The former President was ahead of his time. He had a balanced vision of a developed India that included formidable defence capabilities on the one hand and a sustainable environment on the other. India must achieve his vision
Rightly acknowledged as the father of India’s missile programme, APJ Abdul Kalam believed that only power respects power. He ensured that India became a powerful and proud member of the select group of nations that had superlative missile technology. Added to this was Kalam’s visualisation for a developed human civilisation for 2050 which provided India with a clear road map for the future.
But the most remarkable aspect of Kalam was in his balanced vision of a developed India that was replete with formidable defence capabilities and yet had outmost sensitivity towards the environment.
For instance, during the launch of Agni I in 1989 in Chandipur (Odisha), when asked by the then Defence Minister KC Pant as to what he would like to have for ensuring a successful launch of Agni I missile, Kalam spontaneously asked for the sanction of planting and growing 1,00,000 trees in the Chandipur Missile Range. Thanks to his commitment towards environment, Chandipur range today is lush with greenery and is home to various flora and fauna.
Afterwards, this became a trend and when the Research Centre Imarat was established in Hyderabad, the plan included planting of 1,00,000 trees. Today the RCI technology center has immense green cover. This has all happened due to Kalam’s initiative.
Subsequently, planting of trees became the core mission for Kalam with the objective to eventually plant 10 billion trees as mature trees absorbs nearly 20 kg of carbon dioxide every year making them major carbon sinks. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests report on India Forest and Tree Cover Contribution, as carbon sinks, Indian forests and tree covers were capable of neutralising 11.25 per cent of India’s green house gas emissions.
Abdul Kalam’s deep understanding of the challenges posed by a deteriorating environment and climate change helped in sculpting his vision of a developed Indian economy that was powered by renewable energy and assisted by sustainable agriculture and water resources. This vision also required the people of India to be responsible towards the environment and ensure a clean and green future for the coming generations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi aptly described the demise of Kalam by stating, “I have lost a margdarshak”. Kalam’s legacy is his methodical vision for an India that is economically developed wherein people have access to a clean environment and a minimum guaranteed quality of life — this vision can now become our margdarshak.
For India to achieve this vision, it is crucial to take lessons from the past and leverage political consensus to bring about collaborations between the polity and society to attain environmental conservation, improvement and sustenance.
Furthermore, the Government must give priority to scientific research and encourage technological innovations besides increasing societal awareness regarding ecological issues.
In 2012, Kalam had set an example by launching the self-governed ‘What Can I Give Movement’ to spread the message and idea of ‘giving’ among the youth. This initiative galvanised the youth into action and helped increase awareness on ecological issues.
Abdul Kalam also gave a lot of significance on sharing of information and in fact saw it as a prerequisite for ensuring prosperity of India’s population.
The Government must strengthen the telecommunication sector so that a robust partnership between the Government and multiple institutions in the public and private domain can be ensured. This will pave way development to take place in a faster and widespread manner.
Currently, India relies on the Western world to learn some best practices and design its own growth processes. But Kalam had immense faith in India’s internal resources and saw great promise in India’s biodiversity especially for it’s potential to be a significant research base.
The Government must take a cue from this exceptional visionary and build on this by leveraging on the triple advantages of rich biosources, technology and industry. This will help set international benchmark standards in bioresources utilisation and enable India to script its story of progress towards being a developed nation.
Yet another initiative started by Kalam was the Provision of Urban Amenities to Rural Areas programme. The aim of this programme was to create economic opportunities outside cities and reverse rural-urban migration.
The idea was to achieve this by building roads, a better network of electronic and other communication and establishing technical and professional institutions in villages. The Government must now take charge of this programme by ideally integrating it with the rural development programmes.
Abdul Kalam was a visionary ahead of his time who personified efficiency and productivity throughout his life. India must achieve its vision as a mark of respect to this great man.