Independence Day: Telecom legend Sam Pitroda on India’s 75th anniversary


Sam Pitroda, internationally reputed telecom inventor, entrepreneur, development thinker, and policy maker who has spent 50 years in information and communications technology (ICT) and related global and national developments, called for a shift in focus from profits and power to planet and people on India completing 75 years as an independent nation.

In a video message from Chicago, Pitroda said: “On this August 15, I wish to share with you my personal observations, my journey, my hopes and aspirations for India. When India became independent, I was about 5 years old. I am telling you about my story because my story is the story of India and story of millions like me.”

After recounting about his childhood in Odisha and highlighting the contributions of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose in India’s independence, Pitroda spoke about how the founding fathers’ focus on key issues such as education.

“The world needs Indian idea of nation building,” he said. “The world, today, is looking for solutions. Unfortunately, the world today is focused on profits and power, while we need to focus on planet and people. We need to constantly ask what is good for the people and what’s good for the planet.”

Pitroda said that if it is not good for the planet and its people, it is not worth doing it. “I hope that today on August 15, as we celebrate the 75th year of India’s independence, we begin a new conversation on what kind of nation we want to build in the next 25 years. Today, we have some fantastic tools in IT, hyper connectivity, biotech, nano tech, materials, transport, energy, and health. It’ll really transform India.”

He then proceeded to list out what he feels are required for India’s transformation. “I want to see India where we have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, enough nutrition and good food for people to eat at low costs and have health services almost free,” Pitroda said.

“Enough jobs for young people. Good education where people can get the right kind of skills in higher education and get meaningful jobs. We want better infrastructure, energy, and security. I know all of these things are possible, provided we focus on fundamentals.”

He underlined the importance of democracy, diversity, inclusion, justice, and truth. He also spoke about decentralization and the need to listen to the wisdom of people. Mincing no words Pitroda also criticized the alleged Hindu leanings of political outfits.

He said: “I hope today we take this pledge to have this new conversation individually and collectively to build the India of the future that our founding fathers had thought of, which is articulated well in our Constitution. We should not move into a dictatorial mindset, Hindu rashtra, hate, infight, polarized politics, control of power and profit. Let’s make sure that we just do justice to our founding fathers.”

Credited with having laid the foundation for India’s telecommunications and technology revolution of the 1980s, Pitroda has been a leading campaigner to help bridge the global digital divide. During his tenure as advisor to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Pitroda led six technology missions related to telecommunications, water, literacy, immunization, dairy production, and oil seeds. He was also the founder and first chairman of India’s Telecom Commission. In these plural roles, Pitroda helped revolutionize India’s development philosophies and policies with a focus on access to technology as the key to social change.