India’s policy-shapers enjoy to talk huge on innovation. From constitutional office-bearers and bureaucrats to think-tankers of assorted political orientation, everybody has a bullish view. Conference keynotes raise buzzwords like ‘AI’, ‘ML’, ‘blockchain’ with foreseeable, nearly banal, consistency to reinforce the view that India is open to innovation and in lockstep with the bleeding edge of technology.
The reality from the entrepreneurial trenches does not square against the rhetoric. Innovators regularly face administrative headwinds ranging from procedural hoops and paperwork (for garden range tasks like raising capital) to flat out industry-wide shadow restrictions (note the now-estopped notification of the RBI foreclosing banking access to digital property intermediaries). This is, obviously, a familiar situation in the financial sector, where our regulators have constantly “crossed the river by feeling the stones”, as the Chinese idiom goes. Now, you may argue that offered how innovation because context intersects with financial stability, consumer savings and fiduciary dangers, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And while that argument is hardly a winner, it does have plausibility.It ought to dismay us, nevertheless, that the exact same heavy-handed mindset dominates in other industries with far lower regulatory sensitivities than finance. Think about the case of young IIT-Kharagpur alumnus S. Yuvarajaa, a citizen of Tamil Nadu, who developed an auto-filling mobile application to make the user experience of booking tickets on Indian Railway Catering and Tourist Corporation(IRCTC)’s website smoother. One might think Indian Trains would be on board with this development, particularly because the improved user experience on the margin most likely contributes to higher ticket throughput(and thus higher profits ). Nope, no such luck. The Railway Protection Force of the Southern Railway located Yuvarajaa and apprehended him.
Yuvarajaa should have been onto something since his app amassed 100,000 users in a short time. Ironically, a bare perusal of Section 143 of the Railways Act, under which Yuvarajaa has actually been charged, reveals that it has no applicability either to the end-use that his 2 Android apps–‘ SuperTatkal’and’SuperTatkal Pro’– facilitated, or to the designer, or the consumers utilizing it to make their life simpler while scheduling tickets.Section 143 lays down the charge for “unauthorised bring on of business of procuring and providing train tickets”
. Now, interpreted in its plain actual sense, as statutes are analyzed, the app-developer was not in business of obtaining and providing railway tickets. The users downloaded the application from Google Play Shop versus in-app payment and used the software to process their tatkal-related rules quicker. Yuvarajaa was, for that reason, simply selling software application that made the user journey smoother. The words,”unauthorised carrying on business of obtaining and providing tickets for travel “, on the other hand, recommends that it is directed at an individual in business of unauthori s ed dealing in railway tickets, that is, acquiring them(wholesale, almost speaking )and supplying them further downstream. The section is directed at preventingloutstaken part in unauthorised dealing of train tickets. An app-developer participated in business of offering B2C (business-to-consumer) software that auto-fills forms is not the item of the statute.The train officials also appeared to count on a claim that the application made it possible for the users to’ front-run’ other travellers that sought to book tickets through the typical IRCTC website, therefore rejecting the latter the chance to purchase the ticket. That once again seems a spurious idea.’Front-running’is just a problem if there is a fiduciary connection in between the party front-running and the celebration who is harmed owing to the front-running. The essential condition of trust-based nexus is missing out on in travelers trying to book at the same time from a number of various locations. They do not even understand of each others’existence, to state nothing of a trust-based connection between them. The application is available freely for everybody to download from Google Play Store. This isn’t the case of selective gain access to either. Innovation rhetoric and lived realities The unfortunate circumstance with the designer here brings into sharp relief the open divide between the rhetoric driving innovation in India and the lived realities thereof. It would be remiss if I ended this post on a cynical note.
, here’s a proposition to alleviate the
risks to innovators and developers designers bureaucratic administrative. The Ministry of Electronics and Details Technology(MeITY ), as the nodal ministry for digital innovation, might produce an office of development in coordination with other ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO ). Amongst other things, the Workplace of Development might license, after due security checks and audits,
applications that help with consumer interaction with federal government services consisting of Railways. Borrowing a regulatory innovation from the regulative sandbox context, the Workplace of Development may likewise provide”no-action letters”(NALs)that function as immunity shields in favour of these innovators against possible approximate actions, of the type we witnessed in Yuvarajaa’s case.The legal mechanics to set up such a general office of innovation and provide upon it the power to release NALs are simple; in addition, the office can draw upon personnel from the MeITY, other relevant ministries and private sector competence to assess applications for NALs. This restricted governance development would go a long way in bridging the yawning gap between the rhetoric
and truth of development in India. Mandar Kagade is an independent monetary public policy specialist. Views are individual. Sign up for our channels on YouTube & Telegram Why news media remains in crisis & How you can fix it India needs complimentary, reasonable, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it deals with multiple crises. The news media is in a crisis of its own. There have actually been harsh layoffs and pay-cuts. The very best of journalism is shrinking,
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