Digital India nowadays continues to remain the government's top priority. Digitising the economy, revenue records, government services, education and governance are the announcements that we hear with each passing day. But have we ever wondered or even racked our brains for a moment to comprehend who was the pioneer of digital India? The perspective mind who was often taunted for taking a leap from an oxcart to the cell phone? The ingenious mind who invented the slogan “A computer in every village school by the twenty first century”? He was none other than India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Recently, the central government removed Rajiv Gandhi’s name from the Khel Ratna award and named it after veteran Indian Hockey player Dyan Chand. Chand’s immense contribution in Indian hockey can in no way be undermined. However, ridiculing one great Indian while eulogising the other has always been alien to our society. We value, respect and love all great Indians irrespective of their political ideologies and faiths. Showing a lack of respect for Shri Rajiv Gandhi has come as a shock to the Indians who have seen him dying for his country’s integrity at a young age. The sacrifices rendered by him and his family are immense and remarkable. What is ironic is the way in which such immense contributions are downplayed and twitter trends are manufactured to camouflage the truth.
But here is the truth that I know about Shri Rajiv Gandhi ji and the remarkable role he played in realising the dream of better India. He was a firm believer that Technology alone can eliminate poverty and mitigate the suffering that comes with it. It was him who took the scientists out into the field and organised meetings with local politicians and farmers.
Author of The Red Sari- Javier Moro writes that when Shri Rajiv Gandhi was being criticised for allocating large sums of money from the government budget for scientific research centres, he defended himself by saying that the farmers of Punjab would never have been successful if they had not had access to tissue cultivation and genetic engineering. He was often quoted as saying that “how was it possible to launch satellites into space and not be able to provide the population with drinking water.”
He launched the Technology Missions- a massive programme of research in six areas- drinking water, literacy, immunization, milk production, telecommunications and renewable energies. He discovered that it was not due to the lack of technology but the inability to apply that technology to the problems of the poor.
It was Shri Rajiv Gandhi who understood the potential of computers which would serve as a boost for the economy of India. He did not want India to miss the bandwagon of another revolution, that of electronics and computers. He had already realised that the Industrial revolution had allowed Europe to gain its pre-eminent position. Then he gradually eliminated many of the controls over the computer hardware industry and promoted the use of computers in schools, banks and offices. People were able to buy televisions, watches, cameras, radios that were previously unavailable because of the high tariffs.
The panchayat Raj system in the country was introduced by him. He firmly believed that empowering rural India and equipping it with the latest infrastructure will bring prosperity to the country.
It was Shri Rajiv Gandhi who set the voting age as 18 instead of 21. The credit goes to him that the youth of the country exercise their franchise and play a pivotal role in sending their representatives in parliament and in state assemblies.
But at present, this seer and a perspective mind is being treated in an ill manner. This can prove detrimental to the people and to the institutions, who believed in the idea of India- a country where the mind is without fear, where hardihood has no place and where the prejudice is alien. We will rediscover that India of dreams again. Time has a way of uncovering the truth. The quote from William Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice becomes pertinent: Truth will come to light. Murder cannot be hid long. A man’s son may but in the end- truth will out.
We shall overcome.
(The author is social media & communications incharge of JK Congress party and can be reached at email@example.com)