Sunday, 25 January 2015

My bucket list- the crazy dreams

These are the 10 things I want to do before I become Rampyari :P..


1. One day, I wake up and get offer letter for admission from Hogwarts (though I have already crossed the age of 11)





2. To have a daily money swim of uncle scrooge


3. To become Anil Kapoor of Mr. India, to have device to become invisible as well as to have an orphanage


4. Travel all around the world covering its lengths and breadths , shoot every possible site with Petabytes of snaps and narrating these moments of discovery.

5. To own an education channel or organization (making animated videos and other means of education for people who cannot access formal education channels)

6. License to kill (I know its weird ) and eliminate some people from this world :P something similar to Aparicihit movie character



7. Want to fly (literally), sky diving might be the feasible way.

8. To be in a eating contest (if possible daily)

9. Relaxing with my partner on a wooden swing sharing everything

10. To write down my life's experiences probably as an autobiography that everyone is interested to read, and anyone can relate atleast some part of their life with mine.



Last not but least, Need a jinnie to make these wishes come true :P

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A truly educated person


A husband to his wife, "You should be proud of me. I am an IITian plus IIMian. You should respect me and behave accordingly".

I can still remember a scene from a Bollywood movie Ramji London wale. The in-laws of Ramji's sister demand a car because he has to go to his office by scooter, getting wet along the way during monsoon rains ( he is a news reader in weather forecast show on a news channel. I wonder, can't he wear a raincoat in rainy days after predicting the same :P ).

Another instance : He is an IAS officer. He deserves at least 1 crore for the investment he has made (time and money).

Is education really a stacking of degrees and then bidding over them? In this article, I will ponder over the qualities of a supposedly educated person. How a educated person behave in different circumstances and how he ought to be?

Higher echelons' educated persons and their economic activities
Lets start from the ministers and bureaucrats. Despite holding so many degrees, clearing the most prestigious examination, they are the root cause of widespread administrative and political corruption as evident in 2G, coal scam, illegal mining, CWG scam etc. The highly educated businessmen are found indulged in crony capitalism having the sole motive of profit earning, sometimes even at the cost of nation's wealth (looting the nation's exchequer) and also degenerating humanity (e.g., seizing tribal lands). They are supposed to be the torch bearers of the nation, yet they set the wrong precedent undermining the whole value of education.


Participation in social evils
Social ills are equally widespread in educated as well as uneducated sections of the society, including dowry, female foeticide, involvement in social crimes like rape, murder, domestic violence. Even the people claiming to have and propagate value education, like, Rampal and Asaram, are involved in heinous crimes.
An educated person is supposed to get over the ills of society like
patriarchal mindset of feudal system, racism, communalism, child labor, discrimination. Yet they are found equally indulged as the uneducated persons are.


Consumerism of the so called educated people
Symbolism is a new phenomena associated with the current generation and the society is becoming increasingly consumerist. Pizza, burger has replaced the home cooked food. Engineering colleges are the common sites of students consuming drugs, liquor and cigarettes. These educated persons may save their time by relying on 2 minute cooked Maggie, not realizing its effect on health. Thanks to them, we are facing the problem of plenty, over nutrition is of equal concern as under nutrition. This malnutrition has become the root cause  for making India a non communicable disease capital.


Are educated people really civilized?
I have seen "educated people", flaunting their degrees, jobs, to be bipolar in different circumstances, littering and urinating on Indian streets, while praising the western system for being such a nice place to live in. A civilized person is assumed to follow the law of the land. But this characteristic is also missing from the so called educated persons. Despite having literacy rate of 74%, we have one of the minimum tax-GDP ratio. Why? Because these educated people are not interested in paying taxes considering it as an extra burden. Corporates are making use of tax concessions, yet indulging in tax evasion crimes. They try to escape even a marginal stamp duty on land purchases. I would even go for blatant statement-that they are underrepresented in our jails compared to their deeds. Obviously, they can afford to roam outside.
They are equally indulged in illegal encroachments, polluting cities by unrestricted use of private vehicles for the sake of showing off, littering roads assuming it to be public property not belonging to them (so far their houses are clean). Obviously, they don’t get affected by the mosquitos of polluted drains (they can afford so), but in the process, it affects the not so educated poor people.


Social reforms
Such are the educated persons driving the country that they have not been able to pass women reservation bill for decades. We have educated women in the parliament, doing little towards less educated section of women ( Hemamalini making comment on the Vrindavan widows)


Social contribution
Are these educated people contributing to our society and economy? I would say, yes they are contributing to our economy. Thanks to the IT junta of India, we have been able to preserve the tag of world class service sector. But socially, they are more motivated towards personal gains by going abroad. Let me explain it by another example- How many of these educated persons want to educate others, I mean, how many of them want to pursue a teaching profession? How many of them want to serve in villages by opening a clinic there after becoming a doctor?

Conclusion
I will try to conclude by giving certain qualities of a truly educated persons.
An educated person is one who has not just studied the concepts taught in  educational institutions, but has internalized them into his/her life. When one claims to study about polity, one should respect the constitution, fundamental duties and rich culture of the nation. More importantly such a person must have good values as a part of him/her; be reverent towards nature; do right towards other human beings; practice sustainable living (Gandhiji was a truly educated person); believe in high thinking and also be grounded in life. An educated citizen would always keep his personal interest secondary to the societal and national interest.
Going by the above definition, lets ask ourselves, Are we truly educated or just an educated illiterate. Education is a phenomena of purification of mind and soul, and needs to be practiced throughout the life rather than limiting it to gathering degrees and certificates.



Sunday, 11 January 2015

Loneliness


I had the song-"Lonely, Im so lonely, Im Mr. lonely, I have nobody, to call my own" (by Akon) as ringtone for 3 years. At that time, I liked the way the child scream in this song. Few months back, realized the core feeling of loneliness, probably it was like-

Loneliness nibbles at night
The whole inside
Days too just pass by
Its hard to stay alright
Pain cannot be hide
Whom to care
Nobody to share
Remembering the past lies
With the tired eyes
Tears keep reeling
With an eternal feeling
I curse and curse and curse
Expecting much worse
To feel the same pain
Again and again
Sacrifices I made
Without being paid
Decisions were so wrong
Now regret is the only song
Emptiness prevails
And loneliness trails
And now it defines me
Crying over what I used to be
Smile has faded
With mind degraded
trusting nobody
Pushing me to be lonely
This path so empty


“Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.” 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Ban Everything, Arrest Anyone

The core of information revolution is internet. It has become the driving wheel of knowledge transmission and has explored the span of possibilities of human interactions by dismantling every possible barrier to communication. Lately, this space being a "global common" has become the new battleground of the traditional conflict forms like governance, terrorism, communalism, issues of free speech and expression, piracy and transparency (with cyber dimension applied to them). These conflicts can be broadly divided into 3 categories (similar to their interaction areas):

1. Government to Government- It includes Cyber wars, spying, sabotage. The counter offensive and defensive cyber security systems has put the world into another race resembling to the arms race, nuclear race and space race. Few of the examples are Stuxnet virus and flame virus against Iran. Recent issues over internet governance and control over ICANN are another emerging dimension representing control over the critical internet architecture.

2. Government vs People: Lately, internet has been the powerful tool to mobilize people as witnessed in the recent India's elections 2014. It has been a potent tool in governance. With the increasing internet penetration, government is merging its various programmes with information technology to increase transparency and citizen participation. There has been rising debate over national security vs right to privacy all over the world. PRISM revelation is the case in point. In India there has been a debate over clashes between article 19 and Section 66A of IT act. We will delve deep into this issue in context of India later in this article.

3. People vs people: defamation, bullying, identity theft, stalking, pornography are also getting more popular in the cyber world due to the inherent advantages of anonymity, secrecy, borderlessness and an exponential rate of multiplicity of the content. The spreading of rumors on internet via social media has been a major cause of recent communal riots (Assam riots, Mujjafarnagar riots) causing enmity.

In the next section, we will dig deep into the matters related to government regulations on internet and social media at the legal front.



Government regulations on internet (Section 69A of IT act)

Indian government created the Information Technology (IT) Act to provide a legal framework to regulate Internet use and commerce, including digital signatures, security, and hacking. The act criminalizes the publishing of obscene information electronically and grants police powers to search any premises without a warrant and arrest individuals in violation of the act. A 2008 amendment to the IT Act reinforced the government's power to block Internet sites and content and criminalized sending messages deemed inflammatory or offensive. Supplementary to this, "IT rules 2011" were adopted which require Internet companies to remove any content that is deemed objectionable (including defamatory, hateful and harmful to minors) within 36 hours of being notified by the authorities. Since then, Government has made use of these provisions many times. One of the first Government bans was on all file hosting websites by ISPs to prevent piracy of film Singham in 2011. With the growing discontent among people against government (during India against corruption movement), there was bulk of content produced criticizing the government, to which Indian government responded by asking several social media sites to "prescreen user content from India and to remove disparaging, inflammatory content before it goes online, and this pre screening should be carried out by human beings instead of relying on technology". This request was seen negatively by Indian netizens. Fortunately, this request was deemed impossible to serve by the social media companies.


Apart from ban on websites, individuals were also targeted. Ban on cartoons by Aseem Dwivedi against corruption was a case to the point. As far as judicial intervention is concerned, Madras high court has passed an order saying that entire websites cannot be blocked on the basis of "John Doe"(anyone's) orders. Yet, government has shown reluctance to even discuss the "draconian" provisions of IT act. The annulment motion in Parliament against 2011 IT Rules was not carried out. GoI played a reactive role during Assam violence of 2012 by blocking around 200+ specific URLs. This was the then the highest level of censorship in India.


If we talk in latest context, 2014 has been the year with highest number of websites blocked. In mid of 2014, Sony entertainment requested blocking of more than 400 file sharing websites, to which permission was granted for 219 sites. In November 2014, Government banned access to most of the porn sites. India witnessed maximum user content blocks(4000+ requests) as per the report released by facebook. Recently, with the notification of DoT(Department of Telecom) orders, 32 URLs including Pastebin, video sharing sites Vimeo and DailyMotion, Internet archive site archive.org and Github.com( a web-based software code repository), have been blocked under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as they could host terror content relating to ISIS.

These statistics are shocking in the largest democracy of the world, where free speech and expression are our basic rights.


Then what is the reason behind this and what should be done?

One reason could be just the sheer number game. India has one of the largest growing user group on social media. And there is going to be increased interest in governing what is being said on social media. Yet,  the main reason for this might be that we live in a great paradox of information regimes. On the one hand, we claim to be a fully democratic state and granting freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in our constitutional rights. At the same time,  government is not being seen as very pro-free speech and expression on social media as per the above statistics. Also given a very conservative social ethos in the country, a large number of people do use practices that might be objectionable- like stalking, accessing pornographic content etc. We are driving towards maturity in the democracy regime, there is likely to be more upheaval generated by people and anti-state actors.

Thus, the role of government cannot be denied to maintain public order. Having said that, there is no doubt that censorship is the worst form of control. It only enables stifling of free speech and takes away one of our most fundamental rights of self-determination and expression. But, the means used should be as much transparent as possible.

Also, technology needs to be comprehended in a holistic manner. Banning the whole domain of blogspot.com just to block few blog posts is not justified. The blocked entities should be URLs that should also be as minimum as possible(as also ruled by the Madras high court).

It has been experienced that these blocks are temporary in nature, e.g, the recent blocking of github, vimeo website didn’t even last for a week( from 25th December, 2014 to 1st January, 2015), thus not that effective in nature practically. Yet, It was without consultation and was specific to few service providers (vodafone), it only erode the confidence due to governments' arbitrary acts.
Also there is need for a proactive approach instead of reactive as seen in most of the bans (after Assam violence it took 4 days to remove the rumors from internet).
Some experts  also feel that there should not be any restrictions but awareness should be put in place which includes citizen participation and their engagement. Moreover, greater clarity over rules and laws with healthy discussion will imbibe confidence among netizens and other stakeholders.


Social media and Fundamental rights (Section 66A vs Article 19)

Section 66A dictates punishment for any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device-
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character;
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device
(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.
At the legal front, the SC at present is involved in hearing a petition filed by the internet and Mobile Association of India challenging section 66A and section 80 of the IT Act which deal with the punishment to those violating the law. Meanwhile, the government has upheld its right in a petition before the court to issue take down notices to control and restrict certain content and has called it "reasonable restrictions" so as to prevent chaos or disharmony in the society.
It is also true that Section 66A is being misused today as shown in the figure below.

Pic courtesy : indiatoday.intoday.in

How is it justified?

Pic courtesy : indiatoday.intoday.in

What are the flaws with the current setup?
There is no clear definition of the words annoyance, inconvenience which are dependent on the person who is tagged in that defamation process and subjected to arbitrary interpretation. It also uses the word 'transmitted' rather 'send' which made ambiguity between the sender and the service provider. Moreover, there are overlapping areas between Section 66A and other IPC sections, like, criminal intimidation is already covered by IPC sections 503 and 506, so overriding or applying the same. Section 81 of the IT Act further complicates the matter. It says that it is a special law and the provisions of this law prevail over anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law in force, thus giving it overarching powers.

What can be done?
There should not be a reason for curbing the freedom of speech unless it is directly related to decency or morality, public order, or defamation. The terms should be clearly defined. The later part of 66A(c), which talks of deception, is sufficient to combat spam and phishing, and hence the first half, talking of annoyance or inconvenience is not required.
Government gave the guidelines after the facebook girls arrest- "the concerned police officer of police station may not register any complaints unless he has obtained prior approval at the level of an officer not below the DCP rank in urban and rural areas and IG level in metros". It was a commendable step and in future also this needs to be ensured that excessive powers should not be given to a single authority. The more the transparency in regulating internet and its content, the more will it prosper.

Conclusion


To sum up, I would say, we have to accept the fact that internet is emerging as a new battleground for various kind of conflicts. But outright ban is not the solution, it is happening only because it is a new technology and clear rules of the game are not established yet. This is not a new phenomenon and has happened in the past every time a new technology has surfaced. So we need to sit down and devise universally acceptable standards and guidelines which strike a fine balance of preserving free speech, privacy and transparency while at the same time protecting people’s lives and dignity, maintaining national security and safeguarding intellectual property. The policy of "Ban Everything" is not an alternative to good policy implementation.