The Congress on Wednesday sought to wrest credit for the ‘Startup India’ initiative from the government, saying it conceived the policy blueprint even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi was claiming credit.
“We understand that the Modi government is scheduled to announce a policy for Startup India on January 16. As usual, the prime minister will be claiming credit for and repackaging what the Congress had already put in place,” said Congress parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh.
“Between 2004 and 2014, India received $90 billion in venture capital and private equity financing for 4,000 companies, of which at least 2,000 may well be startups. This led to India becoming the third largest startup country in the world, even before Modi coined his ‘Startup India’ slogan,” he added.
The Congress also urged the BJP-led government to consider a few suggestions when it came to stimulating startups.
“There must be a clear and categorical statement from the government that it will support net neutrality and not allow large companies to restrict access to the internet. It should be government’s responsibility to provide internet access to all and set a clear target date by which there will be such access to all Indians,” the Congress leader said.
“Government buildings, public universities and schools should be allowed to provide office space with power, connectivity and basic information technology infrastructure to act as incubator for ‘startups’.”
“Corporate social responsibility funds should be permitted to be invested in startup/innovation-related research and development in public universities under the corporate social responsibility guidelines laid down by UPA-II government,” he added.
Ramesh said: “Startups domiciled in India face severe difficulties in both registration and protection of their intellectual property rights. The government must ensure ease of patent registration by streamlining the registration process, opening of more patent offices outside of just the four metros, and shortening the time taken. The government must also assist startups in defending their intellectual property rights in global disputes.”
The Congress leader said direct or indirect government funding of startups should be restricted to social sectors and not all sectors in an unrestricted manner, which will be a risky use of taxpayer funds.
The National Skill Development Corporation established by UPA-II government must be leveraged to meet the huge semi-skilled labour needs of startups, he added.
“Our prime minister has been more enthusiastic in meeting with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs than our own startup entrepreneurs. Had he done that, he would have realised that the only jobs in our economy are now being created by these startups,” said Ramesh.