His excellency former President of India Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Speech

Address during the inauguration of 3rd Bihar Science Conference at Gaya
11/Feb/2010 : Bihar

Science and technology: what it can give to Bihar


Science is linked to technology through applications.
Technology is the non-linear tool available to humanity,
which can affect fundamental changes in the ground
rules of economic competitiveness.

    I am delighted to be in Gaya, a very famous pilgrimage centre. This is the region from where Buddhist philosophy was evolved and radiated to all parts of the world. Bodhgaya indeed has been shining as a knowledge centre even 2550 years ago and that gave the philosophy of life: the importance of reasoning and deciding, what is right and wrong which determined the pattern of life. In such a knowledge centre, 3rd Bihar Science Conference is rightly taking place which will certainly enhance the scientific and technological strength of scientific community assembled here. My greetings to all the participants of this important science conference. When I am with you,  I would like to talk on the topic

"Science and technology: what it can give to Bihar."

    In my presentation, I will be discussing with you on: What science can give you? How great lives contributed for the growth of humanity using their inquisitive mind leading to great scientific discoveries? In what way these great lives symbolize in Science, there is nothing like impossible! With this great foundation – I would like to touch upon how science and technology can make a change in bringing Bihar Water Management System in place, ultimately how the development of the Bihar State will help transforming the nation. Ultimately, what is the one single mission which will help bring down the Global Warming across the world in a big way but simple means? I am confident if we find an answer to these challenges – we are arrived in our scientific mission.

What Science can give you?

    Friends, what science can give you? Science gives you better eyes because science can remove the mental blinkers and it gives your brain, a challenge to solve many scientific problems that are yet to be solved. When people in general, talk in dimensions, just less than one millimeter or few hundred thousand kilometers requirement in flight, the scientists will easily move from the behaviour of proton (10-15M) to the size of visible universe approximately 1028M 43 orders of magnitude. Most of our friends, who are not in the field of science, will slice the time perhaps maximum upto one hundredth of a second. Scientists will slice the time into femtoseconds (10-15 Sec), which may decide a fast photochemical reaction. When you think way back in time, it will be big bang, some 15,000 million years ago and the beginning of the life on earth, about 3800 million years ago. Again you will be ahead of 17 to 18 orders of magnitude. Science indeed will connect you into the brains of many smart people who were there before you.

     As you know, among the millions and millions of stars, we belong to a small star, what is that star? Sun. Our galaxy and our Sun and its characteristics have been identified. Exact location with respect of Sun and Galaxy has been discovered. Again you ask yourself what science has done. What scientific discoveries have led to? We know that earth rotates in its own axis in 24 hours. We get day and night. How do you get the full moon night. Earth has its own satellite, Moon, which orbits around the planet earth in 29 days. And how the moon shines? Anytime have you thought, the beautiful full Moon night how do we get? How do we get the new moon? You all know it has been discovered. It is the dynamic movement of earth, sun and the moon in the space, which decides, the full moon and the dark night. Friends, do you know, it takes nearly 250 million years for Sun to orbit around the galaxy. We can talk about many aspects of science. I am sure, you will yourself discover the possibilities through the search based on your area of passion. You can explore outer space; you can nurture environment; you can delve deep into ocean; you study the complexities of the human mind; you can research the diseases haunting humanity and the cure/alleviation mechanisms; you can study behavioral patterns of human species; and you can go on and on. With the great scientific tradition, young scientists assembled here may like to stand on the shoulders of pioneers like Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Chandrasekhar Subramanian, Sir CV Raman, Srinivasa Ramanujan.

Dear friends, we have seen what science can give you? Now, we should understand how the great lives had enriched the science thereby the humanity.

Great lives

    I would like to narrate the three great lives of the scientists Aryabhata, who laid the foundation for modern mathematics and astronomy, the questioning mind of Sir CV Raman and the life of a Italy street boy Mario Capecchi who with his determination and perseverance became a noble laureate amidst all challenges in gene targeting.

Founder of modern mathematics and astronomy:

    Aryabhata said to have been born in Kusumapura in 476 CE, presently known as Patna, is the author of several treatises on mathematics and astronomy. Aryabhatiya, a compendium of mathematics and astronomy, was extensively referred to in the Indian mathematical literature and has survived to modern times. The mathematical part of the Aryabhatiya covers arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry, and spherical trigonometry. It also contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums-of-power series, and a table of sines.

    The Arya-siddhanta, a work on astronomical computations, is known through the writings of Aryabhata's contemporary, Varahamihira, and later mathematicians and commentators, including Brahmagupta and Bhaskara I. Aryabhata appears to have believed that the earth rotates about its axis and it takes 365 days to go around the Sun. This work appears to be based on the older Surya Siddhanta and uses the midnight-day reckoning, as opposed to sunrise in Aryabhatiya. It also contained a description of several astronomical instruments: a shadow instrument, possibly angle-measuring devices, semicircular and circular, a cylindrical stick yasti-yantra, an umbrella-shaped device and water clocks of at least two types, bow-shaped and cylindrical.

    I learnt about the work of Aryabhata and Bhaskaracharya from Sri Thothari Iyengar who gave a special lecture on Indian Mathematicians when I was in St. Joseph’s College during the 1950s.

Questioning mind:

    Born in Tiruchirapalli on November 7, 1888 Raman was a bright student right from the start. Apart from being fascinated by optical science, he was also deeply interested in acoustics. That perhaps tempted him to discover that the mridangam and tabla produced more melodious sounds than any other percussion instrument. He was fascinated by colourful things, be it a flower, butterfly or gem.

    The ship sailed form the port of London towards Calcutta. On board was young man who had delivered lecture a lecture on the acoustics of violin, in London. He was now on the ship’s deck gazing at the blue waters of the ocean. As he glanced up at the blue sky, a series of questions popped up in his mind. “Why are both the sea and the sky blue in colour? What is the science behind this occurrence? His mind revealed him the reason could be scattering of light by water molecules. His instinct told him the reason could be the prove it scientifically to be accepted by others.

    When the ship anchored at Calcutta, the young man immediately went on to conduct experiments to prove his theory. His research in optics, the science of light, resulted in the discovery of the Raman Effect. He announced it to the scientific world on March 16, 1928. The discovery won him the Nobel Prize for physics in 1930. It was the first time that this prize was awarded to an Asian! Even before this, his contribution to the science of optics had been acknowledged and he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1924. You would have learnt about the ‘Raman Effect’ in detail at school. But do you know the discovery subsequently helped in determining the internal structures of some 2,000 chemical compounds? Can you guess, what was the cost of the equipment that Raman used to prove his theory? A meager two hundred rupees! The day he discovered the Raman Effect, February 28, has been declared the National Science Day.

    Raman strongly felt that scientists should not be confined to laboratories in an effort to solve scientific problems. They should search around themselves and find those answers in accordance with nature. For, the essence of science was independent thinking and hard work and not equipment. How true! Though the oceans and the sky have always been blue in colour, it needed a questioning mind with a scientific outlook to find the reason behind it, and the indomitable spirit of Sir CV Raman.
Now let me narrate how the creativity takes birth when one faces a difficult situation.

Birth of Creativity in a difficult situation:

    Mario Capecchi had a difficult and challenging childhood. For nearly four years, Capecchi lived with his mother in a chalet in the Italian Alps. When World War II broke out, his mother, along with other Bohemians, was sent to Dachau as a political prisoner. Anticipating her arrest by the Gestapo, she had sold all her possessions and given the money to friends to help raise her son on their farm. In the farm, he had to grow own wheat, harvest; take it to miller to be ground. Then, the money which his mother left for him ran out and at the age of four and half years, he started sometimes living in the streets, sometimes joining gangs of other homeless children, sometimes living in orphanages and most of the time hungry. He spent the last year in the city of Reggio Emelia, hospitalized for malnutrition where his mother found him on his ninth birthday after a year of searching. Within weeks, the Capecchi and his mother sailed to America to join his uncle and aunt.

     He started his 3rd grade schooling afresh over there and started his education, interested in sports, studied political science. But he didn’t find interesting and changed into science, became a mathematics graduate in 1961 with a double major in Physics and Chemistry. Although he really liked Physics, its elegance and simplicity, he switched to molecular biology in graduate school, on the advice of James D Watson, who advised him that he should not be bothered about small things, since such pursuits are likely to produce only small answers.

    His objective was to do gene targeting. The experiments started in 1980 and by 1984, Capecchi had clear success. Three years later, he applied the technology to mice. In 1989, he developed the first mice with targeted mutations. The technology created by Doctor Capecchi allows researchers to create specific gene mutations anywhere they choose in the genetic code of a mouse. By manipulating gene sequences in this way, researchers are able to mimic human disease conditions on animal subjects. What the research of Mario Capecchi means for human health is nothing short of amazing, his work with mice could lead to cures for Alzheimer’s disease or even Cancer. The innovations in genetics that Mario Capecchi achieved won him the Nobel Prize in 2007. Noble laureate Capecchi life indeed reveals: -

"When you wish upon a star, Makes no difference who you are,
Anything your heart desires Will come to you"

In science, there is nothing like impossible

    Friends, in 1895 Lord Kelvin, the then President of Royal Society declared that anything heavier than air cannot fly. But in 1903, Wright Brothers made their world's first successful aero-plane and demonstrated the first, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight. Lord Ruther Ford who discovered the nucleus of atom dismissed the possibility of building of an atomic bomb. The discoverer of energy equation Einstein also thought atomic bomb is not possible. But in 1940, Japan was devastated by atomic bomb. Black-hole were once considered to be science fiction. Einstein said that black hole could never be formed. Today, the Hubbles space telescopes and the Chandra x-ray telescope have revealed thousands of black-holes in space. At the end of 19th century scientists decided that it was impossible for the earth to be billions of years of old. The impossibility was finally proved possible with the discovery of the nuclear force by Madam Curie and others showing how the centre of the earth heated by radio active decay could indeed be kept molten for billions of years. Hence, young friends, there is nothing like impossible. Science in course of time makes everything is possible. How is it possible? “Through mission and work”. I am sure that the scientists assembled here will prove their statement through their innovative scientific methods for solving Bihar economic challenges. There are no other scientific and technological challenges for Bihar other than river water management combating flood by generating huge reservoirs and canal system and linking all other rivers to major rivers. Finally Bihar should have smart waterways.

Bihar waterways

    Bihar waterways are a technological challenge. Fortunately Bihar is not short of water. Many times Bihar gets much more water than it can handle. Hence, we have to harness the available water and manage it, so that Bihar not only becomes a granary of India through irrigation but also gets electricity, inland water transport system using smart waterways, able to control floods and manage the river basins.

    When we study the map of Bihar, we find that Ganga runs in the middle of Bihar as it is a valley. The level being around 70 meters above MSL and the ground both sides, north and south rises to nearly 100 to 300 meters MSL. Hence, the Ganga water as such cannot be used for irrigation in Bihar due to height difference. However, for many years, there is heavy flood in Ganga causing severe damage to north Bihar. The solution for this is networking of rivers and water bodies to run a waterway which is at a higher level using the trapped water from the tributaries of Ganga for use in irrigation and drinking. The existing channels should be desilted.

Bihar river systems

    Ganga river is flowing from West to East in Bihar. There are two types of flows coming into the Ganga. The northern rivers emanating from the Himalayas and another from the southern rivers coming from the Chhotanagpur plateau and Hazaribagh plateau. The major rivers coming from North-South are Ghaghara, Gandak, Bagmati, Kareh, Kosi and Mahanadhi. The rivers coming from the South are Son, Punpun, Phalgu, Dhadhar and Badua. Because of the flow from both the directions no water is saved and everything goes to the Sea. Also, the main flood bearing river the Kosi when it comes into Bihar is already in the plains and we have to find innovative flood management techniques with intensive international co-operation. We have seen 2008 Koshi river flood which has deviated from the normal path due to the sudden flood and inflicted enormous amount of damage to the people of Bihar and their belongings and also damaged the land and properties.

Layered Wells:

    In the Gangetic region, I have recommended construction of layered wells in the entry points of Kosi river in. Normally the flood water has certain dynamic flow conditions. The layered wells assist gradual reduction in dynamic flow velocity after filling each storage well. The water thus stored will be useful during shortage period. Similar solution can be found for the north-eastern region. I have recommended this scheme can be included in the Interlinking of rivers programme.

However, I have suggested to Bihar Assembly to mitigate Bihar from the fury of the floods it will be essential to undertake the following measures.

(a) Recovering the all the water bodies from encroachments using satellite maps.

(b) All the village ponds be immediately de-silted along with clearance of inlet and outlet and revived in the Gangetic basin.

(c) Carrying out the dredging of the rivers from the center so that the riverbed is below the adjoining land area.

(d) Raising the protection wall for the wells slightly above the normal flood water level so that the debris does not fill the wells during floods and drinking water is available immediately after the floods.

(e) Creating check dams so that water can be retained in the drought prone southern Bihar.

(f) For protecting the cities, create channelization, embankment and diversion channels up-streams.

(g) Encouraging fishing in the ponds so that it can generate revenue for the farmers. This activity can be linked to a mission of Bihar of doubling fish production through introduction of modern production technologies, developing innovative strategies and approaches and taking effective conservation measures.

Development of smart waterways

    What Bihar needs, as visualized, is a major waterway covering 500 kms length. This will connect the whole state with all other cross canals. In addition, for making effective use of the total waterway potential existing canals and river water systems are required to be improved to make it into smart waterway systems. A smart waterway will have the characteristics such as: sufficient navigable depth and width; conditions will permit navigation throughout the year; have smooth bends and minimum siltation; be able to navigate at least 18 hours per day; cater for efficient loading and unloading points; and the waterway should be adequately lighted and equipped with modern navigational and communication aids. This facility will enable the State to take advantage of the energy efficiency of transportation through waterways which is double of railways and eight times the road transportation system for a given load. This will also reduce the congestion on the road, and improve the environmental conditions and aforestation.

    The creation of such a smart waterway, will act as an additional reservoir for the state. It is essential to build the intermediate dams in the cross section of the rivers and the waterways, which creates the balancing waterways. This will provide irrigation facility to over 5 million acres enable generation of 1000 MWs of power and provide employment for 9 million people. These measures could also reduce the severity of floods by fast disposal of flood water and also ensure storage of surplus water for future use.

    The geologists, cartographers, civil engineers, structural specialists, hydraulic engineers and environmentalists assembled here may like to work together with the Bihar govt in drawing a comprehensive plan for the creation of Bihar waterways which will provide a total societal transformation to Bihar within the next decade.

Developed state leads to developed nation

    What can be the missions for the development of Bihar? Since the number of people living below poverty line in Bihar is about 42% against the national average of 22%, firstly we have to elevate all of them and bring income into their hands and smiles on their faces.
    The missions are to be planned with an aim to increase the per-capita income of each citizen of Bihar by six times, provision of value added employment to ten million under-employed or unemployed Bihar citizens, increasing the literacy to 100% and reducing the infant mortality and maternal mortality rate to less than 10 per thousand.

Missions for Bihar prosperity

    For achieving the above, the 10 missions for Bihar prosperity which I gave to the Bihar Legislative Assembly in 2006 are: (1) Agriculture and Related Missions including sugar mission, Dairy Development, Horticulture, Agro Food processing, (2) Education and Entrepreneurship, (3) Global Human Resource Cadre, (4) Renaissance: Nalanda International University, (5) Healthcare Mission, (6) Flood and water management, (7) Infrastructure Development, including Physical Connectivity, Establishment of PURA for Rural prosperity, (8) Tourist destination of the world, (9) Exclusive Economic Zones and (10) e-Governance for Bihar State.

These missions will need science and technology inputs for its execution. I would request the scientists and technologists participating in this conference to study my detailed address to the Bihar Assembly and shape their research and development plan for facilitating the realization of missions.

Billion trees for billion people

    Dear friends, as you are aware, "when the sun shines, the green plants breakdown water to get electrons and protons, use these particles to turn carbon-di-oxide into glucose and vent out oxygen as a waste product." Each mature tree in a year absorbs 20 Kgs of carbon-di-oxide and transforms into wood and reinforces the branches of the tree. At the same time, it lets out into the atmosphere and surrounding 14 kgs of oxygen.
    India’s forests serve as a major sink of carbon-di-oxide. To augment this potential further, we should enhance the tree cover in addition to the yearly plantation of the Forest Department. That’s why I have been administering during the last seven years to everyone of the five million youth I have met, a ten point oath, one of which emphasizes the need for plantation of trees. The oath reads: "I will plant ten trees and ensure their growth". I understand that this oath has resulted in the plantation of millions of trees in different parts of the country during the last seven years. For this unique contribution, I greet all the youth of my nation.

    Now on this day, when you all have assembled here, I would like to put-forth the mission of ten billion trees for the world. For India alone, we should aim to plant one billion trees. The motto will be "Billion trees for billion people". This can be done by every citizen planting a tree. Some may plant 100 trees, some may plant 10 trees and some may plant one. This is what the youth of the nation can contribute in making a good weather mission.

Now let me suggest some books for your study.

Books for your study:
1. Michio Kaku – Physics of the Impossible
2. Mait Ridley – Genome: The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters
3. Stephen R Covey – Everyday Greatness
4. Samarpan – Tiya: A Parrot’s Journey home


Conclusion: what I will be remembered for?

    Friends, finally I would like to ask you, what would you like to be remembered for? You have to evolve yourself and shape your life. You should write it on a page. That page may be a very important page in the book of human history. And you will be remembered for creating that one page in the history of the nation – whether that page is the page of invention, the page of innovation or the page of discovery or the page of creating societal change or a page of removing the poverty through development of PURA complexes (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Area) any part of the country or the page of fighting injustice or planning and executing mission of networking of rivers. I will be happy if you could write this page and mail it to me (apj@abdulkalam.com).

    With these words, I inaugurate the 3rd Bihar Science Conference. My best wishes to all the participants of 3rd Bihar Science Conference success in the mission of applying science and technology for the development of Bihar and the nation.

May God Bless you.

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