Bangalore, March 30: Indian IT bellwether Infosys’ co-founder Nandan Nilekani, who has declared assets worth Rs.7,770 crore ($1.3 billion), said that “it’s time to give back to people and the country” what he got in life as he contests the Lok Sabha election.
“As I had a successful and fulfilling career in private and public sectors, there is not much left to achieve personally at this age (58). And as I and my family are financially secure, it’s time to give back to people and country what I got in life though I was born and brought up in a middle class family,” Nilekani told IANS in an interview here.
Having co-founded and run a global company successfully for nearly three decades and worked with state and central governments for a decade collectively, Nilekani said he got into politics so as to give back to the people and the country what he got from them.
Nilekani declared in his nomination March 21 that he and his wife Rohini had assets valued at Rs.7,770 crore, with about 80 percent of these as Infosys’s blue-chip shares.
Noting that the wealth the global software major had created had given him freedom to do what he wanted to, Nilekani said he would now like to give millions of people the opportunities he had though he too had humble beginnings.
“The Infosys story has inspired a generation of young Indians to start something on their own, to take risks that created wealth for the country, as well as millions of new jobs,” Nilekani said.
Nearly five years after spearheading the world’s largest social project to give identity (Aadhaar) to about 600 million citizens across the country, the 58-year-old billionaire geek has recently joined the Congress to contest from the Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency in the April 17 general elections.
Exposure to the executive, law-makers and political parties across spectrum as the state-run Unique Identification Authority Development of India (UIDAI) chairman has convinced Nilekani that politics is a great lever to change many things for the people.
“Opportunity to work with the state’s three wings for the Aadhaar project made me realise that political or executive power could be effectively used as a lever to change many things in our country for the people’s welfare,” said Nilekani who has taken to politics like coot and ducks take to water.
Nilekani’s first brush with the executive behemoth as Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) chairman over a decade ago (1999-2004) gave him a closer view of the wheels that drive the government juggernaut.
Nilekani told IANS that though he was “dealing with governments for long as part of a private firm (Infosys), working with state agencies’ and officials as head of BATF and UIDAI subsequently had shown (him) that the political system can serve the people through correct policies, efficient processes and modern practices using appropriate technologies”.
He said with political support the executive could accomplish a lot, as evident from the Aadhaar scheme in giving an identity to millions of ordinary people, eligibility to social benefits and access to multiple services, including institutional credit.
“We have been able to implement Aadhaar across the country owing to unstinted support from all state governments, lawmakers and officials irrespective of political affiliations and concerns over its data protection and privacy,” Nilekani observed.
In this context, Nilekani spoke of similar support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got when he was the union finance minister during 1991-96 from then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to usher in path-breaking economic reforms over two decades ago.
“In fact, thousands of entrepreneurs and companies like Infosys immensely benefited from growth-oriented reforms unleashed by Singh with Rao’s backing, resulting in employment generation and increasing investments from domestic and overseas players,” Nilekani said.
On the choice of his constituency, Nilekani said since he was born, brought up and lived most part of his life in Bangalore, he thought like charity, his public life too should begin from home town so that he could build systems and processes that can be replicated in serving the people in other parts of the state and across the country.
“Problems in metros and cities across the country are generic, as they are a result of relentless migration from towns and villages. Rapid urbanisation and lack of timely investment in civic amenities have made existing infrastructure inadequate. I intend to address these issues head on and find solutions as I am a problem solver,” he quipped.
Stressing on the importance of dreaming big and doing big, Nilekani said every Indian has a dream for India and a vision for what the country should be.
“Each of us should do what we can, with what we have, to make a difference, and get us a little closer to what we envision,” Nilekani added.
(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)