Fear and loathing

Can India be prevented from becoming another Pakistan?
By Kanti Bajpai – The biggest challenge facing India is preventing a right wing takeover and stopping the country from becoming a Pakistan. The ambition of the alt right is to make India into a Hindu state, with goons, vigilantes, religious leaders and shadowy para-political organisations serving as shock troops.

In the end, a rightist takeover will occur not through communal violence and brute force but rather by elections and constitutional changes. The constitutional makeover would include establishment of an executive president, declaring India a Hindu state, abridging minority and other rights, giving special political status to Hindu sants, mahants and yogis, tampering with the national flag and abolishing the name India for the country.

The takeover will come after a sustained campaign of micro-level, vigilante-led cultural assaults against minorities and liberals, reminiscent of Russia and Turkey. more> https://goo.gl/uEA8hg

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Mind our language

Attempts to depose English subject our universities to dangerous social engineering
By Indrajit Hazra – To artificially push the case of ‘vernacular languages’ at the cost of endangering higher education learning and teaching – especially in, but hardly confined to, science and technical subjects where textbooks and research material in non-English Indian languages are overwhelmingly unavailable – is a recipe for widening the very knowledge divide being sought to be bridged.

“.. Technical education is entirely due to English [language] education. It is no use saying that ancient India was very advanced technically, for it will not alter the fact that today we are more backward than any Western country.”

India that doesn’t need any prodding any more to use Hindi, the ‘new’ aspirational language, let’s stick to English for our higher education. It’s just more fruitful – and easier – to not end up dumbing things down just to try and balance a lingering ‘cultural imbalance’. more> https://goo.gl/6h2OzQ

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Irresponsible politics

EVMs (electronic voting machines) are a positive election reform, they can be further improved through VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail)
Times of India – Parties would do well to revisit India’s election experiences prior to widespread use of EVMs. Violence was common as parties used muscle power to seize booths and engage in ballot box stuffing. Furthermore, in tight contests results were vitiated as ballots that were ambiguously stamped would be declared invalid. These problems were overcome with the advent of EVMs and the level of violence associated with elections has substantially declined.

Among other positive spin-offs are an increase in the speed with which the process can be completed and a control of costs. Overall levels of crime too may have declined, as parties no longer need to nurture armies of goons to influence the political process.

While the advent of EVMs undoubtedly represents a change for the better, there is justification for the demand that electronic votes leave a paper trail that is easier to audit should the vote be challenged later.

In this context, it is welcome that Supreme Court yesterday (Apr 13) asked government to respond early next month in a case where litigants want compliance with the apex court’s 2013 directive to introduce paper trail in EVMs. Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is a system where a voter has the comfort of additional feedback. This will hopefully put an end to the unfortunate tendency of losers blaming the ballot box. more> https://goo.gl/EL68OC

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Protect citizens’ freedom

SC should not allow Aadhaar to eliminate constitutional right of privacy
By Eben Moglen – As a law teacher and lawyer working in my home system, but concerned with issues of law and technology that are global more than they are national, i’ve spent the last several years paying much more attention to the Indian Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court now has before it – pending already for a period of almost two years – petitions asking it to rule on whether Indian citizens have a constitutional right of privacy against government.

The Court has ruled, and occasionally reaffirms in commentary on related matters, that Aadhaar registration cannot be made generally mandatory, yet it has before it unaddressed numerous petitions concerning large numbers of social services for which Aadhaar registration has been made mandatory in apparent contempt of the Court’s ruling.

If government does not have a positive responsibility to protect the privacy of its citizens, including against itself, then the technologies of behavior collection now being grafted into the nervous system of humanity we call the internet will make new, hyper-efficient modes of despotism inevitable.

But two successive Chief Justices have now found it impossible to constitute a seven-member bench to hear the privacy right petitions.

If the Supreme Court places India in the vanguard of the constitutional democracies, then the evolution of Aadhaar, UPI, and other aspects of Digital India will occur in a legal and constitutional context that will become a light unto nations, an example to the world’s advanced societies.

What is the Supreme Court waiting for? more> https://goo.gl/5e0UGv

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Resist ban mania

India’s rulers have yet to understand that prohibition deepens rather than solves problems
Times of India – In the absence of good governance, bans can provide an illusion of action even if they make the initial problem worse and create others in its train.

For example, reports suggest that prohibition in Bihar is pushing people towards drug addiction. Unfortunately a climate conducive to populist bans, which does not think through the consequences of radical legislation or judicial decrees, has gripped the country.

One might believe that people should drink less or adopt vegetarian lifestyles. But these ideas should be promoted through persuasive social campaigns rather than through draconian legislation or lynch mobs.

If RSS is serious about cow welfare it should buy unproductive cows from farmers and provide them shelter, using resources mobilised from voluntary donors (not the taxpayer). Even as BJP focuses on other matters more central to people’s welfare. more> https://goo.gl/ByLaek

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