Acid Attacks, Crimes against women, Opinion pieces, Society

The Scars of a Misogynist society

-Saurabh Bhat

‘Acid attacks’ are brutal instances of barbarism where acid is thrown at (almost always) a young woman’s face/body as an act of ‘revenge’ by man/men.

Why do these attacks happen?

Most of the times, the facts are as follows: There is a young teenage girl, who is approached by a young guy/man as a romantic interest. The girl doesn’t want to be pursued romantically and declines his advances. The guy takes this as an ‘insult’ and decides to take revenge on the girl by ruining her entire life. The thought process behind this being, ‘If you won’t be with me, I will punish you in such a way that you won’t be accepted by anyone else.” The guy (or him with his friends) ambush the girl and pour strong concentrated acid on the girl’s face and body, scarring her for life, mentally and emotionally.

It is a classic example of the patriarch system in India. A boy is allowed to do anything he pleases and always escapes with a slap on the wrist. He is treated specially and this conditions him to believe that he is entitled to everything he wants, including the girl of his choice. Never mind what the girl wants. She’s a girl, she must be glad that she’s getting any kind of attention from him. So, when the girl has the gumption to refuse him, his massive inflated ego gets ‘hurt’. And in most of the cases as it has been seen, the boy is seen roaming around freely, but the psychological changes the girl goes through is deep. Some become shy. They have to undergo several surgeries, yet their skin and their appearance is not the same as before. Also, they start questioning themselves whether they’ll be able to live furthermore. And in some of the cases they do not have any money, and they cannot afford such surgeries. Hence, they commit suicide.

But some women despite all adversities, stand up and instead of retreating form life because of the problem, fight against it. One such lady is Haseena Hussain. A horrifying acid attack changed Haseena Hussain’s life leaving her visually impaired. But she emerged as a winner and is today changing lives of other such victims. The incident that happened over a decade ago is still fresh in Haseena’s memory, but she chose to live a more positive life. Now, she is not only her family’s sole bread earner but is also inspiring other victims of violence and abuse to live their lives in a better way.

Haseena Hussain recalls the words her attacker Joseph Rodrigues said as he poured a jug full of acid on her. The unfortunate incident happened on April 20, 1999, but the memories are still fresh in Haseena’s mind. She has a lump in her throat whenever she talks about that day and there is sadness and anger in her voice as she recalls every single detail of that incident.

He was my boss and wanted to marry me. I did not accept his offer and left his job. After that a couple of other employees too left the work and he incurred huge losses. He would persuade me to join back but I did not want to work with him again. This angered and frustrated him and one day he came to my new office and poured acid on me, changing my life forever,” Haseena remembers the incident clearly.

Her painful scream rang across the road and the office. A girl took her to a private hospital where she was denied treatment unless a deposit of one lakh rupees was given. “I told them that my parents will come and give the money but at least start the first aid. They refused to do even that,” she says.

She was then shifted to a government hospital where her treatment started after three days. By that time the infection had already spread to her body making her 70 percent burnt. “I couldn’t bear the pain,” she remembers.

She was later shifted to St. John’s hospital where her proper treatment began. Her condition was very serious and the doctors said that there was a very small chance of survival. She stayed in the hospital for over a year where she underwent 35 surgeries and lived on a liquid diet. “I was emotionally, physically and financially broke. It was a vacuum. I didn’t know what will happen. I was tired of it,” she says.

I had seen in the movies that after a plastic surgery a person becomes perfectly fine and beautiful. I thought even I will start looking like I did earlier after these surgeries. But it never happened. I had lost my eyesight and the doctors told me how I looked. I was scared and sad,” she says.

She was brought back to her house, where she received a lot of negative response from people who visited. “Why did you bring her home? You should have poisoned her in the hospital. How will she live her life like this?” Haseena remembers someone saying this to her parents. But it was her family’s positive attitude and unmatched love for her that made her recover emotionally and physically. They would do her dressing and help her with physiotherapy as the family could not afford a nurse.

They said that why should my daughter suffer when it’s not her fault. If someone has to suffer it should be the culprit,” Haseena recalls her parents’ words. A ray of hope came in 2006 when the culprit was found guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail. But this was certainly not enough as a punishment to someone who had ruined a life. Haseena did not give up and filed a case in high court, which awarded him the sentence of lifetime imprisonment.

The positive change

After years of court and hospital visits, Haseena decided to give a new direction to her life. “I did not want to waste my life like this,” she says. She then joined Enable India, an institution of visually impaired people where she learnt computer and other skills.

“My life was divided into two parts – before accident and after accident. In the latter, I had to learn everything from scratch. Whatever I knew earlier was of no use now as I couldn’t implement or use it in my life. From walking independently to doing my own personal work, I had to learn everything again,” she says.

After regular training, Haseena saw a good change in her life and attitude, and she decided to apply for a job. She practiced typing on a typewriter and prepared rigorously for the test. The accident had made her hands very weak but her passion kept her going. After regular efforts she cleared the tests and today she works as a stenographer in a government office. She is today, the sole bread winner of the family and takes care of everyone’s needs. She manages to do her work without anyone’s help and is living an independent and fulfilling life.

“Of course, I can’t change what has happened. I wanted to be a fashion designer but that cannot happen now. But I am happy that I am taking care of my parents, which has always been my priority, I am happy that I have become a stronger person,” she says.

Not only she has transformed her life but she has also actively indulged herself in motivating other acid attack victims. She is part of an NGO called Make Love Not Scars where she talks to other acid attack victims and inspire them to not give up on their lives. She has been actively engaged with five to six acid attack victims and helps them lead a more positive life.

When this ill-fated incident happened, a lot of media publications covered her story and published her number. One day Haseena received a call from a 20 year old girl who had poured kerosene on herself and was just about to commit suicide. Her husband died just after a couple of months of getting married and her in-laws blamed her, traumatized her. But just before committing suicide she read the article on Haseena’s story which inspired her.

She gave me a call and told me about her story. I told her how she should be strong and live her life bravely,” Haseena recalls. After talking to Haseena that girl dropped the idea of committing suicide, took a job and is today happily living her life. “These are the kind of incidents that keep me going. I am glad that I am able to change someone’s life,” she says. Haseena wants to pursue her higher studies now and complete her graduation which she could not do earlier.

I would like to tell all the women that you are not weak. Even when 2 liters of acid is poured on you, you can still be alive and happy. Do not stop living your life for some other person, rather show that person that nothing can discourage you or bring you down,” Haseena says.

Haseena’s story is an inspiration to not only just acid attack victims but to all of us and we hope she continues to be an inspiration for all of us.

 

Sources-

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/with-sheer-grit-haseena-moves-on/article5761533.ece

Youth Ki Awaaz

Opinion pieces

Fanfictions- An Alternate Universe

By Ananya Banerjee

Fan fictions are works of fiction which are derived from an original work of fiction. It is created by the fans of that fiction where the characters and the settings are usually borrowed. It is a considered controversial since fan fictions are not authorised by the original author or their publishing team. It can be an infringement of the copyright law.

However, it does not stop people from writing fan fictions. Copyright owners rarely respond with legal action. In fact some of the authors encourage fan fictions. J.K. Rowling is one of the authors who wanted fans to continue with their work. Stephenie Meyer has put up a link to all the fanfiction based on her characters on her website. In fact, the fifty shades trilogy was a fan fiction of Twilight titled ‘Master of the Universe’. After by Anna Todd was developed from a One Direction fan fiction.

There are some authors who are against fan fictions such as Anne Rice, Raymond E. Feist and George R.R. Martin who have asked to remove any fan fictions of their work from all the websites which publish fan fictions. Fan fictions are considered unoriginal and unprofessional by some people. There are several arguments put forth by these people. Fan fictions kill creativity. It is stealing someone else’s work.

The truth is, however, that fan fictions are very creative pieces of work. Sure it borrows some elements from the original work, but it allows the readers to think creatively and write the story in their own way. It is an excellent way for an amateur writer to begin his streak. Also, it gives him total freedom to write a story in a certain way.

There are many types of fan fictions. It can be a continuation of the original text. It takes the original canon and continues it by extending the work. What happens after Harry Potter defeats Voldemort? What happens in his life and in the wizarding world? What happens after District Twelve is destroyed? It requires one to be fully acquainted with the original text.

One can also take an existing story and ask ‘what if?’ this happened. The writer has the freedom to change the plot of the story and take it in a different direction altogether. What if Katherine was in the tomb all along? What if Harry was a female? What if Bella chose Jacob instead of Edward? What if Hermione was a pureblood?

Characters of a certain work of fiction can be placed in an entire different universe. This type of fan fiction is called alternate universe (AU). Voldemort and the death eaters won the war. Where would it place the golden trio? What if Damon and Stefan were figure skaters? It completely discards the main plot and hence it is very controversial.

One is free to write crossovers where one work or fiction is crossed with another work of fiction. Vampire Diaries may be crossed with Supernatural and Harry Potter may be crossed with Twilight. It can be a versus fiction where Harry Potter may be pitted against Edward Cullen, or they might help each other to achieve a goal.

The writer is free to write in a darker and edgier manner or a fluffier and light manner. He/she can go out of character (OOC). Snape can be written as a funny character. The writer can focus on a secondary character and write the story in his/her point of view. He/she is free to write in the antagonist’s point of view and can make them be seen as the protagonist.

The writer can write his/her own original character (OC) in the story. He is free to create Harry’s sister and make her the main protagonist. Fans can include a new superhero in the Avengers fandom. Canon rules apply just as strongly to the original character as it does to the canon characters. If a new vampire is introduced in Vampire Diaries, he should not shine in the sunlight because that goes against the canon rules. One is even free to go against the canon rules by giving a proper explanation. Introducing an original character has become a popular type of fan fiction.

Fans are also free to ship any OTPs (one true pairing) they like. Harry can be paired with Draco or Astoria. Dramione (Draco and Hermione) is the most shipped pair in the Harry Potter fandom. Isolation is the most popular dramione fan fiction ever written. Different pairings can be fun and even the most uncommon pairing will have a few fans. Voldemort can be paired with Harry, Bellatrix can be paired with Hermione, Damon can be paired Katherine or with Bonnie.

Fan fictions have gained immense popularity in the last few years. Even though it may not be completely legal, fan fiction websites like fanfiction.net and archivesofourown.com are flooded with fan fiction of various fandoms. It can make one a good storyteller by giving him/her immense freedom. It gives the writers freedom from all the market expectations. They can write what they want; they don’t have to make it appeal to the masses. Fan fictions require one to think in a different way. The fan fiction communities are the most helpful and encouraging communities of them all. It also increases the writer’s confidence.

Fan fictions, even though controversial, are a very creative medium to express oneself. Thus, freedom of fan fiction writers is unlimited. If not faced with legal issues, it can be a good way for a writer to express himself. Reading and writing fan fictions is one way to approach critical thinking and it can increase one’s creativity.

 

image source- WikiHow

Uncategorized

Guest Opinion: Chennai floods

 

Students of Satybhama University being ferried to safety

By Tarun Murthy

It’s been more than a month now and I haven’t seen any respite. I’ve been living with a friend in Banu Nagar for the past week, ever since my ground floor apartment in Velacherry got submerged.

Power cuts are frequent, and considering that several metres of broken and exposed power-lines are steeped in brackish water, I really cannot object to them at all. In fact, I’m thankful that the Tamil Nadu government is doing that much at the very least!

But amidst all the chaos, I just have a few concerns to reconcile as a citizen; a few questions that I’m beginning to realise only I can answer for myself, because of the lack of national coverage and the gross misinformation spread on social media, only worsened by the fact that those living in flood-affected areas really have no way to know what’s happening:

1. Misinformation on social media

I have to completely honest about this, but social media has come to our aid beside a number of shortcomings, namely the sheer amount of misinformation being generated by trolls and perpetuated by well-intentioned paranoiacs. None of us took it seriously when we found out crocodiles had escaped from the park into flooded areas of the city, but as we speak there is a rumour in circulation that NASA has predicted an El Nino cyclone, that could potentially wipe out Chennai. People outside Chennai who received the news were able to deduce it to be a hoax fairly quickly, but for the ones living in the city, the possibility of a full-scale cyclone is not one we’d take lightly. In fact, we rightly freak the hell out.

Nonetheless, social media has proved to be an invaluable source for updates on the flood situation, despite its occasional shortcomings, moreso than most news outlets. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Where is our national media coverage?

National media has neglected the situation in Chennai for far too long. Between Sun TV contantly abusing Jayalalithaa, and Jaya TV endlessly defending her, we HAVE to turn to national news media for information…which isn’t there.

More than underrepresenting the natural disaster, media outlets with nation-wide reach seem to have ignored Chennai entirely, and it was not until PM Modi agreed to give 1,000 crore rupees for flood relief efforts, that news outlets like NDTV, Times Now and CNN IBN started giving us updates. Even Doordarshan has covered the floods better!

3. Why are AIADMK and DMK still continuing their propaganda?

To get straight to the point, I’ll put my grievances with the state parties in list form:
– Amma’s face is being plastered on relief packages sent by citizens from other parts of the country
– DMK is putting too much effort into criticising Amma government (however, they are functioning independent of the state and centre, at the very least)
– Moreover, DMK is providing support almost purely for the purpose of gaining an upper-hand in the next elections (Karunanidhi: “satisfying the affected people to the extent possible”)
– Amma has refused funds from Karnataka for purely political reasons (accepted under pressure)

On the brighter side

– The Central Government is offering invaluable assistance
– Rescue operations by the Indian Armed Forces are being conducted brilliantly

One last note:  please stop comparing Chennai to Venice, now is not the time for jokes.

Oops
Oops
The Beast of India

Mob Mentality: Riots of Insignificance

“United we stand, divided we fall” – Aesop, I guess…

Ah, India – or as it may also be called:

  • Hindustan
  • Bharat
  • Outsourceatopia

None of these names truly do justice to the spirit of unity that you can feel, smell, and almost taste – possibly all at once, if you’re lucky enough land up at the right airport/train station.

For one thing, India has the world’s largest voluntary military force, whose sheer bond of unity has safeguarded national interest for decades, now. To put things in perspective, I’ll draw a comparison between two of the world’s largest military forces, the United States of America and India: if USA is the land of the free, then India must surely be the land of the united, for how else could we have secured independence 68 years ago? How else could we have driven off every colonial power to ever wash up on our shores, in the past couple thousand years or so?

Better yet, how else could we explain the cruel murder of a defenseless old man, solely because he was SUSPECTED of eating a “sacred” animal? That too, only a few days ago.

Bisara village

Less than a week ago, a Muslim family in the Bisara village of Dadri, in Uttar Pradesh, was attacked by a 100-strong, angry mob. This resulted in the death of Mohammad Ikhlaq, the now-critical condition of his younger son, and the suffering of his family in the wake of his death. Moreover, Ikhlaq’s older son, Corporal Mohammad Sartaj, is an engineer with the Indian Air Force. Contemplate the irony for just a moment…

The attack happened because of a nebulous connection drawn between a slaughtered calf, and the presence of a single Muslim family in the area. The riled up locals of Bisara village wasted no time in drawing their conclusions, and in half an hour, a group of a 100 men attacked the family of four; of the 100 attackers, several had known the family for years. The family had mutton in the fridge, if that still counts…

Likewise, an under-reported case of ‘moral policing’ occurred in Mangalore a few months back, where a Muslim man was immediately beset by a group of Hindus upon speaking to a female, Hindu colleague, outside of work. After stripping him down to his undergarments, thrashing him, and tying him to an electric pole, the mob went on to take and circulate pictures of the humiliated man, as a “message to other Muslims”.

Be it for societal reasons, be it for religious reasons, be it for communal reasons, or be it even for political reasons; I have never heard of a country so very much at war with itself. Heck, I’d probably stand a better chance being a Palestinean in Jerusalem right about now…

Palestinian children throw stones at Israeli tanks in the West Bank town of Jenin 24 September 2003. Sharon said today any prisoner exchange with the Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia would need cabinet approval and ruled out West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghuti's release. AFP PHOTO/SAIF DAHLAH (Photo credit should read SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty Images)
Scratch that…

Now to get controversial: I’m spiritual. I don’t believe in any God or religion. I believe much less so, that ANY animal should be given a position of sacredness, much like a single person – or even a group of people – has no right to presume powers of sanctity over other humans. But hey, what do I know?

What I do know, though, is that incidents of mob violence do not begin and end with violence. Sometimes, they find a common, and otherwise, seemingly innocent source.

Take the “Digital India Movement” (opinions reserved for the time being); when told that Facebook is becoming more open to the general Indian populace, many immediately jumped on the bandwagon and converted their profile pictures to demonstrate their loyalty to the tricolor, and their determination to improve rural conditions; while many others decided that the campaign was a pointless publicity stunt, to further market Facebook to the Indian peoples. In the end, users were split into two parties: “with the campaign, or against the campaign”

“With us, or against us”: in some ways, India as a nation, adopts a way of thought remarkably similar to the USA.

You know what, I take it all back: India is not the land of unity I thought it was. There was NEVER unity, just a common enemy. We are a country, currently united on the basis of hatred, indifference and guilt, only in reaction to a common enemy. It is only in a country like India that ANYBODY would protest against a protest, that protests something else. Heck, just look at what Hardik Patel has achieved (opinions reserved for the time being)! We live in a nation that’s steadily getting choked by a long chain of protests, further lengthened and tugged at by millions who do not want this mob mentality to come to an end.

CelebZone

CelebZone: Hrithik Roshan’s Ganpathi Celebration and Other News

Due to a series of sizeable budget cuts, and a subsequently sharp decline in our workforce, we’re now appealing to a wider readership through our new  section “CelebZone” with weekly reviews of the latest happenings in the glamorous world of Bollywood – and all the other ‘woods’, if time permits.

source: filmfare
source: filmfare

Let’s start today’s CelebZone review off with a warm recount of Hrithik’s recent Ganpathi Celebration with his family last week. Hrithik had a few heartfelt words of encouragement to share with his followers on this day:

“B ur own vighnaharta (guardian) against ur rakshasas. May lord Ganesha bless us al wth power 2 love n courage 2 fight”

Truly, this message could not have come at a more apt time, for in this day and age even the most festive celebration is not spared from the usual, daily dose of tragedy and fear, with a new disaster occurring almost every day. In fact, it would seem that Hrithik had timed his tweet perfectly, for three tunnel workers in Bilaspur were trapped inside a tunnel cave-in for about a day under a week, by this point, and they could really have used such welcome words of encouragement.

source: ndtv.com
source: ndtv.com

Despite government efforts to extricate the three workers: Satesh Tomar, Mani Ram and Hriday Ram; the rescue team had to contend with inhospitable climate conditions and frequent equipment failures before even esatblishing contact with the workers. Moreoever, contact has still not been established with Hriday Ram, and there are concerns that he may have been lost within the debris.

Thankfully, the other two workers were safely rescued from the tunnel cave-in, while operations are completely underway to find the third, missing worker.

But I digress, so let’s move on to the next item on this week’s CelebZone: Saif Ali Khan’s Eid Celebration

source: The Indian Express
source: The Indian Express

The two, especially Mr. Khan, were clearly only too willing to entertain photographs on this auspicious day, with no question of being disturbed or harassed entering into the picture. The couple attended Eid celebrations in Patuadi, with exclusive information on KKK’s (not offensive, it’s just Kareena’s full name) upcoming film: Ki and Ka, which will mark the first time that she will be starring opposite the young and talented, Arjun Kapoor. Heck, they’re probably even related….

However, a better question than “what”, “how”, “when”, “where” and “why” this film could be releasing, is why does Saif Ali Khan look so miffed? Could it be that the paparazzi is intruding upon an extremely important day? Or could it be that the recent stampede at Haj has him just as conflicted as the rest of us (even though it didn’t happen yet)?

source: TOI
source: TOI

During the ‘stoning of the devil’ segment of the pilgrimage in Mina, the jostling pilgrims broke into a stampede in which 18 Indians were killed and several more are still missing. In the face of this tragedy, the Ministry of External Affairs has arranged an immediate search for the missing Indians.

**********

This has been CelebZone from Between the Lines, and we hope to have more frequent updates on everything Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and Mollywood, in the near future.

Politics

India: A Democracy Growing Cold

Freedom-fighters

“There are too many quotes on democracy” – Anonymous

There are quite a few definitions and opinions on what a democracy constitutes and doesn’t constitute, what it should be or shouldn’t be, but very few that agree on what it actually is.

So what IS democracy?

Well, adopting a Neo-Greek perspective on the term would probably be the equivalent of watching a philosopher probe upwards through his own posterior, but let’s give it a shot:
According to the literal Greek translation, “Dem-o-cracy” means: “rule by the (simple) people”.

Well, I take offence to this definition – I’m not simple, just special – so I’m going to go for another one, the classic one, the one that never fails: “Democracy is a government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people, and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system or put more simply “A Government of the people, by the people, and for the people” – Lincoln

This means, quite simply – exactly as intended – that a democracy is a government in which none of the elected officials are any higher, nor any lower, than the common man who gave them power in the first place.

And this idea has been violated beyond all recognition in the past week itself, by the largest democracy on the planet: India.

*****

2nd July, 2015

Among the most underappreciated and hard-working members of the Indian democratic system – at least, according to the Indian democratic system – is the democratic lawmaker:

Pictured: A Democratic Lawmaker
Pictured: A Democratic Lawmaker

The Member of Parliament (MP) whose persevering efforts towards upholding the fundamental principles of governance, upon which the idea for an independent India was first realised, never seem to be appreciated quite enough; whether it’s the ungrateful public’s outrage towards a bill that effectively suppresses free speech over the internet, ora land acquisition act that stamps down on the livelihood of farmers all across the nation, nobody seems to shows the Indian MP enough love.

Which is why a parliamentary panel on the 2nd of July, recommended that its members need even MORE money to feel appreciated, demanding a 100% pay hike and a whole slew of other benefits – in addition to the benefits they already have access to – as compensation for their invaluable services to the people of India. While this recommendation has not yet been acted upon, the fact is that tax payers’ money might soon be diverted towards MPs to make sure that they do their job.

To put things in perspective, instead of elaborate scams that give rise to even more elaborate scandals, it’s far less messy to make it completely legal to take tax money up front as part of a “hiked salary”.

The only upside is that news outlets haven’t faced suppression as yet from reporting on this matter, so we have been made aware of a decision before it’s been made, for a change.

*****

2nd July, 2015

The very same night, a family of five driving in an Alto down the road to Jaipur, got into a horrific car crash with an MP in a Mercedes.

When the car crash occurred, Hema Malini (the MP) was immediately rushed to a private Fortis hospital in Jaipur, whereupon facial reconstructive surgery for a minor nasal fracture (read: a broken nose) was immediately administered. Meanwhile, all five occupants in the now-decimated Alto had lost consciousness, and were eventually transported to a nearby Government hospital in the opposite direction after lying on the road without medical aid for almost 25 minutes.

There are so many things wrong with this, I figured a list would be more organized approach to the problem:

  1. The apathetic doctor who rushed Malini to the Fortis hospital , happily ignored the apparently less important Khandelwals, which resulted in the death of the youngest occupant, two-year old Sonam Khandelwal.
  2. The SMS Hospital of Dausa did not possess adequate infrastructure to provide timely care to the Khandelwals
  3. The driver of the Mercedes, was arrested by Dausa police for culpable homicide and then granted bail by the Government
  4. Malini offered to pay for the family’s treatment two days AFTER the incident
  5. The constant defense that Malini was in no state to offer help, even though every picture taken, post-incident, SHOWS HER FULLY CONSCIOUS THROUGHOUT  (I retract this statement on grounds of cruel insensitivity)
  6. None of Malini’s aides, nor any other member of her political party bothered to take responsibilty for the incident.

…what? She couldn’t see the family lying bleeding on the road? The obliterated remains of an Alto? Did everything suddenly seem very insignificant for her? (also retracted)

The sad thing is, the family doesn’t even WANT any recompensation for what happened, they just wished that the people who COULD have helped, WOULD have helped.

ec8b6a44-9bea-4b25-a4c4-50cd0fe62e3cwallpaper1

The Khandelwals lost a daughter of two, looks to be on the verge of losing a son as well, while still undergoing intensive treatment in the trauma ward of the SMS Hospital; and all Hema Malini has to say on the matter, is that: “the accident was most unfortunate”.

But the worst part is that not one citizen, not one passer-by bothered to help out the family, devoting all their focus to Malini instead.

It took 25 minutes for the police to arrive, and even more time to reach the hospital.

*****

However, it’s still erroneous to say that democracy in India has GONE cold. That would imply that it is either dead or even worse, dying.

Which in turn would imply that it was alive to begin with. Which it never was.

From the split between India and Pakistan, to the “Emergency” of 1975(-77), from the much-touted revision of the land acquisition bill of 2014(-present day), to the complete and utter lack of transparency in the government’s inner workings; the Indian Government and the elected officials who comprise it, have never worked towards benefit of its people. It’s always been about the white-washed politicians, and their seemingly unaccountable payroll.

Democracy in Independent India has been dead ever since it came to be in 1947, but it is starting to grow quite cold, and rather smelly to boot, so either get rid of it completely or get a new one.

#democracy #freedom #your #right

Politics

Net Neutrality: Airtel’s Zero Concern for the Customer

“Any idea expressed with sufficient equivocation, is indistinguishable from gibberish.”

“What on earth does this mean?” you must all be asking yourselves, which is indeed very much the same question I asked myself after I read through the Airtel Zero plan, crafted in loving detail and ironically termed “the Airtel pledge”.

*****

But before we go any further, let’s get a few things clear: What is Net Neutrality?

Well, it’s a principle whereby all the information on the internet is treated equally, i.e. a video of a cat playing the banjo should not be any easier or harder to access, than, say, a dissertation on fundamental civic rights. Everyone who has access to the internet, has access to EVERY SINGLE website at the SAME SPEED, without paying ANYTHING MORE than the fee for an internet connection.

While it is true that there are some web sites that choose to restrict certain information with a price tag, this is perfectly permissible because they are charging for the information itself, not the marvelous opportunity to pay money again to get access to this information later.

However, Net Neutrality exists purely as a concept and not a law, and nowhere is this loophole as abused as it is in the Indian sub-continent.

*****

Which is where the man with the postpaid plan, Mr. Gopal Vittal (Managing Director and CEO of Airtel) comes in.

According to the confusingly-worded “Airtel pledge”, the upcoming Airtel Zero plan is supposedly marketed towards the consumers, following a “toll-free” line of thinking so that Airtel customers no longer have to pay money to use web services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype…which they barely do anyway.

“There is no difference between this and the toll-free voice services such as 1-800. When a company selling an insurance product enrolls into the toll-free voice platform, customers who call the number are not charged but when they call a normal number they are charged.”

Long story short: if a company agrees to pay Airtel a part of its revenue, Airtel will make it easier for the subscriber to access the company’s website.

But wait, are you confused by the last line? Apart from toll-free numbers, you’ll still have to pay for a phone call. The statement towards the end seems to imply that you would have to pay to access websites that don’t join this toll-free plan, in addition to the Airtel subscription fee…

Well whatever you might have understood starts to fall apart with statements like:

“Every website, content or application will always be given the same treatment on our network whether they are on the toll-free platform or not.”

Long story short: *sigh* You’re not really trying to make sense, are you Mr. Vittal? Yet, I have this vague suspicion that that’s your intention.

The best part about the “Airtel Pledge” is that statements like the above one try to distract us from the point trying to be made.

“Instead of charging customers we charge the providers who choose to get on to the platform.”

The Airtel pledge understates the fact that web sites and services that DO get on the platform will have to pay a part of their revenue, along with a little extra for data traffic that goes through their websites, in ADDITION to the charges they pay for BEING ON THE INTERNET.

Long story short: They have to pay money to Airtel, to be allowed to pay money to Airtel.

The next logical step, then, is to transfer these costs to the customer. Think of it as a “Value-Subtracted-Tax” (VST) [copyright pending] that you have to pay every time you go onto a website like 9gag, because that site has to pay a ridiculously high fee because of all the registered AND unregistered users who are online.

In the meantime, smaller companies who cannot afford to, or who choose not to pay Airtel, will have their internet speeds throttled when users try to access the website, while data charges (2G/3G/4G/Internet Data) unavoidably increase, steadily reducing traffic to the site in the long run.

So saying something like: “instead of charging the customers, we charge the providers” sounds like a dubious way to say that neither the consumer, nor the company will have a choice in the matter.

*****

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is “trying” (haha) to fight this problem, and while it “claims” to be succeeding [somewhat], Airtel doesn’t look like it will back down anytime soon…

#airtel #zero #internetaccess #freedom #your #right #article19