IT parks are the new temples of modern India, says Vajpayee
Fakir Chand in Bangalore
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Friday termed the information technology parks and campuses of software companies like Infosys as the new temples of modern India.
Recalling how prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had called factories and dams as 'Temples of Modern India' to underscore their importance in nation-building, Vajpayee said that visiting Infosys's city was like coming to a temple, albeit a temple of different kind.
"I see a happy confluence of Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Shakti. The new economy is driven by knowledge. It is a producer of wealth and prosperity. So much so, that Lakshmi seems to have a soft spot for software companies. However, beyond being a miracle of the mind and the market, information technology is also a source of great strength for our nation."
Thanking Union Home Minister L K Advani for strongly suggesting that he (Vajpayee) should make it a point to visit Infosys during his present two-day trip to Karnataka and spend some time there, the prime minister lauded the success story of India's global software company, which was the first Indian company to have been listed on the Nasdaq in the US.
"As an important contributor to India's success in IT, Infosys deserves the country's fulsome acclaim. Mr Narayana Murthy, I am proud of you and your team. Yours is a good example of collective effort with strong leadership," Vajpayee asserted.
Confessing that he knew very little about software and hardware, besides other terms in the IT knowledge, Vajpayee said in a lighter vein that: "When I first heard about a mouse as an attachment to a computer, I wondered how people can handle a creature so unfriendly to the human hand!"
At the same time, the prime minister admitted he certainly knew enough that IT had brought twin boons to the country. "It has brightened India's image in the world as a software superpower in the making. It has also given us a developmental tool powerful enough to banish poverty and backwardness, and to make India a land of opportunities for all."
Having a dig at the developed countries, Vajpayee recalled that there was a time when Indian engineers and professionals had to wait for months to get a visa to go abroad, full of anxiety and uncertainty.
"Today, the very same countries, whom I need not name, and several new ones too, are competing with each other to attract Indian talent in IT through highly liberal visa rules."
"The previous misconceptions about India being a land of snake charmers are now a matter of the past. Today, if anybody charms the world, it is our young and bright IT professionals who have made India's name synonymous with excellence in software," the prime minister affirmed.
Highlighting the prominence gained by Indian IT industry, the prime minister said: "When I abroad, or when foreign dignitaries visit New Delhi, almost the first area in which they seek cooperation with India is the information technology. I must also add here that, previously, foreign dignitaries were never satisfied without a visit to Taj Mahal. Now, they are not satisfied without visiting a wonder of modern India, namely, the IT centres in Bangalore."
Acknowledging the enormous contribution being made by the new economy industry, Vajpayee said three things impressed him most about the IT phenomenon in India.
"First, the shining success of Indian IT professionals, both in India and those working in the US, and elsewhere in the world, have unleashed a tremendous energy among our people. Most of the success stories are scripted by first generation entrepreneurs, who were not born in the families of lakhpatis and crorepatis (millionaires).
This has convinced more and more young Indians that, with good education and hare work, they too can make it big. I see a hunger for computer education and good Internet services even in small towns and villages all over the country. The release of this energy among millions of young Indians fills me with great hope and confidence in India's future," Vajpayee claimed.
Assuring the full backing of the government to the endeavours of the IT industry, the prime minister said: "Companies like Infosys and several others in Bangalore, and in other Indian cities have proved that it was possible to create great success stories while working in India. Given world-class facilities, infrastructure, and management, Indian companies can indeed replicate the magic of Silicon Valley in India."
In this context, Vajpayee made a commitment to improve the infrastructure available to Indian business in general, and to the IT industry in particular.
"Though we have taken several policy measures to promote telecom, Internet, and software development for both domestic and export markets, I recognise that many more initiatives are urgently needed to capture the huge opportunity that beckons India. I assure you that these initiatives will be taken," he added.
The prime minister declared that the federal government would soon set up a National Mission for Technology Education (NMTE) to dramatically increase the number of highly trained professions in IT and other areas of engineering and management.
Calling the business community to emulate the culture and commitment of the new generation of IT entrepreneurs towards society and nation building, Vajpayee said business houses and wealthy individuals must come forward to participate in this urgent national endeavour.
"The government's resources are too insufficient to support any effort to achieve a massive quantitative and qualitative improvement in education. I must add here that this is no longer only a matter of voluntary choice. It is an inescapable social obligation because quality education is the key that unlocks the huge potential hidden in the Knowledge Economy," the prime minister reiterated.
Vajpayee also applauded the generous donations made by the IT corporates to IITs, IIMs, and other premier institutions, besides supporting basic education, healthcare, and community welfare. "I commend this culture of giving to all other Indian businesses. It is in the best tradition of what the Isa Upanishad has taught us: Tena tyaktena bhunjithaha, which means: Create wealth by ethical means, and enjoy it by giving."