Surgical Strike – “Another name for Tough Decision Making and Reforms”

Dear Mr Modi,

May I take this opportunity to convey my personal compliments to you on the eve of first anniversary of the greatest ‘REFORM’ that India witnessed since independence. Demonetisation (surgical strike II) was a landmark decision fraught with uncertainties but you as an individual demonstrated the courage to ‘bite the bullet’. Such momentous decisions can only be taken by individuals of your caliber, whose single point agenda revolves around national well being. May the almighty grant you greater courage and wisdom in the years to come.

Taking a cue from the motto you have given to the nation viz Reform, Perform and Transform, I will focus on ‘REFORMS’. Transformation is an automatic by-product of reforms. More revolutionary reform of implementing GST has still not been understood by most of us. In fact I will place it ahead of Demonetisation.

Notwithstanding accomplishments of your government in the past three years, there are many areas which require greater attention of your government for India to truly become capable and deserve to ‘sit’ on the same table as USA and China. Reforms are not listed in order of priority. In my personal view all of these occupy number one slot.

Research and Development

Our focus on Research and Development is not bad; it is pathetic. Statistics will amplify my contention in least amount of words. India in 2017 is spending less on R&D than some of the international corporate giants. In the last budget our allocation towards R&D was a meager 0.59% of the GDP. R&D expenditure in real terms as on date is as follows:-

  • India USD 13.47 bn
  • Alphabet USD 14.50 bn
  • Volkswagen USD 15.10 bn
  • Amazon USD 17.40 bn

Should it not be a matter of shame and concern to us that even the corporate giants spend more towards R&D? Without doubt our intellectual fraternity has failed over the past seven decades in emphasizing the need to focus on R&D. As on date we do not produce a single ‘BIG TICKET’ platform that could equip our military. Except for ISRO, rest of the projects have failed due to sheer neglect.

It may be of interest to mention that in 1996 China spent a mere 0.56% of GDP towards R&D, LESSER THAN India. But in 2016 China spends 2.07% of GDP on R&D. In actual US Dollar terms China spent USD 377 bn as against Indian allocation of a mere USD 13.47 bn. When the figures are viewed in Rupee terms the void is even more gigantic. China spent INR TWENTY FIVE LAKH CRORE as against INDIAN EXPENSE OF INR 87,000 CRORE.

USA spent USD 463 bn, EU spent USD 346 bn and Japan spent USD 155 bn during the same period.

Having been associated with the highest end of technology professionally, I perceive our focus on R&D  is diseased and controlled by persons with jaundiced vision. For instance DRDO can be termed as a proverbial ‘FOUR LETTER’ word. There is a need to demolish the existing DRDO set up, notwithstanding an ornamental DRDO headquarters built only recently. If my memory serves me right, you had directed the DRDO chief to appoint persons below the age of 35 years as the heads of few laboratories. I have no idea if your ‘idea’ was appreciated by the DRDO juggernaut and implemented.

R&D budgeting in the coming budget for FY 17-18 should be a separate allocation and must be at least 1.5% of GDP. Let me caution you; if you or the BJP thinks that results will be available by 2020, you are mistaken. Results will not be visible before 2027; you may not be the PM unless you win a third term in 2024.

Closure of Ordnance Factories

If we were to do a performance audit of institutions which have let down the nation, Ordnance Factories will be an easy winner. Ordnance Factory Board, the apex organization needs to be dismantled and replaced by smaller and more practical apex body oriented towards performance.   Loss making factories run by the unions must be shut down. Indeed there will be political fall out but that is where your leadership will count. I have my views on the issue but are beyond the scope of this letter to you.

Research on Thorium Based Nuclear Power

No developed nation of the world will assist India in this venture because if Thorium based clean nuclear energy is generated, no one will buy the multi-billion dollar nuclear reactors based on Uranium technology. I recommend that we invest in our engineers from IITs to undertake the research in universities and/or laboratories of developed nations. There entire stay and education should be funded by Indian Government. To begin with we encourage ten candidates from each IIT to join this programme. Even if the nation was to invest one hundred million dollars every year, I am nearly certain that in ten years at least one research scholar will find the answer. One thousand million dollars INVESTMENT over ten years will be a pittance.

Primary Education

I am simply appalled by the total lack of interest in establishing/maintaining minimum standards in our primary schools run by the government. Even your government at the centre and BJP governed states, this issue is neglected. Mr Modi for your vision of ‘Great India’ to translate into reality, primary education standard forms the central pillar. Rest of the issues are a distant second. Your focus on establishing institutions of higher learning is well received but the ‘crooks and illiterates’ being produced in existing primary schools will be unfit to join these. It is not the syllabus that I am talking about; it is about character building. Most of these schools do not have morning prayers, national anthem, recitation of tables and so on.

I had presented a plan to planning commission in 2004 to utilize the proven capability of former defence personnel, settled over the length and breadth of our nation to head the primary schools. It is the staff of MOST OF THE GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED primary schools that is rotten and needs extensive grooming. I can brief you on the proposal in 15 minutes.

Electoral Reform

We have indeed traveled a long distance from the first general election of 1952. Electoral process of our nation is perhaps one of the best and most transparent. But local political influence through the local police and hired goondas still are a cause for concern. May I recommend that the entire electoral process be overseen by retired members of the military. Mr Modi, I appreciate your faith in the military be it ordering them to clean up the rubbish in the hills or build the foot over bridge at Mumbai or clean up the Ganges but I have a  serious reservation. Serving soldiers must be left for ‘SOLDIERING’ only and not utilized for these jobs, which are also of national importance. Please direct your ministers not to misuse the ‘SERVING’ soldier.  For nation building use the services of retired soldiers, who should be paid appropriately for services rendered. Or is it that utilization of serving soldiers does not have any financial effect on account of equipment and manpower, hence is simpler to task?

Indian Ocean as India’s Ocean

Our strategic outlook must change. In order to do that consider issuing appropriate orders to Minister of Strategic Affairs (Raksha Mantri) to direct IAF to base a compliment of Su-30 MKI at CARNIC and Jaguar (DARIN) at PORT BLAIR on a permanent basis. Indeed there would be logistical and operational issues. India must adopt OFFENSIVE POSTURING to contain China’s  occupation of South China Sea and Indonesia’s interest in A&N. Marshal Lin Piao  said nearly 40 years ago “Indian Ocean is not India’s Ocean”. Mr Modi we need to reduce our obsession with Pakistan and look south unless we want a ‘FALKLAND’ situation in near future.

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