CONFLICT OF INTEREST? PEOPLE WHO GOT PLUM RETIREMENT POSTINGS

VINDO RAI

11TH COMPTROLLER AND AUDITOR GENERAL (CAG) OF INDIA, JANUARY 2008 TO MAY 2013, AN IAS OF 1972 BATCH

WAS CHOSEN TO HEAD THE FIRST BANK BOARD BUREAU (BBB) IN FEBRUARY 2016

BBB IS SUPPOSED TO BE AN AUTONOMOUS BODY LOOKING INTO GOVERNANCE RELATED MATTERS OF PUBLIC SECTOR BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

THE BBB MANDATE ALSO INCLUDES THE ALL POWERFUL DECISION ON APPOINTING CHIEFS OF PUBLIC SECTOR BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

THE MINISTRY OF RAILWAYS MADE HIM ITS ADVISOR IN JANUARY 2015, HIS HELP WAS SOUGHT TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY AND INCREASE TRANSPARENCY IN THE SYSTEM

AT THE CENTRE OF 2G SPECTRUM ALLOCATION CONTROVERSY AFTER COURT ACQUITTAL OF ALL ACCUSED

THE COURT VERDICT VITUALLY REJECTED HIS 1.76 LAKH CRORE LOSS CLAIM IN 2G SPECTRUM ALLOCATION

CONGRESS AND OTHER PARTIES NAMED IN THE SCAM ARE CALLING HIM TO FACE QUESTIONS IN THE PARLIAMENT, ARE DEMANDING HIS APOLOGY, CALLING HIM A BJP AGENT

JUSTICE P SATHASIVAM

WAS CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA FROM AUGUST 2013 TO APRIL 2014

MADE KERALA GOVERNOR IN SEPTEMBER 2014

JUSTICE K.G. BALAKRISHNAN

RETIRED AS CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA ON MAY 12, 2010

APPOINTED NHRC CHAIRMAIN IN JUNE 2010

NN VOHRA

HE WAS PERSONAL SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA (1997-98)

J&K INTERLOCUTOR FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA – SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR CARRYING OUT DIALOGUE (2003-2008)

WAS MADE J&K GOVERNOR IN 2008

HIS SECOND GUBERNATORIAL TERM IN J&K BEGAN IN APRIL 2013

MS GILL

CHIEF ELECTION COMMISSIONER, FROM DECEMBER 1996 TO JUNE 2001

WAS ELECTED TO RAJYA SABHA IN APRIL 2004 AND RE-ELECTED IN APRIL 2010

BECAME MINISTER OF STATE (INDEPENDENT CHARGE) IN THE MINISTRY OF YOUTH AFFAIRS & SPORTS IN MAY 2009

SUBSEQUENTLY HELD OTHER MINISTERIAL RESPONSIBILITES IN THE MANMOHAN SINGH CABINET

RAJIV MATHUR

A FORMER IB DIRECTOR, FROM 2008 TO 2010

BECAME CIC IN MARCH 2014

B.V. WANCHOO

A RETIRED IPS OFFICER, WAS CLOSE TO GANDHI FAMILY, HEADED SPG

MADE GOA GOVERNOR IN MAY 2012

RESIGNED IN JULY 2014 WHEN QUESTIONED AS A WITNESS IN AGUSTA CASE

ESL NARASIMHAN

RETIRED INTELLIGENCE BUREAU CHIEF

MADE CHHATTISGARH GOVERNOR IN JANUARY 2007

MADE ANDHRA PRADESH GOVERNOR IN JANUARY 2010, BEGAN SECOND TERM AS ANDHRA GOVERNOR IN MAY 2012

TOOK CHARGE AS TELANGANA GOVERNORN AS WELL WHEN THE STATE WAS OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED ON 2 JUNE 2014

M.K. NARAYANAN

RETIRED INTELLIGENCE BUREAU CHIEF AND FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR

MADE WEST BENGAL GOVERNOR IN JANUARY 2010, RESIGNED IN JUNE 2014

WAS QUESTIONED AS WITNESS IN AGUSTA SCAM, WAS FIRST GOVERNOR TO BE INVESTIGATED IN THE VVIP CHOPPER SCAM

RAHUL KHULLAR

A FORMER IAS OFFICER

EX-COMMERCE SECRETARY AND PERSONAL SECRETARY TO PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH

WAS APPOINTED TRAI CHAIRMAN IN MAY 2012

ASHWANI KUMAR

IPS OFFICER AND FORMER CBI DIRECTOR

AMIT SHAH WAS ARRESTED IN SOHRABUDDIN SHEIKH FAKE ENCOUNTER CASE DURING HIS TENURE

APPOINTED GOVERNOR OF NAGALAND IN MARCH 2013, RESIGNED IN JUNE 2014

NIKHIL KUMAR

FORMER DELHI POLICE COMMISSIONER AND EX NATIONAL SECURITY GUARDS CHIEF

WAS MADE NAGALAND GOVERNOR IN OCTOBER 2015, TRANSFERRED TO KERALA IN MARCH 2013

RESIGNED IN MARCH 2014 TO CONTEST LOK SABHA ELECTIONS, HAD ALSO CONTESTED 2009 LS ELECTION BUT LOST

BL JOSHI

A FORMER IPS OFFICER, NEHRU-GANDHI FAMILY LOYALIST – LOOKED AFTER THEIR SECURITY RIGHT FROM JAWAHAR LAL NEHRU

WAS APPOINTED LT. GOVERNOR OF DELHI IN JUNE 2004

RESIGNED AND MADE MEGHALAYA GOVERNOR IN APRIL 2007

APPOINTED UTTARAKHAND GOVERNOR IN OCT 2007 AND UTTAR PRADESH GOVERNOR IN JULY 2009

GOT SECOND UP TERM IN MARCH 2014 BUT RESIGNED IN JUNE THAT YEAR

AND THE LIST IS CERTAINLY NOT EXHAUSTIVE! 

©SantoshChaubey

CBI’S DAMP SQUIBS: CASES THAT PROVED TOO DIFFICULT TO PROVE IN COURT

2G Spectrum Allocation Scam that kept the nation boiled for almost a decade but ultimately proved too difficult for investigators to prove in the court is not the first case that has dragged on for too long before turning into a damp squib. There are cases that directly question the sincerity and credibility of India’s central investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the cases that have shaped the direction of Indian politics but ultimately failed to convince our judicial system, cases that tell us they were more about designs of political masters than about concerns on probity and integrity.

FODDER SCAM – OVER TWO DECADES AND STILL ONGOING

Reports of the scam appeared in January 1996. The Rs 900 crore fodder scam was about siphoning off government money in the name of companies that existed only on papers. The case was transferred to CBI in March 1996. After CBI raided then Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav’s residence in June 1996, he stepped down the next month but not before installing his wife Rabri Devi in the chief minister’s office. CBI subsequently slapped Lalu and Rabri with disproportionate assets case in August 1998.

The whole case since then since has seen Lalu being jailed, getting bail and even clean chits many times including clean chit in the DA case. Finally, Lalu was convicted in one of the fodder scam cases by a CBI court in Ranchi in September 2013 that disqualified him for six years from political office but he got bail in December 2013. In November 2014, the Jharkhand High Court ruled in his favour by removing conspiracy charges but in a jolt, the charges were reinstated by the Supreme Court in May 2017.

Since the trial is ongoing in the CBI court, Lalu and other convicted in the scam have avenues open in higher courts to challenge their conviction and it will be some time before the final conviction, or for that matter, acquittal, is upheld by the Supreme Court. Given that it is already over two decades in the case, no one can say for how long the case will drag on before any final conclusion.

BOFORS – 1986 TO 2011

The came case to public knowledge in April 1987 after the Swedish Radio claims that bribes worth Rs 64 crore were paid to Indian politicians and defence personnel in the Rs 1437 crore deal between Swedish manufacturer AB Bofors and Government of India for 400 155mm Howitzer guns signed in March 1986.

What followed was over two decades of labyrinthine probe that cost Rajiv Gandhi his government. CBI registered FIR in 1990 but it took nine years for the agency to file first chargesheet in the case when it did so against Win Chadha, an AB Bofors agent, in October 1999. Letter Rogatories were sent and Interpol Red Corner notice was issued. But nothing could help and CBI was forced to wind up its case against lone surviving accused, Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, in January 2011. Before it, CBI had tried to get Quattrocchi extradited to India for years but always failed. Quattrocchi died in 2013.

The case that dragged on for 25 years and created storm in Indian politics, saw no convictions and it fact the judge, while deliberating on CBI’s closure report, commented that the agency had already spent Rs 250 crore on investigating a kickback of Rs 64 crore and the whole exercise was a sheer wastage of public money.

DENEL ARMS DEAL SCAM – 2003 TO 2013

India signed deal with South Africa’s state owned firm Denel in 2003 to get 1,200 bunker-buster anti-material rifles through a British agent. But the deal was mired in controversy with kickback allegations of Rs 20 crore paid to gain confidential documents from the Ministry of Defence. Denel was supposed to provide 1,200 rifles but it ended up providing only 300.

CBI started its probe in July 2005 but couldn’t make much headway apart from sending routine Letter Rogatories and was forced to file closure report in September 2013 where it accepted it could not find any evidence to prove allegations of corruption in the deal.

COFFIN SCAM – 2002 TO 2015

The scam came under scanner in 2002. A CAG report found the coffins bought for the Kargil War martyrs too expensive and indeed they were, at $2500, each coffin was 15 times more than the price of $172 paid earlier.

CBI was asked to probe the scam in June 2005 but could register a case only after a year, in June 2006, against George Fernandes, the Defence Minister in during the Kargil War in 1999, three army officers and the US supplier.

The agency filed its chargesheet in 2009 where it did not name George Fernandes giving him clean chit. The three army officers were also given clean chit by a Delhi court in December 2013 citing lack of evidence and in October 2015, the Supreme Court, too, gave the NDA government clean chit in the case under which the alleged scam had taken place.

BARAK MISSILE SCAM – 2001 TO 2013

The scam came to light in 2001 through Tehelka sting operation that alleged kickbacks in many defence deals signed by the government of India. The government had signed a deal worth Rs 1150 crore with Israel in 2000 for Barak missiles.

CBI took over the case and registered FIR in October 2006 accusing George Fernandes, former naval chief Sushil Kumar, Jaya Jaitley, Samata Party leader, RK Jain, Samata Party treasurer and businessman Suresh Nanda.

But while the case created political storm, CBI could not do much beyond sending letters of request to concerned countries from where it could not any worthy information. So the agency that had claimed huge bribes were paid and a conspiracy was hatched for the deal while registering the case, was forced to file closure report in December 2013.

©SantoshChaubey

A LIFE KALEIDOSCOPIC – THE SUN RISES OVER THE GANGA

IN GOD’S OWN CITY – VARANASI VIBES

THE SUN RISES OVER THE GANGA

INDIA’S OLDEST LIVING CITY – INDIA’S HERITAGE AND CULTURAL CAPITAL – AND THE WORLD’S SPIRITUAL CAPITAL THROUGH RANDOM CLICKS

©SantoshChaubey

A LIFE KALEIDOSCOPIC – THE GHAT LIFE

IN GOD’S OWN CITY

THE GHAT LIFE
VARANASI VIBES

INDIA’S OLDEST LIVING CITY – INDIA’S HERITAGE AND CULTURAL CAPITAL – AND THE WORLD’S SPIRITUAL CAPITAL THROUGH RANDOM CLICKS

©SantoshChaubey

CLIMAX….AND HOW IT CLIMAXES….CLASSIC INDIAN MASALA CINEMA WAY

In a palatial mansion, well-fortified, with guards and otherwise, there is a wall, unplastered, wall made of single row of bricks, looking ugly and totally out of place, waiting to be razed down….like it happens.

Inside the wall, the villain, clad in a polo outfit, is vigorously trying to rape a woman….like it happens.

The woman is crying for help, in the oversized mansion, secluded by the poor wall, and guarded by plenty of goondas….like it happens.

Anger is simmering….like it happens.

When it reaches to the helping ears, it starts boiling. And the helping ears rush to help. A big bang!!!! Like it happens.

And the ugly, out of place bare bricks wall is suddenly down, receiving its freedom, away from this palace that is phony for its standards, making its very existence in the frame a sham.

And, the helping ears are in, with body, with soul, with emotion and with anger – all on simultaneous display.

(Specifics of characters are interchangeable here with the sole distinction that the premises always remain the same – they may be of any age – of any sex – of any social class – even of any species.)

Soon we see the protagonist(s) of the frame on rampage in the mansion, throwing goondas here and there. The scene takes some time before collars of the villain is grabbed so that the fighting spirit and skills can be shown in totally, with mandatory bulldozing to overdose levels….like it happens.

Though the goons are still trying to give him a fight, like they were trying from the very first moment, he is outmatching them, making whirlwind rounds of the hall and in fact the overall mansion premises, its rooms, even jumping up and running down stairs, with impeccable somersault moves and acrobatic skills….like it happens.

As the good vs evil fight progresses, more and more goondas are seen biting the dust. There reaches a point when the boiling point of anger is right there with its intensity sending goondas packing, broken and aching….like it happens.

And after an epic fight, the frame cut to the next one where we see the main protagonist (of all) chasing the rapist owner of the mansion. He is the saviour of the moment and soon he is there, to melt the core.

Now desperate and running, the rapist reaches to his gun somehow (or for that matter any other weapon as per the script) somehow and is now taking aim.

There is pin drop silence in the ambience….like it happens.

The watchers have left their munching-grazing midway….like it happens.

But, but, while taking aim, the daddy goonda had not seen the other protagonist who was just behind the rapist, like even the viewers had not seen him in the frame for a long time. We don’t see him charging but all of a sudden, the other protagonist comes between the villain’s aim and the main protagonist, as the routine is, that the other protagonist is sacrificed by the script.

The anger, the tension, now starts spilling over….like it happens.

The main protagonist of all, the saviour of filmmakers and viewers alike, is up on the habitual murders and serial rapist now, ready to snatch the gun and take over the scene in finality.

And lo and behold! Flash and smash!

Like the situation has been conceived, the gun is either snatched and thrown away by the saviour who then shows his martial arts once again or the weapon’s is acted upon in such a way that its aim does the course correction to find its ultimate target – the rapist (or the villain).

Most of the times, the weapon is retired so that viewers can see some ‘real action’, in flesh and blood, in a syrupy cocktail of emotions. And the very next moment, the daddy goonda is in iron grip of our hero. He punches him, kicks him, tosses him up and away, he applies every trick of regulated and free style fight. To the credit of the rapist goon, he is a sturdy fellow who can weather the just excesses committed by the hero till it meets the appetite of viewers….like it happens.

How the climax climaxes!

Bang again!

A glass wall here, a door there, and furniture’s all around in the room get smashed down and we find the daddy goonda on the floor. From that point, he paces out, saving his life from the ongoing wrath of the saviour but fails miserably. He wishes to be a Jamaican sprinter but the script curses him to be an Indian one….like it happens.

It’s the finality – the finality that releases tension. And viewers are back to their normalized ways – grazing, munching while watching the emotional reunion of the caller and the called – the saviour and the saved.

It’s time for some garnishing, some dessert, the cherry on the top of the cake!

Tears are in free flow mode. Many of the viewers in the theatre are clapping, sobbing, and some even crying. The chatter, that had gone silent suddenly, is alive again. The job is well done. Filmwallas have performed their duty. And viewers have paid it back by reacting dutifully.

🙂 🙂 The Way It Is….The Classic Indian Masala Cinema…. 🙂 🙂

©SantoshChaubey

NORTH KOREA CLAIMS US’ FATE IS IN ITS HANDS, TRUMP ON DEATHBED STRUGGLE

The article originally appeared on India Today on 15 December.

An increasingly belligerent North Korean propaganda has gone a step ahead.

The country’s state-run newspaper Minju Choson – published by the North Korean cabinet – has written in a commentary that fearful of the North Korean might, the fate of America is in hands of its supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

Blaming the US President Donald Trump’s ignorance about North Korea, the commentary says the US tactics of nuclear blackmail and threat will no longer work “whether the US likes or not and wants or not”, adding that “the status of the standoff between the DPRK and US has come under the control of the faith and will of the North Korea which is holding the initiative.”

Claiming that North Korea has always emerged victorious, Minju Choson further writes that Trump is still in deep sleep not realizing the imminent danger he has put America in.

“The Trump group is attempting to seek a way out by pursuing a policy of military confrontation. This is nothing but a deathbed struggle by those alarmed by the might of North Korea.”

Warning the US to become prudent and think twice, the newspaper says the recent annual defence conference of the country under the guidance of their supreme leader Kim Jong-un has filled the North Korean people and its Army with iron faith and if the Americans try to annoy this valorous spirit, they will be forced to go for military confrontation which will ultimately result in victory and glory for North Korea and humiliating defeat for Trump and the US.

Though North Korean propaganda may say the US is blackmailing it, but the recent advances made by the country in acquiring lethal weapons and strategic capabilities, the nuclear capable inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach to the parts of America, a series of successful missile launches in recent months and a claimed detonation of hydrogen bomb, has emboldened its war rhetoric to unprecedented levels.

And unlike in past, the world has taken these military claims seriously, increasing manifold the threat perception about the isolated nation.

The most recent development has only added to it.

According to American and Asian intelligence officials, North Korea may have acquired capacity to produce biological weapons on military scale and in fact, the world has no way to find if the rogue nation has already begun it, as such facilities are concealed in its civilian factories.

Some experts also say the North may have been even trying to create super-germs in its labs using advanced genetic engineering.

That is why the world is giving dialogue a chance with no one in favour of direct military confrontation in spite of tough warnings and harsh war rhetoric from Trump and his administration.

World leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the United Nations have preferred diplomacy, dialogues and sanctions over a possibility of war or military confrontation to deal with North Korea, a stand that has forced even Trump and his team to take a soft approach hinting at dialogue.

The call for dialogue and diplomatic efforts was best summed up by United Nations chief Antonio Guterres yesterday when he warned that “the worst possible thing that could happen would be for us all to sleepwalk into a war that might have very dramatic circumstances.”

©SantoshChaubey

MEET THE INDIAN-AMERICAN AT CENTRE OF US MOVE TO REPEAL NET NEUTRALITY RULES

The article originally appeared on India Today on 15 December.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecom regulator of the United States of America, has repealed a landmark law the country passed in 2015 to ensure net neutrality in the US and Ajit Pai, a son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the debate. He heads the US FCC.

Pai is a Republican, the same party as American President Donald J Trump, and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump administration took over the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has voted in favour of repealing a 2015 law enacted by itself under the Barack Obama government. The FCC is overseen by the US Congressional chairs and currently, like the US Congress (the American equivalent of Parliament), the Republicans are in majority in the FCC, a fact that helped the proposal moved by Pai score a 3-2 victory. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by then president Barack Obama.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical (sic) of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying repealing the net neutrality law will kill the spirit of free internet.

Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. Opponents of the repeal bill, named Restoring Internet Freedom Order, say it will effectively shut down or marginalise small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to disadvantage a rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, internet users will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to all content and data gone, the critics add. Net neutrality, they say, ensures that no service provider will speed up or throttle a particular service because of its business interests.

IN INDIA

India has also been through this important debate. The country saw a major controversy over services such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were alleged to be discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of a particiular telecom company or internet service provider (ISP).

Citizens here were up in arms over this and a public outcry forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations on building a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And, its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principles of net neutrality in recommendations it released last month.

Ajit Pai’s move is threatening to undo that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet. Pai’s move has also unnerved the internet’s founding fathers Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker.

They wrote an open letter to US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote yesterday. They called the repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the internet.

But Pai was unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement-one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York.

A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.

©SantoshChaubey

‘SEVERE HEALTH IMPACTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE’: UN STUDY ON E-WASTE CRISIS IN INDIA

A new United Nations study has painted a grim picture for India on e-waste management. The study, Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), says as India’s e-waste recycling operations are mostly in the informal sector, it is beset with severe health impacts and causes widespread environmental damage.

India’s formal e-waste recycling industry is still non-existent and the country is dotted with manual recycling operations in the informal sector. Over a million employed here are basically poor people with either no or very low literacy levels. They are either unaware of the hazardous consequences of the work they do or are forced to do their job because they have no other option, the study says.

India’s electronics industry is among the fastest growing in the world and is expected to become a $400 Billion industry by 2020 with a CAGR of 41 per cent during 2017-2020 says a study by ASSOCHAM and NEC Technologies.

That makes India one of the largest producers of e-waste. A 2016 study by ASSOCHAM-KPMG says India’s is the world’s fifth largest e-waste producer generating 18.5 lakh tonnes of discarded electronic waste annually. In Asia, India is third behind China and Japan. According to the UN study, China is Asia’s and the world’s top e-waste generating country producing 7.2 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2016. Japan was second in Asia producing 2.1 MMT of e-waste while India came a close third with 2 MMT e-waste generated in 2016, an assessment that is in sync with the ASSOCHAM-KPMG study.

And it is mostly driven by advances made in telecommunication as around 54 per cent households globally have internet access now. Couple this with the 7.7 billion mobile wireless subscriptions as tallied by Statista, an online research and business intelligence firm and the problem looks critical. The figure tells there are more mobile phones today than the overall global population of 7.44 Billion at the moment. Another assessment by eMarketer says the smartphone penetration globally is to reach to 2.39 Billion this year. All this is going to produce heaps of e-waste as we move to a more digitally connected world.

Due toeEver declining technology and hardware prices, mainly in the telecommunication sector like the mobile phones, computers, computer peripherals and other IT equipment, coupled with decrease in price of services, in voice and internet, the e-waste is expected to increase manifold in India and the world in years ahead. This is in addition to other e-waste from discarded products like televisions, refrigerators, air-conditioners and electronic toys. Such electronic waste, with a battery or plug, is a major health hazard and environment threat the UN warns. They have high levels of poisonous elements like lead, cadmium and mercury.

Reflecting India’s position as the world second largest telecom market which is also the fastest growing one, almost 70 per cent of the country’s electronic waste comes from discarded computer equipment whereas the telecom equipment constitutes 12 per cent of our annual electronic waste. But mobile phones and smartphones are a fast growing category here as almost 25 crore of mobile handsets, or 25 per cent of over 100 crore user base, end up in e-waste each year. Overall, India’s electronic waste is growing 30 per cent annually.

Though India had enacted law to regulate e-waste management in the country in 2011 and made further amendments in it in 2015 to cover producers, it is still a long way to go before a well-laid out mechanism can be put in place given the fact that almost 95 per cent of e-waste collection and handling in the country is done by the informal sector. For the record, the amended e-waste management rule requires producers to collect 30 per cent e-waste generated initially and it will subsequently go up to the level of 70 per cent by the seventh year.

In addition to this, India also imports e-waste from other countries and it makes the crisis even more serious. According to another ASSOCHAM report, India has become a dumping ground for e-waste from developed countries and what should be eye-opening is the fact that 85 per cent of this hazardous waste ends up in the country’s capital and its adjoining areas, Delhi-NCR. The study projected Delhi’s annual e-waste to increase by a whopping 40,000 MT in a year, from 68,000 MT in 2016 to 1,07,000 MT in 2017.

Globally, e-waste generated increased by 8 per cent or 3.3 MMT to 44.7 MMT from its 2014 level and with a more digitally connected and ICT dependent world, the UN study projects it to increase by 17 per cent to reach to the level of 52.2 MMT by 2021.

And only 20 per cent of it or 8.9 MMT of it could be recycled in 2016. But the situation is horrible in India where, according to an ASSOCHAM-cKinetics study released on the World Environment Day last year, just 1.5 per cent of e-waste generated could be recycled. The study cited poor infrastructure and inefficient regulatory framework as the main reasons behind this poor state of affairs that is fast emerging as an health and environmental crisis in the country.

©SantoshChaubey

AJIT PAI, SON OF IMMIGRANT INDIANS, IS AT THE CENTRE OF US NET NEUTRALITY DEBATE

Ajit Pai, son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the raging net neutrality debate in the United States. He heads the US body which regulates the internet in America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He is a Republican and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump Government was inaugurated in the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), is bringing a proposal to repeal a 2015 law enacted by it under the Barack Obama Government. The FCC is overseen by US Congressional chairs. The repeal plan is slated for voting today and analysts have projected that it would be approved. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by Barack Obama only.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio* states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying it will kill the spirit of free internet. Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. The repeal bill, Restoring Internet Freedom Order, will effectively shut down or marginalize small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to discredit its rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, the people will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to every content and data gone, something that is at the heart of net neutrality which aims to ensure level playing field for every content, every data flowing through communication channels, be it by the world’s largest service provide or a start-up.

India has also been through this important debate. We should not forget the controversy generated by moves like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of one telecom company or internet service provider (ISP) over the other. People were naturally outraged at this and their mobilization forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations to build a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principal of net neutrality in India in its final recommendations on the issue that came out last month.

But Ajit Pai’s may undo all that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet, and a sort of role-model for the world. And Pai’s move is supported by a lobby of few powerful companies including Verizon, one of America’s biggest telecom services providers and Pai’s former employer, as many media reports* suggest. A Guardian report* writes that Pai is adamant to move ahead with his repeal plan in spite of “members of the public across the political spectrum, be it Democrats or Republicans, supporting the net neutrality rules as revealed in the many polls*.”

Pai’s move has also unnerved the Internet’s founding fathers* Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker. They have written an open letter to the US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote today calling Pai’s repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the Internet. But Pai, too, is unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement–one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York. A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.

©SantoshChaubey

TONS OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS NEXT LEVEL OF NORTH KOREAN THREAT?

The article originally appeared on India Today on 12 December.

“Microbes by ton”, that is how a Washington Post story describes the bioweapons threat from North Korea, the rogue regime that has recently acquired Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and has declared itself a nuclear power after claimed detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

But if the assessments of US and Asian intelligence officials are true, as the Washington Post and other stories on the subject in the global media quote, then a whole new chapter in North Korean threat to the world is about to begin, in extension of its regular warnings of launching nuclear attacks.

“North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification,” the Post story writes.

There have long been speculation about North Korea developing weapons of biological warfare, after the country established in 1980s a biological weapons programme under Kim Il-Sung, current dictator Kim Jong-un’s father, but it never went beyond pathogens like smallpox and anthrax and even now there is no hard evidence to prove it.

But the way North Korea is moving these days, sending its scientists abroad to study advanced microbiology and acquiring machinery that can be used to produce biological weapons at large scale, analysts says “North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so.”

And the most horrible part of it, the intelligence agencies spying on North Korea may not find if North Korea actually has started producing biological weapons at military scale as they suspect North Korea is using civilian factories to conceal its programme. “If it started tomorrow we might not know it, unless we’re lucky enough to have an informant who happens to be in just the right place,” the Post story writes quoting an official.

Experts say genetic engineering to produce even more virulent strains of microbes or germs is another scientific breakthrough that North Korea might have been trying. According to a study, North Korea’s Biological Weapons Program, released in October by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, North Korean and Chinese scientists jointly published a research paper in 2016 on producing new species of bacteria through genetic engineering.

Though the research paper writes that it is “it is highly unlikely that the typing of these genomes will provide know-how for biological weapons development effort,” the Post story says it is evidence of North Korea’s ambition to acquire cutting edge genetic and microbiological sciences. The ambition raises a valid doubt that it may be used to create even more potent germs, especially when North Korea’s proven ability and credentials to carry out such advanced scientific research have been limited so far. Attempts to produce such super-germs is not new and met with mixed success during the cold war era.

An analysis by Amplyfi, an artificial intelligence company, on North Korean efforts to acquire advanced genetic and biotech capabilities, in fact, has shown that search on topics like “gene expression” and “nucleic acid sequence” from North Korea has gone up voluminously in the last two years.

The Post report writes quoting Amplyfi co-founder Chris Ganje “There are worrying indicators of unintended support and it is obvious that the international community and larger institutions need to be cautious in providing seemingly benign academic scientific education and training to North Korea,” as to circumvent international monitoring, North Korea is trying to gain technological insights from academic institutions, NGOs and private organizations.

South Korea has warned in past that it may launch biological attack thorough its special operations forces (SOF), a Rand Corporation paper, The Challenge of North Korean Biological Weapons, says.

The paper that details submission before the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the United States House of Representatives in October 2013 writes, “Indeed, North Korea special forces are a likely means for delivering North Korean biological weapons. North Korea has some 200,000 special forces, a small fraction of which could deliver devastating biological attacks against South Korea, Japan, and even the United States.”

©SantoshChaubey