A new law on data protection is in the process of being framed, the government today informed the Rajya Sabha. Asserting that it is alive to the issue of cyber security, Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there was no proposal to make internet availability a fundamental right, but made it clear that the government is committed to providing easy access of internet to all.
Responding to supplementaries during Question Hour, he said a committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge Justice B N Srikrishna has been set up in this regard. A paper has been circulated and field hearings are going on, before the law is brought. “India is emerging as a big centre of data analysis. The government has set up a committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Srikrishna. “We are in the process of framing a data protection law. The paper has been circulated and field hearing is going on and very soon we come up with a data protection law,” he said while responding to concerns by a member on data protection.”
On whether internet availability is being made a fundamental right, the minister said “internet access is not negotiable”. He, however, clarified that there is no proposal to make internet availability a fundamental right but the government is committed to provide internet connectivity to citizens.
“A paper transaction declaring of fundamental right is one thing, while making it available without discrimination is the other,” he said. The minister said the government is working towards 100 per cent internet connectivity and “we are concouraging competition in the sector to ensure better services. … Our vision of digital India is inclusive digital development”.
He said in 2011, there was a plan to connect every village in the country to internet and optical cable fibre laying but it did not move. “When our government came to power in 2014, only 358 kms of optical cable network was laid, but in 3.5 years a total of 2.53 lakh kms of optical cable fibre has been laid. One lakh gram panchayats have been lit up. Of these, 57,000 have internet facilities.
“BPOs have been set up in 68 per cent of small towns like Muzaffarpur, Bareilly, Kanpur and Imphal,” he said. He said as per a TRAI report of June, India has over 431.21 million internet users and, with several million new internet users joining every month, this has resulted in more Indians going online and using the internet.
He said the Government’s ‘digital India’ programme envisions to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledgeable economy through broadband highways, universal access to mobile connectivity and public internet access programme that will address the issue of internet availability in the country.