Ideas and Action for a Better India
Eminent scientist and innovation Guru Dr. R. A. Mashelkar has urged the scientific community in the country to leverage India’s demographic dividend to pave the road for a better and inclusive development using Gandhian ideals of getting ‘More from Less for More (MLM)’. Dr. Mashelkar, who is the President of Global Research Alliance, a network of publicly funded R&D institutes from Asia-Pacific, Europe and the USA with over 60,000 scientists, was speaking on the unique concept of ‘Gandhian Engineering: More from Less for More’ at the ‘Gurus of Science’ lecture series organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Mumbai on Monday, 19th April 2010.
Dr. Mashelkar said that the Jaipur foot, the mobile phone revolution, the discovery of the 40-cent Hepatitis B vaccine, the world’s lowest priced psoriasis treatment in the country and success of Computer Based Functional Literacy (CBFL) in rural areas were great results of disruptive innovation, which were in the mould of the MLM philosophy. India needs many more of such “extremely affordable, ultra low-priced, but best quality innovations” in the spheres of healthcare, diagnostics, drug discovery, education, energy and agriculture to attain true inclusive growth. “These examples prove how the masses can benefit if corporates shift their focus from providing ‘value for money’, to providing ‘value for many’,” he said.
India, which has nearly 50 percent of its population below the age of 25 years, has six lakh engineering students engaged in six months of project work every year. If used creatively, this would mean nearly three million man months of pursuing innovation. “True prosperity for all will come to India if even a fraction of this demographic dividend is leveraged into creating disruptive innovators who can take up the MLM challenge of Gandhian Engineering,” he said. The young Indian mind was “full of excellent innovative ideas” to discover more benefits from lesser resources for more and more number of people, he added.
He urged for breaking away from the mindset of incremental innovation to get into the new mould of disruptive innovation to achieve more from less for more. “Today, what is happening in the crucial area of healthcare is the reverse, i.e. getting less from more for less, as over the years, the cost of treatment, time for drug development as well as the cost of discovery, have all gone up, restricting their benefits to lesser and lesser number of people,” he said. “However, India has shown to the world how the MLM challenge can be overcome by merging its ancient Ayurveda medicines with modern science, which has made the treatment for psoriasis in India, a scourge especially among the poorest of the poor, the most affordable in the world.”
Dr. F. C. Kohli, founder Chairman of Tata Consultancy Services, who is also popularly called the father of software technology in India, presided over the lecture. He dispelled the belief that innovation leads to industrialisation, and therefore, to more urbanisation, which was proving to be a bane for India. “Innovation at TCS led to the implementation of CBFL initiatives in Andhra Pradesh where entire districts like Medak and Guntur have achieved 100 percent literacy at miniscule cost,” Dr. Kohli said, and added that innovation-driven empowerment of our villages will thus provide better overall quality of life and, in fact, curb the menace of migration to urban areas.
In his welcome remarks, ORF Mumbai Chairman Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni said that Gandhiji’s principles were more relevant today than ever before. That Gandhiji was against science and technology is a totally wrong notion, he said, quoting from Gandhiji’s writings in Hind Swaraj, one of the Mahatma’s first definitive writings penned way back in 1909, while he was still a practicing lawyer in South Africa. “Inclusive development in India will not be possible unless the research and innovation taking place today has at its core the Gandhian vision of decentralisation of development and employment for all,” he said.