May 23, 2017

Speaking at TIFAC Workshop, New Delhi

In fact, I think TIFAC is privileged to have you as a mentor and Chairman of their National Apex Committee. Of Course, if I can take a small punt on Dr. Kakodkar, with your permission, you ended with almost emotional blackmail. And, Mr Rashmi you have a very-very important mission ahead of you as you take over in your assignments in the Department of Science and Technology and I am sure TIFAC will be a great support to the working of the Ministry. Mr Bhardwaj, Mr Ranjan, Mr Bhatt, I have listened to all your comments very carefully. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I believe some scientists, some industry participants, I see some young students, who I hope, I am surprised and I am delighted and I am happy to spend a day here.

In fact, I got this invitation only last evening, yesterday evening, but two things made the difference for me. One was, of course, Dr Kakodkar’s name, so after that the chapter gets closed. And, second, of course, my good friend and colleague, Dr Harshvardhan writing about TIFAC. And, I had not got much knowledge about it and you know that I am quite interested in R&D activities, so I thought I must go and see what this is about? I actually called my person yesterday evening at 5 pm, you must have got a call at 6 or 7 in the evening, to see my calendar, see what we could reshuffle, because I wanted to come here. And, after coming here, I am only doubly pleased that I have come here. Extremely impressed with the documentation, with the quality of leadership that this organisation has. I have been glancing through at least this one document, it is amazing! It is absolutely amazing!  There are so many things that we have been talking, thinking, discussing, informally giving big speeches in international fora, using some of these fancy words, but knowing nothing about it, at least, personally. I am a small little chartered accountant with a law background and I know nothing about technology.

To that extent, I don’t know why I am here or what you have called me to discuss? Of course, the good part of government is, as soon as you get a programme like this finalised, so between yesterday evening and this morning, they have drawn up so many points for me to talk about. From the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, three sheets of paper, from the Ministry of Power, in small print three sheets of paper. So I must have done quite a lot, or at least my Ministries have done quite a lot, which referred to this subject or at least so they believe. But after reading this, I think I better put all of this aside and focus on something all together.

But really, I saw the agenda today, of course, I am a little disappointed, I am going talk to my officials. I am sure, you must have invited my officials for this and I see nobody over here. Is there anybody from MNRE or Power? But, this is not the level of engagement that inter-ministerial discussions of such an important subject should have. And, frankly, this has been a subject which has agitated the Hon’ble Prime Minster also. I would like to share with you that Prime Minster Modi is personally, as an individual, passionate about research, passionate about development, passionate, as Mr Bhatt said, about India’s leadership position, in the world on research and development. Dr Kakodkar was right, that why should India not be leading the world, why do we have to wait for the world to do something and then implement it in India? A billion plus people, competent beyond imagination, providing services to the best of organisations worldwide. We have all heard about the NASA-Indian connect, the CERN-Indian connect and all of that. But, I think there is something wrong in our own processes, there’s something we deeply need to introspect. Are we empowering our institutes of science, our institutes of technology, institutions like TIFAC? I actually had asked the Department of Science and Technology once, recently, and they had sent me a note, which I flagged off, but we frankly not had the time to really sit down and sort it out, about the impediments that scientists in India are facing and I believe they are huge. I had a case in MNRE, where a scientist was being hauled up right up to CVC (Vigilance Commissioner) for having procured some 1 lakh rupees worth of computers or laptops or something, without a due process. And, I think the file was this thick, till I closed it. I said, this is ridiculous! I mean, how is a scientist expected to know this damn procedure of procuring a simple thing like a laptop?

So, at the outset, I would like Dr Kakodkar, kindly tell us a way we can look at more holistic view on research and development. You were there in that interaction with the Prime Minister, did you not mention at that time? First question that he asked, in an interaction with all the senior Secretaries and the Ministers is कि where is the R&D component, where is the R&D focus? So we really and very seriously need to see that, we are all doing a million activities. I have 10 PSUs who have an R&D budget, our Ministries have a budget. MNRE has some 50-100 projects, where we give small-small amounts with no outcomes. Not, that I am against small projects, but we will have to look at a more holistic vision. We will have to see whether we can have a more sensitive, scientific assessment of new ideas, investments, outcomes. And, I would deeply appreciate Dr Kakodkar, you have been part of government and now for several years you have been out of government, but, yet engaged with the R&D story. You would probably even know the 500 organisations in India, who are doing these small disparate grant-based research which is completely not connected to each other. So I would love to hear from this elite group sitting on the dais, a holistic vision on how this country — and, I will be happy to accompany you to the Hon’ble Prime Minster, may be Rashmi Ji and you or a team of us to go together and present him a vision — how India can possibly devote significant resources in a holistic comprehensive manner, leading to cutting-edge research and technology coming out of it.

On a lighter note, my family is full of engineers, father, late father, brother, brother-in-law, the whole family. Typically, when you finish your 10th standard, much as I was always a finance-minded person, बनिया बुद्धि थी अपनी, एक business-minded orientation, so I always wanted to do finance but, typically what happens, you get a certain mark in your SSC Examination. And, I can tell you with pride, because I have just watched the Hindi Medium movie, I don’t know if any of you has watched it. I would urge all of you to go and watch that movie, not that I am going to get one rupee out of every ticket that they sell. Go and watch it! It a very important message that all of us in this room, particularly Secretaries and government officials need to have, watch Hindi Medium. I have studied in a school, of course, it was a catholic school, very good, probably one of the good ones in Mumbai but, at 10-12 rupees fee. And, I have not done too badly in life, have I? And, after 10th – some of you may know Aggarwal Classes in Mumbai – so after 10th you see your marks then you naturally go to Jai Hind College, pursue science, start preparing for the IIT Joint Entrance Exam, so you have to join Aggarwal Classes. Those days that was the only one, आजकल तो यह बहुत सारे कोटा वोटा सब शुरू हो गया है |

So, I have attended classes for six months, Dr Karkhanis was my maths teacher, if I remember correctly. So I was probably, I have been sitting amongst all of you here, trying to struggle with some technology. I am glad I didn’t. Finally, I went into pursue commerce and CA. Because, I hope I can do something, now, understanding that there is a huge financial benefit that this nation can get out of the work that you are all doing. A subject like what you have today should have had 5000 people in the room. That is the importance of the agenda of today that I have just read. May be if you had called Salman Khan, you could have actually got 5000 people interested in renewable energy. That is the sad state of affairs in our country, unfortunately! Which we can change, this tide needs to be changed.

And, I am confident, and Dr Kakodkar, in every aspect I truly and sincerely believe that there should be a cost benefit analysis, no doubt about it. In LED programme or the solar mission’s rapid growth, if I had focused only on Make in India at that point of time, we would never have reached where we have. So, I took the path, where I could at least, first bring down the cost to affordable levels. So, even today, for every LED bulb, and of course, the price is down to only 15% of what it was three years ago or two years ago, two and half years ago. If it had not come down to 15%, we would never have had this kind of scale. If solar power hadn’t come down to, now below grid parity, we couldn’t have really achieved a 100 GHz, whatsoever the Prime Minister or I may have desire. So we took the more sensible path, where scale would bring in the right cost and without scale nobody is going to manufacture in India. So, maybe out of a 40 rupees LED bulb today, we have a 8-10 rupees import component, but we are adding 300% value to that in India. But, I am still not resting on that, your point about Silicon manufacturing in India is agitating me day and night.

And, I have also thought the same thing that NTPC will provide power right at the plant, they will give land in the NTPC premises to anybody, even private sector, who is willing to come and set up large scale silica manufacturing, like they do in China. And, what I have thought of, I am happy to share with you, I am happy to announce to the world also, is that we will invite the world manufacturers, who are all …… their thumb with no business, particularly in Europe and America, that you move your equipment here, don’t charge us for it, for every megawatt or production that comes out of that, we will pay you a charge. So, we are looking at some innovative models and which is why I said, I am happy that I did Chartered Accountancy, so that, at least with my little bit of passion about technology and with my learnings or teachings of finance, we can merge the two together.

And, I want to make a request to TIFAC, rather two or three requests. It is not always that you can ask the Ministers, right! We can also ask. First of all, I want to do a One-Day Workshop with all of you or whenever you have your next National Apex Committee Meeting, I will invite all of you, one of my companies will be happy to host it. And, let’s do an off-site, so that I am not rushing and looking at my calendar and requesting all of you to be brief, my apologies for that! May be I have cut off some very important points that you wanted to make, you can do it after I go, but I have a long calendar ahead of me and I am sorry about it. But, let’s do an off-site, where I am not called away. OK! And, let’s spend a whole day, understanding each other, understanding what the business needs are? What the country needs are? But, actually I really don’t even need to tell you anything. I just saw that thing, it is remarkable!

Your assessment of the needs of the country are truly remarkable. I mean each one of this is a mission that I would love to be associated with. Delivery of the language-neutral content to all individuals. From that, I had thought of requesting all of you to see Hindi Medium. The country’s heart and soul is still regional. You go to China, you go to Japan, you go to Sweden, you go to France, Italy, Spain, Germany; they all know English, but they will speak to you in their local language with a translator. There is pride in their country for their language. It is we, who have become so weak in our own nationalism or in our own pride in our country, nationalism बोलना बड़ा dangerous है, कल headline बन जाएगी कि मैंने science and technology को भी nationalism से जोड़ दिया | But, it is we who are week and feel that if we know English better then we can become good scientists, good researchers or good orators or maybe we will be more acceptable in society. And, we are all culpable. यह कोई एक वर्ग की बात नहीं है |

I remember, when that IAS exam issue came up when we had just come into government in 2014, all the senior government officials —pardon me Rashmi Ji— were hell bent and fighting with us कि no no English तो होना ही चाहिए उसके बगैर IAS officer अच्छा काम कैसे कर सकता है | Very sad commentary on our thinking today! तो वह गाँव में वह गरीब जिसको कभी बिजली नहीं मिली, I am sorry I am diverting from the main core subject – who could probably come out with an innovation that of you intelligent people may not even think of, someday I am sure and may be in the past many have. We have heard of even Ramanujan coming out some humble background like this. And, all those famous scientists, Aryabhata and all of them, didn’t know English, I am sure.

It is time that we brought the whole country into the scientific bent of mind, having a passion towards science. And believe me, I was so delighted to read this, first thing on your agenda. Your idea about speedy and error-free criminal investigation, I would probably add ‘and justice’, or an overall justice which includes investigation and culmination of….. Somebody could say, what has science and technology to do with that? But, I agree with you, it is huge. The impact it can have on India and future of India is huge. Even that poor scientist, who would have otherwise got into trouble, if I had probably gone by the recommendations of the department. और मुझे लगता है सबसे पहले तो IAS officers को, pardon me sir, scientists के ऊपर नहीं बिठाना चाहिए | आप भी IAS हैं? नहीं आप सेक्रेटरी रहते हैं वैसे तो कोई non-IAS को सेक्रेटरी बनाने में ही बहुत तकलीफ होती है |

So, on a serious note, I mean लेकिन इसमें आपको कैसे अपने mind को mold करना पड़ेगा, अब आपने एक सुझाव दिया helipad in every panchayat, यहाँ शायद IAS officer will give you the right advice. वह बोलेगा 6 लाख पंचायत हैं लगभग 1 लाख रुपये लगेगा 1 helipad बनाने में, ज्यादा लगेगा? मैंने एक लाख पकड़ा है क्योंकि scale पर बनाना और ईमानदारी से बनाना बिना भ्रष्टाचार में एक लाख में बन जाएगा | मैं बनवा दूंगा एक 6 लाख अगर बनाने जाओ तो, जैसे LED bulb 15% हो गया | लेकिन 6 लाख बनाना मतलब 6000 करोड़ रुपये, अब वहां आप scientists को इन IAS officers का लाभ होगा या हमारे जैसे accountants का लाभ होगा, इसको cluster philosophy दी जा सकती है | 50 गावों के बीच भी एक अगर helipad हो गया तो जब तक आप distress signal देके helicopter लाओगे उधर तो उस गाँव से वहां तक तो व्यक्ति शायद साइकिल पर भी पहुँच जाएगा |

तो ऐसे हमको finance, practicality, scientific discovery और need, इन चारों को मेल करना पड़ेगा, फिर आप अगर 6 लाख को 50 से divide कर दो और एक लाख रुपये हर एक में लगाओ तो 120 करोड़ में यह reality एक वर्ष में हो सकती है बिना कोई difficulty के |  That is where I think your department can play a role coupled with the TIFAC assessments or scientific discoveries coupled with finance providing the necessary wherewithal to make this happen. I think that could be a good beginning point where we all work as a team, that team India that Prime Minister Modi often talks about.

Of course, we are already working on some of the things you have said – medical evacuation within one hour, every village connected with an all weather road. Total power generation of 1000 GW, 50% renewable.

Public transport within 1 km for home, good idea! That’s something we have no thought of as a nation. Brilliant idea! Very-very important idea. And गडकरी जी को बोलोगे वह तो एकदम excite हो जाएंगे | He loves this kind of challenges. Average expectancy 80 years at birth, something to be proud of, if we can achieve that as a nation, collectively.

Portable water in every household even in difficult terrains, something which is our, it should be our commitment as a nation, it’s a no-brainer.

Primary healthcare in every Panchayat – again – maybe Cluster approach would help. I am through that cluster, I agree with you – access to specialists and super-specialists. And I will share with you, we were in the midst of 2014 elections, the Lok Sabha elections, and you can imagine how busy each one of us was. मतलब average 3-4 घंटे भी सोने मिल जाता था तो बहुत ही अच्छा दिन गया लगता था, right? उस बीच में CISCO के एक Mr Menon approached me through a colleague, a friend in parliament. And on the phone, he just mentioned about what they were doing on healthcare through remote webcast and the concept of primary healthcare at the village level, coupled with a case whose preliminary diagnosis shows it needs specialist care, getting on to a web camera, reports getting accessed through the mail, or through internet or cloud. And the doctor there looking at the patient, guiding what more he wants to check, possibly, even some equipment which tests the pulse and gives the readings remotely to him, or whatever.

In the middle of the campaign, it would be February or March, or January or February of 2014, I took a day off from the campaign to fly down to Bangalore to visit CISCO’s place. Because, that time I was finalizing my book which never came out, of course, because I got into government and giving ideas when you are in government can be very dangerous, they all come back to haunt you.

So, what I am trying to tell you is there is a lot that is possible, which can be dovetailed with practical outcomes, with costs which are manageable and not unrealistic. So, I would urge you also to look at whatever ideas you come up with from this lens of practicality. But, otherwise, it’s a very interesting document. डॉक्टर साहब अभी अभी बता रहे थे कि डॉक्टर कलाम की किताब which I have read 2012 or 2013, I don’t know, on Vision-2020, was if it has had a, TIFAC has had a role in it. It was truly remarkable.

I am going to pull up my officers who are not here. There should have been 10 officers to discuss all of these subjects taking interest. आप लोग interest ले रहे हो, काम उनका है | We have a tonnes of scientists and nobody is over here. I think that is what sadly is the problem which Prime Minister Modi often talks about. We have to get out of these silos working, in amongst Ministers, amongst Secretaries. I think we have come to a great deal of engagement and working together as teams. Can we try and do that amongst scientists also that concept of working in teams.

Because, I think it’s time, as Steve Jobs had said that we go out and invent tomorrow, instead of worrying about yesterday. Unfortunately, all of us are too busy with the present and the past and don’t get enough opportunities, scientists do, with their research and all. But I don’t know how much amount of time they have to spend on paper work and formalities, and how much they really get to have a roving mind and think for innovation, think about new ideas. If it wasn’t, if it’s not out of place, electric vehicles is not my job. Really, it’s under the Ministry of Heavy Industries and as typically happens if I interfere in it, there’s a lot of disconcert in the system, who the hell are you to talk about it. It’s not your job, it’s somebody else’s job, which is why I corrected you. भैया मैंने तो अपना personal passion reflect किया था | It’s not coming under me. 100% it will happen, it’s like the cell phone. When the mobile phone came out, in 2000 the expectation, the 2000 story if anybody goes back, was that there will be a, not 2000, when it came out in 1995, 195-96 – expectation was by 2000 there will be 1 million cell phones. I am sure in 2000 itself, the figure was huge. But today we are talking of 3 or 4 billion cell phones in the world.

Who had ever imagined this kind of a revolution. I am sure nobody in this room had thought कि Rs 2.44 will be the solar tariff, not that it is a tariff which will be everywhere. Rajasthan has a lot of sun, Bhagla was a solar park – all of those enablers are there but that’s the job of government, that’s what we are all supposed to do. That is why we had 34 solar parks and we are adding another, maybe 30-40 more. That is the sensibility that we have to provide to your work and together make it a viable project.

Of course, there are many times one also has to have India’s realistic position (inaudible). So when we talk of smart cities, smart grids, we have to do it smartly. It can’t be done in an impractical manner. So, for instance, there is this beautiful dustbin that I say at the Harvard Business School when I was a student there. And I started making enquiries, it was a solar dustbin. In that dustbin, there was a small solar panel the size of this…. on top of the dustbin which gets into a pulley which as a round…. So, here’s the solar panel, whatever you call it I don’t know, shaft and then a base. The solar generates a little bit of power or energy very little and it just keeps compressing this, and compressing the garbage collected in the dustbin. Small outlet into the drain where the water goes out and as we do in Mumbai for my children when they go for their school in America, my wife goes to somebody in Ghatkopar, who dehydrates the Daal and the Aloo and the bhindi and everything, and make small pouches, smaller than this which they have to just put into water and you see that in Indigo Airlines also nowadays I think. Right? So just like that this garbage doesn’t dehydrate but just compresses and that garbage can store 20 times what a normal garbage can can.

How is garbage removed? Trucks spewing pollution come to collect garbage every time, in Delhi Mumbai you have seen it. If you have reduced that trip by 20 times, just imagine the…. So I got very excited. पूरा ढूँढ-ढांड के I got the CEO of that company to come and meet me in New York in one of my subsequent visits after I became Minister. It’s called the Big belly or something. He said the lowest price I can give you is 2.5 or 3,5000 dollars, which I knew that if I do here तो एक और Commonwealth scam  हो जाएगा | बाद में वह देखेंगे नहीं इसके बाकी attendant benefits वह हो जाएगा कि पियूष गोयल ने 2 लाख रुपये के एक एक dustbin खरीद लिया या 2-1.5 लाख रुपये का dustbin……

Then, of course, I told Mahindras to do some research, I don’t know, if people are doing some research without affecting that patent. But I am just throwing a thought to all of you. But just imagine स्वच्छ भारत मिशन का क्या परिणाम हो सकता है अगर इस देश में आप लोग इससे भी better कोई technology ले आए | What we do with garbage disposal. अच्छा Waste-to-energy, we don’t need power out of that because महंगी भी पड़ती है, हमें India की sensibilities को भी ध्यान में रखना पड़ता है, electricity out of garbage costs 6-7-8, sometimes even more. मुझे ले गए Sweden और Finland में waste-to-energy plant देखने, उसको देखो तो बड़ा मज़ा आया | It was very beautiful. You can even walk around in that plant without any gadgets because it’s so beautiful. The environment is not affected at all. So what if it costs $2 billion to set it up for a small city like Stockholm. For them, capital is zero cost. They have huge amounts of money to invest, small populations to support. India will have to be practical, I told them this is great, thank you very much. But we need indigenous technology which can handle this at Indian costs because हमारे यहाँ तो पहले पैसा कम है, है तो उसपर 10-12% ब्याज है, वह लगाते लगाते वह cost कितनी महंगी हो जाती है बिजली की | की it becomes a stress on the DISCOM or on the consumers, आपकी बिजली महंगी हो जाएगी तो आपतो मुझे अगली बार 2019 में मंत्री भी बनाएंगे | तो यह realities को सामने रखते हुए, practical interface between academia, industry and government is what is called for.

In fact, where did we launch this or where did I hear about it? 1500 crores investment पर BIMAC या कोई क्या BIFAX, some mission, biopharmaceuticals or biotechnologies पर, BIRAC, जिसमें industry academia -partnership से we are going ahead for some research. In fact, mission innovation is all about that, which was launched by honorable Prime Minister along with other world leaders and Bill Gates Foundation on 30th November, or 29-30th November 2015 in Paris. I am willing to commit from all the PSUs under my charge and my ministerial budgets to pool all of it and work as one mission in partnership with academia and industry, so that the outcomes can be many times more than these small small investments.

You remember I had committed, what 200 crores to you for that? That’s coming up? Great! You want to tell them about that whole conversation. It happened here? In this room? Wow! No, We had sanctioned it in less than 30 days after this conversation. You know, we were doing a discussion here on Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, who is now my advisor on science and technology programmes. But, literally Ashok Jhunjhunwala has left Chennai on a sabbatical, working with me for domestic solar manufacturing and electric vehicles, both subjects which were discussed today. Dr Jhunjhunwala for the last 6 months has been working with me on that. He is one of your National Apex Committee members, I just read that, I don’t know.

Now that day, Jhunjhunwala had flown with me from Mumbai or Delhi or vice versa, Mumbai to Delhi, to discuss his DC Volt idea, that instead of black out there should be only brown outs. I like it so much I said you stay back and we will discuss but then he had said नहीं 3 दिन बाद करते हैं, आप थे उस दिन और 6 IIT Directors भी थे | That’s right, we had a morning session, after which we have invested some 100 crores or 80 crores on pilots of that idea also. थोडा relevance कम हो गया है because वह mindset तब shortages of power का था, अब देश में surplus हो गया है power in the first 2 years of Modi government.

To things have to evolve with changing times also, but at that time बिजली shortfall ही रहेगी इस देश में यह 70 साल का इतिहास था तो एक नए मंत्री के नाते मैंने भी यही सोचा था | जब ज्यादा गहराई से देखा तब ध्यान आया कि हम आत्मनिर्भर हो सकते हैं पर उस session के बाद lunch पर Dr Kakodkar told me कि मैं बहुत time से struggle कर रहा हूँ, IIT Jodhpur में to do a Concentrated Solar Project (CSP) I remember now. And at lunch, I called up the NTPC chairman, I said if you are free I am sending Dr Kakodkar, आपकी flight 5.30 बजे थी आपको घर जाके गणेश विसर्जन करना था, मुझे अभी भी याद है |

And he went to NTPC and in 30 days, they sanctioned a 200 crore rupee project for IIT Jodhpur. I called you a couple of times, after that it was IIT Jodhpur which delayed the project, not availability of funds from funds from NTPC. तो हमारी तरफ से पूरा पैसा available है, आपको जो करना है, we want new ideas. He came to me Solanki with his idea, we have sanctioned 500 crores for that if I am not mistaken.

तो हमारी तरफ से तो हम चाहते हैं कि आप लोग encourage हों, आप लोग बड़ी चीज़ें करें, बड़े रूप में apply करें अपनी नयी technologies को | Let’s work together as partners, let’s work together as a team. I promise you, there is no budget for R&D in this government. I mean no budget यह एक बार पहले भी कहा था, it came to haunt me. No budget means, budget is a restriction on R&D. हमारी सरकार में कोई budget नहीं है, unlimited resources हम R&D को देने के लिए तैयार हैं, कृपया करके हम सब मिलके academia, politicians, scientists, industry, इस रूप में इसको देखें कि भारत की प्राथमिकताएं क्या हैं, भारत की गरीबी दूर करने के लिए हमें क्या चिंता करनी है, किसान की क्या चिंता करनी है और उन चिंताओं को मद्देनज़र रखते हुए देश की प्राथमिकताएं क्या होनी चाहिएँ | What should be the priorities before this nation keeping as the central focus the poor of India, the farmer of India, rural India, amongst other things.

Of course, we also have to look at climate change. We also have to be worried about urban quality of life and all of that, overarching theme will certainly be sustainable lifestyles which the leadership of Prime Minister Modi got incorporated in the Paris document. The Paris Agreement for the first time, COP21 recognised that waste, eliminating waste which is also there in your book, zero food wastage amongst other things. So I think time has come that we work together. I have a lot of things which are off, all the typical, science technology में मैं छोटा सा आदमी आपको क्या science और technology पर ज्ञान दूंगा, वह सब कागज़ी भाषण है मेरे लिए |

But I hope I have been able to communicate the feelings of the government towards your fraternity, towards your work. The technology that you develop is not something that we only use today, it’s something that we live. Help us live a better life, a more sustainable life. Help us leave behind the children of tomorrow, all our children, we are all in about the same age bracket. Let’s leave behind for these young kids sitting at the back of the room a better future. And let’s work together as a team because as Bill Gates says, never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time. Let’s take that as a mission. Let’s work for faster development, faster integration and faster deployment of technologies for India, for all of India, for all our children.

Thank you very much.

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