Friday, 1 April 2016

Book Review : Rebooting India : Realising A Billion Aspirations

Rebooting India : Realising A Billion Aspirations

By Nandan Nilekani & Viral Shah


Image result for rebooting india realising a billion aspirationsRebooting refers to a computer term that involves restarting the operating system; that describes the book and its approach will remarkable accuracy. This is a book that looks at how we can reboot the operating system of our nation : our Governance Backbone; most of us will agree that this is a concept worth looking at, an idea worth consideration just on the basis of the concept stated – without going into the specifics.


Moving further, this is also a very hard concept to practicalise / operationalise – and take it beyond the realm of concept and ideas. It is one thing to conceptualise the rebooting of a nation; quite another to suggest a practical and doable method of doing so. This is something that has been on the minds, pens and lips of quite a number of Indians – eminent as well as everyday you and me people; hence some amount of scepticism, or questions are warranted. My humble  suggestion : don’t knock it till you have read it.


Image result for rebooting india realising a billion aspirationsMoving on, if we are to reboot India and / or its Governance, & ensure delivery of governance performance to the people at a service level better  than is the current situation – what are the parameters that need consideration? Let us first take a look at the parameters taken into consideration by the Authors :

Ø Aadhaar
Ø Government Payments, Cash Economy, Banking for all, Credit
Ø Social Safety Nets
Ø E-KYC
Ø Goods & Services Tax
Ø Roads & Highways
Ø Government Spending
Ø Strengthening Democracy With Technology
Ø Politics
Ø Innovation Economy
Ø Health
Ø Education and Teaching
Ø Power
Ø Justice


It can be easily seen that the above list represents the core components of a nation that need to function properly for it to prosper, for its people to realise all their aspirations. These are thehard-core basics that need proper attention, careful nurturing, well-designed plans & programmes, investments – and above and beyond all, flawless execution and in-depth monitoring for them to be effective and deliver on promises and performance expectations.


I will not attempt to summarise the book - chapterwise, or the chapter-wise contents; that is virtually impossible in a book with such a vast scope and breadth; each chapter deserves an article dedicated to it – which is essentially what journalists and analysts do – each point above is a topic unto itself. Suffice it to state that the content cover the basics of Governance, and how it can be done with much-increased vigour, effectiveness and performance.  The best part is that the topics covered are almost comprehensive, spanning social justice, access to subsidies etc, as well as credit and economic impact. That is the most significant aspect of this book in my humble opinion


The main thrust of the book is how technology can be used to improve the basics of Governance in India under these various heads pointed out above; the most exciting part of this the way real examples of how efficiency, deliverance have already been improved and solutions crafted using technology. This is the first part, or rather the first few chapters of the book. The remaining chapters then delve into what can be done in other fields – given the live examples and success stories shared earlier, one cannot dismiss the rest of the material so very easily.


The main thrust for the most part is of course Aadhaar and its impact – first in areas where it already has made it presence felt – with some real stories, examples and data that drive home the power of The Aadhaar Card and how it has already been used to wonderful effect. The hard-hitting example of the Micro-ATM in operation {for example}, built around Aadhaar, and how it made an impact drive home the point of the authors with irrefutable proof and solid evidence of both the way forward as well as the current and real impact of technology  - and its vitality.


The widest known secret in India – leakages in the system, and the problems of the current systems or styles in operation are ruthlessly revealed through live, real examples of leakages, sad stories of poor people, the problems of farmers, the manifest inefficiencies in the system and the various schemes and the various subsidies that all Governments run for the benefit of the people is a recurrent theme in the book in some chapters. The scores with a solution suggestion in each such case stated; or the presence of a pilot project already carried out with success; or the outline of one. That is the best part of this book – it doesn’t cry in woe – but rather keeps and confident and solution oriented approach throughout.


The chapter on the Goods and Services Tax is the peice de resistance of the book – a lovely chapter that is completely practical, solution oriented as well as comprehensive. This chapter introduces us to real-world success stories – like the case of the state of Karnatak, with its implemention of the invoice solution. Here we see the usage of technology to make processes simple; but most of all, the chapter is a superb refresher for what is the most awaited reform for a good many years...


The author has also focussed on the basics of it all – Democracy and Politics, and how technology can be or has been used to make it more even, better and more impactful. The chapters that cover these points are enthralling, as the concept of technology in Democracy opens an entirely new possibility in front of your eyes – be it the linking of Voter IDs to Aadhaar {yet to be done; just a concept I believe} or be it the usage of technology to clean up voter rolls; or be it the ever increasing use of technology by politicians to reach, connect and set up a dialogue with the people. This is one part of the book that is a must-read for all Indians, in my humble opinion



The book does all this and much, much more – going deep into the very basics of Governance and raising in our hearts and minds the hope of good things to come and good tidings. You also get a fascinating ring-side view to many, many Government moves, like GSTN and its establishment, or like just Aadhaar was implemented; for the professional, this book is almost a tutor on how to manage diverse opinions, implementation challenges, and yet succeed. The only negative that I could spot – the insistence on using Billions as opposed to Crores; the authors should realise that we Indians think far more easily in Lakhs and Crores than in Billions. All in all – rated 5 stars out of 5! 

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