India is bracing itself for one of its most anticipated polls. From superstar
candidates to hate speeches, this election carries with it an added tone of
urgency. Given the current economic downturn, everyone is looking for a solution
and our political parties, in their manifestos, are promising us just that.
While housing solutions, tax cuts and changes in national health policies are on
top call of most parties; the need for IT and its proper implementation is also
Five years of IT
The IT performance of the Congress-led UPA government in the last five years
has left a lot to be desired. The launch of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP),
which aimed to bring together all the individual e-government initiatives under
one roof, lacked a clear vision and direction. The State Wide Area Network
(SWAN) was only launched in a handful of states and the State Data Centers (SDCs)
never really took off.
The last five years were extremely important for the IT industry of India.
Instead of aiding the situation, the UPA government created a lot of problems by
stamping a heavy duty on the packaged software front. The ruling government kept
tweaking around with the duty, making it worse by raising it to the range of
12 percent. The packaged industry market in India has almost gone comatose,
owing to the exorbitant increase in piracy, which was the result of the
imposition of heavy duty. Packaged software taxation has seriously impacted SMBs
and even hampered the government's dream of bridging the digital divide, given
that the Indian market is a price-sensitive one. Both consumers and
price-conscious SMBs were forced to rethink software purchase decisions.
Priding themselves as the first political party that pledged IT revolution
under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, Indian National Congress is promising to
further spread IT in upcountry locations. According to the manifesto, the party
aims to connect every village to broadband in the next three years. This will
help locate new, non-agricultural jobs in villages and open vast new
opportunities for the rural youth. The party also plans to make use of the array
of IT services already available in the country to provide each citizen with a
unique identity card, after the publication of the national population register
With BJP's Hindutva seemingly gone awry, the party is luring GenY with their
ambitious poll manifesto, with a large portion of the contents dedicated to the
IT sector. Though its key areas of importance remain good governance,
development and security, the saffron party is placing the IT sector in a very
high helm. ICT was a major area of policy thrust of the BJP-led NDA government
also when it had ruled the full term between 1999 and 2004. Now, the party seeks
to assure people that it will pursue it with the same vigor and purpose, if it
returns to power. According to the manifesto, a National Education Commission
will be set up to accentuate a comprehensive policy for the 21st century and a
whopping 1.2 crore IT-enabled jobs in villages and computers to schools and
colleges at affordable prices will be made available. Like Congress, the party
promises to set up broadband connections in all villages across the country and
it also plans to establish a countrywide system of multi-purpose national
identity cards (MNIC). The BJP also plans to connect mobile subscribers to
Internet users, making video conferencing an easy and cheap option.
Additionally, in its scheme of things to have are all courts computerized and
networked to improve speed and efficiency in the judicial system.
Adding to the IT promise, CPI(M) is offering some specific relief packages
for affected sectors in the Industry, while NCP, too, says that that carrying
Internet service to people will be prioritized.
While there is no doubt that IT is being given a lot of importance in the
party manifestos, it remains to be seen whether the new government lives up to
its promises. Five years ago, the world economy showed no signs of abating and
no one imagined that nearly two million people in the UK would be unemployed.
With inflation soaring and superpowers struggling to survive, choosing the right
government has become more important than ever.
Pledges are plenty, promises are galore from all political parties - Left,
Right and Center. But the electorate must display more circumspection and wisdom
in picking the right party, and of course, the combination, the colour and
character of which seem to be changing almost everyday. Manifestos are fine, but
it is the delivery intent and mechanism of a party, is most important for the
moment. And if IT features in their plan of action, then it is all the better
for the slowdown in the Indian economy.
Madhura Khasnobis/Nandana Das