The Congress has launched a platform to recruit people from across the country irrespective of age, gender, class, creed or caste. The nationwide campaign aims to recruit five lakh “social media warriors” to challenge the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the digital space. The Party recognises that it is time for like-minded individuals in the country to come together and defend the idea of India. As a society, we must step up, unite and fight for our democratic, secular and just Republic of India. This huge recruitment drive will encompass appointments in all stages – from the state to the national level.

On the new social media recruitment drive, Congress leader Shri Rahul Gandhi strongly encouraged the youth of India to join the Congress party’s “army of truth” to fight the trolls paid by the ruling party on digital platforms. In a video message on Twitter, Rahul Gandhi said, “The backbone of the attack on this nation is a troll army, thousands of people who spread hatred, anger and are paid to do so.” He added that the paid troll army is spreading hatred and anger in India and the time has come to counter that. “As a young person, you could see what is going on… In your schools, universities and colleges you can see the oppression. You can see the attack on the idea of India. Look outside Delhi, you can see what is happening to the farmers. The backbone of this war on the nation is a troll army… We also need warriors to defend liberal values, to defend the ideas of compassion, peace, harmony and affection,” Rahul Gandhi said.

“This is an army of truth. This is an army that will defend the idea of India. We are building this platform for you. To give you tools to fight this battle and win,” he further explained.

Handles of the Congress Social Media have been one of the loudest voices against the tyrannical rule of the Modi regime. It has raised the people’s voice on various issues – farmers, migrant workers, women’s safety, student’s education, the dismal state of our economy and the rising unemployment, our Armed Forces and more. Handles have countered the Modi government’s lies and hateful propaganda and have shown the public the truth.

The Congress seeks to build on this trajectory and continue this work by inviting more people to join in this mission to save India from hate and lies. This recruitment drive will take place in every state of the country and is open to anyone who wants to be a part of this mission. One can join through the website – ( or (, call on the toll-free number 1800 1200 00044 or by WhatsApp on 7574000525.

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Book Excerpt: Sam Pitroda, Technology and Three Near-Death Experiences

One morning, I received a call from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi: he wanted me to meet with the president of Vietnam, who was then on a visit to Delhi. That same afternoon, I spent an hour with him discussing telecom, technology missions and India’s software industry.

After carefully listening to me through a translator, he told me that he would be sending General Giap to spend some time with me in Delhi. While studying in America during the Vietnam War, I had often heard of General Giap: he was one of those rare generals who, in Vietnam, had fought against both the French and later against the Americans. He was the most prominent military commander during the Vietnam War, other than Ho Chi Minh, and was responsible for leadership and operations until the war ended. He died in October 2013 at the age of 102.

In Delhi, General Giap and I spent a full day at C-DOT, talking about our indigenous design and manufacturing efforts, the role of information technology, and the technology benefits for the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. He listened carefully, took notes, asked questions and was keen to learn from the Indian experience. After his visit, C-DOT started exporting rural exchanges to Vietnam to improve their village communication. Similarly, I hosted General Electric (GE) chairman Jack Welch during his first-ever official visit to India and convinced him to buy Indian software talent. He was generous enough to send a team of GE experts that ultimately resulted in our first $10 million order for software services. This marketing approach resulted in orders from IBM, Texas Instruments, Motorola and others to kick-start the Indian software export business. Rajiv Gandhi and I also convinced Gorbachev at the prime minister’s house in Delhi to buy Indian consumer goods, computer hardware and software.

We worked with the Soviet Union to establish a massive Indian science and technology exhibition in Moscow, Leningrad and Tashkent. On the one hand, we promoted our technology, and on the other, we resisted offers from multinationals like Siemens, GEC and Ericsson to import equipment to build the Indian network. I opposed large loans from the World Bank for telecom equipment import. On one occasion, the president of the World Bank visited Delhi to have lunch with us and persuade us to reconsider. It was clear that we would avail of loans only to buy what we need, not for what the Bank wanted to sell. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi lost the elections, and the new government in power got after me with a sense of revenge, raising allegations, abuses, threats and false corruption charges. They knew well that I took only a 1-rupee salary (then just 10 cents in the US) per year for almost ten years.

In the process, I had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass at a hospital in Delhi. Young C-DOT associates, the Indian public and the media came to my rescue and convinced the government to change the minister who was after me and set things right. After that, the government announced a new national election. I worked closely with Rajiv Gandhi as part of his team to help ensure victory. On 21 May 1991, at 10 p.m., I received a call from a friend informing me that Rajiv Gandhi had been assassinated by a suicide bomber during his campaign visit in southern India. I was shocked and shaken. All my dreams for India disappeared in a moment. The news broke my heart. I strongly felt that India would take a long time to recover from this loss. I had spent all the money I had had managing my family in India and the US. I was broke. I had two children ready to go to college.

Finally, I decided to come back to the US to start earning again. Unfortunately, before taking my assignment with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, I had given up my US nationality in 1987. I came back to the US on a tourist visa, but I was not allowed to work. Fortunately, I owned a US patent issued in 1975 for the I-electronic diary. I realized that several multinational corporations (MNCs) were manufacturing and marketing my invention. I filed a case in the Cook County court against Casio, Toshiba, Sharp, HP, Texas Instruments and RadioShack and settled for a hefty cash amount, which enabled me to restart my life. It was strange that I had to use a tourist visa to come back to my own country. I have always felt that I belong to at least two countries—my birthplace, India, that gave me my roots, and my adopted nation, the US, which gave me my tools and my understanding of technology. I am equally committed to both countries. I do not have to choose sides. I can be in both countries at the same time. I admire the good and reject the bad in each of them. Both are democratic countries with freedom, flexibility, diversity and loving people. After a while, I applied for a green card in the US and focused on building an electronic manufacturing company in Wisconsin. However, that did not challenge me enough. I wanted to do something for the telecom industry in emerging markets and use my Indian experience to benefit Asia, Africa and Latin America. That vision led me to Worldtel in London. In 1995, nearly four out of every five people in the world lacked the most basic telephone services. To help privatize telecom and get the needed investments in emerging markets, the International Telecom Union (ITU), a part of the UN organization, decided to launch Worldtel. This organization functioned as an investment bank/fund to develop and support privately funded telecom projects in nations where the need was most urgent. ‘Worldtel’s mission was to break the vicious circle that exists in developing countries,’ the ITU launch announcement stated.

Sound telecommunication capacity and capability were needed to stimulate economic growth. However, dysfunctional telecommunications deterred private investment. This was a Catch-22 situation that we hoped to cut through by Worldtel’s initiative. I was named Worldtel’s chairman in 1995. I thought we had the potential to make a significant impact on communications in the Third World. The objective of Worldtel was to focus exclusively on telecommunications and information technology, and provide direct equity investment raised from private financial investors for implementing projects that would improve telecom infrastructure in developing countries. In the process, Worldtel improved operating skills and provided management support to help enhance productivity and efficiency. Worldtel investors were AIG, GE, Intel, NatWest and others.

I went to China for the first time after President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1981, as part of a delegation of around twenty telecom experts. I spent two weeks meeting telecom experts in Beijing, Nanking and Shanghai. We also went to tourist attractions, including the Great Wall. In those days, all we could see were bicycles, Chairman Mao’s uniform, empty roads and people staring at white foreigners. Telecom was mainly electromechanical and hardly available. After that, I worked with local government organizations to explore Tianjin’s digital switching operations: however, this never materialized. Now China is, of course, a different country altogether. While working at Worldtel, I founded a US company in 1998 to design and develop a mobile wallet. Those were the early days of the mobile wallet concept. I applied for close to fifty patents on this idea and set up design and business development teams in Chicago, Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, Baroda, Pune and Vienna. Later in 2013, I sold the company to Mastercard. When I was working on the mobile wallet company, I found I had contracted cancer, requiring major surgery.

Five years after that, I would need another quadruple bypass. I was concerned, but I survived the second open-heart surgery. Three near-death experiences—two quadruple heart bypasses and one from cancer—have moulded my views on what is essential in life and what is not.

Excerpted and published with the permission from Penguin Random House

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Job Destruction

Basic management theory says that only when you measure something can you look to fix something. Which is why every organisation spends a non-trivial amount of time and resources towards data collection. Governments are no exception. The census, job surveys, NSSO are all efforts to that end. The Modi government has simply given up on releasing employment figures because it truly believes that it can pretend we don’t have a problem as long as they do not measure it. While the Congress-led UPA II government created 18.8 lakh jobs in its first 2 years, the chest-thumping Modi Sarkar has only managed to create 7.9 lakh jobs in its first three years, a mere fraction of the 2 crore jobs per year the Prime Minister promised in the run up to the 2014 General Elections.

The opportunity cost for Mr. Modi’s unnatural preoccupation with securing international business deals for his friends comes in the form of a 24.4% decline in micro enterprises under his Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP).

Joblessness is becoming an epidemic. Out of a whopping 30,000 new job seekers every day, only 500 can realistically expect to get a job. Not all of them can weather two more years of the same inattentiveness to job creation as out of the 12 million new job seekers every year, only 1.2 million have a tertiary education. The impact of ever-shrinking employment opportunities is falling disproportionately on women as 1% fewer of the female population of the country were employed a year into the BJP government than before it came to power, debunking Modi’s claim that his is a pro-woman government.

The Modi Sarkar will only begin to empathise with the plight of India’s 54.4 crore unemployed people if voters no longer allow them to rest on the arrogant assumption that they need not do anything to continue to warm their chairs for the remainder of their term. India can only stem the alarming rate at which our jobs are being destroyed by ending the job security of Mr Modi & his out-of-touch Ministers.

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Neighbourhood Lost?

The BJP Manifesto for the 2014 General Elections stated that the party “believes that political stability, progress, and peace in the region are essential for South Asia’s growth and development.”

At the time of the Prime Minister’s swearing-in, 8 Heads of States were present to see India transition from one government to another. It was a bold statement of intent from the Prime Minister showing to the world that for India, its South Asian neighbours mattered. This was later enshrined in a hollow ‘Neighbourhood First’ doctrine, a part of a series of flashy but often conflicting foreign policy ambitions.

Looking back at the last three years, India’s foreign policy has achieved little in terms of strategic gains. The “Neighbourhood First” policy has degenerated into a “Neighbourhood Lost” policy wherein India has become the isolated and generally distrusted next-door neighbour. There are major grievances against New Delhi that are commonly shared among many South Asian nations today. Numerous serious allegations have been raised regarding India’s attempt to bully its smaller neighbours and interfere in their local politics.

Let’s start with Nepal, which adopted a new constitution in September 2015. In the aftermath, protests by Madhesi protesters blocked the supply of essential supplies to Nepal. India was accused by the neighbour of putting in place an undeclared blockade. Kathmandu even complained to the UN, prompting a response from the Secretary-General on “Nepal’s right of free transit as a landlocked nation as well as for humanitarian reasons.” India was also accused of trying to topple the K.P. Oli government as a result of which the long-held perception of India as a friendly ally has taken a major hit in Nepal. Furthermore, there are allegations that India interfered in Sri Lanka’s elections in 2015. The recall of R&AW’s Colombo Station Chief gave rise to further speculations. Despite the change in government, Sri Lanka is no closer to India, recently declaring itself “neither pro-India nor pro-China.” However, both Nepal and Sri Lanka have subsequently made overtures courting China.

Our relationship with Bangladesh, a country that India shares a historically rich and prosperous relationship with, is also seeing signs of stress. As the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar escalates, opposing takes on the stateless Muslim Rohingya refugees has put the onus of responsibility on an already resource-constrained Bangladesh. As they work towards providing a solution to this humanitarian crisis, India has washed its hands off the affair and taken the side of the Myanmarese government. The Modi-led government has also stated its intention to forcibly deport the Rohingya already taking shelter in India; this, despite multiple pleas from Indian politicians asking the government to respect the principles of asylum and India’s millennial humanitarian traditions. The goodwill with this neighbour, the result of a successful ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015—a by-product of the Land Boundary Protocol in 2011 (a UPA-era win)—can now be seen to be slowly eroding.

Even in Afghanistan and the Maldives, India’s diplomatic relations with the two countries have reached an impasse. When Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan visited India during the first year of this NDA government, no progress was made on the India-Afghanistan Strategic Agreement, nor were any significant bilateral agreements signed between the two countries during the visit.

India’s Russian ties are also beginning to fray. The recent fighter aircraft deals with France and other military hardware purchases from the USA have resulted in sidelining India’s usual defence partner, the resultant diplomatic faux-pas could have been avoided had there been better guidance from the top. This has majorly strained Indo-Russian relations, resulting in Russia deepening its military ties with Pakistan instead. At the 2016 BRICS summit in Goa, India’s demand to name two Pakistan-based terror groups as perpetrators of anti-India terrorism did not find backing from Russia, a clear sign of the possible break-up.

Coming to China, though the recent Doklam stand-off ended without incident, the terms of the de-escalation remain hazy. Follow-up reports after the withdrawal indicate that there were more Chinese troops on the plateau than ever before. It is clear that India’s handling of the Chinese dragon has been less than adequate under Modi.

As is clear, for all the hoo-ha around this government’s approach on the international stage, very little of either substance or success has been witnessed. Once you separate the rice from the chaff, one is left with a picture that illustrates a critical breakdown in foreign relations, particularly in parts of the world where it matters most.

All in all, the decline in relations between India and its sub-continental neighbours under the current government is best summed up in the words of one seasoned commentator, “In its over-enthusiasm to control small neighbours, the BJP-led government has only made India’s relations with them worse than ever before. When will the BJP understand that muscular tactics cannot replace mature and deft diplomacy?”

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Farmers of India

The Indian National Congress Party has always been fighting for the rights of farmers and working to empower them. Even today, INC is standing with the farmers, shoulder-to-shoulder, who are protesting against the three black laws unconstitutionally passed by the BJP government – the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

While the BJP government relentlessly fights against the farmers, calling them “Khalistani,” refusing to repeal the 3 black laws or even acknowledging the death of a large number of hardworking farmers in the protest, the Congress government has sworn to stand by our Annadatas.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also vigorously backed the farmers who are protesting against the contentious farm laws brought by the Centre. He said, “No government in the world can stop farmers fighting the battle of truth. The Modi government will have to agree to their demands & take back the ‘black laws.’

Major Issues with the 3 Bills –

  1. Abolishing the system of Grain Market-Vegetable Market i.e. APMC will totally destroy the ‘Agriculture Produce Procurement System’.

a. In such a scenario, the farmers will neither get the ‘Minimum Support Price’ (MSP) nor the price of their crop as per the market price.

  1. Farmers get remunerative prices for their produce near their agricultural fields at grain market-vegetable market through community organisation of farmers and mutual competition among the customers in the markets. In the market, predetermined ‘Minimum Support Price’ (MSP) is the benchmark to decide the price of agriculture produce. This is the only measure for the ‘Price Discovery’ i.e. price determination for the farmer’s produce on the community basis. Grain-Vegetable Market System is the guarantee of fair prices, accurate weight and sale of farmer’s produce.

a. If the farmer’s crop instead of being sold in the market on Community Purchase basis, is purchased at the agriculture field itself, in that case the farmer will lose the power of price determination, weight and bargaining for prices. Thus, the farmer will suffer the losses.

  1. The Modi Government’s claim, that now the farmer can sell his produce anywhere in the country, is a white lie. Even today, the farmer can sell his produce in any state.

a. As far the agriculture census 2015-16, 86 per cent of farmers in the country own less than 5 acres of land. Average land holding is 2 acres or less than that.

b. In such a situation, 86 percent of farmers cannot transport or ferry their farm produce to other places, but have to sell at the nearest grain market-vegetable market. In the event of the Mandi System getting abolished, it will lead to a huge blow for farmers.

  1. The abolition of the Mandi System shall snatch away the means of bread and butter and livelihood of the millions of labourers, commission agents, loaders, transporters, sellers etc.
  2. Scrapping the Grain-Vegetable Market System will diminish the source of income of the states.

a. States through its earning from ‘Market Fees’ and ‘Rural Development Fund’ undertake infrastructure development in rural areas and incentivise agriculture.

  1. Agriculture experts believe that under the garb of the ordinance, the Modi Government actually intends to implement the ‘Shanta Kumar Committee Report’ so that the Government is not compelled to make procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP) through FCI and thereby save an amount of around Rs. 1 lakh crores annually. This will directly lead to an adverse effect on the agriculture sector.
  2. Through this ordinance, there is an intention to render the farmer merely a labourer in their own lands by getting him entangled in the contract system. Does a poor farmer with 2-5 acres of land holding will be able to frame, understand and sign a sale-purchase contract with big companies?
  3. Totally lifting the stock limit on the agriculture produce, consumable items and fruit-flower-vegetables shall neither benefit farmers nor the consumer. It will only benefit a handful of people indulging in hoarding and black marketing. They will be able to purchase at cheaper prices and then sell at higher prices after holding the stocks of these items legally,
  4. In the ordinances, there is neither any provision for the protection of labourers rights nor for the protection of the rights of the persons, who are engaged in agriculture taking land on rent or on produce sharing basis.
  5. These three ordinances are the direct attack on the federal structure of the country. ‘Agriculture and Mandis’ come under the purview of the State Governments under the 7th Schedule of the Constitution, but the Modi Government didn’t take the state Governments in confidence on this issue.

Main demands of the Congress Party Congress demands that Modi ji should stop cheating and conspiring against our farmers and leave ego and prejudice aside. The government must talk to our annadatas directly, with an open mind to end these three anti-farmer black laws.

Demands of the Congress Party –

  1. The government should revoke these laws, call a session of Parliament and discuss whether they want to bring reforms. If they are working in the interest of the farmers, then they will welcome this.
  2. The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, should immediately declare to suspend the three anti-farming black laws.
  3. The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi himself, who publicly in Mann ki Baat said that these three black laws are right, and the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar, for calling farmers terrorists should apologize.
  4. Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi himself should speak to the delegation of the millions of farmers who are sitting around Delhi.
  5. Announce the immediate withdrawal of 12 thousand FIRs vis-a-vis burning of stubble against farmers without any condition.
  6. If they want to improve these laws, then they should bring a fourth law, make MSP mandatory and make it punishable if someone does not adhere to MSP.

The BJP government should finally show empathy towards our annadatas, repeal the three laws and provide legal guarantee of MSP to farmers, the same way they have provided services to their suit-boot friends.

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Indian Overseas Congress USA appoints new leaders

The Indian Overseas Congress, USA, appointed six new Secretaries and a new Chapter President recently, in a bid to strengthen the organization.

Nikhil Thagadur (Photo IOC-USA)

The six Secretaries who received letters of appointment are Nikhil Thagadur, Rajan Padavathil, Hirenkumar M. Patel, Rajdeep Singh Sandhu, Gurinderpal Singh, and Anurag Gawande. Amey Duduskar was appointed new Chapter President of Maharashtra Chapter.

Rajan Padavathil (Photo courtesy IOC-USA)

Each of the appointees was selected based on demonstrating their keen interest in serving IOC, USA, and had individually recruited dozens of new members to augment the organization’s strength, a Nov. 30, 2020 press release said. Their experience and past engagement is expected to strengthen the organization.

Hirenkumar M. Patel (Photo:courtesy IOC-USA)

The IOC, USA said that it has has been continuously taking various steps to reinforce and augment the organization to meet its obligations and responsibilities, particularly to its membership and the Indian American community in the country.

Rajdeep Singh Sandhu (Photo: courtesy IOC-USA)

During the pandemic, IOC, USA held numerous meetings with its membership using Zoom, and invited dignitaries from India to participate and discuss developments at the All India Congress Committee.

“IOC,USA has sprung ahead significantly under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Sam Pitroda,” the press release said. Pitroda is a businessman based in Chicago and has held advisory positions in India on developing the telecom infrastructure in that country.

Gurinderpal Singh (Photo: courtesy IOC-USA)

Congratulating the appointees, Pitroda, the Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress Department of AICC, wished them success in their new undertakings and advised them to visualize and seek solutions to problems and obstacles in using modern technology while bearing in mind the new needs of the post Covid 19 world.

Anurag Gawande (Photo: IOC-USA)

Secretary-in-charge, Indian Overseas Congress of AICC, Himanshu Vyas wished the appointees well. Vice-Chairman, George Abraham, felicitated the appointees and emphasized the importance of their IT knowledge and experience and impressed upon them to use it to its maximum.

President Mohinder Singh Gilzian, expressed delight at the prospects of the appointees’ added strength, and said he was very hopeful of the value of the contribution that they were capable of making and looked forward to working with them closely.

Amey Duduskar (Photo: courtesy IOC-USA)

Secretary-General, Harbachan Singh, who played an important role in the appointment process, said he was encouraged by their enthusiasm and advised them to work in unison as part of the team.

Various other IOC, USA officials expressed their support as well, including Senior Vice President, Phuman Singh Ibrahimpur, Senior Vice President Ravi Chopra, General Secretary, Rajendar Dichpally, General Secretary R. Jayachandran , General Secretary Narinder Singh Mundar, General Secretary Sophia Sharma, Vice President Ms. Malini Shah, Vice President Pradeep Samala, Vice-President Jose George, Vice President Harpal Singh Tanda, Vice-President Paul Karukappally and various Chapter Presidents and Committee Chairs.

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We lost Rajiv Gandhi and we lost him to lies, writes Sam Pitroda

In early 1984, driven by the obsessive thought that I could do my bit to transform the telecommunications scenario in India, I secured an appointment to make a presentation before prime minister Indira Gandhi and her entire cabinet. My inspiration came in part from my own struggle to call up my family in Chicago as the phone lines did not work. India had only two million telephone connections then. People would wait years to get a phone connection.

The presentation itself was a huge challenge as there were technological issues involved. I had taken Kodak 35mm slides and a projector, which I had brought from the United States. I even carried an extra bulb with me just in case the projector bulb went off in the middle of the presentation. I arrived at the prime minister’s home office an hour early to make sure everything was alright. But there was no extension cord available. Finally, the cable was laid out, and I saw people walking all over it. I got jittery that they might step on it and undo the connection.

Anyway, I remember Mrs Gandhi was late because her meeting with a foreign dignitary got extended, and in the half an hour we waited for her, I got a chance to speak to some of the ministers and Rajiv Gandhi. I spoke to Rajiv about my ideas on rural telecom and the need to focus on improving accessibility rather than density.

My presentation was about how telecom and information technology could change the face of the country. I said we should build smaller telephone exchanges, the most modern digital technology, all of this based on indigenous technology and local talent. Mrs Gandhi probably did not understand all of it, but in the end, she did smile and said, “good”. After her assassination a few months later, Rajiv made sure my ideas were implemented.

Rajiv was a gift to India at the right time because he was young, open, and with fresh views on politics, development and society. He gave rise to hope. He had the vision to take India into the 21st century with new ideas, dignity and compassion.

India is now a nation of a connected billion. We have software service exports worth $200 billion. The seeds for this were planted in the Rajiv era. We started with telecom, but it was not easy because people were not ready to believe it could be done in India.

The credit goes to three things: Rajiv’s political will, without which nothing would have happened as all the bureaucrats would have jumped all over us; young Indian talent; and domain expertise, which I brought in.

Centre for Development of Telematics, established in 1984, revolutionised telecommunications in the country with the setting up of public call offices (PCOs) in every nook and corner. Rajiv initiated India’s supercomputer work at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing.

Rajiv ensured we do not encounter any bureaucratic hurdles. In the beginning, we had no office space. We needed an office for 400 people. Rajiv asked my team to move into the apartments in the Asian Games Village in New Delhi. It seemed like a great idea until we realised the apartments were not air-conditioned.

To get the place air-conditioned, it would have taken 10 months—as we had to import the equipment from abroad. I said I cannot take 10 months out of a three-year programme. Then somebody told me there is a government hotel in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri which is air-conditioned and empty. It was called Akbar Hotel then, and is now occupied by the ministry of external affairs. I went to Rajiv and suggested that I can set up an office there. He said, “Go ahead, do it”. So, I took over two floors of the hotel.

Rajiv got things done. And he was always available for us. I would call him and say, “Rajiv, I need to bring 10 bright young engineers to meet you”. And, he would say, “Sure, come over.” I remember one young fellow who was so excited about having met the prime minister and shaken hands with him. He said he would not wash his hands for a month.

Besides telecom, five other technology missions were instituted in the fields of rural drinking water, immunisation, literacy, and edible oil and milk production.

We eradicated Guinea worm infestation through our rural drinking water mission. Our literacy rate also saw a major improvement. Then we had 35 per cent literacy, now we are at almost 80 per cent.

About the immunisation mission, we could eradicate polio only because of Rajiv’s stress on producing vaccines locally. At that time, we did not produce any vaccine. The Serum Institute of India, which we talk about today, was provided with the base to produce the polio vaccine. Today, India is the largest producer of vaccines. However, it is unfortunate that despite being the largest producer of vaccines, we have now come to a point where we have to import vaccines for Covid-19.

Today, we are the largest producers of milk and this is courtesy the mission on dairy development. Verghese Kurien was roped in to take initiatives to improve our cattle population and improve milk production. We used to import edible oil worth a billion dollars. Our imports went to zero in three years. Unfortunately, we are now back to importing edible oil.

Rajiv was willing to explore new frontiers and was ready to support new thought. He would regularly meet the scientific advisory council headed by C.N.R. Rao. The council set up the science roadmap for the next 20 years. Once I suggested to him that he should have a meeting with intellectuals. The officials in the PMO felt it was not necessary. But he overruled the bureaucracy. Thirty minutes were set aside for the meeting, but Rajiv ended up spending two-and-a-half hours with them.

It was a period of romanticism. And, it got over too soon. We lost Rajiv. We lost him to lies. If India had more of him, we would have been a different nation. We would have been neck-and-neck with the Chinese or even ahead of them.

As told to Soni Mishra

Sam Pitroda was an adviser to prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. He laid the foundation of India’s telecom and technology revolution in the 1980s.

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