Monday, February 28, 2011

Does the recently solved imbroglio relating to myriad corruption scandals serve any constructive purpose?

The last parliamentary session held from 9th Nov to 13th Dec, 2010 ended with zero business – no meaningful business being done. The opposition stalled the proceedings of both the Houses reiterating its demand for high level probe on multi-crore scams that were disclosed in the run up to the session. While the govt. tried its best to find a middle way that could be a face-saver, the rigid opposition didn’t let it happen. And as the session ended without any work done, it was all over the media highlighting the irresponsibleness of our polity. This unprecedented event in the parliamentary history, a full session resulting in no work, has triggered a very relevant question about “who is a dutiful opposition”, “what all can a dutiful opposition do”.

As we ponder over it, it will be helpful to keep in mind the mentality the ruling side and the opposition parties have. No ruling party will ever be willing to be held at ransom by the opposition. The sense of ego is very strong in all political parties especially when the stage is hallows of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. And this ego comes in way of any attempt to exploit or manipulate the weak footing of the either side. This is what happened precisely this time. After the high level scams in CWG and Telecom had been revealed, everyone was quite dejected and disappointed by the functioning of the govt. The public sentiment was against the govt. and any move to make the govt. accountable would have gained massive public support. In a bid to capitalise on this, the over-zealous opposition decided to place its demand for a JPC probe into the scams, whose instances are rare and few in the history. Obviously the govt. wasn’t going to easily budge on this as it feared this might be portrayed as a victory for the opposition. And this turned the session, which was supposed to handle serious business, into a stalemate.

It is interesting but difficult to pinpoint the right and wrong in this episode. The basic idea or what superficially looked like behind the opposition demand was to find the real king-pins of the scams. When this demand came out it was being anticipated and, rightly so, that the govt. will not agree and it didn’t. Seeing the session go waste didn’t make the either side to try and salvage it. Waste of the working hours and the public money was the result of the session and not by any standards it can be termed as constructive.

Righting a wrong by committing other wrongs can’t be justified at all and this is what has happened. Playing negative politics and paralysing the Parliament in the name of public outrage isn’t constructive and is a preliminary symptom of the deadly disease of anarchy. Our nation which symbolises a functioning and healthy democracy world over, has undoubtedly been let down by this disrespect shown to the highest institution. No doubt this has set a dangerous precedent for future budding politicians - that they can hold to ransom the Parliament of the biggest democracy in the world, for any demand whatsoever. Issues on which no consensus have been between the ruling and the ruled have been many and will be many in the years to come, but it shouldn’t pave the way for anarchy to prevail. Demand for a JPC probe wasn’t that big that the govt. couldn’t accommodate. And paralysing the parliament was never considered as a ‘Chankaya-sque’ tactic. Both the govt. and the opposition were party to the belittling of our constitutional ideals.

India is still a young democracy and such mistakes can’t be afforded to repeat themselves. It would be better if people and the media convey this message to the Delhi durbar that such incidents are simply unacceptable. Undesirable disruptions and repeated adjournments have become the norm over the past few years and it is time to encourage and enforce better standards of public behaviour from The Elected.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Diaspora - Thinking Big??

As Facebook continues to engulf user after user throughout the world and with no competitor in near sight, four computer science students from New York University: Daniel Grippi, Maxwell Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, and Ilya Zhitomirskiy have come up with a revolutionary idea which can well go on to be the “next Facebook”. Facebook has been facing lot of issues with privacy and how the information posted can be misused. This has given rise to “Anti-Facebook” kind of a movement which consists of people (usually paranoid) who eye these privately owned social networking platforms as a threat to their privacy. Maybe such sentiments were behind the idea of Diaspora. Now what Diaspora aims to do is to hand the control to the user about the information he shares online.

Diaspora will be an open-source and ‘privacy aware’, distributed social network where users interact directly without the need to hand over the messages to a central hub. The network would consist of individual nodes called ‘seeds’ which would be owned and operated by the users of the network. Each seed will accumulate all the online information of the user and interact with other seeds by “friending” them. Users will be expected to install the Diaspora on their machines (or a pay and activate scheme for non-technical users) and choose the settings they are comfortable with it.

The underlying principle of Diaspora dashes Mark Zuckerberg’s theory that sharing of information and privacy are mutually exclusive things. It will be interesting to see how people react to the idea of having more control over their information especially at a time when analysts have envisioned an era of over-sharing. So far the Diaspora team has received a warm response. The team managed to raise $200,000 on a fund-raising site Kickstarter (initial target was only $10,000!!) and there is a lot of buzz about it in the tech-world. The idea was so appealing that founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg decided to fund the four students amidst all the flak that the project has received.

A lot of tech analysts claim Diaspora has striking resemblance with Appleseed Project, a falied 2005 project with similar aims shelved due to lack of funding. Maybe the word “seed” has been derived from it. Another big point is that how many users will actually take the trouble to install Diaspora on their machines considering the vast majority of users who aren’t tech savvy. Still some progress has been made. The developers code was released on Sept. 15 this year and the fate of Diaspora will be known when the consumer alpha is out later this year.