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Posts Tagged ‘India’

A PIL has been filed in India asking to get Google Earth banned. Apparently the terrorists used Google images to plot their attacks.

Considering that the terrorists also used buses, trains, cellphones and a fishing boat, perhaps we should ban those as well.

And while we are at it, we should make sure that there are no loopholes. After all, most of the data supplied by Google is provided by other parties. Even if Google Earth is no longer accessible from India, one would be able to get the information from other sources. So let us block those sites as well, indeed ban all data obtained by satellites or cameras, and ensure that such data cannot be sent into India from outside the country. Regulating the internet would be a good start.

But here’s a prediction: after all this is done, a resourceful individual will still be able to get any information he wants. For information is a rebellious bird, it can never, ever be caged. The same however, is not true of the government.

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The terrorists killed over a hundred innocent people yesterday. This wasn’t an act that took place in some distant part of the world. It happened in a city I care about, one that I have spent four summers in and where many of my friends live or have family. The attack was astounding in its scope and daring — no suicide bombers this time around but machine gun wielding militants taking hostages in posh hotels. The country is outraged and for good reason.

Yet, and yet. This is just a small thing compared to what could and looks likely to happen now. There are calls for much tougher anti-terrorism laws, possibly more draconian than what the US introduced after 9/11. In a poll conducted today by an Indian newspaper, 95% supported such measures. If laws like these are passed, the Indian police will relish in using them. Thousands of people will be rounded up on mere suspicion, many of those unrelated to terror. Some will be locked up for months, perhaps years. Phones will be tapped, due process suspended. You are thinking, all of that won’t happen to me. And you may be right, but rest assured that it will happen to many people just like you. It is when this atmosphere of panic and police-statism takes over our nation that the terrorists will have truly won this one.

QI hits the nail on the head:

The easiest reaction in a situation like this is to call for tougher laws, all of which aim to circumvent the adherence to due process. Due process anyway gets short shrift here in India, and do we really want to legitimise that? […]Shouldn’t better investigation, more co-ordination and better training be looked at first, instead of giving the police arbitrary powers to harass citizens? […] I am just terrified by the knowledge that by bringing in such laws, we have pretty much capitulated to terrorism – their objective of destroying the civil and democratic fabric of India will have been achieved. And contrary to what people feel, these won’t be effective deterrents. Simply because, in my mind, they do not address the root of the problems plaguing our law-enforcement esablishments.

He is right. The Indian police and intelligence agencies suffer from severe deficiencies. They need to be revamped. There needs to be better training, coordination and other changes. But these will have to smart changes. We don’t need knee-jerk reactions here. The deterrence value of laws that suspend due process is small and costs to essential freedoms huge. The Indian establishment could do much worse than read Bruce Shneier’s excellent blog on security measures to get some pointers.

A heavy handed law that curtails civil liberties will be a tragedy far greater than any terror attack. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We should keep this in mind and fight to preserve the intangible things that are truly valuable, even as we take measures to prevent such atrocities from happening again.

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The Telegraph reports:

Czech scientist Petr Svacha, accused of illegally collecting insects from Singalila National Park, was let off with a fine of Rs 20,000 today after the chief judicial magistrate of Darjeeling took note of his reputation as a renowned entomologist and said he was a “victim of circumstances”.

However, his associate Emil Kucera, a forest official in the Czech Republic, was sentenced to three years of simple imprisonment and told to pay a fine of Rs 60,000.

First of all, I don’t see why there is this disparity in sentencing.

Secondly, I can understand the rationale behind criminalizing the killing of rare animals, but collecting a few beetles? Honestly? Why should there be a law against it?

They say there are no easy solutions to hard problems. But there indeed is a quick and effective way to get rid of many of the serious problems facing India. Just get rid of 90% of the laws and regulations in the Indian rulebook. Then the courts can get back to real cases and clear some of that backlog, enterprising citizens can open a new business without getting fifteen licenses, and people can live their lives the way they deem fit.

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Watch the ad first. It’s yummy.

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting of India has written to the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) asking it to make sure this advertisement is not broadcast any more, terming it indecent, vulgar and repulsive.

I have long believed that of all the useless appendages of the Indian government, the one that has the least rationale for existence is the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

As Ezra Levant would say: Fire. Them. All.

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At least thirty-seven people are dead in a series of horrific blasts in Ahmedabad, India.

Iran is going to hang thirty people tomorrow.

At first sight, the situations look dissimilar. The people dead in Ahmedabad are innocent victims of terror, their lives snuffed out brutally and callously by vengeful terrorists. The Iranians who will die tomorrow have undergone a trial according to the laws of their land and their executions will be lawful affairs handled by dignified government officials.

Yet, as the CNN report makes it clear, quite a few of the Iranians who have been sentenced to death are simply guilty of “being a public nuisance while drunk (or) being involved in illegal relationships — relationships between men and women who are not married to each other.”

Makes me wonder if the cloak of government authority really makes their deaths any more legitimate.

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In case you haven’t done so yet, do check out Savita Bhabhi, India’s first online pornographic cartoon strip. The stories are fairly standard and the art-work good though not top-class. It is appealing nonetheless. In fact, barely two months after its launch, it’s traffic rank in India — according to Alexa — is currently an astounding 66.

Which, of course, has made the moral police sweat.

According to psychologist Mythili M. Sharma, a bhabhi can stand in for a mother in a typical family arrangement if the mother should die or otherwise be unavailable.

“Websites like this one are not definitely going to be taken in good taste in India by an average Indian male psyche, because bhabhi hold a special place in the mind of an Indian male,” she said.

Indian legal experts also blasted the site, claiming it violated the country’s Internet laws.

“In my opinion this site is more dangerous than a normal adult site since it targets young Indian audience and degrades women,” said Na Vijayashankar, a security consultant based in Bangalore.

Ooh, what will happen to our country when young people stop worshipping bhabhis as asexual matronly figures and start thinking of them as women with thighs?

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The Indian government wants to be able to read all emails and messages sent by citizens. (Privacy, you say? Don’t be silly. We live in an age of terrorism. Hehe, those naive libertarian notions.)

However it discovers it is unable to decrypt the ones sent by Blackberry devices.

Pissed, it asks the parent company, RIM, to help it snoop. Hard luck, says RIM, even we don’t have a master key to decrypt the messages.

The Indian government moves towards a complete ban on usage of Blackberry devices in India.

(Just curious, does the government realise that one can always send encrypted messages over the internet? How will it stop that?)

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Bollywood-ishtyle.

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The Supreme Court judgement on the OBC reservation issue should not surprise anyone. After all, the Supreme Court’s job isn’t to make laws but merely to ascertain whether existing laws were broken. And in the present case, the Supreme Court decided that nothing in the Indian Constitution prevents Arjun Singh from adding a 27% quota in government institutions. Again, I have to agree — the Constitution itself has been weakened to such an extent through laws and precedents that it will be surprising if any law is ever again judged uncontitutional.

For those who are concerned that this will devalue the IIT and IIM brands, slow down development, heighten inter-caste animosity and reduce opportunities for much of the population without really helping the rest — well, of course you are right, but fret not! As Aristotle The Geek points out, the market will do its best to correct the situation.

So much of recent history can be viewed as a case study of the market systematically correcting (at least some of) the ills caused by ill-advised government action. Isn’t that ironic?

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Amit Varma nails the sad truth in his choice of post header.

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The headline of this DNA report reads:

Tamil movies to be banned in Karnataka.

However, the first sentence of the report merely says

To protest against Tamil Nadu going ahead with Hogenakal project on Karnataka border, the Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV), a pro-Kannada organisation will be prevent (sic) Tamil movies from being screened in theatres and television channels from today.

My initial reaction after reading the sentence above was puzzlement – how do the protests of an unofficial organisation equate to a ban? On second thoughts, however, I have to agree with the reporter’s choice of headline. It merely reflects the reality in India.

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The Supreme Court of India has once again put its weight behind freedom of expression, overruling the ban on the film “Jodha Akbar” by three state governments.

It is a sad matter that in India people think they have a moral right to ban things they don’t like. And the ludicrous loopholes in our constitution (think “free-speech for everyone, except those who really need it”) do not help either.

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India is introducing a new rule stipulating that unskilled workers planning to take up a job in the Middle East cannot do so unless they are going to be paid a minimum wage (the exact amount is being fixed by the Indian Government for each Gulf country).

DNA reports (emphasis mine):

In a move that will have far reaching impact on the life of over two million Indian blue collar workers in the Gulf, the rule may drastically cut the number of Indians taking up unskilled jobs in the Gulf countries which will be forced to look for cheaper labour from Bangladesh and Nepal while ensuring that the Indian labour in the Gulf will not be exploited, industry watchers said…

In other words, it is better to compel someone to lose his job than allow him to take it up at a low wage.

What do the workers think? DNA does not say, but the ambassador thinks they will not be too happy:

The Indian ambassador to UAE Talmiz Ahmad said in an interview last week that minimum wages was a sensitive issue as the Indian worker believes he is free to negotiate the terms and conditions he is happy with.

It’s a funny world.

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Soumya Bhattacharya in a Cricinfo article says that Indians are racist.

I broadly agree with the contention, however I find his examples rather weak. There are several issues that interplay here and it is disappointing to see them mussed up haphazardly – an aesthetic preference for lighter skin tones cannot, for instance, be equated with a moral belief in white supremacy. 

He also mandates, with the cliched rationale of this being a ‘global village’ , that Indians should modify their speech and idioms so that they align with current Western European and American standards of politically correct expression. Careless choice of words and a truly racist attitude are not the same and the world would be a sorrier place indeed if more nations were to jump onto the political correctness bandwagon.

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I was a young lad once and like most kids was susceptible to the perceived infallibility of the written word. To give a relevant example, it wasn’t apparent to me that our civics text-books were less fact and more a bunch of Nehruvian platitudes. But even then, I often wondered about the role of the Constitution in a democracy. It seemed to be – contrary to the importance my book seemed to give it – little more than just a symbol or a guidance, not of much more significance than Gandhi’s “My experiments with truth”. After all, if the real authority was the democratically elected government, what role could a bulky book which no one reads have?

I was both right and wrong. I was wrong because I failed to realise that a Constitution is intended to be a check on what the government can do; it is a well thought out document that lays down certain core values which no law can violate. By its very nature it is much harder to amend the Constitution than it is to pass a law. In the US and other Western democracies, many laws – passed by the government of the day – have been deemed unconstitutional and overturned. The American government will find it impossible to ban a controversial book – without repealing the First Amendment, an unthinkability. Indeed the Constitution is a device for freedom, a vital muscle that makes a democracy tick strongly and prevents it from turning into a tyranny by the majority. We all know that mobs can be manipulated and fooled, not all of them and not for all time, but certainly temporarily. The Constitution keeps the flag of freedom flying at those times – it prevents the passage of parochial laws by extremist parties, it curbs populism, it can arrest collectivism.

Unfortunately, I was right in that none of the above is true in the Indian setup. The freedoms granted by our Constitution were peppered with so many caveats as to render them almost useless and successive governments have further eroded it through amendments that have taken away much of what remained. Today our Constitution is truly what it once seemed to me and probably seems to most other Indians – a mere symbol. And the real tragedy is that most people are unaware it can be anything else.

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