GUWAHATI, July 28 - Former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who was respected the world over for his achievements in the field of science, was well versed in the situation of the North East Region, including the problems of flood and erosion, threats posed by the construction of mega dams in a highly seismic area like this part of the country, etc.
Dr Kalam also took keen interest in the overall development of the students of the region and was of the view that the youths of the region are comparable with the best from any other part of India. In fact, even during his tenure as the President of India, he never missed an opportunity to interact with students in order to inspire them to excel in life.
The Assam Tribune was fortunate enough to do an interview with Dr Kalam on various issues concerning the North East Region of the country. When contacted for an interview after he relinquished the position of President of India, Dr Kalam requested the questions to be sent to him so that he could come up with proper replies. True to his word, he sent back the replies within a few days. The Assam Tribune is reproducing the interview to pay tribute to the great man. His views on issues concerning the North East will be beneficial for the region in the days to come.
Assam Tribune: You have been interacting with the students of the entire country and abroad for years. What is your opinion about the students of the North East region? Are they comparable to the students of other parts of the country?
APJ Abdul Kalam: I have been interacting with over 11 million youths both within the country and abroad, including the youths from the North Eastern region. The youth of North Eastern region are comparable to any youths from India and abroad. They are intelligent, creative, committed and take up their work with passion.
AT: Very few students from the North East are selected for the Indian Administrative Service, Foreign Service and Police Service. What are the reasons for this? What will be your advice to the students of the region to improve their performance not only for selection in the administrative services, but also for the overall development of the region?
Abdul Kalam: Probably your observation is fully correct. There are a number of students from the North East studying in the North East, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad who have been selected for IAS, IFS, IPS and other civil services examinations. All that is required for success in this examination is to have a clear aim while they are doing 12th class or graduation so that they can systematically acquire knowledge through hard work and succeed.
AT: Despite having rich natural resources, the North East region is still lagging behind the rest of the country. What, according to you, are the main reasons for the underdevelopment and what should be done to deal with the problem? (We know that it is not possible to spell out the steps needed to be taken for the development of the region in a few words. But we shall be grateful if you please spell out a few suggestions).
Kalam: For the development of the region, we need to improve the road, rail and air connectivity. Secondly, we have to create a number of PURA complexes (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) by clustering the villages and provide them with electronic and knowledge connectivity. This will enable the creation of rural enterprises with the market outside the North Eastern region. Also, there must be a mechanism to create waterways in such a way that it improves water management and also provide opportunities for inland water transportation. Such an approach will definitely have an impact on the development of all the North Eastern States.
AT: Flood and erosion are considered the major problems of Assam. According to a conservative estimate, at least eight per cent of the total land of Assam has already been eroded away. Is there any solution to the problem? What, according to you, should be done to deal with the problems?
Kalam: Land erosion is a common problem found in areas where you have large rivers. The solution to the problem is to arrange large-scale plantation of trees on the banks of river and other water bodies. This will not only prevent erosion but also create an eco-friendly atmosphere since each tree absorbs 14 kg carbon dioxide and releases 20 kg of oxygen per year. In addition, we can think of creating a large number of canals within the State which can not only improve the irrigation potential, but also act as reservoirs during heavy floods.
AT: The vast water resources of Assam have not been tapped so far. What should be done to harness the water resources?
Kalam: I have already provided the answer to this in the previous question.
AT: It is claimed that the construction of mega dams is not feasible in the North East because of the fact that it is a highly seismic zone. What is your opinion in this regard?
Kalam: That is the reason why I have suggested the creation of a number of canals rather than going for dams. It is true that in a seismic region, we should not go for mega dams. As far as possible, we should go with the natural environment and create a harmonious blend between development and safety.