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Rahul hits out at Modi govt on net neutrality, Prasad returns fire

Accusing the government of trying to appease corporates by splintering the internet, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday asked the government to frame laws to ensure net neutrality

india Updated: Apr 22, 2015 22:59 IST
HT Correspondent & IANS
HT Correspondent & IANS
Hindustan Times
Rahul Gandhi,Rahul Gandhi on net neutrality,Rahul Gandhi in Lok Sabha

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi followed up his “suit boot ki sarkar” jibe against the NDA government with a jab on net neutrality on Wednesday, accusing it of trying to gift Internet space to corporate groups.

He told the Lok Sabha that the government’s moves to deny net neutrality would amount to gagging the youth — a remark viewed as a ploy to woo young Indians who have been increasingly critical of the grand old party on social media of late.

“I would request the government to please change the law or make a new law to ensure net neutrality.”

The government was quick to dispatch its riposte as parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the 44-year-old leader’s stand was aimed at political publicity while telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked him to do his homework properly.

Video: Minister says govt not under pressure from corporates

Prasad hit out at the previous UPA government for imposing curbs on Twitter in 2012 and for the 2G spectrum and coal scams. He said a decision on net neutrality would be taken after a committee set up by him submits its report next month.

A combative Gandhi continued his offensive outside Parliament as well, describing the Internet debate as a “trial balloon” floated by the government. “If the government had to protect net neutrality, why did it begin the consultation? We will oppose it tooth and nail.”

Column | It should always be ‘my way’ on the internet highway

“This government, which belongs to corporates and industrialists, is snatching land from farmers, labourers and tribals. But land is being snatched, so is the Internet. Youths will feel the impact of the denial of net neutrality. There will be curbs on their voice,” he said, reprising his anti-farmer attack on the government after returning from a 53-day leave from Parliament on Monday.

He also delivered a left-handed compliment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over US President Barack Obama’s laudatory article on him in a magazine. The Congress leader said such praise was last showered by an American President on Mikhail Gorbachev, the USSR premier before it disintegrated, because he “helped the US”.

Like the land acquisition bill, the Congress has sought to corner the Modi government on net neutrality after telecom regulator TRAI last month invited comments from users and companies on how over-the-top services should be regulated in the country. Net neutrality means firms that provide online services should treat all lawful Internet content in an unbiased manner.

Read:Rahul, Sonia Gandhi tear into Modi's land bill at farmers' rally

Read: Mark Zuckerberg to HT: Net neutrality and universal connectivity must co-exist

First Published: Apr 22, 2015 11:39 IST