Late President A P J Abdul Kalam was a tad cautious about ‘Make in India’ campaign saying though it’s “quite ambitious”, it has to be ensured that India does not become the low-cost, low-value assembly line of the world. On Digital India, he felt it has the potential to activate the knowledge connectivity needed in villages and remote areas and “we need to bridge the gaps of lower level of literacy, language and customised content, though”. These views are expressed in the soon-to-be published “Advantage India: From Challenge to Opportunity”, one of the last books written by Kalam along with his aide Srijan Pal Singh.
The book, published by HarperCollins India, also has his unfinished speech of July 27 at IIM-Shillong where he collapsed only to breathe his last hours later. The NDA government launched ‘Make in India’ in September last year. The programme aims at promoting India as an important investment destination and a global hub for manufacturing, design and innovation. “Well, let us be clear on this. ‘Make in India’ is quite ambitious. But we need such high aspirations… I agree with the infrastructure concern. “India has seen an unbalanced infra growth -variations are rampant across states and sectors. For instance, while the telecom and Internet sectors have made remarkable progress, many villages still are not connected with roads and power. Physical infrastructure cannot be ignored for manufacturing growth,” he wrote.
He had a piece of advice: “We need to ensure that we do not become the low-cost, low-value assembly line of the world. If we go on that path, the growth will come at a great price and pain to the people.” His suggestion was that we need to do original research to design, develop and manufacture in India by using the ideas of the youth, the wisdom of the ages and the vibrancy of a democracy. According to Kalam, there is a distinct feeling that politics is fast evolving into a game of musical chairs where the same set of leaders, or their favoured few, occupy the seats of power with huge entry barriers for others.
“Where this set of leaders lacks integrity, the baton passes from one corrupt leader to another who is part of this set. Politics needs streamlined processes for the people to pluck out and permanently discard the corrupted and also a mechanism by which fresh talent and creative leaders can find their way into the system, using ethical means,” he wrote. On the election process, he wrote that proliferation of parties has significantly added to the burden of elections on the nation, and also distorted the political equations post elections, leading to the spread of corruption. “The debauchery of the political leaders perhaps hurts the citizens more than any other form of corruption…
When the leadership turns indifferent, corrupt or callous, it is a breach of faith and a shattering of hope. “But apathy and indifference was never, and will never be, an answer. It is not difficult to fathom that political corruption is easily the most dangerous of all forms. In any mature or emerging democracy, the quality of the political leadership can mean the difference between a welfare state and a bankrupt one,” he wrote. He, however, was optimistic. “While the fact that over time our political system has seen ethical decay is undisputed, yet there are ample of cases where political leadership has shown the capability and resolve to combat the menace of inefficiency and corruption.”