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TAMING THE DRAGON

TAMING THE DRAGON
July 02
13:05 2020

India bans 59 Chinese Apps, Cancels major Infrastructure project

New Delhi & Patna:  India has banned 59 Apps with Chinese links, including hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, saying they were prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity and security of the country. The ban (as of 29 June), which comes in the backdrop of current standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh with Chinese troops, is also applicable for WeChat and Bigo Live.

The list of apps that have been banned also includes Helo, Likee, CamScanner, Vigo Video, Mi Video Call Xiaomi, Clash of Kings as well as e-commerce platforms Club Factory and Shein.

This marks the largest sweep against the Chinese technology companies. The Information Technology Ministry in a statement said it has received many complaints from various sources, including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India”. 

“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement said.

A formal order asking phone companies to block the applications is being issued. TikTok (which has over 200 million users in India), Likee and Vigo Video are popular short video creation platforms, while Club Factory and Shein are e-commerce platforms that were looking at expanding their presence to compete with larger rivals like Myntra.

WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging and social media app that rivals WhatsApp. CamScanner is a popular app that allows users to scan images and share them. SHAREit app allows users to share files between devices, while Helo – a social media platform – is owned by ByteDance, the parent firm of TikTok.

Alibaba’s UC Browser is a mobile Internet browser that has been available in India since 2009. It claimed to have registered 1.1 billion user downloads worldwide (excluding China) in September 2019, with half of its global installs from India. It also claimed to have 130 million monthly active users in the country at that time.

The government has also banned a clutch of apps of Chinese handset maker Xiaomi, including Mi Community and Mi Video Call. Xiaomi is India’s largest handset brand. The IT Ministry said it has invoked its power under section 69A of the IT Act and rules, and has decided to block 59 apps in view of information available that they are “engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order”.

The move will “safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace”, it added.

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs, has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps, the statement said, adding that there has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as the privacy of citizens.

Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside Parliament. “On the basis of these and upon receiving recent credible inputs that such apps pose threat to sovereignty and integrity of India, the Government of India has decided to disallow the usage of certain apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet enabled devices,” it added.

Comments from these companies could not be immediately obtained.

“There have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians. It has been noted recently that such concerns also pose a threat to sovereignty and security of our country,” the statement said.

Over 2015-19, Chinese investors including Alibaba, Tencent, TR Capital and Hillhouse Capital, have invested over USD 5.5 billion in Indian start-ups, according to Venture Intelligence that tracks private equity, venture capital, M&A transactions and valuations, in India.

Center cancels Bihar’s mega bridge project

The Center has cancelled the tender of a mega bridge project over the Ganga in Bihar as Chinese companies are involved in it, officials stated. “Two of the four contractors selected for the project were Chinese and the tender was cancelled because of their involvement in it,” a top Bihar government official said. The capital cost of the entire project, including a 5.6-km-long bridge, other minor bridges, underpasses and a rail overbridged, was estimated at over Rs 2,900 crore.

The decision to cancel the project came in the backdrop of the killing of 20 Indian soldiers in a clash with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15. The skirmish at the border with China has led to a widespread call for a boycott of Chinese products and business entities.

The project was cleared by the Union government’s cabinet committee on economic affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on December 16, 2019. The proposed bridge was to be built parallel to the Mahatma Gandhi Setu across the Ganga River and it would have helped the people of Patna, Saran and Vaishali districts, officials said.

Besides the main bridge, the project included four vehicular underpasses, a rail over bridge, a 1.58-km-long viaduct, a flyover, four minor bridges, five bus shelters and 13 road junctions, they added. The construction period for the project was three-and-a-half years and it was supposed to be completed by January 2023. PTI

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