The primary objective of the The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016 bill has been to ensure security and sovereignty of the Country. As a responsible Citizen of the country, I should say that laws linked to security and integrity of the country should be strict. It should be strict enough to ensure proper representation of country’s borders and also to mask or vet for geospatial information that is highly sensitive to the security of the country primarily defence installations.
But while framing a law, enough care should be taken that it does not curb some activities that is currently beneficial to the citizens or impedes some services for common or individual good like relief works, navigation services, people and asset tracking and even scientific study & research.
In response to the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016, I do not support the bill in its entirety for the following reasons :
1. Under Clause 3.1 states no person shall acquire any geospatial information by any means for any part of India and can be done only when vetted by the the Security committee.
Today, every smartphone comes with GPS sensors enabled. I use it to share location information with my friends ( like in WhatsApp ), or collect my running and cycling track ( using App like SportsTracker ). So, this gross clause means, that I cannot use this services on my phone. The data I share like my home location or my running track along my neighbourhood is not a cause of Security breach of the country. All these data are generated and consumed instantly. These kind of data neither can be vetted for in true sense, nor will be useful if it has to wait for 3 months for scrutiny.
Also, it will effect for Transport companies like Ola, Uber or Bus services who cannot share their vehicle location and thereby rendering the whole system useless. If this Clause is applied as it is, it means the country will see no more of services like Ola, Uber taxis or cannot expect to show realtime updates for Bus or Shuttle services. We will date back to pre-90s era in terms of Transport system usage.
Similarly, lot of fledgling companies are basing their ideas on location based services to launch modern and innovative products and services. Vetting for geospatial information which has no link to Country’s security will prohibit these new kinds of businesses. PM’s vision of StartupIndia & DigitalIndia can take a major hit with this clause.
Hence, rather than vetting for Geospatial data acquisition for whole of the country, the clause should be specific enough to identify area or zones which are linked to the security of the country and seek to vet for those only.
2. Clause 4 states that no person shall disseminate or allow visualization of any Geospatial information of India through any medium without seeking the permission for Security Vetting Authority.
Geospatial information and maps today are a consumer product. It is ubiquitous. It is used in multi fold way to make individuals informative, businesses effective and the Nation progressive as a whole. This clause is prohibitive for all these purposes.
As long the information disseminated is not affecting the security and sovereignty, vetting for the information is a narrow thinking approach. Likely as suggested for Clause 3.1, information that is falling in the secure or sensitive zones should only be vetted for rather the entirety of the Nation.
City information is highly dependent on Map and Geospatial information. A gross prohibition as suggested by this clause can take a toll of PM’s programme for Smart Cities and Digital India.
3. Clause 37 states that Government departments & PSUs will be outside the purview of this law.
This kind of law which applies to a part or section of Indian citizen is partial and biased. Chances of faltering on India’s security information disclosure is as much by the Government agencies as it is for individuals/private agencies. Everyone should be under the purview of this Law.
4. This Bill is in high contradiction to the Nation Geospatial Policy 2016 proposed by Department of Science & Technology.
I feel the proposed law is rather draconian, gross and drafted without considering the benefits the citizens of India are deriving out of existing geospatial information and related systems. For sake of security, this bill is curbing Public Information by regulation of collection, usage & dissemination of geospatial information. No law can deny Right to Information to its citizen.
I do not support this bill unless the above clauses is reviewed further and provisions are made to make availability of geospatial information more “Open and Free”.
Jai Hind !!
Visit savethemap.in to get details of the proposed Bill and form your own opinion.
Do send in your response to Ministry of Home Affairs with your comments by 2nd June 2016.