Want to see ‘Assembled in India’ on an iPhone: Ravi Shankar Prasad
"The biggest day for me will be to pick up an iPhone, designed by Apple in California, assembled in India."
What has been the response to the government’s move to cut taxes, especially on new manufacturing units?
Practically, we have redone the entire architecture of taxation law as far as manufacturing is concerned. Post early ’90s, this is probably the biggest reform initiated by any government.
We are already the second biggest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world. Now, even Apple is coming in a big way, Foxconn 2 and 3 are going to be established, initially in Sriperumbudur. Apple reportedly is going to open its biggest state-of-the-art shop in Mumbai, and Samsung is withdrawing from China.
The biggest day for me will be to pick up an Apple phone and read, designed by Apple in California, assembled in India, replacing China. I see that happening soon.
Samsung already has a very powerful presence in India. We have also already removed the open cell 5% customs duty. We had a meeting with all the top CEOs of the country and overseas. They had this teething trouble… this has been resolved.
Consumer electronics is also picking up fast. Some of the other companies who are very keen on India are Flextronics, TCL….
What does India offer vis-à-vis competing markets?
India has a stable government, pro-investment leader, good human resources, a proactive, pro- policy regime and obviously a big market.
What next? Does the government have any specific plans for pushing exports?
As of now this, corporate tax cut, in itself is massive. Mobile phones already are a success story. Components, consumer and medical electronics are going to be our next focus. Also, ITI has very large land banks which are lying idle. So, as the communications minister, I have asked them to work with those in electronics manufacturing. ITI can lease out huge land tracts.
Indian handset manufacturers have had a tough time of late and have been seeking government support…
We always stand by our Indian champions. Lava has done a good job, and we will stand with others as well. But they have to become professional and competitive.
The industry feels there are still disabilities vis-a-vis some markets like Vietnam.
We are exploring ways to address disabilities with Vietnam and China. We are looking for alternatives to M-Sips (Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme).
What is the status of the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill?
I am very keen to push India as a data refinery – 1.3 billion Indians are generating massive data. The architecture of our data privacy law will soon go to the cabinet.
How do you plan to tackle the issue of impersonal data?
I have set up a committee under S Gopalakrishnan (Kris). Personal data itself is going to become a very big proposition in the coming future. How many taxis are there in this country? All that is data. Thus, we need to understand that data privacy laws concern the individual and impersonal data is different from that, which can be properly commercially used, exploited and also developed into a big industrial proposition. Therefore, when I talk of data refinery, data processing, data cleaning, this is going to become a huge enterprise in coming years and I want India to become a huge centre in that.
But companies won’t give up data easily, owing to issues of privacy.
That is why the committee is in place. The last word on data is yet to be heard. Let the committee’s recommendation come. It might need some legislative intervention because data business is an evolving business.
Will there be any changes to the draft PDP Bill before it goes to the cabinet?
Some minor changes are possible. It will be consistent with the SC (Supreme Court) judgment on privacy and individual’s rights and address the larger issue of data security.
Will it take into account concerns of various MNCs on data localisation?
That we will consider, and why not. But as far as supersensitive or critical data is concerned, that has to be in India.
How hopeful is the government on its demand on traceability?
What I have been pushing for is being done by America, England, Australia and others. They are pushing for decryption. Now we have a global support on the matter, as far as law enforcement is concerned, you have to do decryption. I told Facebook’s Nick Clegg that I am accountable to my people as law minister and IT minister. They have to share (the origin of the message)… I am only saying in case of mob lynching, communalism, reckless violence, terrorism, you give all ring-fencing. But who is the originator, that they will have to tell. They told us about many of their plans but the issue of (tracing the) origin of the message is still not resolved.
Will the social intermediary guidelines come in the next six months?
WhatsApp has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the issue of traceability even before the guidelines are out. What is the government’s medium-term solution to deal with the challenge?
Social media has empowered the people of India. Expansion of social media in India is a welcome development. But if anyone uses social media to defame, to abuse, to promote terrorism, to compromise India’s security, it is surely a matter to be taken note of and requires intervention.
Have you received any response from the finance ministry on the relief measures for the telecom industry?
It’s a work in progress. Same with BSNL. I am very keen to revive it myself. We are working with the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) – that’s all I can tell you. For BSNL to survive and to do well, it has to come up with competitive plans. This kind of human resource load is not acceptable.
By when do you expect spectrum auctions to happen? Will they include 5G spectrum?
They can happen this fiscal. There is already a recommendation of Trai (telecom regulator). As far as the operators are concerned, they need to be professional, they need to be competitive. Same about BSNL.
Has the government taken any decision on Huawei?
No, not yet.