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Of Gandhi, Raj and photography: A talk with K. Natrajan, the man who immortalized Bapu

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Photographer K. Natrajan who filmed Mahatma Gandhi’s first portrait has turned 92 years old. He had very healthy relation with the Father of the nation and the first prime minister of India pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru. NewsGram Staff Writer, Santosh Dubey had a brief talk with Kerla born Natrajan.

Santosh Dubey: You are famous for filming the first portrait of the Father of the nation. How do you feel?

K. Natrajan: Of course it’s a big achievement for me. Actually when I did that job, I was not aware that the single snap of Gandhiji will take me to this height. I have that portrait with me and that is really very nice. People came to me and purchased the pictures from me. I sold them at various prices like rupees 100, 200 and 300. I did not earn much money by selling the pictures but earned a lot of respect and credit. It’s really the matter of pride to me.

SD: When did you start photography?

KN: I started photography during the World War II. At that time photography and journalism were not a common practice. Before India’s independence, very few parties and functions were organized and thus photographers were not in demand. People had no money to pay for photography. Here I would like to add one thing that it was British officials who encouraged me to take pictures.

SD: You were working under British authority. Why did you resign?

KN: I was posted as secretariat assistant in British rule from 1942 to 1946. I resigned from that job because of their strict ruling style. At that point of time this thing had become very clear that this is our country and should be ruled by us only. Many more such senses evoked me and my countrymen which led me to resign from my job.

SD: Share something about the pre-independence days.

KN: When I talk of pre-independence days, I would like to say that those days were completely controlled by the British remote. Indians had no freedom of any kind. Apart from this, Indian kings and landlords were on the British side. They were helping Britishers to rule over India. Monetary value of those days was very less. We used to run our livelihood in just rupees five for the whole month. There was nothing in the name of facilities. We had to travel from one place to the other by feet or by bullock-cart. pre-independence days were much tougher than today.

SD: Few good things about the Britishers?

KN: There is no doubt that they were very civilized people. They taught us a lot of things. It was only after their arrival that India developed railways. They provided us with the postal facility. Our education system was not up to the mark. Britishers enhanced and modernized our education system. They even encouraged trade in our nation. So, I would like to say that they were very good people. They should have stayed here and worked for betterment. But, they did a mistake of developing the sense of ruling over India. Here they lacked.

SD: How was your relation with Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru?

KN: I was very close to Pandit Nehru. He was a person with modern thoughts. He had a habit of looking forward and never regretted the past. I am convinced with his ideology.

 

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)