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India’s Competitiveness in Research and Innovation

it is necessary to promote scientific outlook in the country and encourage innovation. The achievements so far are encouraging and there is a need to continue the current endeavours. — Dr. Ashwani Mahajan


On 23rd August 2023 India created history by successful landing of Chandrayan-3 on South pole of moon, making India to be fourth nation in the world to have successfully landing at moon and first country for landing on the south pole of the moon. This is neither the first nor the last achievement of India's space program. In the past India has made major strides in the field of space. Though India did launch its first satellite, Aryabhatta, in the space's orbit, with Russia’s help; but it never looked back since then. Not only India today has 17 INSAT satellites in the space, it has developed capability to launch any number of satellites in the space's orbit by PSLV.

In 1993, India launched the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for the first time. Though it was launched to place India's remote sensing satellites in sun-synchronous orbit, it has launched 58 flights till date, of which 55 were completely successful, one partially successful and two unsuccessful. The cost of each launch varies between Rs 130 crore and Rs 200 crore depending on its carrying capacity. But by launching the satellite of our country and other countries, the revenue made by ISRO is much more than that. It’s notable that PSLV’s 37th flight had created a history by putting 104 satellites in the space simultaneously.

No doubt the success in the space program speaks tons about India's capabilities in space technology. The vary fact that the most developed countries of the world also launch their satellite with the help of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), because of the economy with which ISRO is able to perform the task. But apart from transporting satellites from most developed countries, ISRO has been able to demonstrate its superiority in successfully performing the most difficult space expeditions with unbelievable economy. Expressing surprise about the economy of India's space mission many people have posted on social media. Though, India had been working on its space mission with utmost efficiency with the most economical fashion, right from the beginning, but this has caught global attention very recently. It is important to know that India transports satellites of different countries at a fraction of the charge made by the established space players, NASA (Space agency of USA).

There is yet another technological achievement of India, which has caught attention of the world, namely, Unified Payment Interface (UPI). Significantly, in the year 2022, a total of Rs 149.5 lakh crore worth of online transactions took place in the country. In these payments worth Rs 126 lakh crore were done only through UPI. A total of about 88 billion online transactions were recorded in the country last year. According to a report by Price Waterhouse Cooper, the number of online payments could reach one billion per day by 2026-27. More importantly, India accounts for more than 40 percent of all online transactions in the world.

It is notable that payments made through UPI are almost free. None of the service provider can make a charge for facilitating payment. Recently, the government has introduced the charge on UPI transaction of more than Rs. 2000 to a wallet, however, there is no charge on any amount of transaction through UPI made to a bank account. There is no parallel of UPI in the whole world. Prior to introduction of UPI online transactions for all payments used to be through credit and debit cards. Prior to 2014 all credit and debit cards used to be of two international giants Visa and Mastercard. Transactions through these cards were subject to a sizable commission, which ranged between 1 percent to 2.5 percent. At that time online transaction were very limited, even than huge amount of foreign exchange used to go abroad. Introduction of UPI and Rupay card generally replacing Visa and Mastercard has not only reduced the business of these international giants, but has also saved the country from outgo of valuable foreign exchange, apart from facilitating huge number of online transactions. A new feature has been added to UPI, called UPI International, for use of UPI by international payers. Due to which payment can be made from Indian Bank accounts to foreign banks, with the help of QR code. UPI payments were already possible in Bhutan, Nepal, Singapore, UAE and Mauritius, and now France has joined the list.

If we talk about the economy of online transaction through UPI we come to know that budget provisions of hardly Rs 1500 crore has been made for the digital payments industry for 2023-24 under the expenditure budget of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity). Looking at the quantum of transactions, this is hardly 0.0001 percent of the same. This number speaks loud about the cost effectiveness of our indigenous payment system and it’s underneath technology.

Preparing for Industrial Revolution 4.0

We are living in the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0. It is a matter of misfortune that India missed the bus in first three industrial revolutions . In Industrial Revolution 1.0, production was mechanized with water and steam, Second Industrial Revolution was centred at mass production from electric energy. Third Industrial Revolution was of electronics and information technology. At the time of the first industrial revolution in the world, India was under alien rule, and the colonial government was hardly interested in the development of India. The Second Industrial Revolution which introduced the use of electric powered mechanisation, didn’t achieve much success in India. The main reasons are the lack of substantial growth in power generation in the country and the lack of agricultural research and development. When the use of electronics and information technology increased in the world, initially it gained momentum, but later the lack of innovation and the indifferent attitude of the government hindered the production of IT related products in the country. However, software companies developed in a big way in the country and they were developing and servicing software, both for domestic as well as for international markets.

Today is the time of Industrial Revolution 4.0, which is associated with rapid technological development. It has artificial intelligence, drones, robotics, gene editing and through all kinds of smart technology, production is conducted on a large scale through machine-to-machine communication and Internet of Things. It has to be understood that even though India had lagged behind in the first three industrial revolutions, India has the promise for emerging as a major player in the world in the fourth industrial revolution. Our youth, software engineers, digital experts, engineers, experts in various fields, all are engaged in the effort that India reaches the first row in the world in Industrial Revolution 4.0. India has showcased its talent to the fullest in space and payments infrastructure. The youth of India are doing remarkable and commendable work in many fields including robotics, drones, digitalization in medicine. Nearly one lakh startups with new ideas are engaged in the development and innovation of various technologies. Our experience so far shows that we can easily excel in Industrial Revolution 4.0 with our new ideas, intelligence and skills of Indian youth. Technologies like 5G i are surprising the world, challenging established foreign technologies. Today is the time to give impetus to these ongoing efforts in the country. For this, it is necessary to promote scientific outlook in the country and encourage innovation. The achievements so far are encouraging and there is a need to continue the current endeavours.       

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