Policy


The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill

Jun 2016 | No Comment
Some observations

National development missions would directly suffer setback

Dr Mahavir

Professor of Planning and Editor, SPACE Journal, School of Planning and Architecture, (An Institution of National Importance under an Act of Parliament), New Delhi, India

This is with reference to the draft “The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016”, posted on the link http:// mha.nic.in/sites/upload_files/mha/ files/GeospatialBill_05052016_eve. pdf (posted on 04th May, 2016).

I wish to offer the following comments/ suggestions:

1. The security, sovereignty and integrity of India is paramount and any measures to ensure the same is a welcome movement. The effort of the Government in bringing this bill to regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of such geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security concerns of the country deserves applaud.

2. The fact that the proposed bill has (perhaps drafted by and) been put up on the site of the Ministry of Home Affairs and not by the other related ministry like the Ministry of Earth Sciences or ISRO, conveys the seriousness of the bill as far as the security issues of the country are concerned.

3. The draft bill, when enacted, will also ensure the correctness in depiction of National boundaries and its constituents, particularly in the light of some attempts by the international community to omit areas, which are part of the sovereign Indian republic.

4. On a more practical side, the proposed bill raises serious doubts on its utility and that of the use of geospatial information at all, for mundane in house and academic uses.

5. Virtually, all teaching at all levels – be it a primary school where a teacher uses a map to familiarize the students with states of India, or a high school where a teacher might develop a case for relating NaREGA with food production or agriculturally deficit regions, to a technical university where researchers might like to simulate models for the impact of climate change on the future urbanization pattern in India, will come to a halt, as most of these do not require high precision and high quality data but it will still be covered under the geospatial information regulation. Surprisingly, even a tourism picture obtained through a commonly used digital camera and tagged to a location would also fall in the ‘geospatial information’ and thus subject to the provisions of the bill.

6. On a higher technology side, most National development missions would directly suffer setback. As a part of e-governance initiatives, the interface with the citizen and the planning and implementation agencies is now largely based on geospatial information, though may not be of high accuracy. The people friendly and temper proof interfaces in the form of Bhoomi (a project of on-line delivery and management of land records) in Karnataka or similar provisions of e-registration of properties would have to take a back seat, being highly dependent on geospatial information.

7. The proposed bill is going to hugely and negatively affect other mega initiatives of the Government, apart from simple day-today web-based or mobile phone based applications. The success of Smart City and the AMRUT missions, for example, are almost fully dependent on the free and wide availability of the geospatial information. Master Plans and related functional plans for infrastructure etc., being highly dependent on accurate geospatial information would almost become impossible to conceive. The dream of smart provisions of utilities and infrastructure at a 24×7 scale is bound to fail with the restrictions proposed. Even the CCTV cameras installed ubiquitously for ensuring the security in urban areas and important installations, would also get covered under the geospatial information, and thus their providers and users liable to be punished.

8. Apart from the ‘illegality’ of possessing the geospatial data, there is the cost issue. With all persons, companies, firms, trusts, associations of persons or body of individuals and agencies made to seek and obtain ‘license’ for using geospatial information is bound to increase the costs of providing various services like GPS enabled vehicles, real time monitoring of movement of public transport, guidance on the availability of nearest ATM… The list is huge and so are the losses. The processes of obtaining the ‘licenses’ could also lead to project delays.

9. One could argue that the ‘legal’ geospatial information is and would be made available on the Bhuvan portal. Whether or not this information would be for free and freely available is not clear. Whether or not the information would be downloadable is not clear. And with a sudden expected exponential increase in Bhuvan users, the speed of the portal would also pose a challenge. Whether or not all geospatial information users and applications require the geometric accuracy levels of Bhuvan also needs investigation.

10. The provisions for persons (in all of its encompassing meanings) already in possession of geospatial information do not make much sense as the information may have been stored on a Smart phone unintentionally or unknowingly, it may have been stored on cloud, or may be temporarily downloaded from popular sources like google and subsequently deleted. Such geospatial information is freely available, in any case, outside the country.

The proposed draft “The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016”, therefore, may be dropped in its present form and a thorough national debate be convened to thrash out the various that I have listed, besides other issues that others may have raised.

The views/ comments and suggestions presented here are in my personal capacity and not necessarily refiect that of the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

Such license RAJ will only promote corruption

N K Agrawal

Former Director. Indian Institute of Surveying and Mapping, Survey of India, Hyderabad

1. According to Chapter 2, Para 3.1, Any data acquired by any means is illegal without a license. This means that all data acquired even by GPS, total stations, theodolite, chains or tapes is illegal without a license. All mapping and surveying activities and hence development will stop.

2. According to Para 3.2 data acquired previous to this act coming in to force is also illegal without a license meaning all surveys, maps, data acquired or owned by any agency, company or individual will be illegal unless they obtain a license. This is grossly unfair.

3. We are introducing a license permit RAJ even for any individual or company. This is bad and may stop all development as government agencies alone will not be able to do all jobs pertaining to surveying and mapping activities. We are unnecessarily creating hurdles in working of people engaged in these activities. This goes against SABKA SATH SABKA VIKAS.

4. We can understand if this policy is made applicable to only external boundaries of India, say up to 20 t0 50 km from external boundaries. Policy being made applicable to all India is draconian and against individual freedom and development

5. This type of license RAJ will only promote corruption and result in scams including crowding of cases in courts.

MHA open to reviewing of draft Geospatial Bill

Three days after the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 was uploaded on the Home Ministry’s website seeking comments from the public, the government on Monday indicated that it was open to review its contents and consider all suggestions that are to come in the next one month. Uttarakhand DGP M.A. Ganapathy who was one of the officials to draft the Bill during his stint in the MHA, told The Hindu, “instead of getting hysterical, people should send valid and sane suggestions to oppose the draft Bill. This is at a draft stage and the idea was to invite comments.”

Another official involved in drafting the Bill said, “this Bill has been in the works since 2012. A committee of secretaries (CoS) had submitted a report calling for an regulatory body to monitor the Internet giants like Google and Microsoft. How else do you regulate them, by begging?”

The official added that the investigations in the Pathankot airbase attack revealed that the terrorists who got into the airbase had precise information about its topography. “The Pathankot airbase and other strategic locations are easily available on Google maps and it has become easier for terrorists to plan an attack. When Pathankot happened, we decided that this was the time to revisit the Bill,” said the official.

According to the draft Bill, it will be mandatory to take permission from a government authority before acquiring, disseminating, publishing or distributing any geospatial information of India.

“No person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form.

“Whoever acquired any geospatial information of India in contravention of the law shall be punished with a fine ranging from Rs 1 crore to Rs 100 crore and/ or imprisonment for a period upto seven years,” according to the draft bill.

The government also proposed to set up a Security Vetting Authority to carry out security vetting of the Geospatial Information of India in a time bound manner and as per the regulations framed by an apex committee.

However, there have been criticism from various quarters saying the provisions of the draft bill are stringent and may violate privacy of individuals.

The Home Ministry official discounted the apprehensions saying except authorised agencies, that too after due permission, no one can invade anyone’s privacy.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ map-issue-govt-ready-for-review-ofgeospatial- bill/article8576356.ece

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