The Indian government appears to be on course to release the governmentâ€™s e-commerce policy and the next version of the industrial policy before the financial year closes on March 31, 2020. This has been disclosed by the Secretary of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal trade (DPIIT), Guruprasad Mohapatra.
Top officials at the DPIIT has been holding extensive consultations with the different stakeholders before giving the final touches to the draft ecommerce policy. A draft policy has been in circulation since February 2019 and the department has been receiving a large volume of reactions to that draft. The meetings with the major and minor ecommerce players and other stakeholders have also thrown up many sticking points and new suggestions. All these will have to be studied and given their due consideration before the policy can be put up to the cabinet for its approval.
The key issue relates to the collection and storage of data by the foreign entities running their ecommerce business here. The government had taken a stand very early on that it wants the critical data of Indian citizens collected online must be stored within the country and not on servers overseas. Companies like Amazon and Walmart have not been very comfortable with this stipulation and have been making representations on this.
The Indian government has looked at the issue from a couple of perspectives. One is that for many of these ecommerce operators, India is a crucial market due to the sheer numbers it brings to the table. By insisting on the data being stored in India, these companies will setup large data warehousing facilities which will result in more investments and more employment. The other is obviously the security aspect and any deviation etc. can be probed and the data servers accessed by the Indian agencies. The DPIIT is also aware that there are some provisions in the draft ecommerce policy that will overlap the Personal Data Protection Bill. That bill has since been approved by the cabinet and will become law when the Parliament convenes for the Budget session next.
Meanwhile the DPIIT is working on the new industrial policy as well. This will be the third time the Indian government will be issuing out a comprehensive policy on the industrial investment, promotion of industries in specific areas etc. 1956 and 1991 were the years when the industrial policy was announced by the GOI. It should address the gross under-employment issue and foreign direct investment, particularly in manufacturing.