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Mumbai, 25th January, 2017: Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG) was caught with its hands in the proverbial cookie jar, and that too by the Supreme Court! R-ADAG tried to twist the terms of its Power Purchase Agreement with seven states, and make a profit of well over Rs 1,000/- crore by making the states count one day as one year (31st March 2013 is the previous financial year, and 1st April 2013 is the next financial year. Get it?) And moreover, when All Indian Power Engineers' Federation (AIPEF) blew the whistle and prevented it, R-ADAG tried to sue AIPEF's office-bearers for damages of Rs 1,000 crore! Ulta chor kitwal ko dante!

The true significance of Supreme Court’s 8th December 2016 judgment on Reliance's Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) Commercial Operation Date (COD) has gone unreported. Mainstream media has avoided reporting important thing, namely:

1) By exploiting a loophole in the Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) signed with seven states of India, Reliance Power wanted to hugely overcharge them. Madhya Pradesh, where the power project is located, would have had to pay over Rs 400 crore extra to Sasan Power Ltd. based on their false claim that Unit 3 of the UMPP started commercial operations on March 31, 2013. (Counting interest costs, the impact on MP would be around Rs 450 crore.) The PPA specifies that power is to be supplied @70 paise per unit for the first two years, and hiked up to Rs 1.31 per unit from the third year. But, if Reliance Power’s claim of March 31, 2013 as the commercial operations date (COD) were to be accepted by the seven power-purchasing states, then the first year of power purchase would be only one day long, i.e. starting on 31st March, 2013 and ending on April 1, 2013. Such a stand would enable Sasan to start charging the higher power tariff of Rs 1.31 per unit from April 1, 2014, instead of April 1, 2015. This would have resulted in a wrongful gain of Rs 1050 crore to Sasan Power Ltd, coming out of the pocket of the Indian power consumer and taxpayer.

2) Moreover, were such a claim to be accepted, it would have also resulted in incalculable loss to the nation in terms of power-generation, as it would have removed all the deadlines and left Sasan Power Ltd. under no pressure to fully operationalize Unit 3 in a time-bound manner. On 31st March 2013, Unit 3 was functioning at a mere 17% of demand. The unit became fully operational and achieved the capacity to fulfill 95% demand only in August 2013. If 31st March were considered the start of the COD by waiving this condition, it is possible and even likely that the date on which 95% demand capacity was achieved would have been pushed back even further. The heart of the PPA is the condition that Unit 3 had to be functioning at over 95% of demand, for the Commercial Operation Date to commence. By seeking to subvert the heart of the contract, R-ADAG betrayed its profiteering tendencies, and its willingness to sacrifice the safety and well-being of the national grid.

3) Sasan Power would have got away with looting India, were it not for the persistent efforts of All Indian Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), spearheaded by its chief patron Er. Padamjit Singh of Delhi and Er. Shailendra Dubey of Lucknow.  It is heartening to see the activist spirit with which this professional body defended the national interest before the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and its Appellate Tribunal, and before the higher judiciary.

4) Sasan Power Limited tried to misuse Bombay High Court as a forum to intimidate AIPEF to prevent it from pursuing the matter before appropriate forums, including higher judiciary. It malafidely tried to get an injunction from Bombay High Court in August 2016 for muzzling and stalling AIPEF, and claiming damages of Rs 1,000/- crore, although the same matter was already reaching Supreme Court in Appeal.

5) There is significance in the fact that prominent Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram, in their capacity as senior advocates, attempted to defend the indefensible. This helps to remind the public that Anil Ambani has friends on both sides of the political fence. No matter who wins elections – BJP or Congress – big money wins every time. The Congress camp may shout from rooftops that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is protecting the business interests of the “two brothers”, but one must bear in mind that Congress leaders also have their interests at heart.

Krishnaraj Rao

Posted in Public Interest by
Sulaiman Bhimani


The Guwahati gang molestation shocked the Nation with the usual monthly fury. How can men behave like animals? Women are not safe anymore and such talk abounded. Lot of moral outrage. In other news, there was a group of people criticizing the NCW team for posing for a picture where they are smiling and look carefree. In still other news, there was a bunch of people passing around an image compiled from Sagarika's tweets on the subject pointing out to how her views changed. I had my usual trolls lampooning me over whatever views of mine offended them. Life went on.

In my view, our online life is a good example and predictor of our offline life. Our minds are the same, our personalities are the same, and our default responses to situations are the same. It is only the medium that has changed, and the actions. One may not be able to molest a woman online, but they sure can jeer, make sexual innuendos, or otherwise bully her. Last week someone wanted me raped for something I said. A couple of months back, someone had said that to Meena Kandasamy and triggered a women's rights signature campaign. Generally, I find that if anyone threatens rape, then people kind of throw disapproval at that person till he changes his words or they get bored. The objection is to the threat of rape, not to the use of threats to try and silence someone.

I am small fry. Some of the most hated/ridiculed men on Twitter are Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Subramanian Swamy, Arnab Goswami and Kapil Sibal for men.  Some of the most hated/ridiculed women on Twitter are Sonia Gandhi, Barkha Dutt, Arundhati Roy, Teesta Setalvad and Sagarika Ghose. It is worth keeping an eye on tweets about these people to see the kind of abuse they get. Abuse for men is related with judgments of their competence or crimes as per whatever the abuser imagines. On the other hand, abuse women get routinely slips into the sexual. "Spreads her legs for XYZ" "Should be raped" "prostitute" etc. The other thing I notice is that the abuse is rarely over anything these people did to individuals speaking, but by being themselves. They are also highly popular figures with large followings appreciating what they do.

In my view, the idea that someone did something offensive giving the right to anyone to attack them is very IT Rulesish. I am not speaking of criticism, but of deliberate character assassinations that go beyond objections to the actions or stands of a person to vilify the person him/herself. So, calling Modi a mass murderer makes perfect sense to people, because they think he is guilty of sanctioning the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Whether he actually killed anyone or not. Incidentally, the same people will not call Rajiv Gandhi a mass murder, if sanction is the reason. This is not to excuse crimes by anyone including Modi, but pointing out the permission we give ourselves to attack another at will.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never kill me.

This above line is a lie. Physical violence happens with blows and weapons, but mental violence happens with words, attitudes and destroying reputations. Destroyed reputations are the reasons for a lot of real damage ranging from depression and destroyed self-esteem to honor killings and suicides. The hatred I see online would likely not see this as a minus at all, but call it a confirmation of guilt. Because the intent is to cause damage to that person to whatever extent they can.

I have taken a strong stand against domestic violence and alcoholism and often tweet real life incidents from my own life as well as others I come across, because I think these things need spoken about. I have often got replies like "her husband doesn't beat her enough" or "publicizing domestic problems to gain sympathy" etc. While the first seems openly offensive, the second is criticism aimed at devaluing my right to speak about my life however I want. It also makes the suggestion that a domestic violence victim getting sympathy is somehow inappropriate. I am extraordinarily resilient when it comes to trouble, but attitudes like this in society are a very common part of suicides from harassment, where the victim gets victimized for being a victim or drawing attention to herself.

The same society then looks at a body dangling from a ceiling and says sorrowfully, "Why didn't he say anything?"

What do we do when he did say something? Call it inappropriate and his personal problem. We are a society intolerant of mistakes, weaknesses and imperfections. These usually invite attacks, because we fear our own vulnerability. We don't accept ourselves, so it makes react with intolerance to others. We band together with those with "faults" like ours and be a mob denying that the trait is a fault at all. We mob together to attack our traits that we deny. We wipe out anything that will force us to look good and hard at ourselves unless denied.

Now let us look at a third thing. The popcorn gallery. Countless incidents have demonstrated that the crowd that gathers watching a wrong happen either support the abuser, or stay quiet. What happens online? If you see someone call Sonia Gandhi a whore on Twitter? The chances are high that the tweet will get a lot of RTs and those who disagree will simply ignore the people. If one person attacks another unfairly on Twitter, the chances are high that most people following both will pretend not to see anything. At most, they will tell them not to fight. The chances that an abuser online will be stopped by a crowd are the same as those in real life. Slim to none.

I have a simple policy of refusing to participate in discussions attacking people. I also never block people. I don't need to. refusals work well. Most people no longer tag me while insulting someone. It is not impossible to refuse to allow attacks to happen in the space you influence. It is about intent. I do it in real life too. It is not enough.

This, in my view mental violence destroying the space to live at all in the country, because disagreement becomes a question of who can overpower the other. This is happening in real life too. People with power can invade the rights of others and the popcorn gallery is used to it. The surprise is if the less powerful resist. If instead of getting molested, the girl had fought back and escaped, the video would be a characterless girl on the streets of Guwahati who brazenly attacked people and ran away. For a wrong against her to be objected to, she first has to suffer "enough". The wrong being done in itself wouldn't matter. Because we are a mindset of throwing crumbs of support if a plight seems horrible enough. We are not about values and ethics and individual rights regardless of caste, creed and gender.

The mass molestation in Guwahati got a lot of attention, but not the fact that the girl was an Adivasi girl. My hunch is because she got more publicity than Adivasi girls get normally. Media probably didn't want to jinx that. The reason may not be true, but it is true that the girl is an adivasi and most news haven't bothered to report that. Also, good in another view, I think, because a girl outside a pub gets more defenders than the adivasi girl stripped in some village. Like there are people who think only prostitutes go to pubs, there are others who find the rights of innocent pub going girls more touching than those of adivasis. The good old PLU preference is very strong when it comes to doling out approval for rights of people.

All in all, it is high time we accept that we are living in a world we create. We are the victim, we are the molesters, we are the popcorn gallery.

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Dear Sir,

I wish to write to you on an issue of vital interest to our country, the freedom of speech on the internet. We have a sizable population on the internet, and it is slated to grow phenomenally within the next decade. I don't presume to speak about things you know better than I do, our constitution, our laws. Instead, I would like to draw your attention to the value of freedom of speech, something that has captured imaginations over the ages, always. Free Speech is something that has made heroes out of ordinary men for simply standing for it, because it holds value to populations.

Today, our country is in a precarious condition. There are concerns on every possible front from economy to human rights. We have let our country deteriorate to the point where there is frustration in the population. This frustration emerges as angry speech. There is a movement in the government to strangle the emerging flood of criticism.

I wish to make a case that freedom of speech is vital to the health of a society and to strangle it is worse than the evils of allowing it voice. Worse for the people, worse for the government, worse for the country as a whole. Blocked, anger can only accumulate out of sight and explode in unpredictable ways.

Where there are people, there are differences. A fundamental of co-existence is the ability to negotiate these differences and move from polarization to a shared objective, however minor. Be it a couple in a marriage, political parties in the parliament, or people with different fundamental views on things on the internet. These negotiations are a case of learning, and like all learning, don't emerge perfect. The internet is not a special case in this regard, though it is being specially targeted.

The internet is particularly well suited to accommodate differences. The ability to choose what we see is of enormous significance. To object to the very existence of any content not palatable, when it can easily be avoided is intolerance.

This, when it happens among random netizens is the equivalent of children fighting over something. They figure it out with time, they settle down. There are people offended, sure. But they learn to handle that, just like we learn in real life. We are all the more mature for it. In the process of interacting about some subject, we are also learning the principles of interaction on the internet itself.  But once there is the expectation that offensive content will not be allowed, then offensive content starts seeming like an injustice. Till then, it is simply something ugly to be avoided. Allowing the use of the law as a weapon against another citizen may serve a political class rooted in taking advantage of differences rather than bridging them or other criminals who prefer misuse of power over accountability, but it is always citizens being hurt.

In a democracy, unaccountable power with a few people is far more worrisome than people offending each other. Yet, there are relentless efforts in that direction. Every few months, our Minister Kapil Sibal comes up with a new rabbit out of the same hat. Sometimes over terrorism, other times over religious offense, but any statistics of use that we do have indicate political censorship, which has to date never been openly given as the reason. Increasingly, the methods are being designed to operate under radars.

Today, we are seeing increasing and unpredictable censorship. Be it cartoonists being arrested, cartoon websites being banned, cartoons to be removed from text books, or the infamous IT Rules, which give anyone the power to censor content on the internet, bypassing not only any court of law, but any authority whatsoever. This has to be the singular application of law in our country where it is impossible to collect any reliable statistics on its use, because it touches no government body of any kind in its application. There is no way of saying if this law is useful, how it is useful, how much it is used, or how it is used unless the law actually gets defied. In other words, people will have to flaunt the law of the land if they even want to escape being wrongly targeted.

That is, if they actually fight being victimized at all. A simple research project by CIS-India showed that not only were wrongful takedown requests complied with, in six out of seven cases, they were over complied with. The common man has been left high and dry by a legal process designed to create that. It defies every explanation of democracy.

Another example exists on this blog itself. I had written a post about scams in sailing. A whole range of small but profuse evasions of dues to the country over a long period of time. It was based on documents obtained through RTIs. I received a notice pointing out minor inaccuracies and blatant false claims. I corrected any inaccuracies immediately, but the very next day I received a second notice, this time as the owner of the blog to take down the content through the IT Rules. Now, as the author of the blog, I am not an intermediary. The notice wanted me to take down the post on charges of defamation. It was printed on a letter head with the names of seven advocates on it. I am a mother with a special needs child, no income, and on the verge of divorce. I have no money to hire a lawyer and fight for my ACCURATE content in courts. I have no way to know how a judge would view this, or any authority laying standards on what is allowed and what is not.

My missing post will not be recorded anywhere as a use of the law. There is nowhere to record. The procedure is intended completely among citizens. It needs no claims or even intent for justice. Vague terminology like "offensive" or "harmful" or "defamatory" is enough. Your guess is as good as mine what anyone will find offensive or harmful, and how much speech will be wiped off from the public domain silently. It isn't defamation, if I can prove it right, but unless proven right, what is it? This naturally suits a political class intent on censorship without dirtying their hands. However, this is not in the interests of fundamental rights of the people. A person should not require to afford lawyers in order to protect their words. It is the opposite of free speech.

To the cohesive growth of any society, dialogue is important. Offense, negotiation, accommodation, compromise are all important. Without these, there are no bonds formed. There may be a superficial silence, but it is one of lack of any communication rather than harmony. When there is conflict, it is likely to become a question of one upsmanship rather than a solution seeking process. This requires greater and greater applications of power. In essence, democracy becomes slave to power. To a diverse country like India, this arbitrary handover of control over the citizen's voice is a recipe for disaster. In the short term, it may allow power holders to score cheap points through politics of "saving honor". In the long run, the country will be dishonored.

As the foundations of democracy itself are being bulldozed by one pillar intended to uphold it, it falls upon the other pillars to stand firm for the survival of all. It is my humble request to you to join us in our fight in restoring the right to have a voice to the common man. To do everything in your power to see that the IT Rules are overturned, and while that happens, to at least add an expectation that before finding something problematic, a minimal effort was made to avoid it at the very least.

Thanking you for your attention,



English: Kapil Sibal, Union minister in Minist...
English: Kapil Sibal, Union minister in Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences in the Cabinet of India, at the 2007 World Economic Forum on Africa, June 13-15, Cape Town (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Censorship is a continuous thing. It isn’t something you can (or would want to) eradicate completely. A mind that stops at nothing only rambles meaninglessly with every stray thought. At the same time, censorship becoming rampant puts people into increasingly narrow tunnels of what is allowed. Where the awareness of the world itself shrinks and our understanding, experience and tolerance with it.

Censorship is a subtle thing in the sense that it operates out of sight, out of awareness, and taking things out of our world makes it really easy for any brief spurts of attention to die natural deaths. Yet there is a paradox in our perceptions. We imagine censorship as something that would jar us, stop words abruptly. While possible, it is usually not like this. Ideas going missing in the world paradoxically encloses us in these tiny cocoons of fantasies. That we can say what we like. Or that we are hearing a balanced view of anything. We are not aware of what is missing.

However, there are many pressures working behind scenes to censor thoughts available publicly. And make no mistake, it is thoughts that are being lobotomized here – applied to film, book or blog - a blatant subversion of the Indian Constitution. There are things that can be said, and there are things that cannot be said. In the middle, is this vast grey area that is a no-man’s land. No one really polices what happens here. No one particularly cares. That area is a kind of buffer zone that Kapil Sibal is working on, which can be used to create that chill at will.

In many ways, this is scarier than less tolerant boundaries, because of its arbitrariness. When the boundary of what is allowed is visibly narrow, it is easy to see it for what it is, and gets very easily understood as a bad thing, and ends up on people’s agenda’s to work around or challenge. However, when you have ambiguous laws that can create trouble for you based on something as silly as “hateful”, but these laws are usually not applied, they in effect create a massive hunting ground for dissent.

No one is going to bother about what you said, but if they want you silent, you have broken laws by default. They can get you. Any. Time. That puts you on the back foot. You cannot risk antagonizing people, because you don’t really know where you stand, and what missile and from where can hit you in retaliation.

As Madhavan (Narayanan) said yesterday, “One man’s editor is another’s censor”. While we are victims of censorship, we censor as well. A fascinating moment for me today was when we were reading out various anonymous comments about what we couldn’t tell our families. Or didn’t tell our families. The main words that stood out – in order of frequency – were sex, abuse, religion, money, travel (as in transparency over what you are up to).

Are these also not things we struggle with as a nation? Another thought had come up in the group (among many, many, many others) that connects with this is that censorship is a parental attitude. One that says “I know what is good for you to know”. And other things link to this. For example, that much popular “Unfreedoming Speech” letter to Kapil Sibal that I began with “Let me begin with saying that not even my mother had ever made such a comprehensive effort to remove from my sight everything that would offend me.” That letter was thoroughly appreciated in the way excellent satire is (though this wasn’t satire) – when it strikes some deep truth and voices it and relief bubbles out as euphoria. So somewhere, these perceptions are there.

However, the other thing about parental “gatekeeping” is that it first assumes and then imposes immaturity. And we see it playing out in the country too. From the infancy of the country when censorship based on religious feelings was probably a necessity for communal safety, where hate speech got blocked decisively, the country moved into the part of the bored parent, where you tell the child to shut up for being inconvenient (which, you will find explored further in the articles on children). So we had this era of all the “Tere masoom sawal” raising embarassment being blocked. General offense to public figures, political interests, historical figures grew so much that narratives started being fixed in concrete simply because disagreeing with them was rendered invisible.

Now, we are slowly entering the abusive parent stage, where you find the government has no problems with arbitrary silencing of citizens. Take for example the Intermediaries guidelinesby the Ministry of Information Technology (read it. It is shorter than this article), which has a problem if you (among other things) “host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any in formation” that is “in any way” “is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous de famatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, harm minors in any way; infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary rights; threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation.

They have excluded climate change and the population of tigers. You can be arrested for everything else. I challenge you to show me one person who has written on any subject of National Interest and can be guaranteed to not have gone foul of this. How do you even begin protecting from being considered “hateful or offensive”? It is entirely a matter of perception and a random application of “we know better”.

This immaturity is causing us increasing harm as it not only stupidifies us, but the constant impositions of value judgments from outside has led to a chaotic space where no one at all knows where the lines are. This has led to a very dangerous situation where anyone with the power can simply draw the line wherever they choose, and dare others to cross it at their own peril. The effect is a chilling silencing of those without the power to challenge those lines.

I think we need to grow out of this immaturity much like a child grows out of the shadow of an over protective (and thus destructive) parent. By pushing boundaries in responsible ways till they can be claimed as freedoms through the demonstration of more functional interactions. By finding those lines, crossing them deliberately, carefully and seeing if those lines need to be there at all. Much of our readiness for the responsibility will manifest in the way we do it – our purpose, our methods and our willingness to see the larger picture. The functionality of negotiated boundaries that enact our best values must be experienced to become tempting for adoption.

But, if we see the restlessness in the country at large, every instinct I have about people tells me that we are ready to attempt a change on this front. Whether the change will be for the better is going to be a matter of influences. A steady rain of values that nurture excellence and life-affirming empowerment.

We see the world around us. We know what’s going wrong. We know what needs to be done. It is now a matter of doing it.

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