After Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led union government renamed the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Maharashtra government on 10 August announced a new award named after the former prime minister for outstanding performance in the Information and Technology (IT) sector. The award will be conferred upon companies and institutions for excellence in the IT sector.
Minister of State for Information and Technology Satej Patil said the award would be given yearly on 20 August, the birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi.
“The award will be given to the institutions that excel in the IT sector every year. This will be a lasting tribute to Rajiv ji for his pioneering work in the technology sector of the country,” Patil said.
The union government had on 6 August dropped Rajiv Gandhi’s name from the Khel Ratna award and renamed India’s highest sporting honour after Major Dhyan Chand, the legendary hockey player. The Indian National Congress (INC) criticised the move terming it political vendetta.
Patil, however, said that the decision had “nothing” to do with the controversy over the renaming of the Khel Ratna award. “The decision about this award was taken a month ago, though chief minister Uddhav Thackeray cleared the proposal recently. The modalities of the award are being finalised by speaking to various organisations from the field,” he said.
The INC is part of a three party coalition running the Maharashtra government led by Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray.
Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of India between 1984 to 1989 as the sixth person to occupy that office. The INC credits him for starting a telecom ‘revolution’ in India and encouraging the use of information technology.
As far as history is concerned, India’s IT services industry was born in Mumbai in 1967 with the creation of Tata Consultancy Services that in 1977 partnered with Burroughs which began India’s export of IT services ― much before Rajiv Gandhi’s reign. The first software export zone, SEEPZ ― the precursor to the modern-day IT park ― was established in Mumbai in 1973. More than 80% of the country’s software exports were from SEEPZ in the 1980s.
On 9 August, the Shiv Sena claimed the union government’s decision to rename the Rajiv Gandhi was not the people’s wish, but a “political game”. An editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana asked what was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s contribution to cricket that a stadium (in Ahmedabad) was named after him.
“Major Dhyan Chand could have been honoured without insulting Rajiv Gandhi’s sacrifice. But, the country has lost such tradition and culture. It would have made Dhyan Chand sad in heaven,” the Sena said.