‘India’s IT revolution brainchild of Indira Gandhi’

Employees of an IT industry at work. Photo: A. Roy Chowdhury  

Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi is often credited with ushering in IT revolution in the country, but the policy which provided a head start in software exports was actually brought in by his mother Indira Gandhi weeks before her assassination, a new book on Indian IT says.

The 1984 policy providing the provision for software exports through satellite links was approved by Indira Gandhi’s cabinet but was announced by the government headed by Rajiv Gandhi on November 19,1984, the book titled ‘The Long Revolution: The Birth and Growth of India’s IT Industry’ says.

It was the provision of exports via satellite which attracted American firms like Texas Instruments (TI) and opened up new gateway for software exports from India. Two other companies were licensed along with TI to set up software units with satellite links but only TI took off, says the book written by science journalist and author Dinesh C Sharma.

In fact, a number of policy initiatives including liberalisation of policies for computer and electronics sector, rural digital telephone exchange, software technology parks and computerisation of railways, which are linked with Rajiv’s era, were set in motion by Indira Gandhi after she came to power in 1980, it said.

“Post-1980, Indira Gandhi was a changed person. It was almost as if she was repenting for the excessive socialist policies unleashed under her rule in 1970s,” Mr. Sharma told PTI.

N Seshagiri, former director general of National Informatics Centre and one of the “computer boys” of the Rajiv Gandhi era, who was present at the launch of the book here last night, said the technology initiatives of Indira Gandhi were vigorously pursued by Rajiv Gandhi when he became the prime minister after her assassination.

The book also reveals that though TI set up its operations in Bangalore in 1985, India had been on the company’s radar for long. It first proposed to set up a unit in India in early 1970s, but the application was rejected by the Indira Gandhi’s government.

The then chairman of TI, Patrick E Haggerty had met Electronic Commission chairman M G K Menon with a plan to set up a manufacturing and research facility for integrated circuits in India. But TI had two conditions: it would be a fully-owned company and there would be no export obligation though almost all of its production would be meant for export.

Mr. Menon took the proposal to the prime minister. But she bluntly rejected it, saying, “It is a wonderful idea, I accept it, but I will not be able to get it through the political system.”

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Printable version | May 1, 2021 8:16:56 PM |

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