Aatma Nirbhar Bharat: Reforms in space sector

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has a disruptive impact on the economic condition of India. Different agencies like World Bank and Moody have downgraded India’s growth for the fiscal year 2021, leading to the estimation of India’s GDP in negative figures. The government of India then announced the special economic and comprehensive package of 20 lakh crores, introducing it as a call for Self-Reliant India or Aatma Nirbhar Bharat. This Aatma Nirbhar Bharat is to create an economy that is self- reliant, ultimately emphasizing the sale and purchase of domestic goods. The economic package of 20 lakh crores is worth 10% of the GDP of India.

Five pillars were outlined for the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat package- Economy, Infrastructure, Vibrant Demography, system, and Demand. All this was done to bring a structural reform, with a focus on public participation and greater transparency which will bring growth in the sector. Nirmala Sitharaman, the Finance minister of India, highlighted eight(8) core sectors in an effort towards Aatma Nirbhar Bharat. These eight (8) sectors are-

  1. Coal- The government will introduce more commercial mining in the coal sector, which will provide more diversified opportunities in the coal sector with the ultimate aim of augmenting transparency and competition with greater sector participation.
  2. Minerals- The economic package will enhance private investment in the mineral sector and the policy reforms that are introduced in the mineral will lead to better efficiency in running the mining sector. These structural reforms also aim at boosting employment, growth, and bring state of the art technology towards the sector.
  3. Defence production- The Aatma Nirbhar Bharat will strengthen self-reliance in the Defence Sector, promoting weapons to be “Make in India” which will reduce the defence bill of importing goods, bringing autonomy, efficiency, and accountability in the sector.
  4. Civil Aviation- The improvements in the civil aviation sector will pursue streamlined airspace management with building world-class airports on a public-private partnership basis. The main aim is to make India a global hub for aircraft maintenance, overhaul, and Repair. 
  5. Power Sector- In the power sector, the government is trying to lay down power sector reforms promoting consumer rights, industry, and sustainable sector.
  6. Social Infrastructure- The government has aimed at boosting the private sector investment in the social infrastructure through the Gap funding scheme.
  7. Space- The government here also aimed at partaking by private investors and their participation in Space related activities. There will be an area provided to companies that are involved in Space satellites, launchers, and activities. These private companies will be allowed to use ISRO facilities to work on their project.
  8. Atomic Energy- research reactors would be established with the help of public-private partnerships. This would lead to the growth of the sector.

What are the reforms introduced?

The Aatma Nirbhar Bharat focuses on bringing reforms to the space sector. The finance minister announced that the same will be done by allowing greater participation of private companies in the activities performed under this sector. These private companies will be authorized to use the infrastructure and facilities of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to provide them with the level playing field for competition. The reforms introduced in the space sector particularly focuses on the participation of the private sector with the ISRO which will be done with proper control so that the technologies do not fall into the wrong hands. This will not only lead to greater profit for the space sector but will also provide the private sector with greater technologies and facilities.

The package introduced has the following implications:

  1. For the start-up sector- They will be able to allude to the start-up sector of the Indian space as a grantee for the utilization of the Indian space and research organization infrastructure and facilities.
  2. For the Indian armed forces- This will provide a real opportunity to meet India’s defence needs with the help of the space sector.

Objectives of reforms

The objectives of bringing reforms to the space sector were to provide the economy with profits that are expected to provide losses as of yet.

Providing a platform for risk-taking- The government provided this sector with reform by being in the private sector and letting the private sector with access to facilities technologies and foreign direct investment ultimately meaning to the growth of the private sector providing greater profits to the government.

The Finance Minister elaborated on the objectives of the reform which includes encouragement to exploration in this sector by giving access to private partnerships who will be provided with working resources and facilities, ultimately improving their capacities to work. The future outer space travel would be provided to the private sector so as the objective of giving level playing field to companies

It’s relevance in law and legal provisions

The shift of government policy which has led to the encouragement of the private sector to work with Indian space research organization was exclusively done due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were consultations on the space activities Bill from 2017 which is yet to become a law. The space activities Bill, 2017 will lead to the encouragement of the private sector in the space activities and dismantle of government control over the same. There was a need to include the private sector in the technologies as is done in other countries. This bill is yet to become a law due to the complexities related to space activities.  This bill is a step to bring transparency and accountability towards the government and from the government also leading to technological advancement and cost reduction benefiting the profits of the government. The main aim is that the provision of the bill is introduced in the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat scheme.

Critical analysis and Conclusion

The Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Special Economic Stimulus Package introduced by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, as demonstrated, is very promising and effective. It would lead to catalyze the growth of Indian economic status and would attempt to cover the losses faced during the pandemic COVID-19. However, every reform introduced brings with it several implications. In this case as well, the reform deserves scrutiny, a healthier implementation, and appropriate policy and regulatory reform.

  • The space start-ups as a contributor to the Research and Development for the armed services in the private sector:

As a contributor for the armed services by the space start-ups to the Research and Development sector, the urban centers in India, which incorporates these space start-ups have been adhering to a different path for the development of the space sector, unlike the others. Moreover, several space start-ups have already been working with the assistance of the Indian Space Research Organisation. The aim is to commercialize critical technologies and the Atma Nirbhar scheme will catalyze the vision. However, still, a proper mechanism needs to be found for effective implementation and the attainment of the vision.

  • Extensive the outreach for the armed services:

Due to the scheme granted, the Indian armed sector cannot be far away from contributing to the exploitation of the emerging possibilities which will be generated in due time by the Atma Nirbhar Scheme, introduced by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman. Consequently, the armed services, the scheme, and the space services should collectively exploit the change. For this, the government should further grant an extensive outreach by the services. As a result, this will allow us to foresee the inventions accruing from the start-ups in the private sector. Furthermore, a partial contribution can be made towards the Indian armed forces’ ‘Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance’ requirements.

  • An independent regulatory environment needs to be established:

The reform made by the Atma Nirbhar grant is very promising. However, an issue that needs to be deliberated upon is the establishment of an independent regulatory environment in India. Why such an establishment should be made? The activities associated with the space sector are complex and involve several intricacies. The UN’s Outer Space Treaty also suggests the establishment of an independent regulatory environment due to the multi-layered projects of the space services. Some of the complex intricacies involved are as follows: frequencies, ability to import products, licensing of satellites which will be used later for operations, and imagery. An independent regulator will be able to control these complex, multi-layered projects effectively and would lead to the enhancement of India’s rank in the ease of doing business index.

The reforms in the space sector provide a level playing field for private firms in launches of satellites and space-based activities. These private firms will be allowed to use the facilities of the Indian research space organization and other relevant resources to improve and provide them with proper capacities. Future outer space activities will also be open to the private sector. This will ultimately lead to the growth of the nation and better rankings in the world for space-related activities.

Author: Abhay Raj from Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat.

Editor: Yashika Gupta from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.

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