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#Sundayreading – Google’s Doodles: Oodles of Men #Gender #Feminism

 

By Jane Spencer

SPARK Movement

What do Mahatma Gandhi, Big Bird, Michael Jackson and existential Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard have in common?

All four are in the elite club of public figures who’ve been honored with a GoogleGOOG -0.29% doodle, the quirky tributes that surround the Google search bar.

They’re also all men. And in the midst of criticism of sexism in Silicon Valley, Google’s idiosyncratic list of doodle honorees is coming under fire for overlooking women’s contributions to world history.

On Thursday morning, SPARK Movement, a girls’ advocacy group, released a report that tallies the gender ratio in four years worth of data on Google doodles. Of the 445 doodles published on Google homepages worldwide between 2010 and 2013 that celebrated individuals, 82.5% featured men, and just 17.5% featured women, according to the analysis. (The data only include human historic figures, so fictional characters that have been honored with doodles, such as Wilma Flintstone and Pac-Man, weren’t factored into the tally.) The report also counted women of color in doodles, and found they represented just 4% of doodles over the past four years.

“Google is the information center of the world, and it’s presenting a skewed and imbalanced vision of who creates knowledge,” says Dana Edell, executive director of SPARK Movement, an organization that fights negative representations of girls in the media. “It’s telling girls and boys that the people who have made a contributions to our world are white men.”

Google recognizes the problem, and says the company already is working to improve the doodle gender balance. “Women have historically been underrepresented in almost all fields: science, school curricula, business, politics — and, sadly, doodles,” Ryan Germick, Google’s Doodle Team Lead, said via email.

Germick said the company is hoping to have women and men equally represented in doodles in the coming year, and said it has made significant strides in the first two months of 2014. “So far this year we’ve done doodles for as many women as men, a big shift from figures below 20% in past years,” he said.

On Thursday morning, Spark will unleash a digital campaign to make sure Google follows through, including a petition on change.org, and a social media campaign organized around the hashtag #doodleus, calling on Google to address the gender balance. The campaign will also include a Tumblr page featuring a “list of awesome people” that Google should consider honoring with doodles, such as Nina Simone, Indira Gandhi and Christine Jorgensen, a transgender actress.

The campaign comes as Silicon Valley tech companies have been increasingly criticized for their poor records on hiring and promoting women. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg brought renewed attention to the issue with her book “Lean In,” and other recent reports have added to the outcry.

Twitter’s IPO filing, for example, revealed that all of the company’s board members, as well as its top executives, were all male at the time of IPO, with the exception of one lawyer. A recent study by the tech law firm Fenwick & West found that 11.5% of top executives in top publicly traded Silicon Valley firms are women, lagging behind the rest of corporate America.

Google’s search page is one of the most trafficked websites in the world, and its search bar fields over 100 billion queries a month from 181 countries

“It’s the global town center,” says SPARK’s Edell. “And when we look at whose stories are told in public spaces—from statues in public parks to the Google homepage– it tells us who is important in the world.”

By paying public tribute to historic figures, Google doodles have drawn comparison to postage stamps. But the Postal Service has a stronger record on promoting diversity than Google, typically achieving a 50/50 male to female ratio in the 20 stamps it releases each year. It wasn’t until 2010 that Google celebrated a woman of color on its homepage, with an image of artist Frida Kahlo. The Postal Service honored Pocahontas with a stamp in 1907, followed by Harriett Tubman in 1978.

Ella Fitzgerald

 

Google

In recent weeks, there have been subtle signs that Google is getting bolder about promoting messages of diversity in doodles. In addition to the rising number of women that have surfaced in doodles, including African American author Zora Neale Hurston and zoologist Dian Fossey, Google published what may be its most political doodle ever on the first day of the Sochi Olympics. The doodle featured Olympic athletes emblazoned in a gay pride rainbow flag.

Google is not the first organization to be in the crosshairs of SPARK, an organization comprised of high school and college activists from five countries. The group’s past successes include taking Lego to task for failing to include female “Lego friends” in positions of power in its toy sets. (The group’s 2012 study showed 87% of Lego Friends appear to be men.) On the heels of SPARK’s campaign, Lego released a female aviator “friend.”

The girls behind the Spark study say they’re fans of Google doodles—and Google in general. (In fact, they used Google docs to compile and share their research showing gender bias in doodles.) “Google is part of pop culture, it’s our homepage, it’s a part of our daily lives,” says Mehar Gujral, a 17-year-old high school senior from New Jersey who was involved in the Spark campaign. “We just think that it could be better at representing everyone who visits the site, instead of just a select few.”

Her suggestions for upcoming doodles: Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher, and Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman in space.

– Jane Spencer is one of the founders of The Daily Beast and a former WSJ reporter.

This post first appeared on WSJ”s Digits blog.

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#India – Bhopal Activists spied upon – A secret no more- Wikileaks #WTFnews

Stratfor, a US-based global intelligence firm with alleged CIA links, spied on Bhopal Gas tragedy activists at the behest of Dow Chemicals, reveals WikiLeaks
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

In a startling revelation, WikiLeaks has leaked parts of emails which suggest that the US-based global intelligence agency Stratfor spied on the online activities of Bhopal Gas tragedy activists. The covert operation was being done at the behest of Dow Chemicals that is now facing the flak of activists and the media. On Monday, WikiLeaks started to publish parts of five million emails on the modus operandi of the intelligence think-tank, which has alleged links with the CIA. It has been established that many of the company’s clients are intelligence and US military agencies.

Named ‘The Global Intelligence Files‘, the Stratfor emails between July 2004 and late December 2011, reveal the “inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency.” A statement on the WikiLeaks website claims they have put up the emails that reveal Stratfor’s “web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods”.

The emails also disclose how Stratfor has roped in a number of informants who are paid via Swiss banks and prepaid credit cards. “Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world,” reads the statement on WikiLeaks.

The spying of activists has raised a storm in India, with many of them planning to sue the company for its role. Meanwhile, Dow has clarified that it sought information only to protect its employees and property from those “who would threaten, disrupt and misrepresent” the company.
Interestingly, one of the files (http://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/1149294_confed-fuckhouse-.html) suggests that the Indian Express editor, Shekhar Gupta, is Stratfor’s only contact in India. The Microsoft Excel spreadsheet goes on to name many other contacts in many other countries.

Additionally, the firm even gave membership to Pakistan General Hamid Gul, who is widely believed to be responsible for planning an IED attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan. “Stratfor claims that it operates ‘without ideology, agenda or national bias’, yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad…” reads the statement.
Meanwhile, after this storm, which the intelligence firm called a direct attack – an act aimed at intimidating it into silence – Stratfor has made all its content available for free on its website. Earlier, only the members had access to all the information. “As most of you know, in December thieves hacked into Stratfor data systems and stole a large number of company emails, as well as private information of Stratfor subscribers and friends. Today WikiLeaks is publishing the emails that were stolen in December. This is a deplorable, unfortunate – and illegal – breach of privacy.”

“Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies. Some may be authentic. We will not validate either, nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questions about them,” George Friedman, founder and CEO of the firm, wrote in a statement on the website.

– See more at: http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2012/02/4568?page=show#sthash.JK3p8sOo.dpuf

 

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#India – Second Largest country after US, to seek 4,144 Facebook users’ details #Prism

Itika Sharma Punit,Bangalore  August 28, 2013, BS

Only 50% govt request, considered by social networking website. India second largest country after US in terms of total user requests sought

Indian government sought information about 4,144 users from popular social networking site Facebook during the first six months of the year making it the second largest country after United Statesin terms of the total number of details sought.

The government sent a total of 3,245 requests to Facebook between January and June of which 50% were complied with, the website said in its first transparency report which lists the number of requests received by the site from governments across the world.

United States, on the other hand, sent 11,000-12,000 requests seeking information on 20,000-21,000 users from Facebook.

While technology giant Google has been coming out with such transparency reports for the last couple of years, the revelations about the US government’s surveillance programme PRISM has prompted other tech firms such as Facebook to follow suit.

Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said in a statement that the company has stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests. “We scrutinize each request for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and require a detailed description of the legal and factual bases for each request.”

The company fights many of these requests, pushing back when there are legal deficiencies and narrows the scope of overly broad or vague requests, he added.

As per the report, Facebook received around 25,607 requests from 71 countries, seeking information about 37,954 users. The company also said, it often shares only basic user information, such as name, when it is required to comply with a particular request.

“As we have said many times, we believe that while governments have an important responsibility to keep people safe, it is possible to do so while also being transparent,” Stretch said. “We strongly encourage all governments to provide greater transparency about their efforts aimed at keeping the public safe, and we will continue to be aggressive advocates for greater disclosure,” he added.

Top five nations in terms of total requests sent

Country Total Requests User/Accounts requested % of requests were some data produced
United States 11,000-12,000 20,000-21,000 79.00%
India 3245 4144 50.00%
United Kingdom 1975 2337 68.00%
Germany 1886 2068 37.00%
Italy 1705 2306 53.00%
 Source: Facebook Global Government Requests Report

 

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#India – Know How Technology Is Leveraged To Take Away Your Freedom #UID #Sec66a

From Section 66A’s crusade against freedom of speech to how the UID is reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany.

  • 15th Aug 2013
How Technology Is Leveraged To Take Away Your Freedom

 

Through the annals of history, there hasn’t been an intangible quantity for which as much blood has been shed as freedom, and it continues to flow to this day. Most of us reading this through the air-conditioned comfort of our homes and offices, in all probability, may not experience the gritty and bloody side of the fight for freedom. The struggle, however, never ceases to exist.

It may vary in degrees, but there is always some megalomaniacal entity out there that’s trying to wrest your freedoms away. The place of oppressive governments in this civilised milieu has been taken over by intrusive corporate entities. They enslave us, not through the conventional logic of prison cells and shackles, but by more insidious means of coercion and monopoly.

Described aptly as the bastard child of technology and expression, the internet however had for long been largely left unmolested by the machinations of overzealous governments and greedy corporate entities. That’s mainly because it was, until the turn of the millennium, dismissed as the plaything of geeks living in their parent’s basements.

This pleasant status quo, however, has changed over the past decade. The governments and corporate entities have realised the all-pervading reach and influence of the internet, and the way it has permeated into the pillars of entertainment, economy, and security among other things. With that realisation come ham-fisted attempts to curtail your freedoms, as will be evident from these flagrant examples of these entities trying hard to wrestle with the reach, anonymity, and power of the internet.

Section 66A
The problem with authorities is that they try to quash and silence what they cannot understand, largely because they are afraid of it. If there’s one thing the babudom of this nation fails at more than governance and policy-making, it has to be understanding and enabling technology for the greater good. A legal system that holds dearly on to the vestiges of draconian Victorian laws such as ours has a hard time interpreting and policing something as modern and intangible as the internet.

Section 66A is the best example of the Indian government’s lack of understanding and an almost Orwellian approach to governance. It’s an amendment made last year to the IT Act (2000) that allows the government to prosecute anyone “sending offensive messages by means of a computer resource or a communication device “. Once again, the law is a tragically hilarious transplant of the UK’s Post Office (Amendment) Act, 1935, where the same stipulations are applied to telephonic and telegram communication.

This is hilarious because the Indian bureaucracy has exhibited an abject lack of understanding and common sense in equating a legislation meant for the relatively archaic means of direct communication such as telephone and telegram to something as complex and all-encompassing as the internet. And it’s tragic because the amendment conveniently leaves the interpretation of “offensive messages” ambiguous. It is this lack of clarity that empowers the babus to interpret the law as they deem fit, and in turn employ it as a potent weapon against free speech and to persecute anyone who dares to inconvenience them.

The best example of its misuse was witnessed in the infamous Palghar case, where two young women were arrested for posting and hitting the Like button on a forwarded Wall post containing a critique on the city-wide clampdown that ensued shortly after the death of the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. The amendment sets a dangerous precedent, where the government leverages an abstract interpretation of a flawed and outdated law to impinge upon free speech. Section 66A is one of the biggest threats to democracy modern India has seen.

US Anti-piracy Laws
Be it First World or the Third, the tragic fact remains that governments all over are equally keen on curtailing your freedoms. When major international film studios and music labels decided to clamp down on piracy, they flexed their funding muscles to lobby the US congress for what could be best described as a thermonuclear-grade anti-piracy law meant to wipe all traces of unauthorised copies of movies and music off the face of the internet. However, as all things thermonuclear, the impending fallout would have been massive and catastrophic to the very fabric of the internet.

The bill dubbed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) was armed with provisions that allowed the government to cull not only content infringing copyrights, but also take down entire websites and domains for hosting the same. This was a dangerous precedent because the existing law provides content hosting entities a safe harbour of sorts, wherein they aren’t held entirely accountable for the actions of their users. This is especially crucial for websites hosting user generated media such as Youtube, Vimeo, and such. SOPA, on the other hand, held these entities liable and put the onus of policing and enforcement upon them—an endeavour that’s nigh impossible considering the volume of content uploaded onto their servers.

If implemented, the law would have punished the majority for the transgressions of a few, thereby killing torrent, file-sharing, and video-sharing websites as we know them. The death of Megaupload and many torrent websites, in addition to the resilience of The Pirate Bay in the face of legal persecution stands testimony to this witch hunt by the film and music labels. In fact, the overarching purview of the SOPA bill would have empowered it to pretty much kill e-commerce as we know it and change the way we use the internet for the worse.

Needless to say, the collective consciousness of the internet across nations and web domains alike rose up against the bill with online as well as offline protests, in addition to large-scale subversive campaigns by the hacktivist group Anonymous against all the businesses that backed and lobbied for the bill. SOPA was scrapped, but like a Hydra, the bill has mutated and regenerated to come back as PIPA, ACTA, and other variants—forever hanging like Damocles’ Sword on the very freedom and integrity of the internet.

Invoking Godwin’s Law
I know it’s too early to pull the reductio ad Hitlerum card, but the Third Reich indeed leveraged technology in its campaign of genocide against the Jews. It was IBM’s technological assistance with the 1933 census that enabled the Reich to identify the Jewish population and thereby confiscate assets and thereafter isolate and nearly annihilate the race. It’s arguable if Hitler would or wouldn’t have been able to target the Jews this effectively if it weren’t for IBM‘s assistance, but the fact is that IBM’s proprietary technology, the Holerith D-11 card-sorting machine, indeed was instrumental in facilitating the identification of Jews leading up to the Holocaust. Of course, we aren’t blaming IBM for the Holocaust itself.

Whether or not you’re amenable to conspiracy theories, this historical fact is all the more terrifying when you consider the ramifications of modern technology, which has permeated into the very fabric of our existence. Every search term entered or website visited is tracked with the means of cookies and by entities such as Google, which in turn read and document your habits and preferences in a database that can always be tapped into later by third-parties such as the government, or worse. With the advent of cheap and miniaturised geolocation-enabling technologies in mobile devices, it’s all the more easy to keep a track of the places you “check in” to. In other words, record and analyse your movements.

The horrors that IBM enabled back then pale in comparison to what’s possible with modern technology. The involvement of former US Intelligence officials with the UID project—a nation-wide endeavour to biometrically profile the population—is as scary as it gets.

So next time somebody tells you that you live in a free world, think again… and think hard!

– See more at: http://www.techtree.com/content/features/4415/how-technology-leveraged-freedom.html#sthash.nOLOEnV7.GzzHFZdv.dpuf

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#India – Everest Conquerors ,Mountaineers quietly rescuing people in Uttarakhand #mustead

A group of ace climbers, which includes Mt Everest conquerors Bachendri Pal and Premlata Agarwal, have quietly arrived in Uttarkashi from across India ” trekking up to villages where even the Army jawans haven’t reached, providing essential supplies to marooned villagers who have no food, water or power

June 30, 2013
MUMBAI
Dhiman Chattopadhyay, Mid Day

 

They have conquered the highest peaks in the world and maneuvered dangerous gorges, endured heavy snowfall and lack of oxygen. But all that pales in comparison to what they are doing now — helping thousands of stranded, starved and ill villagers of Uttarkashi with food and essential supplies in areas so remote that even the army jawans have failed to make their way to these places.


Mountaineers Bachendri Pal, Premlata Agarwal and their group  managed to reach stranded villagers at Bidsari, Pilang, Jadau and some other places in Uttarakhand. Pics Courtesy/Anusha Subramanian and  Guneet Puri

A small group of ace climbers, led by two women who have conquered Mt Everest, arrived in Uttarkashi last week from all over India to help rescue operations in the flood-ravaged state. Till Saturday evening they had managed to climb up to six ‘unreachable’ villages around Maneri, where over 400 people are without home, food, water and medicine since June 16. On the way, they have also rescued, and guided dozens of dehydrated tourists, ordered to trek over 50 kilometres by jawans who were told to rescue women, children and the elderly first.

Mountaineers Bachendri Pal, Premlata Agarwal
Mountaineers Bachendri Pal, Premlata Agarwal

The group has now sought help from the Tata Relief Trust and several other NGOs to airdrop life-saving materials such as food, medicines, candles, matchboxes, blankets and tents, to these villagers. They are being led by the legendary Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to conquer Mt Everest and Premlata Agarwal the first Indian woman to conquer the highest peaks of all seven continents. Others in the team include journalist and mountaineer Anusha Subramanian, and a team of climbers including Guneet Puri, Yashwant Panwar and Jay Panwar, who were all part of the Mt Thelu expedition.


People wait to be airlifted at Harsil on June 21. Pic Courtesy/Guneet Puri

Hanging on to life
“We have managed to reach stranded villagers at Didsari, Pilang, Jadau and a couple of other places. Most people here are without power, water or a roof over their head. The government has just airdropped packets of biscuits for them to eat. Many of them are suffering from diarrhoea since they are not used to such food. We are trying to help them with food, medicines and some form of shelter,” says Anusha Subramanian, a Mumbai-based journalist and a trained mountaineer who rushed to Uttarkashi after receiving a call from her friends. Subramanian who trained at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering reached Uttarkashi soon.


Many locals in the region are without food, water and their homes. Pic Courtesy/Anusha Subramanian

While Everest conquerer Bachendri Pal, who heads the Tata Adventure Foundation, arrived in Uttarkashi as part of the Tata Relief Trust (TRF) team to spearhead relief operations, she was joined by her friend Premlata Agarwal who holds the twin distinction of being the oldest Indian woman to climb Everest and the first Indian woman to scale the tallest peaks in all seven continents. Subramanian who has several high-altitude treks to her credit, also flew down from Mumbai while mountaineers Puri, Panwar and Tanwar arrived from snow-capped peaks in the upper Himalayas.

Dharali town
A mudslide that ravaged parts of Dharali town. Pic Courtesy/Guneet Puri

Trekking every day for relief operations
According to Subramanian who spoke to SUNDAY MiD Day whenever she and her team were in a zone with mobile connectivity, they have been trekking to different villages every day, taking small supplies of food and medication, as they await choppers from the TRF to arrive with tents, foodgrain, candles and other supplies.


(L-R) Premlata Agarwal, Bachendri Pal, Guneet Puri and Anusha Subramanian along with other members of the group.

“Uttarkashi seems like a ghost town, so different from what I have experienced in the past. The tragedy has many ramifications for locals, the most important being loss of livelihood. Yesterday, we, along with some employees of the NGO Sri Bhuvaneshwari Mahila Ashram (SBMA) and the TRF team, went to assess the situation in the upper reaches of Maneri. These villages have lost their homes and their land,” she said.

A rapid assessment by SBMA shows that Uttarkashi has 120 villages, which have been completely destroyed. There are no roads to connect them to mainland, no electricity and above all no ration to cook food. “This is the third monsoon disaster since 2010 in this region. After the first two disasters, the government identified 250 villages as dangerous but did not take action and relocate villagers,” said a member of the SBMA.

The ace mountaineers are now helping adopt six such villages of New Didsari, Didsari, Pilang, Jadaou, Bayana and Shyaba and provide relief to approximately 400 families. “Bachendri Pal is originally from Uttarakhand. She has personally surveyed some of these villages and along with all of us she is ensuring that relief reaches each and every villager,” says Subramanian.

Ground reality
The team recalled how they were shocked to see the condition at New Didsari, one of the villages they reached. “It has 55 families who have been displaced from their homes and lost everything they had. No medical aid has reached these villages yet. The villagers are sad, disappointed and angry. The bridge that connects their village with the world, has been washed away,” recalled Guneet Puri, who reached Uttarkashi on June 20 after a month in the upper Himalayas attempting to scale a 20,000 feet peak. The other villages, explains Pal, are even more remote. The only way to get to these villagers is through treacherous mountainous routes. Even a helicopter cannot land here and airdropping is the only option after all roads were destroyed. But these bravehearts are not giving up. They are staying put, till the villagers are back on their feet. At a time, when politicians are busy gaining political mileage from this human tragedy, heroes like these men and women are keeping the nation’s flag flying proudly.

‘We met people on the verge of death’
Guneet Puri is yet to come to terms with what has been the biggest mountaineering challenge of her life. The ace mountaineer and her teammates were on their way back from Mt Thelu when they encountered the disaster.
Her account:
We reached Harsil village on June 21. Over 4, 000 people were stranded there. They had all been forced to walk over 50 km since the Army was rescuing children, women and the disabled first. We met people on the verge of exhaustion or death. All of us were carrying between 23 to 30 kilos of equipment with us since we were returning from an expedition. But when we saw the plight of these tourists, we happily carried their luggage with us. In the end, we almost carried some of them, too. By the time we reached Gangani, all our toes has blisters. We could hardly walk. But things were about to get worse. From here to Uttarkashi, entire roads had vanished. We helped hundreds of tourists who had no energy to walk, let alone climb the huge boulders. We rushed a woman to the hospital in Maneri after she fainted. These are my people and we have to take care of them. We are doing what we can. But when I look at the magnitude of the disaster, our efforts seem to insignificant. Still, every drop counts.

 

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#India – The Niyamgiri warrior against Vedanta – Sanjay Parikh #mustread

Aparna Kalra  |  New Delhi  June 15, 2013  BS

Though his case files are stacked across four rooms, Sanjay Parikh, the lawyer who thrust a spoke into India-focused miner Vedanta Resources‘ plans, has ensured each is marked neatly.

“This is the Kalahandi case… this is Basmati rice,” he says, as he hops excitedly from one room to another. These are famous cases – one in which the court, petitioned by Parikh, tracked delivery systems for 10 years to prevent starvation deaths; another through which India gave the US a stinging defeat on patents.

The lawyer behind these cases, however, is known only in select human rights and legal circles. It took this reporter three weeks of calls, doorstepping, and a reference from another lawyer to get an interview with Parikh. “Talk about my cases, but why a profile?” he asks at the eventual interview.

‘A balance is required’
The latest case that put the spotlight on Parikh is that of the Niyamgiri forest, where Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Aluminum Ltd, a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources, tried to mine bauxite for its shut aluminum plant.

On April 18, Parikh’s arguments in favour of the forest dwellers or tribals seemed to have borne fruit. The court said before allowing mining, a village body, or a Gram Sabha, representing these people, should take their opinion. “Many of the scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers are totally unaware of their rights. They also experience a lot of difficulties in obtaining effective access to justice because of their distinct culture and limited contact with mainstream society,” ruled a three-judge Supreme Court bench, asking Vedanta to await a consensus among the forest dwellers.

Odisha, where the Niyamgiri hills are located, represents Vedanta’s supply chain. India has the world’s fifth largest bauxite reserves of 593 million tonnes, the majority of that in Odisha, according to a Reuters report.

The Niyamgiri debate typifies the puzzle India is faced with – how to mine minerals without hurting indigenous rights and harming to the environment. So sharp has been this debate that it has strengthened the armed Naxal movement.

Back in Parikh’s study, in a single row are stacked the files of cases that bring in money. These relate to rent disputes and yes, crime and murder cases. However, it is clear the lawyer’s heart lies elsewhere. “Somewhere, a balance is required,” says Parikh, 54, talking about the cases he is paid for, as well as his other work. “Those who are coming to you and can pay, you must ask them to pay.”

Among Parikh’s high-impact cases is one where he assisted noted lawyer Indira Jaising in arguments that led to the Supreme Court implementing a ban on use of ultrasound technology to determine the sex of foetuses. A chunk of his cases were those in which he represented environmental activists. “Sanjay has committed himself totally to defending the public interest. He represented the first case the research foundation (Research Foundation on Science, Technology and Ecology) fought to stop Monsanto’s illegal field trials of GMOs (genetically modified organisms),” says Vandana Shiva, an activist who has campaigned against patenting of seeds.

Dharma
Parikh says he was influenced into working on cases voluntarily and without payments during his training as a law intern. Born into an ordinary railway employee’s family from Rajasthan, he graduated in law from Agra University, before being selected to intern with former Supreme Court judge S Rangarajan in 1982. During the period of Emergency, Rangarajan had overturned the arrest of journalist Kuldip Nayyar. Parikh says he learnt moral courage from his mentor.

“I was quite clear there had to be a purpose to life,” says Parikh. “There is in the profession what you call dharma … (by which) the profession is a way of life.”

Parikh, whose two sons are also lawyers, admits it is not easy to comprehend the impact of a law his argument helped draft, or follow-through on its implementation. However, sometimes, one can take the next step, such as action against online advertisements on sex determination by pre-natal clinics based abroad, but targeting Indian parents.

Senior advocate
K K Venugopal, who argued for Vedanta, says of Parikh: “He has been doing a lot of pro bono work. I know that I have been seeing him appear in a number of environment cases… He was not the main opposing counsel. He was one of the main ones. I was opposed by the Union of India, so the solicitor general was appearing… Prashant Bhushan was there. Parikh was there, and played a fairly significant part.”

Parikh’s argument was one of the countervailing arguments in the case – Vedanta and the state of Odisha argued in favour of the mining project. The Indian government, represented by the solicitor general, opposed the project, as did Parikh.


Significant cases
Mandatory declaration of assets and criminal record by a candidate filing nomination as Member of Parliament or Member of Legislative Assembly (In 2003, challenging Union of India)

Petition in 1995, challenging dumping of toxic waste, including ship-breaking activities. SC did not ban the entry of toxic ships into Indian waters, but said prior informed consent was necessary. It set the ball rolling for monitoring toxic waste, including that in Bhopal (challenging Union of India and Gujarat maritime board, a ship-breaking company)

Petition in 1998 challenging field trials of genetically modified Bt cotton. Field trials were stayed a few years, but India planted more than 10 million hectares of genetically modified cotton in 2011 (challenging Union of India and Mahyco, which had an association with Monsanto, the world’s largest seeds company)

 

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Babu Bokhariya, minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet, convicted for illegal mining

Edited by Shamik Ghosh | Updated: June 15, 2013 , NDTV

 Babu Bokhariya, minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet, convicted for illegal mining
AhmedabadBabu Bokhariya, a senior minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet in Gujarat, has been convicted for illegal mining. He has been taken into custody.

Mr Bokhariya, who is Gujarat’s water resource minister, along with three others, has been sentenced to three years of imprisonment by a sessions court.

The three others convicted in the case are former MP Bharat Odedara, Bhima Dula and Laxman Dula. They all were accused of illegal mining of limestone from the land where Saurashtra Chemicals Limited holds mining rights.

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“ Narendra Modi’s claims are full of untruths”

SUJAY MEHDUDIA, The Hindu, June 12, 2013

Anand Sharma. File photo

The HinduAnand Sharma. File photo

The Gujarat Chief Minister was not a leader who would unite the Indian polity, but a divisive leader and a fountainhead of communalism, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma says.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is an arrogant man who has mastered the art of using untruths and half truths to his advantage and making sensational claims, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said on Tuesday. Mr. Modi was not a leader who would unite the Indian polity, but a divisive leader and a fountainhead of communalism, he told The Hindu here.

Mr. Sharma said the recent developments in the BJP were its internal problem. If anyone believed the Congress was worried, it was totally misplaced. “I think those who actually need to worry are the senior leaders within his party and the constituents of the NDA. He has been given a position by a divided party which is in disarray and rudderless.’’

Mr. Modi was a leader who beat his own trumpet. His sycophants too were busy beating drums, unmindful of the reality around them. “It is shocking that Mr. Modi could resort to such lies and mislead the people with claims that fall flat on their face when put to scrutiny. His claims on developments in Gujarat are full of untruths. What I am giving are official figures and not something manufactured as Mr. Modi does all the time.”

Gujarat was way behind Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh or even West Bengal in access to safe drinking water. Gujarat led the national average with a 25.66 per cent school drop out rate, well above States like West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura and Sikkim. In literacy, Gujarat was way behind States like Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Manipur. The percentage of people living below the poverty line stood at 31.8 per cent in Gujarat as compared to 29.9 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, 24.1 per cent in Haryana and 19.7 per cent in Kerala. Infant morality rate was 44 per cent in Gujarat compared to 30 per cent in Delhi, 13 per cent in Kerala, 28 per cent in Maharashtra, 14 per cent in Manipur and 24 per cent in Tamil Nadu. What kind of development model was this, he asked.

Mr. Sharma said he was astonished when Mr. Modi talked about the State attracting the highest foreign direct investment (FDI). He gave out highly inflated figures every time. The Reserve Bank of India statistics from March 2000 to March 2013 painted a very different picture.

From May 1999 to April 2004, when NDA was in power, the country attracted $25 billion in FDI. During May 2004 to April 2013 of UPA rule, the country attracted $265 billion. According to figures given by RBI regional offices for the period April 2000 to March 2013, Mumbai emerged on top with $63 billion. Delhi got $36 billion plus, Chennai $11.08 billion and Bangalore around $10 billion. Gujarat got $8.6 billion in 13 years, he said.

 

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#India – There is a need to dismantle the UID Project, the NPR, the CMS, #Aadhaar

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India’s IT Min of State Milind Deora’s Thinks The CMS (India’s PRISM) Is “A Good Tool”

 

 

 

 

 

By  on Jun 11th, 2013  |  medianama.com

 

 
 

Milind Deora, India’s Minister of State for IT thinks that the Central Monitoring System (CMS), which is essentially India’s version of PRISM, “is a good tool” which will “ensure and protect your privacy”. On a Google Hangout last week with him, I asked Deora about the IT Act, the IT Rules, India’s Identity project (Aadhaar), and the CMS and other systems the Indian government is setting up for tracking SMS, GPRS usage, Phone Calls, Location, and what users are accessing and downloading. Please note that this was held a day before the disclosures around PRISM.

 

For those unable to view the video, Deora said that no law is perfect, there are issues with implementation, they’re open to suggestions, but above all, Deora said – bizarrely – that the CMS is being set up to safeguard our privacy from mobile operators,and protects the national security of the country. He said that with processes set up, the officer in charge will not have access to information, politicians will not get access. He did not respond to the question on India’s privacy law.

Apart from that, Deora said I’m misinformed. The context of my questions:

1. India’s IT Act, it’s Section 66a and IT Rules are draconian, the government has promised to amend them (read this), but kept deferring making any changes, despite the issue being taken up by a committee (read this) and Parliament (read thisthis and these notes on a live discussion), and a public interest litigation (read this). They’ve issued an advisory on Section 66a (read this), a clarification on the IT Rules which wasn’t enough (read this) but the law and the rules remain draconian, and susceptible to misuse. The IT Ministry has the power to change the rules, but hasn’t done it so far. In fact, like Deora in the Q&A, it has defended its rules (read this). We’ve repeatedly pointed towards the need for transparency and specificity (read this) as a solution. Despite Deora giving assurances about there being rigor in finalizing the IT Act, it was passed without debate, a knee-jerk reaction in an atmosphere of fear (read this).

One common refrain from this government (and Deora in this Q&A) has been that they’ve used wordings from international laws to draft Indian laws – that is true but misleading because it’s easy to choose selectively to remove safeguards; laws need to be looked at in their totality, not just sentence by sentence.

2. India is setting up a Central Monitoring system (read this) for tracking what we say or text over the phone, write, post or browse over the Internet, getting direct access from telecom operators and ISPs. Last year, we had reported on a home ministry tender for the same (read this). In 2011, we found a Tender Document from the Delhi Police which had details of setting up the CMS (read this)

3. The Mumbai Police has set up a social media monitoring cell, which, strangely, has been tracking torrents (read this).

5. Aadhaar, India’s not quite flawless (read this) unique identity project, created circumventing Parliament as per a Parliamentary committee (read this) will eventually link all your databases together, across government services, and what is worse, the data will be given to private companies – National Information Utilities, with 51% private ownership – read this.

6. All of this is being done before India has passed a Privacy law (read this), and even if a Privacy law does come into place, how safe do you feel, and how likely do you think the government executives, to not circumvent the law, or create loopholes that they can use?

My contention is that there is a legal and technological framework for surveillance that is being created and deployed right now without proper approval of Parliament, and without Parliamentarians in India paying adequate attention to it. Having technological infrastructure is not enough – they can and will be circumvented.

Having legal safeguards is not enough – even if laws are put into place, the government will create loopholes because they want this power (look at the IT Rules and Aadhaar). You can really rely on the government or the police to abuse the power that they give themselves (read this). What prevents the government in power from harassing individuals who challenge them (including those from opposition parties) on the basis of National Security? Where does National Security end and Government Security begin, and what do we do about a trigger-happy CERT-IN blocking dissent without any transparency?

You decide – am I misinformed, or is Milind Deora misinformed or misleading?

The Only Solution

The only solution is what the UK did with its Identity project (read this): dismantle these projects, no matter how much money has been spent on them, because the risks to civil liberties is too great. There is a need to dismantle the UID Project, the National Population Register, the Central Monitoring System, change the IT Act and IT Rules, and create a privacy law. It is also bizarre for Deora to suggest that information which the government has access to through mobile networks and ISPs will not also be available these service providers.

So, Milind, I do not agree that this monitoring should be, as you said, “the exclusive domain of the government”, because I don’t trust the law enforcement agencies, this government and the governments to follow.

We’d be happy to publish a response to this post, if you wish to clarify further.

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Google chief Larry Page calls Internet spying threat to freedoms #FOE #Censorship

AFP: SAN FRANCISCO, JUN 08 2013, 10:13 IST
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Google chief Larry Page branded Internet spying a threat to freedom and called for governments to be more revealing about what they try to find out about people’s online activities. 

“We understand that the US and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety – including sometimes by using surveillance,” Page said in a blog post yesterday.

“But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”

Page put his personal stamp on the California-based Internet giant’s denial that it opened any doors for US intelligence agencies to mine data from its servers.

Google and other technology firms on Thursday were adamant that they did not knowingly take part in a secret program called PRISM that gave the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI back doors into servers at major Internet companies.

“We have not joined any program that would give the US government or any other government direct access to our servers,” Page said.

“Indeed, the US government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers,” he continued. “We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.”

The program was reportedly set up in 2007 and has grown “exponentially” to the point where it is now the most prolific contributor to President Barack Obama’s Daily Brief, the US leader’s top-secret daily intelligence briefing.

Some of the biggest firms in Silicon Valley were involved in the program, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, PalTalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube, reports said.

However, Internet titans denied providing intelligence agencies with back doors to networks and held firm that they only cooperated with legal “front door” requests for information.

“This episode confirms what we have long believed – there needs to be a more transparent approach,” Page said.

Google routinely publishes transparency reports listing numbers of requests for user data by governments and how they were handled.

 

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