End the impunity

Unnao rape case highlights why Uttar Pradesh needs the rule of law
Times of India – The bare facts of the Unnao case are this: a young woman who alleged that she had been gangraped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his associates, then disregarded by the police, took her protest to chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s house, threatening to commit suicide there on Sunday. Sengar brazened it out, telling reporters: “They are people of a lower standing, this is a conspiracy against me.” Meanwhile Sengar’s supporters allegedly assaulted the girl’s father, grievously hurting him. Booked by the police under the Arms Act, he died in custody on Monday.

This is a situation raising disturbing questions about Sengar’s position of power obstructing justice.

Although the Adityanath government came to power on the promise of ending jungle raj in UP, across districts like Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and Baghpat,there have been over a thousand encounters – open extrajudicial shootings – since he became chief minister. Police claim this is what it takes to control crime but what happens if the criminal is within one’s own ranks, say an MLA cosy with the police? The government is also moving to roll back a rape charge against former minister Swami Chinamayanand and to withdraw cases relating to the Muzaffarnagar riots.

When police lose accountability, the state’s motives also become suspect. The encounters feed lawlessness. more>

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ഭരണ തുടര്‍ച്ചയുണ്ടായാല്‍ ചൈനീസ് മാതൃക, സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയ രംഗം പൊളിച്ചെഴുതാന്‍. . ?

By ടി അരുണ്‍കുമാര്‍ (dailyhunt.in) [TRANSLATE]- മോദി സര്‍ക്കാറിന് 2019-ല്‍ ഭരണ തുടര്‍ച്ചയുണ്ടായാല്‍ ചൈനീസ് മാതൃകയില്‍ സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയകളില്‍ നിയന്ത്രണം കൊണ്ടുവരുമെന്ന് സൂചന.

പൂര്‍ണ്ണമായും കേന്ദ്ര സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ നിയന്ത്രണത്തില്‍ ഇന്റര്‍നെറ്റ്, ഫെയ്‌സ് ബുക്ക്, വാട്‌സ് ആപ്പ് തുടങ്ങിയ സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയകളെ കൊണ്ടു വരണമെന്ന നിര്‍ദ്ദേശം പ്രധാനമന്ത്രിയുടെ ഐ.ടി വിഭാഗത്തില്‍ നിന്നാണ് ഉയര്‍ന്നിരിക്കുന്നത്.

ചൈനയിലെ സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയ സെന്‍സര്‍ഷിപ്പ് സ്വകാര്യ പൊതുമേഖലകളുടെ പങ്കാളിത്തത്തിലാണ് നടക്കുന്നത്, ഭരണകൂടം നിര്‍ണ്ണയിക്കുന്ന പരിധിക്കുള്ളില്‍ നിന്നുകൊണ്ട് കറങ്ങിത്തിരിയാന്‍ മാത്രമേ ഇന്റര്‍നെറ്റ് കമ്ബനികള്‍ക്ക് സാധിക്കുകയുള്ളൂ. സര്‍ക്കാറിന്റെ താളത്തിനൊത്ത് തുള്ളിയില്ലെങ്കില്‍ രാജ്യ ദ്രോഹികളെ സഹായിക്കുന്നുവെന്ന കുറ്റമാരോപിച്ച്‌ കമ്ബനി അടച്ചിടാന്‍ കഴിയും.

സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ എജന്‍സികളും, ഉദ്യോഗസ്ഥരും നല്‍കുന്ന സൂചകപദങ്ങള്‍ സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയറിലേക്ക് ഫീഡ് ചെയ്തുകൊണ്ടാണ് ഭൂരിപക്ഷം ഇന്റര്‍നെറ്റ് കമ്ബനികളും ഈ സെന്‍സറിംഗ് നടത്തുന്നത്. സൂചകപദങ്ങളില്ലാത്ത പോസ്റ്റുകള്‍ സ്വീകരിക്കപ്പെടുകയും മറ്റുള്ളവ പരിശോധനക്കു വെക്കുകയോ അല്ലെങ്കില്‍ അപ്രത്യക്ഷമാവുകയോ ചെയ്യും.

സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയ നിരീക്ഷിക്കാനും അന്വേഷണഫലം മേലുദ്യോഗസ്ഥരെ അറിയിക്കാനുമായ് 20 ലക്ഷത്തോളം ഇന്റര്‍നെറ്റ് ഒപീനിയന്‍ അനലിസ്റ്റുകള്‍ രാജ്യത്ത് പ്രവര്‍ത്തിക്കുന്നുണ്ടെന്ന് 2013 ല്‍ സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ ഉടമസ്ഥതയിലുള്ള മാധ്യമങ്ങള്‍ തന്നെയാണ് റിപ്പോര്‍ട്ട് ചെയ്തത്.

സര്‍ക്കാറിനെ കുറ്റപ്പെടുത്താനുള്ള അവകാശമൊക്കെ ചൈനയില്‍ എല്ലാവര്‍ക്കുമുണ്ട്, പക്ഷെ ഒരേ ചിന്താഗതിക്കാരുമായി കൂട്ടു കൂടാനോ, ചര്‍ച്ച നടത്താനോ സാധ്യമല്ല. ‘കളക്ടീവ് ആക്ഷന്‍’ എന്നതുമായ് സാമ്യമുള്ള കൂട്ട പ്രകടനം, ബഹുജന സമ്മേളനം, ഓണ്‍ലൈന്‍ കാമ്ബയിന്‍ തുടങ്ങിയ വാക്കുകളടങ്ങിയ പോസ്റ്റുകള്‍ പുറംലോകം കാണില്ല. എന്തെങ്കിലും പരാതിയുണ്ടെങ്കില്‍ കസ്റ്റമര്‍ കെയറിലേക്ക് വിളിക്കുകയെന്ന നിര്‍ദ്ദേശമാണ് കമ്ബനികള്‍ നല്‍കുന്നത്.

ഇപ്പോഴേ പരിഷ്‌ക്കാരത്തെ കുറിച്ച്‌ പറഞ്ഞ് സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയയെ എതിരാക്കുന്നത് തിരിച്ചടിയാവുമെന്ന് കണ്ട് അതീവ രഹസ്യമായാണ് ഇതുസംബന്ധമായ ഉന്നതതല ചര്‍ച്ചകള്‍ പോലും നടന്നതെന്നാണ് സൂചന.

ഓണ്‍ലൈന്‍ മാധ്യമങ്ങളെ നിയന്ത്രിക്കാന്‍ കര്‍ശന നടപടി സ്വീകരിക്കുമെന്ന കേന്ദ്ര സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ നിലപാടിന്റെ പിന്നാലെയാണ് പുതിയ ആലോചനയെന്നതും പ്രസക്തമാണ്.

കേന്ദ്രത്തിന്റെ വിലയിരുത്തലില്‍ രാജ്യത്ത് ഏറ്റവും കൂടുതല്‍ ആളുകള്‍ വിവരങ്ങള്‍ അറിയുന്നത് സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയ വഴിയാണ്. മുഖ്യധാരാ പത്രങ്ങളുടെയും ചാനലുകളുടെയും പോലും ഓണ്‍ലൈന്‍ പോര്‍ട്ടലുകള്‍ക്കാണ് കൂടുതല്‍ പ്രേക്ഷകര്‍ എന്നതും കേന്ദ്രം വിലയിരുത്തുന്നു.

അത് കൊണ്ടു തന്നെ, ഏറ്റവും അധികം ജനങ്ങളെ സ്വാധീനിക്കുന്ന സോഷ്യല്‍ മീഡിയകള്‍ കേന്ദ്ര സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ നിയന്ത്രണത്തില്‍ വരണമെന്ന് ബി.ജെ.പിയിലെ ഒരു വിഭാഗവും ഇപ്പോള്‍ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്. more>

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Aadhaar is meandering in a legal maze

By A L I Chougule – Since July 2017, privacy has been at the center of Aadhaar debate. According to legal experts, there are three aspects to privacy issue: bodily integrity, information privacy and threat of state surveillance.

Whether the act of collecting finger prints and iris scans violates the bodily integrity of citizens, and therefore, the fundamental right to privacy is an important question before the SC.

Equally crucial argument is whether the Aadhaar Act violates the right to informational self-determination or informational privacy.

An important aspect of informational privacy is whether citizens know what exactly is happening with their personal information and the manner in which the information shall be used. The third and forceful aspect of the privacy argument is that Aadhaar will enable the State to mount constant surveillance on citizens.

Apart from privacy issue, the necessity to have an Aadhaar card to avail benefits or otherwise is also a subject of litigious debate. In an attempt to make the Aadhaar an all-encompassing identity for authentication, the government has lately been adding a slew of welfare schemes and services to Aadhaar. The government has also made Aadhaar necessary for filing income tax returns.

However, the apex court’s order of October 15, 2015, said that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for welfare schemes.

The court has restricted the voluntary use of the card to six schemes and prohibited the government from making it mandatory for receiving any other benefit or service.

The SC has consistently maintained that Aadhaar is voluntary and not mandatory and there is no compulsion to submit it for availing services.

To start with, the Aadhaar project was introduced as an optional 12-digit identification tool in January 2009. The optional nature of Aadhaar had come up for discussion when the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, was introduced in parliament by UPA-2 government.

The bill was referred to the standing committee on finance which raised concerns over Aadhaar’s security by giving an example of an ID project in the UK which was later abandoned due to high cost, untested technology and the ‘changing relationship between the state and citizens’.

In response to the committee’s concerns, the government stated that while the UK ID card was mandatory, Aadhaar number is not mandatory. The government also clarified that the main aim of Aadhaar ‘is to enhance the delivery of welfare benefits and services’.

Things took a different turn when the implementation of the project – in absence of a legislative backing – was challenged in the SC in November 2012. Since then, Aadhaar has remained mired in complex arguments in court. more>

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5-foot-thick wall does not ensure Aadhaar security

A primer on how data can and does get hacked
firstpost.com – Attorney-General KK Venugopal assured the judges that this was no fly-by-night operation and that Aadhaar data was secure behind walls that are 13-feet high and five-feet thick.

It’s at this point that questions need to be asked of Center’s — on whose behalf Venugopal was arguing the case — understanding of data, because comparisons with former I-T commissioner Vishwa Bandhu Gupta’s understanding of cloud computing come swiftly to mind.

The notion that data is some sort of physical commodity that can be physically safeguarded is a lot like being content with handing over your debit card and PIN to someone, safe in the knowledge that your cash is safely stored in a bank vault.

For breaching a database, you don’t need to be physically present around this so-called five-foot-thick wall. Accessing a database physically is just one method. But most of the sophisticated hack attacks take place remotely. You can hack a database remotely, from a different city, state, country or even continent. All you need is sophisticated software, hacking intelligence, an internet-connected machine and a vulnerability to exploit. No thick door or high wall can prevent a data breach if these four requirements are met.

One of the most common loopholes that can make databases vulnerable is having a weak link in the human chain of command. You may have the best of security suites to protect your database, but if the right security protocols and processes aren’t followed, there is nothing the world’s best security suite can do to protect your data. more>

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By Rewriting India’s History, Hindutva Forces Meddling With India’s Present And Future

By Ashok Swain – In India, the on-going debate over the rewriting of the history reflects the intense conflict between competing visions of national identity that has overshadowed India’s public and political discourse for the past three decades.

India has a long record of quarreling over its own past, but for the last four years it seems like history has become a central theater of the political wars. There is nothing unusual to look to the past for answers to contemporary political projects and to seek the endorsement of history’s heroes. However, it becomes complicated and to same extent dangerous when these heroes and their ideologies are not presented based on facts but through manipulated messaging.

To complicate matters further, regime-sponsored historians are often approaching the past with both eyes on the majoritarian politics of the present regime.

One of the dangers of this politicized historiography project is that it uses the help of the dominant ideology of the present to find answer to the historical questions and, more importantly, tend to intentionally misinterpret the available pieces of evidence.

When historians do not scientifically interpret the evidence but get guided by political masters to manufacture a politically suitable version of history, it becomes a huge disservice both to the idea of history and to the health and character of country’s political debate.

Falsifications of historical evidence and symbols designed to discredit political rivals are universal features of the struggle for power. However, the really serious problem arises when a regime, intoxicated with a total control of political power, tries to extend this monopoly to the interpretation of history and to impose a prefabricated biased version of the history.

Nowhere else in the world is the fault-line so volatile between religious and ethnic groups as in India and it is becoming increasingly dangerous by Modi government’s obsessive desire and forceful plan to rewrite country’s history and manufacturing an interpretation, which suits its agenda for majoritarian politics. more>

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Can India’s Biometric Identity Program Aadhaar Be Fixed?


By Jyoti Panday – The stakes in the Aadhaar case are huge, given the central government’s ambitions to export the underlying technology to other countries. Russia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand have expressed interest in implementing biometric identification system inspired by Aadhaar.

The Sri Lankan government has already made plans to introduce a biometric digital identity for citizens to access services, despite stiff opposition to the proposal, and similar plans are under consideration in PakistanNepal and Singapore.

The outcome of this hearing will impact the acceptance and adoption of biometric identity across the world.

At home in India, the need for biometric identity is staked on claims that it will improve government savings through efficient, targeted delivery of welfare. But in the years since its implementation, there is little evidence to back the government’s savings claims.

The architects of Aadhaar also invoke inclusion to justify the need for creating a centralized identity scheme. Yet, contrary to government claims, there is growing evidence of denial of services for lack of Aadhaar card, authentication failures that have led to death, starvation, denial of medical services and hospitalization, and denial of public utilities such as pensions, rations, and cooking gas.

During last week’s hearings , Aadhaar’s governing institution, the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), was forced to clarify that access to entitlements would be maintained until an adequate mechanism for authentication of identity was in place, issuing a statement that “no essential service or benefit should be denied to a genuine beneficiary for the want of Aadhaar.”

The UIDAI was established in 2009 by executive action as the sole decision-making authority for the allocation of resources, and contracting institutional arrangements for Aadhaar numbers. With no external or parliamentary oversight over its decision-making, UIDAI engaged in an opaque process of private contracting with foreign biometric service providers to provide technical support for the scheme.

The government later passed the Aadhaar Act in 2016 to legitimize UIDAI’s powers, but used a special maneuver that enabled it to bypass the House of Parliament, where the government lacked a majority, and prevented its examination by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The manner in which Aadhaar Act was passed further weakens the democratic legitimacy of the Aadhaar scheme as a whole.

It emerged during the Aadhaar hearings that UIDAI has neither access to, nor control of the source code of the software used for Aadhaar CIDR (Central Identities Data Repository). This means that to date there has been no independent audit of the software that could identify data-mining backdoors or security flaws.

The Indian public has also become concerned about the practices of the foreign companies embedded in the Aadhaar system. One of three contractors to UIDAI who were provided full access to classified biometric data stored in the Aadhaar database and permitted to “collect, use, transfer, store and process the data” was US-based L-1 Identity Solutions.

The company has since been acquired by a French company, Safran Technologies, which has been accused of hiding the provenance of code bought from a Russian firm to boost software performance of US law enforcement computers.

The company is also facing a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging it fraudulently took more than $1 billion from US law enforcement agencies.

By delegating the collection of citizens’ biometrics to private contractors, UIDAI created the scope for the enrollment procedure to be compromised. Hacks to work around the software and hardware soon emerged, and have been employed in scams using cloned fingerprints to create fake enrollments.

Corruption, bribery, and the creation of Aadhaar numbers with unverified, absent or false documents have also marred the rollout of the scheme. more>

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Negotiating With Power?

By Santosh Desai – The is the reason why filing a First Information Report in India is so difficult; the possibility of a negotiated settlement often takes precedence over the application of the law.

Power when dangled over these situations has a way of pushing those involved towards a negotiated understanding; not surprisingly, the powerful and connected have the upper hand in such a situation.

The preservation of status quo in an environment of rules requires both an exaggerated formalization of rules as well as a great willingness to bend these in order to get a desired outcome. The apparent intractability of the rules is used as an incentive nudging those involved towards a negotiated settlement.

The success of this gambit depends on the ability to move dramatically between a position that argues that the rules are completely fixed to one that allows for complete flexibility just this once.

The use of power to cement existing reality rather than to alter it seems to be the motivation at work here. In theory, rules are rules, and everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, no matter who is involved. In practice, this is far from being the case.

For starters, rules in India are constructed so that in many cases, it is virtually impossible to implement them blindly, so complex, onerous and far removed from reality are they. This makes rules contingent by necessity; and it is this flexibility in the application of rules that creates both corruption as well helps move things along.

But above all, it keeps a form of social order intact. The legislative and administrative systems in India are subservient to the social ecosystem, and work within its ambit. Power thus becomes a social instrument that needs to be brokered keeping the dominant interests in mind. The disinterested application of the law is not possible in a context where these interests take priority. Hierarchies are respected, networks are nurtured, money speaks loudly, and settlements are negotiated.

The idea of the ‘settlement’ which finds a measure of mutual self-interest being catered to is only thinly related to abstract notions of justice. The poor and weak ‘accept’ an unfair resolution because the alternative is much worse.

What are otherwise their rights become favors that they seek from the powerful for a price. The powerful build constituencies by creating a cumbersome system and then offering a way to navigate the same. more>

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Can ‘Make in India’ work?

Why India is not going to be the next China – or anything like China ever


By Kanti Bajpai – Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised he would promote a ‘Make in India’ revolution. Nearly four years later, a manufacturing revolution is nowhere in sight. Make in India was supposed to not just boost manufacturing, it was also supposed to generate employment. Estimates show there has been virtually no jobs growth.

To be a manufacturing power, a country needs a strong state which identifies niche areas, supports them and encourages innovation. It enforces contracts and property rights. It also provides public goods including law and order and an efficient bureaucracy.

Nobody would pretend that the Indian state is anywhere near being a strong state. It is often violent and despotic, but that is a measure of its weakness, not its strength.

India has no history of industrial-scale innovation – no world historical inventions that it has scaled up.

It is a trading nation and a nation that does well in areas that requires delicate craftsmanship and care, areas that are (for want of a better word) human in scale. It is also a nation that does well in providing services. It could, with better laws, incentives, and technology, be competitive in tourism, hospitality, fintech, and international education and healthcare – areas where human beings still count, where more personalized attention matters and where machines and scale are less important. more>

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American lessons for India

By neglecting science and public welfare, the US is losing the marathon in some respects
By Dipankar Gupta – We look up to America for a number of good reasons. But there are a few cautionary tales as well, especially in the area of public spending.

The US, however, rarely looks outside its borders, east or west, for ideas. The Midwest, the country’s navel, is where it gazes most often. This is where elections are won or lost, and where homebred culture and cars are made.

Between 2000 and 2017 there have been as many as 25 train mishaps in the US, prompting the head of Amtrak to confess that the latest crash is a “wake up call”. It took 60 years, between 1940 to 1999, for 25 train accidents to happen, but only 15 years since to clock that number.

This graphically demonstrates how rapidly public railways have declined in America. We are not starting on the subject of the 56,000 US bridges that need urgent repair. This may sound and taste like India, but we are still talking America.

According to Mark Reutter of Progressive Policy Institute, in the first 13 years after 1956, as much as 46,350 km of interstate roadways were built and, tragically, 95,600 km of rail tracks taken out. In an ironic coincidence, 1956 was also the year when Japan started planning its high speed trains.

Railways have never won state support in the US after their heydays in the 1930s and 1940s. Politicians complain that trains will never make money, so why fund them? In Europe, the calculations are very different.

For example France’s prestigious, high speed TGV train service makes regular losses but gets government money anyway because the public benefits from it.

Not only does TGV reduce travel time, its wide network has also brought booms to towns, like Lille, that had gone bust in the 1950s. China’s high speed train system is also not a financial success, but the country is going ahead with planning a 500 kmph railway system anyway. more>

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Ban, mandatory, compulsory: Three vile words increasingly define the modus operandi of India’s ruling politicians

By Ravi Shanker Kapoor – Something is rotten in the statecraft of India. Nothing else explains why three words – ‘ban,’ ‘mandatory,’ and ‘compulsory’ – are most widely used in not only governance and politics but also in public discourse. And not just the words; bans and mandatory requirements are also increasingly becoming a reality in what is supposedly the biggest democracy of the world.

The formulaic, quintessential Left-liberal explanation for this is simple: under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the fascist proclivities of Hindutva are asserting themselves; hence the increasing use of coercive measures. QED.

But Modi didn’t invent coercion, mandatory measures and other illiberal practices. For instance, the draconian Section 66A was added to the Information Technology Act by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government; the incumbent regime supported it in the court, though.

BJP’s ideology and agenda are different from those of the grand old party. But its methodology is still defined by the three obnoxious words: ban beef, make Sanskrit and Vande Mataram compulsory in Rajasthan schools, make it mandatory for people to stand up while the national anthem is played, etc. Any resistance to and criticism of such measures is dismissed with disdain.

Persuasion, discussion, debate and compromise are and should be the hallmarks of a liberal democracy.

Why is it so? The primary reason is that governance, which is essentially a process involving a great deal of assiduity and patience, has been reduced to a hodgepodge of events, rhetoric, and clever messaging. more>

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