The Modi 3.0 government will push ahead with its tech-driven agenda while cementing India’s position as a global leader in semi-conductor and electronics manufacturing, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister in charge of electronics and IT (MeitY), railways, and information and broadcasting (I&B), said on Tuesday. The focus will remain on making India a tech and digital hub, he said.

The 53-year-old Rajya Sabha MP assumed office on Tuesday morning, before heading to Bhubaneswar for the swearing-in of the new BJP government of Odisha.

Regaining two pivotal portfolios — Railways and MeitY — alongside taking helm of the crucial I&B ministry, the former tech-savvy bureaucrat-turned-politician appears to have earned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unwavering confidence in him.

Taking charge of MeitY, Vaishnaw said efforts would be made towards “empowering the common man” and bringing transformative changes through Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, and other enabling programmes initiated over the last 10 years.

During his previous tenure, the ministry spearheaded initiatives in electronics and semiconductor manufacturing, data privacy, internet regulations, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. A continuation of these policies is anticipated in his fresh innings.

Tech task at hand

Despite the passage of the Digital Private Data Protection Act in 2023 under Vaishnaw’s stewardship, the law still remains on paper.

MeitY is tasked with promulgating guidelines for industry stakeholders and data fiduciaries for the implementation of this legislation geared towards protection of data and privacy rights.

Foremost among the ministry’s priorities is the formulation and notification of regulatory frameworks through consultation processes. The groundwork for drafting the regulations has already been laid.

The Act also entails setting up a data protection board — an adjudicatory body to deal with privacy-related grievances and disputes. The Centre will appoint the board members.

Efforts to regulate and legislate for AI are poised to gain momentum. Vaishnaw’s proactive stance in the past foretells an imminent resumption of these efforts.

India recently began work on a regulatory framework to address the range of issues that have arisen with the growth of AI technology. An advisory urged tech companies to obtain “explicit permission” before deploying under-tested or unreliable AI models.

In the area of semiconductor manufacturing, MeitY is expected promote local value addition in electronics manufacturing to ensure self-reliance.

An agenda for Railways

Vaishnaw, as the 39th Rail Minister, was instrumental in introducing Vande Bharat high-speed trains — the first such end-to-end indigenous offering after Shatabdi.

In his second stint as Rail Minister, his focus would be on introducing sleeper Vande Bharat trains and Vande Metro (for intra-city travel), apart from adding more. Vande Bharat trains. He is also spearheading India’s first bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad; the first phase is expected to be commissioned in 2026. Talks are underway with Japanese companies for supply of high-speed trains, apart from orders placed with ICF Chennai for trial trains.

Towards improving the safety and punctuality of Indian Railways, a host of passenger-friendly initiatives are expected to be rolled out in the coming days. The most ambitious of these would be the promise of “no waiting list” (everyone gets a confirmed ticket on an Indian train).