National

Geospatial Bill to be toned down

Days after the Union Home Ministry publicised a draft geospatial Bill warning of fines of up to Rs. 100 crore and seven years of imprisonment, other sections of the government are looking to tone down its stringency. The Bill in its current form is likely to be scrapped.

The fine will likely be capped at a “crore or two” and specific to companies that “wrongly depict borders,” a senior official in the Department of Science and Technology told The Hindu. The DST was among several government agencies that were involved with the Bill.

The existing version of the draft Geospatial Information Regulation (GI) Bill will be “significantly changed” as it “goes against the spirit” of the National Geospatial Policy (NGP), 2016, spearheaded by the DST. It will be at least two years before it could become law, the official added.

Feedback sought

The NGP, which was uploaded on the website of the Science Ministry on Tuesday and is open for comments, in tone and tenor, is tamer than the GI Bill. It notes that “…Access to GDPSS (should) be easy, timely, user-friendly and web/mobile platforms-based without any process of registration/authorization.”

GDPSS refers to Geospatial Data, Products, Services and Solutions. “…Geospatial data of any resolution being disseminated through agencies and service providers, both internationally and nationally be treated as unclassified and made available and accessible by Indian Mapping and imaging agencies,” the policy note adds.

The Home Ministry confirmed that it had received inputs from the Science Ministry but did not comment on the future course of action.

The Bill that appears on the Home Ministry website notes that it is open to comment. Ministry officials said the Bill has been on the anvil since 2012 but the January terror attack in Pathankot, where terrorists infiltrated an airbase and relied on information from Google Maps, prompted the department to act on tightening policy on making geospatial maps.

Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST, did not comment on the GI Bill but said his department had consulted the Home Ministry. “I was under the impression the [GI] Bill was to be removed from the site [Home Ministry],” he told T he Hindu.

Map-makers worried

Another official from the Earth Sciences Ministry said they were “deluged” by concerns from the local and international geospatial industry. “Map-makers and geospatial industry have been writing to us worried by the provisions…we have to allay concerns,” he added.

Firms in the geospatial industry said the DST policy does not allay their fears. “The government needs to clarify its stand. The policy will in no way dilute our concerns about the Bill, which is stringent,” said Rahul H. S., chief operating officer, Latlong, a Bangalore-based firm that makes map software.

( With inputs from

Adhitya Bharadwaj)

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:37:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/geospatial-bill-to-be-toned-down/article8592002.ece

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