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Administrative Staff College of India Bella Vista: Hyderabad

Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Lecture (Endowed by MIs National Mineral Development
Corporation Ltd)

Emerging Issues and Future Legacies

Dr Ashok S Ganguly
I consider it a great honor to be invited to deliver the 2004 Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Lecture, by the Administrative Staff College of India.

I first met Shri. Rajiv Gandhi in the late seventies during an Indian Airlines flight from Delhi to Jammu via Chandigarh. During the brief stopover in Chandigarh, we got talking and subsequently met on several occasions, under similar circumstances. He was then a pilot and I was a manager in a multinational company and our paths happened to cross in our normal course of business. Some years later, we met under entirely different set of circumstances. Sanjay Gandhi had died in a flying accident and Shri. Rajiv Gandhi had to give up his professional career with Indian Airlines and start anew on a political course which, to begin with, was to assist and support his mother, Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. The occasion of our renewed contact was Rajiv's keenness to be more widely informed about corporat7 India and, given my own background, also about issues related to R&D in India. Ever since I first met him, I found him to be unfailingly polite, caring, trusting and deeply keen to learn and explore a wide variety of issues and subjects. Those were the traits which endeared him to the millions in India and abroad and those of us who had the good fortune to come close to him, over the next decade, until his tragic assassination in Sriperumbudur.

He was keenly aware of the factors and forces. Rajiv Gandhi was deeply committed to the advancement of Science and Technology as the means to transform India from a developing into a developed nation. The last time I spoke to him was ten days prior to his assassination. In this capacity. Rajiv Gandhi's vision and goals were extraordinarily powerful because they were so obvious and doable. For example.After Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India following the assassination of Mrs. In a manner this was a commitment he had inherited from his grandfather and his mother. I am extremely grateful that ASCI have given me this opportunity to reminisce about issues which preoccupied us during my association with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. economically and socially. Rajiv Gandhi was determined to overcome these barriers and a key feature was his keenness to promote public-private partnerships in India to garner the strength of all sections of our society to win the battle to usher a new era in development and change. during his election campaign. he appointed a Science Advisory Committee (SAC-PM) of which I became a member. not knowing that an enormous tragedy was to befall India in ten days time. I had the opportunity of close and frequent interaction with the Prime Minister during his tenure in the office. the process of economic reforms and improvement in governance needed to be accelerated in order to significantly raise the rate of India's economic growth. which were the prime barriers to India's progress. both international as well as national. As is well known. Without generating higher rates of economic surpluses. Without successfully battling poverty. Indira Gandhi in 1984 and the unprecedented electoral victory in 1985. there was no other obvious way of combating deep-rooted poverty in India. it would not be possible to . At his urging I was preparing myself to be more actively associated with the government.

REVOLUTION started unfolding in the last quarter of the twentieth century. is the lasting contribution of Rajiv Gandhi's reforms with a human face. for example building the Indian railways.empower Indian citizens to become more self reliant and being freed from the stranglehold of the umbilical cord of the State . etc. as a British colony.a legacy left behind by our colonial rulers. one of the most important initiatives of Rajiv Gandhi was the rejuvenation and reinvigoration of the Panchayati Raj institutions. social and economic impoverishment. we were indeed fortunate to be a free nation by the time the forces of the KNOWLEDGE. it destroyed the basic instincts of a caring and capable society. in India. along with the launch of a number of technology missions to deliver the fruits of basic needs for the common people. and which now have even greater relevance to India. That is. Of this. Thus. Industrial and Knowledge Revolution Although India is one of the world's ancient civilizations. over a thousand years of foreign occupation were probably the most debilitating. amongst others. These are the important qualities which had been destroyed by centuries of colonial rule and subjugation. It is in this context that one has to view the massive post-Independence investment in. Because India was under foreign occupation. The two pillars of the Knowledge Revolution are INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) . In significant contrast. the fruits of the Industrial Revolution more or less passed India by. in spheres other than what was needed by the British to govern the country. The rest of my talk is based on some of the deliberations of the (SAC-PM) in the 1980s. or to fulfill its economic priorities. which Pundit Nehru christened as the temples of modern India. such as in certain spheres of education. was a period of unprecedented human. the large public sector industries to build massive dams and power plants. the later phase. This.

human health management and agricultural production and productivity.and BIOTECHNOLOGY (BT). However. seeking to reduce cost and improve efficiency. the transformation and growth of the Service Sector is generating employment. unmatched by either the manufacturing or the agricultural sectors. Rajiv Gandhi's preoccupation to spread a computer culture to improve governance and social transactions was not a fad or a fashion. In the case of Biotechnology (BT) India will also be a major global player one day. which are admired and applauded around the world. Business Process Outsourcing now makes India one of the most attractive destinations by international businesses. As a consequence. entrepreneurship and wealth. India's advances in IT. is so overwhelming that the political countervailing are bound to be frustrated in the long term. a scenario which has just begun to unfold. the economic logic. Today. . of the ground shift. Rajiv Gandhi created a separate Department of Biotechnology in 1986. However. as many had criticized in those early years. In recognition of this. Identifying the power and opportunities thrown up by the Knowledge Revolution was one of the most powerful vision and commitments of Rajiv Gandhi. because we had both the political vision and corporate leadership to ride the wave of the Knowledge Revolution. It was his recognition of the power of information technology. In the way IT transformed the manner in which value is created in manufacturing. especially in the West. BT is changing the whole concept of drug discovery. India is amongst the leaders in the use. are now beginning to be viewed as an instrument of competitive threat. an opportunity denied to us following the Industrial Revolution. both the manufacturing and agriculture sectors are also being transformed by the modernizing impact of IT in unimaginable ways. trading and services. application and advancement of Information Technology. It’s economic benefits to India and advantages to global corporate are bound to have their political consequences. to bypass the arteriosclerosis Indian bureaucracy and deliver the common citizens from the stranglehold of hyper government.

Our inability to contain population and the impact of climate change.Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had famously declared. secondary and university education. voluntary and Private Public parh1erships will have to be recognised as legitimate resources. Private. with a few and rare exceptions. For the State alone to be able to provide the resources and opportunities to all. India is a land of extremes. we have failed due to two primary reasons. there are hundreds of thousands of very talented youngsters who have to settle for something far less in life. it is imperative to spread primary. disenfranchising and disillusioning. At the same time. then sally forth to make their mark in India and around the world. The glaring erosion of R&D in Indian Universities. the rise in the number of the educated middle class across the country. represents India's real "wealth". In this. So the brightest and best. is also a consequence of shortage of resources rather than of talent. pose grave dangers of unimaginable severity to our people and our country. "Our People are India's Wealth". Until now . India's population explosion has set off an unanticipated chain reaction. What we don't see is that amongst those who do not make the grade. the shortfall of resources and secondly. in that sense. in a democracy. Demographic data now confirm that India's population will overtake China's across a much smaller landmass. as it has become for millions of our young generation. if education is to become a truly equal opportunity in India. gross mismanagement by the State's poor governance of available resources. thus chosen. is not practicable. What he had meant and how we interpreted his declaration is now history. as opposed to being socially and economically divisive. is fuelhng the Knowledge Revolution and. The entrance examination procedures of the IITs and IIMs are recognized as the toughest talent filters in the world. In order to spread the opportunities of the Knowledge Revolution more deeply and widely. especially in the short to medium term. Firstly.

The erosion of world-class R&D from the days of Bhabha. At the same time. These are after all the basic ingredients to fuel India's Knowledge Revolution by the power of developed minds of the younger generation of Indians. In India most of us have yet to acknowledge that R&D is not about building and equipment . Its sheer mass is still extremely sub critical to give India a place on the global R&D map. Leading-edge R&D is mostly taking place in a handful of Universities.it is about a solid foundation in the sciences which helps generate original ideas and dreams. That no Indian scientist in India has won the Nobel Prize since 11dependence cannot only be because we are a poor country. have outlived their utility and are in a terminal state of disrepair. . As they decay. India's population growth poses the biggest threat to India's future welfare and wellbeing. given the resources required. Even the R&D in the CSIR Laboratories is being taken greater advantage of by international corporations rather than by Indian companies. a few public R&D institutes some IITs and a few emerging BT companies. Even the much heralded R&D by some large Indian pharmaceutical companies is more in the nature of me-too R&D. Revival of R&D in many more Indian Universities and the use of R&D as a competitive weapon by Indian industry will only be possible by public-private partnership. This can only be remedied provided resources can be garnered to ensure universal primary education. is not easy to overcome. Bhatnagar. Meghnad Shah and Vikram Sarabhai has been precipitous. the talent of India's younger generation can be the biggest source of generating wealth and social justice. The legacy of "Reverse Engineering" and a sellers market. hugely expand secondary education. revive and modernize teaching and R&D in Universities. new institutions are not being built with the necessary speed and urgency.Indian industry has not suffered by not investing in R&D. orchestrated by the licence-permit raj. Many of our University R&D facilities and those in various other institutions.

is the principal unknown which lies at the root of all the uncertainties. The vagaries of the annual mansoon precipitation over the sub-continent have not been improved by various forecasting models and algorithms. now considered to be the greatest threat to the future of the world and the human civilization. Thus a class of politicians has begun to publicly criticize and describe India's technological advancements as being anti-poor and ant rural. Water. the river interlinking plans always seems to be a great idea. . Regrettably. Such an articled is a product of extreme ignorance of those who are out of touch with developments around the world. But that does not make such attitudes any less dangerous and harmful. most of us could not have anticipated.I would like to conclude this section with a word of caution. following the Green Revolution and has now become the stuff of distant history. That the availability of WATER would become a major national crisis in our life time. long term weather forecasting is fraught with enormous uncertainties. This is not a uniquely Indian failure but is an uncertainty with which the rest of the world is grappling as well. needs to be recalled. or rather the lack of its adequate availability. It is in this context that the WATER MISSION launched by Rajiv Gandhi. To deal with vagaries of the annual monsoons. resource and other considerations. Challenges and Opportunities The memories of poor agriculture outputs and food shortages of the 50s and the 60s have gradually receded. is gradually acquiring the shape of a national crisis. the plans have languished on the drawing board for more than fifty years and even its revival by the Suresh Prabhu Committee was short lived due to environmental. In spite of advances in meteorology. Global 'varmint. There seems to be a growing trend to blame India's achievements in the Knowledge Revolution for the woes of farmers and other poorer sections in the country.

However the lack of availability of potable water to the vast majority of our citizens. in addition. The opponents to reforms must be exposed for their antediluvian posturing and the long term harm that they can cause. are indeed a welcome initiative. In India there are. harking on policies of the old Soviet economic planning which have failed resoundingly. Given the reality of globalization of trade and com11lercc~ the need to accelerate India's rate of economic growth to meet the demands of social justice and to sustain civil society. role of the public sector. Both these extremes of Left and Right thinking lack the confidence in reforms and are unable to provide alternatives for India to grow aggressively economically and utilize the surpluses to tackle the burgeoning problems of poverty. the rise in the incidence of water riots and disputes. such opposition must nevertheless be comprehensively rejected by the sheer logic of the greater good. The other challenge we as a country face is the renewed and unproductive debate about the nature and shape of economic reforms and issues related to it.In this context. . etc. the postures of those who oppose change must be seen as counterproductive. those sections of vested interest who have thrived in the regime of the 'licence-permit raj' and continue to resist reforms for their own selfish ends. The urgent need to revive Rajiv Gandhi's water mission cannot be overstated in this regard. Some sections of the Leftists in India now seem to be in the pitiful company of North Korea and Cuba. privatization. While not underestimating the corrosive power and determination of the opponents of modernisahon and reforms. the interstate rivalries in sharing water resources remain a major threat to the unity and integrity of the nation. such as foreign investment. In this regard. illiteracy and unemployment. building step wells and other ancient methods of water conservation and storage. the incentivisation of traditional practices of village communities maintaining natural catchment formations. the most relevant comment was recently made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

the challenges to India's secularism. Concluding Remarks In remembering Rajiv Gandhi and the legacy he left behind in his tragically short but memorable leadership of India. continues unabated and also poses a threat to India. These are the very same behavioral traits that foreigners made use of to divide and rule India in the past and these are the very same forces which pose a danger to our future. Within the country. we need to recognize that Indian economic advancement is in stark contrast to its immediate neighbors. Pakistan continues to suffer from slower economic growth and growing social unrest. further exacerbated by caste. Finally. At the same time. Bangladesh poses a similar threat in the eastern part of the country by providing shelter to various rebel groups from India. In the meantime. The Maoist rebellion in Nepal. While international terrorism is a more recent phenomenon. has been facing severe challenge and strain from the overt rise of Hindu extremism. there is so much to be proud of our achievements and advances. This state of affairs has set forth political chain reactions whose consequences are damaging and can be long lasting. although more recent in origin. which is both abhorrent and unnatural to the very idea of India. India faces a great danger from the rise of such religious extremism. while its poverty stricken population enters India daily in droves and melts away across the country. the long drawn out strife in Sri Lanka. community and cronyism in our electoral politics. exacerbated by its backwardness and India's failure to spur development across our own eastern regions.Finally. poses no less a danger. Pakistan has been raging proxy terrorism against India via Kashmir for a very long time and this has intensified in the past decade. the dangers we as a country and . which eventually led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by LITE terrorists. one which distinguishes us from our neighbors.

While there is a hierarchy in what we may wish to achieve. India's achievements in economic reform and globalization are indeed outstanding and thankfully consistent.people face. dynamism. the dwindling availability of water. determination and vision. . primarily due to the burden of ineffective governance and in the failure to advance individual empowerment. are indeed grave and contain the seeds of some dangerous legacies for the fu ture. there is a collective threat in the dangers we face as a nation. But some of the challenges that we face are indeed grave. slow progress in poverty alleviation and employment generation. Our population growth. our dream of future could sadly turn into a nightmare. combined with the rise of religious fundamentalism of India's political right. have become even more acute. Rajiv Gandhi recognized the opportunities as well as the threats. India's prominent role in the Knowledge Revolution is now well entrenched and recognized around the world. poor access to education. depriving the nation of his leadership. but was felled in his prime. A great danger arises from the corrosive intrusion of our neighboring countries. Unless we deal with each of these dangers in an open and aggressive manner.