Sunday, 19 October 2008
My young friends,
It gives me great pleasure to be with you this evening. I thank INDIA BANAO! For giving me this opportunity to interact with you. I learn that there are students from IIT Delhi, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Amity University and other prestigious institutions. I thank all of you for taking time out to participate in this programme.
You are the generation that is changing the world’s perception of India. And through that, India’s perception of itself. From an India that can’t, that won’t. To an India that can, to an India that will.
In exactly two days from now, India will have launched its spaceship CHANDRAYAAN - I to the Moon. It will carry India’s Tricolour to the Moon. This is an example that shows how far India has changed — from an India that can’t, to an India that can. About 20-25 years ago — that is, when many of you were just born — not many in India, or in the world, believed that India could send a spacecraft to the Moon. A spacecraft built entirely by our own scientists.
Former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced the launch of CHANDRAYAAN in his Independence Day address in 2003. Our scientists and engineers at ISRO have now made it a reality. Many of them are young scientists. They had an opportunity to go abroad in search of other options. But they stayed back, because they wanted to demonstrate to the world what India is capable of.
Today, at the outset, let us all give the scientists and engineers of ISRO a BIG HAND. Our best wishes — indeed, the best wishes of every Indian- are with them for the success of CHANDRAYAAN – I. I dream of the day when ISRO’s future space missions will carry Indians to the Moon — and beyond.
When we look at Today’s India, we see both India of Yesterday and India of Tomorrow
True, we have many problems to overcome. Far too many Indians are still living in poverty. It pains me when I read reports of farmers’ suicides and of widespread hunger in many underdeveloped parts of India. Far too many children who ought to be in school are condemned to work for a livelihood. Far too many young Indians are without employment, or have jobs that pay poorly.
At the same time, nobody can deny that India is a nation on the move, and the movement forward has been faster and more spectacular than ever before. The whole world has come to recognize India as a RISING GLOBAL POWER. I am confident that the problems that we have inherited from Yesterday can be surmounted.
My confidence stems from the fact that young people in India are far more ambitious and enterprising, far more impatient for results, than the generations that preceded them. Today’s India is a nation of Young Achievers, those who have both the talent and determination to be the best in the world.
When I go to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune or Gurgaon, I am amazed at the transformation that has taken place in just over a decade’s time. Ten years ago, Silicon Valley in America was the symbol of innovation and enterprise in IT. Today the world is looking at India. And it is young people like you who are making India an IT Superpower.
Young Indians are shining not only in business and technology, but in other fields, too.
When I look at Sachin Tendulkar, who last week became the highest scorer in Test cricket, I am as inspired as you are.
Recently, Abhinav Bindra met me. I was inspired to hear from him how he didn’t give up after his failure in Sydney Olympics in 2000 and in Athens Olympics in 2004. Finally, he realized his dream of a gold medal in Beijing Olympics.
India has produced some of the best movies in the world. I have always loved watching films, but I am especially struck by today’s young talent in Indian cinema. I was deeply moved by Taare Zameen Par made by Aamir Khan. It has gone to Oscars as India’s nomination this year. It truly deserves to win an Oscar.
I am lover of books, and am amazed at the talent of young Indian writers. One of them, Chetan Bhagat, who is a best-seller author, is a product of IIT and IIM.
Need to change youth’s perception about politics and politicians
All this shows that Young Indians like you have high aspirations – for yourselves, for our country. You have the talent – to transform these aspirations into reality.
And you have more, much more. As I travel across the country, and come in contact with so many of you, I see that you are the ones who have that incomparable, indispensable asset: you have idealism. You want to succeed in your own careers and life, of course. But you also want India to succeed. You want a great India – a prosperous and strong India.
And you want to join in making that India. Everywhere I go, young people ask me: ‘Sir, tell us what we can do to help. Tell us what we can do for our country.’
That is the spirit which led lakhs of youth to forswear comfort, to forsake careers, to sacrifice their very lives, and join the Lokmanya, to join Gandhiji to liberate our country. That is the spirit that led the youth to join Jayaprakash Narayan and throw out the corrupt, to throw out those who had imprisoned the country during the Emergency.
I am aware that the political class in India has failed to preserve and nurture the idealism that powered the Freedom Movement or the movement to save Democracy in the 1970s. This has understandably caused young people to develop a negative and cynical approach to politics and politicians. They tend to see all political leaders as corrupt, self-serving and unscrupulous in pursuit of power, as those who believe that abuse of power is their right.
This is not true about all politicians. But, unfortunately, this negative perception about the average Indian politician has taken root.
It has been the endeavour of my Party and myself to change this perception and this reality. However, change can come when more and more idealistic young people join political activity. I, therefore, take the opportunity of this interaction to appeal to the Youth of India to become politically active. Not the Politics of Power, but the Politics of Social Transformation and Nation-Building.
That is exactly the spirit I see in your eyes today: your spirit to build a New India. An India that will be among the great nations of the world. An India that can provide world-class education and good opportunities for all. An India where you are defined by what you want to be, by the effort you put in, not by the family or the caste or the community or the region you are born into.
How the Vajpayee Govt made India proud
Our task in governance, in the BJP, is to create the conditions, to create the environment which will enable you to develop your talent to the fullest, to live up to your highest ideals. I pledge to you: wherever we are in office, whenever we are in office, our singular goal will be to create those conditions.
We did create those conditions when we were in Government at the Centre between 1998 and 2004. You saw what India accomplished during those for six years under Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership. The results are all around you.
Some of the most ambitious developmental projects were launched then. Such as the Golden Quadrilateral Project. Earlier, many in India despaired of the condition of roads and highways. They wondered: “Why can’t India have highways like what they have in Europe and America?” Some even concluded: “No, India can never have world-class highways.”
But we proved them wrong. Today, India indeed has world-class highways and expressways. It is sad that the highway development project has slowed down in the UPA Government. But a future NDA Government will more than make up for the lost years.
In the past, many people in India despaired of poor telephone connectivity. Most of the young people in this hall will probably not believe that for nearly fifty years after Independence, there used to be long waiting lists for getting an ordinary telephone connection. People used to come to MPs like me to get a telephone connection from the MP’s quota.
We changed all that by introducing a bold new telecom policy – and the proof of it lies in the mobile phone that you use all the time, chatting with your friends and sending smses. The proof is there in the Internet through which you get information, news, your emails.
I consider the Internet as an epoch-defining invention — comparable to the invention of the Wheel or Electricity. We wanted India not only to benefit from, but actually lead, the transformation being brought about by Information Technology.
Technology is changing the way young people live their lives. You have your own virtual communities and social networks like FACEBOOK and ORKUT in the digital world. I welcome this trend. Young people are always innovative, always creative. Their innovativeness and creativity should be nurtured and encouraged.
Combine pride in India’s past with a modern vision
My Party understands this. I have always told my colleagues in the Party that we should embrace technology. Once, in the early 1990s, I had gone to the United States at the invitation of the Overseas Friends of the BJP. They asked me, “Is there any special place you would like to visit?” I said I would like to see the headquarters of Microsoft. Those days, Microsoft had not yet become as famous as it did later. But I had read about it and was very curious to know about this company that created the software that almost all the computers in the world used.
My point in saying this is just to drive home the point that my Party is forward-looking, it has a modern vision, it wants India to benefit from the best creations of science and technology.
What matters most to me, and to my party, is INDIA. We care for India’s development. We care equally for India’s security. Which is why, we made India a nuclear weapons power by conducting nuclear tests at Pokharan in May 1998.
This one bold action by India made Indians all over the world proud. It also made the rest of the world, especially the Big Powers, look at India with greater respect. This, combined with India’s impressive strides in business and economic development, completely changed India’s self-perception – and also the world’s perception about India.
This is why most of you want to stay in India rather than go abroad looking for a better job, a better life. Today young and talented Indians can have goods jobs and good living conditions in India itself.
Of course, some problems have surfaced due to a sudden slowdown in the economy. The global financial system is in turmoil because of the recent financial crisis in the United States. The situation has worsened in India because of the mismanagement of the economy by the UPA Government.
I can therefore understand if young people like you have concerns about your future, about employment opportunities. Let me assure you that, if voted to power, my party and the NDA alliance will deal with the economic situation firmly and intelligently. We shall unveil such bold policies and take all such strong steps as are necessary to reverse the economic slowdown, and put India back on a path of speedy and broad-based development. We shall turn the present global crisis into an opportunity for India. This is my promise.
Appeal to first-time voters: REGISTER AND VOTE
For this change to come about, the first, and most vital step is in your hands. In the hands of the nearly 10 crore first-time voters who will have the right to cast their votes in the coming parliamentary elections. It is something you can do here and now. It will empower you. It will strengthen our country: REGISTER AND VOTE.
In many countries, voting is compulsory. It is a duty. In our country, it is a right. I want you to view it as a duty: REGISTER AND VOTE. The first vote you cast will be a big event in your life. And I assure you: it will be a big event in the country’s life.
Five promises of the future NDA Government
We who are in public life have the responsibility to ensure that your vote is translated into good and responsive governance. As far as the BJP is concerned, I want our government to be judged by your expectations. I say this because we know what your expectations are. To enable you to succeed, to enable you to build a great India, the BJP promises you, I personally promise you, initiatives and reforms in five major areas.
First, we will work to ensure that each of you will have access to the best education possible.
Second, that even the poorest student will receive financial aid to complete his or her education and improve their ability to find jobs that match their talents and abilities.
Third, we will ensure security – so that you are able to live and travel without fear and work anywhere in this great country. The problems of terrorism and naxalism will be tackled with a firm hand.
Fourth, we will work with you to protect our environment so that you can inherit a green and flourishing India. Our holy rivers, our lakes, our mountains, our forests, our wildlife, our sea shore — all these are a part of India’s priceless natural resource. It is our duty, the duty of both the Government and the people, to preserve this resource.
Finally, we will work with you to improve our existing cities, to build beautiful new cities, to so improve amenities in our villages that you don’t feel compelled to leave them to go and stay in some urban slum.
How shall we fulfill this covenant? Let us take them one at a time.
Quality Education for All : First and foremost, we will liberate the education sector – so that the seats and facilities in it multiply and improve. It is a tragedy that, even as we have seen in sectors as far apart as manufacturing and telecom what freeing a sector can do, education continues under the old, licence-quota raj.
There are too few public universities; private colleges charge too much; our teachers are not paid adequately for their unstinting service; too many of our students have to go abroad for higher education. On the one side, we cannot find good craftsmen and technicians. On the other, good jobs go unfilled – the list of problems is endless.
We will open the doors to higher education and ensure that there are more than enough seats for all qualified students. We will create incentives for all who want to promote learning; to set up good private colleges and universities; to partner with the best foreign institutions of learning; to set up many, many vocational training institutes; to develop the facilities for, and the culture of research and innovation in, India. We will thereby multiply seats for students, and also ensure that teachers are rewarded for their efforts.
Our top educational institutions like IITs and IIMs will remain autonomous and be able to pursue academic excellence as they see fit. There will be no governmental interference in their functioning. We have the best students in the world; we will to ensure that they have access to the best academic institutions in the world. Our government will ensure financial aid for all deserving students through scholarships and loans.
Many of our organizations strive to give you the opportunity to serve society through constructive work. I know that many of you want, in addition, to participate in public life, in crafting public policy. Our government will launch a new highly prestigious National Fellows program in honor of our distinguished leader, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As a beginning, we will award special, national fellowships to young Indian leaders under the age of 25 with undergraduate degrees. Each of these young leaders will receive a one year internship in a government organization. At least 50 of these National Fellows will work in the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministries on policy assignments. An independent eminent jury will select these National Fellows and all will be encouraged to apply.
Employment opportunities for all : Once talent has been transformed into abilities through the education system, there must be jobs that enable the young to stretch themselves to the maximum. New and exciting jobs will, of course, come through sunrise industries like IT and BPO, as they will through modern manufacturing. But much more can, and must be done. In services, we have just begun to scratch our potential: product and process design; surgery; civil engineering, accountancy, legal assistance, teaching from a distance by using new technologies.
I believe that productivising Indian agriculture through sound policies can create tens of thousands of rewarding and fulfilling jobs for our educated youth. For this we need technologies that can transform rural India. Technologies for water and soil conservation, for organic farming, for growing of new and higher-value crops – pulses, fruit, vegetables, for preserving what our kisans grow, and for ensuring that farmers get good credit and marketing facilities. We will pay priority attention to these areas, so that you can get good jobs — and good opportunities — in changing the face of rural India.
No compromise in the fight against terrorism : One of the great failures of the present Government has arisen from its weak approach to lawlessness and terrorism. Often traveling in public transport can be unpleasant for you. Many of you, especially girls and young women feel harassed and victimized. Sometimes you are afraid to settle in parts of our country that are racked with violence or are hostile to outsiders.
This is not the India we want. We want an India where, in whichever part of the country, you choose, you can contribute your best. We will, therefore, resume the work we were doing to strengthen national security – from restoring necessary laws such as POTA, to ensuring they are enforced, to reforming and strengthening our security forces. We shall also ensure that their structures, work culture and emoluments and facilities improve so that many of you can look forward to fulfilling careers in them.
Protection of India’s priceless environment : Along with protecting you and your loved ones, we must also protect this beautiful country. I know that, more than most other sections of our people, the young are the ones who are most dedicated to preserving our environment. After all, we do not own this great country, we hold it in a trust for you, as do you for future generations.
Our government will transform the way in which we deal with environmental issues. We will formulate environmental policies and regulations that will protect our environment and wildlife for generations to come. I want our governments to create a new regime of taxation and rewards – one in which people and industries are not penalized according to what they contribute to society, but in accordance with what they use up from the pool of our non-renewable resources, in accordance with the harm they inflict on our environment. We will constitute an independent Environment Management Authority that will be headed by a world-famous environmental expert and will be staffed with eminent scientists. This agency will help us formulate the best possible plans for our environment and wildlife, and keep every government accountable.
Transforming Urban India : I come next to our villages and cities. Our first priority must be to create in our villages the facilities and opportunities that will provide jobs and a fulfilling life right there – so that you do not feel compelled to flee them to some urban slum. Second, we must improve our cities. They are not in a good condition. There is no need to repeat the unpleasant facts that fester all around us. Many empty promises have been made – of making Mumbai an international financial center, for instance. You know what has been done about them. We will fix our existing cities and build many new beautiful cities.
This requires coordinated action on many fronts including strengthening urban property rights, enforcing land use restrictions, establishing good property tax collections, and reforming our municipal governance. We will work on all of this in our existing cities. But, we promise more – we promise that we will build cities that you will be proud to live in, cities that will welcome our brothers and sisters from rural areas, cities that will be green and pleasant places to bring up families, and cities that will live on as spectacular and grand urban spaces.
These then are our promises to you:
-Vastly enlarged education capacity so that every young person, especially those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and disadvantaged sections of other communities, can follow their dream;
-Financial aid to complete this education;
-New and exciting job opportunities for all young men and women in the frontier areas of tomorrow;
-Opportunities to work in public life – to improve our policies and institutions;
-Security to pursue your lives and ambitions;
-A green and clean India;
-Prosperous villages, and beautiful welcoming cities for you and your families.
Let’s make 21st Century India’s Century!
My Young Friends, I have seen a lot of Modern India’s history in my life, some before Independence and all of it after Independence. Every period was important and interesting in its own way. However, the time we are now living in is truly India’s Moment. There are, undoubtedly, many problems around us. But I am not disheartened by these problems. India can, and India will, surmount all these problems. I have faith in Young Indians — in their patriotism, their idealism, their talent, their potential, their enterprise, and their determination to succeed.
Let me conclude by sharing a wish, an aspiration, a dream and a conviction with you. Futurologists predict that the 21st Century belongs to Asia. The 19th Century belonged to Europe. The 20th Century belonged to America. The 21st Century will definitely belong to Asia.
But we cannot be satisfied with it belonging to Asia. It should be our endeavour, it should be our aspiration, to make the 21st Century belong to India.
This, I believe, is the spirit behind the India Banao campaign. I have great pleasure in launching it. Enlist in it. Use it. Participate in it. Tell us what we should do. Tell us what you would like to do.
Aiye, Bharat Banaayein!