What exactly would Modi sarkar's new 'communications ministry' do?

There is a clear case of overlapping between its functional areas with the electronics and information technology ministry.

 |  5-minute read |   06-07-2016
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The much talked about second Cabinet reshuffle and expansion of the Narendra Modi government is over. And it has thrown around some rather curious talking points.

One of them is about the introduction of an interesting innovation: the ministry of communications.

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The routine practise so far has been about clubbing together these two elements of the communication ecology - telecommunication and information technology - in a single ministry.

Dr Manmohan Singh had his "communications and information technology minister" in the government that was followed by Narendra Modi who appointed Ravi Shankar Prasad as the communications and information technology minister when he formed the government in May 2014.

That is not the case anymore.

ravi-shankar-prasad-_070616113239.jpg Ravi Shankar Prasad is now the electronics and information technology minister and will also handle law and justice. (PTI)

Manoj Sinha, who was a junior railways minister so far, has been promoted as the minister of state (independent charge), communications, in addition to his old portfolio, which is, MoS railways.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was the communications and information technology minister so far, is now the electronics and information technology minister along with the additional charge of the ministry of law and justice.

The economically vital sectors of any country in the modern times - telecommunication and information technology - fell under his purview.

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Now that there is a separate ministry of communications, the pressing question is - what would this ministry look after?

Has telecom been removed from the ambit of the electronics and information technology ministry and put under the communications ministry?

Or, would this independent entity - named as the communications ministry - have some other sectors to cover? If so, what would be those sectors?

A Google search on the definition of Communications says: "means of sending or receiving information, such as telephone lines or computers".

Furthermore, Wikipedia writes about the information and communications technologies (ICT): "Information and communications technology (ICT) is an extended term for information technology (IT) which stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals), computers as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage, and audio-visual systems, which enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information."

manoj-sinha-s_650_05_070616113255.jpg Manoj Sinha is now minister of state (independent charge), communications and is MoS railways. (PTI)

It means the communications ministry should cover the telecommunication sector as well as the computing technologies, that is, internet (means of sending or receiving information).

At least that should be the case - going by the available definitions in the related literature.

But then what Ravi Shankar Prasad would do with his electronics and information technology ministry?

Google search about the term "information technology" returns with the following definition: "The study or use of systems (especially computers and telecommunications) for storing, retrieving, and sending information."

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While it defines "electronics" as "the branch of physics and technology concerned with the design of circuits using transistors and microchips, and with the behaviour and movement of electrons in a semiconductor, conductor, vacuum, or gas".

In a simple language, the ministry of electronics and information technology also concerns with the telecommunication sector and the computing technologies. It would create problems if the roles are not properly demarcated and defined.

Also, the government of India web directory page on the ministry of communications and information technology shows that the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Department of Posts together form the Ministry.

goi_070616112812.jpgGOI web directory.

So, there is a clear case of overlapping between the functional areas of the communications ministry and the electronics and information technology ministry. And this functional overlapping has been the reason behind clubbing all the communication technologies together in a ministry.

In a communications ecology increasingly dominated by smartphones along with the growing penetration of information technology in everyday life, that is again driven by telecom revolution in India, DeitY and DoT must coordinate and act together to ensure an efficient monitoring environment. Almost all the major telecom firms are also big internet service providers.

How would they feel if they are regulated by two separate ministries now - in case DoT is given under the ministry of communications while DeitY remains under the ministry of electronics and information technology?

In simple terms, there would be two ministries to approach - one ministry for the telecommunication related practises - and the other ministry for data issues.

But if the government is not going to put DeitY and DoT under two ministries, then what else option is left there?

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Department of Post?

But then a nomenclature like the ministry of communications would just seem so inappropriate with just the Department of Post to control.

Or, would DeitY and DoT both be put together under the ministry of communications while the Department of Post would stay back with the ministry of electronics and information technology?

But then can a functional purview of only the Department of Post justify the nomenclature of the ministry of electronics and information technology?

A separate ministry of communications sounds good but the government needs to answer these questions first.

Obviously, the government would have thought on this line. Let's see the blueprint it comes out with.


Santosh Chaubey Santosh Chaubey @santoshchaubeyy

The writer is a journalist working with India Today TV.

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