At a time when the Ministry of Home Affairs is taking flak for its controversial Geospatial Information Bill, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has quietly floated a policy paper that appears to be more liberal.

The DST published a draft of what it calls the ‘National Geospatial Policy, 2016’, on May 6. This was a day after the controversial draft for ‘The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016’ was uploaded online by the Home Ministry.

The two proposals are so contradictory it seems as if the Centre’s right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.

The Home Ministry’s Bill not only restricts the likes of Google from showing sensitive military bases and air strips on digital maps, but encompasses even individuals.

The fines range from ₹1 crore to ₹100 crore and a jail term of up to seven years for something as harmless as clicking a selfie or using a GPS-enabled health tracker.

More liberal

On the other hand, the DST’s National Geospatial Policy draft is more liberal.

“The wide availability of satellite data and digital forms of map information through networks has rendered the erstwhile policies of restricting map information to citizens obsolete in many countries,” states the draft.

The DST draft policy also denounces unnecessary restrictions and suggests that all geospatial data generating agencies should classify the geospatial data, products, solutions and services into different categories — restricted, unrestricted and open. The categories will be based on features and not on geographies. “The DST policy paper makes it extremely simple for a mapping company to know which areas to seek permission for. Currently, the only way they get to know if they’ve mapped a sensitive location is when they get a notice from the Home Ministry,” said an industry observer.

The DST paper also suggests that all clearances/permits for data acquisition and dissemination be through a single-window online portal and be provided within 30 days of filing the request. Otherwise, the clearance is deemed to have been issued.