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Kalam outlines 6-point agenda for nine pc GDP growth rate

M. Somasekhar

The agenda includes focus on infrastructure, including electric power; agriculture and agri-processing; education; healthcare; strategic industries; geo-strategic initiative and information technology.

HYDERABAD, July 2

THE Presidential candidate, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has become synonymous with India's missile programme, Pokhran nuclear blasts and technology self-reliance. Does he have an economic vision?

In addition to his Vision 2020 to transform India from a developing to a developed country, Dr Kalam firmly feels that the GDP growth rate, which is five per cent at present has to be increased to nine per cent.

This commitment itself should drive all our policies to put India on the road to economic strength. To achieve this, he has a six-point agenda, which includes focus on infrastructure, including electric power; agriculture and agri-processing; education, healthcare; strategic industries, geo-strategic initiative and information technology.

Economic strength and national security are key factors that determine the country's status as a developed one. Having achieved progress in national security in the form of the missiles, light combat aircraft (LCA) and the Pokhran nuclear tests, Dr Kalam has been training his interests on rural development and technology to help industrial growth.

The concept of rural development should undergo a change from its stereotype `State funding and politically driven welfare schemes'. Instead, providing urban facilities in rural areas (PURA) would be the new approach, Dr Kalam told Business Line in an interview recently.

Urban facilities such as education, health, telecommunications should be provided within reach of the rural people. Marketing facilities to help the farmers and rural entrepreneurs to transport their products to lucrative markets should be established under the PURA concept, he said.

In this direction, the initiatives on tele-medicine or providing top class medicare to rural people through connectivity established between big corporate or public funded hospitals and public health centres via telecommunications and personal computers are noteworthy.

Dr Kalam is not new to economic development and market realities. In fact, way back in 1983, when the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) was launched he was responsible for bringing three big industries — Godrej, L&T and Walchandnagar industries to make the airframes and rocket motors of the `Akash' missile, says, Dr Arun Tiwari, his associate and co-author of `Wings of Fire', his autobiographical work.

This is perhaps the first instance when the Indian private industry was involved in a big way in a defence project. Today, more than 300 small and big private industries are active participants in the missile development programme, Dr Tiwari, currently, with the Cardiovascular Technology Institute of CARE Hospitals, Hyderabad, told Business Line.

Drawing from these experiences, Dr Kalam propagates cluster approach for quick industrial growth. For example, the Sivakasi firecrackers industry in Tamil Nadu has funded an engineering college, under the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC's) new initiatives, he cited.

Dr Kalam is a strong votary of economic strength built on the service sector, which in turn is driven by knowledge. Historically, India has been a knowledge society, but the colonial intervention has suppressed this advantage. A sort of defeatist tendency, especially during the last 2-3 generations, has impacted upon the development of the country, Dr Tiwari recounts.

His model for transforming India into a developed nation hinges on a 4-dimensional connectivity. These are physical connectivity in the form of roads; electronic through optical fibre network; economic and knowledge connectivity.

Recalling a meeting between Dr Kalam and Mr Azim Premji of Wipro, Dr Tiwari said to a question on what is the single most important thing for the industry asked by Dr Kalam, the Wipro Chairman answered "customer satisfaction".

Similarly, when Dr Anji Reddy of Dr Reddy's Laboratories told Dr Kalam that the company was the first in the country to sell a molecule globally, he replied, "If you had to work on 100 molecules to get one successful entity, give that one to your employees and absorb the costs of the remaining 99. This kind of confidence in the employees will transform the industry".

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