At the current time, when so much emphasis is given on empowering, both India and the Indians by none other than our honorable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi himself, it is imperative to look into the context, into which, it is unremittingly questionedthat whether we need ‘digital India’ or should we focus on other issues as well.
From launching the “Digital India programme” for ushering in reformed governance to pitch for the world IT giants and to invest in India from the headquarters of Facebook in the Silicon Valley, Mr. Modi has ensured that no stone is left unturned in his Government agenda of taking India on the digital path in a massive way in the coming years.
The larger aim behind this is to reform governance by wiping out corruption through cashless transactions and generating employment, and leveraging technology for the development of the country. However, in all theseloud demands for digital India, we seem to be ignoring the ground reality and other issues that require urgent attention before benefitting from the e-technology.
Digital Power Vs the Real Power
We should not forget that a substantial section of our country still lives in the rural areas. In some of the rural hinterlands, even the most basic facilities like education, water, housing, and sanitation are still a distant dream for many of the residents. Many of the tribal families, even after more than six decades of Independence, still remain excluded from these basic facilities for living and livelihood; and this is not enough, they even face further displacement and threat to their existence and livelihood due to these various so-called development projectsgoing on like building of dams, mining, road widening and construction of highways.
There are no clear estimates available on the number of people displaced and left homeless due to various development activities. One estimate says that, since Independence, more than 60 million people have been displaced and many other are still facing the consequences due to inadequate rehabilitation and resettlement.Can digital India help them leapfrog on the development path all of a sudden? What is required is a more “rights-based approach” in ensuring people, who, even today, aredeprived of the basic facilities of sanitation, education, and protection of livelihood, before they can take any leverage of the digital India initiative.
Issues of Larger Concern
Digital India cannot absolve India of all its “ill” that is plaguing it, including gender discrimination, communal tension, farmers’ suicides, and female feticide etc. What is required is a more comprehensiveand sustainable effort towards creating an environment for fostering respect for people belonging to different religions, castes, colour, and cultures living in India. And more than anything else, it should be the collective responsibility of all citizens to move towards attaining all these goals;the vision of “the framers of the Constitution of India” for a just, equitable and sustainable society. In all this effort, the “Digital India Programme” can become an important aid of achieving all such tasks.
The push towards Digital India can become successful when everyone has equitable access to the technology, as everyone’s approach and reach is not the same. All cannot access a laptop, a desktop and a smartphone to get connected digitally. And those, who can have the access to these, should act in an accountable and transparent manner. Remember, it will always be someone, who will be at the helm of affairs of handling a digital tool, and in case of delivery of a public service, much will be dependent on his/her ability to act in an objective and transparent manner.Studies have shown that e-governance has its own share of problems and the same cannot be ruled out.
Is it possible that everything we need is present in the virtual world, having no physical interface?No, it is not possible!There will always be some interface between people even when people are connected with each other digitally. We need to have something, which has a real presence.
Above all, in this 21st century; India still has a long way to go to achieve a lot of goals for improving the lives of its citizens, have many targets to achieve that India, and other nations, could not meet under the “Millennium Development Goals,” which have now been succeeded by “Sustainable Development Goals 2030”. Towards this, much more is needed and not just the push towards Digital India. Every effort and help will be counted and the responsibility has to be shared by all to make the dream of a prosperous and all-inclusive Indian society come true.