the fully loaded magazine
I refer to the cover story, Mind what you type (May 14). First, like the pied piper, social media moguls played an irresistible, subliminal tune to lead the masses of the world into perpetual digital existence. Then, they started sizing up the followers—breaking their lives up into small data packets in order to ‘harvest’ their personal information. For years, this was still taken as covert activity, with only whispers warning us of the dangers of giving out all your details. Now, after the Cambridge Analytica expose, there is hysteria regarding data extraction, almost a non-concern up till now. People should keep in mind that the digital oligarchs of the world are the finest intelligence operators of today. They have ensured that there is very little functionality outside the worlds they have created. We can be paranoid about data theft, but wishing for complete protection against it is impossible. So let’s not just be paranoid and work with the understanding that not just big corporate, but the government itself is hugely interested and invested in mining your data. Absolute surveillance is a default 21st century goal of states. Oddly enough, both governments and tech companies provide the same kind of justification for what they do: that their surveillance is both necessary for national security in the case of governments and for economic viability in the case of corporations. Only institutional and legal routes can help us deal with these things. We can find a good example in the laws that the European Court of Justice has framed around data theft.
Just two days before reading this story, I had sent a money transfer receipt via WhatsApp and was wondering how secure my data was. I’d think twice about sending such info on the app now. Think about the amount of sensitive data being exchanged through various social media platforms by the second. Think about the magnitude of risk. People have come to rely heavily on the app; therefore an immediate stop to its usage may not be possible. However, the service providers are bound to ensure safety of data for their consumers.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
I’m taking the advice the last line of the story gives to readers: “The next time your insurance agent asks you to WhatsApp a photo of your Aadhaar card to update the KYC, it may be better to say no”. I hope the same caution is exercised by intelligence agencies, police departments and military personnel who interact on WhataApp apart from, of course, my fellow citizens. We have no clue about who can access and abuse our data, or is doing so. After the Facebook data mega leak and this story, ‘end-to-end-encryption’ and other eyewashes to make our data look safer stand exposed. Digital messenger services have made life tremendously easy and brought people closer than ever, but the consequences of using them only show that every technology comes with an invisible sinister side.
An app made by a company, made available for free; what did we think it was, social service!
Rishi Dutta, New Delhi
The photograph from the Malayalam film, Sudani From Nigeria, in your Glitteratti page shows Nigerian actor Samuel Robinson with his co-star, Soubin Shahir, and not the film’s director, Zakaria Mohammed, as mentioned in your piece (May 14). Please avoid such irritating gaffes in the future!
Shashi Kumar U.V., On E-Mail
This is with reference to Akbar-Anthony Amar Rahe: The Hero 2.0 (May 14). When a 102-year-old protagonist and his 75-year-old son are well received, we can say that our audiences have surely grown up. In the bargain, Big B and Rishi Kapoor reinvent themselves as actors and pave the way, hopefully, for other next-door uncles and dadajis on screen.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
This refers to your story from Karnataka, Lotus Farming in Quarry Pits (May 14). Iron ore mining and exports from Karnataka and Goa in the past may have made the resourceful people in the region prosperous, but it has also involved plunder by mining barons in a nexus with powerful politicians. This had carried on until the Supreme Court stopped it for want of valid leases and licences. It is an example of how criminals prosper when their booty benefits ordinary people engaged in ancillary businesses such as transport of the ore to the nearest harbours, as well as unskilled labourers. These criminals are now threatening their opponents to keep quiet and also daring to occupy seats of power through the democratic route of elections. What a mockery of the rule of law under our glorified Constitution!
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath’s claim to political fame—his oft-cited five victories as MP from Gorakhpur, crumbled when he failed to win the same seat for his nominee in the last by-poll. This is the man they sent to Karnataka to campaign for the party. Not the wisest of moves, surely. The opposition in the state would have been grinning while a clueless Yogi tried to fish for votes in unfamiliar territory. But the media made a spectacle of his visit, glorifying it unnecessarily. The media has been at it for a while, the glorification of this regime. I wonder if it’s the sheer fear and alarm of crackdown by the government that makes them croon to its tunes or if it is the injection of huge financial doses. Maybe a bit of both. If some readers are thinking why I, a Goan, am so concerned about Karnataka’s political health (since Goa is idealised nationwide as an idyllic land with a unique culture, hence more ‘local’ than national), I should tell you to look around. The right to freedom—of speech, dress, expression etc.—is being strangulated in the current atmosphere.
James Fernandes, Goa
This refers to Three Years For Hardliners, the story on the PDP-BJP alliance (May 14). They knew it from the very beginning. But the alliance proved the law of opposites. If you know exactly how the other thinks and aren’t shy of revealing your own intentions, what’s there to fear? The PDP-BJP alliance was never based on mutual agendas, it was politics at its most bare. The recent cabinet reshuffle was a carefully pre-planned move to save the carefully divided partnership. Who controls, or desperately tries to control, what in the state had been marked out since the beginning—the PDP sticks to the Valley and the mountains, while the BJP keeps Jammu and even experiments with Ladakh. After the Kathua rape incident—the investigation of which was vehemently protested by a considerable section of the Jammu citizenry—you got an example of just how deep the BJP has entered the Jammu psyche. The PDP, on the other hand, doesn’t care much about this. It has its own gigantic problems.
Anil S., Pune
This is about the two articles on the informal Wuhan summit between Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping, about Sino-India relations (Bending Fences, May 7; Lake Placid, May 14). Jawaharlal Nehru said that “the challenge between India and China runs along the spine of Asia”. Nehru had to contend with Chairman Mao, who believed that political power is derived from the barrel of a gun. China did demonstrate to the world, through the war in 1962, who called the shots in Asia. Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, rescued the Chinese economy and set it on the high path of progress. About 30 years back, when Rajiv Gandhi visited Beijing, Deng welcomed him thus: “Young friend, welcome to China. Without India’s and China’s development, the Asian century is impossible.” Unlike Mao and Deng, Xi puts a premium on political and psychological victories rather than pure military triumph. Keping this in mind, we must work to cultivate and nourish ties with the neighbour. PM Modi is pleasing and practical to deal with, and under him India has moved away from a traditional non-alignment to multi-alignment. His vigorous push to India’s ‘Act East’ policy is aimed at improving India’s ties with neighbours in Southeast and East Asia. There is no doubt that Modi got the ‘Wuhan message’ in letter and spirit. It is time to “rescue India’s reading of China from defence analysts, security experts and technocrats”. We must break the grimness of China watchers at all costs.
Col (retd) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
A nation cannot choose its neighbours. But it can choose to talk to them. The Wuhan summit may not have made any ground-breaking announcements, but it reiterated the need for dialogue between two countries that seem to have different perceptions of, and expectations from, their bilateral ties.
J. Akshay, On E-Mail
For people who are thinking that a change of guard at the foreign secretary level, with Vijay Gokhale taking over from S. Jaishankar, is the reason behind the recent thaw in Indo-China relations, I’d like to point out that it’s not the Indian bureaucracy which sets the tone of India’s foreign policy but always India’s political leaders (Lake Placid, May 14). Foreign secretaries are crucial clogs in the wheel, of course, but not the real movers and shakers. PM Modi and his team have by now realised that having China as a hostile neighbour is a bad idea. And why not loosen up when ties can only be mutually beneficial.
Vipul Pande, Nainital
With the gradual spread of Hindutva forces and the advocacy of Tamil nationalism by fringe groups, support for the Dravidian movement is declining in Tamil Nadu (The Naadu Flickers, May 14). Bharathiraja, a leading filmmaker, asserts that one should speak only of Tamil Nadu and Tamilians rather than Dravidian nationalism. Can leaders like Vaiko, who vociferously advocate Dravidian ideology, go to other southern states to sell their idea of a separate Dravida Nadu, he asks. While there are few takers in Tamil Nadu for strident Tamil nationalism, the younger generation is irked over the unending agitations by major political parties like the DMK and other fringe elements like Vaiko, Seeman or Velmurugan, who do not have a single representative in the state assembly. Due to growing unemployment and inequality, young men and women are in a state of perpetual tension. For instance, rumours that north Indian kidnappers are trying to kidnap children in the state have led to violence against innocent north Indians in some districts. There is anger and resentment among the young educated class that Tamil Nadu is lagging behind other southern states in growth and development due to all-pervasive corruption and a lack of strong leadership!
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Apropos the column Why Fear a Hindu Rashtra? (May 7), there is no doubt that secularism and tolerance have had a central place in India’s public life only because India is a land of tolerant faiths. But, thanks to misrule and various divisive policies implemented by former governments to retain power, this phenomenon called Hindutva—the politicised version of Hinduism—got a major boost and has evolved into a dangerous force over the past decades. Ever since, things have not been the same in India. Mountains have been made out of molehills, most violently by right-wing fringe groups, while hatred and intolerance have come to replace secularism and tolerance. Many people may not have a problem with a Hindu India, but they don’t want Hindutva, which actively seeks to disturb peace and harmony in the country. So yes, fear a Hindutva rashtra.
George Jacob, Kochi
Apropos of Verdict: Unimpeachable (May 7), without commenting on the merits and demerits of the writ filed in the Supreme Court against the Vice President declining to admit the motion of impeachment against the Chief Justice of India, it is clear that propriety demanded that the seniormost judge after the CJI should have heard the matter in order to decide whether a constitution bench should be formed. Even if it had been determined that such a bench was needed, the CJI should have recused himself from determining its composition.
It is unfortunate that the long RTI route had to be adopted to find out how the constitution bench was formed with supersonic speed even without the writ having been admitted in the normal course. By the time the RTI application receives a final response, it may be too late for the information to have any value.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, New Delhi
‘Nemo debet esse iudex in propria causa’ is a legal maxim that means ‘no one should be the judge in his own case’—a principle of natural justice. But the world’s largest democracy has a chief justice who heard a case regarding his own corruption and has now picked a bench to hear a case concerning his own impeachment.
The tenacity of the Indian judiciary is undergoing an evaluation at the topmost level. Four senior SC judges have spoken out to warn us that our democracy is in danger, and the second most senior justice, Ranjan Gogoi, wrote a letter to the CJI recently asking for a full court discussion on the future of this institution. There is talk in many quarters of April 25, 1973, when three of the seven judges who had gone against the government’s position in their majority judgement in the Kesavananda Bharati case were superseded for the position of CJI. Similarly, on April 25 2018, the government chose to appoint Indu Malhotra to the SC and not endorse the case of K.M. Joseph allegedly because of the latter’s judgement against the current regime’s attempt to impose President’s rule in Uttarakhand.
We should all be alert to whether the dignitary of the judiciary is being upheld and thus be attentive to the appointment of judges to the SC. Now it is up to the CJI to restore the public’s trust through a judicial handshake.
Romit Chandrakar, Raipur