Articles- Science and Society: An Indian Perspective
Building upon the Indian Tradition


These are difficult times for India. There is little hope and much cynicism about the state of the nation. And there is a strange willingness not only to allow the nation to drift, but also to allow ourselves to be subjected to the commands of others, to tie ourselves up in demeaning treaties with alien nations. It seems that those of us who have the resources and the authority to help in the task of nation-building have all but abdicated the responsibility and have abandoned the effort.

About five decades ago, at the eve of Independence, we were full of hope and expectation. We were confident that with the lifting of the foreign yoke, we would take our national destiny in our own hands and quickly build ourselves into a strong, prosperous and self-confident nation. And the world, it seems, was willing to allow us to make the effort. In any case, for a few decades after the coming of Independence in India, the Western countries were busy with themselves, first in reconstructing their war-ravaged societies, and later in coping with the unending internecine fight between the Capitalist and the Marxist versions of Western polity. Meanwhile Western economies were expanding, ensuring an era of plenty unprecedented in those regions of the world and thus allowing for a certain amount of self-satisfied generosity on the part of the Western countries.

The times have now changed. The West has resolved its internal fight between the Capitalists and the Marxists, leaving it free to undertake adventurism elsewhere in the world. And the Western economies have begun to stagnate and even contract, making it imperative for the West to adventure abroad if it has to retain the plenty and prosperity it has enjoyed for the last few decades. The plethora of unequal treaties that have begun to appear on the international scene in the name of preserving free trade, or environment, or human rights, and so on, mark the beginning of this new Western adventurism.

And with the times turning difficult, we have begun to realise that we have perhaps botched up the effort at nation-building that we had begun with the coming of Independence. While most other countries, especially in Asia, have utilised the opportunity provided by the last four or five decades of Western quietude to build themselves into vibrant and strong powers capable to some extent of withstanding the adventures of the West, we seem to have merely drifted. Left with an economic and military base that falls far short of our expanse and numbers, and with a paucity of national spirit and determination that seems to have disappeared somewhere along the way, we now find ourselves dangerously open to all kinds of pressures.

This therefore is a time of national emergency. We must sit down, take stock of our resources and possibilities, and evolve a plan for protecting our national identity and self-respect within the emerging world-situation. There is perhaps no way to immediately avoid the buffeting that we are being subjected to. That is the price we have to pay for having taken the task of nation-building so cavalierly when the times were easier. But we have a responsibility to ensure that we do not continue to be in this weak state for any longer than what is absolutely necessary, and that we get to the position where we can begin to self-confidently assert our national interests and identity within a reasonably short period of say five to ten

National Resources

Notwithstanding all the talk of the great and perpetual poverty of India that we have been subjecting ourselves to, we happen to be a country that is almost uniquely endowed with an abundance of natural and civilisational resources. And, any effort at nation-building can proceed only if we begin to recognise, nurture and purposefully deploy the resources that we have been blessed with. Let us therefore begin by making a quick inventory of our national resources.

First, we are a nation with a long civilisational history. This civilisational experience has provided us with a vision of how to live in the world, how to interact with other living beings in the world and with nature in general, and what to strive for. This experience has also allowed us to develop wide-spread and highly sophisticated social and organisational skills and material technologies necessary for the fulfilment of our civilisational urges and aspirations.

This is a rare resource. There are not many countries in the world that can boast of a civilisational history, and there are perhaps none where the ordinary people are so highly educated, knowledgeable and articulate about their civilisational understanding of the universe and man’s place in it, or exhibit such high levels of native technological, social and organisational skills.

Second, we are a country of vast fertile plains that are crisscrossed by great perennial rivers and are basked in bright sunshine almost the whole year round. There is no other country in the world that has been blessed with such natural bounty. There are countries where lands in some pockets exhibit a level of natural fertility that may compare or even exceed that of ours. But there are none where every part of the lands happens to be as fertile as ours. Plains of Saptasindhu in the north, those of Ganga and Yamuna in the centre, of Narmada and Godavari further south and of Krishna and Kaveri in the far south: where else would one find a country with such bountiful geography? And where else would one find the perpetual sunshine of India that is interspersed with plentiful, yet mild, rains?

Such fertile lands and such life-giving climate are extremely rare in the world. After all it takes only 90 days for wheat to mature in the Indian fields, while the same crop in England takes some nine months. It is no wonder that foreign observers coming to India till the late eighteenth century were always impressed by the great productivity of Indian agriculture, in whatever part of India they happened to be, whether in Ramanathapuram in the south or Allahabad in the centre or Agra in the north; and many of them were often wonder-struck at the almost garden-like look of the Indian fields.

Third, we are and always have been a country of great multitudes. It has become fashionable to blame all our present day ills on the vast population of India. But we forget that with her easy geography and salubrious weather, India is the place where life grows and can be sustained in abundance. And, yet our density of population today is only marginally higher than that of countries like England and Germany, and is much smaller than that of Japan, none of which is a country of equal natural abundance with India.

Our people, in their great numbers, with their unequalled understanding of the universe and the times, and with their civilisationally acquired skills of social, political, economic and technological organisation are a great and rare resource that we have been blessed with. Similarly, our large cattle-wealth is a major resource without which the cultivation of our lands and the sustenance of our people would have become doubtful.

Fourth, we are a country of continental dimensions; within the great land mass of India we are provided with all the forest and mineral wealth that we need. Except for mineral oil, there is perhaps no other natural resource of any significance that we import from outside; and, we need not import mineral oil either, because if we do not have much petroleum we do have large amounts of coal.

Fifth, we have a fairly large group of people who know about the present day world and are familiar with its ways. The experience of our interaction with the modern Western world has not been too happy. Much of this interaction has been involuntary on our part, not only during the pre-Independence phase but also, to a large extent, since Independence. This forced and unequal nature of our interaction with the West has obviously skewed our understanding of modernity and its ways. This makes the group of Indians educated in the modern Western ways into a somewhat ambiguous national resource. But it is true that we are not as ignorant of the ways of modernity as many of the other great nations of the world were at the beginning of their recent efforts at nation-building and national assertion in the modern world. This knowledge can be perhaps purposefully employed when we seriously begin to move along the path of national self-assertion.

Sixth and last, we have a few of the more essential modern institutions and systems already in place and operating with reasonable efficiency. Since most of the modern systems and institutions were imposed upon us by the outsiders, many of these are in fact national liabilities rather than resources. But some of these that have retained a sense of patriotism and national purpose, especially the Indian army, the postal system and the railways, are certainly great assets waiting to be fully deployed in
the task of nation-building.

This is an almost complete inventory of our national resources. Any effort at nation-building has to be necessarily tailored towards the preservation, rejuvenation and purposeful deployment of these resources.

Resources turned into Liabilities

Our nation-building efforts during the last four or five decades have, however, either failed to recognise most of these resources, or have found these to be worthless, if not actual obstacles, in the path of what has been called “development”. It is not surprising therefore that many of these national resources have been allowed to whither away from sheer neglect, and others have been sought to be actively degraded and destroyed.

The civilisational history of India has been seen as one of the major causes of the perceived backwardness of the nation and enormous efforts have gone into misrepresenting and maligning almost every aspect of it, in a futile attempt to make the people of India forget their ways and turn into some new kind of human beings. This attempt was begun by alien rulers during the times of loss of political freedom, but after achieving Independence we have continued and intensified the effort, instead of reversing the maligning of centuries and inculcating a healthy pride in our civilisational identity.

The technological skills of the people of India have also been taken to be worthless. We have thought nothing of implementing “development” plans that turn accomplished weavers, or metal smelters and foundry-men, or braziers, or tailors, or accountants and book-keepers, or husbandmen, and so on, into unskilled labourers, or worse still, into unemployed destitutes.

This process of making destitutes of highly skilled Indian people had also begun during the period of loss of freedom, and that is perhaps what led to the emergence of so-called backward castes, most of whom happen to be the carriers of great agricultural, industrial and technological skills. We have continued this process of backwardisation of the skilled people, and we have often done it with little reason. Thus, for example, the railways decide to put large numbers of potters out of business with some misplaced idea of encouraging the plastic and tin-foil packaging industries; or, to take a more localised example, some collector in the Sonabhadra district of Uttar Pradesh decides to snuff-out the last vestiges of metal-smelting skills by beginning to claim sovereign royalties on scattered and otherwise unusable iron ores.

The social and organisational skills of the people of India are taken to be even more worthless, and all efforts are made to make them stop operating as localities and communities and begin to act like unattached individuals. We have continued to organise our public life in the way the British organised it for us, and have left no legitimate place for the traditional organisations of the people of India in the public domain. In this milieu, all expressions of the social, political and organisational skills of the people of India tend to seem subversive of the national mainstream. And the people of India, instead of being seen as the builders of the nation, have begun to seem like liabilities from whose ways the nation needs to be somehow saved.

Not only the skills and the ways of the people, but even their mere numbers, are seen as a cause of concern for national well-being. And somehow reducing the number of people in India has become a major area of state effort and propaganda.

Since, we do not see the Indian people as a resource to be nurtured and employed in our nation-building efforts, it is perhaps not surprising that we have organised our economic activities in ways that can involve only a very small proportion of the people. The meagreness of total economic activity in the country and a severe lack of economic opportunity for most people is one of the most painful features of India today. Large numbers of people, young and old, have been forced into idleness. Any encounter with the reality of India brings one face to face with hordes of extremely competent and bright people, who have been marginalised in the economic life of the country. These people, if allowed to engage in gainful work, would have changed the face of this country. Instead they are languishing in despair and destitution.

We find a large proportion of our people to be so useless, that we do not even feel the need to produce enough food for their bare survival. Though we have been talking of our self-sufficiency in food for almost 25 years now, per capita availability of food in the country has remained unchanged at around 470 gm since the early 1950’s. This level of food availability would be recognised as a state of near famine anywhere in the world. The only reason why we seem to be self-sufficient in food in spite of this low level of food production and availability is because a large proportion of the people of India do not have the resources to buy food for two square meals a day. It is a shameful fact known to perhaps all reasonably competent Indian economists and policy planners that perhaps as much as half the population of India remains underfed and undernourished. Yet we continue to insist that we produce all the food that we need, and there is not even a plan of raising per capita availability to any higher levels. A large proportion of the people of India have thus been effectively written off from our plans. In the process, we have severely degraded our most potent resource in the task of nation-building: our people.

Just as we have kept a large proportion of our people out of our reckoning, similarly we have left a large proportion of our cultivated lands out of our plans. During the centuries of loss of political freedom, the peasantry all over the country came under acute stress; consequently, our lands were deprived of the necessary resources and care, and large parts of them got degraded to a very low level of productivity. After Independence we have been able to bring back some semblance of functionality into our agriculture, but our efforts have been largely limited to only about one third of the cropped area. Of around 160 million hectares of cultivated and cultivable area in the country, it is only about 40 million hectares that get most of our resources and effort and produce much of the marketable surplus. The remaining three fourths of our lands, a large part of it in regions which have been the traditional granaries of India, have remained in a state of extreme neglect and deprivation, producing perhaps no more than 500 kgs of foodgrains per hectare per annum on the average. This major national resource thus remains in need of rejuvenation even after the coming of Independence.

The perennial rivers of India have become perhaps the most grossly abused national resource. Instead of considering rivers as the life-lines of the Indian civilisation, we have chosen to look upon them as consumable reservoirs of water. And we have so meddled with these that today, for most of the year, there is no water in the Yamuna near Vrindavan, nor in Kaveri near Srirangam. There is no Satluj or Beas that flows through the Punjab. All of these have been converted into reservoirs and canals that often take water in directions opposite to the one in which the rivers flowed and cause water-logging in areas that are geographically not suited to absorb and drain the water brought into them.

The world has in the recent past learnt to acquire some respect for the rivers. But we, who are children of the Ganga, have acquired such a cavalier attitude towards them that we think nothing of stopping the great Ganga itself in the upper reaches of Himalayas and of damming the Narmada. We have treated our rivers so badly that our children may never be able to forgive us this one sin of ours. But in any case there is unlikely to be any rejuvenation of India, and her lands and people, unless we learn to treat our rivers with respect and undertake a major effort to let their waters flow clean and deep again along their course through different parts of the country.

It is only the modern systems and institutions – many of them left behind by the British and others that we have created since Independence largely on the basis of plans and models drawn by them – which we find worth preserving and nurturing. But we seem to be raising such institutions and systems merely for their own sake. They are not supposed to be serving any larger national purposes or ambitions. They, in most cases, are serving only themselves. And, whole of the national effort and a large part of the national budget goes in keeping these going.

This lack of a larger purpose makes these institutions and systems mostly dysfunctional and meaningless. We thus have a huge bureaucracy, which spends perhaps three fourths of its time and resources in managing itself, in working out the transfers, postings, promotions and perquisites of its own cadre. Or to take a more modern and sophisticated example, we have a huge nuclear energy establishment that after four decades of effort has succeeded in setting up less than 2000 megawatts of nuclear energy generation capacity, the capacity that could have been provided by two big sized coal-fired thermal plants. Or take the steel industry of India, about which the national leaders of independent India had such fantastic dreams, and which at the end of five decades of development cannot boast of even 20 million tons of production per year. Or take the highly rated Indian Institutes of Technologies, which often consume resources equivalent to the whole technological education budgets of major states, and yet are not clear whether they are in the business of producing engineers for the country or for highly undervalued exports to foreign lands. And, the faculty members in these institutions often are not sure whether their work lies here or abroad.

Examples of the dysfunctionality of the modern sector can be multiplied. Such dysfunctionality has converted this one resource to which we have been paying all our attention into a national liability. In a more purposeful environment, the highly trained young men and women in these institutions would have been a major asset in dealing with the modern world, of which they are supposed to have such intimate knowledge. In the current atmosphere, however, these same men and women have become either completely dysfunctional or have turned into fanatic messengers of modernity, whose commitment to their essential Indian identity itself has become somewhat shaky. What is even more worrisome is that the dead weight of the plethora of largely dysfunctional modern institutions is beginning to have an adverse impact upon even those of the institutions that have retained a sense of purpose and patriotism and a certain level of efficiency, like the army, the railways and the postal services.

We have thus neglected and in many cases gone about wilfully destroying the bountiful resources that we have been bestowed with. Much of this neglect and destruction has arisen from a feeling that we need to undertake modernisation and technological up-gradation of all sectors of Indian life. But modernity and technology are not ends in themselves. These can only be means to a better preservation and utilisation of our resources and skills. Any effort at national reconstruction today has to begin with a concerted plan to rejuvenate our national resources. Not technology, but rejuvenation, has to be our guiding principle. And we shall, of course, develop or acquire whatever new technology is needed to effect such rejuvenation. This turning of our gaze away from the glamour of modern ways and technologies, recognising the unglamorous reality of these as somewhat clumsy and expensive means that may have to be occasionally utilised for achieving our national goals, and concentrating upon recollecting, gathering, upgrading and purposefully deploying our own resources and skills is perhaps the essence of the practice of Swadeshi today.

Rejuvenation of National Resources

The neglect of our national resources till now has been so total and the consequent state of their decay and degradation is so acute that their rejuvenation would probably require a war-like effort. The state of the world around us and the new threatening world order that is being sought to be imposed by the materially and militarily stronger countries make the undertaking of this task even more urgent. But where do we begin?

a. Civilisational Recollection

The first resource that we need to preserve and rejuvenate is of course that of our civilisational memory. Without this memory, and without a sense of pride in our Indian ways and Indian identity, nothing else is worth achieving, or achievable. Those who have nothing to assert in the world, nothing to live and die for, are never given any quarters in the world.

It is fortunate that Srirama of Ayodhya has blessed us with the initiative to launch a great movement towards the recollection of our civilisational moorings and reassertion of our pride in ourselves. This movement of self-recollection and self-assertion is perhaps the most important step towards the rejuvenation of our national resources, and all other efforts must in fact be seen as subsidiary to it.

b. Revitalising the People

Recollection of our civilisational anchorage is primary. But our civilisation itself is rooted in the people and the land, and revival of the vitality of our people and our lands has to become the natural next step of this movement.

As we have noticed in an earlier section of this note, our people have not only been put out of work and their skills allowed to rust, they have also been physically emaciated through near starvation and malnourishment. It is difficult to think of any rejuvenation of the nation unless this state of emaciation is first removed.

The economists’ way of improving the standards of nourishment of a people are of course to find ways of increasing their economic purchasing power and thus their commercial access to food, and till that does not happen, the people must wait. But those interested in national reconstruction cannot afford to think in these terms. If the nation is to be built on the basis of the skills and strengths of our people, then, before anything else, we must first bring the people to a state of at least physical robustness. Economic opportunities shall indeed improve when the task of national reconstruction gets well on its way, but that task can hardly be begun with an emaciated people.

Therefore we must plan for relieving the state of starvation and malnourishment of the Indian people as the first step towards the economic recovery of the nation. One way of doing this is to initiate a large scale movement of public feeding throughout the country. If we can start public kitchens at say 50,000 places in the country, where anybody can walk in and be assured of receiving food in a clean and dignified environment, then we would have already taken a major step towards national reconstruction and the recovery of national self-esteem.

Given the resources and attitudes of the Indian people, this is not too difficult a task. In fact, in the Indian way of thinking it is a sin to eat when there are others in the neighbourhood who have remained unfed. This sense of sin attaches not only to the neglect of the hunger of fellow human beings, but also to that of the birds, animals, rats, reptiles and insects. The idea of this sin of eating in the presence of the hungry is prominently enshrined in the classical texts of Indian civilisation, and perhaps more importantly, it remains deeply etched even in the current memory of the Indian people. There are many in India today who try to get over this sin by organising public feeding in their limited ways. Such feeding is perhaps already going on at thousands of places in the country. What is needed however is to make this spontaneous effort into a concerted movement, so that our collective national sin of having let our people go hungry is completely wiped out.

The 50,000 kitchens that we begin shall probably have to cater to around a thousand people each on the average. Feeding these 5 crore people well would require between 10 to 15 million tons of foodgrains, which is not too high a figure even in our present state of rather low level of agricultural productivity and production. This is the amount of food we are already distributing through the public distribution system.


In money terms this amount of foodgrains would cost perhaps around 5,000 crore rupees, and if the requirements of other provisions and the expenses of cooking, distributing and managing are added, the total annual expense of running 50,000 kitchens would add up to 10,000 crores. This is not too large an amount to spare for a society, where the central government alone can run up a deficit of the order of 60,000 crore rupees, and much of it on funding trivialities. Spending 10,000 crore rupees on a movement that would remove the stigma of hunger and restore national self-esteem in our own eyes as well as in the eyes of the world is hardly difficult for a society of the depth and dimensions of India.

This operation cannot of course be run as a government programme. To be really effective it would have to become a movement of the people, organised and run by the people of India through whatever groupings and arrangements they find proper in different parts of the country. But since the state has become the repository of all surplus grains and almost all surplus resources of the country, it shall be necessary to call upon the state to provide free foodgrains on demand for these operations. The local communities running the kitchens shall still have to find resources for other provisions, and shall have to generate the necessary organisational skills from within themselves. At a later stage, it shall perhaps be appropriate to amend the constitution to enshrine the right of food as a fundamental right of the Indian citizens, thus making the state formally responsible for ensuring that no Indian ever need go hungry.

The launching of the movement, however, does not have to wait for any bounty from the state. The movement can begin from Ayodhya, with those associated with the Sri Ramajanmabhumi movement taking a vow that from this Vijayadasami onwards nobody shall be allowed to go hungry in the Panchakosi Kshetra of Ayodhya, and nobody seeking food in this region shall be refused a meal. The number of such regions can then be multiplied to fifty or sixty within a period of two to three months, if necessary with the help of the philanthropy of some of the major industrial houses of India. And, it may be hoped that the example of these fifty or sixty shall begin to be quickly copied at many different places. It is only at that stage that it would be necessary to bring pressure upon the state to support the movement with the supply of free grains.

It shall perhaps be necessary to provide a religious anchorage to the movement from the beginning. Quite apart from the civilisational significance of such anchorage, this would ensure that those running the movement at different levels shall not be carried away by material temptations, and the problems of petty corruption which are likely to arise in any movement of such large dimensions shall be minimised.

If this movement can be launched with success, and some 50,000 public kitchens begin to function in the country in say two years, it would revive the vitality of the Indian people in almost no time. We can be certain that once the hunger is removed, the people of India shall begin to be active in various fields on their own, and there will be a flowering of economic and social activity all over the country. In fact, the process of running such a large operation of public feeding itself would make many communities and localities come alive and begin to recreate and reassert themselves in different spheres of public life. And with the revival of the Indian people, and their communities and localities, Indian nation shall once again come into its own.

c. Regenerating the Lands

Besides the Indian people, the other major resource that we need to quickly regenerate is the Indian land. As we have pointed out earlier, vast tracts of Indian lands are lying in a state of neglect and decay. A large proportion of such lands is in fact in the abundantly endowed plains of Ganga in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal. Similarly, large parts of the fertile plains of Godavari in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa seem to have decayed to a low level of productivity. And, this is the state of much of the Krishna plains too.

The lands of India are naturally fertile. These have come to their present state only because during the period of loss of national freedom the peasantry was turned destitute. The revival of these lands does not need the input of any great industrial resources; it only needs care and labour. But since these lands have remained more or less untended for almost two centuries, it shall perhaps take the labour of a few years before the results begin to show.

How do we provide for the necessary labour on the lands, especially if the returns on such labour are going to appear after a few years? It is futile to expect that such labour could be arranged as a capitalist enterprise. In the India of today there are many more lucrative and almost no-risk opportunities for the available capital. Such labour can perhaps be arranged as a welfare measure through state-funded programmes, but, as we have seen, such programmes are rather expensive and the resources often end up in the pockets of those responsible for the execution of such programmes, rather than on the land.

If we are serious about the task of national reconstruction, we shall have to find a much more disciplined way of making labour available on the untended lands of India. One way of doing this is to create a kind of national reconstruction army. To have a visible impact on the state of India, it has to be a large army, say of around 10 million people, and it has to be a highly disciplined force, working preferably under the command and discipline of our regular armed forces.

Creating such an army is of course a stupendous task, but it is not impossible. We have large numbers of young people in the country, who have no work to do; they shall be only too happy to get the opportunity to serve in a disciplined force for say a period of two to three years. And if these young men are paid only a nominal sum of say one thousand rupees a month, in addition to their board and lodging, the total expense of maintaining a reconstruction army of around 10 million, would amount to around 20 to 30 thousand crores, which too is not a large sum for a country of our dimensions.

The cadets of the reconstruction army would be expected to receive formal training in military discipline for 3 months a year, and serve on the land for the remaining 9 months. Units of such disciplined forces, working under the command of their officers but according to the guidance and desires of the local communities, shall be able to quickly revive large areas of land, and repair the extensive irrigation works in different areas of the country.

With such a reconstruction army, it is possible to think of doubling the production of food in the country in less than five years, thus bringing per capita food availability in the country at par with the more functioning societies of the world, and ensuring the well being of not only the people of India, but also our cattle, birds and other species of life forms that abound in this country.

Such a reconstruction army will yield for the nation several other advantages. Units of this army could be used to repair and revive our rail and road systems. They could be used to clean up, repair and rebuild our public spaces. They could perform many other tasks of national reconstruction. And, after having served their tour of duty, the veterans of the reconstruction army could be organised into an active reserve to substantially enhance the military strength of the country.

The presence of a disciplined force of such dimensions shall substantially improve the overall level of discipline in the public life of India; that improvement is sorely needed. The veterans of this force on their return shall provide a new level of confidence to their communities and localities, and thus pave the way for the nation returning to its traditions of a decentralised polity, in which much of the business of governance and public welfare is carried out by the communities and localities themselves.

Raising a large reconstruction army, large enough to provide every willing young Indian between the age of 15 to 25 years the opportunity to serve for at least two years, is perhaps the only way of undertaking the task of national reconstruction at a war footing. In any case there is perhaps no other way of rejuvenating the lands of India that have been allowed to go waste for the last two hundred years.

d. Regenerating industry and the modern institutions

Once the movement for large scale public feeding and large scale rejuvenation of the lands gets under way, it shall generate enormous pressures and demands for all kinds of industrial skills and goods. It is in fact difficult to imagine the kind of demands that would arise when the food production in India reaches double its present volume.

It may, however, be necessary to undertake concerted programmes to revive certain sectors of industry. Especially, it may be necessary to undertake a programme to increase the production of textiles, which in per capita terms is abysmally low today. Similarly, it may be necessary to undertake intensive programmes to enhance the production of coal, and the efficiency and reach of railways. But such programmes have to be thought of only after the problem of food and land has been solved.

It may however be necessary to immediately begin reorganising the modern institutions for the future tasks. For example, it may be appropriate to change the structure of Indian Institutes of Technology, so that each one of these institutions begins to specialise in one selected area of national endeavour. One of these institutions could, for example, be asked to concentrate on agricultural pump-sets. The institute would then be expected to design the basic Indian pump-sets, to develop the ten or twelve variations on it that would be required in different regions and circumstances, to create the special materials and alloys that may be required for some of the more critical components of these pump-sets, to actually organise for the production and supply of these critical components, and to disseminate the design and skills so that all the other components may be produced in small workshops all over the country and assembled there. Similarly, another of the IIT’s may be asked to specialise in earth moving machinery, another in textiles, and another in railways. Such reorganisation shall give the engineers and the students of these elite institutions a national purpose to work for, and put their skills at the service of the nation. Other less elite institutions of technology shall then soon reorganise themselves along the same line thus changing the whole direction of technological education in India.

These perhaps are unusual programmes. But then these are unusual times. We have carried on the task of reconstruction in a lackadaisical manner for almost five decades, and now we do not seem to have much time to left complete the task. The situation demands unusual responses.

March, 1994

Centre for Policy Studies, Madras