Industry throws its weight, money behind push for Digital India

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jul 03, 2015 01:57 IST

Of the many campaigns that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched, most have generated a lot of talk — some of it high praise, some scepticism.

The likes of Swachh Bharat and Jan Dhan appeal to the mind as much as to the heart. But some have wondered what his big vision is. In focusing on huge projects, is he missing the wood for the trees?

Digital India will silence sceptics.

It is a project as well as a vision, as any programme encompassing e-governance, electronics manufacturing, cyber security and financial inclusion ought to be.

After a spell of scepticism industry, in which stalwarts like Deepak Parekh voiced dissatisfaction with the pace of change on the ground, turned out in full strength on Wednesday to support Digital India. The last time so many businessmen were seen next to Mr Modi was when he launched the Make in India campaign in September 2014.

Unlike last September, this time, they have promised to put their money where their mouth is.

Anil Ambani pledged Rs10,000 crore, which, though significant, pales in comparison to elder brother Mukesh’s Rs2,50,000 crore. Sunil Mittal has offered Rs1,00,000 crore, Kumar Birla pledged Rs56,700 crore, and Anil Agarwal Rs40,000 crore.

And yet, the Make in India reference will give the sceptics a voice again, however muted.

What really became of Make in India?

Real investment on the ground has not really matched the thunder of its announcement. So how about Digital India? Sure, it does face its share of odds, spectrum being the most towering of those.

Already, whenever telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad thunders about call drops, mobile phone operators reply in a whimper about the scarcity of spectrum. But what will happen when everything goes online?

More convenience or more congestion?

The Congress has said that Digital India is a mere repackaging of its own old programme called the National e-Governance Plan.

Without going into that debate, it may be fair to ask how much of the investments are being re-channelled and re-named to align them with Digital India.

A telecom company like Reliance Jio, which is rolling out its network, will spend big money with or without a high-decibel campaign.

It sounds nice when Cyrus Mistry says TCS will have 60,000 hirings this year, but it hired just a little fewer in 2014.

The prime minister’s clincher in Digital India might be his focus on the mobile or smart phones, which have pushed Indians online like never before. They use it for everything, from shopping to medical needs. However, it is good that the prime minister clarified that the

‘M’ in m-governance stands for mobile, and not Mr Modi.

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