This refers to The Indian Express editorial dated March 17, 2016, under the heading ‘Here’s lookin’ at you’, inter alia suggesting that the minister is seeking power to restrict communications or to track them. While I fully respect your editorial independence, let me say this with conviction that the views expressed in this editorial are far from the approach of this government towards a free and fair Internet.
The Internet has given a voice to those who could not express themselves publicly till a few years ago. It has given strength to new views, ideas and opinions, which could not be shared earlier. Every ideology and belief has found its manifestation through the free channel of the Internet. This has added a new strength to our democracy. We are fully committed to the freedom of ideas, including those on social media, and fully respect the freedom of expression.
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Our government has promoted the use of the Internet and social media like no other government in the past had even thought about. Almost all ministers of this government are using Facebook and Twitter to reach out to the people directly, on a daily basis. Complaints of the citizens are received and attended to through the open social media platforms. Have we ever experienced this type of citizen-friendly governance ever in the past?
As regards the issue of Internet governance, let me assure you that this government has only made it more democratic to ensure that the sole representation of India in this matter is not merely the government but also the vibrant civil society, private sector and other stakeholders.
This multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance is a significant change from the stand of the previous governments which had advocated a multilateral approach, which meant that the government was the sole representative of the country in matters of the Internet.
If this government had any intention to control or suspend the means of communication, it would not have involved the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders in the governance of the Internet.
The world is looking towards India to take a lead in the governance of the Internet. The success of Indian information technology professionals around the globe, India’s fast-growing Internet user base — which has reached 400 million now — and the democracy of India are the prime reasons for this optimism and hope of the world in India. During the ICANN55 summit at Marrakesh, Morocco, where I represented India, the view of the government of India to democratise the internet by taking on board the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders was widely appreciated by most of the countries. Speaking at the summit, I said, “We hold firmly that internet is one of the finest creations of human mind and it should not become the monopoly of a few. We instinctively value internet to be open, plural and inclusive and access should be without discrimination. To ensure its stability, it must also be secure. Therefore, while fully endorsing the multi-stakeholder model, the issue of security should also remain in focus, where the government has a very important role to play, as safety and security remains the primary responsibility of the governments.”
The question of any restriction on communication or tracking or any deeper sense of control over the network is absolutely alien to our thinking. Yes, we do recognise that the Internet being one of the finest creations of the human mind should not be allowed to be abused by a few to foment terror and cause mayhem. Only to that extent governmental initiative, cooperation and sharing of ideas to prevent abuse by a few are important. We firmly believe that to enable the expression of ideas by all, it is important to be vigilant against abuse of ICT by a few.