How Rajiv Gandhi's farsightedness changed India's fortune and made him 'Computer Man of India'

Published on: Aug 20, 2018 16:35 IST
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Rajiv Gandhi

May 21, 1991 was the day when India lost one of its most influential leaders, Rajiv Gandhi, leaving the entire nation weeping with sorrow and grief. The heaviness in the milieu was felt by every countryman when the news about the assassination of India's 7th Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a suicide bomber from the LTTE was broke. A blanket of numbness descended over the political arena with the sudden and untimely demise of Gandhi. He was only 46.

Rajiv Gandhi was the youngest Prime Minister of India. Full of new ideas and concepts, he always had something fresh to offer to the people of this country. During his tenure, Rajiv brought some revolutionary policies that transformed India's image at the global stage. His brainchild 'IT and Communication' policy is one of them. The farsighted initiatives of Rajiv paved way for India to become the IT superpower and made it the top preferred destination for offshore software development.

Today, when India stands tall as one of the driving forces that run the world of computers, many would wonder how deep and enriched the history of computers in India is. To much of the surprise, the indigenous development of computer components began way back in 1971, less than 25 years after the country's independence. However, the pace of using computer accelerated after Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India in late 1984.

Rajiv Gandhi is usually called as the 'Pioneer of Digital India' or the 'Computer Man of India'. It was during his tenure that the seed of IT and Telecom revolution was sowed. It was during Rajiv's era that computers became a household name when he stashed the prices of the systems. At the time when having a basic telephone was considered as luxury, Rajiv had put India on the cellular network.

Before Rajiv took the rein of the country on his own hands, the Indians were unaware and unaccustomed to information technology and the power that it entails to change the fortunes of the country. It was Rajiv Gandhi's farsighted initiatives to drive India towards modernism and his motivation, to pull the masses out of poverty, gave them a dream that laid the foundation for India to become an IT superpower.

Noted technocrat Sam Pitroda who is also known as the father of the nation's telecom revolution gave Rajiv Gandhi lavish heaping praises for staring the telecom revolution in the country. Pitroda said, "Digital India was started in Rajiv Gandhi's time with the launch of the National Informatics Centre." However, there are contrarian views as well; many believe that it was Indira Gandhi who started the IT revolution in India before her assassination.

The 1984 policy providing the provision for software exports through satellite links was approved by Indira Gandhi's Cabinet but was announced by the government headed by Rajiv Gandhi on November 19, 1984, the book titled 'The Long Revolution: The Birth and Growth of India's IT Industry' says.

It was the provision of exports via satellite which attracted American firms like Texas Instruments (TI) and opened up a new gateway for software exports from India. Two other companies were licensed along with TI to set up software units with satellite links but only TI took off, says the book was written by science journalist and author Dinesh C Sharma.

In fact, a number of policy initiatives including liberalisation of policies for computer and electronics sector, rural digital telephone exchange, software technology parks and computerisation of railways, which are linked with Rajiv's era, were set in motion by Indira Gandhi after she came to power in 1980, it said.

Victor Dasgupta

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