This is the address delivered by Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthy, Director, IIT Madras to the gathering assembled at 69th Independence Day celebrations. In this speech, he pays tribute to late Dr. Kalam and draws on excerpts from Dr. Kalam’s speech on the eve of Independence Day in 2003. You could also check out our photo series on Independence Day here
My greetings to all those assembled here on the 69th Independence Day of our beloved country!
Today I wish to read to you excerpts from the speech given on the eve of Independence Day in 2003 by our most revered former President and patriot, the late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who was also a Board member of our Institute at one time. He shared a large number of important and wise thoughts with us over the last two decades, and these excerpts capture some that are particularly relevant to us.
In that 2003 speech, Dr. Kalam asked, “What should we be remembered for?”
We will be remembered only if we give to our younger generation a prosperous and safe India, resulting out of economic prosperity coupled with our civilisational heritage.
He said three students approached him and asked “Mr. President, please tell us when will we become prosperous, free from poverty and from the fear of terrorist attacks? Allow us to go on a mission to penetrate the minds of extremists and bring about unity of minds.” The questions of the students engulfed him, resulting in a poetic verse:
Oh Almighty, create thoughts and actions in the minds of the people of my nation, so that they live united.
Light the minds of the religious leaders of my country to evolve a bridge among religions with compassion and love.
Embed the thought, ‘Nation is bigger than the individual or party’, in the minds of the leaders.
May God, bless my people to work hard and transform the country into a prosperous nation in a decade.
Referring to the aspirations of the people, he affirmed, “whether it was a remote village in Kerala, or a far away rural set-up in Nagaland, or Uri in Jammu and Kashmir, the area close to the Line of Control, I would like to emphatically state that the feelings and aspirations for a prosperous India are the same.”
He then expounded on our strengths in science and technology. He said,
For India to become a developed nation, we must give thrust to the nation’s core competencies. The GDP has to grow annually by 8 to 10 percent with consistency over years. We should ensure that the benefits of this growth reach the economically weaker sections of society.
We should reinforce our gains in agriculture, power, Information and Communication Technology, industrial and education sectors, space, nuclear, and defence technologies, chemical, pharmaceutical and infrastructural industries, oil exploration and refining, and more importantly in critical technologies.”
Our core competencies, resources and safety consciousness should be the basis on which the country can embark on a national mission for transformation.
He was very passionate about the importance of providing urban facilities to rural areas. He felt that in the long-term interest, it is necessary for us to make living in villages an attractive proposition for our people by reinforcing the rural habitat and providing modern economic linkages. In this speech, he averred, “To achieve this, an economically viable cluster of villages have to be created through a mission mode programme into physical, electronic, and knowledge connectivities, leading to self-sustained economic prosperity for groups of villages. It is essential that PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas ) has to become a business proposition to be run by small scale industrialists, entrepreneurs, and societal establishments.”
In particular, he added that
the benefit of ICT must reach all parts of the country through tele-medicine, tele-education and egovernance.” He was prescient in referring to the challenges we face with regard to sustainability. He predicted, “within the next two decades, we will encounter a totally new situation of acute shortages of water, energy and minerals. No single nation will be able to handle this situation by itself. In such a situation, the present reasons for conflict will become insignificant and unwarranted.
Dr. Kalam was known for his down-to-earth practicality. He therefore addressed the question of how each one of us can derive our roles in this massive nation-building activity. He said, “I am convinced that the goal of developed India 2020 is a national challenge and requires nationwide participation. Every citizen of India should ask in what way he or she can contribute to these missions directly or indirectly. It is difficult to spell out all specific possibilities of tangible contribution by our citizens.”
Referring to the role of teachers in this regard, he said,
Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model. Today, professional education is becoming a commercial venture. Education is enlightenment; it is not trade.
He made a fervent plea to teachers and parents:
If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher. Let us join together and launch this movement from the home and the school to eradicate corruption.
His concluding remarks were ringing, and I wish to conclude my reading of excerpts from his speech with these remarks. Please roll them over in your minds and hearts and decide on your course of action in the coming years.
We are a large country, we are also blessed with natural resources and a highly motivated young human resource. We have to prioritise our thoughts on national development and make all other issues as ‘non-issues’. This will ensure focus and thrust for the development process. And it will prevent dissipation of energy and resources on nonproductive issues.” “I appeal to political leaders, religious leaders, opinion makers, media personnel and all Indian citizens to place a moratorium on all issues which are impediments to the development of the nation, from now and pledge ourselves to make the mission of Developed India a reality.
This will be the greatest legacy that we can proudly leave behind for our next generation. Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow. I pray to the Almighty to provide us the wisdom, knowledge, physical resources and ability to work hard to succeed in our missions.