Sunday, 15 August 2010

Interview with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam: We need development politics and not political politics, says the former president

By Syed Akbar


The message that former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam would like to send out to the people on the occasion of Independence Day is “Gain Confidence”. The scientist-teacher says the nation should have a vision to inspire people to dream, irrespective of their affiliation, and that a vision for the nation will connect people. He urges that we move away from “political politics” to “development politics”, and makes fundamental recommendations for enhancing primary education. The nuclear scientist in Dr. Kalam believes that in ten or fifteen years there could be “some good results” in the area of getting power from nuclear fusion which can take care of the world’s energy needs forever.

Q. This Independence Day cannot raise hopes among people. The
price situation has taken its toll. Internal security has deteriorated
on account of the Maoist problem and Kashmir. The shocking state of preparations for the Commonwealth Games, otherwise an opportunity to showcase the country, is a demoralising factor. What are key governance processes and issues that can help us to gain confidence?
A. In any country, particularly in a democracy with a multi-party, multi-
cultural and multi-lingual set- up, there are bound to be some challenges
and issues. But we should not allow the problems to become our master. We
should defeat the problems and succeed.
The nation should have a vision to inspire people to dream, irrespective of their affiliation. To face these challenges, there must be a vision to ensure
focused action. A vision for the nation will connect people. The political system is nothing but political politics plus development politics.
Once elections are over, importance should be given to the politics of
development, rather than political politics. One should think of how to develop the nation. Political politics should occupy just 30 per cent of our scheme of things while 70 per cent of the time should be given to the politics of development. Both at State and the level of the Centre, importance should be given to growth and development.

Q. You have always spoken of empowering the young through
education, and your new book further elaborates this theme. Do we need to
change the type of education we impart in schools and colleges, or should we just try to expand the coverage of the present pattern of literacy and
education in the country?
A. The important milestone achieved in our education system is the
legislation on Right to Education. It will lead to free and compulsory
education for children up to 14 years of age. It will change the literacy
pattern in the country. Primary education needs reforms. There should be creative class rooms with creativity in focus. It should not be exam-oriented.
If there's high creativity at the early school level, it will have a good impact on secondary and higher education. We should have the motto of "teaching-research-teaching". Bring experienced professors to schools from universities on rotation basis to teach primary students. I feel primary education should get priority.

Q. Vision 2020 was something you liked to speak about in terms of
making India a developed country. We are only a decade from there.
Do you believe that is enough lead time? How should these 10 years be used
best? What should be the priority areas for national attention?
A. The GDP is 8.5 per cent at present. The government wants to increase
it to a minimum 10 per cent by 2011. This will have a great impact on various sectors, including agriculture, education, information and communication technology, industry and infrastructure.
My Independence Day message to our people is: "Gain Confidence". Everyone should feel ‘I can do it’. ‘I can do it’ will lead to ‘We can do it’. ‘We can do it’ will lead to ‘India can do it’. We must have the confidence to do it. We will achieve the vision 2020 goals easily. But the important factor is creating confidence.

Q. The neighbourhood we live in is both unsafe and unstable. The
internal politics in countries that are on our doorstep can easily cause
problems for us. Is domestic growth within the country possible if we don't
take steps to stop negative impetus from these countries become a road-block for us? How best can we calm our neighbours' nerves?

A. If Europe can form European Union after fighting so many wars, why
can't Saarc countries establish cordial ties? Today EU has a parliament of
23 nations. Their aim is peace and prosperity. The enemies for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are poverty, disease and unemployment. Just like the EU, our Saarc can emerge stronger. We should make Saarc a purposeful venue with prosperity, development and peace as focus. After all, people want peace and prosperity.

Q. How do you see the state of India's defences and the state of its
military preparedness in the light of current threat perceptions?
A. Our armed forces always stand with strength when India needs them.
I feel we should reinforce them at the right time with the right
force, so that we should not be left unprepared, when the situation demands.

Q. Many think that coalition governments have come to stay. Do you
A. I am a believer in the two- party system. At best three. We need electoral reforms. Members elected should focus on development politics. When this happens, there's little time left for political politics. Then the multi-party system will go.

Q. Do you regret not getting a second term as President? Do you think
that politicians prevented it despite the huge public support you enjoyed?
A. Before becoming president, I was a teacher. When the offer came,
I took up the task primarily with the focus on vision 2020. For five years I did the best I could. The love of teaching brought me back to teaching.

Q. Would you have accepted a second term if this were feasible?
A. I told you that I love teaching.

Q. The ultimate dream of mankind is power from nuclear fusion. Will this dream be realised and will that solve the energy crisis forever?
A. The sun is the best example of thermonuclear reaction. Nobel laureate Dr
Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar, through his Chandra Limit, calculated that the sun will burn for 10 billion years. (Five billion years have already passed.) Such is the enormous energy present in fusion. But, fusion is a big challenge. I believe that in the next 10 to 15 years there will be some good results.

Q. And your message to the youth on the Independence Day?
A. Citizens should develop righteousness in the heart. When there is
righteousness in the heart, there's beauty in the character. When there's
beauty in the character, there's harmony in the home. Harmony at home will
create order in the nation, which will ultimately create peace in the
world. We need good citizens with righteousness in the heart.

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