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From the Commission to the Mission Model: Technology Czars and the Indian Middle Class

  • Itty Abraham (a1)

This article identifies a major transformation in India's approach to strategic technology development from an earlier Commission model, epitomized by atomic energy, that seeks the enhancement of sovereign power, to a Mission model, epitomized by telecommunications, directed toward the furthering of biopolitical power. It compares five strategic industries in India—atomic energy, space, electronics, biotechnology and telecommunications—and shows that no single factor is responsible for technological success or failure. Outcomes depend on the strength of political networks, the structure and maturity of the industry, the extent of bureaucratic resistance, and the technological strategy adopted. This finding contests the widely held perspective that success in strategic technology development is the product of the extraordinary efforts of a single individual, a technology “czar,” and explains the persistence of this narrative by highlighting the role of technoscience in mediating a highly ambivalent relation between the Indian middle class and the state.

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