RE-IMAGINING INDIA

Digital India is one of the most exciting initiatives taken up in recent times. It has the potential to usher in a truly participatory democracy by pro­viding access to information for all and ensuring accountability and transparency in governance. Financial inclusion, health care, education, skill training and em­ployment will all be greatly facilitated. Not all of this is new. In fact, substantial parts of Digital India were initi­ated in the past years. However, they did not get the at­tention and thrust that they deserved. One example is the very ambitious project of providing broadband connec­tivity to 250,000 village panchayats. Initiated many years ago as the National Optical Fibre Network, its progress has been dismal in relation to the planned (undoubtedly optimistic) timelines. While some of the delays may have been unavoidable, the biggest problem was managerial, worsened by poor technical design. Today, I-ways are the new highways, capable of carrying information, and much more, to every home. The broadband network is, therefore, the key infrastructure underpinning the dream of Digital India, and one hopes that the proposals of the committee that reworked the original plan are not only accepted, but executed with energy.

E-governance is another vital component. Aimed at “providing government services at your doorstep” thro­ugh digital means, this effort has sort of ambled along over the last decade. Lack of enthusiasm within some government departments and inadequate coordination among them slowed the pace, while poor connectivity and dependence on computers further stymied its pro­gress. Yet, this is one area in which there can be immedi­ate and visible benefits to the common man. The new incarnation has to now transform—in today’s scenario— in “providing services at your finger tips” (on a mobile handset) and must be executed with a sense of urgency.

Broadband connectivity can enable the delivery of education and health services to all—even in remote areas— at high quality and affordable prices.

But this requires content that is in local languages and of local relevance.

Similarly, agriculture can greatly ben­efit from first-rate and online extension services, weather information, advice, and crop and input prices. This will also correct the unequal relationship between small farmers and the mid­dle-men who buy their produce.

Livelihood and skill training, in con­junction with entrepreneurship and digital marketing, can transform the rural economy through rural produc­tion for all-India (even global) markets, while creating rural employment.

Dreams of rural IT outsourcing centres

 

may well become a reality.

What is now different is the synergy that is possible through various initiatives. The JAM triad is one exam­ple: a combination of financial inclusion (through the Jan Dhan Yojana), Aadhaar and the mobile opens up vast possibilities for a host of applications ranging from direct benefit transfer (payment of subsidies or pensions/schol- arships directly into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts) to money transfer. Similarly, there is a synergy between the proposed broadband network and the skills mission, with the former being the means for taking skills training to millions. With the scale of the Digital India effort, there is obviously going to be a huge market for digital hardware, and this goes with the Make in India mission.

All these possibilities will, however, remain mere pos­sibilities if critical steps are not taken. The first and fore­most is a mechanism to get the various arms of government to work in unison and with a sense of urgency. Realistically, this cannot happen unless there is a strong leadership and the ability to enforce decisions. In the Indian context, this means the involvement of the prime minister. A mis­sion council, chaired by the PM, which meets once a quar­ter is essential. In the past, such a body was ineffective, but with a PM who is very committed to driving this for­ward, one can hope that it can provide the leadership and push that is essential. Similarly, there is a need for a body to involve and coordinate with the states. This could well be chaired by the communications and IT minister, on the model of the Central Advisory Board of Education.

Indian industry has great capability in this field. A contractor relationship between it and the government will not be able to fully tap into the rich talent and man­agerial capacity of the private sector. Since public-private partnership is no longer a fashionable model, new terms of engagement will have to be crafted. As part of tapping into talent, it is essential to bring in some outside talent (professionals). There are generally serious integration issues with this and such people are effective only when they are independent, eminent in their field and, most importantly, per­ceived to have backing from the top. Aadhaar is a good example of utilising outside talent and integrating it within the government to deliver successfully.

One hopes that the potential of Digital India is not lost due to poor planning and feeble execution. The possible benefits demand that the government looks at new and innovative mechanisms to achieve the very ambitious targets.

Kiran Kamik is chairman, CI1 National Committee for Digital India Mission, and former president, NASSCOM

The possible benefits of Digital India demand that the government looks at innovative mechanisms to achieve the targets.

AS TOO SAY WHO RULES HARYANA?

This refers to the S editorial Powerful caste Panchayat.. .(Khap) (August II, 2009). “Who rules Haryana?: The law or the Khaps?” The answer is resounding: “the khaps”. From meddling into marital affairs to ostracising a family and lynching a young man for violating khap norms of marriage, the institution of khap panchayat in Haryana has traversed its hideous journey from the grotesque to the macabre. The khap panchayat has become a law unto itself. It has evolved a parallel judicial system. Kangaroo courts are held and fatwas issued.

The khap is a medieval institution when Jats were tribals divided into clans. It acted as an instrument of security in an age marked by lawlessness. In modern times, it has outlived its utility when various institutions to maintain law and order are in operation.

Secondly, the khap panchayat has no elective principle. Its so-called mukhias are self-appointed guardians of social mores. It has emasculated the electorally-constituted pancha- yats which give due representation to women and weaker sections.

Thirdly, it has no idea of symbiotic relationship between tradition and modernity. Fourthly, the observance of khap norms has become impractical with the changing complexion of rural society.

Rapid advance made by Haryana in the material fields is regressive in the face of growing moral decay and spiritual atrophy in the state, with a sizeable section of its population fast
lapsing into the dark zone of barbarity and depravity. It is like getting all the riches on the earth after selling one’s soul to the Lucifer.

– J. S. Acharya, Hyderabad.

WITH SPACE,
TWO PATHS
GO PARALLEL

I do not find a more suitable word than , Splendid to appreciate the article, Stay Together but Stand Apart by Suman Bajpai in WE August II issue.

Certainly a good space is required around any individual for him to enlighten his vision, to nurture his interests, and to develop his ideas, in short, to fortify his self. All the benefits of this go obviously to the spouse.

Who else will feel proud of the achievements other than one’s life partner? I have in my life actually felt the same, thanks to my husband who gave me absolute freedom to have some time for myself, choose my interests and develop the same.

Occupying the 24 hours of the spouse           can only         end in

misunderstanding. Instead of feeling good the other person will find himself as chained to someone. Each individual travels in a different path of life.

It is so narrow a path that two people cannot use at the same time. But the two paths can go parallel throughout. The space between the two paths bind them ideally together. And that is a beautiful frame of life as well as marriage.

– N. Muthu Lekshmi, Nagercoil.

LOVE AND
RESPECT
YOURSELF

In the Woman’s Era i of August I, 2009 I liked, read, and also enjoyed the article Love and respect yourself. This article made me relieve my career-life moment of my younger days.

The article by Leena Kundnani is

 

a very good one. Every worn– – India should read it and inct := – self-love in their female chi;c childhood.

Young women should nurture ~ love, self-respect and pride Y:_rc women should be made to eat—: only job satisfaction from we o: ne jobs and revel in their achieve-e-:: but also expect rewards for the r -ant work.

– Meera B. Rao.

–vmm&gSSBt MARRIAGE IS

**o*S«-s intimate

JS RELATIONSI- P

The artic e Healthy -Relattos Key to Happine;. Suman Bajpa August I 2009, is thou: provoking, informative and ec->:ir for married people, a most intirae a all human relationship in wh rr share life intellectually, socia a physically.

In my opinion a mutual standing, love, sharing and ca” trust and faith in each other and builds up a happy relat and that is the key to a su~ marriage.

– Anthony Sanders, A’_

The prize is awarded to: J. S. Acharya, Hyderabad