Net neutrality, Airtel zero and some myths

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 Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced.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.

Ravi Padmaraj, MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur.


On 14th april 2015, business standard reported that Flikpart has pulled out of Airtel zero initiative. The past few days have seen an extreme uproar over Airtel violating the net neutrality principles and there have been a lot of instances of people urging their friends to boycott Airtel services. One fact worth mentioning at this juncture is that, Airtel zero is an entirely different initiative from charging more for free messaging services like Whatsapp. From a consumer’s perspective, Airtel Zero does not take away any of the benefits enjoyed by the customers,in fact it adds extra benefits in the form of free services. But the so called net neutrality activists with their social media campaign have created a shadow of doubt over the future of India’s largest telecom provider: A perfect example of the devastating potential of social media and how easy it is to manipulate mob psychology through social media.

Even though Airtel zero doesn’t violate net neutrality principles, it has a serious flaw. Airtel zero does not discriminate companies or apps. Nor does it provide better speeds for some apps. It just allows you to access some websites free. Just like the way, some companies allow you toll free numbers for information regarding their products. The only flaw in this initiative is not related to customers but related to companies. It does hinder fair competition. It eliminates the level playing ground that the internet startups have enjoyed till now. But then so does the toll free numbers, and why this uproar now. Because unfortunately just two months before Airtel made another controversial decision to charge more for internet based messaging services and duly backed out from it after the protests. That incident had created a perception in people’s mind that Airtel is against net neutrality. And now every decision taken by Airtel is viewed through that lens. A perfect example of how perception of people can plan havoc in your fortunes: Time for Airtel Public Relation department to get into action and do some damage control.

Reference

http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/flipkart-pulls-out-of-airtel-zero-115041400275_1.html

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Prime minister advises judiciary to be cautious and remain divine : But what have we done to protect them?

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.

Ravi Padmarah, MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur


On 5 April 2015 , Business standard reported about Prime minister’s speech in a conference of top judges in the country. According to the report, The Prime minister advises judges to avoid “perception-driven” verdicts. He also said that judiciary should have an internal mechanism of “self-assessment” as judges are considered “divine” and seldom face any criticism unlike the political class. His point was that perceptions are often driven by a handful of five start activists and it is easy to overlook the intricacies of the issues involved amidst these strong activist noise. About the same speech , The Hindu added some additional points . It said that the prime minister also warned the judiciary not to get stuck with archaic laws and the divinity of judiciary should be protected at any cost. Coming from a man who once vouched for appointment of top judges by ruling party instead of the traditional  method of appointment , these words almost seem sarcastic . The same person also has plans to enforce an Internet filter in India so that information dissemination can be controlled at will by political parties. May be he meant , judiciary should not get stuck with the laws that unnecessarily protects freedom of speech and freedom of information.
Sarcasm aside , the article published by Hindu also had mentioned some alarming realities . It touched upon the salary drawn by our current judges and emphasized the fact the number was comparable to fresh graduate salaries at some of the MNCs.So Mr Prime Minister expects the judiciary to obey everything the ruling party says , ignore the activists , fight against the amabanis and protect the integrity of democracy and then be happy about the paltry sum that they recieve as the salary . One of the best ways to counter corruption at highest level is to mitigate the motivation for corruption: In most cases money . If the government can ensure adequate compensation and adequate protection to its highest level of  officials ,corruption will automatically stop. The recent death of an IAS officer who tried to fight the mafia was a result of government’s incompetence in providing adequate protection to its servants . Unfortunately implementing this requires a bit more effort than travelling around the world and speaking big words.For the common man though,the hope that Prime Minister’s speech was not yet another show for the media is only thing left.    On 5 April 2015 , Business standard reported about Prime minister’s speech in a conference of top judges in the country. According to the report, The Prime minister advises judges to avoid “perception-driven” verdicts. He also said that judiciary should have an internal mechanism of “self-assessment” as judges are considered “divine” and seldom face any criticism unlike the political class. His point was that perceptions are often driven by a handful of five start activists and it is easy to overlook the intricacies of the issues involved amidst these strong activist noise. About the same speech , The Hindu added some additional points . It said that the prime minister also warned the judiciary not to get stuck with archaic laws and the divinity of judiciary should be protected at any cost. Coming from a man who once vouched for appointment of top judges by ruling party instead of the traditional  method of appointment , these words almost seem sarcastic . The same person also has plans to enforce an internet filter in India so that information dissemination can be controlled at will by political parties. May be he meant , judiciary should not get stuck with the laws that unnecessarily protects freedom of speech and freedom of information.
Sarcasm aside , the article published by Hindu also had mentioned some alarming realities . It touched upon the salary drawn by our current judges and emphasized the fact the number was comparable to fresh graduate salaries at some of the MNCs.So Mr Prime Minister expects the judiciary to obey everything the ruling party says , ignore the activists , fight against the ambanis and protect the integrity of democracy and then be happy about the paltry sum that they receive as the salary . One of the best ways to counter corruption at highest level is to mitigate the motivation for corruption: In most cases money . If the government can ensure adequate compensation and adequate protection to its highest level of  officials ,corruption will automatically stop. The recent death of an IAS officer who tried to fight the mafia was a result of government’s incompetence in providing adequate protection to its servants . Unfortunately implementing this requires a bit more effort than traveling around the world and speaking big words.For the common man though,the hope that Prime Minister’s speech was not yet another show for the media is only thing left.

Reference

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/pm-asks-judiciary-to-avoid-perception-driven-verdicts-115040500215_1.html

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/modi-chief-justices-conference-judiciary/article7070485.ece?homepage=true

Freedom of Speech Online :Reborn

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.

Ravi Padmaraj, MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur


On March 25 of 2015, Business Standard in its article titled “SC strikes down Sec 66A of IT Act, calls it unconstitutional” reported that section 66 of IT act was brought down by supreme court of India. The article also mentioned that most of the clauses in the article were vague and can be twisted at will by the law enforcers. A welcome move indeed! After all, this is a supposedly democratic country and people cannot be jailed for simply criticizing public figures and politicians. In the past year we have witnessed several incidents where even cartoonists were taken to jail accused of defaming people. A prominent such example was the arrest of two girls who wrote a face book post against the hartal for mourning Bal Thackeray’s death. If a political party can declare a hartal disrupting normal life for mourning their leader’s death, why can’t a normal man protest though his most easily available medium of voicing opinion? This question has been echoing in the mind of everyone who has ever cared about freedom of speech and now Supreme Court has given a fitting reply to the geniuses who architected the law.

That said, there is no denying the fact that, there should be some control over the countless ways people can exploit their freedom of speech. But not through a vague and unclear law, that can be manipulated by any creative law enforcer with ulterior motives, But through a clearer, well written law which captures the fine line between freedom of speech and intentional and dangerous defamation. For example any statement which can cause hatred among the masses can easily be classified as misuse of freedom of expression. In the coming months more and people will become aware of the problems caused by complete abolishment of the law. That coupled with the wish of political parties to curtail anything that talks against people in power will give rise to other laws which will replace the abolished one. Let’s hope that time we get a more clearer and matured law which captures the essence of our democracy and the need for the peace and privacy in a better way.

Reference

http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/sc-strikes-down-sec-66-a-of-it-act-says-unconstitutional-violates-freedom-of-expression-115032400177_1.html

Oil prices go down again as supply nears storage limits: More complexities at play now.

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.

Ravi Padmaraj, MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur


On 14/3/2015 , Business Standard in its article titled “Oil prices drop as production hums along despite a brimming supply” reported that oil prices has further decreased owing to the fact that the current level of production is very near to testing the limits of storage capacity possible.The latest drop in oil prices was triggered by a report from International Energy Agency who warned that oil production in United States is now very close to the available storage capacity. Even though US may increase its strategic oil reserves to a larger extent , with no intention to decrease production and winter season coming to end , oil production will continue to be greater than the demand. This new development has not forced the Saudi Arabia’s to decrease production either.Instead , Saudi also has now increased their oil production slightly so that they don’t lose their market share.The slight increase in oil prices which we witnessed for a couple of weeks was due to the winter season . Since most countries use oil for heating purposes in Winter , this created an additional demand for oil which triggered a slight increase in prices. Now that winter has passed , oil prices has come down , aided by decrease in demand and increase in production.

There is one more factor at play here . The current relationship of some oil productiong countries with US has been a factor in their level of production. For example : if the US iran nuclear deals go through , Iran would be in a position to produce even more oil because of the decrease in restrictions placed by US and its allies. All these transalates to one surprising fact : There is a lot more oil in this planet than we all thought . What caused the peak oil theories and statistical model to predict 2020 as year where oil production might start declining is beyond my comprehension and knowledge . But in spite of these uncertainities , from the perspective of a citizen who belong to a not so fortunate country with respect to oil reserves , the horizon looks much brighter now. Time for india to build up our own oil reserves may be. After all ,common sense says , any finite resource has to end at some point of time.

Reference

http://www.business-standard.com/article/international/oil-prices-drop-as-production-hums-along-despite-a-brimming-supply-115031400728_1.html

Google wants to offer Wireless Services too: “Now that I have exhausted by user base, let me create more internet users “

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.

Ravi Padmaraj , MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur.


On 3/3/2015, Business Standard reported that Google has unveiled plans to offer wireless services. The tech giant also has planes to use solar air planes to offer wireless services to the unconnected parts of the world. Earlier face book had announced the same plan in a slightly different bottle saying that they will provide free internet services to rural parts of the world using balloons. Internet services to rural parts of the world are indeed a welcome. Nothing empowers people more than access to information in these ages. Even some of the recent political phenomenon in India is an example how internet had made the common man aware and alert of things happening around him.

While it is welcome move for the rural areas to get free internet access, the fact that Google will be the master force behind it send shivers down the spine. Apart from empowerment of people by information and sweeter deal of getting it for free, there are other key issues at stake here. With almost a 70 % market share in search and an 84 % market share in smart phones, Google has already become a monopoly: A monopoly of special powers; One with the ability to know, understand and even the influence the thinking and creativity of at least 40 % of the population. Now that they have plans to increase the internet users through free wireless services in rural areas, that number of people who are under the direct influence of a multinational corporation will go up alarmingly. In effect Google will become more and more close to the all knowing “Big Brother” Character in George Orwell’s novel 1984. All these makes one wonder .Are we getting things out of control by letting these tech giants do everything they want ?After all , it is the Google search results that influence most of our thinking . Would a time come in the near future where Google will have to be contained through some Anti Trust or Anti competitive law?

References

http://www.business-standard.com/article/international/google-unveils-plan-to-offer-wireless-services-in-the-us-115030300042_1.html

Road Development based on tolls : Do we have better options?

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.

Ravi Padmaraj, MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur


On 12/2/2014 The Hindu reported that the Union transport ministry has decided to remove tolls from 125 roads .A welcome move indeed.Privatization of road development using tolls has been a controversial topic sometime back.But slowly , like everything  , people had started forgetting that they were being forced to pay for exercising one of their basic rights – Freedom of movement.But then, like all decisions , there are two sides to this argument. With urban infrastructure an important factor in the future development of the country and government already under a huge amount of debt, few other options were left but to depend on the private companies for an efficient road network. But the problem was  more or less with the tendency of these private companies to exploit the situation. Instead of having an agreement to stop the toll collection when they get a decided amount of profit , they push for years long blanket contracts without mentioning a word about the exponential increase in traffic every year.Almost all toll contracts in India are made based on the amount of road traffic that was there when the road was built. If an audit was done to assess the amount of money made by private companies from toll plazas , most of them would be found running well above their decided profit margins.

Now that we have experienced the boon and bane of privatized infrastructure development , what would be a solution to the problem ? Some states like Kerala had gone overboard and refused further road development proposals based on toll system citing people protest. Considering the fact that Kerala roads have been an favorite testing ground for off road vehicle manufacturers (yes i am a frustrated keralite) , the sustainability of such a decision in the long term is doubtful. A middle ground would be to allow tolls, but to decide on the charges and the  duration based on more scientific forecasts and reasonable assumptions. Now that the government has woken up to the issue , let us hope the ministry will refine the existent toll system based on more reasonable and accurate forecasts.

References
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/125-toll-plazas-will-be-scraped-by-monthend-gadkari/article6886524.ece

New Land Ordinance : Questioning Common Man’s Right to Property

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.

Ravi Padmaraj, MBA 2014-16, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur.

On 5/02/2015 Business Standard published an article titled “Land Law: Exemptions extended to private firms”. The article was about the changes that was made to the 2013 Land law .2013 Land law said, if a private party was to acquire land for a social development cause, a social assessment test needed to be conducted first and the company needed to secure consent of at least 80 % of the people impacted by the project.2013 Land law also said, for public – private partnership projects, acquiring land needs the consent of at least 70 % of the people involved. The new changes made to the Land Law through ordinance route effectively eliminates the consent requirement as well as the social assessment test , if the project belongs to one of the five broad categories – defense , rural infrastructure and electrification, affordable housing , industrial corridors , infrastructure and social infrastructure projects.

The alarming part of the new land law is that almost any project can be fit into one of the five categories listed here depending on the company’s ability to play with words. Anything from a hospital to tourism facility project can be used to deprive common people of their land without even conducting a test to know whether the said project will improve the welfare of the people. Imagine how you would feel if your house was taken away from you, just because some private company wants to build a resort there. After numerous dilutions and amendments to the sacred constitution in the name of economic development, this is what our politicians have achieved: A tooth less constitution which cannot even prevent a private company from forcefully acquiring common man’s land. All this makes one wonder – Haven’t we gone too far for this obsession with economic development. What sort of welfare is it, if it is depriving people of their basic rights?

References

http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/land-law-exemptions-extended-to-private-firms-115020500041_1.html