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Why are minors still playing PUBG, NCPCR asks India’s IT ministry

NCPCR has asked the government to explain why minors were able to play PUBG even after it was banned in the country.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has shot off a missive to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) asking it to explain why PUBG, a mobile game, was still available in India, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Medianama.

Why it matters: PUBG had grown to be one of the most popular games in India before it was banned in 2020 by the Indian government in retaliation to the border skirmish between India and China in eastern Ladakh. The letter is notable because it sheds light on the problem of gaming addiction among minors.

Why did NCPCR send the letter: The commission wrote that it was forced into action after it came across a newspaper report wherein it had been reported that a child had killed his own mother because she prevented him from playing PUBG.

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  • The commission said that it was taking suo motu cognisance of the news item. It said that it was under the impression that the game was blocked in India under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

What did the missive say: “In view of this incident, it is beyond the understanding of the Commission, that how a banned game in India, which has been blocked by the Government of India, is still available for use by minors,” read the letter.

  • The commission requested the ministry to explain why such blocked applications were available over the internet. It also urged MeitY to inform the commission about what kind of action is taken in such incidents.
  • The ministry has also been asked to provide a list of games which are “used by minors along with their regulating bodies and their regulating mechanism within 10 days of receipt of this letter”.

Why was PUBG banned: The Indian government did ban PUBG along with 117 other Chinese apps including TikTok because they threatened the sovereignty and integrity of India, according to a BBC report.

  • The government had said it had reports that some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms were being misused to steal and transmit users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India, BBC added.

Is the ban enforceable: The game was developed by Krafton (a South Korean company) and its mobile version was developed in partnership with Tencent— a Chinese giant, as per Business Standard. The South Korean company severed its ties with Tencent following the ban as it was the involvement of Tencent that raised red flags, the report said.

  • Krafton came out with Battlegrounds Mobile India after severing ties with Tencent and was deemed to be in compliance with the directions of the government, IndiaToday reported. The company must have been really desperate to get rid of the ban as it dissociated itself from the name ‘PUBG’— the most prominent identifier of the game.
  • Moreover, Krafton has now released PUBG: New State which is said to be an improved version of PUBG and Battlegrounds, according to IndiaToday.
  • With this launch, the company has managed to bring back the name ‘PUBG’ into public consciousness. It may imply that the ban was for the version supported by Tencent. It remains to be seen what MeitY responds to NCPCR but it seems like the game is not banned in India anymore.

What is NCPCR: It is a statutory body which deals with the protection of rights of children and matters related to deprivation of child rights.

  • The commission conducts enquiry into complaints and takes suo motu notice of matters relating to deprivation of and violation of child rights.
  • It also deals with issues like non-implementation of laws for protection and development of children; non-compliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at mitigating hardship of children and ensuring their welfare.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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