( Business Standard Tuesday, December 21, 1999)
Information technology and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan yesterday ruled out the passage of the information technology Bill in the current session of Parliament saying it was likely to be referred to a committee.
"The IT Bill is likely to be referred to a select committee or a joint parliamentary committee or a standing committee as decided by Parliament and everybody is open to send in suggestions on the Bill," Mahajan said while speaking at a summit organised by the Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry on India in the Knowledge Millennium.
Exhorting people to treat the Bill as a "draft Bill", Mahajan said organisations like Assocham and the Confederation of Indian Industry should set up committees to study the IT Bill thoroughly to suggest amendments, if any, before it was enacted.
"After it becomes a law, don't blame the government," he said, adding that one of the important aspects the industry should look into was ways to propogate applied IT. "Before January 26 all decisions related to my ministry (in the IT Bill) will be taken," he said.
"At the government level, we would like Indian languages to be used (in computer software) so that people in rural areas too can benefit. Do not go by the global language (English) for a global market...India is a globe by itself," Mahajan said, adding, "we have to take the new revolution to those people who don't understand English."
Dispelling industry fears, the IT minister said the newly-created ministry of IT would play the role of a facilitator and not a regulator.
"It is not my concept that my ministry acts as a regulator. We are simply facilitators. Please be assured that you can come to my ministry with any problem related to the (IT) industry as we are here to solve problems," Mahajan said.
He also cited the example of the venture capital fund of Rs 100 crore which the government has set up to fund new ideas and companies in the world of IT.
He also said his ministry was aiming at becoming a paperless ministry---a concept which was likely to be extended to other ministries too after the IT-related Act was passed by Parliament.
Earlier in the day, speaking during another session, WorldTel chief Sam Pitroda came down heavily on the government for lacking "vision" while framing the IT Bill.
It would be of no use if there were too many rules and regulations, Pitroda said, adding, "India required a vision and not plethora of rules." Pointing out that when he helped the South African government come up with an IT policy which just had five items, Pitroda said, "here we have 189 items (in the IT Bill). In such a document you cannot come up with policy statements. I don't think we have come up with an IT vision".
On the role of telecom regulatory authority of India (Trai), Pitroda said the government monopoly, department of telecommunications (DoT) should cooperate in deregulation.
Commenting on the developments in the telecom sector and information technology areas in India, Pitroda said each and every Indian, including politicians and individuals, would have to change the mindset to catch up to the rest of the world.