Addressing the concerns of the tech-community over the proposed, Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home said, that while such a law won’t harm business, it will force the likes of Google to ensure that India’s maps show Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir correctly.
The act, which was proposed in the wake of the Indian government launching the final satellite required for its own navigation system, recommends to make the use of the geospatial information of India governable by strict laws and labels both use without permission and depiction of the Indian territories in a manner that at variance with the official version, as serious offences.
Either of these offences — should the bill be passed — would be severe enough to attract a jail term of up to 7 years and a monetary fine of up to 100 crore rupees. The proposed bill states that,
Save as otherwise provided in this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder, or with a general or special permission of the Security Vetting Authority, no person shall acquire geospatial imagery or data including value addition of any part of India either through any space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles or terrestrial vehicles, or any other means whatsoever.
where the Security Vetting Authority (SVA) would be a special committee formed by the Indian government for this express purpose.
The law would also require all companies making use of such information, to submit a fees and get their application reviewed by the SVA.
Apart from the likes of Apple, Google Uber and Ola, a large number of other businesses such as delivery services — be it food, goods, whatever — vehicle aggregators — cabs, trucks, mini trucks — stand to be affected through this law and understandably, the bill was not liked by the tech industry, who termed it as a throwback to the License Raj.
However, Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home, was quick with assurances that the law was not meant to impede the progress of business in any way. Speaking on the topic with ET, he said,
The law should not have any kind of negative impact or creating a negative atmosphere for business growth… definitely all concerns of the industry will be addressed in the final law. I am assuring that the intention of the government is to facilitate business… It is not to create a hurdle.
He also said that the law was in a very initial stage and that it will be thoroughly edited before being formed into a law, adding that feedback was being sought from all sectors and stakeholders and citizens.
However, the minister was equally emphatic on the need of such a regulatory mechanism.
We are not in business of unnecessarily troubling any firm…that is not our approach, but the thing is that we need a regulatory mechanism.
While denying that the law was aimed at any one firm or company — Google — the minister did say that some of the things Google has been doing are completely unacceptable.
They (Google) have their own way of thinking. They have not shown Arunachal as part of China but they show it in red colour as disputed. That is not acceptable to us at all.
Adding that far from sending a message to any one firm or company, the bill was an attempt to make provisions towards ensuring that the country has provisions to secure its boundary and territory.
Meanwhile, neighbouring countries such as China, already have such laws in place to prevent “incorrect depiction” and to keep “state secrets” from leaking. The Google Maps version adapted for China, already conforms to the Chinese law with borders shown as dictated by the government.
Meanwhile, with laws like this, Google Earth — with no datasets adapted to suit the local laws of countries — such as China and India, will have a hard time tweaking and twisting the information it provides to ensure that it manages to keep all the involved parties happy.