students, suicides, pressures and solutions.

Couple of days back, I heard of a student whose body was found hung from the ceiling in a college nearby. It felt a bit shocked as I had visited that college just sometime back. It is also possible that I may have run into him and even had a conversation with him. No names were shared and even if there were shared it’s doubtful I would remember him as during events you meet so many people, it’s difficult to parse and remember names 😦 . I do feel sort of stretched at events but that’s life I guess.

As no suicide note was found, the police are investigating from all angles as to the nature of the death. While it’s too early to come to conclusions whether the student decided to take his own life or someone else decided to end his life for some reason or the other, I saw that nobody whom I talked to felt perturbed even a tiny bit probably because it has become a new normal. The major reasons apart from those shared in a blog post are that the costs of the education is too high for today’s students.

There are also perceived career biases that people have, believing that Computer Science is better than being a lawyer, even though IT layoffs have become a new normal. In the above specific case, it was reported that apparently the student who killed himself wanted to be a lawyer while the family wanted him to do CS (Computer Science) .

Also the whole reskilling and STEM culture may be harder as at least Government syllabuses are 10-15 years too late. The same goes for the teachers who would have to change a lot and sadly, it is too common for teachers to be paid a pittance, even college professors.

I know of quite a few colleges in the city in different domains where suicides have taken place, the authorities have tried putting wellness rooms where students who feel depressed could share their feelings but probably due to feelings of shame or weaknesses, the ones who are most at risk do not allow the true feelings to surface. The eastern philosophy of ‘saving face’ is killing our young ones. There is one non-profit I know, Connecting NGO 18002094353 (toll-free) and 9922001122 (mobile) that students or whoever is in depression can call. The listeners don’t give any advice as they are not mental health experts but just give a patient hearing. Sometimes sharing or describing whatever you are facing may give enough either hope or a mini-solution that you can walk towards.

I hope people would use the resources listed above.

Update – 15/06/2018 – A friend/acquaintance recently passed a link which helped her and her near and dear ones to better support her throughout her facing depression. It pretty much seems like a yo-yo but that’s how people might feel in a given situation.

I was shared an email where I had asked the concerned non-profit to see if it needed any more addition to the blog post and this is what I heard from them –

Hello Shirish,

Warm Greetings from Connecting NGO

I read the blog link sent by you and the article looks good. I dont think anything needs to be added to that. Someday if you can come to the office, we can sit and talk about articles regarding emotional distress and suicides and how they need to be written. You have done a good job and thanks for sharing the link.
We will surely try to get in touch with X college sometime this month and talk with the teaching staff and authorities there along with the students. Thanks for the lead. Hoping to see you soon.

Regards,
Vikramsinh Pawar
Senior Programme Coordinator,

I was simply being cautious and short of words as words carelessly used could be a trigger as well.

On one of the groups I am a member of, I came to know of another institute where there have been quite a few suicides. A few of us have decided to visit the institute with a trained mental health professional and see if we can be of any assistance in anyway, in some ways sharing our tales of loss in the hopes that others are able to grieve their loss or at least come to terms with.

We have also asked the non-profit so maybe they would also do an intervention on their own.

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Authoritarianism and the slow death of Indian Railways

Definiton non-answer – An answer which is not actually an answer, it does everything except answer the question actually asked. Understanding this art and you understand how Indian Politics and the Indian bureaucracy works.

I was reading an article about nations and most of all my own country is getting into a well of authoritarianism and a cycle of fear and non-answers being generated by the present dispensation.

While I believe myself to be partly at fault for being self-censoring, I would try to share some of the issues which have been lying dormant in myself for quite some time.

To start with, there were couple of questions asked by my economic professor when I was studying Economics almost 20 years back.

The first question he asked was –

1. Why do people like status-quo so much ?

Some of the answers which were answered by the professor were –

a. People are happy with the way things are –

b. People do not know how the change will affect them.
The fear of how the change will affect them is unknown
and like magicians only one part/feature is known and
perceived while the other part is hidden.

It took me quite a few years of life, reading newspapers,
I understood what he meant by it.

c. Special Interests who survive and thrive due to the
way the status-quo is or as later I understood ‘Follow the
money’ .

I am going to use Indian Railways to explore the ‘Follow the money model’ way as I have loved Indian Railways since my childhood and it is also pertinent to majority of Indians who have the only means of cheap transport to go from A to B.

Indian Railways logo

A bit of history

Before we get to the present condition, a bit of historical reminiscing is important. Now the Indian Railways has been like the son which was never wanted since it’s birth. The British made lot of investment when they were ruling for their own benefit, most of which is still standing today details the kind of materials that were used. Independence and Partition were two gifts which the English gave us when they left which lead to millions of souls killed on either side. I wouldn’t go much into it as Khushwant Singh’s ‘Train to Pakistan‘ . It is probably one of the most hard books I have read as there are just too many threads to grasp and one is just unable to grasp the horror that Partition wrought to the Indian subcontinent.

The reason I am sharing about Partition because trains were the only means for lot of people to cover huge distances in those times. After Partition, when Pandit Nehruji became the P.M. the constitution he along with many leaders with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (who is known as the Architect of the Constitution of India) wanted to have a secular, socialist India which would be self-sufficent in nature. The experiment which was also tried later by her daughter Mrs. Gandhi and later his grandson Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. All of the Prime Ministers did lot of investment in whatever they thought was best for the country except for Indian Railways. Especially from 1980’s onwards there was a dramatic shift (downwards) in creation of public infrastructure, especially the Railways even though the Governments knew we would be a young country in the coming years.

The 90’s

Before India’s Independence , India was a collection of several princely states consisting of today’s India, Pakistan, parts of Burma, Nepal so when the British came with the Rails, it was an innovation. During the period as the spread of Railways grow, three different railway systems were spawned on the gauge width, the Narrow Gauge, Standard Gauge and the (Indian) broad gauge. Wikipedia has a nice article about the different gauge networks so would leave it to them.

In the 90’s apart one of the dramatic change was from socialism to capitalism (as a policy initiative) and limited entry to foreign capital in specific sectors, one of the good intentions was the Project Uniguage for Indian Railways which was supposed to be finished by the end of the century has still not been done till date.

The other thing which was supposed to also happen is the impetus on Electrification of Indian Railways which is still far from over. There is lobbying from the diesel lobby at least in the locomotive space. As almost all the locomotive designs have been bought from various foreign vendors and then Indianized, they do not want their interests to be diluted.

Present situation

The present situation is that Indian Railways is in dire straits. While Indian Railways had an operating ratio of 94.9 percent

See the image of an Average Indian Household spend on various services –

Average Indian Household spend per month - Copyright Times of India.

– Copyright – Times of India.

As can be seen the biggest expenses are travel and eating out. In most developed economies, the share of travel expenses is not more than 4% of a typical household budget, but as can be seen for Indians the proportions are much more higher.

The Indian Railways has been the worst performer as far as on-time performance is concerned, at least since the present dispensation has taken over.

So who gains, if trains run late, the private buses and Air Services. The private bus transport have known to raise prices every year, especially whenever holidays or festivals happen. The same is the case with Airfares as well and is common occurrence and doesn’t register any shock anymore. There is a proposal to give fair compensation in cases of issues of flight delay and flight cancellation somewhat like what is available in European sectors but most operators say it will inevitably lead to higher fare prices across the board.

The airport infrastructure is also under severe strain while clocking increasing growth as people look to be at places at appointed times. The growth has been amazing while the on-time performance has been going in the opposite direction due to poor planning and mis-management. We need to have more CISF personnel and much wider airports (both land-side and air-side) to accommodate the increasing number of people traveling.

Just yesterday came across an interesting article on civil aviation which brings out all what I wanted to share and more.

Indian railways meanwhile seems to be running out of options as even though infrastructure is being increased, it’s not just fast enough with not enough talent which is going to cost us both in the short and medium-term 😦

I could share quite a lot of operational and policy issues but that might be boring for people who are not rail-fanners. I’ll just end with the simplest station that if you look at the work of at least the last couple of decades of Indian Railway Ministers, most Railway Ministers would present budgets where the emphasis was more on getting new railway services and something like 3-4% budget increase in creation of infrastructure which many a time will be lying unused without proper explanations or a non-answer.

Somewhat Good news

The only bright spot seem to the Dedicated Freight corridors which hopefully should increase Railways freight earnings and give more space for maintenance to happen on Indian Railways. The freight share of Indian Railways which used to be 90% has now shrunk to less than 18% due to number of reasons, among them opening up the freight sector from railways to roads, putting freight on passing loops and making freight a second-class citizen on railways, although roads have their own issues. A Livemint report couple of years back also shed some light on the situation.

On passenger front, only metro railways have some sort of good news but not enough. I am just hanging on hope as until we don’t value-add and move up in the value-chain on exports don’t really see India doing well.

There are a lot of challenges as well as opportunities for whichever Government comes next, have been thoroughly disappointed with the performance of the present Government in everything, including International Trade which was supposed to be unlocked by the Present PM.

Reviewing Agent 6

The city I come from, Pune has been experiencing somewhat of a heat-wave. So I have been cutting off lot of work and getting lot of back-dated reading done. One of the first books I read was Tom Rob Smith’s Agent 6 . Fortunately , I read only the third book and not the first two which from the synopsis seem to be more gruesome than the one which I read, so guess there is something to be thankful for.

Agent 6 copyright - Tom Rob Smith & Publishers

While I was reading about the book, I had thought that MGB is a fictious organization thought of by the author. But a quick look in wikipedia told that it is what KGB was later based upon.

I found the book to be both an easy read as well as a layered book. I was lucky to get a big print version of the book so I was able to share the experience with my mother as well. The book is somewhat hefty as it tops out around 600 pages although it’s told to be 480 pages on amazon.

As I had shared previously I had read Russka and how had been disappointed to see how the Russian public were disappointed time and again for democracy. I do understand that the book (Russka) itself is/was written by a western author and could have tapped into some unconscious biases but seemed to be accurate as to whatever I could find from public resources, that story though I may return to in a future date but this time would be for Agent 6 .

I found the book pretty immersive and at the same time lead me thinking on so many threads the author touches but then moves on. I was left wondering and many times just had to sleep, think deep thoughts as there was quite to chew on.

I am not going to spoil any surprises except to say there are quite a few twists and the ending is also what I didn’t expect.

At the end, if you appreciate politics, history, bit of adventure and have a bit of patience, the book is bound to reward you. It is not meant to be a page-turner but if you are one who enjoys savoring your drink you are going to enjoy it thoroughly.

A random collection of thoughts

First of all couple of weeks back, I was able to put out an article about riot-web. It’s been on my mind for almost a month or more hence finally sat down, wrote and re-wrote it a few times to make it simpler for newbies to also know.

One thing I did miss out to share was the Debian matrix page . The other thing which was needling me was the comment . This is not the first time I have heard that complaint about riot-web before and at times had it happen before.

The thing is its always an issue for me when to write about something, how to say something is mature or not as software in general has a tendency to fail at any given point of time.

For such queries I haven’t the foggiest idea as to what to share as the only debug mode is if you have built riot from source and run the -debug tests but can’t say that to a newbie.

One of the things which I didn’t mention is if any researchers tried to get data out of riot-web because AFAIK twitter banned lot of researchers who were trying to get data out of their platform to do analytics etc.

This I sort of remembered as I read an open letter couple of days before by researchers about independent oversight over facebook as a concern as well.

It would have been interesting if there were any new interesting studies made from riot-web implementation, something similar to how a study of IRC I read some years ago. The mathematical observations were above my head but still some of the observations were interesting to say the least.

There has been another pattern I have been seeing in the newer decentralized free software services. While in theory, the reference implementation is supposed to be one of many, many a times, it can become the defacto implementation or otherwise you have the irc way where each client just willy-nilly did features but still somehow managed to stay sane and interoperate over the years but that’s a different story altogether for a different day.

While I like the latter, it is and can be hard as migration ia a huge headache from one client to the other irrespective of whatever the content is. There is and could be data-loss or even meta-data loss and you may come to know only years later (if you are ‘lucky’ what info. it is that you lost.)

The easiest example is contacts migration. Most professionals have at least a hundred or two contacts, now if few go missing during migration from either one version to the other or from one platform to the other, they either don’t have the time or the skills to figure out why part-migration succeeded and the rest didn’t. Of course there is a whole industry of migration experts who can write code which would have all the hooks to see that the migration works smoothly or point out what was not migrated.

These services are wholly commercial in nature and also one cannot know in advance how good/bad the service is as usually issues come to bite much later.

On another note altogether, had been seeing the sort of java confusion from a distance. There’s a Mars Sims project I have been following for quite sometime, made a few bug-reports and for reasons unknown, was eventually made a contributor. They are also in a flux as to what to do. I had read the lists.debian.org/debian-java off-and-on the web and was glad to point out the correct links.

I had read the rumors sometime back that Oracle was bull-charging Java so that it would be the only provider in town and almost everybody would have to come to it for support rather than any other provider. I can’t prove it one way or the other as it’s just a rumor but does seem to have sense.

At the end, I remember a comment made by a DD Praveen at a minidebconf which happened a month ago. It was about how Upstreams are somewhat discouraging to Debian practices and specifically more about Debian Policy . This has been discussed somewhat threadbare in the thread What can Debian do to provide complex applications to its users? in Debian-devel. The short history I know is about minified javascript does and can have security issues, see this comment in the same thread as well as see the related point shared in Debian Policy. Even Praveen’s reply is pretty illuminating in the thread.

As a user I recommend Debian to my friends, clients because of the stability as well as security tracker but with upstreams in a sort of non-cooperative mood it just adds that much more responsibility to DD’s than before.

The non-cooperation can also be seen in something like PR, for instance like the one which was done by andrewshadura and that is somewhat sad 😦

getting libleveldb1v5 fixed

Please treat this as a child’s fantasy till the information is not approved or corrected by a DD/DM who obviously have much more info and experience in dealing with below.

It had been quite a few years since I last played Minetest, a voxel-based game similar and yet different to its more famous brethren minecraft .

I wanted to install and play it but found that one of the libraries it needs is libleveldb1v5, a fast key-value storage library which according to #877773 has been marked as grave bug report because of no info. on the soname bump.

I saw that somebody had also reported it upstream and the bug has been fixed and has some more optimizations done to the library as well. From the description of the library it reminded me so much of sqlite which has almost the same feature-set (used by mozilla for bookmarks and pwd management if I’m not mistaken).

I was thinking as to if this has been fixed quite some back then why the maintainer didn’t put the fixed version on sid and then testing. I realized it might be because the new version has a soname bump which means it would need to be transitioned probably with proper breaks and everything.

A quick check via

$ apt-rdepends -r libleveldb1v5 | wc -l
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
195

revealed that almost 190 packages directly or indirectly will be affected by the transition change. I then tried to find where the VCS is located by doing –

$ apt-cache showsrc libleveldb1v5 | grep Vcs-Git
Vcs-Git: git://anonscm.debian.org/collab-maint/leveldb.git
Vcs-Git: git://anonscm.debian.org/collab-maint/leveldb.git

Then I cloned the repo to my system to see if the maintainer had done any recent changes and saw :-


b$ git log --graph --pretty=format:'%Cred%h%Creset -%C(yellow)%d%Creset %s %Cgreen(%cr)' --abbrev-commit | head -15
* 7465515 - (HEAD -> master, tag: debian/1.20-2, origin/master, origin/HEAD) Packaging cleanup (4 months ago)
* f85b876 - Remove libleveldb-dbg package and use the auto-generated one (4 months ago)
* acac71f - Update Standards-Version to 4.1.2 (4 months ago)
* e281654 - Update debhelper level to 11 (4 months ago)
* df015eb - Don't run self-test parallel (4 months ago)
* ba81cc9 - (tag: debian/1.20-1) Update debhelper level to 10 (7 months ago)
* cb84f26 - Update Standards-Version to 4.1.0 (7 months ago)
* be0ef22 - Convert markdown documentation to HTML (7 months ago)
* ab8faa7 - Start 1.20-1 changelog (7 months ago)
* 03641f7 - Updated version 1.20 from 'upstream/1.20' (7 months ago)
|\
| * 59c75ca - (tag: upstream/1.20, origin/upstream) New upstream version 1.20 (7 months ago)
* | a21bcbc - (tag: debian/1.19-2) Add the missing ReadMemoryBarrier and WriteMemoryBarrier functions for mips* (1 year, 5 months ago)
* | 70c6e38 - Add myself to debian/copyright (1 year, 5 months ago)
* | 1ba7231 - Update source URL (1 year, 5 months ago)

There is probably a much simpler way to get the same output but for now that would have to suffice.

Anyways, there are many variations of the code I used using git log --pretty and git log --decorate etc. Maybe one of those could give the same output, would need the time diff as shared above.

Trivia – I am usually more interested in commit messages and time when the commits are done and know a bit of git to find out the author of a particular commit even if abbreviated commit is there and want to thank her(im) for the work done on that package or a particular commit which address some annoying bug that I had. /Trivia

Although the best I have hankered for is to have some sort of visualization tool about projects that I like

something like Andrews plot or the C-Chart for visualization purposes but till date haven’t found anything which would render it into those visuals straightway. Maybe a feature for a future git version, who knows 🙂

I know that in itself is a Pandora’s box as some people might just like to have visualization of only when releases were made of an upstream project while there will be others like who would enjoy and be fascinated to see amount of time between each commit on a project. I have seen quite a few projects rise, wane and have a rise again but having such visualizations may possibly help out in getting people more involved with a project/library whatever.

Andrews plot example - Wikipedia - CC-0

All the commits for the said library are done by the maintainer Laszlo Boszormenyi so it seems that the maintainer is interested in maintaining it. At least all the last 10-12 messages going almost 1.5 years shows that he is/was active till at least 4 months back, which brings me to another one of my pet issues.

There aren’t any ways to figure out how recently a DD or DM committed on Debian somewhere. People usually try the MIA team (Missing in Action) and many a times you feel you are taking the team’s time especially when it turns out to be a false positive. If users had more tools than probably MIA’s workload would be much lesser than before.

The only the other way is to look at all the packages a particular DD/DM is maintaining and if you are lucky then s(he) has made a release of a package or something that you can look into and know for certain that the person is active.

The other longer way is to download all the VCS repositories of a DD/DM, cycle through all of them using something like above to see when was the last commit done on all her(is) repos. and then come to conclusion one way or the other. If s(he) is really MIA then tell them to MIA team so they can try to connect with the person concerned, and if s(he) doesn’t respond in a reasonable time-frame then orphan the packages.

If a DD/DM has not committed for more than a year or two for any of her(is) projects I guess it’s reasonable to expect that the person concerned is MIA.

Anyways, it would be nice if the present maintainer is able to get the new release out so the other 190 packages which are probably installable could also work. When I was churning this on my head, I thought why couldn’t the DD’s have some sort of CI infrastructure which may automate things a bit and make life somewhat easier.

I have seen the Debian travis ci instance but know that’s limited to upstream projects hosted on github.

For those who might not know Travis CI is one of many such solutions. They are continuous integration software and they are quite a few of them.

What they do is they try to build the project/application/library etc. after each and every commit taking into account any parameters told/programmed into it. There may be times when upstream make an incompatible change or make some mistake while committing, because it’s autobuilds the application or whatever automatically, if it fails to build it forces the developer to see where they messed up. At the end you have a slightly better application at the end as at least obvious bugs are ironed out.

I do remember reading about gitlab-ci somewhere, maybe in the thread where DD’s were discussing about various alternatives to alioth or somewhere else. I dunno if would be just a matter of turning it on or that part is still not open-sourced yet, no idea.

If that happens, it would probably save the DD’s/DM some computational time apart from being able to know if things are going well or not.

I know gitlab had shared (paraphrasing here) they may make some of the things more open-source if Debian were to adopt the product, now that Debian has, I and guess most of the community would be hoping as lot of hard work, tears have gone into getting things ported from alioth to salsa especially in the last one month or so.

I do know that we have the autobuilder network but from what I understand, it’s for a slightly different use-case. This is more to see if the package builds on all the 10-11 official architectures and maybe some of the unofficial architectures.

While I was reading it, I was unable to find if just like people all around the world are doing mirrors (full or partial depending on the resources they have and the kind of pickup they are seeing) can people be part of autobuilder network to give additional computational power to the network. The name does say ‘autobuilder network’ so maybe that possibility exists, maybe it does not.

I did consult the documentation on the topic and it seems it’s a bit of work, see the workflow shared in wiki for transitions.

After reading that, you really wonder the patience of the people who slog through all this.

I did try to connect with him on the bug mentioned but he hasn’t got back, perhaps he’s busy IRL.

https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?package=release.debian.org#_0_17_4

Till later.

Note – I have not talked about */debian/control or */debian/changelog.Debian, */debian/changelog or any of the files because once those are made, they are probably just need to be fiddled around a bit. The control file will probably list newer version of dependencies and may or may not have newer build dependencies. Changelog.Debian would document the changes the DD/DM had to do in order for the binary to be built successfully and in the archive and changelog will just document the time till where upstream’s work was taken.

cleartext passwords and transparency

I had originally thought of talking about the recent autonomous car project which killed a homeless lady in Tempe but guess that would have to wait for another day. I saw Lars Wirzenius’s blog post which led me to change the direction a bit.

So let me just jump in with Lars blog post where he talks about cleartext passwords. While he has actually surmised and shared what a security problem they are, the pity is we come to know of this only because the people in question tacitly admitted to bad practises. How many more such bad actors are there, developers putting user credentials in cleartext god only knows. There was even an April Fool’s joke in 2014 which shared why putting passwords in cleartext is bad.

This is one lesson which web developers are neither taught nor learnt. Most web development courses in India may talk about web frameworks, CSS, front-end and back-end web development and even may talk about UX but security will be something which is supposed to be magically gained while you do the above things. Please note I said most, not all but yes there is needed a whole lot of awakening in terms of safe web development practices but that’s time for another day and another tale. Casual interactions with course publishers has been that most students are looking for buzz words and neither the employers look for ‘security’ as a strong point.

There even have been casual studies which shared that 0.01 of financial crimes are reported in India . I myself am guilty of this when a bank mis-appropriates or does something stupid, my only thing is to get the transaction rectified or get it corrected rather than worry about if some small, medium or large-scale conspiracy is happening in the bank. But that malaise has to many factors to put in this small blog post.

Few years back EFF did a tremendous job of pursuing and getting everyday users and vendors like mozilla, chromium to adopt https globally, but to my knowledge many Indian websites including some of the biggest behemoths in India with whom we have day-to-day activity keep all their user passwords in cleartext. What perhaps may or may not be a shocker to many people that many ATM’s at least in India don’t work on https even today. Is there even a wonder why skinners are still able to cheat honest people and taxpayers .

The reasons for all of the above could be ranging from sheer incompetence to being lazy to not being regulated at all. Rather than sharing anecdotes and also not having INR 100 crores or INR 1 billion rupees ( that statement will become clear in a while) with developers who under casual circumstances have shared they neither do one-way-encryption or salting or any of the methods of securing passwords either because financial companies don’t demand it or know about it even though they should know better.

I can however share an anecdote however which resulted in a suit of law which a media house won sometime back. It isn’t so much about unsafe web practices but more about companies lack of morals for financial web gains and our (the commons) own lack of understanding of such matters.

I had to search on my blog before sharing and turns out I didn’t share this anecdote before, surprise, surprise.

Since 2008, I know of a media house called moneylife which is run by a beautiful, very intelligent woman called Sucheta Dalal and her husband Debasis. I believe Debasis is more into the admin side of things while Sucheta bears both the investigative and editorial responsibilities on her shoulders. While I have never met her whole team, to have the kinds of breath and length of news you often find on moneylife.in you do need to have a strong and competent team which I guess she has.

Sucheta Dalal with the compensation cheque

Copyright – Moneylife.in

I have met her twice, and have been a fan of her work since she started reporting the frauds which were happening in SEBI in Indian Express from where she was consequently fired as she had too many ethics. I have been blessed to meet her couple of times but each time was dumb-founded as you meet someone whom you admired so much. I might have flustered and said thank you for the work you do but couldn’t ever muster the courage to say anything more than that to her face-to-face.

Anyways, fast forward a few years or back couple of years back, Sucheta wrote a column in moneylife that there was unauthorized algorithmic trading happening and some traders were profiting from it in National Stock Exchange. This was apparently done by a whistle-blower (A Singapore-based trader and hedge fund owner) and Sucheta and her team confirmed and then printed the same. Interestingly, SEBI which regulates how finance intermediaries (like brokers, stock analysts, stock exchanges and companies share their expansion plans or any news) didn’t say anything and chose to keep mum although this was happening right below their noses. Please keep this in mind, this happened under the present Government dispensation who had the mottos of ‘being the most transparent’ and ‘we will not eat and will not let corrupt people eat’ to paraphrase their election sloganeering.

Before starting with the story, it would also be interesting to state a bit about NSE. IIRC, BSE for a long-time was a monopoly for share trading, there was Kolkatta Stock Exchange also but due to political winds in Kokatta and many other factors they couldn’t keep up with change in technology and kind of faded on the national scene over the years.

Due to BSE’s bullish ways or being the only action in town, quite a few private and public institutions came together and formed NSE. The Harshad Mehta stock manipulation scandal probably also accelerated the formation of the institute. The goals at formation were laudable but as it happens in institutes which work and value money over everything else, it’s possible to be corroded as will be seen shortly.

NSE in many terms is a strange beast with having investors from Public and Private Companies who supposedly counsel and come under the finance ministry and SEBI (as most of their investors are Government Institutions including the finance ministry). There were also talks of taking NSE as a publicly listed company but dunno what happened about that.

What has never made been public if NSE filed the suit on its own behalf or was persuaded to do so either by finance ministry, SEBI or the traders who were doing the illegal trading, guess this is something we will ever know. The significance of this why will be known at the last of the blog post. AFAIK these algo traders control 40-50% of the daily trading so have a huge grip on the market.

I believe NSE filed the first case in Bombay small causes court which moneylife won and subsequently they even tried in Bombay High Court

Unfortunately for them, Sucheta and her teams were no cub reporters as she had years of experience working both with Times of India and then Indian Express hence she had hard documentary proof which she was able to show in the court to which as far as I know the Prosecutor had no answers.

To cut the long story short, NSE had to withdraw their suit and even pay damages of INR 50 lakh or INR 5 million rupees.

There are many things which I have not covered about the case, some of which can be understood by Shri Lokeshwarri SK’s excellent article which was posted in the Hindu Business Line years ago. He has framed many a questions which are still an open question even today.

The reason I shared this story is pretty simple, its only a very tiny amount of people who invest in the share market. I would say 1-2% of the population . Almost all of these people are highly literate and somewhat financially literate as well. If they didn’t know such things were happening then how can a common man/person on the road question or know if his data is being kept safe or not. All the contracts, terms of conditions especially those which either come in Population or finance or actually anything can come under ‘National Security’.

The best part, the irony is that algorithmic trading in India is now a legal activity and apparently was also legal in 2015 when the suit was done. AFAIK, that change could only be done by SEBI. The whole affair has also been framed in an article on Indian Legal Live which actually raises a whole host of disquieting questions. There seems to be lot of back-dating happening but as mere spectators we can’t even talk about that.

Even the judgement narrowly focussed on some of the questions raised as can be inferred from the article but in the present dispensation judicial activism is on the wane.

While I can’t help in the above, I can share about a tor meetup which probably may help in some direct or indirect way,

I do hope to go there and gain as well as much share whatever little I can.