Modi Claims His Government is Digital; Why is He Shutting Down the Internet?

MODI has been claiming that his government has become transparent with all its data and services now being on the internet. If this is true, why is his government shutting down the internet? In 2018, and in 2019, India is responsible for almost 70 per cent of all estimated 196 such globally documented internet shutdowns. As we shall see, Pakistan is next, but is way behind – it has only 12 shutdowns compared to our 134! So not only are we world leaders in internet shutdowns, but also way ahead of the competition.This year too, we have the “best” figures; we have 104 shutdowns.

New Data Protection Bill: From Protecting our Data to Creating a Surveillance State

THE government has come out with a Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 which differs significantly from its earlier version drafted by Justice BN Sri Krishna in 2018. Justice Sri Krishna has called these changes as dangerous and with potential for creating a surveillance state. In another major change from the original Sri Krishna draft, the Data Protection Authority of India has been made entirely subservient to the government.

Another COP-Out: This Time Madrid

COP 25 or the 25th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been underway in the Spanish capital, Madrid, for the past week and is currently mid-way through its final week. The COP venue was originally scheduled to be held in late November in Brazil but the newly elected right-wing and climate sceptic President Jair Bolsonaro withdrew from the hosting. Chile then volunteered to host the annual Summit but, after violent street protests erupted there, President, Sebastien Pinera withdrew. Spain then offered to take up the responsibility.

Telecom: From License-Permit Raj to License-to-Loot Raj

THE major private operators, along with the State run operators in the telecom sector, are currently reeling under a three year price war with Reliance Jio. This has hit their profitability, with Jio buying its entry into the market with very low call and data charges. This has been compounded – in the case of the private operators – by not honouring the obligations of paying their license fees as a percentage of their revenue. After the Supreme Court order to pay Rs 92,000 crore as license fees, it has created a crisis for these companies.

Electricity Sector’s Continuing Crisis and Crony Capitalism

THE problems of the electricity sector have grown with the neoliberal reforms of the sector that started from the 90’s. The Enron style reforms introduced high cost private power into the grid in the 90’s, followed by the Electricity Act 2003, which virtually de-licensed generation and abolished planning of the power sector. We now have the new proposal of separating what is called “carriage from the content”, which shorn of this new English, means that electricity flowing though wires will be owned by separate entities than the one owning the wires.

Ministers Playing Hide and Seek in Parliament on Pegasus

THE two sets of questions in the Parliament to two different ministries on the Israeli software Pegasus being used to hack smartphones of Indian activists have drawn different replies.  It makes clear that the government is hiding more than it is willing to reveal. The Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy, replying to Dayanidhi Maran’s question on whether the government “does tapping of WhatsApp calls and messages” and the “protocols being followed”, stated on November 19th that the government has powers under the Section 69 of the IT Act, “ intercept, monitor or decrypt or cause

Air Pollution Time… Yet Again!

IT would be humorous if it was not so tragic, but it is another winter in Delhi and North India as a whole, and has brought with it, yet again, another prolonged spell of terrible air pollution. The usual media commentaries have been appearing, providing partial explanations for the pollution, its many causes and the possible impacts of the measures being taken to tackle it.

What is Ravishankar Prasad Hiding on WhatsApp Hack?

AS many as 1,400 smartphones worldwide – including 140 of Indians – have been hacked. This hack used Pegasus, the software tools from the notorious hacker-for-hire Israeli company NSO or Q Cyber Technologies. The fundamental question for us, is who-dun-it? The simple question that the government refuses to answer.This is what political parties and others are asking: was it a government agency that bought the hacking tools from the Israeli company? And used it against its own citizens?

Tipu Sultan and BJP’s War on History

WE now see a new Anglo-Mysore War being waged: the RSS has aligned with the British to deny Tipu Sultan his role in Indian history. Yediyurappa says Tipu was “not a freedom fighter”, a strange argument to give for dropping all reference to Tipu from history books. It must be difficult for a mind schooled – or more correctly lobotomised – in the RSS School of History to understand that the Anglo Mysore Wars were not wars for Indian independence, but a part of colonial wars that the British waged.