Pinning hopes on young Indians

Scientist, visionary, teacher and statesman, former president APJ Abdul Kalam has endeared himself to the youth of India through his down-to-earth ideas on development and governance.

Vision 2020, a roadmap to make India a developed nation by 2020, is his pet theme in his address to young people across the country.

He has interacted with over 17 million young Indians so far. He has no doubt that with the right approach, India can get rid of poverty and illiteracy, and achieve spectacular growth to emerge as a developed nation.

Governance for Growth in India is a continuation of Kalam’s memoir that focuses more on the theme of governance and development. He touches on every gamut of India’s economic and social development with lively examples from diverse fields he had been associated with.

Peppered with anecdotes and presented in a simple style, Kalam never loses sight of his focus on transforming India. He stresses the role of creative leadership for governance, as the success of every project depends on the quality of people who implement them. Another key area is the need for value-based education to nurture leadership.

Kalam doesn’t agree with the largely cynical view on electoral politics and political leaders held by the youth. He strives to instill confidence in them by arguing that the right to vote is too precious, and one should elect the best candidate among the contestants. Thoughtful exercise of franchise can make real change, he contends. Kalam pins much hope on technology to transform India in every sphere.

He figures out an ideal situation in a knowledge society where every aspect of an election, including every detail on a candidate, his past performance and background, is available to the voter with a click of mouse for him to make the right decision. He favours state funding of elections to curb the hold of money power in elections.

He says e-governance can make administration transparent and faster, obviating the need to pay bribes. “If a secure IT environment is in place, all actions and transactions are traceable at all levels through system-oriented and application-oriented audit trails, making it very difficult for anyone to remove their digital footprints, leading to transparency in governance,” he argues. He further states that this system will pave the way for grievance removal through information.

On corruption and building a corruption-free transparent society, Kalam seems to have a simplistic step-by-step solution. He tells students to step in whenever their parents go astray and indulge in corruption. They are expected to ensure that all actions of the parents are transparent. He says, if such a movement spreads among the youth, it will be more effective than all the anti-corruption laws. He expects teachers to play a bigger role in guiding students on the right path.

The goals of Vision 2020 spelt out by Kalam are: “zero poverty, 100 per cent literacy, quality healthcare for all, value system-embedded quality education for all and value-added employment to every citizen, consistent with education and professional skills.” With the year 2020 just six years away, Kalam doesn’t venture into a reality check, though he is aware of the uphill task ahead. The Vision 2020 formulated in the 90s is nowhere near the goal of making India a developed nation by the target year. Our problems are too vast and too complex to find any quick-fix solution.

Kalam touches on bridging the urban-rural divide while batting for inclusive growth, women’s empowerment, RTI, making defence and technology missions successful and the role of the Defence Accounts Service.

The book, a product of his extensive interaction with the youth over the years, draws an ambitious, optimistic road map for India’s growth involving every citizen. Despite the utopian touch in Kalam’s prescriptions, none can ignore his sincerity of purpose and dedication to the cause.

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