Digital SETU bridging the India-Bharat gap
The Digital SETU mission has bridged the distance between citizens and the government, India and Bharat, and rich and poor. It has helped deliver substantial services directly to the beneficiary in a quick, seamless, faceless, transparent and corruption-free manner
In Ramayana, Ram built the Ram Setu — a bridge to reach Lanka and rescue Sita from Ravana. India today is laying another bridge, the Digital SETU, which employs advanced-yet-affordable technology to bridge the gap between India and Bharat.
Before 2014, high costs, unequal access, and corruption marred India’s information technology, banking and telecom story. In 2014-15, there were only about 147 million bank accounts, and leakages hurt the public delivery of State benefits. The cost of 1 GB of data was ₹300. Today, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s Digital SETU plan, characterised by S (Sabka Saath), E (Empowerment), T (Technology), and U (Universalisation and Unification), has revolutionised the digital tech scene.
This vision rests on three pillars.
One, digital infrastructure is a necessity, not a luxury. India has about 470 million Jan Dhan bank accounts, making access to banking and financial inclusion a reality; the cost of data is about ₹9/GB, internet penetration has crossed 833 million; internet users have more than doubled in the last five years. India produced merely 60 million mobile phones in 2014-15 but this figure touched 310 million in 2021-22, thanks to the Atmanirbhar Bharat programme.
The BharatNet Project was started to provide discrimination-free internet access in villages, using an optical fibre network, to enable access to e-governance, e-health care, e-commerce and e-education. Almost 600,000 km of optical fibre cable have been laid under BharatNet; 181,000 gram panchayats have been linked with optical fibre, and there is a big emphasis on digital literacy.
Two, delivery of efficient, corruption-free governance and services on demand to citizens using digital tools. Using the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile) trinity, ₹23 lakh crore has been transferred to beneficiaries since 2014, and ₹2.2 lakh crore has been saved by eliminating ghost beneficiaries. Corruption in procurement has also been eliminated by launching the Government e-Marketplace platform (GeM) in 2016. Today prices on this platform are lower than other online platforms, and a record procurement of ₹3 lakh crore has happened over GeM.
Three, digital empowerment of citizens. Digital SETU adds value to the private sector and makes business easier and affordable, thanks to the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) platform. It also infuses the power of technology in the public sector. The CoWIN platform is an example of the latter, where over 2.2 billion vaccine doses have been administered to citizens, ensuring accessibility and equity. Many developed countries have not been able to achieve this, and the platform is a game-changer in our fight against Covid-19 and in ensuring Jan Bhagidari in this fight against the pandemic.
Earlier, banking and digital payment systems took a lot of work to navigate. Many Opposition leaders mocked the Modi government for investing in UPI and asked if the poor and rural populations would ever be able to use this. India launched its first mobile app for real-time digital payment BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money). Many innovative start-ups and fintech companies, such as PhonePe, GPay, PayTM, MobikWik and Chillr integrated UPI into the apps.
At the end of 2022, UPI transactions reached more than four times the collective digital transactions of four big economies, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. UPI created a world record in 2022 when it processed over 74 billion transactions worth ₹125.94 trillion (according to the National Payments Corporation of India). Today, 40% of the world’s digital transactions are from India, and all segments of society use it.
The Digital SETU mission has bridged the distance between citizens and the government, India and Bharat, and rich and poor. It has helped deliver substantial services directly to the beneficiary in a quick, seamless, faceless, transparent and corruption-free manner. In addition, it has imbibed the philosophy of democratising access to the internet for everyone and helped enable minimum government and maximum governance. Much like the Ram Setu, PM Modi’s Digital SETU is ushering in an era of Ram Rajya today.
Shehzad Poonawalla is national spokesperson of the BJP, and Sandeep Mishra is member,UN Mastermind Groups 2022The views expressed are personal