We've often seen political parties indulging in muckraking during election campaigns. However, I was pleasantly surprised that both the United Democratic Front and the Left Democratic Front vied with each other to take credit for setting up Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram. It's heartening to see that our politicians recognize the significance of Technopark, which has emerged as the single-biggest driver of economic growth in the state capital area.
The credit for conceptualizing Technopark should go to the E.K. Nayanar government that came to power in 1987 and the credit for creating and developing it to the subsequent K. Karunakaran government. Since I was involved with the project right from the day one, I can vouch for these two leaders' integrity and conviction about the possibilities of Technopark. However, I don't think the V.S. Achuthanandan government that came to power in 2006 can take any credit for furthering Technopark. I will come to that later.
The idea of Technopark was the brainchild of the legendary K.P.P Nambiar, who aimed to develop an electronic and software hub in Kerala on the lines of the Silicon Valley in California. What accentuated the process of creating the Technopark was a visit to the U.S. by the then Chief Minister Nayanar and the industries minister K. R. Gowri Amma. After visiting some technology companies including Apple, Nayanar was convinced about the potential of an electronic industry in Kerala. I have written many an anecdote about that U.S. visit in my memoir 'Vijayavazhikal' (D.C. Books).
If the Nayanar government had approved the Technopark project, the credit for implementing the first phase of the project should go to these following: K. M. Chandrasekhar, who was the industries secretary, P.K. Kunhalikutty, then industry minister, and K. Karunakaran and A. K. Antony, who became chief ministers during the tenure of that government. These people tirelessly worked to make Technopark a reality and offered unlimited support. For instance, the allocation of 10 million rupees the LDF government had approved for Technopark was raised to 160 million rupees by this government, which in a way let the world know about the facility.
In the next decade, we saw the LDF and the UDF alternately coming to power, led by Nayanar and Antony. It was a period of rapid growth for the information technology industry, as global corporations were outsourcing more and more work to India. Companies such as Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services came to Technopark in this period, and the facility added more buildings. The Antony government also decided to set up InfoPark in Kochi. It was a great period of growth for the IT industry in Kerala.
However, the next government with Achuthanandan at the helm was not all that gung-ho about IT. Many of the chief minister's advisors looked at IT as an industry that exploits workers. While Special Economic Zones were being created elsewhere, Kerala decided to not have such projects except in government sector. Though the Coimbatore party congress of the Communist Party endorsed IT SEZs, the government didn’t act in its favor.
The IT industry in Kerala has grown to annual revenues of 150 billion rupees now, from about 30 billion rupees some five years ago. The growth of the industry also underscores the fact that if our leaders have vision, they can do wonders to bring about positive changes in the state, regardless of their political affiliations. The UDF government didn't backtrack on a project the previous LDF government had undertaken; and the subsequent LDF rulers too didn't do anything to scuttle what their predecessors had done. That's how Technopark flourished, creating tens of thousands of jobs. Hopefully, whoever comes to power after this month's election will take a leaf out of the books of such visionary leaders.
*(Photos: Jyothy Das)*