'We Want To Build Firewall': Power Minster RK Singh Calls For Tightening Import Norms, Check Power Equipment Bought From China

More tariff barriers, rigorous testing of foreign equipment, and prior permission requirements for imports from adversary countries like China or Pakistan will be the main focus of India's power sector.

India   |   29 Jun 2020 1:26 PM GMT
Editor : Navya Singh | Creatives : Abhishek M

India has been on the lookout recently to impose quality control measures and higher tariffs on goods from China as it looks to boost domestic manufacturing to cut reliance on imports.

In such a scenario, Power Minister R K Singh has called for tightening of import norms. He contended that India will check all power equipment bought from China for malware and Trojan horses that can be potentially used to trigger electricity grid failures to cripple economic activity in the country.

In an interview, the minister said that his renewable energy ministry has proposed imposing customs duties on some solar power equipment starting from August 1 as part of the country's goal of becoming self-sufficient.

"Power is a very sensitive and strategic sector for any country. Electricity runs all industries, communication systems, and all databases including strategic ones and so we have to guard it against any sabotage by countries which are adversaries or possible adversaries," he said. "We want to build a firewall."

More tariff barriers, rigorous testing of foreign equipment, and prior permission requirements for imports from adversary countries like China or Pakistan will be the main focus of India's power sector.

"We have reports that malware and Trojan horse can be installed which can be activated remotely to bring down the power sector and the economy," he said. "So we have decided because it is a sensitive sector, whatever equipment is made in India, we will purchase them. And those that are not made in India, we will import but check thoroughly to rule out the presence of any malware or Trojan horse."

This decision comes in the aftermath of border clashes in Ladakh's Galwan valley between the Indian and Chinese troops which claimed lives of 20 Indian Army personnel.

As per reports by The Economic Times, India's power sector has earlier faced cyberattacks, a majority of which reportedly originated from China, Singapore, Russia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

Singh said a committee was set up under the Central Electricity Authority to examine the cyber threat and the panel has said "it is a real live threat."

"It is very serious," he said. "It is sensitive because an adversary can bring our entire country to a halt. It is a very sensitive and strategic sector because the defense industry and all other industries run on power. If the power goes out, then you have storage of about 12 to 24 hours only."

He said his ministry has proposed imposing 25 percent customs duty on solar modules from August, which can be raised to 40 percent from April 2022. On solar cells, it has proposed 15 percent duty, rising to 25 percent in 2022. On solar inverters, an import duty of 20 percent is proposed. China accounts for nearly 80 percent of module supplies in India.

Singh further said the power industry should stop imports of products whose domestic supplies are adequate. As part of quality control measures, the Bureau of Indian Standards is finalising tougher norms for at least 370 products, including chemicals, steel, electronics, heavy machinery, furniture, paper, industrial machinery, rubber articles, glass, metal articles, pharma, fertilizers, and plastic toys, to ensure items that can be locally produced are not imported.

The government has also made it mandatory for suppliers to mention the country of origin in a move to push for local products and keep out Chinese manufacturers.

China is India's biggest source of imports. Chinese imports such as electronic goods, industrial machinery, and organic chemicals totalled almost USD 70 billion last year. China has a trade surplus of about USD 50 billion with India.

READ: Goa Considers Dropping Chinese Company From Rs 1,400 Cr Bridge Project As Boycott China Call Intensifies

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Richa Mukherjee

Richa Mukherjee

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Navya Singh

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"Writing and speaking about the matters where they don't shed light, I'm always on my toes to bring out the untold, unheard stories from the background of Economy and Defense."

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