"Imagining India" – By Nandan Nilekani – Quick Review

If you are a subscriber of Outlook, that now iconic weekly news magazine, then you would know that you get a mini-book kind of thing every few weeks. A very good concept from the point of readers since now they can taste the book and then decide whether they want to buy or not , as well as from the stand point of Author, since now at least they have a bigger chance to reach more people.

The last book-excerpt which I got was for Nandan Nilekani’s book, titled “Imagining India”.

The book reads like an essay and talks about various issues around development, IT, policies, population and likes. Since this booklet is of a size of a mini-book (5 inches BY 5 inches), its not the complete book but it has 100 odd pages so I would think that it has good enough to introduce you to what the real book would carry.

I think ‘Imagining..’ borrows heavily from the works of other people and they tries to distill that information with his own opinions in a essay or factual kind of way. There are interesting things which you learn like ‘Population Dividend’. Essentially a concept where large population is not a bane but a boon. This concept is not Nandan’s but he has incorporated this in great detail by including the works of lots of economists, with due credit given at multiple places.

In another chapter it talks about various programs which Government of India is pursuing in the areas of land reforms, BPL subsidies, information dissemination , electronification of rural India. Again most of the text is not his but a great collection and a good amount of hard work must have gone to research this.

The book is not very easy to read since its neither a story, nor a travel log, not even a piece of opinion. The closet this book reminds me is ‘India ‘ which Publications Division, Ministry of I & B, used to publish every year. That book was like a bible to all IAS aspirants and it used to have all the information about government policies, all the data and likewise. I am also not sure whether you would want to keep this book as a reference material because its not a reference material book.

I was talking to someone the other day and I found out that the famous title of Thomas Friedman books was actually Nandan’s line, viz. ‘The World is Flat’. There is a mention of Thomas at few places in the booklet.

The byline of the title is “Ideas for the new century” and that would make one expect that the book would talk about clear, crisp, implementable ideas. In the booklet, Nandan touches upon the need of having a common identifier for all Indian Citizens. He informs that there is a PAN no for all Tax Payers, there is a Voter Id card for all 18+ registered voters, there is a ration card for BPL folks and then there are Passport IDs, Driving License Nos and so on. Though the need for having a common ID is well felt and people understand that we would get benefit from it, Nandan fails to address the need through a simple idea.

All in all, I would think that one should probably wait for another book from Nandan.

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