In a joint statement issued yesterday, around 50 faculty members from IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Kharagpur, Madras, Patna) and IISc Bengaluru have denounced the proposal dubbing it a "lethal combination that will lead to total lack of freedom on how Indians can use the internet".

Listing three major flaws in the programme, the scientists urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to 'thoroughly reject' Facebook's 'free basics' proposal.

"The first obvious flaw in the proposal is that Facebook assumes control of defining what a 'basic' service is." Facebook will have access to all your apps' contents. "This flaw is not visible to the lay person as it's a technical detail, but it has deep and disturbing implications. Since Facebook can access un-encrypted contents of users' 'basic' services, either we get to consider health apps to be not basic, or risk revealing health records of all Indians to Facebook.

"The third flaw is that the term 'free' in 'free basics' is a marketing gimmick”. The academicians said that the 'Free Basics' proposal "is flawed as above is alarming but not surprising, for it violates one of the core architectural principles of internet design: net neutrality.

"Compromising net neutrality, an important design principle of the internet, would invariably lead to deep consequences on people's freedom to access and use information”.

“We, therefore, urge that the TRAI should support net neutrality in its strongest form, and thoroughly reject Facebook's 'free basics' proposal."