Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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17-05-2007 : Kolkata
Convergence of Core Competencies for Regional Prosperity

"Great missions born out of great minds"


I am delighted to participate in the inauguration of the Conference on development of East and North-East India. I am happy that the Conference is bringing together intellectuals, industrialists, political leaders and societal transformers concerned with the development of East and North East India comprising of Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram and Tripura particularly to bring the benefits of national economic growth to the rural people in different parts of this region. This region accounts for over 260 million people.

I have visited all the States of East and North-East a number of times. Every time I visit, I see the natural environment with multiple bio-diversity, beautiful rivers, forests, mountains, valleys, plains, and above all hardworking people. With these resources I am confident that this region with its multiple core competence and Investment Plan can get transformed into a developed region well before 2020.


Vision for East and North-East India 2017

Let me start with my visualization of East and North-East States in the year 2017:

a) The people living below poverty line will become near zero in all the States from the existing 45% in some States.

b) The current per capita income of the East and North East region which is in the range Rs.6500 to Rs.18,000, will increase to Rs.50,000..

c) Infant mortality rate will become less than 10 per thousand from the present 60 per thousand prevalent in some of the States.

d) All the East and North East States will be free from water borne diseases and receive affordable, quality heath care.

e) The East and North East States will realize the goal of 100% literacy from the existing less than 50% in some of the States.

f) All citizens of East and North East States will be empowered with quality education, healthcare and employment potential leading to overall enhancement in prosperity and happiness.

Let me now discuss the core competencies of the East and North East States and how individually and together they can bring prosperity to the region.


Core Competence of East and North East States

East and North East States have several core competencies and every State has a vision to become a developed State in a time bound manner. Let us now focus on some of them which can be collectively pooled for mutual benefit. Bihar is endowed with Ganges and many rivers, a fertile soil and is famous for sugar and dairy industries. Orissa has a large coast line and it is famous for its launch sites, mineral resources and steel plant. Jharkhand is endowed with coal, minerals, steel, fertilizer and industries. West Bengal is famous for arts, music, science and education. Assam is endowed with petroleum, natural gas, coal, limestone and many other mineral like magnetic quartzite. Tripura is endowed with rubber farms, bamboo forests, horticultural products such as ginger and is rich in oil and gas. Sikkim is famous for its special variety of cardamom, ginger, anthurium and is endowed with large hydel potential. Meghalaya has varied and suitable climate for important commercial varieties of orchid including those of Cattleya, Scented Rose, Anthurium, Lilies ., which can be grown for cut flower production. Nagaland is the land of the young. It is a beautiful state with unique tradition of tribal structure, community organization and strong bonds that connect people to people. Every house in Nagaland is endowed with handicraft skills. Mizoram has the potential for cultivation of Cash crops like Tapioca, ginger, fruits like orange, lemon, kagziline, pineapple and papaya. These crops can enable setting up of fruit and vegetable processing plants for value addition and distant marketing. When I think of Manipur I am reminded of the leaves of passion fruit which contains alkaloids and other phyto-chemicals, which are useful in treatment of hypertension and respiratory diseases. Its beautiful flower has several medicinal properties. The folk dances of Manipur are world famous. Arunachal Pradesh is famous for horticulture and fruit orchards. It is a great place for spiritual tourism. We can generate over 25,000 mega watts of electric power from the Hydel resources of Arunachal Pradesh. All the States are endowed with rich cultural heritage and can become the most sought after tourist destinations.


Social and Economic Development - Transforming East and North East India into a fully developed region

Since over two hundred million citizens of East and North East live in villages, there is an urgency to improve the conditions of rural life through better physical connectivity, electronic connectivity, knowledge connectivity, which together will lead to comprehensive economic connectivity. For this mission, we have to ensure that the overall GDP growth rate of East and North East States has to reach 8% to 10%, and maintained at this level for the next ten years. For this, employment generation, particularly in the rural areas is very essential. This necessitates spreading the development process to the rural sector.

We have nucleated programme called PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) involving a geographically co-located clusters of multiple villages with four connectivities namely physical, electronic and knowledge leading to economic connectivity. India with its six hundred thousand villages needs to have 7,000 PURAs. The specific needs of the PURA for different states in East and North East will be around 2000 PURAs. Each PURA cluster, apart from concentrating on reinforcing agriculture, will emphasize on areas like agro processing, development of rural craftsmanship, dairy, silk production and fishing, so that the non-farm revenue for the rural sector is enhanced, based on the competitive advantage of the region.

It is also essential that the rural economy should be driven by renewable energies such as solar, wind, bio-fuel and conversion of municipal waste into power. With this approach, the core competencies in the rural sector would be harnessed for sustainable development of the economy as a whole.

PURA envisages an integrated development plan with employment generation as the focus, driven by provision of the habitat, healthcare, education, skill development, physical and electronic connectivity and marketing in an integrated way for a cluster of villages with critical mass. In our country, we have five operational PURAs such as Periyar PURA, Byrraju PURA, Loni PURA, Chitrakoot PURA and Sakthi PURA. With a strategy for the bottom of the economic pyramid through PURAs, India should be able to transform its rural economy into cluster based, economically viable systems in the shortest possible time.


Profile of a typical PURA Mission

Based on the terrain and climatic conditions, there could be three types of PURA in the East and North East region. They are plain terrain PURA, hill PURA and coastal PURA. In the plains and coastal regions, the PURA population may be in the region of 20,000 to 1,00,000, cluster into economic systems of 20 to 30 villages. In the hilly region, PURA may have a population of 7,500 to 15,000 people in a cluster of 30 to 100 villages or hamlets. Only then we can assure a high quality of life in the rural areas in a cost effective manner.


Creating competitive advantage for PURAs

PURAs are planned not only as self-sufficient, economically viable village clusters, but each cluster is endowed with its unique competitive advantage in the form of a portfolio of special products relevant to that region and the local talents and skills. In this way each PURA will be able to contribute to the rest of the economy within and outside the country and thereby contribute to overall competitive advantage and economic strength of the entire East and North East region. Let me now give one example to illustrate the competitive advantage for PURA.

Periyar PURA (Tamilnadu): Periyar PURA complex pioneered by Periyar Maniammai College of Technology for Women, Vallam, Tanjore is functioning near Vallam having a cluster of over 65 villages in Tamilnadu which involves a population of 1 lakh. This PURA complex has all the three connectivities - physical, electronic and knowledge - leading to economic connectivity. The center of activity emanates from the women engineering college that provides the electronic and knowledge connectivity. Periyar PURA has health care centers, primary to post graduate level education and vocational training centers. This has resulted in large-scale employment generation and creation of number of entrepreneurs with the active support of 850 self-help groups. Two hundreds acres of waste land has been developed into a cultivable land with innovative water management schemes such as contour ponds and water sheds for storing and irrigating the fields. The villagers are busy in cultivation, planting Jatropha, herbal and medicinal plants, power generation using bio-mass, food processing and above all running marketing centre. This model has emanated independent of any government initiative. The committed leadership has been provided by the engineering institution. Recently, 5 of Periyar PURA villages are connected through Wi-MAX Wireless and having minimum 4 mbps connectivity with the Periyar PURA nodal centre. It provides a sustainable economic development in that region.

Export Products from PURA Clusters: The members of Periyar PURA in Vallam have selected 40 products out of 123 which will be produced by Periyar PURA with the support of an Export Promotion Organization. They displayed these products in an exhibition at New Delhi during February 2007 with remarkable success; the PURA members now propose to exhibit their products once again in Japan during June 2007. The feedback from each exhibition will be used to improve the quality and attributes of the product so that customer satisfaction is enhanced. Technical Consultancy support for improving products is being provided by academic institutions like Periyar Maniammai College of Engineering for Women. This type of localized support centre ensures creation and faster delivery of PURA products to acceptable national and international standards, by our craftsman and innovators in rural areas. This type of experience will be very useful in converting bamboo products and handicraft products produced by rural industries into exportable products. Now I would like to discuss about Knowledge Platform for eastern states.


Knowledge Platform for Eastern States

Knowledge platform for eastern states will combine the core competencies of all the states in the region and will become the launch pad for many innovations that are waiting to be unearthed only by the combined power of all the scientists and technologists drawn from this region.

Missions for Knowledge Platform: The convergence of Bio, Nano and ICT is expected to touch every area of concern to the humanity. The proposed knowledge platform will take up the missions, in some of the areas given below, which are of utmost urgency to all of us to make East and North East region a safe, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous place to live:

1. Water: Enhancing quality of existing resources, rain water harvesting, flood management, interlinking of rivers, seawater desalination using renewable energy.

2. Energy: Transforming energy security to energy independence for the Eastern region particularly maximum utilization of Hydel energy, solar, bio-mass and bio-fuel through Jatropha plantation in certain waste lands.

3. Healthcare: Vaccine for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and other water borne diseases in the region and also using traditional medicine and working towards molecule to drugs programme based on the herbal farms available in the region.

4. Agriculture and food processing: Increasing the per capita yield from agriculture, horticulture and floriculture, new-technologies for preservation, developing varieties of crops for varying climatic conditions.

5. Capacity building: Capacity building in state-of-the-art internationally competitive skills development and higher education with research as a focus through partnership among the educational and R & D institutions of Eastern Region through direct and virtual class rooms.

6. Eastern Region e-Network: Creating e-Partnership in education, healthcare, business and trade.

The core competencies of the East and North East region will have to be pooled for design, development and marketing of world class products and systems. I would request the participants to consider the establishment of ?Knowledge Platform for Eastern Region? meeting the unique needs of the regional development and arrive at a roadmap for its time bound implementation.



We are conscious that GDP alone does not fully reflect in the quality of life of a large number of people, particularly in rural areas and even in urban areas. For a comprehensive and inclusive approach to a measure of true socio-economic development, we have evolved what is called a ?National Prosperity Index (NPI)? which is a summation of (a) annual growth rate of GDP; plus (b) improvement in quality of life of the people, particularly those living below the poverty line plus (c) the adoption of a value system derived from our civilizational heritage in every walk of life.

It may be noted that the concept of National Prosperity Index includes the factor of the International Human Development Index. That is NPI=a+b+c. Particularly, ?b? is a function of availability of housing, good water, nutrition, proper sanitation, quality education, quality healthcare and employment potential. ?c? is a function of promoting the joint family system, creation of a spirit of working together, leading a righteous way of life, removing social inequities, and above all promoting a conflict free, harmonious society. This will be indicated by peace in families and communities, reduction in corruption index, reduction in court cases, elimination of violence against children and women and communal tensions. There should also be progressive reduction in the number of people living below the poverty line leading to its becoming near zero by 2017. All our efforts in improving the national economic performance should be guided by the measured National Prosperity Index of the nation at any point of time.

As per Planning Commission projection a sum of over Rs. 3,25,000 Cr. is likely to be available for the development of East and North East region during the 11th plan period. North East states in particular has been allotted a sum of Rs.50,000 crores in the 11th Plan period for providing road connectivity. In addition there are planned missions for improving the availability of power, electronic connectivity, creation of inland waterways, air connectivity, rail connectivity, establishment of industries and enhancing the tourism potential in the north east during the 11th Plan period. Based on these, the participants of this conference should work out a strategy on how this financial resource could be effectively utilized as planned for the intended mission in a time bound manner to realize an accelerated growth of the region leading to better quality of life for all the citizens of these States.

The Conference should look at the resource availability in an integrated way for the overall resurgence of East and North East. I would request the conference to prepare an Action Plan for enabling transformation of East and North East region to become economically prosperous, happy, peaceful and safe region in the country well before 2017.

I wish you all success in creating a resurgent Eastern Region.

May God bless you.

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam




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