it is a powerful concept which is crucial for promotion of technology development. Mere availability of funds and existence of research results are not adequate. The final product or service requires multiple technologies and knowledge bases and hence this process of “Technology Intermediation” is important to accelerate the processes of innovation and to enhance the possibility of successful results. In fact the author has expanded the concept to “Knowledge Intermediation” (KI).

In this brief paper, the author will present about the key features Technology Intermediation / Knowledge Intermediation.

The presentation will describe about the uncertainties involved in actions involving future products or services and as to how Technology Intermediation / Knowledge Intermediation process reduce the uncertainties (See Figure attached).

The author will give a few examples ranging from agriculture by marginal farmers and technology products by small & medium industries in India based on Home Grown Technology (HGT) projects of Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council (TIFAC).

Also some examples from Israel are given.

The author also points out the important role that providing of technology intermediation services for various segments of industry and society which have missed the evolutionary growth of modern economic and business processes, plays. Thus such TI/KI services should be an important public policy issue.

CURRENT EVENTS, CLARIFYING THOUGHTS

Almost daily I come across various events : some person asking me a question seeking clarifications; sometimes I attend meetings where there are questions brought out to the speakers but answers given by them are inadequate or else make me think about a new aspect; I read newspapers or a new article or even an old book again and I get a new perspective; there are events in daily life when one is a silent spectator but mind keeps working, even many days after the event.

I live those events. Many thoughts sytematically come to me. A number of them don’t get erased also. I realised that most of such unerased thoughts have relevvance to others as well, because I often find that different people repeat such questions to me. Why not then write briefly on them and share with all of you.

It is against this background this series is attempted. The aim is not to write an exhaustive article but to give sufficient information to share my thoughts. Those who need more information or think differently are requested to give the feedback through this website.

 

01] PLUTO’S “DEATH” AND NAVAGRAHAS

 

I had received many queries about Pluto, individually and even in meetings or during my talks. I think most Indians who don’t bother about space sciences or planetary systems or solar systems suddenly became active. Though they would not admit it, much of this “knowledge – seeking” was, I think, due to their internal fears about their own fate being “shaped” by these “nine planets” (or navagrahas) ! So much of a feeling on insecurity !

An intelligent and capable technologist, a young woman, was the first to phone me as many persons were asking her about navagrahas and Pluto being downgraded. I explained to her the following : -

The navagrahas of the Indian astrology are not the planets as mapped in the solar system by the modern astronomers / or space scientists. For example, Moon is one graha in astrology whereas it is a satellite of the planet Earth. Sun is a graha in the real world as mapped. Earth is a planet of Sun. Rahu & Ketu are two mathematical points related to the relative motions of Sun, Moon and Earth. Thus the mapped & scientifically classified planets are different from grahas.

Thus whatever calculations are done in Indian astrology have nothing to do with discovery or otherwise of “new” planets. They have their own definitions, calculations and inferences. Therefore those who want to believe in the astrology, can continue with their belief systems.

Now coming to what happened to Pluto.

Solar system has formed billions of years ago. All the planets around the Sun had formed long ago. There was a time when the Human did not know it and believed in various theories like flat earth. Ancient Indian astronomers have understood the relative motions of Sun, Earth, Moon & Stars. The visible Venus, Mercury, Mars etc were identified by them.

Later Galileo’s observations led to modern scientific description of the solar – planetary system. With availability of more powerful telescopes more bodies going around the Sun were “discovered”. Note no new creation of planets circling around the Sun is taking place now for many millions of years. So the hundreds of small and big bodies circling around the Sun are there for many many years. It is only the question of their “discovery”. With the launch of spacecraft exploring the planetary system our knowledge about many more orbiting bodies around the Sun have grown. There are several tens of such bodies, who can be called a planets of the Sun. It is in view of this huge number, astronomers tried to do some “normalisation” to the terminology planet. In that definition Pluto got downgraded.

Those who need more information have to visit some authentic websites or can ask me. I will try to get clarifications from my astronomer friends like Prof. Kochhar, Director, NISTADS, New Delhi.

 

02] CAN DEVELOPED INDIA BE FREE FROM DISABLED CHILDREN ?

 

During a lecture talk by an eminent person, a young person asked a question : “In my village there are five disabled children. Will such disabilities disappear in the developed India 2020 ?” There was a quick answer, as there were many more questioners waiting in the que.

It made me think further. It is but natural for human beings to aspire for a life without defects, without unknown risks, without many ugly things which ourselves would like to avoid in our own personal lives.

In fact the feeling of insecurity felt by many “elite” Indians with the “loss of Neptune” was because the “feeling of security about the future” felt through astrology and the related “corrective” prescriptions given by the astrologers would become questionable or “shaky”.

When we see the physically or mentally challenged person, we feel “shaken”. When we hear somebody has a cancer, we feel terrible. “Hope I don’t get it” is the internal feeling. We feel worried about so many things we do. Smoke or drink or a paan parrag ! Or even the masala in our food ! Or the food preservative in the packaged food we eat !!

Yes we all want a total security of all good things we possess now ! Not to be reminded of bad things in life! If they exist now they should disappear by magic !

The young student’s question has come about because we all have developed and nurtured an attitude to life as described in the earlier paragraph.

The reality of life is that there are about 10 persons with genetic defects out of 10,000 persons born. The defects are of various forms: visual defects, diabetics, cardiac, physical, mental etc. Genetic sciences and engineering advances may help cure some of these defects after birth. But to screen them out when the life is in the foetus state raises many ethical questions.

Of course beyond these genetic defects, there are other defects which develop after birth like polio, rheumatic heart disease etc.

Biomedical advances are helping to overcome both these forms of defects : genetic and post – birth infections/problems.

However, their availability to ordinary persons in India is still a question mark. Either they are very costly or the delivery systems are poor. There are a lot of good people through their philanthropy reach out to the disabled specially challenged persons. But these are in 100’s and 1000’s, while in India the affected persons are in many millions and every year more and more are added. Old age also adds more people in the physically challenged groups.

Therefore, the answer to the young student’s question is a little long :

It is not easy, at least from the present advanced in th4e medical and life sciences worldwide, to ensure that there will be no birth with defects. There are also many important ethical questions in prior screening of all pregnant women for possible defective foetuses.

 

However as the society develops with economic strengths, which India hopes to be by 2020, it is possible to provide biomedical treatment and/or support systems so that the children with such challenges need not be constrained severely in their own growth. They could be given support system to learn skills and other knowledge forms so that they can participate in economic activities in equal footing and be socially accepted as equal members. The buildings, transportation systems, office environment etc can be such that specially challenged persons are able to access the places of work or places of social interaction.

Advances in neuroscience’s are also capable of helping mentally challenged children or persons and those with speech defects or some neurological disorders.

Yes, the scientific and technological advances and economic growth are all towards enabling every human being to have a better life. But all of use have to be alert to ask ourselves whether our societies are having such all inclusive approach or not. We should build “positive pressure” to move towards such actions.

 

03] ROBOTS AND IMPACTS ON JOBS

 

Most of us will be under the impression that robots are of no consequence to India for many years to come. There are considerable actions in automation in industries, but robots seem to be way off.

If we look at our post-independence history, we seem to be resisting many technological changes under one pretext or another : it is too much of a luxury; we are culturally different we won’t need it; we can find a different path; it is dangerous for us etc. Finally we miss the bus of being in the frontline and rush later when others have mastered the technologies and businesses or reaped the benefits.

I will give some example.

Introduction of TV and colour TV in India : we missed a revolution in electronics industry and rushed during the time of Asiad games.

Pills for family planning saying it won’t suit Indian women and we will discover, of our own. We would have controlled our population better and thus derived the benefits of better prosperity in per capita. There is no Indian unique birth control device !

Microelectronics manufacturing in India.

Automobile revolution and resultant benefits becoming a manufacturing hub we delayed at more than a decade.

Liberalisation of economy stating that our planning was better. We delayed it more than one decade after China.

Accepting telephone as a house hold necessity or for offices – we controlled telephones !

The list is too long.

Same may happen in the front of robots.

Look at a brief article by Mukul Sharma in Times of India – 15/1/07. In American homes robots by the name Roomba are already in two million households beginning from 2003; it does vacuum cleaning work. It has become a “part of the family” for many homes. Japan is gearing to sell millions of robots in Industrial work, home services, health care and military services. South Korea plans to place one robot in each of the South Korean home.

Watch out for a news five years from now. China may come up with its model of robot and sell to the industrial world and domestically. Then we may wake up !

Presently neither government system nor corporate sector in India considers it worthwhile to mount a joint effort to create an India.

Many such “hot” items are waiting to be started; Two exmaples :-

– Titanium plant (India has largest reserves of titaniunm)

– Integrated coal gasification plants

Let us forget that and consider what is the effect on ordinary Indians? A few thousands of Indian boys and girls who take Robotics as a part of their studies in Engineering & Technology, may benefit in terms of jobs abroad as manufacturing in the developed world picks up.

But a large number of ordinary Indians who go abroad to Gulf countries and other parts of the world, may lose their source of employment. Indian nurses go all over the world. Those who are already there may learn to work in a healthcare environment which has integrated robots as an important part of the system. Some may have to come back. The new set of nurses who aspire to go, may not be eligible if they do not learn how to operate robots or work with robots.

“Don’t worry! Indians are great in learning. They have mastered so many things now !”.

This is only partly right. There is a heavy competition from other coutnries. Robots definitely would reduce the need for “lowered” skilled manually oriented jobs, quite considerably, if not drastically yes new jobs in “robot servicing” “repairing”, “customised programming” etc may be created. They will be in higher levels. But those jobs will require “technically more qualified and training” personnel.

Already job opportunities for bottom Indians (i.e. about 90% who do not have higher educational or technical skill qualifications and about 70% do not go past 8 years of school) are becoming low. Even our road construction sector employs less of “purely manual” labour. So we need to watch.

Will we prepare ourselves to skill at least thousands of our ordinary persons to learn to use robots in anticipation of such demands coming up (presently no so visible!).

Currently many Indian industries who are rushing up (after about two decades of inertia) to equip themselves with computer controlled machines (CAD/CAM/CNC etc) in their manufacturing operations to keep up with global quality standards. They do not find enough qualified persons; those who are trained jump jobs. On other side there are hundreds of unskilled persons.

So let us prepare Indian labour/bottom level Indians not only for the present immediate demands, but also for keeping them ready for future demands. It is not enough to look at growth statistics in Agriculture, Manufacturing or Services or the number of Research Publications or Patents.

We need to equally count the Skill Levels of bottom 70% Indians, how many persons are upgraded each year, how much their incomes are going up at individual levels. It is not wise to have them to market forces in an era where technological changes are too rapid and high-tech businesses introduce products in an amazing speeds of millions ! Country’s wealth cannot go up, if botton 70% are prepared to be equal partners for this new economic reality. Then alone we will be truly Empowering Indians.

 

O4] ELITE WORRIES, INTERESTS

 

If one looks at print and electronic media, especially the so-called “national” media, one gets a feeling that India is a small country made up of one or two big cities. Partly imitating them and partly due to the fact that electronic media in Indian languages are mostly controlled by the big networks, the interests of the Indian language press, remain the same.

Prime space (or time in TV) goes to murder, rape and other violence. (May be the readers desire a strong pep up every morning through newspapers and a stronger doses of these when they return tired from office !).

Other issues range from Jessica Lal case opening conscience to Shilpa Shetty rousing Indian “nationalism”. Around the time when Jessica Lal case was going on a former Chief Justice V N Khare wrote as to what happens for lakhs of such cases in the Indian courts. He had given pointers to possible removal of such a situation. But for the ‘elites”, all the ends of justice have been met, conscience washed up with Jessica Lal verdict – triumph of media and people power ! Let those lakhs of other Indians remain where they are ! They do not belong to their class !!

All those who flock to UK, USA, Europe for holidays, shopping, studies and future settlement etc suddenly find how racist British are ! Our jingoism spreads all over ….. well then each one of the elite gets immersed in their own money – winning, power – capturing, privileged – access generating activities.

I have seen at the time of “Surat plague” how much was talked about, printed about, … cleanliness in towns etc. So many of them at the airports and railway stations were popping up anti-biotics to save themselves from “plague death”. Govt. systems of monitoring rat movements to public health systems were all acused of serious neglect of their duties ……… well nobody knew what the Surat epidemic was; plague or something else. Thank God, it subsided. All the national noises subsided…… to jump into some other “hot mirchi masala” – Any other political pop-shows continue !

It is another story that there was one Rao in Surat, who cleaned up Surat ……… There was lot of praise, paper (noise) protests against his transfer posting on promotion.

But what about 100 – odd cities like Surat (not to talk of the rapidly growing slums in the Metros) whose conditions as squalid as it was before or even worsening : garbage; feces; gutter water,…….. Are there not large possibilities of their becoming sources of another unknown epidemic ?……

Who finally cares ? I think that elite and the rich believe that they can be saved from such diseases through modern medical treatments available through their money power or influence.

Even bird flu s won’t scare them to action to clean up their own neighbourhood. Somehow huge noises in media appear to be the equivalent of taking concrete actions. Let the clean up be in their “bytes” and Column spaces !

…………………… Well I am not a party pooper…. By all means let the elite enjoy themselves in every form of infotainment outside and inside the media: TV, FM radio, newspapers, magazines etc.

But in between let them address some of the real issues of 70% of Indians in concrete ways – other than the dramatised forms about the farmer suicides or serial killings ….. Let us there be a serious dialogue of how to solve the concrete local real – life problems, And also reports on real successes at the local levels (not the PR exercises of big agencies or celebrity individuals).

May be some elites who read this (probabilities are low ! But those who read this, if convinced, talk to the elites !) may think I am in the 19th century or early 20th, But let them be clear : 21st Century is going to the “CENTURY OF THE POWERLESS”. The power of information, IT,TV, mobile phone etc., is going to impact a few within the elite (to wake up) and many of the powerless – not to be fooled any more ! I don’t want to use the old cliched word : “revolution”. But you cannot bottle up the natural evolution of millions of human beings through the “virtual unrealities” of PR and media management too long.

The powerless will not keep quiet too long !

So elites, change yourselves in your own self – interests.

 

05] HOLES IN SOCKS

 

There were reports in some newspapers showing the photograph of Mr Paul Wolfowitz President, World Bank, focussing on the holes in both of his socks. Also a small explanation of the two photographs emphasised also his six digit salary.

Any impression of the photographs, titles, and description would mostly be, how sloppy he is; how undignified he is ! May be the photo-news was a fun.

After seeing it, I admire Wolfowitz for two things and my respect for him soared :

(i) His going to a Mosque, though he is not a Muslim and following the Code of Conduct.

(ii) He is not a part of the overly consuming society which wants to reject everything – too often for any flimsy reason.

My reasons :

If we are sincere about peace in the world, we have to learn to be inclusive of all cultures – between countries and within countries.

If we want a sustainable prosperity for all those who live in this earth, we need to learn to curb our consumption and not waste things unnecessarily. How does a hole near the toes reduce the utility of the socks ? Let us ask some basic questions.:

Now I believe in Mr Wolfowitz’s sincerity to fight corruption. May God give him the strength.

 

 06] CRICKET COVERAGE

 

The media furore over cricket coverage has won. Indian Government has taken a decision and is following up with an ordinance.

One is amazed at the turn of national priorities.

A cartoon in one of the newspapers sums it all. A figure like the I & B Minister gives a big play card to a figure looking like Prime Minister to hold. It is written there CRICKET FOR ALL. On the floor there are many thrown – away play cards : FOOD FOR ALL, EDUCATION FOR ALL, HEALTH FOR ALL, SHELTER FOR ALL.

Probably opium is a better feed for masses (or elites and their folloers). 

ROLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY [power-point presentation ]

Slide – 1

Delivered at Coimbatore in a totally interactive manner. Audience mostly Principals, teachers, some industrial groups.

Slide – 2

Questions

The viewers may try their answers.

Q.1 Very many interesting definitions of Knowledge Economy – In the modern global business or economic parlance, it has a limited meaning. Two said it well.

Q.2 Most said “No !”.

We need several other items too.

Q.3 Only a few persons attempted. I explained. During 1995 many analysts and optimum makers wrote of Steel, Foundry etc are sunset industries – gone !!!

Knowledge technologists knew they were not. I explained it that nothing will be “sunset” – they will absorb new knowledge, better steel making, new properties etc.

Slide – 3

Three pyramid story.

At any given point of time in any economy (developed or developing) most of the GDP is derived from the conventional technologies with incremental innovative additions (as in Left pyramid). Top small part is New Advanced Commercial or Strategic Or Critical technologies.

 

In countries which have developed, they continue the incremental & advanced, regularly.

In developing countries, say India, since 1970 we almost never attempted new. They standard argument of economists/administrators was “well it is so small; you keep doing it! Not required for operational sector !”.

What happens after approximately 5 years ?

What was “new advanced” five years ago becomes conventional and “conventional” become older technologies (middle pyramid).

In developed countries : older technologies are weeded out and new – new starts also.

Ten years later ….. you can interpret it.

In India during the license – permit – quota – raj when everything was controlled, we shack on to conventional of the left edge and sold them domestically.

So we were stuck with old – old – old technologies for decades. Industries did not bother for incremental or advanced R&D as imports were restricted and they had domestic monopoly : think of automobiles, scooters, cycles, telephones, any Indian product during 1970’s, 1980’s even in early 1990’s.

I ask a question ?

What is the bottom of a pyramid ?

Some answer; many don’t.

It is “mummies”.

Indian technologies were mummified !

 

Now things are changing with massive import of technologies. But still Industries (baring a few in Pharma and Auto sector) have not adopted advanced R&D and incremental innovations on imported technologies.

…….Continual changes will give competitive edge.

Actually our academic institutes & S&T also should not do isolated work but that what is required for our industry ? Or a global industry.

Slide – 4

Questions.

Attempt answers.

GET is Gross Enrolment Ratio.

(There was a consensus in our interactions. I was happy because people have started looking at ground realities instead sitting in ivory towers !).

See in this website what I have written on Education.

You can tally answers. If you differ, let me know.

Slide – 5

I have explained it in other places including in Sarabhai, Science & Indians.

It is crucial to understand India.

Slide – 6

How wasteful is our Academic system – oblivions to global charges and also the welfare of our youth –

All agreed !

We need to change this ‘reject’, ‘reject’…. Approach.

Slide – 7

Items self - explanatory Push – Pull interesting. Earlier education was pushed by the system to the learner. With new electronic means, the learner can “seek” and interact.

Not that everything will become virtual.

But this new tool changes the concept of usual modes of “push”.

Slide – 8

Clear in words.

Important point is that narrow S&T or Economics etc will not do. Need to have multiple electives and combinations of humanities too.

On the whole it is time to liberalise Education in India without patronising controls and controls in the name of uniformity! We need diversity & flexibility for competitive relevance & excellence. 

SARABHAI, SCIENCE & INDIANS [power-point presentation ]

Slide - 1

This lecture was given one day before 12 August (Vikram Sarabhai birth anniversary – had he lived, he would have completed 87 years). Since 12 August was a holiday it was on 11th.

Slide - 2

This is about Jawaharlal Nehru. How politics brought him close to people and therefore their poverty. He sought solutions in Economics. More he read economics, he came to the conclusion that science is crucial. Hence he made the statement “Future…………………………….” Detailed extract is available in my book “Empowering Indians” Chapter-1. Most economists had not realised it in 1937. It is remarkable for Nehru to have “seen” it.

Thus he spoke about science, made “Scientific Policy Resolution” in the independent India. He Nehru meant by Science a broad canvas including application, innovation, new products, and an attitude towards life. (Not the narrow interpretation of “basic scientific research” alone as is attempted by some of our scientists !).

Slide – 3

Brings out the missing links in India the way the S&T establishment began and later grow.

Politics (i.e. policies in a better sense of it) be it in Agriculture etc (as indicated) which link to Society & People never linked the growth of science (worldwide) & technologies.

Economic & politics were stand alone making policies.

Science was made a romantic myth to grow isolated in labs.

Slide – 4

Within the Indian Scientific community, Vikram Sarabhai was one f the view who looked as “Science” with all its links including management & administration.

The JRD quote says it all.

Slide – 5

Gives Vikram Sarabhai’s clear view.

Slide – 6

In India most of our Science & Technology (S&T) policy makers talk a linear model. More money to Science, more prosperous the nation will be. They continue to ask for more money.

Is it True or False – (During the actual talk, there was an interactive discussion).

Then I give the answer that it is false. (see the reference).

Slide – 7

Most Indians are in poverty zone because relevant (emphasized knowledge inputs & investments don’t reach all segment. Most Science Groups are happy with the two ends A&E.

(See discussion on this in the reference – available in this website).

Slide – 8

Sarabhai realised this even in late 1960’s.

He proposed 30 – odd missions (I have his detailed paper).

Had they been embarked upon then India would have developed long ago !

I expressed them all in my English poem written immediately on hearing his death. It appears as “A Great Man’s Demise” in Agony & Harmony. (See the poetry section for the full address of the book).

Slide – 9

Shows the changing paradigm of what is expected of a vendor in the globalising economy.

(More details of such an approach are available the book - Global Business, Technology & Knowledge Sharing).

Slide – 10

Even outsourcing is very stiff now. It is not a passive disciplined actor who wins. Product improvement capability (though S&T application is expected).

(See the book quoted in the earlier slide – see title in the book section of this website).

Slide - 11 & 12

Technology Intermediation (see elsewhere in this website).

Technology / Knowledge Intermediation (continually) is required to fulfil the requirements depicted in Slides 9 & 10.

Slide – 13

Sarabhai missions as was said took care of all round growth.

We cannot afford to deal only with organised sector – as bulk of Indians are employed in “unorganised” sector. Hence S&T would need to reach them all in a relevant manner.

 

by 

Y.S. Rajan