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It is the day for cute messages and wearing your patriotism on the sleeve. It is a day that has increasingly lost meaning for me. We got independence from the British Raj. That was 68 years ago. Are we free?

What does independence mean? Was really racist enough to think that we needed the white skins out? I don't think so. Many freedom fighters too enaged with the world beyond India, got educated in the west. Indeed most of those we bother to remember as leaders of our freedom struggle were. They have continued the thought, the methods, the dysfunctional laws to keep the natives in line.

But if you take a moment to think about it, was this why the Indian masses fought for freedom? Poor starving masses have no ideology. They resist oppression. Their ideology is survival. Their ideology is their right to thrive. Many places had every home throwing up a satyagrahi or a rebel. They did not do this because of inspiring ideologies. They did this because they could not thrive under the British. They did not like being second class citizens, they did not like their wealth being stolen, their grains feeding far off wars while they died in famines. They fought against the British because the British WRONGED them. At the top, those with fancy ideologies, who were rarely poor enough to worry about whether they could survive formed grand theories about how they were the rightful custodians of India. But the Indian masses supported them for the hope to an end of their , not fancy ideologies or even democracy.

These people are still struggling. They are still being evicted from their homes and roots in the name of development that happens elsewhere. They are still providing cheap food so that the subjects of the Raj don't revolt, even as they the drought with their sweat and blood. They are still demanding their rights. they aren't revolting because they don't know how. There are no elite with their ideologies to tell them how to fight this time, because the elite are busy squabbling over the loot from the last time. Besides, there is a danger in reminding the masses that they didn't fight for freedom because the colonists were British - many invaders have ruled India without uprisings. There is a danger in reminding that they fought the British because they were harmed and humiliated. Because they still are.

The danger in reminding people of this is because very little has changed for those who gave uprisings their power. Their living conditions have very little change. Most freedom fighter stories - it is the season now, check them out - still describe the freedom fighters living in poverty, forgotten. These stories talk of India's lack of gratitude for their contribution. But these stories also stand witness that the conditions that led those people to revolt for their freedom still exist. In effect, they achieved nothing for their own realities.

The that made a career out of hyperbolic patriotism as idolizing soldiers evicted protesting soldiers on the day before Independence Day celebrations. The 68th "Independence Day" and soldiers can't even ask for their rights without being attacked by the state. What were they asking for? Their basic rights. One rank, one pension. . An old age without needing to beg from those they put their lives on the line to defend. The country is dotted with struggles. I doubt if there is a single district in all of India without some struggle still going on. Whether it is desperate slum dwellers fighting for their homes, or farmers fighting for something as pitiful as allowing them the income for survival so that they continue to subsidize the food for this colony. A government that is asking people to give up their LPG subsidies never thinks of asking people who can afford it at least to pay the actual cost of what it takes to grow food and profit from it. We hide the harm to farmers, sneer at any effort to make their lives easier as "handouts", while filling our bellies with the handouts from farmers.

Aren't celebrations a bit premature?

India is STILL bleeding money, draining most of the country for the prosperity of a few. Is it even freedom if criticizing the government means being declared a supporter of India's enemies and jeered at and being asked to leave the country? "Go to Pakistan!" Why? Because this is the country of your colonists. Not yours for you to stay here, right?

We have a  poverty line that is so absurd, it is more like a miracle line - incredible people who can survive on nothing. And we still have about a fourth of us living UNDER it. MAGIC. Perhaps we can earn TRPs if we turn it into a TV series. Oh wait they usually don't survive. They exist starving till something they can't afford to cure takes them down. There is a government hell bent on emptying vast swathes of India for the profit making industries with little regard for the people or the forests. We are now redefining things so that they don't sound so terrible. We tweak statistics to make them sound less terrible. We call the cutting down of age old forests as reforestation because surely, someone plants a few saplings somewhere.... Forest dwellers are now the homeless. Massive displacements "compensate" the development hit masses for the loss of their livelihood, their homes, their sustainable communities that were their support structures and nurtured the environment, their sources of food... with pigeon hole housing - because hey, if we give them a home, we just shifted them for progress and didn't really harm them. Right?

Celebrating 68 70 years of complacency over colonization this IndependenceDay

The drought saw young daughters studied till the 12th class come to Bombay to work as prostitutes and send money home instead of dreaming weddings their families can't afford. Parents gave daughters to bride traffickers to feed the remaining family even as trafficked brides get shared among brothers, discarded if the husband dies or no longer wants her. Parents marrying daughters off with just one consideration - that the boy's home is in a place where there is water. There are men marrying water wives to fetch water for their real families. While resorts boast of swimming pools and cities suck up water from hundreds of kilometers away while people nearby die of heatstroke chasing the scarce water tankers. We saw those accused in the irrigation scam give themselves a clean chit while others condemned them. Not one voice spoke of the need to make reparations to those development-hit people denied water for 10 years.

Today is the deadline for providing feedback on Net Neutrality. The government and internet providers are deperately looking for ways to make massive profit from an unequal internet by finding ways to call it equal. The previous feedback seems to have gone into some blackhole and there is a new, short deadline for providing new feedback if you are still planning to persist on fighting for your internet. Poetically, your chance to have a say ends on independence day. Oh and the government has formally declared in court that you don't have a right to privacy, even as your information torrents into big data for someone's profit. With the government's blessings.

The British jailed journalists and editors who wrote to oppose them. Our government has sent notices to on how they were reported. Crimes against inconvenient natives go unpunished. We are actually diluting the laws for whistleblowers making it illegal to expose wrongdoings that the government doesn't allow you to. Propaganda continues to convince the people that the rulers are their best interest, just like the old days.

Does it sound like these people are independent yet? Can a country with most of its people living hand to mouth - if at all - even call itself free? Can a country that denies dignity and income to those who feed it, serve it, protect it be called free? Can a government that silences people critical of it be called a government of the people? General Dyer merely ordered the firing at Jalianwala Baug. The soldiers were Indian. As Indian as our agencies inventing crimes against people who are opposing wrongs by our colonists against the natives.

Picture abhi baaki hain dost, the freedom struggle is not yet over!

Is this independence? Are Indian people really rulers of their country? I don't think so. Independence day is just a PR game for me. The elites telling people they have something precious, even when people cannot experience it. The freedom struggle is not over yet. The so called Independence Day merely marks a change in colonizers. The freedom struggle is still on, invisible, modest but determined all over India where people are STILL fighting an unjust state that is trampling all over their right to thrive on their land.

Old post. Still valid, so no need to write a new one.

To:

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

“advqos@trai.gov.in”

19-April-2015

Kind Attn: Shri Rahul Khullar / Chairman

Sir

Sub: Short response of INDIA AGAINST CORRUPTION to the Authority’s consultation paper no. 2/2015 Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services dated 27th March, 2015

On behalf of the India Against Corruption jan andolan “IAC”, I respond to the subject Consultation paper as follows:

At the outset, the IAC congratulates the TRAI for boldly publishing such an over the top paper which graphically illustrates the deep corruption and lack of regulatory depth prevailing in the TRAI.

The IAC congratulates the TRAI for opening debate on an issue which IAC has regularly highlighted to TRAI, ie. Preferential / discriminatory pricing schemes offered by telcos to access non-voice services.

The IAC is concerned that TRAI did not have the balls (also known as “spine”) to take up the issue of discriminatory pricing for non-voice services when the undersigned complained about Reliance Comm – aka RCOM – during “Objections to Draft TTO (59th Amendment) submitted on behalf of INDIA AGAINST CORRUPTION” dated 12.Oct.2014 which is accessible at http://www.iacwiki.in/index.php?n=Main.TelecomRegulatoryAuthorityOfIndia and elsewhere, and may be deemed as an integral part and parcel of this response.

The IAC is concerned, and this is not the first time we have conveyed it to you for your own benefit, that the highest echelons of TRAI have self evidently become so weak, pliable and toothless, starting from yourself, that the TRAI is unable to discharge its primary statutory mandate of protecting the consumers.

In these circumstances, IAC strongly objects to be co-opted into this little farce persons within TRAI have devised to benefit the Telcos – and specifically to benefit 1 telco – who is actually not even a proper telco yet. I refer of course to Mr. Mukesh Ambani’s impending 4G venture which the whole of India is waiting for.

At this point, IAC would like to remind the TRAI what we conveyed in our objections to the 59th draft TTO

Our reasons for this lie in clause 7 of the TTO 1999 which is completely discriminatory for the small consumers vis-a-vis the corporate and bulk users whose negotiated tariffs are exempt from reporting. As a consequence Telcos / ISPs are selling way below cost to corporates but gouging the unorganised general consumers. Accordingly, India Against Corruption has decided to organise the general category of telecom and internet consumers to negotiate better tariffs for their communication, and oppose such discriminatory and predatory amendments which cause us to doubt the integrity of the person/s proposing it.

That IAC is unwilling to play “20 questions” with the TRAI, mainly for the reason that TRAI does not have the intellectual capacity to match ours. I need not remind the TRAI that you were unable to reply to IAC’s detailed response, objections and submissions on the Media Ownership issue. Thereby exposing that TRAI’s consultations are a hollow formality and sham.

Related download: IACs Reply to TRAI Summary of Consultation Issues Media Ownership

That the short response of IAC to the TRAI’s consultation paper no. 2/2015 is as follows:

That if TRAI cannot protect the consumers, then you can take your said document, roll it up tightly, and ram it up your bum”.

That IAC’s long response will follow after a) “anal”ysing the millions of “spam” protests demanding “Net Neutrality” sent to you, which incidentally appear to IAC as being organized by Mr. Mukesh Ambani’s 4G associates / minions over their vast media cross-holdings, b) counter-commenting on the same, c) participating in the TRAI’s Open House/s and so on.

Most Respectfully Submitted in the larger public interest of behalf of IAC.

With best wishes

yours faithfully

Er. Sarbajit Roy
National Convenor
India Against Corruption, jan andolan

Address: B-59 Defence Colony, New Delhi – 110024

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This post explains Net neutrality and the challenge facing it in India for all of you who can't exactly figure out what is going on. This is not intended to be comprehensive, but it gives you the bare bones of the issue and ideas on how to find out more to form your own opinion.

Net Neutrality is the idea that internet access not be manipulated to favor some websites over others. Unfortunately the user will still be limited by the internet package they purchase. Let us be upfront.

So why, if you don't have a website is this debate important to you?

When you surf the internet for entertainment or information or engagement, your freedom is at stake when you are manipulated toward using some sites over others. While some deals are transparent - in the form of packs - "100 MBof Facebook data free with 100MB 2g" or whatever, other deals may simply manifest as one website opening rapidly while another is agonizingly slow. So, your tendency to go with whichever is ready fast plays out over hundreds of thousands of users. Some sites make a windfall from your unintentional bias (that has been induced by technology) while others may become extinct. Do you intend to be biased?

So what if I am biased? I like fast websites, and they made the effort to be fast for me.

Not exactly. Throttling is more like other websites being made slower. But there are tangible disadvantages to you too. Let us begin with saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. When Flipkart invests its money to get you on their site, it only does it because it earns more from your visit. When your network ties up with one operator, it is essentially like the taxi driver who takes you to the "cheapest hotel" and earns a commission for bringing you. You have nothing more than the driver's word that it is the cheapest.

If you are looking for a laptop and get an array of prices from Flipkart fast, while its competing sites will load agonizingly slow, chances are high that you miss finding the cheapest option, because you will be bored surfing slow sites while one blazing fast one is tantalizingly close. The difference in the laptop costs would probably buy you several data upgrades that could let you surf and find the best choice.

But I don't buy online.

How about Facebook (which has a history of offering user data to governments) being the only social network you can use because it is fast and even if you are willing to use a safer one, all your contacts are on Facebook, because it is fast.

What happens when you have to buy data packs and what looked like a FREE Facebook pack becomes a collection of 100MB packs each coming with something else free? One for WhatsApp, one for Google, another for youtube.... Would it be cheaper, really? It isn't cheap while you get the "free Flopkart" either. Only less visible, because you will easily use up the 100MB non-Facebook data and you're getting only one pack.

[tweetthis]Is "Free" really free? #NetNeutrality[/tweetthis]

What is the price we pay for free packs?
What is the price we pay for free packs?

Would the cheap packs still be free if you purchased them a-la-carte and added sites you use often one by one - for a price? You'd have to, because using them normally would give you the slow versions or be costly if you use them a lot. How many sites do you use in a month?

What if you are an activist or blogger?

If you get a whim to start a blog, you can just start one today. Without Net Neutrality, your blog would be like the tree that fell unseen, unheard - did you even make a blog if no one reads it? If people get bored waiting for it to load and find something better to do? This page loaded in 2 seconds. If it loaded in 8, would you have waited to read something that says "pay attention here"?

There are hundreds of blogs starting daily. Causes. Initiatives. Businesses. Someone finds a problem with degradation of environment in their area, starts a website to converge resources and information to fight it. Today, if you want to start a website, you buy a domain name that costs about Rs.300 for the first year and some webhosting space and you're in business. If you are like me, you already have a server and one domain name later, you add a new website to it. New initiative launched for a net cost of Rs.300 and some effort. What if all these people would be seen normally worldwide, but achingly slow in India, where their target audience is?

Or, the cost of starting a website just went up to Rs.300 + hosting + Airtel hafta + Idea hafta + Vodafone hafta...... 20 operators later, and most of your website running cost would be about PREVENTING artificial interference from driving away your visitors instead of whatever you are trying to do. Or, of course you can pray that all your visitors have the patience of a saint.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles="true"]Without #NetNeutrality most of the cost of website would be in preventing it being silenced by paying off providers[/tweetthis]

When the Net Neutrality debate was raging in the US, activists had organized a day when websites participating in the protest deliberately slowed down their websites to show people what the internet would be like without Net Neutrality. It was the 10th September - day after my son's birthday. I will remember it for a long time, because almost none of my visitors read a second page on any of the six blogs I had activated it on, on that day. From thousands of pageviews, that day was a few hundred. Who'd want to read another page on a site that just.wont.load? I did it deliberately. This would become my reality unless I was willing to shell out money for faster access.

There is a protocol coming up. Http/2. It is already released of sorts. Google and big sites implement it. By the end of the year, a very popular server called Nginx will be implementing it. Sites worldwide will become much, much faster. Except for sites that won't pay these middlemen - in India.

The Telecom industry has been showing huge profits.

This isn't about not being able to afford. It is about exploiting a ready resource for the profit of some cronies. I have said this before, during the debate on FDI and I say it now. We are not used to thinking of the Indian population as a national resource. Yet, if you can harness something that earns you a rupee from each Indian a month, you'll earn a cool 1.2 billion every month. Whether it is by opening the market so foreign companies can profit, or luring citizens to services you make deals with, so those services earn from it. And make no mistake, even if you buy nothing on Facebook, write nothing, even checking your notifications loads pages and earns Facebook ad revenues. Notice how the notifications are designed so that you can NEVER make out which post got the like from your friend till you actually click the link to find out. That's a page load.

I am not trying to be paranoid or even grudge anyone advertizing revenues. Only pointing out that your convenience is not the goal, the goal is revenue. But it wastes YOUR time. But other services that may be way more user friendly will not be able to compete with a network promoted by every telecom operator in the country. Even if you are willing to risk a slower network, people you network with will likely not.

In other words, this is a manipulation, and for all the claims of "giving Facebook free", as Rajesh Mathews put it, I have yet to come across a single free data pack on any mobile provider's website. You have to purchase data, and you get their crony for "free", which will be recovered from your hide in other ways.

Data is data. What you use it for is your business. When you purchase data, it is being sold because it is profitable selling it. The idea that existing data is not profitable and hence principles of equality must be ignored is discrimination and illegal.

The idea that there isn't enough spectrum and therefore existing services that are ALREADY MAKING MASSIVE PROFITS can hold India's internet hostage for their own windfalls is plain and ugly cronyism, if the government allows it.

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Even without adding #NetNeutrality to the mix, the relationship between the average consumer and any telecom services provider in India is a tetchy one at best. Irrespective of whether you opt for prepaid or post-paid services, you seem to be forever haggling over available services and the pricing thereof, and, later, about the quality of said services. What makes it worse is that most telecoms have been overzealous to cash in on a vastly viable opportunity without investing in consumer awareness. Thus, most consumers are left arguing with customer care executives who are themselves rarely well-informed about the products and services offered.

Into this already bubbling cauldron falls the fresh bone of contention which has been dubbed the #NetNeutrality debate. Before launching into it though, I must admit to not being an expert in this domain, and am only offering my own understanding as a consumer of these services. In essence, the debate has everything to do with the Internet, as may be surmised, and how it is packaged as a product. When we sign up for data services offered by a telecom company, we agree to pay a certain fee for a certain amount of data downloaded and/or uploaded to the Internet via that company’s network. Now, many of these data service providers threw in such freebies as offering free access to certain websites along with certain data plans. So if you purchased data services for your phone from Company X, you might not be charged for the data consumed on Facebook or Twitter or WhatsApp, for instance.

While this seems like a fairly innocuous marketing strategy – we are all suckers for freebies, this idea has its flipside, which is what the #NetNeutrality debate is centred around. Now, telecom services are suggesting they will charge more for data used towards certain services, specifically those using Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, (e.g. Skype, WhatsApp, Viber), which allow users to call each other for “free”. It is important to note that “free” is not actually “free” –you may not be paying for the call itself, but you are paying for the data transferred over the Internet, whether on your mobile or other Internet connection.

The rationale offered by the service providers is that, with consumers making calls through these applications, they are losing out on call revenues. This cleverly sidesteps the fact that consumers may be paying less for voice, but they are using and paying more for data services. Given that voice and video services generally consume a fairly large amount of data, it can very well be argued that the gain in data revenues will more than compensate for loss in voice revenues. But the argument is about far more than economics. As the adage goes, it is not about the price, it is about the principle.

And the principle is that those offering data services at cost should not be concerned with how that data is utilized, for the simple reason that it infringes on the personal choice of the consumer. This aspect is highlighted by the perversion of the freebie idea; telecom companies can support one product over a competing product for, say, online entertainment, and force their consumers to use the free product rather than pay extra for the product of their choice. This has the potential to create a cartel of services which can then monopolize consumer “decisions”, and, so to speak, break up the internet.

Underlying this debate are the varying perceptions about the Internet – for the consumer it is a medium, like television or radio, through which to access much more than just information or entertainment. But for the service provider it is a product that can be packaged many ways. Already, Internet packages are offered based on quantity of data (300 MB, 1 GB, etc.), type of data network (2G, 3G, etc.), and even time of access (night-time specials, etc.). As already mentioned, avid users of Facebook, etc. can even purchase data packs tailored to give them free access. Such packs also violate net neutrality, and perhaps consumers should have wondered about the catch before queuing up for the freebies, but then the Internet has always conjured up visions of Utopia.

So what happens now? Are consumers supposed to just bend over and let telecom service providers stomp over them simply because they forgot that there are no free lunches? Fortunately or unfortunately, there is a consultation happening in India, hosted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, as a lead-up to which a public discussion is raging on – where else? – the Internet. For the average consumer, the issue may appear to be too overwhelming, but, unfortunately, it is the price for lunches already eaten without regard to cost. Hopefully, this will be a one-time payment that settles not just the debt but also the debate for the foreseeable future.

If you are still wondering what on earth is happening, here’s the low-down. The Internet has become the proverbial goose that’s laid far too many golden eggs and now those seeing themselves as its owners are salivating at the thought of cutting it up. You can raise your voice and prevent this from happening, thus preserving #NetNeutrality. The villains in this story include some very familiar names, like Airtel and Vodafone and Reliance. But unlike Bollywood movies, no one hero or heroine can step up and take on them all. On the Internet, we are all heroes and heroines; equally, we can all become the villains or the sidekicks. The choice is ours, to write a story that sounds something like that of Appu and the bus operators.