Radio ga ga to watching TV

Nikhil Bhave
Sunday, 13 August 2017

This week, an Independent India will be turning 70. It has been a long and arduous journey. While most of the population had to hear Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru address the nation with the famous words, at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom...

This week, an Independent India will be turning 70. It has been a long and arduous journey. While most of the population had to hear Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru address the nation with the famous words, at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom...

At that time, the nation was wracked by violence unleashed by the partition. Apart from that, India’s perennial ill, poverty, has continued. Most of our countrymen could not afford to buy even a radio set. In many parts, people had to gather in large numbers to hear the speech. Since then, as far as technology is considered, we have come a long way.

Consider a fact about radio. At the time of partition, there were six radio stations overall. Three (Lahore, Peshawar and Dacca) were in Pakistan. As per AIR, radio reached just 2.5 per cent of the area and 11 per cent of the population. Now, it can reach 92 per cent of the population. FM radio has reached a cult status.

The same goes for television. What started as a Delhi-only venture extended slowly to metro cities. The Asiad games of 1984 saw the arrival of colour television. However, owning a television was still a privilege. So much so, that if someone in an area owned a television, the entire area used to turn up at that person’s place on the weekend! However, as production costs dropped because of advances in technology, as well as a rise in Indians’ living standards post-globalisation, TV became an affordable thing. Nowadays, with the advent of DTH, you see the idiot box even reaching into the houses of migratory people like construction workers. Now, with live-streaming on mobile phones, it has managed to penetrate even further into the Indian populace, which brings us to our next area: telecommunications.

Remember the dreaded era of the static-filled trunk calls? Yep, even a phone was a luxury, with a phone owner’s house almost turning into a free phone booth for the entire locality. A long-distance call was a test for patience and blood-pressure. Again, we have the liberalisation era to thank for today’s scenario. It brought competition into the sector, which saw a jump in quality and availability. However, the country’s Internet sector is still a matter of concern. While India has progressed from the ear-shattering dial-up to the 4G, data prices remain too high, making availability a concern.

The most critically underlooked area is, and remains, research and development. Per the GoI, only 0.8 per cent of the GDP is spent on research and development. There are institutions like IIT, but they continue to remain plagued by various problems including brain drain. Same goes for the government-run laboratories and research institutes.

We also boast of becoming an IT superpower, yet automation has seen a host of jobs being lost due to lack of expanded skill-sets. Plus, the sector is still dependent on service. Nothing much by way of original path-breaking innovations come out of India.

Summing up, in 70 years, while we have made great strides in various sectors, several critical sectors have been left behind. To become a truly developed nation, we need equality (pun intended).

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