The Nation Of Kalam’s Dreams
Over the next decade, we will see the 4th industrial revolution step up – the age of automation, robotics and nanotechnology
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In the late 1990s, the Missile Man of the Nation, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, laid down a vision for an India that was an economic superpower, built on the foundations of growth, inclusion, innovation and happiness.
The year 2047 will of course, be a very different world. With the global population nearing the 10 billion mark — India will be home to over 1.5 billion people. Geopolitics would have shifted, the United States and China would be ageing nations, fossil fuels would be buried back in history and crops which need an acre of land would grow in a roomful of petri dishes of water. We will be co-existing, if not co-living with robots difficult to distinguish from humans and in all likelihood, you could be in a position to book a return ticket to the moon over the Internet. From 2017, into the next three decades is a long march — filled with promises and perils. Where does India’s future reside in this myriad?
When the first industrial revolution happened with the steam engine during the early 1800s, India was a militarily defeated nation. A century later, when the second industrial revolution happened with steel, railways and electrical power, we were still a colonised land of subjugating empires. In the late 1990s, the world saw the third industrial revolution, which used electronics and information technology to automate production. A free India did reap some benefits of it — though mostly confined to back office and moderate skill service providers.
Over the next decade, we will see the 4th industrial revolution step up — the age of automation, robotics and nanotechnology will spearhead growth, fully maturing as India turns 100. While many see this as a threat to our youth, especially those employed in technology industries; this is by far the greatest opportunity for us to leapfrog into the future. Why?
Dr Kalam believed that India’s core strength today, is in the “ignited mind of the youth” — agile learners who are hungry to progress and who are well over half the population. We need to trust this potential and unleash it. In the 4th industrial revolution, India has a unique opportunity to harness it by focusing on flexible and futuristic education and by emerging as a skill superpower — leading into a time when all that we know today is bound to be rebooted, reformed and upgraded.
Global studies show that 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that do not yet exist. As much as 50 per cent of what we know in the cutting-edge technologies becomes obsolete every 13 months. Now and in future, jobs will be highly specialised and hence, as a national policy and educational programme, it is important for us to predict the future of jobs accurately and prepare for it adequately. For instance, an electrical engineer entering for his degree course today, would hardly find any job in coal-based power generation in five years, when he graduates. Solar energy jobs, meanwhile, would have grown to over two-fold of what are available today.
One of the dreams of Dr Kalam was to see India being energy independent — which meant not only being able to generate all our energy demands, but to do so in a manner which is 100 per cent clean, safe and economical. There is no doubt that in the next three decades; solar, tidal and wind energy will be the fuels of global economies and generators of global employment. India has an opportunity to be the leader in research, development and manufacturing of all these three sectors. Our home market for energy should spur an industry around clean energy which exceeds global standards.
Regardless of where the world moves, the fundamental human requirement for food shall remain. Shrinking land availability, stressed fresh water supply and increasing demand will present an opportunity for India to invigorate rural growth through 21st Century agriculture. Technologies of vertical cropping, hydroponics (plants grown merely in water) and tailored plantations need to be coupled with local growing crops. Indian agriculture should move beyond over reliance on wheat and rice, and explore and process indigenous yields of jowar, millets, ragi and several others. Farming will then blend intensely with science and India can harness its biodiversity to feed the planet. When India turns hundred, we should be well beyond just food security and ensure nutrition security for all.
In India at 2047, we will no longer be a young aged population — several African nations would have taken that place from us. As we turn older, better wisdom should take over our thoughts and actions. India at hundred would focus on happiness and not just growth. We need to recognise that there is no place for discord in the citizens of a common nation and that our common enemy is poverty, disease and lack of quality education. Dr Kalam often narrated that religions might be separated as individual islands by their practices and theologies, but they are all united at the bridges of spirituality. It is on these bridges that we need to meet, and march for the next three decades and beyond. India’s social strength is in its diversity, its political strength is in its democracy and its cultural strength lies in the families.
Dr Kalam, as the 11th President of India, once spoke at the European Parliament. He said:
“Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character.
When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.”
The author was a close aide of APJ Abdul Kalam
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