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Net Neutrality: Congress accuses BJP of favoring corporates

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The Congress on Saturday accused the Narendra Modi government of attempting to “break the connect” in use of internet messaging services such as WhatsApp and Viber, and alleged that this was being done to “favour a few corporates”.

Congress spokesperson R.P.N. Singh said that applications like WhatsApp and Viber have become a major connecting and communicating medium for millions of people across the world.

“The Modi government is making repeated attempts to break this connect in order to favour a few corporates who will manipulate charges on the basis of the recent DOT (department of telecommunications) report,” he said in a statement.

He alleged that the committee appointed by Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has acceded to the demands of the telecom industry at the cost of the common mobile user.

“In India there are about 10 crore users on WhatAapp and similar services. However, recommendations of the DOT to make these services chargeable will adversely affect all, especially users in the rural areas,” Singh said.

He said a mobile phone user wants free access to popular applications such as WhatsApp and Viber and he also wants that the service provider does not interfere with the free access to websites/content on the internet.

“Unfortunately, both the above aspects have been compromised in the report on net neutrality. This again is typical BJP game hoodwinking and fleecing the common man even as the prime minister and Prasad assured the nation to the contrary,” he said.

The panel headed by technocrat A.K. Bhargava, that was asked to look at the whole gamut of net neutrality, suggested earlier this week that free regime for domestic calls made through internet messenger services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype be benchmarked against regular telecom service providers for tariff and regulation.

The panel said that other communication services offered by them dealing with messaging should not be interfered with through regulation.

(With inputs from IANS)

 

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Surajpal Singh Amu: A case of Fatwa by Hindus?

BJP's Surajpal Singh Amu announced a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead Deepika Padukone and the film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

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Padmavati Banner
A man signs a banner during a signature campaign as part of a protest against the release of Bollywood movie "Padmavati" in Kolkata, India, Nov. 22, 2017. VOA

A leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has announced that he would pay a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead an Indian actress and a film director.

Surajpal Singh Amu, a member of the BJP in northern Haryana state, is apparently upset about an upcoming movie, Padmavati, starring actress Deepika Padukone as the 14th-century Hindu queen Padmini.

The movie is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Amu alleged that the movie is misleading, not based on truth and offends Hindu sentiments in the country.

FILE - Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013.
FILE – Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013. VOA

“We will reward the ones beheading them, with 10 crore rupees, and also take care of their family’s needs,” Amu said in an interview with India’s Asia’s Premier News (ANI) earlier this week.

Threats against movie

Amu also vowed not to allow the release of the movie and warned movie theaters to avoid playing the movie or risk being torched.

The movie was set to be released during the first week of December.

Rights activists have reacted strongly to the threats and urged the government to take action.

“This is pretty outrageous that you announce publicly and no action takes place at a time when people are being arrested for most trivial reasons in this country,” Gotum Naulakha, an Indian-based civil liberties activist, told VOA.

A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie "Padmavati" outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017.
A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie “Padmavati” outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

An official complaint has been registered against Amu, but many are criticizing the stance of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — which controls the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — on the matter.

“I’ve not heard any official stance from the central government or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” Vinod Sharma, an Indian-based analyst, told VOA.

Anil Jain, a local BJP spokesperson, told ANI that the law applies to everyone in the state of Haryana and no one can threaten others. The central government has yet to react, however.

Bollywood actress Padukone stood her ground and said the movie would be released despite the threats.

“Where have we reached as a nation? We have regressed. The only people we are answerable to is the censor board, and I know and I believe that nothing can stop the release of this film,” Padukone told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) last week.

Controversy

Padmavati was controversial right from the start. Opponents of the movie stormed the filming of one scene and destroyed the film sets. They were upset that the director of the movie was distorting facts by alleging romance between the Hindu queen and the Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji.

Film director Bhansali, however, denies the allegations and maintains the story is based on a Sufi and medieval-era poem written about the Hindu queen. In the poem, the Hindu queen chooses death before the Muslim conqueror could capture her.

Some experts say the poem is centuries old and there is a possibility the Hindu queen might be purely a fictional character found only in folklore.

“There’s a lot of debate in India whether Padmavati was actually a living being many, many years ago or whether she was just an imagined person in a poem,” analyst Sharma said.

Rights activists maintain that if government fails to draw clear lines around the threat made by the politician, and discourage a growing sense of impunity for some, incidents like this will only increase and threaten the freedom of expression in the world’s biggest democracy.

“By letting loose and giving [a] sense of impunity to the goons of the ruling party or people who’re connected or close to the ruling party, we’re paving the ground for much bigger and [worse] things to happen in the near future,” Naulakha told VOA.

The movie is awaiting approval from India’s Central Board of Film Certification.

Written by Madeeha Anwar of VOA.

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Delhi government’s liquor license scam exposed

AAP has turned Delhi into liquor den.

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Delhi government's liquor license scam exposed
Arvind Kejriwaal,Delhi CM.Flickr
 • Illegal liquor licenses granted in shopping malls
 
• Swaraj India protests against illegal vends at Cross River Mall
 
• Illegal vends have turned the mall into a liquor den
 
• Liquor license scam, a perfect example of unholy collusion between AAP & BJP
 
• Arvind Kejriwal, who came to power on the promise of making Delhi addiction free, has today become the Badal of Delhi and Manish Sisodia another Majithia.
New Delhi, Nov 5: Newly formed political party, the Swaraj India has exposed a major scandal in the distribution of liquor licenses by the Delhi government. Party’s Chief National Spokesperson and Delhi State President, Anupam, said that the Delhi government is illegally distributing L10 category liquor licenses enabling dealers to open vends in shopping malls of the city.
The Delhi government offers licenses in the L-10 category to liquor vends in shopping malls of the city. Definition of shops operating from within a mall is clearly stated in the law and the rule mandates that all shops operating from within a mall should be opening up within the building only and cannot have an entrance towards the exterior side of the mall. But Delhi government and the mall management have created these liquor shops against the approved map of the mall. Every week, the Excise officials of Delhi Government are supposed to inspect liquor vends existing in the city, but not a single objection has been raised against these vends that are blatantly violating rules every single day.
And this has resulted in around a dozen liquor vends springing up in just the ground floor of the Cross River Mall. This has turned the shopping mall into a den of liquor vends leaving people living in nearby residential areas helpless. Neither the Delhi government nor the MCD and nor the Delhi police are even taking note of this broad daylight scam. “Is this not a direct sign that all the levels of the government and administration are complicit in letting this illegal trade grow?” Anupam asked.
Everyone in Delhi is well aware of how the employees of MCD don’t lose a moment to demand their share when any construction work begins anywhere. But when illegal constructions are done at such a large scale in a big mall, the MCD doesn’t even blink an eye.
Cross River mall is located in an area from where the Councillor, the MLA as well as the MP are from the BJP. The illegal license is being granted by AAP led Delhi government. It is surprising to see such a harmonious blend between the Aam Aadmi Party and BJP. Promoting liquor trade in Delhi seems to be such a profitable business for both the BJP as well as the AAP that it has brought together the two parties that are otherwise always at loggerheads. Are the black transactions involved in such liquor business the real reason why not a single question has yet been raised by anyone or any party?
Earlier in the last, the Delhi government has eased rules for granting the license to new liquor vends by reducing the minimum carpet area required from 1000 to 500 square feet. And now, in clear dereliction of rules, even vends are being run in the shopping malls.
 On Sunday, Swaraj India’s Mahila Swaraj Morcha protested against the numerous liquor vends in Cross River Mall of Delhi and demanded that the liquor shops be closed down. And in this mall in Shahdara, around a dozen liquor shops have been opened up by granting illegal licenses of the L10 category. And outside this mall, that has been turned into a den of liquor vends, a crowd of drunkards creating an atmosphere of hooliganism has become a daily affair. There has been a continuous increase in crime in the drunken state, where eve-teasing & snatching have become a regular affair.
Sarvesh Verma, President of the party’s Mahila Morcha, said that Arvind Kejriwal who rode to power on the promise of making Delhi an addiction-free city has today become the Badal of Delhi with Sisodia as another Majithia.
Anupam said that though the Delhi government’s anti-women policies will result in the promotion of alcohol addiction but Swaraj India will not let these nefarious plans succeed. The party has earlier as well launched mass agitations against the granting of liquor licenses in residential areas of Delhi, because of which the Delhi government was compelled to announce a ban on the distribution of new licenses. If the government does not immediately order an investigation into the illegal L10 vends and stop this unholy collusion, the Mahila Swaraj Morcha of Swaraj India will take this agitation ahead for the betterment of Delhi.

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Afghanistan temporarily blocks Social Media Services Whatsapp and Telegram citing security concerns

The restrictions on social media come as the Taliban intensifies attacks on Afghan security forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

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Whatsapp and Telegram
A WhatsApp logo is seen behind a smartphone, Feb. 20, 2014. Authorities in Afghanistan are temporarily blocking WhatsApp and Telegram social media services in the country. VOA

Islamabad, November 4, 2017 : Authorities in Afghanistan are temporarily blocking WhatsApp and Telegram social media services in the country, citing security concerns, officials confirmed on November 3.

An official at the Afghan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, ATRA, told VOA the social media tools will be suspended for 20 days. The temporary ban on Whatsapp and Telegram follows a request from state security institutions.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a formal announcement is expected Saturday.

Whatsapp and Telegram
The messaging app Telegram is displayed on a smartphone, July 15, 2017. VOA

ATRA has ordered telecom companies to shut down the services November 1, according to a copy of official instructions appearing in Afghan media.

Social media users have complained of technical problems while using the two services in recent days.

The controversial move has sparked criticism of the Afghan government, and it is being slammed as an illegal act and an attack on freedom of expression.

The outage prompted the telecom regulator to issue a statement Friday, saying the ban is meant to test “a new kind of technology” in the wake of users’ complaints.

It went on to defend the restriction, saying WhatsApp and Telegram are merely voice and messaging services and their temporary suspension does not violate the civil rights of Afghans. The government is committed to freedom of expression, the ministry added.

Afghan journalists and activists on Twitter dismissed the statement.

“This seems to be the beginning of government censorship. If it’s not resisted soon the gov’t will block FB & twitter,” wrote Habib Khan Totakhil on Twitter.

“Gov’t fails to deliver security, now it seeks to hide its incompetence by imposing ban on messaging platforms. Totalitarianism?,” said the Afghan journalist.

“#Censorship is against what freedom we stood for in #Afghanistan post 2001. Gains shouldn’t go to waste,” tweeted activist Nasrat Khalid.

An estimated 6 million people in war-torn Afghanistan can access internet-based services. The growth of media and social media activism have been among the few success stories Afghanistan has seen in the post-Taliban era.

Classifying numbers

The restrictions on social media come as the Taliban intensifies attacks on Afghan security forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

The insurgent group also relies heavily on WhatsApp and Telegram, Twitter and Facebook to publicize its battlefield gains.

The Afghan government has lately barred the United States military from releasing casualty numbers, force strength, operation readiness, attrition figures and performance assessments of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, while briefing members of Congress on Wednesday, severely criticized the classification move. He maintained American taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent.

“The Taliban know this [Afghan casualties], they know who was killed. They know all about that. The Afghans know about it, the U.S. military knows about it. The only people who wouldn’t know are the [American] people who are paying for it,” Sopko noted.

The United States has spent nearly $120 billion on reconstruction programs in Afghanistan since 2002. More than 60 percent of the money has been used to build Afghan security forces. (VOA)