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Aruna Sundararajan: Beyond The Call Of Duty

She has taken telecom to remote parts of rural India and campaigned for mass e-literacy

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma


Civil servants are the bulwark of any administration and are committed to serving the nation. A few though, go a mile beyond their call of  duty and the present Secretary in the Department of  Telecommunication, Aruna Sundararajan, is among them. She is perhaps, best known for her mass e-literacy campaign in Kerala, christened Akshaya.

The many milestones of her rather illustrious career include the National Optic Fibre Network Project under the Digital India programme. It was the largest connectivity project in the world with a massive budget of $3 billion that aimed to provide a minimum bandwidth of 100 Mbps.

She has spearheaded the rural broadband initiative in India, taking telecommunications to remote and unserved parts of rural India and other parts  of  the world as custodian of the USOF  telecom fund. She is a strong believer  in the machine-to-machine ecosystem that may lead to another telecommunications revolution.

Aruna Sundararajan is a 1982 batch IAS officer of  the Kerala cadre, with a post-graduate degree in philosophy. In the three decades she has spent in government, Sundararajan has demonstrated tremendous analytical abilities on various policy issues. In earlier avatars, she was Secretary in the Ministry of Electronics & Communication Technology and Administrator of the Universal Service Obligation Fund.

Her stints in government include a spell as chairman and managing director of  the Bharat Broadband Network and one as Managing Director of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation. Sundararajan believes that it is necessary to increase participation of  women in the workforce and to recognise and acknowledge them when they do a good job, since they do it against great odds. “I feel we ourselves have started behaving like men,”  Sundararajan is known to have said somewhere,  “I feel if  I thought like a woman, I would have said and done a lot of things differently.”

Sundararajan once said, “Unless we correct the younger ones, how will they learn and perform?” She believes that  “Negotiation, funds and good mentoring” prove a challenge for  women professionals. She certainly is not among those who have been daunted by them.