All eyes on India’s war with Twitter as new minister for Information Tech takes charge

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Ashwini Vaishnaw takes charge as the Union Minister for Railways, in New Delhi Thursday. (ANI Photo)

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the first time Minister has an MBA from Wharton School, Pennysylvania University, and MTech from IIT Kanpur

Our Bureau
New Delhi  

The law of the land should be abided by everyone, said new Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Thursday while commenting on the Centre’s stand-off with Twitter. Vaishnaw, who took oath as Union Minister on Wednesday, took charge as the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology as well as the Railway Minister earlier this morning. “I want to thank PM Modi for giving me the opportunity to serve the country. I will do my best.”

“The law of the land should be abided by everyone,” he said.

For the past several months, Twitter has been involved in a stand-off with the Indian government over the new amendments in the country’s new Information Technology laws with the micro-blogging platform losing its intermediary status and becoming liable for user-generated content.

Earlier in an affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court, the Central government informed that Twitter Inc has failed to fully comply with the IT Rules 2021 in spite of the three months time granted to all Significant Social Media Intermediaries (SSMIs). The deadline for complying with the new rules was May 26, 2021.

The Government of India has approached the Supreme Court seeking transfer of all petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021 from various High Courts to the top court.

India’s recently enforced law, Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021, came to regulate the functioning of online media portals and publishers, social media companies like Facebook, Twitter – rendering their services as ‘intermediaries’ – and as well as over-the-top (OTT platforms).

According to amended IT rules, social media and streaming companies will be required to take down contentious content quicker and appoint grievance redressal officers based in the country to deal with online content flagged by authorities and courts and assist in investigations.

After taking charge, the new Minister said that Railways is a major part of PM Modi’s vision and he would work to make the vision a reality. “His (PM Modi’s) vision for railways is to transform the lives of the people, that everyone – common man, farmers, the poor – gets the benefit of the railway. I will work for that vision,” said Vaishnaw.

A former IAS officer, Vaishnaw has been appointed the Minister of Railways, Minister of Communications, and Minister of Electronics and Information Technology.

The Railway Minister was earlier under Union Minister Piyush Goyal who has been given charge of the Ministries of Commerce and Industry; Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution; and Textiles.

The first time Minister has an MBA from Wharton School, Pennysylvania University, and MTech from IIT Kanpur.

With the change of leadership at the electronics, IT and communications ministries, industry players have expressed hope that the new team will look at improving the health of the telecom sector and boosting the electronics manufacturing ecosystem.

Vaishnaw, who also holds the communications portfolio, has his plate full with the impending 5G rollout, where India lags the global markets, as well as other focus areas like improving the financial health of the sector and providing high-speed broadband connectivity across all villages, as promised by the Prime Minister.

“As the industry readies to usher 5G and catalyse the digital economy, we look forward to working with the new leadership to improve the financial health of the sector and seek their crucial support for building the right infrastructure to revolutionize the sector,” telecom industry body COAI director general S P Kochhar said.

Vaishnaw’s predecessor Ravi Shankar Prasad took the lead in implementation of the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme which attracted participation from global majors like Samsung, Apple’s vendor Foxconn and Wistron, among others.

This is the first time all the ministers in the ministries of electronics and IT, and communications hold technical qualifications. His colleague, minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar is an electrical engineering graduate from Manipal Institute of Technology. He completed Master’s in Computer Science in 1986 from the Illinois Institute of Chicago.

Chandrasekhar has actively participated in issues around communications, data protection and net neutrality as a Member of Parliament. Minister of state for communications Devusinh Jesingbhai Chauhan has a diploma in electrical engineering from a government polytechnic in Gujarat.

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