The election manifesto for the Indian National Congress, released earlier today, lacks a digital focus, saying only that the party will seek to connect all villages to a broadband network in three years time, to “locate new, non-agricultural jobs in villages and open vast new opportunities for our rural youth. The political party promises “a bolder, time-bound initiative”, and that it will bring the fruits of the IT revolution to more cities and towns.
Some of this may refer to the Common Service Centre initiative that has been launched in the country, as a part of a public-private partnership, but since the CSC initiative is more like a post office than a cyber-cafe, we wonder if it will really help in development. At the same time, if the CSC project is completed in 3 years, the party can claim to have reached its goal…
There’s no mention of providing broadband to schools, provisioning computers or laptops to teachers; The government has attempted to launch an educational portal called Sakshat, but it can hardly be deemed usable. And the $10 laptop was a myth. So it is no surprise that the Congress hasn’t listed any Telecom and Media initiatives among its major achievements.
Download the manifesto here.
Listing And Privatization: BSNL?
The Congress has rejected blind privatization, but plans to push ahead with listing public sector companies, as long as the government retains majority shareholding. This does hint at a possible listing for government owned telco BSNL, a move which the CPI(M) opposes.
The 2004 Manifesto
We also went through the Congress’ 2004 Manifesto, and noted a vague promise related to the telecom sector: “Along with vastly expanded credit facilities for self-employment, the services industry will be given all support to fulfill its true employment potential. This includes not just software and IT-enabled services, not just trade, distribution and transport, not just financial and telecommunications services but also tourism.”
In comparison, a promise to provide broadband to all villages in three years is specific.
We’ve been through the manifestos for the BJP and the CPI(M), and while we think the BJPs manifesto includes promises that are unrealisting, we feel that the CPI(M) will initiative policies that we think are regressive, particularly for the media business.