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'220 million people living below the poverty line shows the failure of our system'

August 14, 2008

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam kindly answered Archana Masih and Saisuresh Sivaswamy's questions for an exclusive interview with

What are the top most recent achievements that India has reason to be proud of?

The Indian economy is in an ascent phase. Particularly, our economy is growing at 8% to 9% per annum for the last four years. However, there is a need to control inflation by increasing productivity, particularly in the consumer sector.

There is a marked improvement in our infrastructure such as roads, particularly rural roads, tele-density, international airports, metro-rail connectivity.

India, 61: The icons that make India

In the agricultural sector, our food production has increased to 237 million tonnes. It is essential to give highest priority for agro-food processing. This will enhance earning capacity of farmers.

In the automobile sector, India has become a leading manufacturer of cars, commercial vehicles and components. The Nano car is an important milestone in the small car segment. Work is also on to convert the automobile to run with emulsified fuel having 75% fuel and 25% water.

The PSLV C9 mission launching precisely ten satellites, including eight satellites for international customers.

And where have we failed? What have been our greatest failures and where have we failed our people?

While there has been all-round growth in many sectors during the last 60 years, the fact that there are still 220 million people living below the poverty line shows the failure of our system. Hence, connectivity and working with integrity are the immediate solutions. Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) which gives physical connectivity, electronic connectivity and knowledge connectivity leading to economic connectivity in rural areas is the possible solution. We need 7000 PURA complexes for covering 600,000 villages in the country.

Image: 836 million people in India live on Rs 20 a day, according to a government-commissioned study last year. In this photograph, impoverished tribals travel along the flooded Narmada river, November 25, 2005. The construction of large dams on the Narmada river impacted the lives of millions of people living in the river valley. Photograph: Ami Vitale/Getty Images. Dr Kalam's photograph: Rajesh Karkera.

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