Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Comment: Bangalore vs Bangalore

By Shiv Visvanathan in Times of India, November 2, 2005

The author Shiv Visvanathan is not presenting his / her thoughts with any coherence. The article does not bring forth any specific point apart from putting Indian IT Industry in dim light. It is an attempt of intellectual argument about what is lacking with Indian IT Industry but in the end it offers nothing.

The author wants to fuse IT Industry and IT as a way of life or a subculture of contemporary India; the culture which has it’s main constituency within Indian middle class. Sure, IT as a subculture is taking place in India with typical characteristics like jobs on merit, strong entrepreneurial manifestation, sustained and strong interactions with global businesses, overall transparency and in general the feeling of an avenue where ordinary Indians can get an honorable place under sun in today’s global village on sheer competence, accomplishment and industriousness. So when Shiv asks about what has IT given to Indian society; I believe above mentioned participatory opportunities to large number of people in a short period is indeed a strong performance. It is not ‘a club like world’ the author claims. The author is simply ignoring these achievements of what he refers as IT Culture. Remember, IT as an industry is less than 15 years old in India (only TCS was a significant force before that and only after Internet things started to change fast). For any culture to have a deep impact, it needs time to get entrenched. Contemporary Knowledge based Global Industry is relatively young as well as India is a young county. So it will take time before all these cultural impacts start to percolate. Such a historical perspective is missing in this article too.

Equally missing is any argument in support of equating IT Industry with so called IT as a subculture. The author simply equates these two things and argues about the alleged shallow nature of IT subculture. That is the cardinal mistake. Any common observer would tell that it is not the IT subculture which is the real cultural force in today’s India. It is the force of Globalization – IT industry is only one such industry. There is BPO, there is Global Pharma, Global Banking, Airlines and all other industries and businesses which are global in nature and scope. All these businesses with Global context are spawning the contemporary Indian culture along with today’s Bollywood and Cricket. IT industry plays only one part. So if at all the author has any complaints, those need to be directed against the overall culture which is shaping in India in the context of Globalization. India is one of those unique places in the world where Globalization is bringing more advantages to her than the costs she has to pay. At least that is the case for now. As an intellectual who wants to provide a critique of this phenomenon, the author needs to point how it could be otherwise in future as well as any adverse impacts the new culture brings in India society. The author fails to do so.

Finally, the specifics of the case of Murthy versus Gowda debate. What is the argument? IT Industry is simply asking for certain infrastructure support. The industry is not making any polemical claims about how they are the ones who are going to bring a revolution in Indian society. That is not the job of any specific industry and not the job of IT Industry. All the names the author mentioned – Nilekani, Murthy, Premiji, etc. are not fools to claim or pretend that they are with the mandate to change India society. Their and IT Industry’s success should not make others blind so that any such overreaching intentions are assigned to them. Just like any other industry, IT Industry is there to make money while playing by the rules of the land. Revolution, social change, all these lofty ideals are for politicians. Why are they elected then? It is not for IT Industry to carry the cross of enlightenment of Indian society. That is for progressive movements and politicians to address. The dispute in question is specifically about certain infrastructure State promised – road and airport. Why should not industry ask for these things when they have been paying taxes and playing by the rule? Replying back by saying what does IT Industry do for society is a stonewalling tactic and besides the point. We need to see through the games these politicians want to play – they always want to pit one group of society with others so that they can rule. In this case, Gowda is completely wrong to argue that having airport is at the cost of farmers. Most of the contemporary Indian Industry is not even asking for any state money, all the needed money for investment can be raised by the industry; only if State makes the rules easy. That people like Gowda do not want to do and the author fails to point this obstructionist attitude of our elected leaders.

The article is one more wasted opportunity to put a proper context to this debate.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
November 02, 2005.

1 comment:

Harish N Jeyavel said...

This is one of the best responses to the article by Shiv Visvanathan. The original article would have been better if you arguments were included into it! Anyways I would like to know "your opinion" on a couple of things like, the potential of Bangalore to be a world city, has IT achieved a critical mass in Bangalore so that it can keep going on its own without support or with the sort of resistance its facing now .

I couldn't resist posting the original article and your response in bengaluru.blogspot