Wake up to the new reality
The government’s attempt to retain the provision of section 66(A) is exasperating. Merely suggesting that the complaint can be registered only after the approval of the DCP or IG will not make much of a difference and it would still be open to misuse by these officers. The government must wake up to the new reality that any curbs on public opinion will not succeed. The political class is always uneasy over criticism and dissent and does not want to be answerable.
Governments have tried to control the media by overt and covert means, but are finding it more difficult to control the views expressed on the internet. Therefore, section 66(A) to deter free expression over politicians and policies. Any attempt to silence the voice of the people must be opposed. The government must learn to take the opinion of all sections of society into consideration. If democracy has to be alive, freedom of expression cannot be compromised.
—Ashok Goswami, Mumbai
Apropos of “Sibal reins in section 66(A) with a rider”, the government has issued new guidelines to stop the misuse of section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act. Henceforward, any complaint under this act would be registered only after the approval of a deputy commissioner of police or inspector general. The rationale is that it would ensure some application of thought by the police before making an arrest. But in this ‘fire-fighting’ exercise, the result of the public outrage over the arrest of two girls in Palghar, one important aspect has been overlooked. It is not so much the lack of application of thought, but pressure from political groups that usually compels the police to take such unwarranted action. There is no guarantee that the officers of the rank of DCP or IGP are immune to such pressures. Has not the chief minister succumbed to the pressure of the Shiv Sena in allowing a state funeral and public cremation for Bal Thackeray? And again, it was the groundswell of public opinion that prompted the government to act against the erring policemen and not any application of thought.
—Arun Chandra, by email
According to section 66(A) of the IT Act, sending information through a computer or some other communication device is punishable if the material is grossly offensive, has menacing character, is sent to cause annoyance, insult, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, ill-will and enmity, hatred or for criminal intimidation. And the punishment is imprisonment up to three years and a fine. So does the government believe that the DCP or IGP would be able to apply some thought to decide what is punishable, and avoid the recurrence of the arrests that we saw in Palghar? There is no guarantee that section 66(A) will not be misused again. It must be scrapped altogether.
—NR Ramachandran, Chennai
Shame on IOA administrators
It’s a shame that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is on the verge of suspension by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because politician-sports administrators like VK Malhotra, AS Chautala and behind-the-scenes Suresh Kalmadi, to name a few, will not follow the internationally accepted code. It is this sorry state of affairs that prompted former hockey star Joaquim Carvalho to write to the IOC about the rot. Yes, Indian athletes will suffer if they are barred from international competition on account of the suspension. But the Indian sports administrators will continue to make their pile, regardless. The active sports life of an athlete is short compared as compared to that of an Indian sports administrator, many of whom have mismanaged our sports affairs for decades.
—Chandramohan, by email
Must scam together!
Apropos of “On paper, there is no irrigation scam”, is anyone really surprised that the so-called white paper on the black irrigation scam in Maharashtra has come out with the main accused smelling of roses? For one thing the paper was prepared by the other accused, so they realised that they needs must hang together, else they will hang separately which in our scam-ridden country is a very tall order. Here, only the aam aadmi hangs. ‘Coalition compulsions’, the refrain for inaction on corruption that the prime minister sings time and again, is another reason. The Congress needs the NCP to sail safely home to victory in 2014, so it would be suicidal for it to rock the boat. One can but sadly conclude after studying this mockery of a white paper that whitewashes the black deeds of politicians who care little for the country and the people they purport to serve, that we have perfected a process of investigation that is called ‘Set a thief to set free a thief’!
—Bernie Tellis, Mumbai
Instead of unravelling the mystery of how thousands of crores of rupees of public money disappeared into the coffers of the NCP, the white paper by the ministry of water resources has given the former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who was in charge of this ministry for several years, a clean chit. As if to add insult to injury, the white paper claims that irrigated land has increased by about 5%, as against 0.1% suggested by those who blew the lid off the scam. There is no doubt that the white paper simply whitewashes the financial irregularities in irrigation projects over the past several years. The chief minister should order an independent inquiry into the allegations if he wants people to believe him and protect his image. There’s no need for him to bother about the NCP’s threats of withdrawing support to the government as the party knows that once out of power it would have little bargaining power. On the other hand, if he succumbs to their blackmail, the taint of the scam could hurt the Congress Party in the forthcoming elections.
—Subramanian Venkataraman, Mumbai
Mumbai first, even today
Apropos of “Why Mumbai erupted in joy after Pujara’s dismissal”, the writer appears to criticise the crowd support for Sachin Tendulkar, the multitude of mourners gathered for Bal Thackeray’s funeral and the celebration of the end of Ajmal Kasab. He seems to suggest that these acts show that the capital city of Maharashtra has fallen behind other cities. He should understand that Mumbaikars revere their greats for what they have achieved in their respective fields and we will honour them in the way we think best. Mumbai is the heart of India and Mumbaikars have a record of peaceful observance of funerals and ceremonials. This, despite some elements fishing for trouble. Lastly, what is this problem with ageing stalwarts? Will any of us remain forever young?