In a pluralistic, democratic and polycentric society, it is natural that building consensus will not be easy around a minimum agreed plan for mobilising youth for nation building. However, I want to try and propose an agenda for debate and modification so that a non-controversial pathway to progress emerges.
First, revive the idea of national land army started by Dr.K.L.Munshi way back in early 50’s to mobilise unemployed youth for taking up in a disciplined and self-regulatory way various measures for drainage, irrigation, watershed management, sanitation, afforestation and improving the educational infrastructure at community level. The employment guarantee programme needs to be recast. I have always believed that successful strategy self-destructs . If we blend entitlement approach with the entrepreneurship thrust, society should move away from the former mind set towards the latter.
Second, creating special risk funds to encourage youth to take up enterprises for both product and service innovation at district and sub-district level. If a group of entrepreneurs want to make a complete catalogue of so-called waste materials in a given region, then a challenge award can be announced to all those who can find meaningful applications for these waste. The mission of Clean India requires more and more solutions at the start of the pipeline rather than the end of pipeline. Ideally, we should work towards zero waste economy by moving towards bio materials and processes. However, till that happens we should create waste exchanges and provide easy to access technologies, funds and other institutional supports to develop new businesses by using existing ways. For example, waste plastic has been used only at marginal level for making roads. If this becomes the standard, in no time will supply chain emerge to collect, process and supply plastic for making the roads, pavements, saving upto 20% of bitumen. There are a large number of such other potential startups waiting to happen.
Third, just as railways have decided to open more than 400 workshops for fabricating innovative products by internal or external innovators, various public and private organisations should create such common fabrication facilities, wet labs, food labs, etc., to encourage young men and women to try new ideas for generating jobs and improving quality of life. Nothing short of an entrepreneurial revolution around manufacturing technologies is needed to transform Indian model of inclusive development.
Fourth, more than 8000 ITIs and polytechnics should become co-creation centres between the communities and the young budding mechanics. It might shock some and intrigue others to know that almost no farm machinery has any electronics based feedback control system. Even the depth sensors are missing in the ploughs and seed drills. A difference of an inch or two can have substantial impact on tillering and thus productivity in some crops. Unless all such unmet needs of every single village in the country are mapped and then allocated to various educational, R&D institutions, deep seated inertia of last 60 years will not give way. Just as many countries have compulsory military service, we should also have compulsory community service as requirement for completing diploma or degree in any subject. If doctors cannot get degree without one year of practical service, why shouldn’t all other professions be required to spend at least three to six months in the service of small entrepreneurs, public service providers, panchayats, tribal communities, slums, etc., so that the self-identity of every Indian is imbued with the needs and expectations of disadvantaged people, places, programmes and platforms.
Fifth, it is natural that there will not be an easy consensus on the developmental trajectory in any community. However, it will be futile to make elimination of pollution, poverty, malnutrition and other such debilitating factors a controversial matter.
I will share more issues on which national consensus is needed next week. We are all set to celebrate the second Festival of Innovation hosted by the Office of the President of India at Rashtrapati Bhawan, March 12 – 19, 2016. Every visitor to Mughal Garden entering from gate 35 can visit the grassroots innovation exhibition organised by National Innovation Foundation [NIF] every day from 10 am – 5 pm. Look forward to see you there.