Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Indian Space Association, ISpA on 11 October 2021 in New Delhi. In fact, Prime Minister Modi wants to make India the leader of the space sector in the world. This program has been started with the intention of realizing his vision.
The purpose of ISPA is to attract state-of-the-art technology and investment in the field of space, as well as to create the necessary policy framework for it. In the inaugural ceremony of the ISpA, the Prime Minister clarified that “In these 75 years of independence, India’s space sector has been dominated by the Government of India and government institutions.
Certainly the scientists of India have raised new flags of success in these decades, but today the need is that there should not be any restriction on talent. Whether that talent is from the public sector or the private sector. However, this is the most recent step taken by the Modi government in the direction of expanding the role of the private sector in the field of space. For a long time, the agenda of the present government has included the talk of pursuing liberal policies in the field of space. There are many valid and valid reasons behind this.
India’s space program is certainly one of the most successful and cost-effective in the world. However, despite this, India’s share in the global space economy is only 2 percent. There are two important reasons for this: In fact, there is a lack of laws made keeping in mind the field of space in India. Second, ISRO has effectively had a monopoly on all activities related to space.
At present, India’s activities in the field of space are governed by two national level policies and a handful of international treaties. The 2 national policies include the Satellite Communications Policy (SATCOM) and the Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP). SATCOM policy came out in 1997. This policy was made with the objective of developing the space sector and satellite communication industry in the country.
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In the year 2000, the Government of India had put forward many rules and regulations related to the implementation of the 1997 policy. The RSDP was introduced in 2001 and was amended by the Government of India in 2011. Clear guidelines have been given in the RSDP for the distribution of satellite remote sensing data within the country and among the states. It has been clearly stated in the policy that only the Government of India will have the right on all types of data received from Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS). The private sector can only obtain the relevant license through the nodal agency.
In fact, in our country until recently, space was seen as an international issue rather than a domestic issue. Therefore, the need for a law related to space at the internal level was not understood at all. Apart from this, the private sector has also recently started taking interest in India’s space sector. The intention of the private sector to invest and play a bigger role in the space sector has come to the fore for quite some time now.
Now the private sector has come to know about the commercial potential of space related activities. ISRO has also recently completed many daring and successful missions. These include Chandrayaan-2 of 2019 and Mangalyaan of 2014. These missions of ISRO have increased the interest of the private sector in the domestic space economy.
space activities bill
Since assuming power in 2014, the Modi government has started taking interest in efforts to reform the domestic space sector and increase the role of the private sector in it. In 2017, ISRO presented the draft of the Space Activities Bill. The purpose of the proposed bill was to promote the role of the private sector in India’s space sector and make necessary rules and regulations for them.
A basic legal framework has been laid out in the draft bill introduced in 2017. Under this, it has been said by the Government of India to set up a regulatory mechanism and to give it the necessary powers to make necessary rules and regulations and ensure their compliance. Not only this, details of persons and things coming under the purview of domestic space law have also been given in the bill.
Along with this, there has also been talk of formation of Space Activity Regulation Mechanism by the Government of India. The purpose of this arrangement is to create a “Space Activity Plan with established goals, tasks and principles”. Along with this, its main goal is also to meet the commercial and economic needs of the country by holistic development of the space sector and the ground part of space-related infrastructure and technology.
The most important part of this draft is related to the process of licensing and regulating commercial activities related to space to private entities. According to any international treaty signed by India, it has been said to issue such licenses. It also directed the Government of India to “provide approval for the conduct of commercial space activities in corporate or other organizational structures, or to undertake or conduct such activities, directly or through any agency, in the manner previously announced”.
This means that when this bill is passed, the private sector will get the right to launch rockets or conduct commercial space activities under government approval and surveillance. Provisions for a risk sharing mechanism have also been included in this draft. Through this, the Government of India will be able to determine the liability and responsibility of any licensee entity in case of any loss arising from space activities.
Since commercial activities related to space in nature are very risky and program requiring huge investment. In such a situation, a clearly prepared domestic space bill will prove to be effective in promoting investment in this industry. This is also the main goal of the draft bill.
Apart from this, this draft also fulfills India’s responsibilities and international commitments through the establishment of a domestic legal mechanism. As clarified by a cabinet minister in the Government of India, the bill is currently “under consideration” and is yet to be introduced in Parliament.
Certainly the thinking and intention behind the bill is commendable. However, some of its provisions may create some problems. A section of the draft bill states that “no suit, prosecution or any other statutory proceeding shall be instituted against the Central Government for carrying out any activity related to space in good faith and in good faith.” can.”
Actually this clause is against the basic principle of the Indian Constitution. In such a situation, questions arise only about its legality (judicial review). Apart from this, a very strict stand has been adopted regarding the regulatory provisions in the bill. Under these, many types of terms and conditions have been imposed on the parties concerned. Compulsory instructions have been given for them. Along with this, it has been said that a number of mandatory investigations should be done regarding the activities of the concerned parties.
Apart from this, huge arrangements have also been made regarding licensing. It is expected that in the near future, the government will put forward the final draft of this bill. If these provisions are not removed in the final draft, then only the basic purpose of this bill can be lost.
In 2020, ISRO has also put forward the National Space Transport Policy (NSTP). Under this, private enterprises are provided support, promotion and guidance through regulatory requirements. NSTP authorizes organizations associated with the private sector to establish and operate rocket launch sites in India and outside India. For this the private sector is flagged off by the Indian National Center for Space Promotion and Authorization (IN-SPACE). Further in this policy, ISRO has been entrusted with the responsibility of focusing on green space technology (such as green fuel and reusable rockets).
The promotion of private enterprises in the field of space is prominently included in the agenda of the Government of India. Therefore, through this policy, it has been assured that IN-SPACe will provide an equal opportunity to the private sector for its activities.
At present, the Government of India has started ventures like IN-SPACe and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) to complement the policies made keeping in view the space. IN-SPACe is an independent organization under the Department of Space, Government of India. Its sole purpose is to encourage, advance and provide necessary support to the private sector in view of the intricacies of the space economy.
IN-SPACe will act as the nodal authority in respect of any activity related to setting up of classrooms by any private institution in India or outside India as mentioned above. Apart from this, the same institution will also act as the nodal agency when the facilities under the jurisdiction of the Department of Space are being used by the Non-Government Private Enterprises (NGPE).
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NSIL on the other hand is a fully public sector company under the Government of India. It will work as the marketing arm of ISRO. The responsibility of marketing the technology developed by ISRO to private customers will be on his shoulders. Both these institutions will help non-government private enterprises to establish themselves in the space sector by providing infrastructure and technical know-how.
The agenda of the Modi government to open the space sector to the participation of the private sector in a big way has come to the fore at the opportune time. Merrill Lynch, a unit of Bank of America, estimates that the size of the space economy will be approximately 5 trillion US dollars by 2050. The benefits of opening up the space sector to private private enterprises can be clearly seen in the world.
Especially with the example of America leading the world in space technology, this thing becomes clear like a mirror. More recently, Elon Musk’s massive valuation of SpaceX (US$100 billion) makes this clear. According to Morgan Stanley estimates, the size of the global space industry currently stands at US$350 billion, which will grow to US$1 trillion by 2040.
Activities like exploration of small planets, earth observation, space tourism, satellite launch, deep space exploration and satellite internet will be the major drivers of this new economy related to space.
However, the steps taken by the Government of India in this direction so far have been positive. They have been highly appreciated by the private community. The Modi government has been continuously emphasizing on opening India’s space economy for commercial use under the supervision of the nodal authority. The formation of the ISpA is a living proof of this. Along with this, the involvement of domestic and international companies like Bharti Airtel, Larsen & Toubro, Nelco (Tata Group) with this exercise shows the intentions of the Modi government regarding the space sector.
India has affordable technology, a rapidly growing start-up culture, a vast population of youth and the necessary technical know-how and skills. Along with this, a strong organization like ISRO is also present in the country to lead the activities related to space. ISRO is also playing its role well. It is clear that India has all the potential and capability to become the leader of the global space economy. However, the Modi government will have to be very careful while framing the domestic space law as it has the potential to make or spoil India’s future.
Courtesy from orfonline.org/hindi/