Rajiv Gandhi contributed lot to nation-building: Sam Pitroda

Hyderabad: Hailing the contributions of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress to nation-building, his former adviser Sam Pitroda on Monday said the values the party stands for are being challenged at present.

He said the Congress stands for diversity, democracy, secularism, inclusion and decentralisation.

Observing that Rajiv Gandhi made significant contributions to telecom, software, vaccine production, besides Panchayat Raj and others, Pitroda said the right seeds planted by the former Prime Minister have given fruit now.

Pitroda was speaking via video-conferencing from the US after receiving the Sadbhavana award of the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Yatra Commemoration Committee which comprises Congress leaders in Telangana.

Former MP Madhu Yashki Goud received the award on behalf of Pitroda.

The event was held to remember the ‘yatra’ undertaken by Rajiv Gandhi for communal harmony from the Charminar here on October 19, 1990.

Recalling his association with Rajiv Gandhi and the latters contributions to the country, Pitroda said the former Prime Minister had a clear understanding of what was needed to take the country into the 21st century.

Rajiv Gandhi believed in the idea of using technology to expedite the process of modernisation, he said.

“After becoming the Prime Minister, Rajiv gave me an opportunity to do something meaningful with a larger canvass to change telecom and IT scenario in the country,” he said.

Lots of peoplehelped, especially many young and talented, entrepreneurs, the telecom industry, and the credit goes to many people, he said.

But, Rajiv Gandhi was the key in the entire journey, he said.

The goal then was to digitise the telecom network and also to develop the software industry, he said.

There were two million telephones in Rajiv Gandhis time and there are 1.2 billion telephones in the country today.

No revenues were generated in software exports then and now so much has been generated, he said.

Besides telecom, work was on rural drinking water, literacy, cooking oil, milk production and most importantly, mission on immunisation, Pitroda said.

At that time, the country did not make any vaccine and Rajiv Gandhi backed them to start vaccine production in the country and approved Rs 300 crore for the purpose, he said.

The country is the largest producer of vaccines in the world now and it has also eradicated polio, he said.

He said people dont know all the contribution Rajiv Gandhi made, not only to technology, but also to many other areas, including in giving voting rights to people at the age of 18 and focusing on Panchayat Raj, he said.

Unfortunately, Rajiv Gandhi passed away when he was too young, he said.

Rajiv Gandhis loss, in my terms, put the country back 10 years. All that momentum that we had built got lost, he said.

There was excitement in designing the country’s own super computer, building new institutions and changing the basic nature of politics, he said.

It was risky to talk about privatisation and liberalisation then, but Rajiv Gandhi talked about it and invited the best talent in the country, he said.

Rajiv Gandhi became a phenomenon and the contribution he made is significant, he said.

So, when many people in India talk about the fact that Congress party, others did not do anything for 50 years, I feel sorry for their ignorance, he said.

Congress partys contribution to the nation’s development is huge and it continues, he said.

Congress party is an idea, an idea of an India which is rooted in democracy, freedom, diversity, secularism, inclusion, development, decentralisation, truth, love and pride, he said.

Lot of these ideas are being challenged today, he said.

Because of populist movement worldover, nationalism has taken over. Narrow view of nationalism is dividing people, is hurting our development, affecting our economy, affecting our jobs and COVID-19 hasnt helped and that the way we have managed COVID-19 also hasnt helped, he said.

He felt sorry to hear that the country is still grappling with the challenge, the numbers increasing, he said.

The situation in the US (COVID-19) is also not any better, he said.

Recalling the quality of leadership Rajiv Gandhi gave to the country, Pitroda said the former Premier would be missed forever.

Congress MP and AICC in-charge for Telangana Manickam Tagore, state Congress president and MP N Uttam Kumar Reddy and other Congress leaders attended the event.