Monday, January 16, 2012

Nilekani’s UID team Vs Sam Pitroda’s bureaucrat-less innovative agenda

Sam Pitroda...
IN power corridors of Delhi, Sam Pitroda and Nandan Nilekani have similar identities. Both are immensely successful private sector honchos with zeal to bring about changes in governance. Both enjoy cabinet minister’s status, and are currently entrusted with two future-looking projects. For Nilekani, it’s about giving a unique identity number, or Aadhaar, to resident Indians. Pitroda’s mandate is to connect a billion people through public information, infrastructure and innovation. In a way, both are UPA government’s poster-boys showcasing reforms and technical innovations.
Yet, there is a serious difference between Pitroda and Nilekani. Pitroda, known for his characteristic bureaucrat-bashing, has roped in a slim and sophisticated non-bureaucrat team with the only exception of 1990 batch IAS Kalpana Awasthi. Ms Awasthi is his OSD at the rank of a joint secretary in Government of India. Nilekani on his part has heavily banked on IAS and other Group A service officers to make his UID mission a success like his Infosys innings. Nilekani’s key lieutenant, Ram Sewak Sharma is a 1978 batch Jharkhand cadre IAS, and even his private secretary MS Srikar is a 1999 batch Karnataka cadre IAS. Not just that, all deputy director generals posted across the country are from IAS or other Group A services.
...Nandan Nilekani
In contrast, Pitroda’s associates are Cambridge-educated Sukhman Randhawa who interned at BBC and the Penguin Group in London, and Mitakshara Kumari who had graduated from UK's University of Sussex and worked with European Union at Brussels. The other associates include Rahul Nayar who did his M.Phil in technology policy at Cambridge, and Vikas Bagri who was a part of initiating a rural BPO.
The comparison would not have been necessary if Nilekani had continued a smooth, seamless journey at UID. But if the problems and negative publicity that Nilekani’s UID mission has earned in the last few months are any indicators, his IAS managers have not done a very good job. The Parliamentary standing committee virtually junked Nilekani’s new bill. The home ministry has repeatedly raised objections to UID entering into its turf, and none other than Planning Commission which houses UIDAI is asking Nilekani “not to change track and stick to his original mandate”.
Now, the talk of the corridor is: why the hell Nilekani’s managers, read IAS, have failed to do the basics of inter-ministerial co-ordination? What’s more, some of his managers who got attracted to him because of the challenge and glamour associated with the project, are now looking at exit routes. Some of them reportedly want to move to not-so-glamorous and small ministries.
But here is the danger. Nilekani’s failure means end of the road for the government to woo any more high-performing corporate honchos.


  1. Now wht the hell is this?? Mr. Nilankani after wasting crores of Rupee gives what nothing...come on Mr. Pitroda don't disappoint us...

  2. an article for the sake of article!

    1. Recently, Sam Pitroda in his talk in WEF "Sam Pitroda and Aneesh Chopra" (search youtube), pointed out that there are good bureaucrats in government just like there are good ceos in private sector. He did not bear an impression that CEOs are better than IAS. May be his present role required lateral entries.

    2. Babu bashing again!! looks like, according to u, all credit should be given to politicians and Nandan, all mistakes to IAS officers! Any new change which is going to revolutionize India will surely face roadblocks. Its only matter of time, things fall in place!

  3. AAdhar Project's Director and DG is no less qualified!

    RS Sharma holds Masters Degree in Mathematics from IIT, Kanpur (India) and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of California (USA). Besides, Mr. Sharma's contributions to the IT and e-Governance have been widely recognized. He has been responsible for implementing a number of projects relating to ICT Infrastructure, Process Re-engineering and Service Delivery in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. He even won PM's award for Public Administration.

    Aadhar project so far is running smoothly with opposition from 2 sections - privacy maniacs and "those who oppose for the sake of opposing"!

    Sam Pitroda hardly contributed anything after Rajiv Gandhi passed away. Have to see if Sam will make a mark again, given "huge confidence" PM has on him. Good Luck Sam!