Another Stolen Idea? Hyderabad Startup Says BJP’s One Nation One Card Their Innovation
A group of IT incubators based in Hyderabad claim they obtained a trademark for the technology in 2012.
Is “One Nation One Card” going to be a massive embarrassment for the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government? It appears so. The Modi government is known for repackaging almost all the schemes that are already under implementation for decades.
Recently an Andhra Pradesh based startup accused the BJP of stealing one of their templates for the party’s official website, without giving the company any credit. Once news about plagiarism spread, the BJP was forced to take down the code developed by the startup company W3Layouts.
The Modi government is bracing for one more such accusation. This time it directly links to Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. On March 4, 2019, Modi launched the “One Nation One Card” programme in Ahmedabad. The initiative has been dubbed a “unique endeavour” towards the BJP government’s commitment to the Make in India campaign. Prominent news dailies, as well as websites and television channels, latched onto this occasion to paint it as one more achievement for Modi.
It is a known fact in downtown California that some of the most popular computer applications, which are now owned by large multinational internet or computer companies, are designed, developed and tested by the individual enthusiastic software developers in their personal in-house incubation centres.
However, due to lack of contacts or absence of further investments, they are forced to sell their products to multinational companies such as Microsoft or Google or Facebook etc. Thus, the world never gets to know who the original innovator of the software is. But, at least in the United States, the laws are such that the original innovator is handsomely paid before the product and the technology is taken over for customised use.
In India, the story is different. One such incident came up when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched One Nation One Card also called National Common Mobility Card. It is touted as an enabler of hassle-free all-India travel.
The Prime Minister said, “This card runs on RuPay card and it will eliminate all your travel related problems. Many a time, we do not have the change to pay in cash while travelling in the metro, bus or train, or for toll and parking. To overcome these issues, an automatic fare collection system will be introduced.”
He added, “Now, that our dream of ‘One Nation One Card’ has been realised, people can also withdraw money using this Common Mobility Card. In simple terms, we have merged the RuPay card with the mobility card.”
When we tried to dig deep into this development, we could gather some more details. According to government officials, the idea of One Nation One Card was conceived by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
The card is also known as National Common Mobility Card developed by National Payment Corporation of India. It is said that this card is an integral part of the National Urban Transport Policy which is aimed at developing a single card for travelling throughout the country.
When we looked at the Press Information Bureau’s website, we found a press release which states, “India’s First Indigenously Developed Payment Eco-system for transport consisting of NCMC card SWEEKAR (Swachalit Kiraya: Automatic Fare Collection System) and SWAGAT (Swachalit Gate).”
A committee was formed with representatives from National Informatics Center (NIC), Center for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC) Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) and Ministry of Finance for developing this card. NPCI was given the mandate to develop the specifications for the card and terminals to support the NCM ecosystem. Bharat Electronics Limited made the gate and reader prototype.
According to one Mr Sai from Hyderabad, the technology was launched by a group of young information technology (IT) incubators based in Hyderabad in 2012.
It was not a small, forgettable event. The then minister for information technology in Andhra Pradesh Ponnala Lakshmaiah, along with cricketer Sourav Ganguly launched this One Nation One Card on August 28, 2012, at HICC Hyderabad.
The key architect of this One Nation One Card, Mr Sai, claims that card was designed to meet the needs of nearly 30 services from hospitals, insurance companies to ATMs. The technology is based on imaging concept.
An eight-minute video of the 2012 event is also available on YouTube.
As mandated by section 23(2) Rule 62(1) of Trade Marks Act 1912, the trademark registration No. 1357661 was also issued to the technology in September 2012.
It is surprising that the Modi government is unaware of the trademark. The startup firm that designed, developed, launched and obtained the trademark registration for One Nation One Card is contemplating legal action for violation of their rights.
The startup team also organised a press conference in December 2018 when the Centre announced that it was going to launch the card soon. In that press conference, the startup team alleged Modi government is resorting to a regime of intellectual piracy by disempowering the innovative incubation centres. However, as usual, the screams fell on deaf ears and failed to draw national attention.