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23th December 2023 (8 Topics)

Telecom law upgrades for a digital authoritarian state

Context:

The Telecom Bill 2023 extends the colonial architecture of regulation to digital authoritarianism, marking India’s transformation to a ‘rashtra’.

Political Maneuvering and Symbolism

  • Announcement Strategy: Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnav's strategic tweet announces the passage of the Telecom Bill, emphasizing the PM's vision.
  • Cultural Nativism: Deliberate use of "Bharat" and individual credit to the PM constructs a narrative of cultural nativism, diverting attention.
  • Concerns: Telecom Bill employs strategic political messaging, introduces nationalistic elements, and raises concerns about innovation and authoritarian control, signifying a shift away from democratic principles.

Implications of Telecom Bill 2023

  • Nationalistic Naming: Telecom Bill introduces "Digital Bharat Nidhi" and incorporates Indic influence, emphasizing a nationalistic approach.
  • Structural Concerns: Despite renaming, the Telecom Bill fails to address the deepening digital divide and challenges outlined in reports.
  • Innovation Impact: Provisions favoring "national champions" and market entry raise questions about the impact on private firms and user benefits.

Authoritarian Control in Telecom Act

  • State Dominance: The Telecom Bill maintains state control without altering the colonial architecture, cleverly rewording phrases for severity.
  • Vague Definitions: Definitional vagueness in terms like "telecommunication" expands government licensing powers, potentially impacting services like WhatsApp and Gmail.
  • Surveillance State: Insertions like the undefined "national security" and biometric identification requirements contribute to a growing surveillance state.
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