The net neutrality debate is a ‘trial balloon’ floated by the government to hand over internet space to corporates, Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday charged, vowing to oppose it tooth and nail.
"I want to ask a question. If you (the government) have to protect net neutrality, why did you begin the consultation process? It was a trial balloon. First shoot the trial balloon, see the reaction and if the reaction is strong then do not proceed. That is why we are opposing it tooth and nail so that they withdraw," he told media persons outside Parliament.
Earlier, he had raised the issue during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, accusing the Narendra Modi regime of trying to give away Internet space to some corporate groups, a charge vehemently denied by the government.
He demanded that either the existing laws be amended or a new law be brought.
Talking to reporters outside Parliament, Gandhi linked the issue of net neutrality with the National Democratic Alliance’s land acquisition law alleging that after land, the government is now trying to hand over the internet to the industrialists at the cost of youths.
"This government, which belongs to the corporates and the industrialists is snatching land from farmers, labourers and tribals. I am fighting for that. The Congress is fighting for that. I had thought that since the Internet users, the youths had supported Modiji, he will protect their internet (rights).
"But what is happening is that as land is being snatched, so is the internet. The internet is also being snatched...the idea behind this is hand over the net space to corporates and companies, distribute it among them," he said.
In an effort to reach out to youths, Gandhi said, "Youths will feel its impact. Youths will stand to lose. There will be a blow to the voice that they raise, the expressions that they make".
He said the government did not reply in the House to this very question as to why the consultation process on neutrality was started when it intended to protect it.
Making a strong pitch for net neutrality, Rahul said every person should have access to the net.
He charged that the government stated in a ‘circumlocutory’ manner that it will protect net neutrality and did not allow him to ask another question, which could have taken just five seconds.
On his reference in Parliament to erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics President Mikhail Gorbachev, under whom the Soviet Union had disintegrated, Rahul said that he mentioned Gorbachev as the then United States president had praised him for privatising the whole country and ‘in a way helping the US’.
"Then after he (the then US president) praised Boris Yeltsin (former Russian president) because he had privatised all the companies of the country. But this net neutrality is a bigger issue than that," the Congress Vice President said.