RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya has written to the Prime Minister expressing support for Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani’s statements on data localization. He has also renewed the demand for making foreign technology companies more accountable in India.
Ambani had on Thursday said at the launch of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit that there was a need for a movement against data colonisation, and called for migration of control and ownership of data to India.
A vocal supporter of data localisation or storing of data in severs physically present within the borders of the country where it was generated, Govindacharya had filed a petition against global companies like Google and Facebook in 2012 in the Delhi High Court over the issue.
In his letter to the Prime Minister dated 19 January, a copy of which has been reviewed by Business Standard, he has reiterated the demand for storing data locally and collecting taxes from Internet companies in accordance with Indian law.
“Foreign companies earn about Rs 20 lakh crore from their business of Indian data, on which Indian government gets negligible tax. These companies are making big money from the business and transfer of data of the huge Indian population, and the government’s silence on this is sad,” Govindacharya said in his letter.
Data localisation has become a thorny issue in the past year, with the government making a push for local data storage in several policies and proposed legislations.
Foreign Internet and digital companies have been lobbying through industry bodies for a reconsideration of data localisation provisions, while the Indian technology services industry has also made a strong pitch against mandating local data storage.
Opposition to data localisation, which has been proposed to be mandated by the Reserve Bank of India, and the draft data protection Bill, is likely to increase the costs and the burden of compliance on small and large firms. This could make them less competitive globally, several industry associations have argued.
On the other hand, the demand has found support from companies like Paytm, PhonePe and Reliance.
Enumerating a ten-point agenda, Govindacharya has also asked for legal recognition of the local entities set up by foreign Internet companies as permanent establishments, bringing them under income tax and GST regime in India, and investigation into American companies and Internet lobbies for trying to influence Indian politics and democracy.
He has also reiterated his demand for employing a grievance officer by foreign Internet companies in India and ensuring proper privacy and data protection regulations in place before the general elections to prevent misuse of Indian voters’ data.
The letter was marked to Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi, S Gurumurthy, part time director of Reserve Bank of India apart from Mukesh Ambani.