There are a lot of concerns about the behaviour of big tech companies including American firms and India would like to protect its policy space and express its concern regarding these entities not willing to adhere to the law of the land, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Wednesday.
He said India is keen to expand in the digital space with the US, but "we would be conscious of our responsibility to the people of India for data privacy". He added that India is concerned about big corporations holding a lot of data of Indian citizens and that data often being used by those firms for cross businesses or across their different sectors.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has already put forth the first data privacy law which is in the public domain and is being debated in the parliamentary standing committee and many US companies have also made presentations before that panel, Goyal said.
"But at the same time, there are lot of concerns about the behaviour of big tech companies including American companies and India would like to protect its policy space and India would like to express its concerns about some of these big tech giants not willing to adhere to the law of the land and to the social fabric that we value very much in India," he said.
The minister was speaking at a US-India Business Council (USIBC) webinar. It would be important that organisations like USIBC play a responsible role in getting large American companies to respond to India and its laws "...because otherwise that could become an impediment to expand this partnership on the digital technology front," he added.
The remarks assume significance as MeitY has questioned Twitter's delay in taking action on its order to block provocative content that could impact public law and order, whereas the American company had been quick to crack down when a similar instance occurred at US Capitol Hill.
Amid a row with Twitter over blocking of accounts, India has also warned social media platforms of strict action for failure to crack down on inflammatory content, saying they have to fully comply with the country's law. Further, Goyal said the US has a lot to offer in terms of technology, finance and innovation, whereas India can provide a large market.
The government, he said, has to protect people in agriculture from import of low quality products, but at the same time the country cannot afford to increase prices to very exorbitant levels. Citing an example, he said, "While of course we would like to engage much more with the US on 5G, but because the competition is not there, if the 5G valuation or cost becomes exorbitant then India will not be in a position to accept those costs."
The US will have to be very sensitive to price points in India, which matter to an emerging economy, he added. Replying to a question about increasing collaboration in the healthcare sector, he said some US pharma companies are unhappy about India's desire not to allow evergreening of patents of pharma products.
The companies change a molecule a little bit and they call it a new innovation and seek a very high price for that, he said, adding it may be fine to do that in the US, where the per capita income is $50,000.
"We have a per capita income of under $2,000 and therefore our health cost to people have to be kept affordable. I do hope that American companies will recognise this reality, including your medical devices companies and rather than trying to push through small tinkering of technologies, which do not really impact the medical efficacy of treatment or cure but are more to keep the higher prices intact," he said.
Goyal added that "let us not make that a deal breaker in our engagement" because that has been the bone of contention for many years.
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