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'India may be shining at Nariman Point but not at Dharavi'
Ramananda Sengupta in Mumbai |
April 03, 2004 21:34 IST
"How can you believe that a whole country, of a billion people, didn't do anything for 50 years? And then did everything in five?"
That was the question that Sam Pitroda, the man behind former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's telecom revolution and technology mission, posed to the journalists invited to the Cricket Club of India, Mumbai, on Saturday.
He was speaking at a lunch hosted by Congress MP Murli Deora, and attended by his son Milind Deora, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election this time on a Congress ticket.
"It's really not fair to hear it time and time again that the entire country did nothing for 50 years, and all of a sudden, it did it in five. I think we should compliment people for doing things over the last five years, everyone deserves compliments for what they do," said Pitroda.
"But we can't really forget the founding fathers. Right after Independence, they had a tougher task, when there was very little infrastructure, very little human resource, they had the vision to build damns, the public sector, the IITs, the IIMs, laboratories, CSIR, agricultural research. It is because of their contribution that today we are where we are," asserted Pitroda.
"There was the green revolution, there was the white revolution. Today IITs have given us hundreds and thousands of brilliant engineers all over the world. In Rajiv Gandhi's time, I had the opportunity to work on a small little piece, that is telecom, IT and technology mission. We focused on water, literacy, immunisation, edible oils, dairy development and telecom.
"All the seeds we planted then, are giving some results now. Not only do you have to plant seeds, you have to nurture seeds; then you get fruits. Nothing happens overnight in this country. I am more worried about the kind of seeds we are planting today for our children 15 years from now. Are those the right seeds?
"And I felt very strongly about this during this these elections, so I thought I must share my views with some of my friends, otherwise I wouldn't be doing justice to myself. It's a moral call for me, because Rajiv Gandhi, 20 years ago, gave me an opportunity, which changed my life. It gave meaning to my life, which it didn't have earlier. I was making money, happy in a little world of my own.
"Rajiv gave me the chance to really come home. And learn a lot about what India needs. Learn about how to get things done in India, and in the process make thousands and thousands of friends. I can go to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Guwahati, and I have friends. I was with the party during the good times. I am here now again, when things are not so good," he said.
Asked about Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi's widow Sonia Gandhi's leadership qualities, Pitroda said: "I don't know about her personal qualities, I have not worked for her. I can say things about Rajiv because I worked with him. I have read the stories about her, like everyone else. But I must say that she has been caught in a situation which has been thrust upon her. Think of a person...here's a person who is a foreigner, who comes here, her husband gets murdered, and now you are sucked into the game. It's not a very healthy situation to be in."
He also remained non-committal about a plan to rejuvenate the party which he claimed to have submitted to Sonia Gandhi earlier, saying it was for the Congress people to decide whether or not to implement it.
"As for the objections to her foreign origins, I think it is ridiculous. Mother Teresa was a foreigner. She won the Nobel prize as an Indian. Annie Besant of the Congress party was a foreigner. On the one hand we talk about a global world, on the other we are hung up on this little thing. Fine, she was born in another country, but that is not a major issue. The major issues are very different.
" I live in America. I was an American citizen. I am an Indian citizen. Am I less of an Indian? I have spent 40 years in America. I was born and raised here, I spent 20 years here, came back for 10. So 40 in America, 30 in India. Am I not an Indian? Of course I am an Indian. Even if I had an American passport, am I not an Indian? I am very much an Indian. My mind, my roots are here. Do I have a right to speak up in America, of course I have the right. If someone doesn't like it and says go back to India and speak of politics in India, tough luck, I will speak, this is a democracy.
"You have to think differently. It's a global world, and you can be a global citizen. I can live in four countries. I've lived for seven years in London, and I was very active. What is my passport? It doesn't really matter. I gave up my American nationality in 1987, and I remain an Indian citizen," he said.
Commenting on the India Shining campaign, he said: "India may be shining at Nariman Point but not at Dharavi. We cannot be a major player in the world, no matter what we talk about in terms of economic development. Building India into a developed society by 2020 cannot happen with 400 million illiterates. It is not about the GDP and GNP growing from 3 per cent to five per cent to eight per cent for the next two decades. It is about the quality of life. It's about infrastructure, its about institution building, It's about bringing the right kind of people into the mainstream. Are we going to use our huge talent pool to solve the problems of the west, or are we going to solve the problems of our own?"
While claiming he was proud of India's growth over the past five years, he asked: "Who laid the foundations for it? We did. Nothing happens overnight in this country."