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Technologies for societal transformation

Monday 16 May 2005, by ABDUL KALAM*A.P.J.

Public-private partnership with innovative government policies will definitely lead to India becoming a developed nation by the year 2020.

I WILL discuss the technological achievements of four of our institutions: the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), the Nuclear Power Corporation of India of the Department of Atomic Energy, and the Department of Telecommunications. These are pivotal in societal transformation.

Twin satellite mission

It was a beautiful experience for the nation and for me when the sixth in the successful series of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLV) lifted off with two spacecraft from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on May 5, 2005. When CARTOSAT-I was injected in a polar orbit of 618 km, it became a world-class earth mapper. The mission of PSLV from take-off to injection of the satellites in the required orbit was achieved within 18 minutes with precision. The satellite has a control capability to revisit any part of our country within five days and transmit data in the X-Band mode. A unique feature of this satellite is that it has onboard compression and encryption with RF system of phased array antennas with 64 elements. CARTOSAT-I with its stereoscopic imaging capability along the track will provide the country 3-D digital mapping capability.

CARTOSAT-I will find applications related to land, water, and environment management and provide disaster management support. It will enable the generation of large-scale base maps, thematic maps, a national level digital elevation model, a digital terrain model, contour interval mapping to the extent of about 10 meters. Data from CARTOSAT-I in conjunction with other IRS satellite data will be useful in applications such as mapping of settlements, urban utility mapping, and delineation of watershed. The digital terrain model with improved accuracies will find applications in inter-river basin studies pertaining to interlinking of rivers and urban and rural infrastructure development such as rural road connectivity and alignment of national railway lines.

Another important application will be in the area of disaster management to determine the extent of damage and the type of emergency assistance needed. This has been made possible by our space scientists using high-resolution stereoscopic imagery from CARTOSAT-I. I am very happy to know from our space scientists that on May 7 and 8, the cameras onboard the satellite were tested and they reported excellent performance. Further, ISRO scientists have reported that the fine-tuning of the path of the satellite in orbit is progressing in circularisation and inclination needed with respect to the equator. This successful mission of CARTOSAT-I has definitely provided global leadership to our country in earth mapping technology. We can look for another mission from ISRO in September 2005 - the launch of CARTOSAT-II.

HAMSAT is a micro satellite for providing satellite based amateur radio services to the national as well as the international community of amateur radio operators (HAMs). Launched as an auxiliary payload along with CARTOSAT-I, the 42.5 kg HAMSAT will meet the long-felt need of amateur radio operators in the South Asian region who possess the required equipment, and to operate in the UHF/VHF band based satellite radio communication. One of the transponders of HAMSAT has been developed indigenously involving Indian HAMs, with the expertise of ISRO and the experience of AMSAT-INDIA. The second transponder has been developed by a Dutch amateur radio operator and graduate engineering student at the Higher Technical Institute, Venlo in the Netherlands.

HAMSAT is India’s contribution to the international community of amateur radio operators. This effort is also meant to bring ISRO’s satellite services within the reach of the common man and popularise space technology among the masses. This satellite will play a valuable role in the national and international scenario by providing a low cost, readily accessible and reliable means of communication during emergencies and calamities such as floods and earthquakes. Besides, it will stimulate technical interest and awareness among the younger generation by providing them with an opportunity to develop their technological projects including offering a platform. I would like to refer to the programme of micro satellite development by ISRO and Anna University as a cooperative mission. This event of micro satellite in space will definitely ignite the minds of the Indian academic community towards space research.

Delhi Metro Rail Project

The Delhi Metro Rail Project has given to the nation the potential of executing a fast transportation system using high technology with reliability through a time-bound mission mode operation. Delhi, which has a 14 million population, has the distinction of having a world-class metro rail with frontline technologies. The work on the metro rail commenced on October 1, 1998 and the first phase with three lines covering 66 km is planned for completion by December 2005.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has brought to the country the most advanced rail technologies for the first time. The sophisticated coach technology, which was not available in India so far, has been transferred to M/s. Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML), Bangalore. It is now assembling these trains with progressive indigenisation. BEML is now in a position to supply train sets needed for Phase-II of Delhi Metro Rail Project and meet the requirement for Metros coming up in other cities of the country.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, with technological partnership, has given the country a fast transportation system needed in many other parts of India. DMRC has become a trendsetter in developing advanced rail technologies and in executing cost effective time bound mission projects successfully. Such efforts will be the forerunner for many of our rural development missions.

India’s largest PHWR

India’s first 540 MWe Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR), built based on indigenous technology at Tarapur in Maharashtra, became critical on March 6, 2005. It is the largest indigenously designed and built power reactor in the country. The commissioning of this nuclear reactor has established our technological and managerial leadership.

The project at Tarapur comprises a twin-unit station of the PHWR type, each of 540 MWe installed capacity. The first concrete (Grade M-60) was poured on 8th March 2000 and criticality has been achieved in less than five years.

This is the first time the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has established an automatic computer-controlled batching plant and concrete was pumped to the place of concreting. With the help of a heavy-duty crawler crane established as a part of the construction, the lowering of the steam generator into position was completed in just three hours as against more than one month in earlier projects. Completion of this project in a record time of less than five years is testimony to the level of maturity achieved by Indian industry and NPCIL. It is important to remember that nuclear electric power is vital for the country’s energy security and better quality of life for the people.

When I visited the project site at the Tarapur plant in 2001, I saw the engineers and other staff of NPCIL working round the clock with a sense of pride - they are going to build the first indigenous 540 MWe power station.

Communication, the lifeline of development

One of the major indicators of development in any country is telephone penetration. For teledensity to increase and bridge the digital divide, one needs a combination of affordable technologies and proactive policies along with a vibrant private-public partnership. The important technology that made this revolution possible is cell phone technology.

The turnover of the telecom industry today is more than Rs.50,000 crore and it contributes more than Rs.6,500 crore to the central exchequer. The share of the private sector has also increased to around 45 per cent in terms of total number of phones. This high growth rate has resulted because of the Government’s policy of competitiveness in choice of technology and partnership in operation and management of the telephone communication system. Studies indicate that the income of corporates and households increased by 5 to 10 per cent through the use of telecom services. For the rural population, it provides access to information and makes facilities available irrespective of one’s location.

Since rural telephone penetration is still low, it is a fertile market for telecom services. For this to happen, the rural population should find value for the money and also have buying power. These are intertwined. Our future efforts should be to increase the content delivered through telephone networks in terms of quality as well as utility for the rural population. If this is done by 2010, we will witness a technological marvel that will actually bridge the digital divide and provide electronic connectivity to clusters of villages forming part of the PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) complexes, and make the whole of India a connected nation. I am sure that the public-private partnership with innovative government policies will definitely lead India to become a developed nation by the year 2020.


These four technology events are part of a number of technologies we need for leading the nation as a prosperous country.

The pictures from CARTOSAT-I must be used by farmers, development institutions, educational institutions, and industry to understand the resources available with us and make use of the resources for the benefit of all citizens. HAMSAT should motivate our youth to develop an urge towards amateur communication, which can be a hobby and also backup communication at critical times. The Delhi Metro Rail Project should lead to the development of metro systems in many of our cities to cope with increasing traffic needs. The indigenous development and commissioning of the 540 MWe pressurised heavy water reactor is a forerunner for the mission of leading the generation of 20,000 MWe of nuclear power by the year 2020. The growth in telecommunications will bridge the rural-urban divide and contribute towards making India a knowledge society.

(This article is based on the President’s Technology Day 2005 address over All India Radio and Doordarshan.)

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