BJP’s IT Vision for India – Vision impossible?

By | March 27, 2009

In the run up to the upcoming general elections, India’s leading opposition party, BJP, has announced its “IT Vision” for the country. Before reading ahead, I would want you to read the IT vision at BJP’s website.

Now for the IT vision itself. I am not sure if I should call it myopic, or really far-sighted. It seems that the IT pundits who helped BJP write this vision are quite mis-informed themselves. Thus we end up with an IT vision that, IMHO, is unachievable. Let me pick out some points from it and try to explain why they are so difficult to achieve.

1.2 crore (12 million) new IT-enabled jobs in rural areas.

How, in its right mind, does the BJP believe it can create so many jobs in IT? That too in rural India, where lack of infrastructure, connectivity (road and internet), power and basic amenities are lacking. Before creating these crores of jobs, shouldn’t infrastructure issues be sorted out first?

Most IT/ITeS jobs in India currently are courtesy the US, which is now heavily coming down on outsourcing. I haven’t heard any member of the BJP come out and make noise about this protectionist attitude of the US. Neither does the BJP talk about creating indigenous demand for IT/ITeS. Unless there is demand, creating these millions of jobs is going to be a tall order.

1 crore (10 million) students to get laptop computers at Rs 10,000. Interest-free loan for anyone unable to afford it

Excellent idea. Throwing away cheap laptops seems to be the next in-thing (after throwing away free rice and ration cards). Now my question is, where are these Rs 10,000 laptops going to come from? The only laptop in this price (that I am aware of) is the upcoming Qualcomm “Kayak”, slated for launch later this year. These laptops are meant “for browsing the internet” and are connected via 3G services. Currently, only New Delhi has a working 3G service (MTNL). Is BJP planning to widen 3G services across the country as well? Sweeeeet!!! Or is this just another one of those, errmm, election promises?

Broadband Internet (2 Mbps) in every town and village, at cable TV prices (less than Rs 200/month).

Thank you thank you thank you!! I am willing to pay even 500 Rs/month for 2Mbps broadband services. But is it going to be of any use? In the IT city of Gurgaon (where I happen to live), there is a daily powercut of 3-5 hours. On a nice, hot, sweltering summer day, the powercut goes up to 8 hours (including hours in the night). If this is the power situation in Gurgaon, I wonder how it will be in small towns and villages. With such a power situation, the only use I have for the broadband internet is to use it hang my wet laundry on its wires. If India’s towns and villages need something, it is 24×7 electricity. Have a vision for giving us that!!!

Every BPL family to be given a free smart mobile phone, which can be used by even illiterate users for accessing their bank accounts.

Wait, so we had low cost rice, low cost laptops and now (drum roll) free smart mobiles. What intrigues me is this: A family is defined as being Below poverty line (BPL) if its monthly per capita consumption expenditure is below Rs. 356.35 for rural areas and Rs. 538.60 for urban areas (Source: Poverty in India on Wikipedia). Common sense dictates that if a family can only spend Rs 350 per month on living, how would it have a bank account? And if it does have a bank account, how much balance would be in that account for the BPL family to do “transactions” with on their BJP-enabled smartphones? This is not helpful, it is actually an insult to all those poor people who are barely surviving. They’ll appreciate more means of income rather than free mobile phones!!!

This idea seems to be given by the same people who made the “India Shining campaign”, that cost the BJP dearly in the last general elections. Instead of learning from its mistakes, BJP seems to be glorifying them!! Sad, sad, sad!

Government spending to be made corruption-free. A former Prime Minister had once said, “If I put Rs. 100 in the pipeline in Delhi, only Rs. 15 reach the end beneficiary.” In contrast to Congress governments’ Leaky Pipeline, the BJP’s IT Pipeline will ensure 100% benefit to people. Those who misappropriate public funds will be punished.

Whoa….corruption free government spending! A dream that does not need IT to be realized. But the BJP seems to think otherwise. I simply fail to make the connection between IT and corruption free government! Or wait, is it that because there will be IT, there will be more transparency. More transparency should ensure corruption free spending, right?

Wrong! The moot point here is that IT simply enables for sharing of information. I am not sure if the government is so willing to share its spending information. And if it is, might I suggest implementation of a system that shows me where my tax money was spent. I am sure a lot of the tax paying class would appreciate knowing how and where its money was spent. Simply saying x and y crores were spent on road development will not do. I want to know which exact roads were built using that money, and if they are any good (at least the roads here in gurgaon are trashy, to say the least).

If there is no political will (which hasn’t been present in the last 60 years) for reducing corruption, how will IT make any difference?

Citizens will have a simple 1-800 BSNL Toll Free Number, which will be accessible 24x7x 365 days of the year, to contact their Member of Parliament.

And what would be the response? I am sorry, but the MP you are trying to call is too busy dozing off in the Parliament. Or wait, how about this, “the MP you are trying to reach is too busy creating traffic jams with his 10 car cavalcade”. Or this, “the MP you want to reach is busy blowing off taxpayer’s money in some foreign country”. If I contact my member of parliament and tell him that there is 8-10 hours of daily powercuts, water shortages, bad broken roads, no security, excessive inflation(the government says it is 0.11%, my vegetable vendor and grocer seem to disagree and increase prices every week), will he do something to improve the situation? BJP itself, by disrupting parliament proceedings hundreds of times has shown that it has utter disregard for the taxpayer’s money. However much its vocal leaders may shout, disruption of a constitutional machine like the parliament costs dearly to the taxpayer, not only in terms of the money wasted, but also in terms of wastage of valuable time that could be used to discuss important issues.

Oh, and even if there were a 1-800 toll free number, how does that guarantee accountability? How will Mr. L.K Advani be accountable for his work in his constituency? How will Ms. Sushma Swaraj be held accountable for not fulfilling those promises that she screams out on TV channels? We need accountability, we need politicians to be answerable to people who are paying for their daily bread and butter with their hard earned money.

What BJP needs in its IT vision is a simple statement: We will provide a report card for each of our MPs online, where people can openly say that their elected leader is not doing his/her job. where people can hold its elected representatives accountable in full public view, where politicians will have no place to hide after they make rosy promises and get elected.

Give us accountability, BJP. Not bullshit!

Author’s Notes:
1.The author hold no favour/bias towards any political party. This article is not written with any political motivations, but with a simple idea to show what the country really needs!
2. Hateful/vengeful/biased comments are not welcome. Please spew out your hatred somewhere else.

5 thoughts on “BJP’s IT Vision for India – Vision impossible?

  1. Vinod Shukla

    Hmm… A lot of what the IT vision sets out to say sounds like tall order. It would be interesting to see how much actually gets down.

    Most of your gripes sound as if they were written when the author had a major case of PMS.

    I think the idea of a toll free number/email/website/forum to reach the MP is a great idea and the MP doesn’t have to man his mail himself. That’s what they give him staff for.

    lkadvani.in has a forum where you can actually say stuff. Yes, even against the BJP.

    At least they have a vision. Maybe there are over-ambitious and won’t get all of it done, but I’d say getting 1/10th of it done is more progress than we’ve had in the last 5 decades or so.

    Dude, I don’t know about the India shining ‘campaign’, but half a decade ago I was much more optimistic about India’s potential then I am now.

    :)

    Cheers!

    Reply
  2. amit

    Now my question is, where are these Rs 10,000 laptops going to come from? The only laptop in this price (that I am aware of) is the upcoming Qualcomm “Kayak”, slated for launch later this year. These laptops are meant “for browsing the internet”

    Perhaps you’ve heard of the $100 laptop. That costs about $120 actually & does a good job of browsing internet. So a basic laptop for Rs.10000-12000 isn’t actually impossible. Last year I read that Sahara computers were bringing out Rs.15000 laptop. Now EeePC is available for about Rs.17000 which can run WindowsXP & Linux & can do a bit more than browsing internet – so a Rs.10000-12000 laptop doesn’t seem impossible. The components need not be high quality or of high value brands. An Intel P4 2Ghz processor used to cost about Rs.5000 while a similar VIA processor used to come in around half that cost.

    I am willing to pay even 500 Rs/month for 2Mbps broadband services.

    I don’t think they meant unlimited downloads at 2Mbps for Rs.200/month. Currently Airtel gives a 2mbps plan at Rs.777 and Airtel isn’t exactly an economical service. Perhaps BSNL will be able to provide a cheaper plan. Btw, Cable TV doesn’t cost Rs.200/month everywhere, at someplaces its Rs.300/month & I think I’ve also seen Rs.400/month for Cable TV. Settop boxes are compulsory in South Delhi & so Cable TV costs more there (just an example).

    In the IT city of Gurgaon (where I happen to live), there is a daily powercut of 3-5 hours. On a nice, hot, sweltering summer day, the powercut goes up to 8 hours (including hours in the night). If this is the power situation in Gurgaon, I wonder how it will be in small towns and villages.

    Gurgaon isn’t exactly the place to benchmark power situation, its just like any other rural town in power situation. Take any small towns like Agra, Aligarh etc. and there also the power cuts total to 7-8 hours a day! If you wanna see low power cut places then see Delhi (max 3 hours in summers, usually 1hr at a time, touchwood). Ahmedabad, Surat are not big cities or metropolitans but friends there tell me they have 24×7 power, no power cuts. And mind you, Gujarat is BJP ruled state! :) True these things can’t be fixed overnight, Gujarat alone took years, but for how long BJP has been in power in India? I don’t remember a non Congress government before Atal Bihari Vajpayee became PM! :)

    I’ve not read BJP’s IT vision but from what you’ve highlighted here, there does seem to be some inconsistencies. The people who drafted it were kinda confused with party’s governance vision & IT vision & seem to have mixed the two at some points.

    As for the knowledge of govt. staffers about IT, yeah I know how it is, I won’t even bother commenting about that!

    Btw, how about some comments on Congress’ vision?! ;) The last I looked they didn’t have one & their website looked like some dude’s homepage from the early 1990s!! ;)

    Reply
  3. The Empty Head Post author

    @vinod: well it wasn’t PMS..it’s called PPPS (pre-poll promise syndrome).i have it everytime i see someone trying to take voters for a ride. My problem is not with their being over-ambitious, but why solve the wrong problem?Why not focus on problems that need solving before trying to woo the “IT votebank”?
    Quite sad to hear that your vision of India’s potential depends on the political party in power. I always thought India’s citizens were its potential.

    @amit: try to understand the jist of the points i am making. It is not the 100$ laptop, or the 200rs/month net connection that is impossible. It doesn’t make sense to gift tractors to farmers without making sure they get the diesel!!

    And my friend, India does not live in new delhi, or ahmedabad or surat. Open your eyes and visit the countless villages in bihar, UP, MP, maharashtra, Orissa, jharkhand, karnataka, haryana… this list has the biggest states in India. And all these states have massive power shortages. You can count yourself lucky to get 24 hrs of power. People in this country survive on 1hr of power in a day!! They don’t need your 100$ computers, or broadband internet, or smart phones!! They need basic amenities! Where are concrete promises for those?

    As for the congress’ vision, couldn’t find one. I did try to search the net for an IT vision (or otherwise) of the congress but with no luck. Let me know if you find one, but please don’t send me the manifesto. It will probably make me more PMS-ey(as Mr. Vinod says above ;))

    Reply
  4. amit

    And my friend, India does not live in new delhi, or ahmedabad or surat. Open your eyes and visit the countless villages in bihar, UP, MP, maharashtra, Orissa, jharkhand, karnataka, haryana… this list has the biggest states in India.

    Dude, plz read what I wrote, again! I never said India lives in Delhi, Ahmedabad or Surat. You gave example of Gurgaon in power situation which was like if a hi-fi city like Gurgaon has 8 hour power cuts then rural areas would be power less for 24 hours! On that I said that Gurgaon isn’t exactly a low power cut city, its just like any other Tier 2 city (like the ones I mentioned as example – Agra, Aligarh, Meerut etc) which gets 8 hour power cuts. And I think I read about some areas (an year or so ago) which face 24-36 hour power cuts as well. So yes, I know how it is.

    As for the congress’ vision, couldn’t find one. I did try to search the net for an IT vision (or otherwise) of the congress but with no luck.

    You wouldn’t find it because its not there! That remark of mine was sarcastic towards Congress! :) They don’t bother because they don’t give a damn when they can win elections by getting support from dalits & SCs/STs by promising reservation etc. and by labelling opposition as communal while they are none better themselves! The first thing Congress govt did was fill up its coffers, the country’s finance plunged into a 1000+ crore negation within 1 year when it was not in negation when Congress took power 5yrs back (it was news at that time but soon went out of fashion)!!

    And I don’t think I disagree with Vinod above when he says about the hopes 5 years ago & now! Indian citizens aren’t the potential. Me & you are also citizens & we don’t decide the infrastructure or any other policies. Nor do we screw up the country!! Its the people elected by the citizens of India who do this – so the citizens’ responsibility lies in the fact that they choose wrong people & its not just a 1-2 time mistake.

    This is what happens when an illiterate & dumb get the power to choose another illiterate to run the bloody country!! And the elected literates & illiterates make sure that the illiterates remain so. We get quotas & reservations implemented & what do we have to show as results 60+ years after the fact? Barely a 50% literacy rate, a sky rocketing population, & a tattered economy that’s barely holding in this time probably because of the industrial (IT & other) growth in last decade!!

    Its a quagmire man & there’s no hope unless the voters & non-voters get their shit together!

    Reply
  5. Hemal

    The BJP are saying that they will offer a Core2Duo Laptop with a 2 GB Ram, 250 GB HDD for INR 10K.

    How they can acheive that is also mentioned, where they are saying that they will build volumes to keep the costs checked. I am very skeptical about this one though.

    Reply

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