Battle between Oracle and Google

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Oracle and Google has been unable to reach a settlement over the copyright issue over use of Java language in Android Platform.

Java programming language has been developed by Sun Microsystem in the year  1992. Later in 2007, Google has declared that it will use Java in its Android platform. Google negotiated with Sun Microsystem about licensing deals for Java but there was no agreement. In 2010 Oracle has acquired Sun Microsystem. Oracle and Google could not finalise a deal and later in August 2010, Oracle sued Google for copyright infringement.

In May 2012 the Sun Francisco federal court ruled in favour of Google saying coding languages cannot be copyrighted.  Oracle appealed against this judgement in the US court of Appeals. The court ruled that Java APIs are copyrightable.
Google files petition in US Supreme Court. But the court denies petition. The case had returned to the district court for a trial on Google’s ‘fair use’ defence. Oracle has demanded $8.8 billion from Google for use of Java. Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and Oracle CEO Safra Catz participated in a court-ordered settlement conference on 15 April but talks were unsuccessful.

We will have to wait for the next month to know the whether Google’s use of Java was a ‘FAIR’ use.

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Peace Talks with Pakistan

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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On April 7, 2016 Pakistan’s envoy to New Delhi, Abdul Basit, announced that the “peace process with India has been suspended”. He also commented on the NIA team’s possible visit to Pakistan to follow-up on the investigations into the Pathankot attack.  That it may not be possible considering the reciprocal step post the visit of the Pakistan Joint Investigation Team. Basit also mentioned the arrest of alleged R&AW agent Kulbhushan Yadav alleging that Indian spy agencies have been involved in subversive activities in Pakistan.

The fact is the Pakistan’s Army has rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s effort to normalise relationships with India. Mr. Sharif has promised to act against the Jaish-e-Muhammad(JeM) after its alleged attack on the IAF base in Pathankot.

The Army’s most potential issue with India has been the Kashmir-purported India backed terrorism in Pakistan and, most recently, the arrest of alleged Indian intelligence operative Kulbhushan Yadav — a former naval officer.

India doesn’t have many options with Pakistan. The last major gains in the India-Pakistan relationship were won through war, not dialogue. The LoC ceasefire, and the post-2003 reduction of violence in Kashmir, came about as a consequence of the war of 1999 and the near-war of 2001-2002 — a crisis that India could barely afford, but which almost broke Pakistan. But now India cannot risk a war with Pakistan which could destroy the economic growth in the country. The only option with India is that of a healthy dialogue. Pakistan is facing many issues from terrorism to military supremacy over an elected Government. But it is for these reasons that Pakistan’s Army is certain to ensure that any process of India-Pakistan normalisation goes nowhere.

Another blow to India-Pakistan peace talks comes when China recently blocked a move by the UN to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief and Pathankot strike mastermind Masood Azhar. The JeM is also responsible for attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. China took this stand on the request of Pakistan.

The Sino-Pakistan relationship is at its peak. China openly considers Pakistan as their nation’s only real ally. China’s submarine operations in the Indian Ocean and the Sino-Pak naval cooperation are challenging naval supremacy and have the potential to change the regional naval power balance.

How India counters this dual threat from China and Pakistan it will remain a concern in the near future.

Election in Assam and Future of the state

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Out of the four states and a union territory, Assam is the only state in the Indian subcontinent where BJP has a chance to form the Government. The state is currently ruled by Congress under Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Congress is also trying their best to keep the state. They have been winning the state elections three times in row till now.

BJP has won 7 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 general elections. BJP has also won in 2015 Municipal elections by a spectacular margin.

Both the parties have formed their alliances with some of the regional parties. The BJP has forged an alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodo People’s front (BPF). On the other hand, the ruling Congress may form an alliance with All India United Front (AIUDF).

The major issues in Assam right now is unemployment, floods and land erosion, lack of development, dipping agricultural production, corruption, insurgency etc. and most importantly, the sensitive issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

Banking on the particular issue of immigration itself, AGP had formed Government is Assam in 1985. Since most of the immigrants are Muslims, almost all the political parties have been playing the same card for a long time. People in Assam are also divided on this issue, while issues like unemployment and lack of investments are plaguing the state. GDP of Assam is $19520 Million which is one of the lowest in the country. Investors are not interested to invest in the state because of problems like insurgency, lack of skilled workforce and infrastructure.

But people are still divided on the issue of immigration, outsider versus the son of the soil, Hindu population versus illegal Muslim migrants. No political party is actually interested in solving this issue of immigration in the fear of losing Muslim votes.

Congress has its support base among tea garden voters, tribal groups and minorities. But Congress has failed to form a pre-poll alliance with the Muslim-dominated AIUDF, led by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. AIUDF had managed to win three seats during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal is the Minister of State of Youth Affairs and Sports in the Modi Government. He has started his political career with All Assam Student Union. But people are saying the major battle is between Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Will we see effects of Modi wave again? For that, we will have to wait till 19th May, 2016.

Panama Papers Leak and Ethics of Tax Havens

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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The 2.6 TB of the Panama Papers is the largest amount of leaked data till date. Around 143 politicians, their families and close associates including 12 national leaders from around the world are among the people whose names have appeared in the leaked papers.  The Russian president Vladimir Putin’s best friend – a cellist called Sergei Roldugin; Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson are among national leaders with offshore wealth. Famous film stars Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to corporates including DLF owner K P Singh and nine members of his family, and the promoters of Apollo Tyres and Indiabulls to Gautam Adani’s elder brother Vinod Adani, politicians like Shishir Bajoria from West Bengal and Anurag Kejriwal, the former chief of the Delhi unit of Loksatta Party are among over 500 Indians who appeared on the leaked documents. The first news stories based on the Panama Papers were published on 3 April 2016, along with 149 of the documents themselves. The data concerned the operations and workings of some 214,000 shell companies listed by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, including the identities of shareholders and directors of the companies.

An anonymous source using the pseudonym “John Doe” made the documents available in batches to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung beginning in early 2015. The information from documents’ transactions are as far back as the 1970s. Given the scale of the leak, the newspaper enlisted the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which distributed the documents for investigation and analysis to some 400 journalists at 107 media organizations in 76 countries. The ICIJ promises to publish a full list of companies involved in early May 2016.

Law firms generally play a central role in offshore financial operations. Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm whose work product was leaked in the Panama papers affair, is one of the biggest in the business. Its services to its clients include incorporating and operating shell companies in friendly jurisdictions on their behalf. They can include creating “complex shell company structures” that, while legal, also allow the firm’s clients “to operate behind an often impenetrable wall of secrecy”. The leaked papers detail some of their intricate, multi-level and multi-national corporate structures.

The Republic of Panama is considered one of the most well-established pure tax havens in the Caribbean due to extensive legislation that strictly regulates the country’s offshore jurisdiction and financial services.

Offshore companies incorporated in Panama, and the owners of the companies, are exempted from any corporate taxes, withholding taxes, income tax, capital gains tax, local taxes, and estate or inheritance taxes, including gift taxes. Panama offers an additional benefit not available in many offshore tax havens: being able to conduct business within the offshore jurisdiction. However, any business conducted within the jurisdiction is subject to local taxes.

There are extensive laws in Panama to protect corporate and individual financial privacy. The names of corporate shareholders are not required to be publicly registered. Panama also has very strict banking secrecy laws. Panamanian banks are prohibited from sharing any information about offshore bank accounts or account holders. The only exception is a specific Panamanian court order in conjunction with a criminal investigation.

Panama has no tax treaties with other countries, further protecting the financial privacy of offshore banking clients who are citizens of other nations. Panama also offers the benefit of having no exchange controls. This means that for individual clients of Panama’s offshore banking, as well as for offshore business entities incorporated in Panama, there are no limits or reporting requirements on money transfers into or out of the country.

But there’s a big difference between tax evasion — illegally refusing to pay taxes, and then taking advantage of secret accounts to try to hide the money and get away with it — and tax avoidance, which is hiring clever people to find and exploit legal loopholes to minimize your tax bill. For instance, the name of Ian Cameron, the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, shows up in the Panama Papers. Mossack Fonseca helped him set up his investment company Blairmore Holdings (named after his family’s ancestral country estate) in the British Virgin Islands, where, marketing material assured investors, the company “will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits.”

This particular kind of move is perfectly legal and doesn’t even involve any secrecy. Since investment companies like Blairmore Holdings don’t own much in the way of physical assets, they can be officially located anywhere in the world and naturally choose to locate in jurisdictions where they won’t need to pay taxes.

The issue is when people uses Tax havens for money laundering by corrupt politicians of developing nations, drug lords of Latin America etc.

This leak has again raised questions over malpractices in International Tax Havens and Business ethics related to them.

WTO Ruling and India’s Solar Mission

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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In the recent WTO ruling against India which declared that support provided by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission to domestic manufacturers was inconsistent with the Trade Related Investment Measures agreement signed by India, again raised several questions related to US’s good will towards United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015, Paris and role of WTO (Does WTO only work for developed nations?)

According to 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015, Paris India’s INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) includes reduction in the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level and also to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of COequivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.  India has decided to establish a global solar alliance, INSPA (International Agency for Solar Policy & Application), of all countries located in between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.

India has relied hugely upon its National Solar Mission to fulfil its INDC. India’s Solar Mission has a target to install 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2022. It also offers a subsidy of up to Rs 1 crore per MW to solar developers sourcing components from local manufacturers. It also stipulates that 10% of the solar capacity target of 100 GW by 2022 should be built with domestically manufactured solar modules, which has led to a small part of the solar auctions being reserved for developers employing only domestic content.
So far so good but the US which is especially keen on taking a slice of this huge solar market, has requested to setup a dispute settlement panel under WTO. Though India has blocked the first request, the US made a second request to the WTO. The WTO then set up a dispute settlement panel to examine the complaint by the US against India’s domestic content requirements under the country’s solar power programme.

The US charged India with violating provisions in what are called the trade-related investment measures (TRIMS) by imposing local content requirements that discriminate against foreign products. The US claimed that the Indian government’s measures to impose national content provisions and deny “national” treatment have impaired benefits accruing to American companies.

The panel apparently upheld Washington’s core complaints against the Indian measures on the ground that they are inconsistent with provisions in WTO’s rulebook which again proved that WTO works only for the developed nations. The American solar industry says that WTO ruling against India will actually have huge environmental benefits. According to them The WTO is ensuring that India’s solar ambitions are achieved in the most efficient way possible because the Indian businesses that want to generate solar power get to buy the cheapest solar panels.

After this ruling the first thing that will come to our mind is that how US is interested only about its own trade benefits and it has no concern towards the climate changes. Also this ruling goes against the spirit of an agreement signed early 2015 between US and India. In the agreement, the two sides agreed to promote clean energy and expand solar energy initiatives.

India has argued that developing an indigenous solar industry will in time boost international competition and therefore reduces the price of solar panels for everyone.

One can be amused by the hypocrisy in US trade policy. While the US argues for unfettered free markets in international forums like the WTO, it doesn’t practice what it preaches at home. Half of all US states have subsidies for renewable. India spoke repeatedly against the US at WTO’s committee on subsidies and countervailing measures, stating that American subsidy schemes relating to local or domestic content requirements for its solar companies are inconsistent with its global trade obligations. New Delhi has also provided a five-page questionnaire listing US programmes such as solar energy credits that are contingent upon compliance with domestic content requirements.

India has released statements that it will once again appeal against the World Trade Organization ruling.  Organisations like Greenpeace have already extended its support towards India.

References:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35668342

The Story of India’s GDP Growth and Role of Women

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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The Economy of India is the seventh-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). The country is classified as a newly industrialised country, one of the G-20 major economies, a member of BRICS and a developing economy with an average growth rate of approximately 7% over the last two decades.

So far the story sounds good.

But if we give a closer look at the gender dynamics in the GDP, the other side of the coin emerges infront of us.

According to a new study by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), India has one of the world’s largest gender gaps when it comes to labour force participation, with women accounting for only 23-24% of the total labour force and generating a mere 17% of the share of GDP. This is far below the global average where female workers generate 37% of the world’s GDP.

The workplace gender gap manifests itself in three ways. First women do not participate in the same numbers as men. Second, women work fewer hours than men. And finally, women are disproportionately represented in lower productivity sectors such as agriculture.

“A lot of work done by women is invisible, un-quantified, unrecognized and unrecognizable,” says economist Ritu Dewan, president of the Indian Association of Women’s Studies. Works like child care, caring for the elderly, cooking, cleaning, collecting firewood or water are mostly done by women. Sadly these works are often unpaid and not recognized as ‘work’, hence excluded from GDP calculations.

Even if a woman gets into organised sector she has to face many choices as she moves up her career path. Things like marriage, children, and family responsibility forces women to leave their jobs.

The situation cannot improve without gender parity in society. Development of women on four indicators in particular—education level, financial and digital inclusion, legal protection and the reduction of unpaid care work—could help accelerate progress,” as reported by MGI.

Government can enact laws that would remove barriers to women entering the workforce, mandating protection of women at the workplace and legislating quotas for women in political office and on company boards. The next step should be to increase access to education and addressing drop-out rates by girls at the higher school levels. This could yield social benefits such as lowering the prevalence of child marriage and improving reproductive and maternal health and finally enable greater participation in the paid workforce.

Similarly, increasing access of Internet services, mobile phones and financial services can change the current scenario to a great extent. E.g. by accessing the Internet, a woman can go for job searches, networking, and conducting businesses.

The Government has already launched various schemes such as Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana in 2010, Sabla or Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls in 2011. Launching of these schemes are a welcome step from the Government but we will have to be aware for greater success of these schemes.

Now if we enable women to participate at par with men, India can increase its 2025 gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at $4.83 trillion, by between 16% and 60% as per the study by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). The amount can be up to $2.9 trillion.

Companies such as Flipkart, Vodafone, Accenture and Godrej recently announced enhanced maternity leave policies, and minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi recently said women should get eight months maternity leave.

Companies have begun focusing on gender diversity—increasing paternity leave, for instance. Last month, Intel India increased paternity leave from five days to ten. Companies such as Accenture have women employee mentorship programmes, a women’s network and training and leadership development for its women employees, said a company spokesperson.

“These are baby steps,  But they are a beginning”, says Sairee Chahal, founder of Sheroes.in .

Hybrid cars: The future of Indian Automobile Industry

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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The government introduced a scheme last year called FAME – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric cars – that offers concessions of up to 138,000 rupees ($2,032) on the sale of such cars. The scheme, introduced before the New Delhi court order and originally planned for two years, will now likely be extended till 2020.

A hybrid vehicle uses two or more distinct types of power, such as internal combustion engine+electric motor,e.g. in diesel-electric trains using diesel engines and electricity from overhead lines, and submarines that use diesel when surfaced and batteries when submerged.

There are two main reasons why hybrid vehicles can be the future of Indian automobile industry.

Firstly, Indian car buyers have long been known to consider mileage as the most important factor in choosing a car.  A drive from Delhi to Agra in just little over a litre of petrol can be possible in the future with Renault’s hybrid vehicle – Eolab Concept. The Eolab Concept was introduced on Wednesday at the Auto Expo 2016. Eolab blends a petrol engine with an electric motor and is extremely lightweight – under 1,000kg – which helps it keep fuel consumption to the minimum. The car’s weight is made possible largely due to the fact that Renault has used a combination of steel, aluminium, composites and roof made entirely of magnesium, to build it.

The other main reason is soaring pollution levels in almost every city. India’s rampant pollution has forced the government’s hand. The Supreme Court last month ordered an overnight temporary ban on the sale of large diesel cars in New Delhi, which ranks among the world’s most polluted cities. Hybrid vehicles like Eolab may just be the answer to prayers of the people.

The major hurdle in the road filled by hybrids is reliance on imported parts which still makes full-scale hybrid technology cars expensive. But with India’s new sales incentives, ‘semi-hybrid’ technology is seen as a potential longer term solution.
Carmakers like Toyota, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra are gearing up to launch affordable hybrid and electric cars for India in the next few years. The Government incentive of up to $2,000 per car could help growth of green vehicles to nearly a third of a 5 million car market by 2020, IHS Automotive says.

Meanwhile Maruti Suzuki India Limited the largest passenger vehicle producer in the country, has already invested in developing a low-cost version of hybrid technology, irrespective of government incentives. Maruti says the technology combines fuel efficiency and lower emissions, but is not as expensive as existing traditional hybrid technology. As C.V. Raman, head of engineering at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, said “It is not enough to just introduce new technology in India, you have to make it relevant for the market and the buyers,”.

References:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/auto/cars/Auto-Expo-2016-Eolab-concept-car-Renaults-hybrid-runs-100km-on-just-a-litre/articleshow/50840955.cms

http://www.businessinsider.in/Auto-Expo-2016-Gear-up-for-hybrid-cars-as-automakers-turn-green/articleshow/50802906.cms

Attack on Soni Sori: Where does the buck stop?

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Tribal activist and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Soni Sori was attacked by some unknown assailants in Dantewada district of South Chhattisgarh in the evening of Saturday 20th Feb 2016. The attack took place when she was returning from Bastanar town of Dantewada to her residence.

Soni has emerged as a face of the Tribal Community’s democratic protest in Bastar. She has singlehandedly raised a consistent voice against the issues of atrocities on Bastar tribals by security forces in the name of tackling Maoist insurgency. She is a former school teacher who had already faced arrest earlier in September 2011. Police alleged Soni to be conduit for extortion money being paid by Essar Group to Naxalites/Maoists. She was sexually assaulted and stones were inserted into her private parts.

From October last year, she has brought to fore several cases of molestations, rapes against the local women and two recent instances of fake encounters in the Dantewada area allegedly by the security forces. Early this month, Sori was warned and asked to slow down. However, she didn’t give in to the threats, even as she apprehended the attacks when she was denied security. She had even tried filing a complaint on the Inspector General SRP Kalluri heading the police in Bastar, for allegedly letting his men continue atrocities on the local adivasis there; however, her complaint was not registered. The attack on the tribal activist came two days after a legal aid group of woman lawyers and a freelance journalist were forcibly evicted from their residences allegedly at the behest of Bastar police boss SRP Kalluri. The attackers even moved one step further and threatened Soni’s daughter who stays in a hostel.

The saddest part is some people like Rupa Subramanya who is BJP’s think tank and represents the educated intelligentsia has resorted to twits like “this year’s Oscar for best makeup”. These types of comments are not only offensive and dangerous to the democracy.

But we can see a ray of hope when Soni herself says, she has another reason not to give up after the attack. She says that people of Bastar will, rather be encouraged to continue their fight against the atrocities they are regularly subjected to, when they see Sori fighting undeterred.

She believes that Bastar will soon see a revolution. “People there have suffered for years. Now, they will start fighting back,” Sori says.

References:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soni-sori-attacked/article8262627.ece

 

Net Neutrality: A Good Sign for the Nation

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Finally on Monday 8th Feb 2016 Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) has ruled in favour of net neutrality. TRAI has said that operators cannot “charge discriminatory tariffs on the basis of content”, or sign contracts with anyone that result in such discriminatory data tariffs with immediate effect, and will impose fines of 50,000 rupees a day ($735) if the regulations are broken.

Net neutrality implies Internet that allows everyone to communicate freely; a service provider should allow access to all content and applications regardless of the source and no websites or pages should be blocked, as long as they aren’t illegal. Net Neutrality is extremely important for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who can simply launch their businesses online, advertise the products and sell them openly, without any discrimination. It is essential for innovation and creating job opportunities. Big companies like Google, Twitter and several others are born out of net neutrality.

Less than a fourth of Indians have access to Internet. The scope for facebook was huge if it could control the internet of the country. According to Facebook, free basics is an open platform that gives Indian developers the opportunity to make their services and websites available free of cost to those who cannot afford internet access. However, this free access is limited to partner websites and applications. It was launched two years ago globally in partnership with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm.

However the problem lies here. Contrary to what it claims, it doesn’t offer equal and unbiased access to all services. Facebook is partnering with ISPs to provide preferential and selective access to a set of app developers and services. This is the main criticism of those opposed to Free Basics; they argue that the internet should be free and equal for all users. This is also the cornerstone of net neutrality. Facebook’s argument was that it supported net neutrality because anybody could use Free Basics. Yet the company reserved the right to reject partners and disallowed voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) calls, high-resolution videos and photos that interfered with telco services – in direct contradiction to TRAI’s recommendation that people in rural areas should have access to more video content.

TRAI asked the public to respond to 20 questions from the public, giving rise to a spirited, pro-net-neutrality campaign called Save the Internet, which was supported by lawyers, technologists, journalists and policy experts. They created a list of responses that users could copy, paste and email in just three clicks. The movement was boosted by the popular standup comedy group All India Bakchod(AIB), who made John Oliver-style 13-minute YouTube videos explaining the adverse effects of differential pricing and zero-rating plans on the Indian internet. By 24 April, the last date on which people could send in responses, 1.1 million Indians had emailed TRAI, urging it to stop telecom companies from indulging in differential pricing. In August 2015, India’s Department of Telecom (DOT) moved the discussion to Mygov.in, a website designed to improve communications between citizens and India’s Union government. By December, Facebook had stepped up its public relations and lobbying in India, changing the project’s name from Internet.org to Free Basics, and taking full-page colour advertisements in India’s newspapers that talked about “digital equality” and connecting people from rural areas. Facebook has reportedly spent Rs 200-300 crore on a media campaign in India in the last week of December 2015.

Facebook said in a statement: “Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the internet and the opportunities it brings.”

The ban on differential pricing of data on the basis of content should ensure a competitive environment for India’s start-up ecosystem. This means that Indian apps will be able to compete fairly (with regard to data pricing and Internet access) with U.S and European technology companies and large Indian companies such as Flipkart won’t be able to force out smaller competitors with the help of programmes such as Airtel Zero.

With increasing Internet penetration in India and given that we are becoming a breeding ground for start-ups and entrepreneurs, net neutrality is a must. Besides, it is very important for freedom of speech, so that one can voice their opinion without the fear of being blocked or banned. For a better and developed free India all of us should welcome TRAI’s decision.

References:

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/internet/trai-rules-in-favour-of-net-neutrality/article8209455.ece

 

The Odd-Even Scheme: A good start for the Capital

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post

Sukalyan Talukdar, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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There are no sources in the current document.

 Delhi being branded the most polluted city in the world (the WHO), the capital woke up to this new year with  road restrictions. The Arvind Kejriwal led AAP Government’s ambitious odd-even scheme made it mandatory for registered private vehicles ending with odd numbers to ply on odd dates and vice-versa. It remained effective from 8 am to 8 pm everday except on Sundays. Also, women drivers and CNG-certified vehicles were exempted from its ambit. Post the 15- days litmus test of the odd-even scheme in Delhi, the next big question is what should be the  future step. Should the plan continue?  If yes, what are the other contingencies that are to be brought within the loop?

Automobiles, being the second major source of air pollution, the Delhi Government rolled the odd-even agenda with a view to curb the hazardous menace. Activism of school and university students to the Chief Minister’s own deployment of the popular mass medium of the radio, it was a comprehensive effort to make the scheme a success.

An analysis of the impact of the pilot period of the odd-even rule highlights  that there were not any major changes in pollutants quantity. There were some impacts such as peak pollution control despite fog and adverse weather, particulates and Nitrous Oxides from cars were reduced by almost 40% . The USP of the scheme however remained decongestion of roads. Even those seemingly skeptical of the scheme, enjoyed the otherwise much unlikely scenario of breezing through the ever-bustling Delhi roads. However, it is important to remain alert to the ultimate goal of the project- which is to improve the quality of air and not that of traffic.

To ensure better health for its citizens, the Government may also extend the rule to two wheelers. It may also start tax benefits for CNG and Hybrid vehicles while providing separate lanes for bicycles. The Government should also consider implementing strict pollution norms such Bharat VI and phasing out of older vehicles. As D. Raghunandan of Delhi Science Forum highlights, the Government must emphasize on improving the quality of public transport which includes expansion of the bus fleet to cater to the needs of the commuters.  Nevertheless, there will be challenges like unavailability of space for Bus Depots. This scheme will also not attain its optimum sucess if the Government cannot expand the rule to other parts of the NCR such as Gurgaon, Noida and Gaziabad.

Interestingly, there were petitions against this rule in the Delhi High court which however the Court  rejected. The Centre dubbed it “bound to fail” while  criticisms against the scheme afloat the social media, often making the Chief Minister the butt of jokes.But in spite of all skepticism, we can say that it is indeed a brave and an innovative step. Now it all depends on the AAP Government of how they take this mammoth task forward.

References:

  1. Sethi, Nitin. Business Standard. Kolkata, Volume XLI Number 207, p11.
  2. Raghunandan, D. Interview. Newsclick. Retrived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvCysHIMAiY as on 16th Jan’16