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June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019

REMEMBERING RAJIV GANDHI

Architect of Telecom Revolution

Dr. Sravan Dasoju

Rajiv Gandhi is rightly described as the 'Father of Information Technology and Telecom Revolution of India'. In 1984, he invited Sam Pitroda, who had become a naturalized US citizen, to return to India and attempted to modernize India's

The late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi Exactly 28 years ago, our country had witnessed one of the most unfortunate days in the history of independent India. It was a Tuesday on May 21, 1991, when we lost former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, a leader who gave a new direction to India's journey into the 21st Century. His brutal assassination had plunged the country into deep and inconsolable mourning.
Although Rajiv Gandhi had served as the Prime Minister of India and also the Leader of Opposition for a brief period, he has left an indelible mark in achieving growth for this country and for preservation of human values in politics. He aimed at bringing about a vibrant change and a new guiding path to the younger generations. If Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had protected the integrity of India and Indira Gandhi had brought administrative reforms for eradication of poverty; it was Rajiv Gandhi who enabled India to compete globally. At the age of 40, as a youngest Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of a modern India during his regime from 1984 to 1989. He was like thunder in Indian Politics.

Rajiv Gandhi is rightly described as the 'Father of Information Technology and Telecom Revolution of India'. In 1984, he invited Sam Pitroda, who had become a naturalized US citizen, to return to India and attempted to modernize India's telecommunication system. The facility of telephone was limited to a few areas and confined a very small population. With a visionary approach, Rajiv Gandhi established the Centre for Development of Telematics (CDOT) in August 1984. C-DOT, an autonomous telecom R&D organization, developed state-of-the-art telecommunication technology and revolutionized the entire communication network in the country triggering a PCO (Public Call Office) revolution connecting the people with the outside world.

The MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited) and VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited) were established in 1986, which helped in the spread of telephone network. One after the other, six technology missions related to telecommunications, water, literacy, immunization, dairy and oil seeds were established. It was due to his Telecom Revolution that almost everyone cutting across all sections in the country today is holding a mobile phone and computer with household.

Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi at a reception hosted in
their honour by the Chinese Premier in Beijing
(December 1988)
According to a report published in The Christian Science Monitor on August 17, 1989, "After Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi rose to power in 1984, the computer became the emblem of his ambitious plan to modernize this backward, poverty-stricken country. The youthful leader and computer buff issued a clarion call to lift India into the 21st century with the help of Western technology. Production and import of computers and other electronics were liberalized. A new breed of government technocrats exerted influence in the corridors of power."

In 1989, there were more than 100,000 computers in factories, offices, schools, and homes, triple the number a few years ago. The hardware industry had jumped to more than $300 million in sales from just $50 million in 1985. India was exporting $100 million in software. It was due to Rajiv Gandhi's visionary policies that today India is among the top nations in IT sector. The modernization of Indian Railways too began under Rajiv Gandhi's regime with the introduction of computerized railway tickets.

After the untimely demise of Sanjay Gandhi on June 23, 1980, in an air crash, nearly 70 senior leaders of Congress party wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi requesting her to bring Rajiv Gandhi into politics. As an obedient and caring son, Rajiv Gandhi entered politics to support his mother in difficult times.

Rajiv Gandhi began his political career by addressing the national convention of farmers February 16, 1981. He also contested from Amithi Lok Sabha constituency; the seat earlier represented by his younger brother Sanjay Gandhi, in August 1981 and got elected with a huge majority. He was also appointed as the General Secretary of All India Congress Committee. As a Parliamentarian and politician, he learned new things and instead of giving long speeches, he gave preference to listening and understanding the problems being faced by the people. He had executed all the responsibilities that he was assigned with total confidence and dedication. The successful conduct of Asian Games in 1982 is one of examples of Rajiv Gandih's efficiency.

Rajiv Gandhi is known to be calm and composed in his nature. When, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her guards on October 31, 1984, even in that moment of sorrow and grief, Rajiv Gandhi appealed to the people of the country to stay calm and display patience. Subsequently, he assumed responsibility as the sixth Prime Minister of India. He provided a government, which was free from all kinds of conspiracies, hypocrisy and corruption due to his effective planning and execution skills.

It was under his leadership that India embarked on a new path of growth. He ensured discipline in administration and stressed on total accountability. He practiced this principle with such a conviction that he had removed senior ministers from his cabinet. By doing so, he gave a strong message that he was not a man of just words, but action. The way a aircraft pilot takes quick decisions to save passengers in turbulent weather conditions, the same attitude was demonstrated by Rajiv Gandhi in terms of running the government with independent and quick decisions.

In a bid to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams of Gram Swarajya, he introduced the Panchayati Raj and the Nagar Palika Bills in 1989. The first attempt through 69th Amendment, could not succeed, as the Bill was not approved in the Rajya Sabha. However, he laid foundation for But he got 73th and the 74th amendments creating and empowering local governments.

Rajiv Gandhi started the Human Resource Development Ministry in September 1985 and made Dr. P.V. Narasimha Rao as the cabinet minister, who was considered as multilingual intellectual. Rajiv Gandhi also introduced a new National Policy for Education (NPE) in May 1986, which was aimed at giving equal opportunities of education to women, SCs and STs. Operation Blackboard was started in 1987 to provide primary level students with the necessary institutional equipment and instructional material to facilitate their education. In order to universalize the education, Indira Gandhi National Open University was started in 1985 and provided 'Distance and Open Education’.

Rajiv Gandhi strongly believed in ethics and morals in electoral politics. In order to crush horse-trading and commercialization of politics, he introduced Anti-Defection Law to end corruption in politics through the 52nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1985. The Watershed Management was introduced to support farming in raindeficient areas.

Rajiv Gandhi believed that youth should play pivotal role in nation building. And hence, reduced the minimum age for voting from 21 to 18 years.

He resolved the disputes pertaining to North East. He adopted a visionary approach to resolve the problem of infiltration in Assam and granted special category states status to Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. He had also resolved the burning problem of Punjab with certain tough decisions.

Rajiv Gandhi has played a key role in designing a better foreign policy. He improved India's relationship with Pakistan, USA, Russia and other countries. He gave a clear message in UN's General Assembly held in Yemen that human development could not be achieved through nuclear bombs, but through peace, freedom and equality, which was highly appreciated by all the nations.

Rajiv Gandhi always respected leaders of opposition parties reflecting his humility and humanity. When he was the Prime Minister, he learned that Opposition Leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was suffering from kidney ailment. By including Vajpayee in the Indian delegation for United Nations visiting USA, he ensured that Vajpayee gets treatment.

Rajiv Gandhi had a soft spoken and humble personality and never had an iota of arrogance of authority. He used to interact with Congress workers of all levels and used to respect their views and to motivate them. Much against wishes of the feudal leaders within the party system, he helped several common workers emerge as big leaders.

Rajiv Gandhi always respected leaders of opposition parties reflecting his humility and humanity. When he was the Prime Minister, he learned that Opposition Leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was suffering from kidney ailment. By including Vajpayee in the Indian delegation for United Nations visiting USA, he ensured that Vajpayee gets treatment. It is reported that Vajpayee himself mentioned in an interview with famous journalist Karan Thapar. "When Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, he somehow found out I had a kidney problem and needed treatment abroad. One day he called me to his office and said he was going to include me in India's delegation to the UN and hoped I would use the opportunity to get the treatment I needed. I went to New York and that is one reason I am alive today, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been quoted in a book, titled The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox by journalist Ullekh NP.

Prime Minister Gandhi and Sri Lankan President
J.R. Jayewardene signing the historic accord
Unfortunately, such a visionary leader with a kind heart for everyone was falsely implicated in the Bofors scam. He was given clean chit by the Delhi High Court in 2004 (when BJP was in power). Instead of giving an explanation on his alleged corrupt role in Rafale deal, in order to divert the people’s attention in these recent elections, PM Narendra Modi, immorally, attempted to defame Rajiv Gandhi as Brashtachari No1. However, he had to face severe backlash from every section of the society and these reactions reflect the deep-rooted respect and love Rajiv Gandhi still enjoys in the hearts of people of India.
The then Prime Minister VP Singh, who was acting a tool into the hands of BJP, ignored repeated alerts issued by the intelligence agencies on the threat to the life of Rajiv Gandhi and did not provide the Special Protection Group (SPG) security. While Rajiv Gandhi was busy in the campaigning in Tamil Nadu, terrorists assassinated him using a human bomb on May 21, 1991.

It is ungrateful and inhumane if we do not recognize the sacrifices made by our own leaders. Pandit Nehru had spent 12 years in jail for country's freedom. Indira Gandhi too went to jail part of the freedom struggle and finally sacrificed her life for the nation. Similarly, Rajiv Gandhi too sacrificed his life for the national integrity and unity. Rajiv Gandhi’s memories of soft spoken words, cheerful disposition and his incredible contribution to the growth of this country will remain eternally alive in the hearts and minds of people of India.

The only way to extend our real tributes to such a legendary leader is to strive with unity towards strengthening democracy, make India an inclusive society without hate and discrimination and achieve development with humanity.

National Spokesperson
All India Congress Committee