Amidst internal clash between Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, the BJP has released “Information Technology (IT) Vision Document” that spells out, among others, party’s latest election sop to the voters, especially the young, educated and urban voters. As part of aggressive election campaign to woo internet savvy young generation, the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate, L K Advani is has been apparing on more than 200 news websites for more than a month.
Let us first look at the promises made in the appropriately worded BJP’s IT Vision document. The party, if comes to power, promises to create 12 million IT-enabled jobs for rural India, in addition to providing laptops for 10 million students at Rs 10,000 a piece and interest-free loans for those who cannot afford this amount. Among other slew of sops, is the broadband Internet (2 Mpbs) to be provided in every village at less than Rs. 200 a month and all schools and colleges will have Internet-enabled education.
The BJP in general and Advani in particular has been putting emphasis on creating a unique ID for every citizen for long. This vision document moots the idea of developing a Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) with unique Citizen Identification Number (CIN) for every Indian citizen in 3 years to replace all other identification systems.
The document promises a massive expansion in the use of IT in agriculture, rural development, small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), retail trade, and informal and unorganized sectors of the economy. In order to woo the voters from backward classes, special focus would be given to bring women, SC/STs, OBCs and other weaker sections of society within the ambit of IT-enabled development. This seems too big a dream to create an El Dorado. In addition, it goes beyond belief of such a political announcement just to win an election.
Now the evulation of the vision document. At the outset, the idea appears glamorous as the BJP has gone too far in making election promises. The idea of MNIC is fine, but will it not have the same governance problem whereby earlier Ids have faced while ensuring authenticity apart from huge money and long exercise?
However, it raises more questions than it answers. For example, where will the money to implement the project come from? Will the party, (again if it comes to power) be able to complete the project before next elections arrive? Will this be a serious effort or just a political promise that will hardly be fullfilled, given the weak record of governments in implementing ambitious projects show?
Since the sops promised are appealing to school and college going students, the reality is that with speedy Internet, sleek laptops and plugged-in schools the party has lost the fundamental question of education rural India, which is even a bigger problem. This is a big confusion as to how the women be able to make use of all this. In 2001, for example, half of Indian women were illiterate and for rural India, those who can read often have not gone beyond functional literacy. A laptop to such illiterate women will not solve their problem.
Therefore, the BJP, instead of its IT illusions, could do even better by creating linkages between the established IT sector and rural India. The party will face problem in implementing this project, since as IT as a domain, is a distinctly urban phenomenon that has limited roots in rural India. Moreover, digital divide in rural and urban is palpably very big. Hence, it could have been better to bridge the gap before proposing to provide IT-enabled services to rural India, which is a healthy vision.
The promise of unlimited voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) usage would be no less than disastrous exercise, as the BJP plans to convert the post offices into IT-enabled multi-service outlets from where e-Bhasha, or encouraging IT in Indian languages will be promoted. On the whole, when it comes to visions, political parties, including the BJP are capable of conjuring up outlandish ideas out of thin air whose completion is near impossible.
lohitMarch 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM