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SV Raju, the Keeper of the Flame

By Sameer Wagle.

It was with great shock that I read Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s piece in Mint on the day of SV Raju’s passing. What made it worse in a way is the fact that I am currently overseas and have no means of talking to other people who knew Raju. Here are a few of my recollections of him: my humble tribute to SV Raju.

I knew Raju for more than 15 years since I first became a member of the Indian Liberal Group (ILG) in the late 1990s. I continued interacting with him on and off with him over that period first as a member of ILG and then later as an advisory board member on Freedom First (FF). When I moved back to India from Singapore in 2004 Raju persuaded me to join the advisory board of FF with the stated intention to get me more closely involved with the activities of ILG and Freedom first, along with some other younger members.

However, for a mix of reasons primarily related to career which kept me outside Mumbai for a large part of the last ten years my involvement with FF remained more peripheral. In particular over the last 2-3 years when I have been based in Delhi my interactions with Raju has been primarily only during the meetings of the FF advisory board which was held every 3-4 months.

In fact my last conversation with him was in one such meeting with him a few months back at the Ripon club in Mumbai when while discussing the ‘strategy’ for Freedom First going forward I tried to make the point that Freedom First should remain a “specialist” publication focusing on areas related to the liberal cause & history rather than evolving into a general new magazine line publication. After the meeting as we were dispersing Raju patted me, appreciating my intervention and urged me to be more involved. Unfortunately work and family commitments kept me from meeting Raju more regularly and this shall now always remain a regret.

Raju was quite a character with strong views and a bit of an autocrat, though well meaning, as far as running ILG and FF was concerned. Raju was a great story teller and to hear him talk about the history of Rajaji, Masani and the Swatantra party was always a great pleasure.

What I found fascinating about Raju was how dedicated he remained till the very end about making sure that the various activities that he was managing regarding the Indian Liberal Group and the Freedom First magazine were done in a regular and timely manner. The fact that the ILG and FF remained a “niche” group and publication after so many years of hard work must have been a sore point for him but what seemed more important to him was to make sure that that the liberal torch was carried on – through the regular publication of the FF & activities of the ILG.

His dedication and persistence should remain an inspiration for all of us looking to build a better India. Pray that his soul rests in peace.

Sameer Wagle is on the advisory board of Freedom First and an advisor to the Takshashila Institution.

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The Indian Constitution and its Evolution

On the 65th anniversary of the formation of the Indian republic, V. Vinay shares some thoughts on the Indian constitution and its evolution.

constitution

The constitution came into being after nearly 3 years of debate, with 299 members. The drafting committee was headed by BR Ambedkar. The constituent assembly was an indirectly elected body created before independence. The first Loksabha elections were in 1952.

While India became a republic in 1950, it took less than 15 months for shortcoming to be found. Because judgements went against the govt. Freedom of expression became a thorny issue. Because the PM Jawaharlal Nehru didn’t like some cartoon and writings by the left. The first amendment was moved on 10th May and enacted on 18th June 1951. In this short while, our freedom of expression was curtailed.

It look less than six weeks for a slew of changes to the constitution. 13 changes in all including insertion of Schedule 9. Schedule 9 was created to be outside judicial scrutiny. Only recently the Indian supreme court said these provisions may also be scrutinised if required.

While the articles of the constitution have been amended 99 times until now, you would have thought we got at least the preamble right. But no, Indira Gandhi in the infamous 42 amendment decided to amend the preamble as well. This was on 1st April 1977. Oh, the irony! The preamble then and now:

Preamble1aPreamble1b

This is how we became a socialist secular country. The Janata govt did not roll this back: lest our friends in Moscow be offended.

The 42nd Amendment touched/modified/inserted about 54 articles! This has been the largest surgery carried out on the constitution. In the meanwhile nearly 300 acts now find shelter in Schedule 9, away from judicial scrutiny. Many amendments were just showing the courts their ‘place.’ Here is the 24th:

Amendment1

Interestingly, one person who opposed changes to article 19 was Syama Prasad Mukherjee. Wonder if his successors have the courage to restore the article to its pristine form. Meanwhile, we have had 99 amendments. The Modi govt in surely bound to make the 100th amendment. A century! A number we all love.

But still this is the best we have. And this is what keeps us going as a nation. Happy Republic Day.

V. Vinay is a curious academic-entrepreneur living in Bangalore. He tweets at @ainvvy, and these thoughts were originally posted on twitter.

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Store in India

by Ranjeet Rane

As the dust settles around the Indian Air Force (IAF) notification against the use of Chinese mobile phones by its officers and personnel, yet another opportunity to discuss and work upon the larger issues of data sovereignty, user data privacy and lawful interception may be lost. The issue at hand goes beyond the “Chinese spying” rhetoric. The IAF advisory and subsequent denial about the same only highlights the incoherent approach adopted by the Indian policy makers towards understanding the changing dynamics of a “data ecosystem” in a world that is fast embracing the “Internet of Things”. A “data ecosystem” encompasses all the processes relating to user data generation, storage, transmission and third party access/consumption.

A four layered model can be used to demonstrate the possible approach that can be adopted while working on a holistic policy for the rapidly evolving data ecosystem in India.

Data-Ranjeet-Rane

The outermost layer is that of Data Sovereignty. Policy discourse is presently centered around this concern. Security and Law Enforcement agencies have constantly been demanding “India based servers” (read Data centers) from data intermediaries. The Blackberry case was perhaps the most notable example in the last few years that centered around the issue of Data Sovereignty. This demand for data centers within geographical boundaries of India is based on two reasons. The first is that Indian IT laws are not applicable to data stored outside of India. Security and Law enforcement agencies often face procedural delays if access to data is sought for prosecution needs. The other reason is concerning third party access to such data. While the IAF advisory against communication devices that have a “China connect” is the most recent example of this, similar advisories have been issued by the Army as well as the Intelligence Bureau. Curiously, most of these are based on third party vulnerability reports released by private cyber security firms.

This brings to fore the need to have in place a “testing environment” that conducts routine vulnerability assessments within the data ecosystem. This could then be evolved into a certifying authority for “Data Integrity” Standards across various data intense technologies. Coupled with an agency like CERT-In it can be utilized to institutionalizethe Government oversight that is currently missing in this domain. Further this will make it easier for the data intermediaries to establish service credentials, maintain high quality of service along with mandatory documentation and periodic review of steps taken to ensure data integrity. By enabling intermediaries to follow predefined standards, the Government may indirectly boost user confidence that will help in strengthening the fundamentals of the data ecosystem.

Lawful Interception is the next sphere of this model. The NDA government has been vocal about strengthening internal security mechanisms in the country by reviving programs like the Central Monitoring System, NETRA and NATGRID. It will rely heavily on lawful interception towards meeting the objectives of these programs. The focus on blanket surveillance techniques will not be in the benefit of the data ecosystem in the long term. By increasing end user apprehension and making it difficult for the intermediaries to comply with government requests for interception, the government will continue to alter the way users perceive threats to data privacy.

The Government needs to move out from the shadow of the colonial Telegraph Act 1885 if it wishes to have a measure of success in these programs. It needs to put in place an accountable system where legitimate requests for interception would be vetted, documented and realized in public domain at regular intervals. This will increase the end user confidence in using services within the data ecosystem. This will also make it easier for the intermediaries to comply with genuine requests of interception and user information. One of the long pending steps in this regards is the National Telecom Security Policy. While its draft has been around for quite some time, it has been caught in the turf war between various ministries seeking exclusivity over interception requests by agencies under them.

Setting up of a data center is dependent primarily on its utility for users in a geographical region. India has the highest number of active users on Facebook outside of the USA. Similarly India has the highest number of users for messenger applications and other OTT applications. This large user base needs to be projected as the first reason for intermediaries to invest in setting up data centers in India. By encouraging the establishment of data centers in India, the government will be able to find partners for its National Fiber Optic Network, a project to ensure last mile connectivity to remote locations. It will also act as a counter to the perceived threat of Chinese spying in the region.

By choosing to “Store in India”, intermediaries of the data ecosystem will be able garner user trust and at the same time aid the growth of the other layers of the ecosystem. It is important that the policy makers take a relook at the various telecom and communications policies framed in the last decade and make a serious effort to integrate these in the “data ecosystem” that is flourishing in India. Unless a holistic approach is adopted to look at the issues in the data ecosystem, we might lose out on an excellent opportunity to project India as a “data hub” in the coming decade.

In my next post I shall discuss the role of data intermediaries in the data ecosystem, impact of regulatory intervention and highlight the importance of keeping end User Privacy at the core of this model.

Ranjeet Rane is a research assistant on cyber-security at the Takshashila Institution.

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Jihad: the real climate change challenge

Analysts and researchers have long worked on why Jihadi activity has increased in the last many years. Popular fiction links it with the Afghan war and how US decided to back a mujahideen army to win the cold war against USSR. This was coupled with the aftermath of the siege of Mecca in 1979 which led Saudi Arabia to support extremism outside its territory, in return for domestic stability. However, we all know for a fact that Pakistan started supporting Afghan Jihadis in the early 1970s, which busts this convenient narrative.

In fact there has been a gradual increase in Jihadi activity since the 18th century, which has now accelerated to become a major destabilising force in recent years. New research finds that this is strongly correlated with climate change. An important driver of this, Wahabi philosophy, was established at the dawn of Industrial Revolution. It is foolish to ignore this as a coincidence.

Intrigued by the phenomena of violent hurricanes and Jihadi attacks occurring and increasing at the same time, researchers from the Takshashila Institution are on the brink of solving the puzzle. Rising temperatures often cause hot-headedness, which has been the primary reason behind this activity. Hot-headedness as anthropological behaviour has been studied for centuries but a climate signal has been found behind it for the first time now. We asked Takshashila’s director, Nitin Pai, about this finding:

SC: How significant is this finding?

NP: This is path breaking. For the first time, we have a sound scientific basis for policy action rather than all the analytical nonsense the think tank kinds keep propagating.

SC: What kind of hypothesis testing and research did you have do to reach this conclusion?

NP: The beauty of this theory was that no testing was required. It was so obvious, that as soon as it was revealed to us we just knew it had to be right. Really, it is so obvious. Some things manifest as self-evident truths.

Social norms like turbans and dark beards have been propagated to further increase the effects of high temperatures on individuals. Clean shaven men are less prone to Jihadist tendencies.But the conspiracy goes further.

Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern states promote an oil-intensive world with the purpose of increasing carbon emissions to unsustainable levels such that climate change is accelerated. This is the real thrust of how they promote Jihad in the world, with the more explicit funding of Wahabism just being cover. With sea level rise threatening to drown the state of Israel, jihad only has two great Satans left to deal with.

Saurabh Chandra is a Strategic Futures Analyst with the Takshashila Institution. This is a preview of his upcoming research on ‘A scientific approach to addressing Jihad’.

Readers are requested to peruse the date of publication of this article.

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Daily Update: August 27, 2013

The Broad Mind is restarting its daily updates on international news for the Indian reader. Expect updates every weekday.

Syrian President Al-Assad denies use of chemical weapons

On the alleged use of chemical weapons, President al-Assad said that the statements by the US administration, the West and other countries were made with disdain and blatant disrespect of their own public opinion. However, the U.N. inspectors that were sent to visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in eastern Damascus came under fire. A BBC news correspondent writes that the dire predictions made months ago by some regional analysts that the Syrian situation could spiral rapidly into World War III are starting to look a little less fanciful.

Karzai meets Sharif

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seek support for the revival of peace talks with Taliban and to improve frayed ties. It is Mr. Karzai’s first visit to Pakistan since the new government took office in June. The leaders signed two agreements and the Afghan President called for a joint anti terror campaign. Earlier in the month, Pakistan’s special adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz met with Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul in Kabul at mending relations between the two neighbors.

OVL to buy 10 per cent stake in a Mozambique gas field for $2.64 billion

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Ltd (OVL) set to buy of 10 per cent stake in a giant Mozambique gas field from Anadarko Petroleum Corp of US for $2.64 billion. The New York Times states that this is the latest example of how Asia’s biggest emerging economies are zeroing in on Mozambique’s vast offshore energy resources. Reuters reports that the purchase is to offset diminishing supplies from domestic gas fields by buying overseas assets and boost India’s energy needs. East Africa has become one of the world’s most promising areas for energy production in the wake of large natural-gas discoveries off the coasts of Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Bo Xilai’s trial concludes

Bo Xilai, a former Politburo member faced trial on being charged for bribery, graft and abuse of power. He denied the charge of abusing power to cover up a murder case involving his wife and to sack a police chief without proper procedures. He presented his closing case by stating that he was a victim of “fabricated” evidence and of a close relationship between his wife and his police chief. There may or may not be any chance of a lenient punishment.

Thousands of Filipinos rally against corruption: Is Philippines headed the Turkey way?

Tens of thousands of Filipinos protested in a park in Manila demanding the scrapping of a development fund that allows lawmakers to allocate government money for projects in their districts. Police said about 70,000 protesters were at the peak of the rally. The government corruption is linked to a program that is accused of having diverted an estimated $141 million away from the poor and into the coffers of politicians and their associates.

Daily updates are brought to you by Divya Gangadar at the Takshashila Institution.

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