Weekly Roundup: Get On Yer Bike, 420 Sarkar? Indianising Twitter

The answer to exorbitant fuel prices, some say daylight robbery, is simple. Get on your bike! So says the BJP energy minister from Madhya Pradesh. He has seriously advised his fellow Madhya Prades  waasis to ride the bike to the vegetable market when getting Gobi, Aloo, Onion and Bataun, also at world beating prices. Most people can only buy one aloo or onion at today’s prices. ‘It will keep you fit’, he said and ‘save money’.

Fitness man Pardhuman Singh Tomar assured the cynics that he does a lot of walking. One imagines that this is possibly walking around in circles in the office thinking out solutions to the petrol price hikes by his masters in Delhi. Indian petrol and diesel prices have overtaken USA fuel prices (at least one area in which India is ahead of Americans) and catching up with prices in the old colonial masters, United Kingdom. Clearly after miles of walking around the office table and wearing out his shoes, Tomar got the ‘eureka’ moment. ‘Get on yer bike!’ And he then said he does a lot of biking.

Never having met or seen Tomar going to work, the imagination goes a bit wild. Does Tomar put the VVIP flashing red light blaring, peep, peep, peep, peep, on the crown of his head strapped with a plastic stretchable strap with ‘BJP saviour of the ordinary people’ written on it while riding on his bike to work? He can’t put it on the handle because not many people will notice it.

What about all those security police cars? Is there one ahead of him and one behind him as he cycles to work and saves on fuel on the state exchequer? Or has the DGP of Madhya Pradesh put together a special cycle division with lathis, lights and guns all included in a rucksack to escort him to work?

It could catch on. How clean Delhi will be if Modi ji, Shah ji and the rest of the cabinet all cycle to everywhere with red lights flashing. They could put the red light on a dhanda (wooden stick) tied to the bike. It’s the best answer to choking pollution, avoiding Government overspend and saving on fuel to spend the money on the people in big ‘I love Modi’ rallies. Tomar did say, the extra tax is spent to support the poor. It wasn’t clear whether he meant poor as ‘badly paid Netas’ or as in ordinary Garib Janta.

420 Sarkar?

Meanwhile another enterprising citizen has filed a case of fraud against the National Energy Minister! Now that is a novelty. Fraud in India and by the Government? Anyone hear of that?

There is a logic to the charge. The Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, said with a straight face that the rise in Petroleum prices was due to global crude prices. Patiently he explained “There has been a jump in crude oil prices in the international market. One of the main reasons behind the rise in fuel prices in India is that we have to import 80% of the oil we consume”.

One bright citizen, Tamanna Hashmi, did a quick calculation and probably thought, ‘fraud is being done on citizens’.

When crude was double the current price, Indian oil was less than half the current prices. Crude had reached $130 a barrel in 2008. It is now $65 when Pradhan made his statement.  A barrel of oil has around 160 litres or 42 Gallons of oil. In 2008, the price of oil in India was Rs 45 a litre (when crude was $130) and is now Rs 100 (when crude is $65)

In this country of great noble prize winning mathematicians and a country which invented the number system, Tamanna must have thought. ‘Umm this does not make sense, even my maths does not add up’.

So he has filed a case calling Pradhan that ultimate Indian character assassination, ‘Char so bees’ that is 420. He has sought the trial of Pradhan under IPC sections 420 (fraud) and 295 A (pertaining to deliberate malicious acts) and 511, (attempt to commit offence).

One can imagine the magistrate thinking. ‘aarre which Indian politician is not Char so bees; which country are you living in, why are you wasting court time!’ but obviously dare not say.

Hashmi has also alleged that the prices of petrol have left the people of the country “terrorised” and “enraged”. Perhaps there is no legal protection against being enraged , just see how politicians raise their fists in election rallies, but Pradhan and his boss Modi could be sought by Hashmi under UAPA (1967) for terrorising people. Now that would be a first even in India.

Indianising Twitter

The difference between the unelected Communist Government of China and the democratic government of India is the language in which the two make similar policies look so different.

When China took exception to social media, such as twitter, Whatsapp etc, it crossed its eyebrows, went red in the face and said, “We are sovereign and we will decide what limits freedom of speech people will have”.  So Twitter and Facebook and others were simply kicked out. China showed it was tough, dictatorial and draconian with people’s choices. In the west, China got a really bad press for all these statements. Even now western press says ‘China where political expression is curtailed etc’ and cite Facebook, Twitter bans.

India is a bit more polished. The Modi government wants to stop critique and criticism of its policies. That’s a bit undemocratic in a country which has been selling itself as the ‘largest democracy’ to the western powers. The west is forever evangelically wishful. All a country has to say is, ‘we have democracy, we believe in equal rights and we have an independent judiciary’, and the west will become a patron. It doesn’t matter that it is a flawed democracy with no protection for minorities, caste reigns high and the judiciary even at the highest level is State appointed. Just say the right words and the right buttons get pressed in the west.

So the very clever Indian minister for Electronics and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, has decided to curtail twitter with words that find so much empathy with the west and has put twitter in a corner. “India, being a democracy, allows complete freedom to ask questions. Let me categorically say at this platform, that they can criticise Ravi Shankar Prasad, they can criticise my Prime Minister, they can ask questions and these big tech companies are having big business in India”.

So where is the problem? Prasad then went onto say, But twitter in India is not in USA!

“Some of them say that we are bound by American laws…You operate in India, you make money in India, you have good ad revenue in India, but if you take the position that I will only be governed by laws of America…This is plainly not acceptable,” he said.

Prasad further said: “You are free to do your business in India but you have to be accountable to India’s Constitution and its laws… You have to have a harmonious relationship with the autonomy of these digital platforms and obligations of an independent, sovereign nation like India.”

And what is the minister alluding to? It is about ‘misinformation, fake news, colluded materials posing as challenges’. Colluded material posing as challenges is quite an open area to cage freedoms of expression. Clearly not the words of Prasad ji.

Anything said against Modi ji could be ‘misinformation’ any thing criticising Government policy on well-argued grounds could be ‘fake news’ and anything said unflattering about Hindutva or Government in general could be ‘colluded material posing as challenges’. Twitter has met its hubris of freedom pitted against the Indian Babu.

Ingenious defence. In India you will be subject to Indian laws and not assume American laws. And what are Indian laws? Find out in the independent courts that can easily drag you for a century before finally deciding. By that time twitter will have gone into liquidation and son of twitter may be tripping the world.

The issue is not what Indian constitution says, but how the constitution is interpreted by the Government and a well heeled judiciary. It is how misinformation, fake news, colluded materials posing as challenges is interpreted.  Chinese PR can learn a lot from Indian politicians or hire an Indian Babbu.

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