Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Google vs. China. You vs. India.

While a lot of front page newsprint is being splurged on the Google versus China story about state-sponsored hacking of e-mail accounts of human rights activists, there has been complete silence on this:

(I quote from a news item on the front page of Sunday Hindustan Times dated November 22, 2009)





'Police can now track your e-mails
    The police can now read your e-mails without prior permission from the home department.
    The Parliament recently cleared an amendment to the Information Technology (IT) Act, allowing the police to intercept or decrypt online information without seeking the home department's nod.
    Rising instances of cyber crimes have prompted the move aimed at cutting red tape.'


What the HUH?!


That means Indian police, who have had illustrious people like ex-DGP Rathore and Senior Inspector Pradeep Sharma in its ranks, can now hack into your e-mail account without being accountable to any one (for a maximum of two months).
Why? Because there is too much red tape involved to get permission from the home department.


(Wouldn't it be nice if all of us took the same approach? For example, why can't Ruchika Girhotra's family punish Rathore [in whatever way it deems fit] and then, in two months' time let a lawyer prove that Rathore was guilty? The justification for taking the law into their hands: Red tape in the judiciary of course!)


But then I am not surprised. The tendency to come up with temporary solutions that address the symptom and not the disease is practically a national one.


For instance, take this picture shot by me on the arterial Senapati Bapat Road, Dadar, near one of the busiest railway stations in Mumbai:





For two days cars had come to a screeching halt when they were suddenly faced with a huge hole, roughly the size of the annual municipal budget, (just kidding, it was more like 0.01% of the monthly budget and still huge). On the third day, we had a metal barrier used by cops to set up road blocks. How considerate! Instead of driving into a crater, we would now crash into a metal barrier.


Elsewhere in Mumbai, every politician worth his salt is running to build a skywalk for pedestrians so they can walk without being run over by motorists trying to avoid a crater or more likely, a metal barricade. This honourable initiative would have been honourable if it weren't another example of Fix-the-symptom syndrome when the real disease is this: Encroachments by hawkers on pavements, especially in the immediate vicinity of railway stations in Mumbai that forces the pedestrians off pavements and onto the road.


The plot gets richer if you consider a government body called the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). I do not have exact details but among the various grants received by this body is Rs. 10,000 crore (ten thousand crore), from the World Bank to rehabilitate the slum dwellers of Mumbai. The irony is: Someone encroaches on a piece of land that is not his or her, others join in and sooner or later, as a reward for breaking the law, not just Indian but all tax payers in the world pay to build free and cosy homes for them.


Several years ago a colleague who had worked in Bihar told me this real-life incident: A small stretch of a major road was under repair so the PWD created a by-pass and put up a sign saying, 'Road under repair. Please use diversion'. A few years later the road wasn't repaired but the by-pass was in bad condition and they had to repair it. So the PWD put up this sign: 'Diversion under repair. Please use road.'


Sorry, I am kidding: The sign didn't say, 'Please', but just, 'Road under repair. Use diversion.'


Now I know who that joker Rathore is laughing at in all his photographs - Us.






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