Goa should be the “happiest State in the world” by 2035; where every Goan will do well, there is harmony, pristine nature, and development without destruction, eminent scientist Dr R A Mashelkar said in the inaugural lecture of the D D Kosmabi Festival of Ideas at Kala Academy, Panjim, on Saturday. Pointing out that innovation and knowledge will drive the present century, he said Goa – owing to its small size, high human development indices, education and widespread knowledge of English – is best suited to be a knowledge economy.
Describing himself as a “dangerous optimist”, Dr Mashelkar cited his own background — of a boy coming from a poor family that struggled to make ends meet, and was unable to afford even school fees, studying under a street lamp, and then going on to become a prestigious Fellow of the Royal Society in Britain — as an example of “Making the Impossible, Possible”; the subject of his talk. He said India had gained three freedoms over the past 60-odd years. The first was political freedom in 1947, followed by economic freedom (the freedom to compete) in 1991, when then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh opened up the economy. The third, technological freedom came in 2008 with the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal and the lifting of the ban on dual-use technologies for India by advanced countries.
The fourth freedom, he said, was yet to come. This would be the inclusion of all of India’s people, including the poor presently excluded, into the great India growth story. He urged Indian industry to make ‘inclusion’ of the masses a cornerstone of its policy. Pointing out the huge influence his uneducated mother and his dedicated teacher, Bhave (see yesterday’s Herald), had on his life, Dr Mashelkar said that parents and teachers play the greatest role in the building of a nation. He said what India needs is ‘convex lens leadership’ which brings light and thinking together, rather than ‘concave lens leadership’, which disperses it. Pointing out that ‘innovation’ meant the successful exploitation of a new idea to create wealth in this country, Dr Mashelkar said that an attitude of “Why not?” was required, and a willingness to think outside the box. Open-mindedness, he said, and willingness to understand other points of view would lessen conflict in the country. For an innovation revolution, Dr Mashelkar called for “innovation in education and education in innovation”.
In a speech peppered with quotable quotes, Dr Mashelkar at once inspired, entertained and enlightened a jam-packed Dinanath Mangeshkar Hall at Kaka Academy. He said India’s greatest strength was that 55 per cent of the country’s population was under 25. He warned, however, that unbridled and widespread corruption could derail India’s success story. To become a genuinely developed country, he said, Indians will first have to become non-corrupt. Answering questions after the lecture, he agreed with an engineering college student that there should be Research and Development (R&D) centres in Engineering Colleges, as engineering science is weak in India. He also said that while it is very unlikely that India can ever overtake China in economic terms, it can do much better in creativity and entrepreneurship; it already has 760 R&D centres employing 160,000 scientists. Giving the audience his email address – email@example.com – he said he was willing to answer any questions.
Earlier, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat inaugurated the D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas. He said the festival of ideas was to create an exchange of thoughts that can build the society, state and nation. Dr Mashelkar, he informed the gathering, was the head of the committee to draft a ‘Goa Vision 2035’ document, to draw a roadmap for the State’s development. Praising Director of Art and Culture Prasad Lolayekar for his dedicated efforts to improve the festival each year, he said the special eminence of this year’s speakers reflected the golden jubilee year of Goa’s liberation. Director of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) Dr Satish Shetye conducted the proceedings.