N Vittal, architect of India’s IT sector, no more

With the passing of N Vittal, 85, former Telecom Secretary and Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) on Thursday, the country has lost the person who had sown the seeds for the growth of the information technology sector four decades ago

Today, the country is enjoying the fruits of his long-term vision, with the IT industry worth nearly $250 billion or nearly 9.5 per cent of the country’s GDP, and providing employment to around 6 million.

The Padma Bhushan awardee and IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, 1960 batch, passed away in Chennai. His experience of more than 40 years covered a wide spectrum with focus on industrial administration, science and technology and security.

As Secretary of the Department of Electronics (1990-1996), he initiated policies for boosting software, setting up software technology parks and strategic alliance with the industry. This eventually led to the formation of the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI).

As Chairman of the Telecom Commission, he also initiated the process of liberalisation in the telecom sector and played a major role in getting the National Telecom Policy 1994 approved.

Vittal, a chemistry honours graduate of Loyola College, Chennai, was a strong advocate of ethics and a corruption-free India. In a preface of his book, Corruption in India – The Roadblock to National Prosperity, he says, “Corruption is anti-national, anti-economic development and anti-poor. As CVC, I had a ringside view of the occupation at the bureaucratic level and indirectly at the political level for four years.”

Tributes pour in

Expressing grief over the demise of Vittal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Shri N. Vittal ji will be remembered as an outstanding civil servant, who enriched India’s growth trajectory across diverse sectors. He also played a pivotal role in Gujarat’s development during his career in the State. Pained by his demise. Condolences to his family and friends.”

Interestingly, Vittal heaped praise on Modi in 2012, saying, “Only political will has the power to bring down corruption and today, Gujarat has that kind of leadership. Modi has the political will to take unpopular decisions and is a committed person with personal integrity.”

Nasscom tweeted, “His support led to simplifying policies, providing incentives and showcasing the potential of software services. Today we are a $245 billion sector, whose foundations have been laid by visionaries like Mr Vittal and as a sector, we will forever be grateful for his contribution.”

CP Gurnani, MD and CEO of Tech Mahindra, in a tweet on Vittal’s demise said, “A great loss indeed. Shri N Vittal ji was one of the key architects from the government who helped script the Indian IT story in the early ’90s. Today we enjoy the fruits of his vision, dedication, and conviction.”

Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, in a similar sentiment on Vittal tweeted, “Shri N Vittal passed away yesterday. He was the brain behind formation of STPI in the early 1990s, which resulted in the booming Indian IT industry.”

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