“In The Coming Two Years We Are Going To See A Major Shift In The Landscape.” —Sachin Pilot MoS for Communications and Information Technology
He is second generation politician and though he has had a comparatively easier entry into politics having inherited the legacy of his father late Rajesh Pilot built from a humble beginning, but, 34 year old Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot, carries it well on his shoulders.
As Sachin said of his father, “he was my inspiration and continues to be so even now. I miss his presence tremendously. I feel he is helping me from wherever he is. I cherish every single moment of the 22 years that I spent with him. I recall and relive those moments and enjoy (them). I remember his smiling face. One thing that has been passed on to me by him. I face all my challenges with a smile.”
After completing his schooling at Air Force Bal Bharati School in New Delhi and then completing his B.A. (Hons) at St. Stephens College, University of Delhi and MBA at Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, he plunged into politics in 2002 when on February 10 he was inducted into the Indian National Congress party.
Having learnt the finer nuances of politics from his father, Sachin takes the rough with the smooth and reveals the grasp he has on the ministry as talking to this correspondent, he said: “As far as the ministry is concerned, we believe we are forging ahead with our plans because this country is to deliver the expectations and aspirations of the young Indians.” And as representative of the Gen Next in the government, he is shouldering the responsibility of ensuring that in the coming two years broadband is extended to all parts of the country including far flung areas of the North East for people should not feel that they are not part of the Telecom or IT revolution.
Though having been brought up in the environs of Lutyens Delhi unlike his father who had to walk a rough path, Sachin exudes enthusiasm and confidence of a exuberant youngster as he outlines the plans of his ministry and the upcoming New Telecom Policy 2011: “The basic crux of this policy is to move towards delinking spectrum and what we are also going to do is to have open stakeholders meet many times which we have already started so as to create opportunities.” Elaborating on the spectrum issue he said that spectrum being a scarce national resource, “the government must get a reasonable evaluation for it and it must be determined by market scan. We are basically custodians of the national resources of the people of India. We will evolve a policy where we will have a market determined price of spectrum.”
“Secondly we will focus on having a robust growth of the telecom industry. As you know that teledensity in the country was one per cent in 1995 and now it is 77 per cent and mobile phones too have become accessible to people. We have the cheapest call rates in the world,” he further said.
“Thirdly, to my mind the most important aspect is to make sure that the people of the country have the best and the cheapest telecom facilities,” said Pilot.
The Minister said the ministry was also working on technologies to evolve mobile banking, financial services, maintenance of land records: “To see that the hand held set which we call mobile will very soon become your information centre and banking device and a whole lot of other things. That is the broad features of the telecom policy.”
With India emerging as a major power in the Information Technology sector where about 2.5 million people are employed with 25 lakh directly employed and about 85 lakh indirectly, he said: “It was indeed imperative to ensure how do we make penetration of Internet because today only 10 to 11 per cent of the population are online and what we want to do and which is also the commitment of the UPA government is to ensure that every single panchayat in the country has a high speed broad band internet access and for that we have drawn up a plan to have optical fibre cable connection to the farthest part of the country which would cost anywhere upto about Rs 20,000 crore.”
With the younger generation becoming computer savvy and India being one of the country in the world with the youngest population, Sachin Pilot has indeed grasped the important role that the IT sector would be playing in the days to come and so as he said: “I think my generation of politicians and this government in particular is focused on giving to the younger Indians a 21st century infrastructure for IT.”
With the government constantly under attack on charges of corruption and other issues, he felt that the focus on providing wireless broadband: “At very nominal rates and in every language with local content, it will change governance structure. It will bring more transparency and we are working on this. As you know any poor person be it in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu or Orissa or any other part of the country has to run from pillar to post to get information on land records. Plans are on the anvil to computerise land records so that they become easily accessible and so telecom policy would be a catalyst for change.”
As he said that this emphasis on IT and expanding the internet services would revolutionise society and empower people and also ensure that people don’t indulge in corrupt practices. With the focus continuing to be on 2G scam and former minister A Raja in jail, the question being asked is how far has this impacted the plans for modernisation and expansion of the telecom sector and Sachin Pilot appears confident that it has not been so.
As he said: “I don’t think it has impacted whatsoever and on the allegations made inside and outside parliament, the Prime Minister and this government have taken very strong measures. All those connected with the investigations such as Enforcement Directorate and CBI have chargesheeted the people concerned and they are in prison and steps have been taken to make sure that tangible results come out.”
In keeping with the times, he said that the government has decided to computerise all the post offices in the country numbering about 1,55,000 employing about five lakh persons and this is expected to cost about Rs 1,827 crore making the postal department three times of its Chinese counterpart.
“As part of Project Arrow which is modernisation of post offices, we are going not only to computerise post offices but also have facilities like e-mail and electronic money order and other services like ATM and there are plans to make it into a banking unit since just about five per cent of the villages in the country have banks,” he said. The post offices would also be used for making payments to those employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
So, all in all the post offices would be playing a major role in the coming days and because of the various facilities being provided by the post offices, the footfalls have been increasing here. Sachin Pilot is certain that with the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh himself stating that once investigations are over no matter how low or high the person may be whether a bureaucrat or a politician, will be given the severest punishment would send across a positive message and so there should be no hindrance in the development of this crucial sector.
By Sri Krishna