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Article on Mr. Naidu from Sameer Bandhu
Mr. Chowdary, Andhra's IT advisor is with us on this list. He might like
to comment here (his comments are already cited in this article). I
think, though that despite whatever failures this experiment might
engender, this is the quintessential model of politics that India needs
to move toward: professionally trained politicians. We are sick and
tired of having nincompoops rule us.
The fact remains that Mr. Naidu is being hampered by his bureaucrats'
ignorance and inertia (not necessarily that of the IAS, which generally
is the most aware group in government). When he was to come to Los
Angeles, a bunch of IAS officers here had decided to organize a small
get together with him. An e-mail was sent out to his office (address
obtained on Andhra govt.'s web site) by an officer of Andhra cadre who
is doing a Ph.D. here and who is not only very well known in Andhra but
also well known to Mr.Naidu personally and to the late NTR.
Unfortunately, after many weeks a reply was received that his message
will be put up to Mr. Naidu, who in the meanwhile came to Los Angeles
and left! Clearly Mr. Naidu cannot create miracles if his bureaucracy
remains the same.
I am sure Mr. Chowdary will be able to comment on the massive inertia
prevailing in Andhra as elsewhere. This is what we mean by institutions
and the great difficulty in changing these things unless a social
consensus is built. Problem: we don't have any consensus in India except
on massive govt. interference in everything and hoping for a "great"
leader to come and rescue us. We as citizens are basically sterile and
unable to create our own fate.
>From India Today
The Naidu E-ffect By Ramesh Kumar
In drive, speed and zeal, he is the high-power chip booting India's
terabyte leap onto a new electronic orbit. Chief Minister Chandrababu
Naidu is in a hurry to transform Andhra Pradesh's infotech circuitboard.
His cyberaria is spreading across the country like a contagion through
the political jungle of parties, coalitions and alignments, claiming new
converts and proselytising old mindsets. Infotech is not a buzzword
anymore, it is a chant getting louder and clearer in state capitals.
Every politician worth his stripe wants to play a cyber-evangelist, who
can download infotech as the viagra for under-development. Naidu is
their icon, they are his clones. Admits Prof M.G.K. Menon, an eminent
scientist-turned-politician-turned-co-convenor of the National
Information Technology Task Force set up by the BJP coalition at the
Centre:"It is a strange but remarkable transformation in the country
that every Chief Minister wants to emulate Naidu."
Contenders and Pretenders
The list is long. Start with Kerala Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar. The
veteran marxist wants to end the ideological battle royale by making his
state a 100 percent Internetised Society (read a full-fledged
Information Society). "The future is here, let us be part of IT,"
exhorts the Information Technology Policy Document issued by the Kerala
government last April. Despite excellent development indicators, Kerala
is steeped in a vicious circle of low economic growth and unemployment:
investment is a trickle mainly because of strong trade unionism and
environmental lobbies at work. "Now with our focus on IT, we are hopeful
of changing the past," says K.M. Abraham, finance secretary in the
Kerala government. In the preface to policy document, Nayanar
writes:"For us, IT has been found ideal in its potential to generate
opportunities and employment with little pressure on land, environment
and other resources. This is one of the most people-friendly and
environment-friendly industries in modern times."
Up north, Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal has unveiled his blueprint
for the future. He wants to make Mohali--more known for its cricket
stadium--the IT city of the predominantly agrarian Punjab. Like his
counterparts in the south, Badal is negotiating with financial
institutions to set up venture capital funds dedicated to promoting
information technology in the state. "We are second to none. If we could
usher in the green revolution 30 years ago, we can repeat the same with
our brand of information revolution," boasts Ramesh Inder Singh,
Punjab's industry secretary.
Badal's counterpart in Uttar Pradesh is more ambitious. State Chief
Minister Kalyan Singh is not content with just creating an IT city in
his state. His design is to convert UP into an "IT-enabled state" in
the next 10 years and simultaneously establish the new Silicon Valley
of India. The grandiloquent target: to achieve Rs 1,00,000 crore
turnover by 2007-8 from the present Rs 1,000 crore through IT industry
UP's neighbouring state Rajasthan has tied up with none less than IBM
for tracking files. The state administration has at last realised that
time is money and information is power. "This is just the beginning. The
Chief Minister's office is being computerised as the first step," say
officials in Jaipur.
Back in the south, Tamil Nadu is innovating with infotech. By providing
Internet connections at the district level in collaboration with
WorldTel, a global organisation promoting telecom spread in emerging
economies, the state wants to reach every nook and corner. "We will do
this by setting up kiosks, something similar to public call offices,"
explains M.S. Srinivasan, industry secretary in the Tamil Nadu
government. The administration has begun to receive complaints and
applications through E-mail.
In the west, Maharashtra, the country's most industrialised state, is
making up for the lost momentum in the IT race. The Shiv Sena-BJP
coalition is framing a fresh information policy to turn both Mumbai and
Pune as premier cyber centres. The state government has also planned to
increase its investment portfolio in the IT sector, and offer various
sops to the industry. By May 1999, the largest technology park in the
country, the Millennium Business Park (MBP), located in Navi Mumbai, is
expected to be completely operational.
The park, being set up by the Maharashtra Industrial Development
Corporation (MIDC), is expected to cover 20 lakh square feet of area.
Rajendra Chavan, MIDC's general manager, says the park will provide a
suitable platform for investors. Already, leading names in the industry
like Datamatics, CMS and CMC have bought space within MBP. "The Bombay
Stock Exchange which has bought 40,000 square feet, is planning to set
up its back-up computer division for derivative trading in the
premises," says Chavan.
To the east, West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu is also rooting for
infotech. "This is not a new area to us," says S.K. Mitra, executive
director, West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation Ltd.
(Webel). Big and reputed companies such as Computer Associates, SEMA of
Europe, Research Engineers of the United States, Siemens and Tata
Consultancy Services are already operating in the Salt Lake facility, he
adds. The fact, however, is that 10 years since it came into being, this
is perhaps the first time Webel has sat up and taken notice of the
Eye of the Storm
In Hyderabad, the epicentre of the cyberquake, the mood continues to be
upbeat. Bureaucrats at the state secretariat cannot stop praising CEO
Naidu's computer savviness. His presentations before the industry
captains at home and abroad are getting better, they say. "He impressed
one and all during his visit to the US--from Microsoft to Dow Jones,"
comments a senior bureaucrat. Says T.H. Chowdary, advisor to the state
government on information technology: "All of us have to start from
somewhere. With the Chief Minister in the lead, we have begun our
odyssey to prosperity using information technology as a development
tool." With constant cyber-monitoring, Chowdary claims the plant load
factor of power stations in the state have shown a tremendous
improvement. During the recent floods in the state, Naidu is said to be
on top of the crisis, thanks to his laptop computer which gave him
accurate and real time water levels in various reservoirs.
Issues vs Fantasy
"Information technology is more than hardware and software. It is viewed
as an effective tool to improve the living standards of people,"
explains Prof Menon. But the moot question is still not answered: How
can infotech impact development? Can it uplift the standards of living?
No doubt about it, reply experts. It will improve productivity through
better healthcare, nutrition and education. But again, how?
Techno-jargons fly around, and hype amplifies into hyperbole. Consider a
few of these chimerical objectives.
Telemedicine: An area in which almost every state is interested.
Faced with the inability to provide good healthcare at the local and
panchayat level, tech-visionaries dream about making consultations and
check-ups available with established hospitals through the Internet.
SMART Schools for the have-nots: Education in remote areas will
become universally accessible thanks to the Web. Students here can
plough through troves of information banks.
SMART administrations: Some Chief Ministers envisage their
governments to be Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsible and
Everybody loves to flog development for the welfare of all. Better
healthcare, improved education, higher literacy, more jobs, clean
administration and less corruption are indeed laudable objectives. But
nobody really knows whether information technology can be the quick fix
for all ills. State governments hurl up in the air ambitious targets of
computer literacy when the question of basic literacy lies unsolved. Or
consider the fantasy of telemedicine when reliable health services are
still a dream. Or electronic governance, a fancy term in the time of
It is clear that IT as a development tool could succeed only if the
basic welfare parameters have been taken care of. The big 'if' is that
of monetary support. "People keep asking where is the money going to
come for implementing the IT policy," says Chowdary in Hyderabad. "My
reply is: through better administration, the revenue collection is bound
to go up. This will not only offset initial investment, but will fetch
the state, over a period of time, perpetual dividends." Agrees Dr Raja
Chelliah, former fiscal advisor to the Government of India. "With most
state finances in dire straits, computerisation of operations may bring
in the requisite revenue, thus reducing the states' dependence on the
Naidu has won the first round, with more proponents than naysayers. But
having set the idea on fire, the self-proclaimed CEO has a reputation
and agenda to defend. "If something goes wrong with his IT infatuation,
he will pay a heavy price ," cautions Chowdary, advisor to the Andhra
Pradesh Chief Minister on information technology. Others feel a failure
could sink him politically. But many like B. Ramalinga Raju, chairman of
Satyam Computer Services Ltd, think, "The Naidu effect is irreversible,
it has gone beyond him." Whatever may be the argument, the new dilemma
for Indian politicians is to either speed along the information
superhighway or fall by the kerbside. For long, they have depended on
free electricity, water, concessional foodgrains and kerosene as
vote-gathering ploys. But in today's uncertain times, they need a much
smarter card than that--those two magical words which spell prosperity
and plenty for all: information technology.
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