PURA National Platform Combating economic turbulence Through technology

11-05-2010    Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam

I am very happy to address you all, on the Technology Day which is, commemoration of India becoming self reliant in technologies in certain important areas. This day reminds us, towards our constant strive to achieve self reliance in critical technologies, to encourage innovations and to nurture technology flow to all the sectors of the economy, so that our nation has the competitive edge leading to our cherished vision of developed India. My greetings to all of you.
Friends, during my visit Seattle, Boston, and New York in US during April 2009, particularly I remember the visit to Boston where I saw the work of Prof. Renugopalakrishnan of Harvard University and Prof. Randolph N. Lewis on proteins to nano-devices in the book “Bionanotechnology” edited by the authors. What impressed me in that book was: A model in silk worm and spider is proposed which is based on unique domain structure in the sequences of silk proteins. A hypothesis for the silk-spinning process begins with chain folding at lower concentration of protein, proceeds through formation of micelles and then micellar aggregates through water loss and increasing protein concentration and finally leads to fiber formation due to physical shear process during fiber spinning. I thought of referring this point to the scientists and technologist assembled here, this important emerging area of “Bio processing of silk proteins”. It is indeed bio-nano-technology. Today, I would like to talk on the topic “PURA National Platform ”.
Technological progress
Chandrayaan: Indian moon space craft, 1380 kg Chandrayaan was successfully launched by PSLV on the early morning of October 22, 2008 from the Indian spaceport, Sriharikotta. On 14 Nov 2008, I personally witnessed the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) landing operations in specific location in the Moon along with the confident, cautious and jubilant faces of the young and experienced. How many different types of hardware and software systems these scientists have perfected in a short duration of five years for onboard computers of Chandrayaan, mission planning and simulations, spacecraft tracking, payload data processing, spacecraft check out and launcher operations. I congratulate the scientists and engineers of the Dept of Space and their partners for this unique achievement. We should realize, it was possible to realize Chandrayaan successfully through years of experience in building rockets and spacecrafts leading to operationalization of 10 communications satellites, 9 remote sensing satellites and one meteorological satellite in the required orbits. Recently, ISRO has launched a micro satellite, ANUSAT, the first experimental communication satellite built by an Indian University under the over all guidance of ISRO. This will demonstrate the technologies related to message store and forward operations.


I am glad to learn that few more academic institutions like Visveswaraiah University, Karnataka, Sathyabama University, Tamil Nadu and IIT Kanpur, have shown interest in developing small satellites. Also, the youth satellite developed by ISRO including experiments from Moscow university is getting ready for launch and which will motivate young researchers to design experiments for the future satellites. This information I am providing to all of you, so that the many societal applications using satellites through the combined efforts of universities and scientific departments definitely will enhance our research capacities.

Electronic voting machine: I recollect some thoughts that occurred to me on 6th May 2009. It was about 8 am. I went to exercise my vote. As I cast my vote, the Electronic voting machines and the various processes of elections made me reflect how technology has modernized the election process in India. We have the details of the candidates in the web. We see the websites of candidates. Every party has daily updated websites with their views on topical issues. The electronic and print media employ the latest in technology to increase their outreach. The deployment of nearly a million Electronic voting machines have steam-lined the voting and counting processes The Election Commission is using GPS-enabled mobile handsets to communicate with officers and mobilize them quickly to rush to sensitive polling stations where electoral malpractices or violations occur during the voting process. The EC has also built a web reporting system that allows the upload of media clippings and enables officers to easily report code violations. Of course, such a large scale process will bring in certain problems, which will have to be addressed and solved before the next major elections.

Agriculture: The beginning of the new millennium threw up a challenge to the agricultural scientists with the emergence of a new virulent race of stem rust Ug 99 (TTKS) which originated in Uganda and could easily spread to India. Realizing the potential and magnitude of the threat, ICAR in the year 2004 mounted a programme for arresting the spread of rust in a time bound manner. Our National Wheat Programme taken for insulating the wheat crop against Ug99 had screened 22 Indian wheat genotypes at Njoro (Nakuru) in Kenya against Ug 99 during summer of 2005 led to identification of three genetic stocks (FLW 2, FLW 6, FLW 8) and one variety (HW 1085). The seed of these resistant stocks was multiplied and distributed to wheat workers all over the country. This is a major accomplishment of wheat researchers in preventing the production loss from 7 to 8 million hectare of wheat area in the country. It is an important contribution by our agricultural technologists. Now let me talk about convergence of technologies.
Convergence of Technologies

We live in an era of convergence; the future of innovation would lie at the interface of science and engineering as applied to the challenges of society. Due to the convergence of information and communication technology, we saw the birth of a seamless area called ICT, which revolutionized the way by which we computed and communicated. Further the convergence of nano and biology with ICT has now become a vital technology for healthcare solutions. It is estimated that in the life of a scientist or an engineer, he or she will come across and work in at least seven new areas which are born out of convergence of multiple science and technologies. Such convergence has made the border between areas completely porous.
Science is borderless

In the last century, most nations understood that science and technology was the best vehicle for economic upliftment. However, the problems that S&T was used to solve are primarily local and customized to their needs. Today, the problems faced by nations are no longer, a concern of them alone. Humanity is devoting more and more attention to climate change, energy, water, disease, economic turbulence and terrorism etc., which are all of concern to the entire world and the solutions for which are beyond any individual nations or group of nations.

If S&T has to provide upliftment of our humanity, if the research and development are in areas with porous borders between them, if the problems of the world know not of geographical borders, the education that becomes the foundation of all our science and technology, research and development must of necessity to become borderless.

When I was traveling in an Aircraft in the United States, I was told that much of its controls where software driven and most probably developed in India. When I presented my credit card, I was told that it was being processed in the backend server located in Mauritius. When I walked into IBM software development centre, Bangalore, I was fascinated to find that it truly presented a multicultural environment. A software developer from china working under a project leader from Korea working with a software engineer from India and a hardware architect from the US and the communication expert from Germany where all working together to solve the banking problem in Australia. When I see, all of them working together like one family forgetting about the culture from which they came or the language that they speak, I feel that the only hope for such borderless interaction to continue is to inculcate the spirit of borderlessness in our education system and among the scientists and technologists of the nation and abroad.
My interaction with societal members

I have recently interacted with specialists belonging to different sectors like rural development, infrastructure, agriculture, health, governance and judiciary. I hear many success stories of how technology has contributed to new products, processes, work efficiency, transparency and information availability. On this Technology Day we should resolve to redouble our efforts in this direction and set targets in every area.

In this context let me present my visualization of developed India 2020 based on my discussions with many citizens across the length and breadth of the country and Indians living abroad.
Distinctive profile of the nation

1. A Nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line.

2. A Nation where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water.

3. A Nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony.

4. A Nation where education with value system is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.

5. A Nation which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors.

6. A Nation where the best of health care is available to all.

7. A Nation where the governance is responsive, transparent and corruption free.

8. A Nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed and crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated.

9. A Nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, devoid of terrorism, peaceful and happy and continues with a sustainable growth path.

10. A Nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.
Integrated Action for developed India

To achieve the distinctive profile of India, we have the mission of transforming India into a developed nation. We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) Agriculture and food processing (2) Education and Healthcare (3) Information and Communication Technology (4) Reliable and Quality Electric power, Surface transport and Infrastructure for all parts of the country and (5) Self reliance in critical technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and if progressed in a coordinated way, will lead to food, economic and national security. During my visits to different parts of the country and during my discussions with many citizens, the results of such integrated efforts have started becoming visible. One major mission is the development of infrastructure for bringing rural prosperity are through Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) through creation of three connectivities namely physical, electronic, knowledge leading to economic connectivity. I would suggest, each one of the scientist and technologist assembled here to think in what way they can contribute to anyone or more of the competitive profile which I have described above.
Economic Turbulence, Technology and Development

I was asking myself what type of innovation is needed to enrich the Indian economy and other world economies which are presently in turbulence. I had discussion on this subject with Prof. Anil Gupta and many other experts and 70 students while giving the GRIT course (Globalizing Resurgent India with Innovative Transformation) in IIM Ahmedabad. It came to light that the Indian economy will be less affected due to the world financial crisis. This is due to (i) the liberalization process in India has its checks and balances consistent with the unique social requirements of the country. (ii) The Indian banking system has always been conservative which has prevented the crisis (iii) The Indian psyche is generally savings oriented and living within means is part of the mind set. These three causes have reduced the effect of global turbulence in the Indian economy. However, there will be reduction in export and reduction in outsourcing. The drop in annual growth rate of GDP could be around two to three percent. This is the time we need innovation in our thinking to rejuvenate the agricultural sector particularly through value addition and the small and medium scale industries and enterprises for making higher levels of contribution to the GDP. Simultaneously, we have to enhance the rural and urban infrastructure particularly through the establishment of 7000 PURA complexes spread in different parts of the country covering 600,000 villages. The mission of PURA is employment generation with value added skills through connectivities.
PURA National Platform

Sectoral approach to rural development has not been able to make a major dent on the problem of persistent poverty so far. The major problem is that sectoral allocations are not synergized over a well defined spatial unit. Further, the programs are not able to link infrastructural, technological, socio-economic and community based interventions in an entrepreneurial manner. Also, it is essential to couple technology and economy. Particularly in India, economic development through PURA can indeed stimulate the entire national development. It should be noted that economic growth in 21st century is technology driven. It is said, economy relates to law of diminishing return in time scale whereas technology relates to law of accelerated return. The resultant impact can be much higher if the transformation of rural economy is achieved through PURA. We can then stem the migration of rural youth to cities and create employment opportunities in rural areas improving the quality of life of rural residents.

It is expected that the whole country needs around 7000 PURAs covering 600,000 villages inhabited by 700 million people. An investment of around 175 billion dollars may be needed. There are several operational PURAs in the country initiated by many educational, healthcare institutions, industry and NGO\'s.

Strategy for National Platform: Knowledge is going to be the major driver of social change in this century. PURA in that sense is a Knowledge Management platform. It will back up knowledge based interventions with appropriate Institutional Development, Technological Blending of formal and informal sector innovations and financial and incubation support for entrepreneurial ventures. There will be infrastructural development to provide synergy between financial, socio-economic, technological and vocational inclusion. Membership of PURA National Platform will include outstanding achievers, public spirited educationists, young managers, scientists, technologists, elected representatives, district administration.

Mission: To create, support and sustain the decentralized PURAs all over the country will require the mobilization of grassroots knowledge, culture and social institutions supported by knowledge intensive technological, financial and educational structures. It will aim to infuse the rural and urban youth with the determination and faith that India can replace poverty with prosperity and value system by generating value added employment through distributed enterprises based on local as well as external core-competencies resources, skills and knowledge.

Strategy: This will need creation of spearhead teams for establishment of regional PURAs by:
(a) Creating benchmarks and baselines,

(b) Mobilizing partners from formal and informal sector (education, institutions, financial intermediaries, training and extension agencies such as KVKs, DICs etc.) for creating incubators staffed by young management graduates.

(c) Creating district level Venture Capital and Product Development Funds through GIANs (Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Networks) supported by NIF (National Innovation Foundation, DST, DSIR, ICAR, DBT etc.,) and

(d) Tracking each venture, and sharing the information with national trouble shooting cell to provide on line support and linkages.

(e) Redefining the agenda of formal technology institutions to ensure that at least thirty percent projects of almost every lab is dedicated to socially useful technologies as well as grassroots innovations.

Functions: PURA National Platform will have the following functions:

a) Assessment: surveying the technological, infrastructural, educational, vocational and other gaps in the command area; Need-Gap analysis by documenting local aspirations, skills, resources, knowledge richness as well as inadequacies.

b) Entrepreneurship Development: Mobilizing social and economic entrepreneurs who may help in bridging these gaps, getting projects prepared, training and mentoring them wherever needed.

c) Technological value addition and upgradation: blending formal and informal sector knowledge, innovations and skills to reduce drudgery and eliminate it in a time bound manner, particularly in tasks involving women and other socially disadvantaged groups, provide vocational and other kinds education and also tools and training.

d) Financial intermediation: organize linkages with financial institutions for meeting long term and short term investment needs and extend risk/venture capital, product development fund, support extension campaigns etc., for linking innovations and ideas with investment and enterprise (GIANS).

e) Infrastructural Improvement by mobilizing government support for meeting infrastructural gaps.

f) Creating cultural and socio-economic leadership development programmes for boosting the self esteem of local youth and communities.

I am giving this outline of PURA National Platform to the technological community, so that they can think over and project it in an appropriate manner to the newly elected Parliament which will be in position within the next two weeks. It means PURA National Platform is mission oriented. The science and technology institutions and departments have necessity to come together with department of rural development.

Before concluding let me visualize a scenario in a remote North Eastern PURA clusters in about three years. Being a hilly area, with physical infrastructure still coming up, the tele-education and telemedicine enabled by ISRO is considered a great boon by the empowered youth and children. The research work done by CSIR laboratories for converting the local resources into products for use by the local population and exporting them is greatly welcomed by the local population. The richness of the north-east craftsmanship is supported by technologists for increasing their productivity and aesthetic qualities. These craftsmen need technological support for enhancing their productivity and aesthetic qualities of the products. The village knowledge centres set up in collaboration with IT, Space and NGOS add value to the earning capacity of this place. The Earth Sciences and Department of Science and Technology with their research in bio diversity, climate research have used the cluster as a working platform for mutual benefit. The Agricultural Ministry has enabled the scientists to work with local farmers to bring innovations in produce and the food processing department has multiplied the earning capacity. The Dept of Bio-technology has enhanced the production of silk from silk worm through the application of bio-nano-technology. The new and renewable energy sources department has paved the way for bio fuel and solar power. The tourism department has modernized the infrastructure and multiplied the Indian and foreign tourists visiting northeastern states. The energy of the young professionals from Indian Institute of Management and other institutions adds to fresh innovative ideas of entrepreneurship. The district administration by its transparent governance and community friendliness, with the maximum use of technology, has ensured effective coordination among the citizens, technologists, people representatives and state government organs. The web site of the PURA gratefully presents this successful experiment of public-private-citizen partnership. In a nutshell a technological revolution for the area by the synergy of various departments has increased all round progress and the PURA cluster is seen as a model not only in the country, but also by the world at large.

My greetings to all the scientists, technologists and representatives from industries on the Technology Day.

My best wishes to all of you for success in the mission of providing technology for accelerated societal transformation of the nation.