Every leading semiconductor company interested in Indian opportunity: Rajeev Chandrasekhar, minister of state for electronics and IT

What has happened with the Rs 76,000-crore package is that it’s a signal to the world that India is very serious, he says

It is an ecosystem approach that talks about semiconductor design and innovation on one end and manufacturing on the other end.

The government recently announced a Rs 76,000-crore incentive scheme for the development of semiconductors and display manufacturing ecosystem. The idea is to attract global firms in the space to set up design and fabrication units in the country. Minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar spoke to FE’s Kiran Rathee regarding the policy and other schemes for the electronics sector. He also expressed his views on intermediary guidelines and the data protection Bill. Excerpts:

How will the Rs 76,000-crore semiconductor policy change the ecosystem of electronics manufacturing in India?

India has for many years thought of semiconductors, but was never been able to do it. What has happened with the Rs 76,000-crore package is that it’s a signal to the world that India is very serious. It is an ecosystem approach that talks about semiconductor design and innovation on one end and manufacturing on the other end.

Which semiconductor companies are being targeted by the government to set up their plants in India?

In terms of the companies that are interested, I can assure you and I say this with all responsibility, every leading global semiconductor company is deeply interested in observing and studying the India opportunity. They believe it is the right time for India.

The industry has been demanding higher incentives for IT hardware PLI. Will the government consider the requests?

The IT hardware PLI was launched the middle of [the pandemic], so it suffered from the fact that it was launched at the time which was not the most opportune time. We want to make IT hardware as successful as the mobile device sector. This is our commitment, vision and goal. For that, there are a number of measures we are taking and we will continue to take, including constantly reviewing the performance of PLIs, the performance of those who are availing PLIs. We will do whatever is necessary to make India a destination for IT hardware in the coming years.

There have been demands for a one year-extension of IT hardware PLI scheme. What is the update on that?

We will examine all these requests positively in a very concerted partnership manner. We are very open, we want to partner, we want all of these companies to be successful.

The handset industry has been seeking import duty cuts on certain products like PCBA and chargers. Will the government consider these demands?

Yes, it is clear and obvious that there are some elements of a structure which create some disadvantages vis-à-vis competing with nations like Vietnam, Thailand and China. To make sure that manufacturing is competitive, we have engaged with the industry on duty structures, duty issues and duty aberration and we have made our recommendations to the ministry of finance.

The joint Parliamentary Committee has tabled its report on the data protection Bill. What are your views on that?

I will not comment on the data protection Bill because it is still not being transmitted by the Parliament to us. All I can say is that our approach to data protection is that while we protect the rights of the Indian citizen, we want to do so without creating any major disruption or increasing the cost of compliance or reducing the ease of doing business for investors and businesses and start-ups. We think ease of doing business and ease of living, that is citizen rights and the businesses ability to invest and grow and do business in India, must be both addressed and equally met.

The intermediary guidelines are in place. Have all the companies complied, primarily regarding the first originator of messages?

All companies have complied with intermediary guidelines. If you don’t comply, Rule 4 kicks in and you lose safe harbour provisions and become non-intermediary. On the limited point of first originator, WhatsApp has gone to court and the Government of India has responded very clearly that there is no intention or no risk of violating anybody’s privacy, by a court of law or an appropriate legal authority, insisting on a first originator of content that is illegal.

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