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India's 3rd Internet Gateway : Time for Tripura's IT roadmap
Saumen Sarker
India's 3rd Internet Gateway : Time for Tripura's IT roadmap
PHOTO : STP-I Agartala Center inauguration by Central IT Minister Prem Prakash Chaudhury on April 26,2017 at Agartala. TIWN File Photo

In my last 5 years interaction with key players in Tripura’s earlier Government, all I heard from Ministers & IAS officers that Tripura is a remote State, no hope for IT or any advance sector other than pineapple, rubber & small scale cottage industries.

Few CPI-M Ministers barely learnt emails, others including Manik Sarkar avoided smartphones like a foreign spying device, so stayed far away from smartphones, internet and knowledge about the world business.

For a tiny State like Tripura, Govt has to think innovative ways to develop infrastructures for advance technologies. Various perspectives on infrastructure assets vary widely, While investors focus on investment returns, policymakers (politicians) analyse both financial and socio-economic benefits alongwith votebank. It would be worthwhile for Ministers to view things through an investor's investment prism because an understanding of the critical factors that shape investment decisions will help frame better policies to expedite Tripura’s IT infrastructure creation.

Between 2014 to 2018, many important milestones like Agartala as India’s 3rd Internet Gateway, Broad Gauge Railway connectivity, 3G/4G Mobile High speed network, self-reliance in Electricity, OTPC 2nd Turbine, frequent Air connectivity with rest of India – all these enabled State with basic infrastructures.

But Manik Sarkar’s State Govt didn’t have a single brain, who had any clue on taking advantage of Internet Gateway or develop IT corridor, invite Foreign investments on various Industrial sectors from Bio-Tech, Food Processing, IT etc.

In spite of Central Govt funded multistoried STP ( Software Technology Park) at Agartala, CM Manik Sarkar couldn’t attract a single Software company because of ZERO vision, ZERO expertise, over reliance on Govt Babus rather than engaging Management Experts from IT Industry.

Not only that on April 26,2017, Manik Sarkar chosen to remain absent for  Agartala STP inauguration , so Tapan Chakraborty represented State Govt.

Tripura Chief Minister’s suspicious absence from most important STPI (Software Technology Park India) Agartala centre inauguration on Tuesday, April 26,2017 evening again reiterated the fact that Manik Sarkar never cared to invite a single IT company in Tripura.

Manik Sarkar spent Govt money in flight travel to Hyderabad or Chennai to console unknown characters like Rohit Vemula’s death to hog national limelight for CPI-M Party but failed to knock doors of Industrialists in Bangalore, Bombay, Hyderabad to generate employment for Tripura’s lakhs of unemployed youths.

In STPI inauguration, even Central IT Minister Prem Prakash Chaudhury expressed concerns about the CPI-M Govt’s Industry vision and proper utilization of Central funds in Tripura and reminded Manik’s IT illiterate CPI-M Industry Minister Tapan Chakraborty to learn from other States like Nagaland. Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram are successful in generating IT enabled Industry employments but Tripura remained backward under CPI-M rule.

But fact is Tripura failed to attract any investment from outside, so STP’s empty building was no help for Tripura’s educated youths.

Executive leadership in all progressive States always give first preference to overall economic development  so that influx of capital investments can generate  industrialization, employments, raise public happiness index  – a cascading effect  drives  economic growth.

For example, Former Gujrat CM Modi, Andhra CM N. Chandrababu Naidu are no Technocrats but they adapted modern technology, visited China, USA, many other countries to fetch Foreign investments to develop Gujrat, Andhra Pradesh economy.

But in Tripura, in spite of having educated manpower, resource pool from multiple Northeastern NITs, one IIT and numerous Engineering colleges, Technical Institutes ….Tripura never planned to create a roadmap for IT Industry.

India’s 3rd internet gateway at Agartala was a huge milestone as Bangladesh has leased its unused undersea fiber optic Internet bandwidth to India's state owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for $ 1.2 million ( Rs 7.7 crores) a year.

Indo-Bangla agreement was for four years and India would gain 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) bandwidth in the first year with a provision for this to go up to 40 Gbps per second in the subsequent years. Modi led India’s plan is purchasing this surplus unused bandwidth from Bangladesh to develop the IT & ITES industry in Northeast.

Since 2014, Tripura is witnessing an era of enormous historic importance as India and Bangladesh are being led by two strong visionaries, who are determined to cement ties between both countries on strong footing to improve economic conditions, overall development of this backward region. Its a sheer luck of Tripura that Narendra Modi  is Indian Prime Minister and Sheikh Hasina is Bangladesh Premier at this crucial juncture of South Asian geo-politics and revival of economic blueprint fueled by mutual desire of both dynamic leaders.

In Tripura’s context, Narendra Modi led Indian Govt signed a pact with Bangladesh Govt  to use Global Fiber Optic connectivity via Cox-bazar to establish India’s 3rd Internet Gateway in Agartala which is scheduled to be inaugurated on 2015, March 23rd,  by Prime Ministers of India & Bangladesh via video conference .

Now the million dollar question is what Tripura Govt has done so far to utilize this golden opportunity???  No one knows the answer – but one thing is pretty clear that CPI-M era’s CM Manik Sarkar to IT Minister Tapan Chakraborty never spoke about IT or Internet Gateway in any public platforms or visited any IT companies in India or Bangladesh to initiate a dialogue for investments in IT Industry. They had ZERO exposure to IT so Tripura never progressed in IT.

TIWN (Tripura InfoWay News) is the first entity in Tripura  to organize a conclave on ‘India’s 3rd Internet Gateway’ on August 6, 2015  by inviting Global experts like Hinduja group CIO, Multiple Foreign Govt’s India missions, Head of Taiwan Trade Mission to initiate policy dialogues, effective planning to utilize high bandwidth internet for establishment of IT Industry in Tripura.

On July 5, 2015 my interview was published in Bangladesh’s largest online news media bdnews24.com with a headline “Tripura can be Bangladesh’s IT backyard” – where I said “hundreds of IT qualified engineers from Tripura and other parts of Northeast are flocking to India's big IT towns like Bangalore and Hyderabad every year.

http://bdnews24.com/neighbours/2015/07/05/tripura-can-be-bangladesh-s-it-backyard

"If Indian and Bangladesh IT companies set up shop here, these engineers will all remain behind and work at home. Also Indian companies which feel Northeast is far for them may get into joint ventures with Bangladesh companies to set up shop in Agartala. Agartala can be where Indian and Bangladesh IT industry can grow together."

A media or a private entity like TIWN cannot don the role of a State Government and replace its earlier CPI-M era's visionless leadership, even though Tripura employed a full time IT Secretary, Industry Secretary, huge Industry Dept and number of bureaucrats,  but key people lack acumen or guts to guide Chief Minister towards right direction to establish IT Industry in Tripura.

Tripura’s golden opportunity of transforming Agartala as IT Hub of NE India, a centre for India- Bangladesh IT co-operation is still a distant dream unless present State Govt focus on building a roadmap and form a dedicated team for success.

Unless Tripura gets private Indian investment and some FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in IT, Bio-Tech, Organic Farming, Herbal Exports, Pineapple production/Food Processing to many other sectors – Tripura will never be able to create mass employment. Problem of ‘begging bowl to centre’ is that major chunk of funds from Central Govt goes into paying Govt salaries, pensions and pending projects, municipalities, World Bank and other Bank loan interests etc – State Govt remains empty-handed year after year.

Its time for Tripura to re-build its broken economy, invite private investments, generate employment, create IT roadmap for State’s better future.

Writer is Editor, TRIPURAINFOWAY.com, also a Global Network Engineering Architect based in New York with 20+ yrs experience in Internetworking, Network Security and worked at various Global companies including Bank of America, General Electric, Cisco Systems, Bank of New York, Merrill Lynch, New York Govt,  NEC , Hewlett Packard. 

To send your appreciation and comments pl. send email to editor@tripurainfoway.com or tripurainfoway@gmail.com  or post online below

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