Former Indian president, scientist and educationist Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam â€¨outlines his agenda for the youth, education reforms, ideal development scenario â€¨and, of course, electoral politics in his country in a free-wheeling â€¨chat with a regional daily
Lovingly known as India’s missile man, Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, India’s former president, continues to win hearts wherever he goes. Currently in the UAE to visit the Sharjah International Book Fair, Dr Kalam shares a vision for creating enlightened citizens and motivating people to seek knowledge.
Wherever he goes, his charisma and intellect inspire and motivate people to believe in his ideals of hard work and perseverance. In his lifetime, Dr Kalam has authored more than 22 books and interacted with 16 million youth. A proponent of development politics and change initiatives, Dr Kalam has donned the hat of a president, thought leader, scientist, author and teacher among many other important roles.
A man of wise words and superior intellect, Dr Kalam spoke with Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview about his dream for a new India. Here are the excerpts:
Have Indian politicians failed the nation by putting personal interests beyond national interests? Has increased corruption failed the expectations of a billion people?
I have a feeling that whatever happens in India, law has to take care of it. Definitely, we have anti-corruption laws and the parliament may enact other strong laws but we have to make great solutions. Every nation needs great solutions. I am sure, in the next few years, India will transform with economic progress by its visionary national leaders.
What are your thoughts on the development of a Third Front at the national level (in India)? Is it viable and will it change much for common people?
Every general election has shown the results that people are selecting leaders who focus on economic development in the state and at the centre. The ensuing general election is all the more important as there will be a dynamic change in peoples’ choice of the right type of leadership. I want a two-party system. Even though there are a number of parties in the system, but within a decade or two, India will also move towards a two- or three-party system. That is an ideal system which will have convergence and decision making will be faster.
What are the three biggest challenges facing India, according to you?
The first challenge for the nation is we have 600 million youth. They have a dream to live in a peaceful, happy and prosperous (environment). The mind of this youth is very turbulent and this turbulence can be removed and smoothed if we feed a message which reflects a dynamic vision for the nation.
The second challenge, India has 600,000 villages and nearly 70 per cent of all people live there. I have proposed to improve economic growth further by implementing the PURA (Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas) scheme. Depending on the terrain, we have to make clusters which have physical connectivity, electronic connectivity and knowledge connectivity leading to economic connectivity. Our aim is to provide every home in the rural area with urban amenities. We need to have power, electricity, employment potential and healthcare. This I have been propagating for the last 10 years and now the government has also started PURA in many places. It is a win-win situation with public-private partnership.
The third most important challenge is not only for India but the whole world. Each member of the society must realise economic progress alone is not sufficient. We need good human beings. Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in character. Combination of economic progress and righteousness in the heart will create a good situation.
How would you rate India’s education system — do you believe it presents equal opportunities for all and is it meeting the expectation of India’s youth?
The young population in India is an asset. I belong to the education system and there are three sectors of education — primary, secondary and higher education. Regarding primary school education, definitely I am not satisfied. Primary education needs to be creative and the classroom itself has to be creative. The teacher and syllabus also have to be creative. Our syllabus has to change and a team is working on it. Nearly seven million children come out of the schooling system and don’t study further. An additional three million youth complete their graduation every year. When we put these 10 million youth in the job market, naturally a nation cannot afford to give everybody a job. They have to be made employable. Both secondary education and higher education should reduce 25 to 30 per cent of their syllabus. For the four years of Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12, the syllabus should be reduced to allow students to learn skill sets. For 12 to 15 months, secondary schools should provide students with skills and school students should come out with two certificates — one is the regular school certificate and the other is the skill certificate.
Young people seek inspiration in you and your talks. Your books and quotes have always showed a sense of optimism. What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
I don’t claim I want to leave behind something. I want to see citizens of my country work with integrity and succeed with integrity. That is a characteristic one should have and children should be taught this. We should celebrate people who work with integrity. I have so far met 16 million youth In India and also many in other countries over the last 15 years. The message I received is that everyone wants to be a unique human being. I have suggested from my experience, and based on many many great human beings a four-point mission for every youth
Courtesy Khaleej Times