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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecom regulator of the United States of America, has repealed a landmark law the country passed in 2015 to ensure net neutrality in the US and Ajit Pai, a son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the debate.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

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‘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

INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS CALL ON US CONGRESS TO SAVE INTERNET FROM TRUMP’S MAN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf, the founding fathers of the Internet, have written to the US Congress to save the Internet from the disastrous consequences of a proposed repeal of a Barack Obama era law on net neutrality that ensured level playing field for all content and every sort of data by ensuring stiff regulations for the Internet service providers (ISPs).

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the Barack Obama presidency, had adopted the net neutrality rules in February 2015 and enacted it in a law in June that year. The law gave the US government sweeping power over the network providers to check the discriminatory practices with the content flowing through their channels.

Here, in India, we are going through the grinding of that process and thankfully, after over a year of consultation papers, public comments and meetings, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last month decided to uphold the supremacy of net neutrality in India.

Now Ajit Pai, son of Indian immigrants and a Republican, who was made the FCC chief by US President Donald Trump in January 2017, is bringing a repeal proposal to that landmark law which is scheduled for voting on December 14.

But the reports that the proposed repeal plan is expected to be approved have worried the proponents of a free internet accessible for all, and the letter by the founding fathers of the Internet reflects that sentiment.

The letter addressed to the Democratic and Republican chairs that control the FCC says that “the FCC’s proposed order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology” terming the proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order an imminent threat to the Internet, “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed order to repeal net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.”

The letter has urged to US lawmakers to cancel the proposed vote. The open letter that is signed by 19 other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker and Internet Achieves founder Brewster Kahle, alleges the FCC headed by Pai is acting in haste ignoring exerts’ comments, over 23 million pro net neutrality comments by public and against the established practice, has not held even a single public meeting to discuss its proposed repeal order.

The open letter also alleges that the FCC didn’t bother to investigate and explain to people the flaws of its online comment system “including bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.”

BELOW IS THE TEXT OF THE OPEN LETTER SIGNED BY THE INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS AND PIONEERS:

We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote on the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order (WC Docket No. 17-108 ).

This proposed Order would repeal key network neutrality protections that prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers. The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices, and over interconnection with last-mile Internet access providers. The proposed Order removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation.

It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017. Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet.

The experts’ comment was not the only one the FCC ignored. Over 23 million comments have been submitted by a public that is clearly passionate about protecting the Internet. The FCC could not possibly have considered these adequately.

Indeed, breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order.

Furthermore, the FCC’s online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.

Compounding our concern, the FCC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about these incidents and failed to provide information to a New York State Attorney General’s investigation of them. We therefore call on you to urge FCC Chairman Pai to cancel the FCC’s vote. The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.

Signed,

Frederick J. Baker, IETF Chair 1996-2001, ISOC Board Chair 2002-2006
Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
Steven M. Bellovin, Internet pioneer, FTC Chief Technologist, 2012-2013
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web & professor, MIT
John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks
Scott O. Bradner, Internet pioneer
Vinton G. Cerf, Internet pioneer
Stephen D. Crocker, Internet pioneer
Whitfield Diffie, inventor of public-key cryptography
David J. Farber, Internet pioneer, FCC Chief Technologist 1999-2000
Dewayne Hendricks, CEO Tetherless Access
Martin E. Hellman, Internet security pioneer
Brewster Kahle, Internet pioneer, founder, Internet Archive
Susan Landau, cybersecurity expert & professor, Tufts University
Theodor Holm Nelson, hypertext pioneer
David P. Reed, Internet pioneer
Jennifer Rexford, Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University
Ronald L. Rivest, co-inventor of RSA public-key encryption algorithm
Paul Vixie, Internet pioneer
Stephen Wolff, Internet pioneer
Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer

©SantoshChaubey

BEING A GOOD CITIZEN: THIS IS WHAT I WROTE TO OBAMA FOUNDATION

This is what I wrote in response to the Obama Foundation mailer on what “I think about being a good citizen.” And on what the Obama Foundation should be? Well, anything that can bring smile to the majority of this planet, something that other honest organizations working in the social sector are trying to do, irrespective of societies, boundaries and countries.

MY RESPONSE

What I am going to write here is based on my experiences in the Indian context and I believe it will stand true for any other society that needs large scale social intervention. India is slated to become the world’s most populous country but its majority is still poor and forced to live a life of misery, something that the government alone cannot address.

The basic needs of life, food, i.e., shelter, health, education, are still not on their radar. And how can it be when they have to go through the grinding of feeding themselves first, day after day, month after month, year after year. Everything else comes later.

We need to accept the ground reality if we have to bring the change here. The process to change a society and undoing its wrongs and malaise can only begin once we have this realization.

And the most important thing is – the government cannot do it alone. The society must contribute. And we must contribute. We all must feel duty-bound with the sense of ‘giving it back to the society’ for our very existence here – in whatever capacity we are. For me, that is all about being a good citizen.

On a larger and more organized scale, someone once had told me that in order to bring empowerment to the needy, one needs to be an activist and not a fighter. A fighting spirit is good but many a times, the trade-off between ‘fighting the system’ and ‘fighting over your way out of the system’ becomes too costly for the people you are fighting for.

An example will be apt here. Natural calamities, if displace many, are also opportunities for the corrupt souls in a system. You know there is corruption but your priority must be rehabilitating those displaced – and you have to work in tandem with the system – even if the system is corrupt. Your integrity and tenacity lie in how you can take work from the system. There is always the time to fight the menace of corruption later.

As always, committed social work needs a committed soul more than anything else, otherwise there is always the chance to drift away, especially when in India, where everything is so political that in order to get things done, one needs to be inside the system, knowing how to take work from it, keeping in mind the fine line between manipulating a system and taking work from it.

I believe this should be the story of every not-for-profit or every individual working in the social sector – no compromise with ethics – and no compromise with patience – because I think we just do not deal with the mindset or the behavioural change here only – but more importantly, we also deal with the exterior of a person – the society he lives in – with all sorts of good and bad people and institutions.

THE OBAMA.ORG MAILER

We’re so glad you’re a part of this startup for citizenship. Working together, we’re going to build a working, living center for developing the next generation of active leaders all over the world. We have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to count on your ideas to inform our efforts.

That’s why we’re asking you to add your voice today, and that’s why we’ll continue asking you to share your ideas in the months and years ahead. Let us know what’s on your mind, what good citizenship means to you, and what you want this Foundation to be.

©SantoshChaubey

FAMILY MEMBERS BEHIND HALF OF CHILD TRAFFICKING CASES, SAYS UN-BACKED DATA STUDY

The article originally appeared on India Today.

It is a family member in almost half of the cases who forces a child into human trafficking, says a first of its kind study by the United Nations’ migration agency- the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Statistics from the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC), an IOM imitative, reveal that children are “most commonly trafficked for sexual exploitation, beggary and domestic work and are most likely to be coerced into trafficking through physical, sexual and psychological abuse”. The study emphasises on the need to have more specific prevention efforts keeping this in mind.

In India, nearly one lakh children go missing every year, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs data.

The CTDC data also reveals that a family member is more likely to target boys than girls. Statistics also say that the “family involvement is up to four times higher in cases of adult trafficking.”

The 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also corroborates this revelation confirming the insider hand of family, “Most of the time, the trafficking is not committed by highly organized criminal networks, but rather by family members, acquaintances and neighbours.”

With increasing awareness and tough legal actions, the human traffickers’ focus is shifting from women trafficking to the trafficking of men and children.

While 51 per cent of the trafficked victims are still women, the number has gone down from 66 per cent in 2006 whereas in the same period, the number of trafficked men and children has gone up from 34 per cent to 49 per cent now. For children, this figure is now 28 per cent from 22 per cent in 2006.

CTDC is the first global database on human trafficking, hosting information from across the world. It is first of its kind portal that presents to the world an open access to a repository of human trafficking data from multiple counter-trafficking agencies. The portal also hosts 80,000 case studies of human trafficking with victims from as many as 180 countries.

William Lacy Swing, IOM’s Director General says “his organization is taking a leading role in increasing the access to the critical information in order to strengthen counter-trafficking interventions” and has called on governments and other agencies to partner and step up efforts.

©SantoshChaubey

INDIAN RAILWAYS ENQUIRY SYSTEM – LYING, AS USUAL….

My parents were travelling from ShivGanga Express (12559 – Varanasi to New Delhi) last evening. The train, considered the most important one between Varanasi and New Delhi, starts from the Manduadih station (MUV), one of the sub-stations of the Varanasi Railway Junction, at 7:40 PM and arrives in New Delhi (NDLS) at 8:10 AM the next day. And the thing is, its gets delayed daily. Okay, don’t get swayed by Indian Railways’ National Train Enquiry System (NTES) app on your smartphone or – https://enquiry.indianrail.gov.in/ntes/ – its desktop version.

They work overtime to do the damage control that has become synonymous with Indian Railways – chronic delays. Most of the time, they end up showing ‘earlier than real’ time of a train’s arrival. But this ‘jugaad’ hurts the Indian Railway’s misplaced pride even more. The network that has been busy fleecing passengers during some last years to increase its revenue, with measures like dynamic fare pricing as air carriers do or Premium Tatkal scheme that makes even a sleeper class ticket as expensive as AC-II or AC-III, has absolutely failed to meet the most basic need of any transport network – timely arrival and departure of trains. And mind you, most of this is due to its human network. The irony of all this is, you can easily find cheaper airfares for the same route than what some of premium trains offer.

And when even most of its premium trains routinely get delayed – including Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto – we don’t need to do much data digging about the state of affairs with the superfast trains, like the one my parents were travelling from. And last evening and this morning were no different. The train usually starts getting late as it passes the Allahabad Junction. By the time the train arrives in Kanpur, already an hour or two late, it enters the phase where it adds up delayed minutes to its quantum quite regularly, so much so, that by the time it reaches in the catchment area of Delhi, it becomes a nightmare for passengers.

These are the snapshots of the NTES app this morning that show how Indian Railways takes us for a ride. The screenshots taken at 10:36 AM show the train is delayed by 2.21 hours and will reach Delhi by 10:31 AM. We can give the NTES benefit of doubt here as the site may take some minutes in updating the information.

So I called my parents at 10:41 AM to confirm if the train had arrived so that I could ask the driver to approach them but what they told me, in turn told me, that the train was still hours away, even if it was just 15 Kms away from the New Delhi railway station. The train was just crossing the Anand Vihar Terminal. I again called them at 11:10 AM and they said the same thing, that they were still in the Anand Vihar area.

I again checked the NTES app at 11:13 AM. It was now showing the train was delayed by 2.48 hours with its expected New Delhi arrival at 10:48 AM. But here is this thing to see. This information on the NTES app was updated at 10:39 AM, 39 minutes after the last update at 10 AM as we can see in the screenshots but both show the same last station departed – ‘Departed from Chipyana Buzurg at 9:55 AM 23 Nov. 29 Kms to arrive New Delhi.’ So, in a sense, no real time update. The maps of the train route are also showing the same pointers.

I again checked the NTES app at 11:24 AM. And bingo, this time it showed the train had arrived New Delhi at 11:05 AM (delayed by 2.55 hours). The information was updated at 11:18 AM. Keeping in mind the history of the NTES app for giving misleading information, I called my parents at 11:25 PM to confirm it. And guess what they said. They told me that the train was still standing at the Shivaji Bridge station, almost 1.5 Kms away from the New Delhi railway station. The train finally arrived at the New Delhi railway station at 11:37 AM, delayed by 3.27 hours.

©SantoshChaubey

SUPREME COURT: SHUTTING DOWN INDUSTRIES A PRICE TO PAY FOR RIGHT TO LIVE IN HEATHY ENVIRONMENT

The killer smog of Delhi has again forced us think where are we heading with rapid industrialisation of our country and its reflection in the society, especially when the governments have failed to take effective corrective measures to check the worsening situation and we are looking again to our courts, the custodians of our Constitution and thus the guarantor of our lives, for relief.

While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) today rapped the Delhi Government again as it failed to come up with a concrete plan to deal with Delhi pollution in spite of the smog continuing for over a week, the Supreme Court of India agreed to hear later today a plea on alarming level of pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). While accepting the pea filed by Supreme Court lawyer RK Kapoor, Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed that the problem had reached to such levels that it could no longer be ignored.

The higher courts, led by the Supreme Court of India, have, from time to time, worked as environmental watchdogs reminding the government and the industry where to draw the line whenever pollution reaches to alarming levels threatening the ecological balance. The Supreme Court, in fact, way back in 1988 had clearly laid out that if pollution by industries reached to an alarming level, they must be shut down irrespective of the investment made in them and their importance for making products useful for society.

RURAL LITIGATION & ENTITLEMENT KENDRA VS STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH – AUGUST 30, 1988
(DEHRADUN QUARRYING CASE)

This case was a first where the Supreme Court, concerned by environmental degradation and ecological imbalance it could have caused, passed a landmark order to stop illegal mining. Through this judgement, the apex court tried to define the limit up to which natural resources (here forest) could be exploited to meet the demands of industry and development.

The case goes back to 1980s. Decades of mining in limestone quarries of the Dehradun Valley stripped the Himalayan Mountains of green vegetation in the state of Uttar Pradesh (now Uttarakhand) against which the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, an NGO, wrote a letter to the Supreme Court in 1983.

The court treated the letter as a writ-petition starting thus a series of hearings which finally ended in a verdict that for the first time dealt comprehensively with environment review, assessment of national needs from mining activities and reforestation of the affected area.

While delivering the verdict, the court came down heavily on the mining industry of the area, closed their operations and said it was a price that had to be paid to ensure the right to healthy environment, “The consequence of this Order made by us would be that the lessees of lime stone quarries which have been directed to be closed down permanently under this Order or which may be directed to be closed down permanently after consideration of the report, would be thrown out of business in which they have invested large sums of money and expanded considerable time and effort. This would undoubtedly cause hardship to them but it is a price that has to be paid for protecting and safeguarding the right of the people to live in healthy environment with minimal disturbance of ecological balance and without avoidable hazard to them and to their cattle, homes and agricultural land and undue affectation of air, water and environment. “

The apex court also put the government’s responsibility in clear terms while passing the order under the recently enacted Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, “Maintenance of the environment and ecological balance was the obligation of the State and the Central Governments.”

©SantoshChaubey

RIGHT TO HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT: SHRIRAM GAS LEAK CASE

M.C. MEHTA VS UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS – DECEMBER 20, 1986
(THE SHRIRAM GAS LEAK CASE)

Shri Ram Food and Fertilizers (SFF) was a DCM subsidiary, in fact one of its most profitable ventures. It had various units housed in single complex producing Chlorine and other chemicals. The facility was surrounded by thickly populated localities like West Patel Nagar, Punjabi Bagh, Tri Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Ashok Vihar and Karampura.

In December 1985, oleum gas, that was used in making DDT, leaked from a tank of the SFF factory and soon spread to the populated areas around the factory. The aftermath saw around 700 people being hospitalised for eye irritation and respiratory symptoms and death of a lawyer seven Kms away from the factory, at the Tis Hazari court complex.

The Supreme Court, taking a tough stand in the case, for the first time laid down the principal of absolute liability holding the SFF responsible for putting people’s life at risk by compromising environment. The court observed,

“….gas is admittedly dangerous to life and health. If the gas escapes either from the storage tank or from the filled cylinders or from any other point in the course of production, the health and wellbeing of the people living in the vicinity can be seriously affected. Thus Shriram is engaged in an activity which has the potential to invade the right to life of large sections of people.”

Refuting all the contentions made by the DCM that since it was a private corporation, it could not come under the ambit of activities affecting the Article 21, the apex court went on to enlarge its scope including the right to healthy environment as it directly affected the quality of human life. While accepting the compensation claims made in the case, it said the “applications for compensation were for enforcement of the fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution and while dealing with such applications, the court could not adopt a hypertechnical approach which would defeat the ends of justice.”

©SantoshChaubey

PRADYUMAN MURDER CASE: HOW THE PINTOS HAVE GOT THEM BAILED SO FAR

BOMBAY HIGH COURT

SEPTEMBER 11: AUGUSTINE PINTO AND GRACE PINTO, FOUNDERS AND TRUSTEES OF THE RYAN GROUP OF INSTITUTIONS AND THEIR SON RYAN PINTO, CEO AND TRUSTEE OF THE RYAN GROUP, MOVED TO THE BOMBAY HIGH COURT SEEKING TRANSIT ANTICIPATORY BAIL – THEY SOUGHT PROTECTION FROM ARREST TILL THEY APPROACHED THE CONCERNED COURT (PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT IN THIS CASE) TO FILE THEIR REGULAR ANTICIPATORY BAIL PLEAS.

SEPTEMBER 12: THE BOMBAY HIGH COURT GRANTED AUGUSTINE PINTO AND GRACE PINTO PROTECTION FROM ARREST TILL SEPTEMBER 13. RYAN PINTO’S PLEA WAS NOT LISTED.

SEPTEMBER 13: PRADYUMAN’S FATHER MOVE TO THE BOMBAY HIGH COURT SEEKING TO OPPOSE THE PINTOS’ ANTICIPATORY BAIL PLEA – THE COURT EXTENDED STAY ON ARREST TILL SEPTEMBER 14 AS REQUIRED SUBMISSIONS IN THE CASE COULD NOT BE MADE.

SEPTEMBER 14: THE BOMBAY HIGH COURT REJECTED THE PLEA OF RYAN PINTO AND HIS PARENTS FOR THE TRANSIT PRE-ARREST BAIL BUT GRANTED THEM PROTECTION FROM ARREST TILL SEPTEMBER 15 TO ENABLE THEM TO FILE PLEA IN PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT ON SEPTEMBER 16.

PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT

SEPTEMBER 16: RYAN PINTO AND HIS PARENTS APPROACHED THE PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT, SEEKING ANTICIPATORY BAIL.

SEPTEMBER 20: THE HIGH COURT ISSUED NOTICE TO THE HARYANA POLICE SEEKING ITS RESPONSE ON THE ANTICIPATORY BAIL PLEA FILED BY THE RYAN OWNERS.

SEPTEMBER 22: CBI TOOK OVER INVESTIGATION IN THE CASE.

SEPTEMBER 25: THE PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT MADE CBI A PARTY IN THE PETITION SEEKING ANTICIPATORY BAIL.

SEPTEMBER 28: THE HIGH COURT STAYED THE ARREST OF THE THREE RYAN TRUSTEES TILL OCTOBER 7.

OCTOBER 7: ANTICIPATORY BAIL GRANTED TO THE PINTO FAMILY TILL DECEMBER 5 BY THE PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT.

PRADYUMAN’S FATHER MOVES THE SUPREME COURT

OCTOBER 3: PRADYUMAN’S FATHER MOVED THE SUPREME COURT SEEKING CANCELLATION OF THEPINTOS’ ANTICIPATORY BAILS BY SETTING ASIDE THE PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT ORDER.

OCTOBER 13: THE SUPREME COURT ISSUED NOTICE TO THE PINTOS AND THE CBI ON THE PLEA OF PRADYUMAN’S FATHER.

NOVEMBER 6: WHILE GRANTING INTERIM BAIL TO THE PINTOS, THE APEX COURT ASKED THE PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT TO DECIDE ON THE MATTER IN 10 DAYS (BY NOVEMBER 16).

©SantoshChaubey