Indian concerns about Google Earth

April 18, 2006

Coolz0r is quite opinionated about requests by India, South Korea and a few other countries for Google to censor sensitive information on Google Maps and Google Earth. Coolz0r is blogging on the very popular blog Inside Google, while the original blog-owner Nathan is on vacation.

India and a few other countries are "alarmed at the ease with which Google Earth enables any user to quickly get a satellite photo of just about any area on the planet." Here's what Coolz0r has to say on Why Terrorists Love Google:

First of all, Google isn’t alone. There are other search engines that offer a similar service. Xxxxx, xxx xxxx [removed upon kind request] It’s not that you don’t have libraries with books that have this footage too… It’s not that you have anything to hide, or is it? If any terrorist got briefed sufficiently enough, he would be getting military information from some corrupt high-placed officer, just like they get arms from those same sources.

Agreed! A determined terrorist can indeed find the maps and satellite imagery he needs, from non-Google, non-search engine, non-freely-available-on-the-Internet sources. However, the question is not about whether or not a terrorist can get this information. The question is about the ease with which the terrorist can access this information and the speed with which he can use this information.

If a terrorist could kill 100 people if there were no satellite images on the Internet, but if Google Maps enables him to kill 101 people – just one extra person – then, we should give more serious thought to this issue. Not just think of it from the freedom of information perspective. If you are a friend, relative, parent, partner or child of that one extra person, how would you feel?

If it takes 90 days for a terrorist to gather all the data and plan a terrorist strike in the absence of satellite images on the Internet, but if Google Earth makes it possible for her/him to plan the strike in 30 days or even 60 days, then this issue needs more thought.

Obviously, this issue is quite not so black and white. While all of us hippies and freedom lovers would love for all information to be freely available, displayed and shared, the rest of the world is not quite so loving. There are people who are capable of using our love of freedom against us, to harm our interests.

Moreover, India, South Korea and other countries are not asking for general information about your residential neighborhoods, city streets and driving directions to be censored. They are asking for "sensitive" locations, such as, military installations to be protected. Incidentally, Google does censor information about the White House. I also remember reading somewhere that Google extends a similar courtesy to Israel's defence facilities. Why not the same for India and other countries?

Go Indian girls!

April 7, 2006

Ethnic Indian girls (native-born or otherwise) stand out among the winners of the 2006 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. At least, FOUR names in the list of 19 winners of the $10,000 per person scholarship are very Indian. Among the 28 names of "highly qualified finalists" who were each awarded $1000, SIX are obviously Indian names. That is, over 20% – one in five – girls are Indians in both lists!

From the Official Google Blog on This year's Anita Borg Scholarship winners (Indian names have been bolded by Right Indian):

We're awarding 19 $10,000 scholarships to these outstanding young women — graduate and undergraduate students who are completing degrees in computer science and related fields — with our congratulations:

  • Brianna Bethel, University of Colorado – Boulder
  • G. Ayorkor Mills – Tettey, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Gillian Rachael Hayes, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Himabindu Pucha, Purdue University
  • Karen Fullam, University of Texas at Austin
  • Kristen Walcott, University of Virginia
  • Kristina Chodorow, New York University
  • Laura Rouse, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Marta Magdalena Luczynska, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Megan Olsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Michele Banko, University of Washington
  • Neven Abou Gazala, University of Pittsburgh
  • Parisa Michelle Tabriz, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Rebecca Nancy Nesson, Harvard University
  • Shana Kay Watters, University of Minnesota
  • Sharmishtaa Seshamani, Johns Hopkins University
  • Soumi Sinha, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Tracy Westeyn, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Vinithra Varadharajan, Carnegie Mellon University

And we also recognize these 28 highly qualified finalists, who will receive $1,000 awards from us:

  • Alicia Avelon Permell, Michigan Tech University
  • Anagha Mudigonda, Polytechnic University New York
  • Anna Tikhonova, University of California, Davis
  • Annie (Hsin-Wen) Liu, University of Washington
  • Ashima Kapur, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cindy Rubio Gonzalez, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Delphine Nain, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Divya Arora, Princeton University
  • Emily Grace Christiansen, University of Minnesota-Morris
  • Emily Shen, Stanford University
  • Erika Chin, University of Virginia
  • Eva Mok, University of California, Berkeley
  • Evelyn Mintarno, Stanford University
  • Gina Upperman, Rice University
  • Hayley Nicole Iben, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jiayue He, Princeton University
  • Jing Chen, University of Pennsylvania
  • Laureen Lam, San Jose State University
  • Lingyun Zhang, University of California, San Diego
  • Lu Xiao, Pennsylvania State University
  • Meeta Sharma Gupta, Harvard University
  • Moushumi Sharmin, Marquette University
  • Neha Rungta, Brigham Young University
  • Rachel Weinstein, Stanford University
  • Sunny Consolvo, University of Washington
  • Tanya Lee Ann Crenshaw, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Valerie Hajdik, Texas A&M University
  • Xiaonan Zhao, Northwestern University

Also, check out the number of names in that list which seem to be Asian (including Indian). The future of American industry is definitely in the hands of ethnic Asians.

Policemen earn better than IIM graduates

March 23, 2006

Apparently, March is the month when salaries of fresh IIM graduates is hotly discussed. This year, the police and IIM graduate salaries have appeared in the same context more than once!

An authentic Indian police man has received the highest domestic salary offer among all IIM graduates, more than doubling last year’s higher domestic offer for IIM graduates and more than 11 times his current legal (heh-heh!) pay as a Deputy Inspector General of Police. The Economic Times reports that the IIM tag helps this DIG move up in life:

Surya Prasad (42) laughs when you ask him about his Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) experience. “It was quite an experience studying with 20-year-old students some of who were not even born when I started work. That’s the charm of studying at the business school,’’ says the Chennai-based deputy inspector general of police, who graduated from the IIM-A this year.

Prasad is hero of the IIM-A with highest domestic salary offer of Rs 34 lakh per annum, beating last year’s Rs 14.5 lakh. Prasad, a 1988 batch officer of Tamil Nadu cadre drawing Rs 25,000 per month, says, “My promotion was due soon.”

Tangential question: I thought the IIMs had an age-limit which is a decade or more below Prasad’s youthful 42 years, for full time students? Has that changed? Or have companies started offering spectacular salaries to part-time IIM graduates also?

Meanwhile, the New India Press had an entirely different spin on policemen and IIM graduates when it advised us to forget IIM. A police job pays better:

A salary of one lakh ninety-three thousand dollars for a campus-recruited IIM graduate! That’s about eight lakhs rupees a month. Sounds big. But in fact it is chickenfeed.

Real money is made by fellows who make not 8,00,000 a month but 16,000 a month. That’s the starting salary of a police inspector.

That kind of start was enough for Krishnappa, a Deputy Superintendent of Police in Bangalore, to be found with Rs.23.5 lakhs in his house besides property worth Rs.15 crores. To collect that cash component alone an IIM genius will have to slog for three months.

Yet, Krishnappa himself was peanuts compared to Shamiur Rehman, a Crime Branch police inspector. He had only Rs.4 lakhs in small change, but his assets included 45 housing sites (yes, 45) and added up to Rs.20 crores. In the Crime Branch, crime pays.

Raiding only five police officers’ premises, the Karnataka Lok Ayukta found unaccounted assets worth 60 crores. At that rate what would be the combined take of the 754 police inspectors in the state plus sub-inspectors, and other hordes, and excluding the few simple souls who have old style notions of honesty? Whatever the figure, it would be enough to fund the Bangalore Metro.

I know that is almost 50% of the article reproduced, but I just could not leave out any of the above lines. Each of them make a very relevant and poignant point. The fact the most of the very highly-paid IIM graduates work, live and earn in foreign countries (where their pay may or may not actually be as high as it seems in India), where as these corrupt policmen are amassing their huge wealth in India indicates that these policemen are spectacularly wealthier. The right analogy for the IIM graduate’s salary in comparison, might actually be chicken-shit, and not chickenfeed!

The rest of the article is more depressing:

Amassing of money is practised as an art form by government officials because the Government provides a network of procedures which facilitate bribe-taking.

Even the well publicised raids of the Lok Ayukta eventually yield nothing.

What does happen is that those who are caught are suspended as a matter of routine. Under government rules, after six months they resume office as a matter of routine.

Don’t forget, most other states are worse off than Karnataka.

The most depressing fact is that the examples cited in this article are not rare one-off incidents. This is the typical story across the length and breadth of India among a large number of government officials. Dark and depressing, indeed!

A Deal of Two Countries

March 5, 2006

After India and the US signed the nuclear deal recently, I feel that I need Civics lesson in how the Indian and the US governments function! I am quite surprised by the contrast in the deal process in the India government and the US government.

Rediff.com had two reports about the reaction to the nuclear deal in India and the US. The contrast in the functioning of the two governments is made quite obvious by the very titles of the articles:

Title of the India article: Let’s wait for the details before celebrating

Title of the US article: ‘Bush’s difficulties with N-deal lie at home’

What does this mean? That India, the whole country, is obligated and bound to a nuclear deal which was signed by its Prime Minister, without the rest of the government, the opposition party, the Indian nuclear establishment, the defense forces and the entire nation knowing about its details? That in contrast, the US is not obligated nor bound to the deal which was signed by its President, and that the deal could be vetoed and totally rejected by an organ of the US government?

Here are excerpts from the India article about the nuclear deal:

This is big news for India’s nuclear science community too.

They have not opposed the separation itself, they have only been worried about the way the deal was negotiated with the US, and they are worried about hidden terms and conditions.

Indian nuclear scientists’ culture of research, their life and times will change forever now.

It’s big news for India’s nuclear strategists and security experts, too. There will be a sea-change in their thinking about India’s minimum deterrent doctrine. How many weapons India needs and how many reactors and which technology is needed to maintain its nuclear edge will need absolutely new rethinking.

But as of now, not much can be said if the deal takes care of contentious issues or not because the Joint Statement does not say much about the significant details of the nuclear deal’s terms and agreement.

Till those details are not known, it will be too early to celebrate the agreement over nuclear separation.

So, let’s see if we can summarize this: The most important concern of India’s nuclear science community is the way the deal was negotiated and the hidden terms and conditions of the deal. And it is precisely these details which are not known, which were not made public before the deal was signed? Are India’s nuclear strategists and security experts bound by a deal whose most worrying details they were not aware of before the deal was signed? Isn’t something seriously wrong with this picture? Was a proper and transparent consensus building execise conducted on the Indian side, among all the holders of India’s nuclear and defense responsibilities?

Let’s contrast this with an excerpt from the US article on the nuclear deal:

In interviews with rediff.com and in statements issued by their offices, the US lawmakers said they would eagerly await the Administration to come up on Capitol Hill with its proposal to rewrite current US laws that requires Congressional approval.

The chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican, who is key to the deal either being accepted or rejected, according to his senior aide Mark Helmke was said to be ‘looking forward to learning more about the details of the progress made on the nuclear power agreement with India and getting a draft legislation from the Bush Administration.’

The top Democrat on the Committee, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, said, ‘The project to bring India into a new relationship with the international nuclear nonproliferation regime is laudable.’

He acknowledged that ‘India is a rising power and a great democracy, and it is unrealistic to expect it to renounce its nuclear weapons program at this time.’

But Biden expressed concern over the statement by the chief Bush Administration negotiator, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, that the agreement ‘will not have an impact on India’s nuclear weapons program.’

He said, ‘Congress must examine the agreement in detail to evaluate its implications for nuclear nonproliferation. The bottom line question is: does this deal make us more secure, or less secure?’

Biden said it is imperative that the Administration ‘show Congress it will make us more secure by bringing India into closer compliance with international nonproliferation norms, that it will not assist India’s nuclear weapons program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and that it will not cause other countries to question their own commitment to nonproliferation because of a perceived double standard on our part.’

Congressman Henry Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, while welcoming what he described as ‘the further strengthening of US-India cooperation,’ said, ‘Implementing this agreement will require legislative approval.’

Look closely at the phrases I have bolded in the above quote. Several things become obvious from those phrases:

  • The United States Senate and Congress are going to close examine the nuclear agreement between India and the US.
  • The Bush administration is obligated to explain the terms of the deal to the Senate and the Congress, in order to convince them that this deal is of advantage to the US and “safe for the world” (I am paraphrasing here).
  • Then, the Bush administration has to propose the laws which would enable the US to abide by the agreement.
  • If the Senate and Congress are not convinced about the Indo-US nuclear deal, they have the power to reject the Bush administration’s proposed laws, and ensure that the US does not honor the deal signed by President Bush.

Wow! And all these days, I thought the Indian government was a more democratic setup because the Indian Prime Minister has to work hard to build consensus among the Parliamentarians before imposing anything on the country. In contrast, I thought, the American President has far greater powers as an individual to almost dictate what his country will or will not do. I really do need lessons in Civics.

But the most important concern now is not my ignorance of the functioning of the Indian and the American governments. The most important concern is if the Indian Prime Minister and his administration have done right by India. The concern is if the Indian Prime Minister has followed a weak nuclear policy and thereby weakened India in the long term. So far, I have not seen or read anything to allay my fears and concerns. And I am not at all happy that we have to wait until after the deal has been signed, and after the US President has flown out of India, before the Indian Prime Minister will address our concerns and tell us if our country has been sold out or not!

Delhi Govt Tourism Agency in Liquor Business!

February 28, 2006

Did you know that the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) is actively engaged in the liquor trade, with over half its employees working in said line of business? You don’t believe me? Go ahead and click on the link to the department’s home page. Right at the bottom of the home page is an “Application Form (Liquor Shops)” link in no small print! The header of the application form states that it is an “Application form for hiring of premises for IMFL/Beer/Country Liquor shop (free of Cost)“. (Bolded by Right Indian)

Yeah, my eyes popped out when I saw the “free of Cost” phrase I interpreted it to mean that the esteemed tourism department is serving free liquor to Delhi tourists at some special premises. Perusing the application form in more detail shed no additional light on what it means, although it did become clear that there is no free serving of liquor! But I digress.

This interesting fact was brought to my notice by the chapter on Department of Tourism in the Delhi Citizen Handbook 2003 published by the Centre for Civil Society (of India). From the chapter:

DTTDC runs 38 country liquor and 93 Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) vends in Delhi. Of the 1,035 employees in the Corporation, 550 work in these vends. In 2002-03, it made a profit of Rs 2.5 crore from country liquor sales (this amount was spent on building flyovers) and Rs 6 crore from IMFL sales.

Apparently, the latest (second) edition of the handbook has more of such interesting information. From a Rediff.com guest column by Sunil Jain:

Spending Rs 228,381 to hire a graduate!

February 27, 2006

Rs 228,381 a job?  No, that’s not the starting salary of a graduate these days, it’s the cost of placement for a graduate- over the last five years, the Delhi government spent Rs 20.6 crore (Rs 206 million) to get 902 people jobs out of a total of 539,734 registered at 20 employment exchanges across the capital, at Rs 2,28,381 a piece.

This, among a host of others, is a finding from Parth J Shah’s Centre for Civil Society’s second Delhi Citizen Handbook, a primer on various departments in the capital’s government, what they’re supposed to deliver and what they actually do.

The CCS, for those not familiar with it, is run on a shoestring budget out of a modest flat in Hauz Khas in south Delhi, and the studies are done by kids in, or just about out of, college – the team for the second handbook was primarily from the Rai Foundation’s College of Media and Communications in New Delhi.

The first Delhi handbook revealed facts that few Delhiites were familiar with, and this one does the same.

It would be a great idea to publish the book on the Internet. I went looking for the book on the Net, after reading the Rediff.com column, and came across the CCS’s website (very busy homepage with too much information, badly needs a redesign!) and the webpage of the Delhi Citizen Handbook 2003 (first edition). The site has the first edition’s table of contents, summary of chapters and a few full chapters. There is no mention of the new edition, that I could find easily. I wish I could see more up-to-date information and a better presentation.

As per the Rediff.com column, CCS has published a similar handbook on Jharkhand state. This is a great idea. I hope to see such publication on all states in India (with more and better web publishing, of course). This is an excellent example of responsible activism by independent citizens. Of course, this is something the journalistic media should be doing on a daily basis. But let us not expect too much from them!

Tailpiece: CCS has a frequently-updated blog called Spontaneous Order. It has a lot of interesting and relevant information about Indian current affairs. Worth a look! My only compaint about the blog is that it does not have a web feed I can subscribe to!

Guy Kawasaki on “Bozo Explosion”

February 27, 2006

Guy Kawasaki has posted an interesting blog on how to identify and prevent a “Bozo Explosion”. Here’s how he defines a Bozo Explosion:

It’s depressing to watch a mean, lean, fighting machine of a company deteriorate into mediocracy. In Silicon Valley we call this process the “bozo explosion.” This downward slide seems inevitable after a company achieves success–often during the years immediately following an IPO. The purpose of this article is to prevent, or at least postpone, this process in your company.

I found no. 5 in the top ten signs of “bozosity” to be intriguing and interesting:

5. Your parking lot’s “biorhythm” looks like this:

  • 8:00 am – 10:00 am–Japanese cars exceed German cars
  • 10:00 am – 5:00 pm–German cars exceed Japanese cars
  • 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm–Japanese cars exceed German cars

You can figure that one out if you have worked in the US! :-)

Saudi refinery attack: Warning to India

February 25, 2006

The Financial Times reported today that Oil prices jump as bombers strike at Saudi refinery:

Saudi Arabia’s oil industry on Friday came close to the most serious terrorist attack in its history when suicide bombers targeted the Abqaiq processing plant, the world’s biggest oil producer.

The attack did not interrupt exports but oil prices jumped amid fears that terrorists were planning a new offensive in their fight against the industry.

Fadel Gheit, analyst at Oppenheimer and Company, said: “This is the nerve centre of the world’s oil trade. Damaging the facility…would be unleashing a hurricane that engulfs the world. Within days all governments would step in to curtail consumption in a co-ordinated effort.” (Bolding by Right Indian)

West Texas Intermediate on the New York Mercantile Exchange, for April, jumped $2.37 a barrel to $62.91, while London Brent rose $2.06 to $62.60 a barrel. The Abqaiq facility processes two-thirds of the kingdom’s output of 9.5m barrels of oil a day and is a critical artery for exports that supply more than 10 per cent of the world’s needs.

The bolded lines above are particularly disturbing. They are most illustrative of just how much the world economy is dependent on oil from the Mid-East.

The Abqaiq oil facility is reportedly the world’s biggest oil processing plant. It has also been described as a “spectacular target” in a Reuters report:

Former Middle East CIA field officer Robert Baer has described Abqaiq as “the most vulnerable point and most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system.”

But Aramco says it has the tightest security at all its oil plants, including helicopters, cameras, motion detectors and thousands of armed guards.

“The security measures at the oil facilities are better than those at the royal palaces,” said al Qaeda expert Fares bin Houzam.

Despite such tight security, The Financial Times reports:

at least one of the cars got through the first security perimeter, leaving it just one mile from the huge facility before it exploded under heavy gunfire from the guards.

This incident must sound a big warning to India, which is determined to tie itself up with the gas pipe-line project to transport gas from Iran to India, via the never-trustworthy Pakistan! If damaging an important Saudi oil refinery “would be unleashing a hurricane that would engulf the world”, imagine how India’s economy would suffer when it becomes dependent on the gas from Iran, and the pipe-line via Pakistan is damaged, destroyed or hijacked by terrorists! Yes, the question is of when, and not if, the pipe-line will be targetted by terrorists. After all, thousands of miles long pipe-line cannot be as well secured as the Saudi refinery, and there is not much love for India and her well-being in Pakistan and its terrorists.

Now, what part of this very valid security concern is hard to understand? Yet, officials and ministers of the Indian government almost never talk about this concern in public. They seem to be too keen to confirm, endorse and push forward this ill-fated project as reported in The Hindu:

India committed to Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline: PM

New Delhi, Feb. 17 (PTI): Sending a strong message of commitment to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is believed to have favoured the three nations building the over 7 billion dollar pipeline together.

Singh, who spelled India’s commitment to the 2,100-km-long pipeline in a statement to the Parliament, cancelled prior appointments for meeting the visiting Pakistani Oil Minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon, and termed the project as “pipeline for peace, progres (sic) and friendship” of the three nations, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, told reporters here.

Yeah, yeah! Indian ministers never lose an opportunity to shout slogans of “peace and friendship” when it comes to matters involving Pakistan. What does Pakistan get in exchange for its peace and friendship? Hard cash! M Ziauddin, editor of the Pakistani daily Dawn is quoted in a BBC report dated June 7th, 2005:

Mr Ziauddin believes that the pipeline from Iran will not only provide the much needed boost to the Indian economy but it will also become a source of revenue for Pakistan.

“If without investing much Pakistan can start getting $500m-$600m in annual revenue because of the pipeline, there is nothing like it for Pakistan. It will hugely benefit the economy and resolve the energy crisis also.”

How committed will Pakistan be to a peace and friendship it offers “without investing much”? Even if the Pakistani government is committed, what about the terrorists who operate from its territory? Will they hesitate from damaging / destroying / hijacking the gas pipe-line, if that causes the Indian economy to suffer? What part of the $500-$600 millions revenues from the pipe-line, will Pakistan use to fund anti-India terrorist activities?

These are questions the Indian government and leaders never seem ask, let alone try to get the answers for. Meanwhile, the warning from the Saudi oil refinery attack will go unheeded in India!

Religion and the Value of life

February 24, 2006

Rajeev Srinivasan, the Rediff.com columnist, often talks about how Hindu life is devalued in India (and elsewhere). If there were any doubts about that, they should be laid to rest by this Reuters report of thousands of Kashmiris protesting youth killings:

Kashmir Youth Killed

Kashmiris gather around the bodies of nine-year-old Aamir Akbar (front) and eight-year-old Shakir Ahmad (rear). (Pic from the Reuters report).

Thousands of people in Indian Kashmir staged protests against the army on Thursday, a day after four youths were killed in a shooting incident, police and witnesses said.

Police on Wednesday said the four, aged between 8 and 18, were killed when gunmen and soldiers exchanged fire in Doodipora village, near Handwara town, 80 km (50 miles) north of Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.

But protesters and villagers blamed the army for the killings.

The Indian army denied it was to blame, and said militants were responsible for the killings, which it says happened during a search operation for rebel fighters.

A separatist insurgency has raged in the region since 1989, killing tens of thousands of people.

An army statement said that two of the dead, who it added were both aged 20, were targeted by militants.

“Terrorists specifically targeted Samad Mir, a known worker of (militant group) Lashkar-e-Taiba … along with Shaikh Alam presuming that these two would provide information to the army about the location of the hiding terrorists,” an army statement said.

I don’t intend to disrespect the deaths of these kids. But, how many Hindu kids have been killed by terrorists in Kashmir since 1989? Have we seen anyone in Kashmir protest against that? Utter a word against that?

Murdered deer gets justice; murdered humans are denied

February 24, 2006

This month in India, we witnessed a curious spectacle of a murdered deer getting some justice (however minor), while a murdered human being was denied the same!

In Oct 1998, actor Salman Khan and a few others were arrested for poaching an endangered species of black bucks in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. It took seven-and-half years for the Indian judicial system to sentence him as reported in Radio Sargam:

SALMAN SENTENCED FOR ONE YEAR
Poaching case about to conclude  

Bollywood actor Salman Khan was sentenced to one year imprisonment and fined Rs 5,000 by Jodhpur court in Black Buck Case. Seven other accused in the case including actors Saif Ali Khan, Satish Shah, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari were acquitted in the case by Chief Judicial Magistrate B K Jain.

Salman was charged with hunting chinkaras – a deer species, during the night of September 26-27, 1998 when he was in Jodhpur for the shooting of filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’. He and his co-stars of the film were booked by the Rajasthan Forest Department on charges of poaching of endangered animals.

40-year-old Salman was present when the judgment was pronounced in the packed court room. He was convicted under the Wildlife Protection Act. The sentence will come into effect after one month. The court suspended the sentence for a month on a petition filed by Salman’s counsel Hasitmal Sarswat to enable him to move the sessions court for an appeal.

So, although he is sentenced, justice is not entirely served. The culprit (he can be called that, for he has been sentenced) is given an opportunity to play the system and keep on stalling, as he has done for over seven years.

Apparently, this is not the only case in which Salman Khan has been hoodwinking justice. The same Radio Sargam article says:

It (Right Indian: the black buck case) was one of the four cases filed against the actor for poaching endangered animals.

The next hearing in another Ghoda farmhouse (Jodhpur district) poaching case would take place on February 27 in the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court here during which the defence council would argue. The third case of chinkara poaching under the Wildlife Protection Act and Arms Act is pending with the District Munsif and Judicial Magistrate court for which the next hearing is slated for February 20, according to the public prosecutor.

Meanwhile, Ravindra Patil, an eyewitness in the hit-and-run case (another one involving Salman Khan) failed to turn up on Thursday in the trial court, Mumbai, which deferred the matter to March two for further hearing. The court has taken a serious view of the absence of the witness and warned him to appear at the next hearing. In this case Salman Khan is charged with killing a person and injuring four by ramming his car into a bakery in suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002.

Three-and-half years after killing a human, Salman Khan lives a normal life, being free to go anywhere and enjoy life however he chooses. And then, he gets to escape trial because one eyewitness did not turn up! Incidentally, the only eye witness in the black buck poaching case, the driver of the vehicle used in the hunt, has been absconding for over two years. What are the chances of the witness in the hit-and-run case heeding the court’s “serious view” and turning up?

Jessica LalJessica Lal, publicly shot and murdered in a crowded restaurant, at point-blank range! (Click on the pic to view in bigger size).

Meanwhile, hostile witnesses enabled the nine accused in the famous Jessica Lal murder case of April 1999, to go scot-free. The Times of India reports about Justice on Trial:

The acquittal of all the nine accused in the Jessica Lal murder case is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice. If the police can’t nail a killer who shot his victim at point-blank range before several eyewitnesses, there is a serious need for a rethink on our investigative and judicial apparatus.

The case against the prime accused Manu Sharma, son of a Haryana minister for shooting Jessica on April 29, 1999 collapsed on three grounds.

First, three key eyewitnesses turned hostile;second, while the prosecution maintained that two bullets found at the murder site were fired from a single weapon, the state’s forensic agency said the bullets were fired from different weapons; and finally, the murder weapon was never recovered.

The case is a telling comment on investigating skills of the police. By depending heavily on eyewitness accounts, the police failed to marshal other forensic evidence to back their case.

The mismatch between police claims and forensic evidence points to sheer inefficiency or tampering of evidence, both of which are serious lapses.

Another reason for failure to prosecute is the inordinate delay between the crime and delivery of justice. The verdict in Jessica Lal’s case took nearly seven years.

The long gap means there is that much more scope to mess around with evidence and to exert pressure on eyewitnesses. The Jessica Lal case is an abortion of justice. If steps are not taken to remedy this situation, the nation’s police and courts will have little credibility.

Even without considering Jessica Lal’s murder case, do the “nation’s police and courts” have any credibility at all? Indira Jaising, “a distinguished Supreme Court lawyer”, frankly admits to the Indian legal system lacking credibility when she writes the following in Rediff.com guest column:

This was not a hit and run case, or a case where the killers were anonymous or unknown. This was not a riot situation where murders are committed by faceless people. This was murder at close range, in a crowded restaurant, where everyone knew everyone else.

One of the main problems of criminal trials — that is proving the identity of the accused — could not have been an issue at all. Indeed the accused were from among the rich and powerful elite of the country. And that is where the problems of the legal system begin.

A Supreme Court lawyer admits that “the rich and the powerful elite of the country” are a problem to the legal system! The rest of Indira Jaising’s column is equally damning of the police and the courts:

The acquittal illustrates all that ails the criminal justice system, not only for Jessica Lal but for many others. There can be no doubt that the police did not do a proper investigation. Not to recover the murder weapon is asking for trouble. Then, the forensic report does not support the theory that only one weapon was used.

Our institutions have such low credibility that it is difficult to come to any conclusion if the reports are manipulated.

If they were not manipulated, and if indeed the shots were fired from two different weapons, then that is a huge failure of investigation for which the police must take full responsibility.

But let us look at the more devastating aspects of the case — witnesses turning hostile. This is now the preferred method of seeking acquittals for the rich and the powerful. Turning hostile, basically means buying silence. Silence can be bought for many reasons, for a price, or for fear of reprisals.

When the accused are powerful, it could be a combination of both.

But the question still remains — was there no other outcome possible? What ails the legal system, when times without number, it comes up with acquittals, especially when the accused are powerful?

Strangely enough, Jessica Lal’s sister hit the nail on the head when she said that there is too much reliance on eyewitness evidence in our system and not enough reliance on circumstantial evidence.

Methods of crime investigation have not improved; indeed there is no desire to investigate in a scientific manner. Witnesses will and do turn hostile. But investigations must proceed independently of eyewitnesses to draw conclusions based on a chain of circumstances that led only to one conclusion.

A very major question that begs an answer is why was Manu Sharma (Right Indian: the main person accused of shooting Jessica Lal, son of former Union minister Vinod Sharma) granted bail? This is what enables witnesses to turn hostile, the opportunity provided to the accused to access witnesses.

There is no witness protection programme in the country. A law commission report gathers dust. Petitions files in the Supreme Court over the Gujarat killings asking for witness protection programmes also gather dust. There is a lethargy over the questions, a dangerous lethargy which will cause people to settle their scores outside court.

This is not just an imaginary scenario. It has happened in Nagpur, when women walked into a courtroom and killed a person accused of rape inside the courtroom out of anger, knowing that he would be let off, yet again, by the police and the courts.

Street justice seems to be the swiftest and most effective method. Imagine what you would do if you were Jessica Lal’s parent, sibling, lover or friend, and you had to see her killer and those who protected him walk away, just because they are rich and powerful!

51-Crore-Rupee Business & the Hindu time bomb

February 23, 2006

Contract killing is now a Rs 51 crores per deal public business in India! Two such contracts have been publicly announced just this month!

The Indian Express reports that a minister from the Uttar Pradesh state has announced Rs 51-crore reward for Danish cartoonist’s head:

The Minister for Minority Welfare and Haj in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, Haji Yaqoob Qureishi, has announced a cash reward of Rs 51 crore for anyone who beheads the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Mohammad.

Even in a country like India whose politicians are revealed to be scoundrels on a regular basis, such a public call by a minister for the killing of someone is shocking! What is more shocking is the reaction of the government as reported in the same article:

While the state government has defended the Minister’s remark as the “voice of someone whose religious sentiments have been hurt,” a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has slammed it calling the reward “anti-Islamic and anti-humanity.”

When contacted, UP Principal Secretary, Home, Alok Sinha told The Indian Express: “The minister’s reaction was the voice of someone whose religious sentiments have been hurt. Moreover, since the reference was to a person who is far off, there is no question of an FIR being lodged against the minister.”

That is indeed dangerous and irresponsible behavior on the part of the government! Meanwhile, the minister-in-the-limelight justifies himself as follows:

Speaking to The Indian Express, Qureishi defended his announcement saying it was a “concerted decision” and the killing of a person who blasphemed Islam was “justified.”

What else does the man support and promote that is mentioned in the Quran? What is the bet that the man also thinks the acts of Islamic terrorists across the world, and particularly in India, are justified? What is the bet that the man would enthusiastically support the activities of such terrorists? Given a choice between supporting the well-being of India and supporting the cause of Islamic terrorists, what would this man choose? And he is a minister in a state government of India!

Surprisingly, in this case, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board does not seem to be supporting this “justified” Ismalic call:

However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board member and Naib Imam of Aishbagh Idgah, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, criticised the Minister’s call for the killing of the cartoonist.

“The Minister’s statement is anti-Shariat, anti-Islam and anti-humanity,” Mahali said. “The western media is already up against Islam, the minister’s statement will only add fuel to the fire.” The Prophet believed in pardoning others for “sins committed by them,” the Maulana said, “Who are we to issue such irresponsible statements?”

Glad to see the AIMPLB showing some maturity. However, it does not appear that everyone is so mature. Rediff.com reports that the Hindu Law Board offers Rs 51 cr for killing M F Hussain:

The Hindu Personal Law Board on Wednesday announced a Rs 51 crore reward for eliminating artist M F Hussain. Meanwhile, a Congress minority cell leader offered Rs 11 lakh to any ‘patriot’ to chop off the painter’s hands for hurting Hindu sentiments.

“Anyone who kills Hussain for making obscene paintings of goddess Sarswati and Bharat Mata, the Danish cartoonist, those in the German company printing pictures of Ram and Krishna on tissue paper and the French filmmaker desecrating Lord Shiva will be given Rs 51 crore in cash,” Ashok Pandey, board president, said in a statement in Lucknow.

The first question that came to my mind was, “What the hell is this Hindu Personal Law Board”? I had never heard of such a board, and I am sure that is true of almost all Hindus, the world over. So, I searched Googled and came up with this Deccan Herald report from Sept 22, 2005, about the setup of the Hindu Personal Law Board:

A Hindu Personal Law Board was constituted over the weekend to mixed reactions. Set up by a group of Hindu lawyers led by Ashok Pandey, the board is to work towards the protection of the symbols of the Hindu rashtra.

What has been christened the Hindu Personal Law Board, proposes to set up 500 courts, on the line of the Sharaiat Courts known as Darul Qaza, first in UP and then throughout the country to resolve disputes among Hindus. The target is 5 lakh courts in the next five years.

Although cagey about the number of lawyers who are with him, Pandey is emphatic that the board will evolve to acquire a status similar to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

This is a classic case-study in public reactions. A Hindu law board is setup as a reaction to a Muslim law board. A Muslim call to kill a Danish cartoonist, who offended Muslim sentiments, results in a reactionary Hindu call to kill a Muslim artist, who has offended Hindu sentiments on many occasions. What next?

The leaders of the Muslim community and the leaders of the state governments and the national government in India, especially those who insist on pandering to Muslim vote-banks, should be asking themselves this “what next?” question. In these days of fast and far-reaching media and communications, they can’t expect to get away with anything, without there being reactions. Their actions and their absurdities are noticed and reported. Despite the Indian English language media being largely sympathetic and partial to them, news does spread. And the Hindu reaction is like a time bomb just waiting for the right trigger. Unfortunately, neither the Muslim leaders nor the governments seem to be wise enough to understand this.

When the Hindu time bomb bursts, there will be no point blaming the Hindus. After all, hasn’t it been demonstrated by the Prophet Mohammed cartoons controversy that the media and the governments all over the world show respect and consideration to the sentiments of only those who resort to street violence? It has been shown that violent tantrums produce the desired results. So, we can expect more of the same.


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