Migrant worker woes and many other stories

I was gonna use this blog post to share about the migrant worker woes as there has been multiple stories doing the rounds. For e.g. a story which caught the idea of few people but most of us, i.e. middle-class people are so much into our own thing that we care a fig leaf about what happens to migrants. This should not be a story coming from a humane society but it seems India is no different than any other country of the world and in not a good way. Allow me to share –

Or for those who don’t like youtube, here’s an alternative link

https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=JGEgZq_1jmc

Now the above two editorial shares two stories, one of Trump retaliatory threat to India in the Q&A of the journalist. In fact, Trump has upped the ante on visa sanctions as India buckled so easily under pressure.

There have been other stories doing the rounds how people who have illnesses who need HCQ in India are either dying or are close to death because of unavailability of HCQ in the medicine shop. There have been reports in Pune as well as South Mumbai (one of the poshest localities in Mumbai/Bombay) that medicine shops are running empty or emptier. There have been so many stories on that, with reporters going to shops and asking owners of the medicine shops and shop-owners being clueless.

I think the best article which vividly describes the Government of India (GOI) response to the pandemic is the free-to-read article shared by Arundhati Roy in Financial Times. It has reduced so much of my work or sharing that it’s unbelievable. And she has shared it with pictures and all so I can share other aspects of how the pandemic has been affecting India and bringing the worst out in the Government in its our of need. In fact, not surprisingly though, apparently there was also a pro-Israel similar thing which happened in Africa too . As India has too few friends now globally, hence it decided to give a free pass to them.

Government of India, news agencies and ‘paid News’

One of the attempts the state tried to do, although very late IMHO is that it tried to reach out to the opposition i.e. Congress party and the others. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, who is the Congress president asked that the Government should not run any of its ads on private television channels for a period of two years. There had been plenty of articles, both by medianama and others who have alleged that at least from the last 6 odd years, Government ads. comprise of almost 50-60% advertising budget of a channel advertising budget. This has been discussed also in medianama’s roundtable on online content which happened few months back. While an edited version is out there on YT, this was full two day’s event which happened across two different cities.

or the alternative to youtube –

https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=c1PhWR1-Urs

It was as if the roundtable discussions were not enough, Mrs. Gandhi clarion call was answered by News Broadcaster’s Association (NBA) and this is what they had to say –

News Broadcasters Association reply to Mrs. Gandhi

To put it simply, NBA ‘deplored’ the suggestion by Mrs. Gandhi and even called the economy in recession and all they had were the Government’s own advertising budget to justify their existence. The statements in themselves are highly pregnant and reveal both the relationship that the media, print or mainstream news channels have with the Government of India. Now if you see that, doesn’t it make sense that media always slants the story from the Government’s perspective rather than remaining neutral. If my bread basket were on the onus of me siding with the Govt. that is what most sane persons would do, otherwise they would resign and leave which many reporters who had a conscience did.

Interestingly enough, the NBA statement didn’t just end there but also used the word ‘recession’ , this is the term that Government of India (GOI) hates and has in turn has been maintaining the word, terminology ‘slowdown’ . While from a layman’s perspective the two terms may seem to be similar, if India has indeed been in recession then the tools and the decisions that should have been taken by GOI should have been much different than what they took. Interestingly, enough GOI has refrained from saying anything on the matter which only reveals their own interests in the matter. Also if an association head is making the statement, it is more than likely that he consulted a lawyer or two and used application of mind while drafting the response. In other words, or put more simply, this was a very carefully drafted letter because they know that tomorrow the opposition party may come into power so they don’t want to upset the power dynamics too much.

Privacy issues arising due to the Pandemic

On the same Financial Times, two stories which dealt with the possible privacy violations due to the Pandemic have been doing the rounds. The first one, by Yuval Noah Harari is more exploratory by nature and makes some very good points without going far too deep into specific instances of recent times but rather goes into history and past instances where Governments have used the pandemics to exert more control over their populace and drive their agenda. I especially liked the last few lines which he shared in his op-ed

“Even if the current administration eventually changes tack and comes up with a global plan of action, few would follow a leader who never takes responsibility, who never admits mistakes, and who routinely takes all the credit for himself while leaving all the blame to others.” – Yuval Noah Harari . The whole statement could right fit onto the American President which he was talking about while at the same time, fits right into the current Indian Prime Minister, Boris Johnson of UK and perhaps Jair Bolsanaro of Brazil. All these three-four individuals have in common is that most of them belong to right-wing and hence cater only to the rich industrialist’s agenda. While I don’t know about Jair Bolsanaro much, at least three out of four had to turn to socialism and had to give some bailout packages to the public at large, even though continuing to undermine their own actions. More on this probably a bit down the line.

The second story shared by Nic Fildes and Javier Espinoza who broke the story of various surveillance attempts and the privacy concerns that people have. Even the Indian PMO has asked this data and because there was no protest by the civil society, a token protest was done by COAI (Cellular Operator Association of India) but beyond that nothing, I am guessing because the civil society didn’t make much noise as everybody is busy with their own concerns of safety and things going on, it’s possible that such data may have gone to the Government. There is not much new here that people who had been working on the privacy issues know, it’s just how easy Governments are finding to do it. The part of ‘informed consent’ is really a misnomer . Governments lie all the time, for e.g. in the UK, did the ‘leave’ party and people take informed consent, no they pushed their own agenda. This is and will be similar in many countries of the world.

False Socialism by RW parties

In at least the three countries I have observing, simply due to available time, that lot of false promises are being made by our leaders and more often than not, the bailouts will be given to already rich industrialists. An op-ed by Vivek Kaul, who initially went by his handle शिक्षित बेरोज़गार which means somebody who is educated but unemployed. While Vivek has been one-man army in revealing most of the Government’s mischiefs especially as fudging numbers are concerned among other things, there have been others too. As far as the US is concerned, an e-zine called free press (literally) has been sharing Trump’s hollowness and proclamations for U.S. . Far more interestingly, I found New York times investigated and found a cache of e-mails starting from early January, which they are calling ‘Red Dawn’ . The cache is undeniable proof that medical personnel in the U.S. were very much concerned since January 2020 but it was only after other countries started lock-down that U.S. had to follow suit. I am sure Indian medical professionals may have done similar mail exchanges but we will never know as the Indian media isn’t independent enough.

Domestic violence and Patriarchy

There have been numerous reports of domestic violence against women going up, in fact two prominent publications have shared pieces about how domestic violence has gone up in India since the lockdown but the mainstream press is busy with its own tropes, the reasons already stated above. In fact, interestingly enough, most women can’t wear loose fitting clothes inside the house because of the near ones being there 24×7 . This was being shared as India is going through summer where heat waves are common and most families do not have access to A/C’s and rely on either a fan or just ventilation to help them out. I can’t write more about this as simply I’m not a woman so I haven’t had to face the pressures that they have to every day. Interestingly though, there was a piece shared by arre. Interestingly, also arre whose content I have shared a few times on my blog has gone from light, funny to be much darker and more serious tone. Whether this is due to the times we live in is something that a social scientist or a social anthropologist may look into in the times to come.

One of the good things though, there hasn’t been any grid failures as no industrial activity is happening (at all). In fact SEB’s (State Electricity Boards) has shown a de-growth in electricity uptake as no industrial activity has been taken. While they haven’t reduced any prices (which they ideally should have) as everybody is suffering.

Loot and price rise

Again, don’t think it is an Indian issue but perhaps may be the same globally. Because of broken supply chains, there are both real and artificial shortages happening which is leading to reasonable and unreasonable price hikes in the market. Fresh veggies which were normally between INR 10/- to INR 20/- for 250 gm have reached INR 40/- 50/- and even above. Many of the things that we have to become depend upon are not there anymore. The shortage of plastic bottles being case in point.

Aryan Plastic bottle

This and many others like these pictures have been shared on social media but it seems the Government is busy doing something else. The only thing we know for sure is that the lock-down period is only gonna increase, no word about PPE’s (Personal Protection Equipment) or face masks or anything else. While India has ordered some, those orders are being diverted to US or EU. In fact, many doctors who have asked for the same have been arrested, sacked or suspended for asking such inconvenient questions, although whether in BJP ruled states or otherwise. In fact, the Centre has suspended MPLADS funds , members of parliament get funds which they can use to provide relief work or whatever they think the money is best to spend upon.

Conditions of Labor in the Pandemic

Another sort of depressing story has been how the Supreme Court CJI Justice SA Bobde has made statements and refrained from playing any role in directing the Center to provide relief to the daily wage laborers. In fact, Mr. Bobde made statements such as why they need salaries if they are getting food. This was shared by barandbench, a site curated by lawyers and reporters alike. Both livelaw as well as barandbench have worked to enhance people’s awareness about the legal happenings in our High Courts and Supreme Court. And while sadly, they cannot cover all, they at least do attempt to cover a bit of what’s ‘hot’ atm.

The Chief Justice who draws a salary of INR 250,000 per month besides other perks is perhaps unaware or doesn’t care about fate of millions of casual workers, 400 – 460 million workers who will face abject poverty and by extension even if there are 4 members of the family so probably 1.2 billion people will fall below the poverty line. Three, four major sectors are going to be severely impacted, namely Agriculture, Construction and then MSME (Micro, small and medium enterprises) which cover everything from autos, industrial components, FMCG, electronics, you name it, it’s done by the MSME sector. We know that the Rabi crop, even though it was gonna be a bumper crop this year will rot away in the fields. Even the Kharif crop whose window for sowing is at the most 2-3 weeks will not be able to get it done in time. In fact, with the extended lockdown of another 21 days, people will probably return home after 2 months by which time they would have nothing to do there as well as here in the cities. Another good report was done by the wire, the mainstream media has already left the station.

Ministry of Public Health

There was an article penned by Dr. Edmond Fernandes which he published last year. The low salary along with the complexities that Indian doctors are and may face in the near future are just mind-boggling.

The Loss

Losses have already started pouring in. Just today Air Deccan has ceased all its operations. I had loved Mr. Gopinath’s airline which was started in the early 2000’s. While I won’t bore you with the history, most of it can be seen from simplify Deccan . This I believe is just the start and it’s only after the few months after the lock-down has been lifted would we really know the true extent of losses everywhere. And the more lenghthier the lockdown, the more difficult it would be businesses to ramp back. People have already diagnosed at the very least 15-20 sectors of the economy which would be hit and another similar or more number of sectors which will have first and second-order of losses and ramp-downs. While some guesses are being made, many are wildly optimistic and many are wildly pessimistic, as shared we would only know the results when the lockdown is opened up.

Predictions for the future

While things are very much in the air, some predictions can be made or rationally deduced. For instance, investments made in automation and IT would remain and perhaps even accelerate a little. Logistics models would need to be re-worked and maybe, just maybe there would be talk and action in making local supply chains a bit more robust. Financing is going to be a huge issue for at least 6 months to a year. Infrastructure projects which require huge amount of cash upfront will either have to be re-worked or delayed, how they will affect projects like Pune Metro and other such projects only time will tell.

Raghuram Rajan

Raghuram Rajan was recently asked if he would come back and let bygones be bygones. Raghuram in his own roundabout way said no. He is right now with Chicago Booth doing the work that he always love. Why would he leave that and be right in the middle of the messes other people have made. He probably gets more money, more freedom and probably has a class full of potential future economists.

Immigration Control, Conferences and thought experiment

There are so many clueless people out there, who don’t know why it takes so long for any visa to be processed. From what little I know, it is to verify who you say you are and you have valid reason to enter the country. The people from home ministry verify credentials, as well as probably check with lists of known criminals and their networks world-wide. They probably have programs for such scenarios and are part and parcel of their everyday work. The same applies to immigration control at Airports. there has been a huge gap at immigration counters and the numbers of passengers who were flying internationally to and fro from India. While in India, we call them as Ministry of Home Affairs, in U.S. it’s Department of Homeland security, other countries using similar jargons.

Now even before this pandemic happened, the number of people who are supposed to do border control and check people was way less and there have been scenes of ‘Air rage’ especially in Indian airports after people came after a long-distance flight.

Now there are couple of thought experiments, just day before yesterday scientists discovered six new coronaviruses in bats and scientists in Iceland found 40 odd mutations of the virus on people. Now are countries going to ban people from Iceland as in time the icelandic people probably would have anti-bodies on all the forty odd mutations. Now if and when they come in contact onto others who have not, what would happen ? And this is not specifically about one space or ethnicity or whatever, microbes and viruses have been longer on earth than we have. In our greed we have made viruses resistant to antibiotics. While Mr. Trump says as he discovered it today, this has been known to the medical fraternity since tht 1950’s. CDC’s own chart shows it. We cannot live in fear of a virus, the only way we can beat it is by understanding it and using science. Jon Cohen shared some of the incredible ways science is looking to beat this thing

or as again an alternative to youtube –

https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=MPVG_n3w_vM

One of the most troubling question is how the differently-abled communities which don’t have media coverage at the best of times, haven’t had any media coverage at all during the pandemic. What are their stories and what they are experiencing ? How are they coping ? Are there anyways we could help each other ? By not having those stories, we perhaps have left them more vulnerable than we intend. And what does that speak about us, as people or as a community or a society ?

Silver Linings

While there is not a lot to be positive about, one interesting project I came about is openbreath.tech . This is an idea, venture started by IISER (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research) , IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics). They are collaborating with octogeneraian Capt (Retd) Rustom Barucha from Barucha Instrumentation and Control, besides IndoGenius, New Delhi, and King’s College, London. The first two institutes are from my home town, Pune. While I don’t know much of the specifics of this idea other than that there is an existing Barucha ventilator which they hope to open-source and make it easier for people to produce their own. While I have more questions than answers at this point, this is something hopefully to watch out for in the coming days and weeks.

The other jolly bit of good news has come from Punjab where after several decades, people in Northern Punjab are finally able to see the Himalayas or the Himalayan mountain range.

Dhauladhar range – Northern Punjab – Copyright – CNN.Com

There you have it, What I have covered is barely scratching the surface. As a large section of the media only focuses on one narrative, other stories and narratives are lost. Be safe, till later.

GMRT 2020 and lots of stories

First of all, congratulations to all those who got us 2022 Debconf, so we will finally have a debconf in India. There is of course, lot of work to be done between now and then. For those who would be looking forward to visit India and especially Kochi I would suggest you to hear this enriching tale –

I am sorry I used youtube link but it is too good a podcast not to be shared. Those who don’t want youtube can use the invidio.us link for the same as shared below.

https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=BvjgKuKmnQ4

I am sure there are lot more details, questions, answers etc. but would direct them gently to Praveen, Shruti, Balasankar and the rest who are from Kochi to answer if you have any questions about that history.

National Science Day, GMRT 2020

First, as always, we are and were grateful to both NCRA as well as GMRT for taking such good care of us. Even though Akshat was not around, probably getting engaged, a few of us were there. About 6-7 from the Mozilla Nasik while the rest representing the foss community. Here is a small picture which commentrates the event –

National Science Day, GMRT 2020

While there is and was a lot to share about the event. For e.g. Akshay had bought RPI- Zero as well as RPI-2 (Raspberry Pi’s ) and showed some things. He had also bought up a Debian stable live drive with persistence although the glare from the sun was too much that we couldn’t show it to clearly to students. This was also the case with RPI but still we shared what and how much we could. Maybe next year, we either ask them to have double screens or give us dark room so we can showcase things much better. We did try playing with contrast and all but it didn’t have much of an effect 😦 . Of course in another stall few students had used RPI’s as part of their projects so at times we did tell some of the newbies to go to those stalls and see and ask about those projects so they would have a much wider experience of things. The Mozilla people were pushing VR as well as Mozilla lite the browser for the mobile.

We also gossiped quite a bit. I shared about indicatelts , a third-party certificate extension although I dunno if I should file a wnpp about it or not. We didn’t have a good experience of when I had put an RFP (Request for Package) which was accepted for an extension which had similar functionality which we later come to know was sharing the sites people were using the extension to call home and share both the URL and the IP Address they were using it from. Sadly, didn’t leave a good taste in mouth 😦

Delhi Riots

One thing I have been disappointed with is the lack of general awareness about things especially in the youth. We have people who didn’t know that for e.g. in the Delhi riots which happened recently the law and order (Police) lies with Home Minister of India, Amit Shah. This is perhaps the only capital in the world which has its own Chief Minister but doesn’t have any say on its law and order. And this has been the case for last 70 years i.e. since independance. The closest I know so far is the UK but they too changed their tune in 2012. India and especially Delhi seems to be in a time-capsule which while being dysfunctional somehow is made to work. In many ways, it’s three body or a body split into three personalities which often makes governance a messy issue but that probably is a topic for another day. In fact, scroll had written a beautiful editorial that full statehood for Delhi was not only Arvind Kejriwal’s call (AAP) but also something that both BJP as well as Congress had asked in the past. In fact, nothing about the policing is in AAP’s power. All salaries, postings, transfers of police personnel everything is done by the Home Ministry, so if any blame has to be given it has to be given to the Home Ministry for the same.

American Capitalism and Ventilators

America had been having a history of high cost healthcare as can be seen in this edition of USA today from 2017 . The Affordable Care Act was signed as a law by President Obama in 2010 which Mr. Trump curtailed when he came into power couple of years back. An estimated 80,000 people died due to seasonal flu in 2018-19 . Similarly, anywhere between 24-63,000 have supposed to have died from Last October to February-March this year. Now if the richest country can’t take care of their population which is 1/3rd of the population of this country while at the same time United States has thrice the area that India has. This I am sharing as seasonal flu also strikes the elderly as well as young children more than adults. So in one senses, the vulnerable groups overlap although from some of the recent stats, for Covid-19 even those who are 20+ are also vulnerable but that’s another story altogether.

If you see the CDC graph of the seasonal flu it is clear that American health experts knew about it. One another common factor which joins both the seasonal flu and covid is both need ventilators for the most serious cases. So, in 2007 it was decided that the number of ventilators needed to be ramped up, they had approximately 62k ventilators at that point in time all over U.S. The U.S. in 2010, asked for bids and got bid from a small californian company called Newport Medic Instruments. The price of the ventilators was approximately INR 700000 at 2010 prices, while Newport said they would be able to mass-produce at INR 200000 at 2010 prices. The company got the order and they started designing the model which needed to be certified by FDA. By 2011, they got the product ready when a big company called Covidgen bought Newport Medic and shutdown the project. This was shared in a press release in 2012. The whole story was broken by New York Times again, just a few days ago which highlighted how America’s capitalism rough shod over public health and put people’s life unnecessarily in jeopardy. If those new-age ventilators would have been a reality then not just U.S. but India and many other countries would have bought the ventilators as every county has same/similar needs but are unable to pay the high cost which in many cases would be passed on to their citizens either as price of service, or by raising taxes or a mixture of both with public being none the wiser. Due to dearth of ventilators and specialized people to operate it and space, there is possibility that many countries including India may have to make tough choices like Italian doctors had to make as to who to give ventilator to and have the mental and emotional guilt which would be associated with the choices made.

Some science coverage about diseases in wire and other publications

Since Covid coverage broke out, the wire has been bringing various reports of India’s handling of various epidemics, mysteries, some solved, some still remaining unsolved due to lack of interest or funding or both. The Nipah virus has been amply discussed in the movie Virus (2019) which I shared in the last blog post and how easily it could have been similar to Italy in Kerala. Thankfully, only 24 people including a nurse succumbed to that outbreak as shared in the movie. I had shared about Kerala nurses professionalism when I was in hospital couple of years back. It’s no wonder that their understanding of hygeine and nursing procedures are a cut above the rest hence they are sought after not just in India but world-over including US and UK and the middle-east. Another study on respitory illness was bought to my attention by my friend Pavithran.

Possibility of extended lockdown in India

There was talk in the media of extended lockdown or better put an environment is being created so that an extended lockdown can be done. This is probably in part due to a mathematical model and its derivatives shared by two Indian-origin Cambridge scholars who predict that a minimum 49 days lockdown may be necessary to flatten the covid curve about a week back.

Predictions of the outcome of the current 21-day lockdown (Source: Rajesh Singh, R. Adhikari, Cambridge University)
Alternative lockdown strategies suggested by the Cambridge model (Source: Rajesh Singh, R. Adhikari, Cambridge University)

India caving to US pressure on Hydroxychloroquine

While there has been lot of speculation in U.S. about Hydroxychloroquine as the wonder cure, last night Mr. Trump threatened India in a response to a reporter that Mr. Modi has to say no for Hydroxychloroquine and there may be retaliations.

As shared before if youtube is not your cup you can see the same on invidio.us

https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=YP-ewgoJPLw

Now while there have been several instances in the past of U.S. trying to bully India, going all the way back to 1954. In fact, in recent memory, there were sanctions on India by US under Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government (BJP) 1998 but he didn’t buckle under the pressure and now we see our current PM taking down our own notification from a day ago and not just sharing Hydroxychloroquine but also Paracetemol to other countries so it would look as if India is sharing with other countries. Keep in mind, that India, Brazil haven’t seen eye to eye on trade agreements of late and Paracetemol prices have risen in India. The price rise has been because the API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) for the same come from China where the supply chain will take time to be fixed and we would also have to open up, although should we, should we not is another question altogether. I talk about supply chains as lean supply chains were the talk since late 90’s when the Japanese introduced Just-in-time manufacturing which lead to lean supply chains as well as lot of outsourcing as consequence. Of course, the companies saved money but at the cost of flexibility and how this model was perhaps flawed was shared by a series of articles in Economist as early as 2004 when there were lot of shocks to that model and would be exaberated since then. There have been frequent shocks to these fragile ecosystem more since 2008 after the financial meltdown and this would put more companies out of business than ever before.

The MSME sector in India had already been severely impacted first by demonetization and then by the horrendous implementation of GST whose cries can be heard from all sectors. Also the frequent changing of GST taxes has made markets jumpy and investors unsure. With judgements such as retrospective taxes, AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue) etc. it made not only the international investors scared, but also domestic investors. The flight of the capital has been noticeable. This I had shared before when Indian Government shared about LRS report which it hasn’t since then. In fact Outlook Business had an interesting article about it where incidentally it talked about localcircles, a community networking platform where you get to know of lot of things and whom I am also a member of.

At the very end I apologize for not sharing the blog post before but then I was feeling down but then I’m not the only one.

Covid 19 and the Indian response.

There have been lot of stories about Coronavirus and with it a lot of political blame-game has been happening. The first step that India took of a lockdown is and was a good step but without having a plan as to how especially the poor and the needy and especially the huge migrant population that India has (internal migration) be affected by it. A 2019 World Economic Forum shares the stats. as 139 million people. That is a huge amount of people and there are a variety of both push and pull factors which has displaced these huge number of people. While there have been attempts in the past and probably will continue in future they will be hampered unless we have trust-worthy data which is where there is lots that need to be done. In the recent few years, both the primary and secondary data has generated lot of controversies within India as well as abroad so no point in rehashing all of that. Even the definition of who is a ‘migrant’ needs to be well-established just as who is a ‘farmer’ . The simplest lucanae in the later is those who have land are known as ‘farmers’ but the tenant farmers and their wives are not added as farmers hence the true numbers are never known. Is this an India-specific problem or similar definition issues are there in the rest of the world I don’t know.

How our Policies fail to reach the poor and the vulnerable

The sad part is most policies in India are made in castles in the air . An interview by the wire shares the conundrum of those who are affected and the policies which are enacted for them (it’s a youtube video, sorry) –

If one with an open and fresh mind sees the interview it is clear that why there was a huge reverse migration from Indian cities to villages. The poor and marginalized has always seen the Indian state as an extortive force so it doesn’t make sense for them to be in the cities. The Prime Minister’s annoucement of food for 3 months was a clear indication for the migrant population that for 3 months they will have no work. Faced with such a scenario, the best option for them was to return to their native places. While videos of huge number of migrants were shown of Delhi, this was the scenario of most states and cities, including Pune, my own city . Another interesting point which was made is most of the policies will need the migrants to be back in the villages. Most of these are tied to the accounts which are opened in villages, so even if they want to have the benefits they will have to migrate to villages in order to use them. Of course, everybody in India knows how leaky the administration is. The late Shri Rajiv Gandhi had famously and infamously remarked once how leaky the Public Distribution system and such systems are. It’s only 10 paise out of rupee which reaches the poor. And he said this about 30 years ago. There have been numerous reports of both IPS (Indian Police Services) reforms and IAS (Indian Administrative Services) reforms over the years, many of the committee reports have been in public domain and in fact was part of the election manifesto of the ruling party in 2014 but no movement has happened on that part. The only thing which has happened is people from the ruling party have been appointed on various posts which is same as earlier governments.

I was discussing with a friend who is a contractor and builder about the construction labour issues which were pointed in the report and if it is true that many a times the migrant labour is not counted. While he shared a number of cases where he knew, a more recent case in public memory was when some labourers died while building Amanora mall which is perhaps one of largest malls in India. There were few accidents while constructing the mall. Apparently, the insurance money which should have gone to the migrant laborer was taken by somebody close to the developers who were building the mall. I have a friend in who lives in Jharkhand who is a labour officer. She has shared with me so many stories of how the labourers are exploited. Keep in mind she has been a labor officer appointed by the state and her salary is paid by the state. So she always has to maintain a balance of ensuring worker’s rights and the interests of the state, private entities etc. which are usually in cahoots with the state and it is possible that lot of times the State wins over the worker’s rights. Again, as a labour officer, she doesn’t have that much power and when she was new to the work, she was often frustrated but as she remarked few months back, she has started taking it easy (routinized) as anyways it wasn’t helping her in any good way. Also there have been plenty of cases of labor officers being murdered so its easier to understand why one tries to retain some sanity while doing their job.

The Indian response and the World Response

The Indian response has been the lockdown and very limited testing. We seem to be following the pattern of UK and U.S. which had been slow to respond and slow to testing. In the past Kerala showed the way but this time even that is not enough. At the end of the day we need to test, test and test just as shared by the WHO chairman. India is trying to create its own cheap test kits with ICMR approval, for e.g. a firm from my own city Pune MyLab has been given approval. We will know how good or bad they are only after they have been field-tested. For ventilators we have asked Mahindra and Mahindra even though there are companies like Allied Medical and others who have exported to EU and others which the Govt. is still taking time to think through. This is similar to how in UK some companies who are with the Govt. but who have no experience in making ventilators are been given orders while those who have experience and were exporting to Germany and other countries are not been given orders. The playbook is errily similar. In India, we don’t have the infrastructure for any new patients, period. Heck only a couple of states have done something proper for the anganwadi workers. In fact, last year there were massive strikes by anganwadi workers all over India but only NDTV showed a bit of it along with some of the news channels from South India. Most mainstream channels chose to ignore it.

On the world stage, some of the other countries and how they have responded perhaps need sharing. For e.g. I didn’t know that Cuba had so many doctors and the politics between it and Brazil. Or the interesting stats. shared by Andreas Backhaus which seems to show how distributed the issue (age-wise) is rather than just a few groups as has been told in Indian media. What was surprising for me is the 20-29 age group which has not been shared so much in the Indian media which is the bulk of our population. The HBR article also makes a few key points which I hope both the general public and policymakers both in India as well as elsewhere take note of.

What is worrying though that people can be infected twice or more as seems to be from Singapore or China and elsewhere. I have read enough of Robin Cook and Michael Crichton books to be aware that viruses can do whatever. They will over time mutate, how things will happen then is anybody’s guess. What I found interesting is the world economic forum article which hypothesis that it may be two viruses which got together as well as research paper from journal from poteome research which has recently been published. The biggest myth flying around is that summer will halt or kill the spread which even some of my friends have been victim of . While a part of me wants to believe them, a simple scientific fact has been viruses have probably been around us and evolved over time, just like we have. In fact, there have been cases of people dying due to common cold and other things. Viruses are so prevalent it’s unbelivable. What is and was interesting to note is that bat-borne viruses as well as pangolin viruses had been theorized and shared by Chinese researchers going all the way back to 90’s . The problem is even if we killed all the bats in the world, some other virus will take its place for sure. One of the ideas I had, dunno if it’s feasible or not that at least in places like Airports, we should have some sort of screenings and a labs working on virology. Of course, this will mean more expenses for flying passengers but for public health and safety maybe it would worth doing so. In any case, virologists should have a field day cataloging various viruses and would make it harder for viruses to spread as fast as this one has. The virus spread also showed a lack of leadership in most of our leaders who didn’t react fast enough. While one hopes people do learn from this, I am afraid the whole thing is far from over. These are unprecedented times and hope that all are maintaining social distancing and going out only when needed.

Indian Economy, NPR, NRC and Crowd Control Part – II

Protests and their history

A Happy New Year to all. While I would have loved to start on a better note, situations are the way they are. Before starting with the prickly process of NPR, NRC let me just focus on the protests themselves. Now protests either in India or abroad are not a new thing. While thinking on this, I found one of the modern, medieval recorded entries of protests to be in 12th century Paris, and just like most strikes, this one was for rights of liberty, freedom and price increase. The famous or infamous University of Paris strike 1229 , There have been so many strikes and protests worldwide which changed the world, in recent memory the protests against American involvement in Vietnam , The Montgomery bus boycott by Rosa Parks , the protests that I became aware in South Africa, UCT about Rhodes must fall movement . I would be forever grateful to Bernelle for sharing with us the protests that had happened the year before near the Sarah Bartman Hall. Closer home i.e. in India, we have had a rich history of protests especially during the Colonial period and the Indian Freedom movement, as well as afterwards, i.e. after india became free. Whether it was the Navnirman Andolan or the Great Bombay Textile Strike which actually led to industries moving out of Mumbai. My idea of sharing above strikes and protests has been that protests are not a new thing in India and have been part of India socio-political culture throughout its history. I am sure there were also protests during the medieval period but not going that far as it would not add value to the post currently. It may be a good idea to share about that in some other blog post perhaps.

The protests against NPR, NRC and CAA

So, let’s start with what these acronyms are and why people are protesting are against it . The first acronym is National Population Register (NPR) . Now while the Government says that NPR is nothing but the census which is done by GOI every year, there is a difference. There are few things which make it different from earlier years, those are, birth certificates, ‘date and birth of parents’ and ‘last place of residence’ . The problem starts and ends with these two points for NPR apart from biometric information which again has issues, both for rich and poor alike . Let me explain what is the problem therein, using my own use-case or history which probably can be multiplied by probably millions of people of my age and lesser and elder to me.

Now one could ask naively, what is wrong in birth certificates, in theory and today’s day and age, perhaps not, but everything has a context and a time and place. While I was born in Pune, in 1975, the Registration and Births Act had been recently passed in 1969. So neither the Municipal Corporation of that time was active and nor was that a statutory requirement in those times. To add to that, my mother had to go at least 10-15 times to the Municipal Corporation in order to secure my birth certificate even though there was no name. This brings to another issue, in those times, almost till date, the mortality rate of newborns have been high. While we have statistics of the last 20 odd years which do show some change, one can only guess what the infant mortality rates would have been in the 60’s and the 70’s . Apart from that, most deliveries happened at home with a mid-wife rather than in a nursing home. This is still the norm today in many cities and hinterland as well. Recently, there was news of 100 babies who died in Kota, Rajasthan. While earlier they were being given clean chits, it seems most neonatal units which should house only one child were housing three children. Hence the large number of deaths. Probably, most of the parents were poor and the administration while showing that each child was given a separate neonatal unit were put together. The corruption whether in Indian public or private hospitals deserves its own blog post. I had shared some of it in the blog post no country for women or doctors.

But that apart, in those days because babies died, many children didn’t get the name till s/he was of kinder-garden, school going age. In my situation was a bit more different and difficult as my parents had separated and there was possibility that my father may go for a custody battle which never happened. Now apart from proving my own identity even though I have all the papers, I might still need to procure more, I would need papers or documentation proving the relationship between mother and I . Now I can’t produce father because he is no more apart from his death certificate, with my mother, I would have to get and submit most probably a DNA test which is expensive to say the least. I know of some labs who also charge depending upon many genetic markers you are looking for, the more the better and costs go up like that. Now here itself two questions arise with the NPR itself.

a. How many children would have proper birth certificates, more so the ones who live either below poverty line or just above ? Many of them don’t have roof over their head or have temporary shelters, where would they have place to get and put such documents. Also, as many of them cannot either read or write, they are usually suspicious of Government papers (and with good reason) . Time and again, the Government of the day has promised one thing and done another. Mostly to do with property rights and exclusion. Why to go far, just a few days back Sonam wangchuck, the engineer, who shared his concerns about Ladakh and the fragile ecosystem of Ladakh in Himalayas due to unchecked ‘development’ as been promised by the Prime Minister bringing it par to Delhi. Sadly, many people do not know that Himalayas is the youngest geologically speaking while the oldest are in South Africa (thanks to Debconf for that bit of info. as well.) . While they celebrate the political freedom from Kashmir, they do have concerns as being with Kashmir, they enjoyed land rights and rights to admission to Indians and foreigners alike, this they have now lost. A region which is predominantly buddhist in nature is being introduced to sex tourism and massage parlours which are not needed. If possible, people should see Mr. Wangchuk’s talk on Ted talks or any of the work the gentleman has done but this is getting off-topic here.

b. What about people of my age or above me. Would all of us would become refugees in our own lands ? What about those who go from place to place for work ? What about Government servants themselves ? Those who work in Central Government, many of them have and are supposed to change places every 3-4 years. My grandfather (from mother’s side) toured all of India due to his job. My mother also got transferred a few times, although I stayed in Pune. This puts up questions which make it difficult for many to answer if they were to do it truthfully as nobody would have full papers. There are also no guarantees that just having the right papers would make it right. It is very much possible that the ‘babu’ or beareaucrat sitting at the other end would demand money. I am sure there was lot of black money generated during NRC in Assam. This would happen at NPR stage itself.

c. The third question is what would happen to those who are unable to prove their citizenship at the beginning itself. They probably would need to go to court of law. What happens to their job, property and life as it is. As it is, most businesses have a slack of 40-50%, this will become more pronounced. Would we be stateless citizens in our own land ?

NRC and CAA

Somehow, let’s say you managed to have yourself included in NPR, it doesn’t mean that you will be included in NRC or National Register of Citizens. For this, one may have to rinse and repeat. They may ask more invasive questions as never before. The possible exploitation of people by the state would be as never seen before. Most of the majority in India think of Germany and how it became an industrious house and they think, they became industrious because they persecuted Jews. In fact, I believe it was the opposite. As have shared before on the blog itself, numerous times, if the Jews had been part of Germany, Germany may have prospered many times over. If the Jews could make Israel so powerful, where would Germany would have been today ? Also not many people know about the Marshall Plan which perhaps laid the foundation of the European Union as we know today but that may be part of another blog post, another day. I would probably do a part III as there are still aspects of the whole issue which I haven’t touched upon. I might do it tomorrow or few days after. Till later.

Indian Economy, NPR, NRC and Crowd Control – Part 1

I dunno whether this would be a short or a long post but as the NPR, NRC seem to be deeply linked to how the Indian Economy is at the moment, I would say that the energy and the political capital the Government is putting into wrong things . Why I say that, I will attempt to use studies, data and newspaper reports to share what the issues are and where the Government should have been looking at and instead where it is using its energy and why it’s wrong.

State of Indian Economy

While it is by and large recognized by everyone that the Indian Economy is in slow-down or perhaps beginning a recession, a recent working paper by Arvind Subramaniam and Josh Felman who tell how the Indian economy is doing or not doing. While I’ll not go into many details as the paper itself is quite interesting, I would like to draw attention to couple of things .

While I have shared the working paper as well, one of the more interesting graphs I found in the paper is the one I am sharing below –

Difference between Interest and Profit

Now the sad and interesting part of that graph as shown above is that entrepreneurs, business houses etc. would be paying more to service debt rather than making profit. So, in essence, if an entrepreneur decided not to do any businesss today, he would be much better off than taking efforts, taking all the risks and still spend money out of his pocket to service debt instead of making profits. Of course the transmission of why lower interests given to banks are not reaching to the businessman have been more than effectively shared by the working paper so will not go into that. I have to commend Dr. Arvind and Mr. Josh for making the paper so simple so reading it even once or twice is enough to grasp the issues which threaten the Indian economy, this is when I have read and have been reading such papers about the Indian and International markets in my spare time.

There is another part however which hasn’t been really answered as the point being made in the working paper is that private banks are better than public sectors banks at either risk management or other things but there is no evidence shared which bears that out. One could argue, in fact the opposite. Private banking is much more opaque and there has been no discussion on how such banks are supposed to fill the needs of the millions of the customers and potential customers. The social welfare of banking that Public banking fulfills, how Private banking is supposed to do that is not told. India is still a very much an under-banked market. While Dr. Arvind and Mr. Josh have shared a bit about direct benefit transfers, they haven’t talked anything about the needs of the MSME sector or even how DBT would work in real life. As have been in Airtel Payment banks and others, most private banks have at one time or the other violated rules and norms. I am not going to get into great lengths but there are possibly about a dozen or two-dozen well-known scandals with private banks where people have lost money. The Great 2008 financial crash itself was made by private individuals, companies who were doing risky products and even after the crash, riskier derivative financial products seem to thrive in the American market. As far as regulatory bodies in India, such as the banking ombudsman or RBI is concerned, they seem to behave very similarly to SEBI and other regulatory bodies which doesn’t bode well for the Indian economy.

V.G. Siddhartha and CCD story

Apart from the working paper, there have been other things happening which don’t tell or paint a good picture of the Indian economy. For e.g. I am sure some of the readers may have remembered my blog post about V.G.Siddhartha . For those who might not know Mr. Siddhartha, the gentleman was the owner of CCD or Cafe Coffee Day. He committed suicide in July 2019. I, alongwith several thousand users, patrons, entrepreneurs who were encouraged by his vision and rise were saddened by the news of his demise. There is a fact or news which I hadn’t shared on the blog post around that time. The whole tax authorities issue which started was that some gentleman who claimed that he was working for CCD or Mr. Siddhartha was caught with some cash. Another fact is that both Coca-Cola, Barista and others were interested to take over CCD so it isn’t far-fetched to assume or presume that the person who was caught with cash might have been planted by his competitors. Also the amount of cash, apparently a few crores which were found in CCD offices was not at all commensurate with the scale of business the gentleman was doing at. In part, his suicide was made by the Tax Department’s heavy-handedness and that continues even today.

Government’s approach to Business

Over the past few months, there have been lot of negative views and how the Government of the day views businesses and businessman. A recent example would prove my point. Do you know for instance, the Ministry of Corporate affairs (MCA) removed almost 2 million directors and about 0.4 million companies due to not filing either their KYC forms or not filing the annual returns. In fact, this news item has been buried and only some people who are interested in knowing such news are able to dig it up. Now while the Government says these are all bogus and shell companies and in fact the FM (Finance Minister) shared the same in Lok Sabha (the lower house of the parliament) shared the numbers while also in the same breath sharing that there never has been a definition of what a ‘bogus’ or sham company is. With the cost of real-estate and other things going up, many such small companies are using co-working spaces. In fact, even quite a few medium to large business houses have used co-working spaces especially as the overheads are low. Also what has not been mentioned that the costs of compliance has gone up while the window of compliance has gone down and there are all sorts of inefficiences and corruption that small companies have to deal with than with large companies.This will severely impact as more entrepreneurs will think to remain as entrepreneurs or as partnerships rather than become private companies and eventually public companies which are needed for a big country like India to fulfill the country’s needs and requirements. Also less competition means more monopoly and more possibilities of more companies coming from overseas and taking advantage of less competition. The other part is when companies are known to be penny stocks which thrive on false or fake news, no action has been taken. While there are probably hundreds of examples in the Indian Stock market, a recent example shared by Sucheta Dalal is enough to prove the point. Her link to stock manipulated where she has documented at least 100 more cases and no action taken by SEBI is case in point.

Now as far as competition is concerned, there are probably hundreds of examples, for e.g. all electronics comes either from China, Taiwan, Singapore or States. Neither the GOI has any concrete plans for the sector and more often than not just make noises so they can be seen as doing something rather than doing actually something. For e.g. Mr. Piyush Goyal recently made a statement that we should not be dependant on imported electronic goods. Now there is nothing new in this statement, this same statement has been told and shared almost for a decade, decade and a half by almost all political parties but no effective strategies and finances have been put in place to make other people invest in India. In fact, I was talking to a dear friend few days back and we were talking about negative interests which is there in Japan and many European countries as well as ECB and low interest rates in States and why don’t they invest in India and we came to the conclusion that perhaps other avenues such as Bangladesh and others seem to provide a much more stabler economic, policy and political environment than the one we see in India where there are flip-flops every so often, case in point the GST flip-flops among many others.

Political Capital and Remedies

The last 10 odd pages of the working paper delve upon possible solutions of how the issues need to be tackled have been shared by Dr. Arvind. Most of the solutions and recipes as shared by him are not new at all. They have been often documented often enough. What this Government had in 2014 and even in 2019 is the political capital which could have been used to push the reforms or changes shared by him. He has also mentioned co-operative federalism and I should say the art of negotiation that Mr. Vajpayee had vis-a-vis our current dispensation which seems to lack imagination or depth of any kind. While Dr. Arvind has tried to end it on a positive note, that only can happen if the Government appears to engage with the opposition and try to find answers rather than doing the my way or highway attitude that the Government currently has. Part -2 will be more about the whole NPR, NRC issue and the agitations which are happening in that regard.

100 million Indians, no hope and future

What will happen when you have a 100 million Indians in the productive age of 14-40 are not working, neither looking for work, neither training or have any hopes that they will get any jobs. This is the India that most Indians are inheriting which has been shared in a recent Govt. report released about a month back.

The Report

If you look at the Report, it seems to be a humongous 600 pages + report but it has been buffed up by interspering the hindi translation within the report itself. Now, while I haven’t gone fully through the report the numbers themselves seem to be shocking. There are other numbers related to women participation in labor force which has plummetted which also is a huge cause for worry. It is estimated that the original numbers were 10 million who were disillussioned in 2010-2011 financial year for labor markets or job creation. Mind you, these are all Government figures. So what happened in the past 6-7 years to have such shocking numbers due to which you see divisive steps such as CAA (Citizen Amendment Act) being taken for which protests have been taken place across the country. I believe there are at least 6-7 major issues for which the present Government doesn’t seem to have time to fix and doesn’t even seem to have any ideas or seriousness as to how to fix them.

Demonetization

The first one right there is demonetization which the current Government fails to acknowledge as it mistake. While hindsight is always 20/20 while it didn’t do any of things promised to the citizens, it made sure that rural markets, startups and small businesses went out of business where most of the exchange happens by cash. Ironically just 2 years after demonetization, the amount of money in cash was more than before, which means those who generated black money were still in good business. In fact, as I have shared before, Dr. Arun Kumar who has done lot of work on black money and black economy, been part of 40 odd committees and did generate and use black money as he has confessed especially in real estate in early part of his career, has written two books recently on the topic –

Understanding the Black Economy and Black Money in India – An Enquiry into Causes, Consequences and Remedies – Dr. Arun Kumar , 6 Feb 2017

Demonetization and the Black Economy – Dr. Arun Kumar, 20th December 2017 – this one gives a far larger picture of how Demonetization failed to live upto its promises and what it didn’t take into account.

The Big Reverse: How Demonetization kicked India out : Meera Sanyal – 10th November 2018

There is nothing I can write that what these economists have written about it and in greater detail than anything else I would write hence would suggest you to go through them. I have given the amazon.in links you may use others. In fact, interestingly, just couple of days ago in a business channel, there was talk on commodity markets and one of the big jewellers had shared this on national media that due to Govt. imposition of high GST, there has been gold smuggling and people buying gold in black (i.e. without receipts) . FWIW, this was on CNBC TV 18.

Goods and Services Tax

About this I have covered in the last blog post so nothing much to reiterate here except link back. Although have to say GST is still hurting people, a lot. GST refunds is still an issue as shared by the finance minister. Although nowadays trusting any numbers including the PLFS numbers should be taken with a bucket of salt as the present Government attempts to always present a rosy picture rather than the real picture. So the numbers for people not looking for jobs as well as people whose refunds have not been given would probably be much more than what has been shared. With the Statistical Commission not having enough members of high quality and quantity how good the numbers are anybody’s guess as have shared before. And in fact, now whatever autonomy, the statistical commission had is also being eroded as can be seen in a draft bill. This will only lower India’s stature in global eyes.

Electoral Bonds

I don’t really have to say much in it except the reports by Nithin Sethi . While the Government has sought to placate the masses by its submissions in Rajya Sabha it hasn’t answered any of the questions raised by either Nithin Sethi or any of the findings by the RTI answers received by the Colonel. There is lot more to the story than still meets the eye, but probably this on some other day. This is apart from the fact that India is now funding lobbyists in U.S. so that Americans support India’s actions in Kashmir. This is after Americans found Indi actions baffling in Kashmir and Americans have lot of experience in enemy engagement.

Retrospective Tax

This is perhaps one of the things which I had shared in the last blog post as well. This is what has scared most potential international investors away. In fact, Bloomberg had shared a nice well-written article about the issue and also links to Mr. Harish Salve’s take who has been an unapologetic critic of the move by the then Congress Govt. which the BJP Govt. had promised to fix and since then has done nothing in that regard.

Rural demand and high agricultural prices and middleman

There has been no uptake in rural demand and there is no policy by the Govt to tackle this. Couple of months back the FM gave 1.45 lakh crore or $20 billion dollar tax bonanza to corporate houses which make a measly 3-4% of the total economy and are already swimming in cash, while the other 96% of the economy which actually oils the Indian market which is the small businesses, the farmers who are net loosers in the current regime. Even essential commodities prices have gone up both in retail and wholesale markets with almost all of the profits acruing to the middleman rather than the farmer or the agricultural labor . We are on the path of being England which imports all of its veggies. Last not but not the last exports have been down from India for straight fourth month.

Conclusion

Unless India fixes lot of structural issues for e.g. adherance to legal contracts or fast resolution in case of issues, don’t see India bouncing back anytime soon. Nobody from the other side even comments why economies of Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and even Cambodia are able to ramp up their economies even if the argument is ‘global slowdown’ . Some people have argued for cyclical slowdown but haven’t had any evidence to prove that other than conjecture.

Rape, aftermath, GST

While I do not usually like to start with bad news, but seems bad news is the flavor of the month. We seem to be going downhill one day after that. So let’s see what happened. First there is this piece which came in Washington Post and then there was the travel advisory for women travelling by their lonesome from UK and USA . It probably applies to women, even couples for sure . I am sure it was not an easy decision to come to but they had to as they as citizens come first for them. In between my last blog post and this, couple of more horrific things happened. The first thing we came to know is the burning of the Unnao rape victim which happened on Thursday i.e. 2 days from now when I am blogging. Apparently, she had gone to give her statement in a court hearing when the 5 people burned her. It does raise questions about the quality of protection being given to her. Just to be clear, there were no reports of any of the policeman coming to any harm which makes it all the most curious.

The second horrific incident were when the 4 accused in the Hyderabad rape case were ‘encountered‘ . Curiously in this case as well, except for some slight injuries to the policeman there were no injuries. This was when there were 10 policeman accosting the 4 accused. The 4 accused have supposed to taken away all the guns, how we don’t know and still didn’t manage to fire on one of them. It raises and raised too many unanswered questions. Because of these killings, we will never know the answers. What if it turned in investigation that these were not the culprits or there was a fifth or a sixth person who was not named. There was also lot of celebration of this ‘encounter’ which seems that we are still a medieval state rather than a 21st century state. Of course when you have majoritarian narratives such as ‘Hindu Khatre mein hain‘ driving election campaigns rather than anything else than all sorts of things are possible. This is when the country is going through its worst economic history, probably parallel to 1991 although that one was more externally driven while this was is more due to internal factors rather than externals.

GST

Apart from demonetization which was a huge disaster to the country, GST is perhaps one of the biggest badly implemented ideas in the country. Whereas, in other countries it is used as only as a single tax to be levied to the end-user stage, here it was put at very stage which instead of making it easier to use, made it much harder to use. While I had been numbed by seeing quite a few MSME units shutting down due to GST issues and mostly attributing to slow-down rather than blaming demonetization and GST, I was till surprised and shocked to find Reserved bit, a makerspace shutting down the end of the month. While Siddesh, Nisha had attributed a bit towards GST, they also shared they should have done more. While I have been to reserved-bit a few times and did find it engaging quite a bit, getting there was always an issue for me. The GST refund issue has been an eye-sore for everybody but neither the center or the state did anything for it, of course both being in BJP’s hands all this while, this is in my state Maharashtra, one of the more progressive states. The entire process of GST has been anal and had been in popular media for a while now but nobody seeks or shares any proper answers. Why, it even crashed last month and the month before that and before but nobody raises a voice.

The FM being as arrogant as ever. In such situations how startups are supposed to survive ? There were some reliefs given to start-ups but they were too small and still have a sting in their tale to be anywhere effective. Having retrospective taxes is another thing that people are afraid of and that is the reason you are not seeing people investing in new ventures. As it is, there is demand-slowdown or to put it perhaps more boldly perhaps, a demand recession while food inflation is at all-time high. While our FM wants to blame everything on externalities such as global slow-down but won’t answer as to why China is still growing faster than us without using questionable stats. which we are accused of. This is when they are 7 times larger than us in economy size and having a war with U.S. (economically) This is when conventional wisdom holds such that as you become a bigger economy your rate of growth decreases quite a lot as you need more economic muscle to move like for e.g. the United States or the Japanese . This is when they are far more efficient economies and have a larger tax-gdp ratio vis-a-vis compared to India. There is also the savings bit where India excelled which was wiped by demonetization and even now from the moves of Central Govt. savings are failing India which is and was one of the backbones of our economy.

For all their failings, people forget to honor Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh to make it easy to file Income Tax Returns. Of course the present regime has been making it more and more invasive but that’s story for another day. All in all a sad note to end the day on 😦

No country for women – rehashed

This is not the first time I am writing about it, sadly I had written it twice before in the preceding months. But the scenario instead of changing for the better is changing for the worse. Sharing a screenshot shared by somebody today on social-media.

Indian Express page inside page screenshot Page 9, Decamber 1, 2019 Reportage of Rape only.

The most recent gruesome addition to the list was that of a 26 year-old veterinarian. From the various news reports it was a pre-planned rape and murder of the woman. What was startling to me when I read the report that it seems people still either don’t know or police officers who should know and inform people do not inform people of their rights such as zero FIR . Maybe some RTI activist can find out how many people have used zero FIR or not and make efforts to popularize the concept and its utility. If people are courageous enough, they can even live-shoot video when asking a police officer or constable to file a zero FIR . The other part is I do hope the police do investigate and do the DNA matching so they have conclusive proof other than the statements which the rapists may later claim as being under duress. The views of police is almost Victorian in nature irrespective of whether it’s an officer or a lower hawaldar/constable on the beat.

While there have been many attempts to try and figure out solutions, it somehow always falls short. There was the ‘Occupy streets by women’ movement in 2017 and so many small and major attempts but almost all have fallen short. Simply put, neither the society, nor the police or the judiciary seems to have any answers. I probably had shared about India’s Daughter , a documentary which shared an insight into the rapist’s mindset. Except for the juvenile, all the other rapists who had confessed to the crime shared their opinion on why the rape happened and most of it was victim-blaming or victim-shaming. The producer Leslee Udwin at the time she made and released the documentary shared that she herself had been raped. The statements made by various BJP leaders as well as some from the opposition were so in favor of the men who had committed the rape were such that they had to finally ban the documentary as lot of hypocricy was being unveiled.

From 2012, till date there probably would be a dozen or more apps. which are designed to help somehow never work. There have been few women cab services, driven by women for women but that too has not scaled. The couple I know of are kaola kabs based out of Bangalore and women cabs in Delhi . The problem with Kaola is that they don’t have night services when most of the rapes occur and when they are needed, about womencabs maybe somebody who may have used the services could perhaps share their their experience. There have been many experiments, right from 2012 onwards but more often than not, most have been more or less a failure. The problems stem from many systemic and societal problems. The problem is not just of women but men too. Places which are unsafe for women are unsafe for all vulnerable groups, whether it is children, the elderly and anybody else who is not a bully. This simple understanding somehow fails to connect or be understood by people. We had this happen everywhere, whether in Bollywood or whether they are women cops or the judiciary. The situation for women is the same everywhere. And before somebody accuses me of India-bashing even though I live here. We know the same happens in all countries, surprisingly more in European countries where I expected human rights to be a savior but it seems they have their own fights to win. I guess if you are a predator you can find your prey no matter what your race or orientation is as shared by a victim recently.

Sex Education

While we can’t take the excuse of Sex education, the short video does illustrate the views of most people. If they don’t want to be responsible about children’s understanding and influence about sex especially in the nuclear families most are, then who will ?

https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=feQocm2TSBc

I had to look back at how I had helped Dr. Shome in her book where we had gone back and forth on her book on sex education titled ‘Let’s talk about guys, girls and sex’ which is there on Amazon, Kindle and elsewhere. My discussions as well as discussions with others, she had shared when last we met that she had material for at least another 2 books if she decided to go that way. The problem even with that such books do not make for casual reading and nor would either most parents or schools will attempt to have discussions around a book like that.

Mobile application for women safety

There are attempts to make a mobile application but I don’t see how any mobile application can help when it’s society’s issues at large. I am guessing funding is also going to be a big issue as well as transportation of people from place X to Y itself carries a cost other than costs and expenses incurred at various places.

Ancedote

I can share an anecdotal tale I heard from a gentleman couple of years ago, and like many stories or incidents this one also didn’t make the newspaper. A few years ago, I had gone to a friend’s place who was staying at Baner, at a somewhat secluded place. We used to meet for talking about FOSS, sharing foss, eating, drinking and sleeping at his place at night and next morning having a chai before using public transport to come back. We used to do this once a month or once two months till he shifted to Bangalore. Anyways, one night after partying I didn’t sleep well and went outside to the bus station quite early, around 0600 hrs or something like that. There used to be quite a few cycle rickshaw shops ( similar to food carts that you see in the west but somewhat more rundown.) The thing about Baner and the area I was in, this was factory area so most factories have 3-4 shifts so most of these food carts (called thelas in the vernacular) make brisk business. Unlike other times, instead of 3-4 food carts, I saw only one and also a bit of eerie silence. After a bit of talking, cajoling the owner, came to know that a naked woman had come and created a scene and other thela walas had run away. Whether she was mentally unstable or had she been raped was not known. Even the police jeep for some reason didn’t want to take her as they suspected they may blame the policeman. Even he had run away but as he was old he couldn’t tow the food cart so he simply ran away because in his twilight he didn’t want to get into any such complication.

The reason I shared the above is, in such a scenario how are men supposed to act and react, I don’t know. Whether it’s just fight or flight or some other behavioral patterns that should be incultated by men in such a scenario ?

Anthillhacks

FWIW, there is anthillhacks happening in Bangalore. For people interested in hacking or doing something like above, this may be a good chance to connect with like-minded people and have some sort of rough prototype out or at least hash out much more face-to-face rather than using the web. I had been a part of this just as have been part of similar things in the past and my experience has been swell. Unfortunately travel budget is an issue this year otherwise for sure would have been part of it. Hopefully people enjoy and also blog about their experiences while staying there.

Unbelievable

This will be short as I have been having a touch of cold and flu over the last week. As I shared, I moved to mastodon from twitter and quite a number of people have moved on mastodon and many other instance which run mastodon. The best thing IMHO was that –
a. I came to know the wide range of projects that fediverse is attacking or working on. While I’m not going to dwelve much into fediverse in this blog post, maybe some future blog post either here or on itsfoss.com might be used to share some of the features which I thought were far better than twitter and the possibility of people challenging the status quo, especially since if you have a bit of experience servicing a web-server. It is very LAMPisque in nature, except of course they use postgres ( much better choice and probably much more scalable) although they are still trying to fix and figure out response times and such, being a non-corporate, non-ad service, they rely on people’s donations.

Unbelievable

I just started seeing Unbelievable which was produced and shown on netflix. While I probably need a week or two and would be staggering my viewing so that it doesn’t affect me emotionally as have been told by friends. I just viewed the first twenty minutes of the 1st episode and there itself, it seemed lot of things had gone wrong. Some of my observations –

a. What is not told is when the first call to 911 went, if it was told that the assault involved a young woman shouldn’t a lady officer have been sent to the scene to investigate. While I have heard that the cop defended the girl, perhaps it would have been better if a lady cop would have gone to the scene. She might have been a tad more empathatic and it probably would have been easier for the victim, in this case a young girl to share her experience.

b. When it was told it was rape, there were again two male detectives. Shouldn’t it be women handling this. I would have seen multiple advantages in having a woman detective here. Probably most women are able to have a good reading about other women. Probably women in law-enforcement much more so. She would also have been empathatic and usually girl/women are usually much more relaxed around other women. So for the detective it would also have helped her in the investigation for signs of ‘tells’ to know if the victim was lying.

c. No legal help for the victim – After the lead detective questions the girl again in the police station, he asks her to sign over the results of the tests of the testing from the lab as well as to write the statement again. Having an attorney there perhaps would have advised her as to what are her rights and whether she should or not either sign those documents or start writing by herself right in the police station which was stressful for her. As she does tell in the beginning of the interview, she has a headache. If such a statement was indeed needed by her, she should have been told to write in the confines of her home or where she was staying with her guardian. I know of so many times while I think of writing a blog post, there are so many ideas, when I start typing, half of them I simply have forgotten. Later, if I do even want to make a change or two, many a times the change itself would be so dramatic that I would have to re-write quite a bit of the blog post taking that additional info. which I had known but not voiced on the blog. So, when somebody like me who may miss formulations or ideas even when I’m not stressed, here is a young girl/woman who claims to have been raped/assaulted. Having had a lawyer even if she was not very sharp would probably told her of her rights and what she can or should not do in the cirumstances she is in. I probably will expand on it as I see more of the series either here itself or on other blog posts as I see more of it.

Hopefully we will meet in a more cheerful blog post 😦

Move from twitter to mastodon

After last 2-3 nights of writing that blog post, was thinking that would be taking nice and easy for a while. But unfortunately, events have a habit overtaking the best of plans. Hopefully, it won’t be too long. It all started innocently enough. A gentleman, a Senior advocate who advocates in the Supreme Court, Dr. Sanjay Hegde had the following cover on his twitter account/handle.

August Landmasser – source – twitter, wikipedia, theprint.in

Now, the photograph is about a gentleman called August Landmesser, a german national who according to Wikipedia was imprisoned, eventually drafted into penal military service and eventually killed in action according to Wikipedia . This erupted as a row in twitter as the gentleman while known for his anti-establishment views has been in all aspects a gentleman on twitter. His twitter account was suspended under the view of ‘hateful imagery’ . While one could argue that it was done right, but he was not only the only one, over the last several days, lot of people on the left-side of the spectrum, sane voices have been suspended while some twitters even after giving rape or death threats on twitter from the right, no action has been taken.

So two things happened, while Advocate Hegde was reinstated over the hue and cry, he put the cover back up and was again suspended and now has served a notice to Twitter Inc. where the senior counsel is being represented by Mr. Panjal Kishore. While I don’t want to get into the legal notice itself, I would say it makes for some pretty interesting reading and makes some very valid points. The poem of poet Gorakh Pandey in its english translation provides icing on the cake. The counsel representing Dr. Hegde also points to constitutional law and previous judgements as well as references Alexander Meiklejohn and some of the statements he made in his work ‘Political Freedom’ . The notice also reminds about Article 19 (1) (a) which ensures each person the right to free speech while restraining the Govt. The gentleman also goes on to talk about censorship and its practise and asks the courts to direct twitter Inc. to unblock him while at the same time issue some guidelines which follow both in spirit and form what Article 19 was all about.

While one could argue about the merits of the case either way, it at least to my knowledge is one of the very rare detailed notice against a social media company talking about social liberties in such a manner. I, unreservadly support the notice because the notice is about democracy and ensuring voices, even of those with whom you might agree or disagree. How serious does the Supreme Court take this and what sort of action or inaction will the Govt. take will tell where the Government is heading. There are some people who feel the judiciary is under influence of the current regime but there are still others like Dr. Hegde who still seek to challenge it. If anything, have to give him points for fighting the good fight.

Movement from Twitter to mastodon

Because of the hue and cry, quite a bit of people have started moving from twitter to mastodon. People, by default don’t like toxic situations. People enjoy constructive criticism and different ways of looking at things but don’t enjoy death threats etc. from anonymous handles which had been happening. So what started with a small wave is steadily turning into a stream, people are moving from twitter to mastadon. While I’m sort of have been on mastadon for quite sometime, it was nice to see an influx of lot of reporters, journalists, constitutional lawyers, techies as well as well as just social media junkies turning to mastadon.social and other masto related sites.

The altnews founder Pratik Sinha made a thread on twitter where he asked people to ask questions. While, many of the questions were easy, many of them were also thought-provoking. For instance, the idea that couldn’t a federated system be gamed. While I don’t see how, I have enough faith in human ingenuinity to concede that any system can be gamed. We know that all and any software will have bugs and security issues. Add to that lot of such new media may use either derivatives or patches to library or libraries which have not been tested enough on security or tested in variety of combinations. But this is not a new issue but an age-old issue. I did share mastadon issue tracker . There were lot of conspirancy theories, some real, some fanciful and some portending how the rich and powerful could take over. All of which are possible, I had to admit. I did enjoy sharing https://instances.social/ which helps people in choosing instances. One of the big changes which I wasn’t aware of but became aware of due to somebody named Neha was that now it’s possible to export identities, followers, blocks from one instance to another. This at least, IMHO is a big boost to the features and ability in improvement in the federated structures. Of course, the more functionality we have, the more we want 😉 . Somebody also shared a cross-posting utility but seems to only work with mastodon and not any of it derivatives, at least not the network I’m on atm. I also came to know of another mastodon instance where a single toot can be of 1111 letters. For people asking about the cons, the biggest might be security. For instance, if I were to use the cross-posting uility and somehow it is breached, then possibility of two accounts is possible, not just one. Something to consider. Still though, all in all, a very productive evening 🙂

Update 10/11/19 – The exodus which was a sliver is has turned into a stream. First BBC reported it, then bloombergquint, News18, even the chinese picked it up as well as theprint, mumbai mirror which is part of the times group as well as moneycontrol and outlookbusiness . If you read most of the mainstream press you will see that most of them gave a sort of left-handed compliment which is not surprising. Many of them don’t understand the medium and almost all have a vested interest as they are present on twitter and their business-models is based on twitter. So, perhaps to expect them to give a kind word would perhaps be expecting a bit too much.

Some quotations or interesting comments from users and the creator

There were also some interesting comments from users as to why they moved to mastodon and they were varied a bit. For e.g.

As a media researcher, I find it amazing how new digital platforms have been shaped by a crisis of credibility. Birdsite really exploded after the Radia Tapes and its subsequent blackout by mainstream media. A crisis in the credibility of Twitter foced us to switch to Mastodon. This is important in itself because a lot of people thought that Twitter and Facebook have become the final pillers of social media and are no longer replaceable.

Garvit Garg https://mstdn.social/@gsquare/103102398088042940

Let’s get something clear…The exodus from Twitter is not because of Trolls. Those were easily handled. The problem was that Twitter was being paid by the Govt to turn a blind eye to the radicalisation of the Majority community.The exodus is not in fear but in disgust.

Comrade Nambiar https://mastodon.social/@Dasbolshevik/103102244771101873

And finally from the creator of the software Mastodon who had to figure out how to deal with all the new traffic which was coming in –

It’s now up to 18.8K new users this week. For reference, growth was about 1K per week for a long time.

Eugen https://mastodon.social/@Gargron/103104365797087977

There are of course many other aspects of fediverse and mastodon that we may explore as time passes by. Till later.

A tale of unfortunate coincidences and incidents

This would be a biggie so please relax as this is going to be a really long one. So make sure you have something to chill out with.

People talk about ‘ease of doing business’ or what not for quite sometime. From last few months, there has been a slow-down and due to certain issues I had to make some purchases. This blog post will share the travails from a consumer perspective only as the horrors from the other side are also well-known But for this blog post, will share the series of unfortunate coincidences and incidents which happened with me.

APC UPS

For quite few months, my old UPS had been giving issues hence I decided to see what is available in the market. As my requirements are small, two desktops and a laptop sometimes, I settled on APC BR1000G-IN . Instead of buying it from Amazon I decided to try my luck at the local vendors. None of them had this specific UPS which I wanted. Before I continue I want to share the trivia that I had known that Schiedner Electric was buying APC the last time I bought an APC UPS. That was the big news at the time, 2007. At that time when I bought the APC UPS I was given 5 years warranty and the UPS worked till 7-8 years so was pretty happy with it. I also had a local brand I used which worked but didn’t offer anything special such as LED interface on the UPS.

Anyways, with those factors in mind, I went to the APC site and saw the partner list and saw that they were something like 20-25 odd partners in my city, Pune. I sent one or two e-mails to each of the partners of APC, while some were generic with my requirements while in others I was more specific in what I want. I was hoping that at least a few would respond. To my horror, most e-mails bounced back and some were in black-hole which means no one answered. I even tried calling some of the numbers given of the partners and even they turned out to be either fake or not working, which of the two it is I don’t know.

Luckily, I have been to Mumbai quite often and have few contacts with some people who are into IT sales. One of them, had numbers of some of the people in Mumbai, one of which worked, who in turn directed or shared number of a vendor in Pune. One thing led to another and soon I had BR1000G-IN at my place. Sadly, the whole process was draining and took almost a week to get it at my end. I read the user guide fully, did all the connections and found that the the start/reset button of the UPS is depressed, it doesn’t connect well with my stubby fingers. I asked mother and even she was not able to push the button.

APC Back-UPS Pro 1000 Copyright – APC

As can be seen while it is at the upper corner when trying to on it and do the required settings, it just wouldn’t work. I was not sure whether it was the UPS at fault or my stubby finger at fault. As shared, even my mom was not able to push it. After trying for a day or two, turned to the vendor, had to escalate it up and finally was assigned an engineer who came to check it. When you buy a unit for around INR 10k/- this is the least they can do. Somehow his finger was able to penetrate. For both mum and me, the start/reset button was a design fail. While I can understand it why the original design might have been so, I am sure lot of people like me would have problems with it. Coincidentally, the engineer was from one of the vendors whom I had e-mailed earlier. I showed him the e-mail I had sent to the firm. Sadly, till date the e-mail address hasn’t been corrected. vishal@modularelect.com is still a blackhole while I was told this will be corrected soon but two months and it has still not been corrected 😦

Sadly, my problems still continue somewhat. While I’m thankful to whoever the apcupsd Debian wiki page for some reason it doesn’t work for me. While I have asked the good people at apcupsd-users mailing list I am hopeful will get an answer in a day or two. The good part is that the cable at least is working and giving some status information as shared. Hopefully, it will be some minor thing rather than something major but that only time will tell.

Another bit of trivia – While some of you may have known, some might not, I was also looking if APC bought out the Li-Ion batteries too. As fate would have it, the date I bought the UPS, the same date the Li-Ion batteries were launched or shown on youtube.

While it probably will take a few years, would be looking forward to it. There is also possibility of supercapacitors as well but that is well into the future.

Cooler Master G650M

I remember writing about having a better SMPS about a year back. At the time I was having power problems I also thought it would be prudent to change the SMPS as well. While it didn’t take me much time, while I was looking for 700-750W SMPS I finally had to settle for Cooler Master G650M Bronze SMPS as that was the one which was available. There were others too, 1000W ones (gold) but out of my price range. Even the 650W SMPS costed me around INR 7.5k. This also worked for few months and then shorted out. I was highly surprised when the SMPS conked out, as the warranty is supposed to run for five whole years. While buying I had checked the labelling and it was packed only couple of months before purchase, so not that old. What is most peculiar is that now that product is no longer in the market and in fact had been replaced by Cooler Master MWE Bronze 650 which has 3 year warranty 😦 . Why is it so is beyond me. Usually Products which have 5 year warranty or more are usually in the market for a much longer time. Unlike other brands, Cooler Master doesn’t believe in repair but offer replacement but takes anywhere between 2 to 3 weeks which I didn’t knew at the time of purchase 😦

Just to be clear, I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I had bought the ASUS Prime Z270-P motherboard which has LED lighting all around it. I have blogged about it before last year in the same blog post above. What was peculiar that the stock fan above the CPU was not running and nor the cabinet power button, although rest of the motherboard it was showing power so it was peculiar as to what could the problem might be. I have an old voltage detector, something like this from which I could ascertain that I was getting power at points but still couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I did have the old stock SMPS but as have shared before it has lot lesser wattage, says 400 on the label but probably more like 300-325 watts. I removed few of the components from the system before taking it the vendor so it would make it easier for the vendor to tell what is wrong. I assumed that it most probably might be the switch as I usually use reboot all the time whenever I feel the need for reboot, usually after I have some updates and need to refresh my session. The vendor was able to diagnoze within few minutes that the fault lay in the SMPS and not in the switch or anywhere else and asked me to take the unit to the service center for RMA.

While I sent it for RMA, thought could survive for the required time without any internet. But I was wrong. As news in most news channels in India is so stale and biased I found it unbearable to be without news in 2-3 days. I again wondered how people in Kashmir would be without all the facilities that we have.

GRUB 2 missing, UEFI and supergrub2

I went back to the vendor with my old stock SMPS and it worked but found that grub2 menu was missing. It was just plain booting to windows 10. I started a thread at debian-user trying to figure out if there was some issue at my end, maybe some grub variable had got lost or something but the responses seemed to suggest that something else had happened. I also read through some of the UEFI documentation on wikipedia and web, I didn’t go to much depth as that would have been distracting as the specification itself is evolving and is subject to change. I did find some interesting bits and pieces but that is for a later date perhaps. One of the things I remembered from my previous run-ins with grub2 issues is that supergrub2 had been immensely useful. Sadly though, the version which I tried as stable was dumping me to grub rescue instead of the grub menu when I used the ISO image on a thumb drive. I could have tried to make a go for it but was too lazy. On an off-chance I looked at supergrub2 support and did find that somebody else also have had the same exact issue and it was reported. I chimed in and tried one of the beta versions and it worked which made me breathe easier. After getting into debian, I tried the old $ sudo update-grub which usually fixed the issues. I again tried to boot without using the help of the usb disk but failed as it again booted me into MS-Windows environment.

Firmware update

I dunno how or where or how I thought it might be a firmware issue. While trawling via the web I had come across issues which stated similar issues especially either with dual-booting or multi-booting and firmware was one of the issues which was found. Apart from waiting 2 weeks and then perhaps getting a hdd I had no other option than to update the firmware.

Using inxi I was able to get firmware details which I also shared in the github issue tracker page before update.

$ inxi -M Machine: Type: Desktop Mobo: ASUSTeK model: PRIME Z270-P v: Rev X.0x serial: UEFI: American Megatrends v: 0808 date: 06/16/2017

I would ask you to look at the version number and the date. I used Asus’s EZ update utility and downloaded the new UEFI BIOS .pcap file . In EZ update, I just had to give the correct path and couple of restarts later I had the new version of UEFI BIOS as can be seen below.

Asus UEFI BIOS 1205 Copyright – Asus

One thing to note is that there is no unix way that I least I know of updating an UEFI BIOS. If anybody knows, please let me know. I did look for ‘unix .pcacp update’ but most of the tutorials I found out were for network packet sniffing rather than UEFI BIOS update. Maybe it’s an Asus issue. Does anybody know or can point to something ?

The update fixed the EFI code which was also not appearing, as can be seen now via efibootmgr.

$ efibootmgr
BootCurrent: 0004
Timeout: 1 seconds
BootOrder: 0004,0000,0003,0001,0002,0005
Boot0000* Windows Boot Manager
Boot0001* UEFI:CD/DVD Drive
Boot0002* UEFI:Removable DeviceBoot
0003* Hard Drive
Boot0004* debian
Boot0005* UEFI:Network Device

While I’m not going to go into more details but this should be enough –

$ efibootmgr -v | grep debianBoot0004* debian HD(2,GPT,xxxxx)/File(\EFI\DEBIAN\GRUBX64.EFI)..BO

I have hidden some details for privacy sake such as address space as well as GPT hash etc. Finally, Grub 2 menu came to me in all its loveliness –

Grub 2.04-3 debian-edu CC-SA-3.0

There are still some things I wanna fix through, for instance I hope to help out adrian in testing some of his code. I wasn’t able to do because nowadays we get cheap multi-level cell, see for e.g. this paper. I might have mentioned before.

Ending Notes – Powershell

To end I did try to make home even in MS-Windows but the usefulness of shell far outlives anything that is on MS-Windows. I used powershell 5 and even downloaded and installed powershell 6 and even manage to figure out how to get quite some of the utilities to behave similar to how they behave under GNU/Linux but still the Windowing environment itself was much of an irritant than anything else. One of the biggest letdowns was not being able to use touch. While somebody made a powershell module for it but it still needs to be imported for every session. While I’m sure I could have written a small script for the same, my time was beneficial in finding the solution to it. As shared I also learnt about UEFI a bit in the process. Sharing screenshots of powershell 5 and 6 .

Powershell 5 Copyright – Microsoft Corporation
Powershell-6 Copyright – Microsoft Corporation

Conclusion – While it doesn’t even cover probably even a quarter of the issues or use-cases but even if one person finds it useful, that is good enough. I have taken lot of shortcuts and not shared whole lot otherwise this would have been lot longer. One of the things I forgot to mention is that I did find some mentions of MS-Windows overwriting, this was in October 2018 as well as October 2019 Security Updates as well. How much to trust the issues that people posted don’t really know.

Lives around a banking crisis

First of all I will share a caricature and a joke shared by me as the rest of the blog post would be serious as it involves what is happening in India right now and the lack of sensitivity to it.

Caricature of me by @caticaturewale on twitter.

The above is a caricature of me done by @caricaturewale. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you can’t laugh at the world, can you ? I did share my thankfulness with the gentleman who created it. It surely must have taken quite sometime to first produce a likeness and then fiddle around the features so it produces somewhat laughable picture. So all the kudos to him for making this gem 🙂

PMC Bank

The other joke of the day, no the week or perhaps the month was a conversation between a potential bank deposit holder and a banker or somebody calling on behalf of bank.

I got a call from bank.
They said: “U pay us ₹ 6000 every month. U will get ₹ 1 crore when U retire”.
I replied: “U reverse the plan, U give me 1 crore now. And I will pay U ₹ 6000 every month till I die.”
The banker disconnected the call. Did I say anything wrong???

Poonam Datta, Maritime and Logistics, IMD, Switzerland on twitter.

Now where is this coming from ? I am sure some of you may have seen my last blog post which shared about the travails of PMC bank last week. There have been lot of developments which have happened since that. What I had forgotten to share that day is that the crisis in PMC Bank has been such that lives are being lost. From last week till date, 5 lives have been lost due to the PMC bank debacle. The latest being Bharati Sadarangani, a 73 year old septuagenarian who suffered a cardiac arrest as she had her life-savings, her daughter and son-in-law’s all life savings in that bank account. Now the son-in-law blames himself and his wife as the wife used to share her uncertainities with her mom. These people and all the others need urgent psychological help and counselling. In fact, while I don’t know them, I had suggested to some people to see if they can reach to these people and maybe some psychologists team can help them. While moneylife foundation is helping the distressed to write writ petitions and provide legal help, there is definitely need of medical counselling so no more suicides, panic attacks or cardiac arrests happen. But this isn’t the end of the story but is beginning of one.

Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation

The above I shared is a stamp by Dicgc which stands for Deposit Insurance and Credit Guratantee Corporation shared by a gentleman on twitter. The stamp claims and I quote that DICGC is liable for only INR 1 lakh rupees. Now many people were surprised where did the INR 1 lakh rupee come from ? While it is aptly documented in many places, I am going to use CNBC News 18 coverage to share the history of the liability of a bank which dates it back to 1993 where it was changed last to INR 1 lakh rupees. While I did my own calculations using the simple formulae of currency exchange, I would submit to Mr. Raghav Bahl’s slightly superior method where he has taken also the Indian GDP growth also into account which comes to INR 1,00,000.

The method I used is below –

The exchange rate of dollar in 1993 was 28.13 INR for 1 USD. For an amount of INR 1 lakh it comes to USD 3,555 at that time. Using just the simplest inflation tool it comes to date at USD 20,380 as of date which comes to INR 14,43,566.35 . This comes with some base assumptions that the tools and calculations I did were and are in-line with what GOI gives. One point to note though is what the GOI declares as inflation is usually at least a percent or two lower than what the real inflation is at the very least. At least, that’s what I have observed for the last twenty odd years or so. On top of it I didn’t even use the GDP multiple which Mr. Bahl did.

As far as the argument which some people have or may have it’s unlikely that many people may have had that much money, that amount was done by GOI using a variety of factors, including one would suppose the average balance of a middle-class salaried person. If one were to take gold or some other indicator I’m sure they probably would be a lot more higher. This is most conservative estimate I made. To have a higher limits in insurance to the deposit, it would need to be a people’s movement, otherwise it could be INR 1 lakh for all eternity, or INR 3 lakhs, IF the government feels it’s ok with that 😦

Why bother with such calculations ?

One could ask the question why bother with such calculations ? The reason is very simple. While the issue came at a co-operative bank, the amount of insurance limitation is not just limited to a co-operative bank but to all banks, whether they are co-operative, National or even private banks. While I live in Pune, and always have made some very basic lifestyle choices, in Mumbai, the same lifestyle choices will set anyone back at least INR 30-40k. Somebody shared that their 1 BHK apartment electricity costs are INR 15-16k/- monthly while it fluctuates between INR 900-1k/- for the same in Pune. So in that context, putting a budget of INR 30 – 40K/- may be probably conservative for a single person, if it’s a family or 2 or 4, which is common would probably be much more. So in any such scenario, it affects all of us. And this is not taking into account any medical emergencies or credit needs for some unplanned event.

The way out

What is the way out ? While those who are stuck in PMC Bank do not have a way out unless RBI takes some firm actions and help the ones in distress , those who are not are equally in distress because they do not know what to do or where to go. While I’m no investment adviser, just don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Put some in different post schemes, some in PPF, some in gold bars or coins certified by some nationalized banker or something. And most importantly of all, be prepared for a loss no matter what you choose. In a recessionary economy, while there may be some winners, there would be lot more loosers. And while people will attempt to seduce you with some cheap valuations, this is probably not the best time to indulge into fantasies. You would be better off spending time with friends and loved ones or into books.

Books

If you want to indulge into fantasy, go buy a book at Booksbyweight or Booksbykilo rather than indulge in needless speculation. At the very least you would have an asset or commodity which will give you countless hours of pleasure and is a tradable commodity with friends and enemies over a lifetime. And if you are a book lover, reader, writer, romantic like me they can be the best friends as well. Unlike friends or loved ones who would demand time, they are for you whenever you are ready for them rather than vice-versa.

Update – 24/10/19 – Few people asked me on social media how you came to the conclusion that we are entering recession. While I’m not sharing any reports or graphs, what I’m sharing can be easily typed by using keywords in your search engine –

1. Savings – Savings in India has been in a downward slide for about 6-7 years now but acutely so in the last 5/6 years. Less savings means either people are consuming more or earning less.

2. Cost Inflation – If you look at the CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation and real inflation which I have talked about above, that has been rising. Veggies, which a large population of India eats has been costlier, season after season. Even non-veg like chicken and others have skyrocketing. I am sure if one would look at historical charts they would see a much starker inverse relationship between the two.

3. Salaries – If you look at salaries, in many places there has been actually reduction in salaries and even mass layoffs. While you get headlines of billions of dollars of deals signed up for Indian IT, when you look at the figures closely, you find the value and profits have dripped quite a bit. In fact, cases and suits such as happening at Infosys doesn’t inspire as to what may be happening in other mid to high-range IT companies.

4. Demonetization and Badly implementd GST – The real dangerous effects of demonetization and badly implemented GST would never be fully known. While there have been some studies which co-relate the result of two disasters, they will never be fully known. While there are ample of anecdotal evidence to provide the same, let me provide one of a friend/client who used to run an engineering workshop. The gentleman used to do all kinds of work including getting work from Indian Railways. He had a crew about 20-25 odd people who used to work for him and I knew the gentleman for almost 2 decades. Most of his workers had been working with him for almost 10-15 years. When demonetization happened, he was literally stuck for cash. In an engineering workshop you need to keep an inventory fo small bits and bobs all the time . Because of cash crunch, he couldn’t either pay salaries to his men nor could he get any new orders because everybody in the chain was stuck. He tried his level best but had to fire more than half his crew for no fault of theirs. And when GST came, he was again stuck. At the end he sold the land to whatever price he could, fired the remaining crews and is now basically retired or semi-retired. Now that is a loss not just for him and his men but their families and economy as a whole. The people who bought the land were thinking of making a mall or something but haven’t done that either because there is no demand. They did get the land at a steal but aren’t doing anything with it which is again a loss.

Social media, knowledge and some history of Banking

First of all Happy Dusshera to everybody. While Dusshera is India is a symbol of many things, it is a symbol of forgiveness and new beginnings. While I don’t know about new beginnings I do feel there is still lot of baggage which needs to be left I would try to share some insights I uncovered over last few months and few realizations I came across.

First of all thank you to the Debian-gnome-team to keep working at new version of packages. While there are still a bunch of bugs which need to be fixed especially #895990 and #913978 among others, still kudos for working at it. Hopefully, those bugs and others will be fixed soon so we could install gnome without a hiccup. I have not been on IRC because my riot-web has been broken for several days now. Also most of the IRC and telegram channels at least related to Debian become mostly echo chambers one way or the other as you do not get any serious opposition. On twitter, while it’s highly toxic, you also get the urge to fight the good fight when either due to principles or for some other reason (usually paid trolls) people fight, While I follow my own rules on twitter apart from their TOS, I feel at least new people who are going on social media in India or perhaps elsewhere as well could use are –

  1. It is difficult to remain neutral and stick to the facts. If you just stick to the facts, you will be branded as urban naxal or some such names.
  2. I find many times, if you are calm and don’t react, many a times, they are curious and display ignorance of knowledge which you thought everyone knew is not there. Now whether that is due to either due to lack of education, lack of knowledge or pretensions, although if its pretentious, you are caught sooner or later.
  3. Be civil at all times, if somebody harassess you, calls you names, report them and block them, although twitter still needs to fix the reporting thing a whole lot more. Although, when even somebody like me (bit of understanding of law, technology, language etc.) had a hard time figuring out twitter’s reporting ways, I dunno how many people would be able to use it successfully ? Maybe they make it so unhelpful so the traffic flows no matter what. I do realize they still haven’t figured out their business model but that’s a question for another day. In short, they need to make it far more simpler than it is today.
  4. You always have an option to block people but it has its own consequences.
  5. Be passive-aggressive if the situation demands it.
  6. Most importantly though, if somebody starts making jokes about you or start abusing you, it is sure that the person on the other side doesn’t have any more arguments and you have won.

Banking

Before I start, let me share why I am putting a blog post on the topic. The reason is pretty simple. It seems a huge number of Indians don’t either know the history of how banking started, the various turns it took and so on and so forth. In fact, nowadays history is being so hotly contested and perhaps even being re-written. Hence for some things I would be sharing some sources but even within them, there is possibiity of contestations. One of the contestations for a long time is when ancient coinage and the technique of smelting, flattening came to India. Depending on whom you ask, you have different answers. Lot of people are waiting to get more insight from the Keezhadi excavation which may also give some insight to the topic as well. There are rumors that the funding is being stopped but hope that isn’t true and we gain some more insight in Indian history. In fact, in South India, there seems to be lot of curiousity and attraction towards the site. It is possible that the next time I get a chance to see South India, I may try to see if there is a chance to see this unique location if a museum gets built somewhere nearby. Sorry from deviating from the topic, but it seems that ancient coinage started anywhere between 1st millenium BCE to 6th century BCE so it could be anywhere between 1500 – 2000 years old in India. While we can’t say anything for sure, but it’s possible that there was barter before that. There has also been some history about sharing tokens in different parts of the world as well. The various timelines get all jumbled up hence I would suggest people to use the wikipedia page of History of Money as a starting point. While it may not be give a complete, it would probably broaden the understanding a little bit. One of the reasons why history is so hotly contested could also perhaps lie because of the destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Who knows what more we would have known of our ancients if it was not destroyed 😦

Hundi (16th Centry)

I am jumping to 16th century as it is more closer to today’s modern banking otherwise the blog post would be too long. Now Hundi was a financial instrument which was used from 16th century onwards. This could be as either a forbearer of a cheque or a Traveller’s cheque. There doesn’t seem to be much in way of information, whether this was introduced by the Britishers or before by the Portugese when they came to India in via when the Portugese came when they came to India or was it in prevelance before. There is a fascinating in-depth study of Hundi though between 1858-1978 done by Marina Bernadette for London School of Economics as her dissertion paper.

Banias and Sarafs

As I had shared before, history in India is intertwined with mythology and history. While there is possibility of a lot of history behind this is documented somewhere I haven’t been able to find it. As I come from Bania , I had learnt lot of stories about both the migratory strain that Banias had as well as how banias used to split their children in adjoining states. Before the Britishers ruled over India, popular history tells us that it was Mughal emprire that ruled over us. What it doesn’t tell us though that both during the Mughal empire as well as Britishers, Banias and Sarafs who were moneylenders and bullion traders respectively hedged their bets. More so, if they were in royal service or bound to be close to the power of administration of the state/mini-kingdom/s . What they used to do is make sure that one of the sons would obey the king here while the other son may serve the muslim ruler. The idea behind that irrespective of whoever wins, the banias or sarafs would be able to continue their traditions and it was very much possible that the other brother would not be killed or even if he was, any or all wealth will pass to the victorious brother and the family name will live on. If I were to look at that, I’m sure I’ll find the same not only in Banias and Sarafs but perhaps other castes and communities as well. Modern history also tells of Rothschilds who did and continue to be an influence on the world today.

As to why did I share about how people acted in their self-interest because nowadays in the Indian social media, it is because many people chose to believe a very simplistic black and white narrative and they are being fed that by today’s dominant political party in power. What I’m trying to simply say is that history is much more complex than that. While you may choose to believe either of the beliefs, it might open a window in at least some Indian’s minds that there is possibility of another way things were done and ways in which people acted then what is being perceived today. It is also possible it may be contested today as lot of people would like to appear in the ‘right side’ of history as it seems today.

Banking in British Raj till nationalization

When the Britishers came, they bought the modern Banking system with them. These lead to creation of various banks like Bank of Bengal, Bank of Bombay and Bank of Madras which was later subsumed under Imperial Bank of India which later became State Bank of India in 1955. While I will not go into details, I do have curiousity so if life has, would surely want to visit either the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A of Italy or the Berenberg Bank both of which probably has lot of history than what is written on their wikipedi pages. Soon, other banks. Soon there was whole clutch of banks which will continue to facilitate the British till independance and leak money overseas even afterwards till the Banks were nationalized in 1956 due to the ‘Gorwala Committee’ which recommended. Apart from the opaqueness of private banking and leakages, there was non provision of loans to priority sector i.e. farming in India, A.D. Gorawala recommended nationalization to weed out both issues in a single solution. One could debate efficacy of the same, but history has shown us that privatization in financial sector has many a times been costly to depositors. The financial Crisis of 2008 and the aftermath in many of the financial markets, more so private banks is a testament to it. Even the documentary Plenary’s Men gives whole lot of insight in the corruption that Private banks do today.

The plenary’s men on Youtube at least to my mind is evidence enough that at least India should be cautious in dealings with private banks.

Co-operative banks and their Rise

The Co-operative banks rise in India was largely in part due to rise of co-operative societies. While the co-operative Societies Act was started in 1904 itself. While there were quite a few co-operative societies and banks, arguably the real filip to Co-operative Banking was done by Amul when it started in 1946 and the milk credit society it started with it. I dunno how many people saw ‘Manthan‘ which chronicled the story and bought the story of both the co-operative societies and co-operative banks to millions of India. It is a classic movie which lot of today’s youth probably doesn’t know and even if he would would take time to identify with, although people of my generation the earlier generations do get it. One of the things that many people don’t get is that for lot of people even today, especially for marginal farmers and such in rural areas, co-operative banks are still the only solution. While in recent times, the Govt. of the day has tried something called Jan Dhan Yojana it hasn’t been as much a success as they were hoping to. While reams of paper have been written about it, like most policies it didn’t deliver to the last person which such inclusion programs try. Issues from design to implementation are many but perhaps some other time. I am sharing about Co-operative banks as a recent scam took place in one of the banks, probably one of the most respected and widely held co-operative banks. I would rather share sucheta dalal’s excellent analysis done on the PMC bank crisis which is 1unfolding and perhaps continue to unfold in days to come.

Conclusion

At the end I have to admit I took a lot of short-cuts to reach till here. There is possibility that there may be details people might want me to incorporate, if so please let me know and would try and add that. I did try to compress as much as possible while trying to be as exhaustive as possible. I also haven’t used any data as I wanted to keep the explanations as simple as possible and try not to have as little of politics as possible even though biases which are there, are there.

India doesn’t need women or doctors

This is again going to be a long one hence I want to start by sharing some positive news first. Few days back, a vlogger Dhruv Rathee made a vlog review about Jatayu nature and park open in Kerala.

Now, why is it important and good. While it is a profitable initiative, it has been made by private money at the cost of INR 100 crores. It has been built which was a degraded barren land surrounded by forest. While one could argue that even such lands should not be disturbed and one perhaps might be right about that, the research I found seem to be inconclusive. I was looking at one study sometime back in which two adjacent plots of land were taken, both degraded, barren patches of land . One land was left alone while the other had some sort of stable, with animals in it, horses, pigs, donkey etc. and they left the land pretty much besides coming at intervals to see if the animal feed was good enough of them, veteniary medical checkups etc. At the end of couple of years, they checked the micro-nutrients of the soil to see which had more mico-nutrients. It was found out that the ones which had the animals was more fertile and had slightlly more/better ecosystem than the one which was left. IIRC, they published the result in some magazine like ‘Nature’ or some such peer-reviewed publication and other scientists were apply to replicate the results with varying degrees of success. While I remember the simplified version I am sure it is far more complex than I have described. One of the best things they have shared in the review, that the land has been leased from the State Govt. for a period of 30 years after which it will given back to the State of Kerala.

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FWIW, Jatayu is the name of a mythological bird taken from Ramayana. Instead of wasting 3000 crores of taxpayer’s money for one single statue and instead invested in in health, education, safe drinking water, employment generation etc. it would have enriched not just the people benefiting from it, but also made x times productivity growth as it has been proved time and again that any improvement in people’s lives not just makes them better, but also enhances countries growth as well. I have given the number X as right now India has 0 people in its Statistical Commisson as the last two full-time membes resigned couple of years back. The only somewhat factual numbers that are in India are provided by CMIE which is a private institution and obviously doesn’t have neither the funds nor the reach that a Government body can. CMIE does share some interesting facts and figures but that probably is a story for another day. For those who might want to visit Jatayu can visit Jayatu Center website for the same. The image shared above is taken from keralatourism.org website and is copyrighted to them.

No Country for Women

While I have written on this topic a few times before, each time an incident happens and I feel do we really deserve women ? Many a times when a woman (young or old) goes to the police she is asked to present evidence. Now a young woman who was persistently blackmailed, raped by a person of the ruling party, a ‘Swami’ , a nomenclature reserved for a seer who is supposed to be beyond temptation presented 45 videos of the gentleman to the police. She also leaked couple in social media so that the videos don’t disappear into thin air and she and her family doesn’t get killed as was attempted in Unnao rape case. It is only because the facts came in public that the MLA accused in the Unnao rape case got expelled from the ruling partt, In fact, even the killers in Nirbhaya Rape case , even they haven’t been hanged.

Paper Clipping of Chinmayanand Rape Case

The sad part part is that in this case, even after evidence she has been asked to produce two witnesses who would say that she has been raped. I haven’t ever heard a more bizarre story while siding with the seer who has claimed that she was extorting money from him. The list goes just goes on and on, there were 6 women journalists who claimed sexual harassment against MJ Akbar. The case is on-going in the Supreme High Court where it will be heard now after Dusshera holidays. The last hearing was done on 9th September and will start anytime after 20th October when the Supreme Court starts. And there are several more cases, like the Kathua case rape, the Muzaffarpur Shelter home case, the case goes on and on. Sadly, we don’t even have latest stats as there are no statisticians in Indian Govt. and the only report we have is the 2016 NCRB report which does show the trend that there is rising crime in India. It is party to joblessness which is rampant, and partly perhaps of our conservative mindset towards sex, sex-education .

There were two good movies made in India on the subject, one which sank in Bollywood without a trace called Khandaani Shafakhana which more or less only talked about erectile dysfunction and tried to make few jokes about it. There was Vicky Donor which talked about sperm donation which did good business a while back. The movie which touched my heart recently was though was the malyalam movie called Peranmbu starring ever-green star Mammooty. While I don’t speak Malyalam, you may get the movie on netflix or Amazon prime with english subs. While I don’t want to give the whole story of the movie, there is one scene in which Mammooty visits a woman so he can hire a male escort for his daughter and gets slapped. Many people, especially boys didn’t like that scene and said why he had to go there, but as a viewer if you see the movie from a father’s eyes he did what any sane father who loves his child will do. While at the end, they didn’t give any solution to the issue or it got censored, when you see the movie you can imagine the plight of such children’s fathers, relatives etc. It is sad when such movies which make you think aren’t even part of the national discourse then how are people to grow their consciousness, their humanity. When I hear of such incidents as above, I genuinely, does India really need women ? Shouldn’t women coming from other countries to India be given travel advisories stating that they should either have black belt in Karate or some defence techniques and carry a deadly weapon with them all times to defend themselves from us. It seems we, Indian men have no control 😦

No Country for Doctors

India doesn’t seem to be a country for doctors as well. In 2017, in BRD Hospital at Gorakpur 63 children died due to oxygen supply issues. For this, four doctors and couple of staff were held responsible for their deaths. Dr. Kafeel Khan, Dr. RK Misra, Dr. Purnima Misra, Dr. Satish, Gajanand Jaiwal (pharmacist), Uday Pratap Sharma (Junior Clerk). All of them were put into jail. Few days back, only the three doctors have been put out on bail, all the others are still in jail. Now one of the local newspapers, Janata Ka reporter had done detailed investigative story which shows that the problems or issues were at top. In fact when they were appraised of the facts, Dr. Khan and all the accused together actually somehow scrapped together 500 oxygen cylinders out of their own money. This is when it was found out that the doctors were not paid salaries of 2-3 months. In fact, it has been a perennial issue and because of that more than 50-60% of the hospital staff posts were vacant, due to lack of money. When you see such news and reports, you feel that why doctors should study medicine after paying such high fees and practise in India. They should migrate to US and UK as many of their brethren do. They get better wages, better social security. Neither IMA came to their rescue nor anybody else. It was only local people, the patients, people who knew them and struggled for it. IMA has its own share of issues and politiking but that is perhaps best suited for another date. No wonder that the number of doctors emigrating overseas has risen and people do not want to go to remote posts. When motivated cases like these can happen in cities, then what hope the doctor has of justice or anything in villages. In fact, most doctors nowadays in India have multiple heatlh conditions due to work-related stresses and other things. It is by no perchance that we are most depressed country on earth. Not really the validation we are looking for, right.

Life, Liberty and Kashmir

I was going to write about history of banking today but because the blockade is still continuing in Kashmir, I am forced to write my opinions on it and clear at least some ideas and myths various people have about Kashmir. Before I start though, I hope the Goa Debian Utsav was good. While I haven’t seen any reports, I hope it went well. Frankly, I was in two minds whether I should apply for the Debutsav in Goa or not. While there is a possibility that I could have applied and perhaps even got the traveling sponsorship, I was unsure as to what to tell the students. With recovery of the economy in India at least 6 quarters away if not more, it would have been difficult for me to justify to the students as to how to look for careers in I.T. when salaries of most professionals have been stagnant, lowered and even retention happening in Pune, Bangalore and other places it would have been difficult to say that.

Anyways, this would be a long one. I would like to start with a lawsuit filed in Kerala which was shared and the judgement which was given which at least in my view was a progressive decision. The case I am reciting is ”Right To Access Internet Is Part Of Right To Privacy And Right To Education‘ which was given by Kerala HC recently. The judgement of the case is at https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/pdf_upload-364655.pdf which I reproduce below as well.

So let us try to figure out what the suit/case was all about and how it involves the larger question of communication blockades and other things in Kashmir. The case involves a woman student of 18 years of age, a Faheema shirin (Petitioner) who came to Kerala for higher studies (B.Ed) at an institute called Narayanguru College located in Kozhikhode District. Incidentally, I have been fortunate to visit Kerala and Khozikhode District and they are beautiful places but we can have that conversation some other day. Now apparently, she was expelled from the college hostel for using the mobile phone during study time. The College is affiliated to University of Calicut. Now according to statements from the hostel matron, the petitioner and others, it became clear that inmates of the hostel were not allowed to use mobile phones from 10 p.m. to 6.a.m. -i.e. 22:00 hrs. to 0600 hrs. Apparently, this rule was changed to 1800 hrs – 2000 hrs. arbitrarily. The petitioner’s house is 150 kms. from the place. When she said it is not possible to follow the rules because of the subjects she was studying as well as she needed to connect to home anytime she wanted or her father or relatives may feel to call her or in case of any help. She alleged discrimination as these rules were only made for the girl’s hostel and not for the boy’s hostel. I had also seen and felt the same but as shared that’s for another day altogether.

The petitioner invoked the Conventions on Eliminations of all forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979, the Beijing Declaration and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which GOI is a signatory and hence had to abide by its rules. She further contended that her education depended on her using digital technology with access to web as given in her textbook. She needed to scan the QR codes in various places in her textbooks and use the link given therein to see videos, animations etc. on a digital platform called swayam. Incidentally, it seems swayam runs on closed source software as shared by SFLC.in on their website. Now if it is closed, commercial software than most probably the only the content can be viewed is via streaming rather than downloading, going offline and seeing it as that would attract provisions of the IT ACT and perhaps would constitute piracy. While this point was not argued, it seemed pertinent for me to point out as few people on social media have asked about. In several such cases it is either impossible or you have to be an expert in order to manipulate and download such data (like Snowdem did) but then that’s again a story for another day. Interestingly, the father in the case above was also in the favor of the girl using mobile phone for whatever purpose as he trusts her implicitly and she is adult enough to make her own life choices.

Thankfully, the petitioner had presence of mine throughout the journey that she did all her correspondence through letters instead of orally and had documentary evidence to back up all her claims. The State Govt. of Kerala has been on the forefront of digital technology for a long while and me and many of my friends have been both witness and played our small parts in whichever way to see Kerala become an IT hub. While they still do need to do a lot more but that again is a story for another day. While there was lot of back and forth between her, the hostel authorities, the father and the hostel authorities, she, her father, the hostel authorities and the college but they were unable to resolve the issues amicably. Her grounds for the fight were –

a. She is an adult and of rational mind so she can make decisions on her own.
b. She has right of privacy ( as shared by the Honorable Supreme Court in its 2017 landmark judgement)
c. She needs the mobile and the laptop for studying as her studies demand her using Internet.
d. She also relied and used the budget speech made by Minister of Finance and State Government for making internet accessible to all citizens and recognizing the right to Internet as a human right.
e. Her violation to right of property under Article 300 A.

In order to further bolster her case, through her lawyers she cited further judgements and studies which show how women are disadvantaged to Internet access, in particular she cited a UNESCO study which tells the same.

The judge, Honorable Jutice P.V. Asha guided herself with the arguments and counter-arguments by both parties, she also delved into Calicut University First Ordinances under which the University, the college and the hostel come in to see how thngs fare there. She had also asked the respondent that by using Internet has she or any other student in the hostel ever caused disturbance to any of the other inmates to which the reply was negative. The Judge also determined that if a miuse of a mobile phone or laptop has to happen, it can happen any time, anywhere and you cannot and should not control adult behavior especially when it collides with dignity and freedom of an adult. The learned counsel for the petitioner also shared resolution 23/2 in the UN General Assembly held on 24th June 2013 which talks of freedom of expression and opinion for women’s empowerment to which India is a signatory. There is also resolution 20/8 of 5th July 2012 which also underscores the point. Both the portions of the resolution can be found on page 18 of the judgement. The judge also cited few other judgements which were pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner, the Vishaka Judgement (1997) , the Beijing Statement and several other cases and judgement which showed how women are discriminated against under society. In the end she set aside the expulsion citing various judgements and her rationale for the same and asked the matron to take the student back and also asked the student to not humiliate the teacher or warden and she be allowed to use phone in any way she feels fit as far as she doesn’t create any disturbance to other students.

Observations – It opens up several questions which are part of society’s issues even today and probably for sometime.

a. I have been part of quite a few workshops where while I was supposed to share about GNU/Linux, more often than not I ended up sharing about how to use web access rather than advanced technologies. In this I found women to be more backward and take more time to understand and use the concepts than men. Whether it is due to just access issues or larger societal reasons ( the hidden alleged misuse of web) I just don’t know. While I do wish we could do more I don’t have any solutions.

b. As correctly pointed by Honorable Justice Asha, if a women who is pursuing B.Ed. it would harm the career of the young woman. I would opine and put one step more, wouldn’t it also be endangering her proteges, her students from getting a better teacher who is able to guide her students to the best of her ability. As we all know, rightly or wrongly almost all information is available on the net. The role of the teacher or guide is not to show information but probably more as to how to inquire and interpret information in different ways.

Kashmir

In light of the above judgement would not the same principles apply to Kashmir. There are two points shared by various people who are in favor of the lockdown. The first is National Security, National Interest and the second is Kashmiri Pandits. Let us take them one by one –

a. National Interest or/and National Security – I find this reason porous on many grounds. This Govt. is ruled by one of the richest political parties that India ever has. Without divulging further, there is such a huge range of hardware and software for the Government to surveil. With AFSA in-place and all sorts of technologies available off-the-shelf to surveil on residents that argument looks weak. Further, the Minister’s statement tells that the issue is not security of the state but something else. Of course the majoratian view is that they deserve it because they are muslims. If this is not hate, I dunno what is. A person on twitter did a social experiment where a daughter and a mother had the same conflict. The daughter’s view is that it is not right, the mother’s view being the opposite. The daughter disallowed the mother any contact with her, her husband and her daughter for 2 weeks, the mother was in tears. Then how can you think of people being blocked for 2 months.

Another variation of the argument is that militants will come and kill. Now I find it hard to believe that even after having half a million soldiers in the valley they still feel miitants can do something and they cannot. I find it a little hard to digest. There has been news now that the Taliban are involved. If this is true then they have troubled U.S. also, so if one of the most powerful armies on the earth can be stale-mated for what 19 years, are we going to put Kashmiris in lockdown for 19 years ? In fact the prejudcial face can be seen even more at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXWZnnD6JFY-

Kashmiri Pandits – There is no doubt that there was a mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley. Nobody disputes that. But just like the process followed in NRC, whether rightly or wrongly couldn’t the Kashmiri Pandits be sent back home. I would argue this is the best time. You have a huge contigent of forces in the valley, you can start the process, get the documents, get them back into the valley, otherwise this will continue to be something like Palestine is in Israel which has continued to an issue for both Israelis and Palestinians with no end in sight. The idea that Pakistan will not harass or do something in Kashmir in fool’s paradise. They have been doing it since 90’s, for that to have a huge population blocked from communicating is nothing but harassment. And hate will never get you anywhere. While this is more greyer than I am making it out, feel free to read this interview as well as the series called The Family Man which I found to be pretty truthful as to the greyishness of the situation out there. While most of the mainstream media gave it an average score, I found it thought-provoking. The fact is mainstream media in India no longer questions the Government excesses. Some people do and they are often targeted. I do hope to share the banking scenario and a sort of mini-banking crisis soon. Till later.