Tag Archives: Blog

12 Nov

Net Neutrality

I believe, Obama is broadly- but not entirely- right about net neutrality. ISPs – or telecom operators who are the bigger ISPs in most cases- should not in general be able to discriminate between different types of content or its creators.

However, the problem is when net neutrality is applied to wireless networks where capacity is a bigger issue because of spectrum scarcity. Wireless networks simply do not have capacities comparable to cable/fibre networks. India is a classic case where operators have a fraction of the spectrum that their peers in other parts of the world.

Developing countries need last investments in infrastructure. Net neutrality may be counterproductive if this became the excuse for operators not to expand networks to the large regions which are still uncovered.

In any case, there are several cases where content players, like Facebook, Google etc,- understandably supporters of net neutrality- are working with mobile operators to protect their commercial interests. They have arrived at arrangements, across the world, that would not be strictly in line with network neutrality.

The problem with net neutrality is at the edges. We all want free movement on roads but yet, can accept a limited number of toll roads. Similarly, we must be willing to accept that a fundamentalist position on net neutrality might hurt those whose rights we want to protect.

This is a challenge for regulators. They will need to balance consumer interest in content with their huge stake in growth and capacity of networks.

- By Mahesh Uppal

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28 Apr

Khap Panchayats: Applauding the break in a 700 year old tradition

For the last 10 years I have lived in the state of Haryana, about 18 kilometres from the centre of New Delhi. It is one of the wealthier states of India and in 2011-2012 had the second highest per capita income in the country at Rs. 138,859. It also had the largest number of rural crorepatis (a crore is 10 million Rupees or about $165,000) – mainly Ahirs and Jats – in India.

Haryana has a large percentage of Gujjars and Jats, communities that were originally nomadic but now are in more settled communities and are recognised as Other Backward Communities (OBCs), a status given to them by the government.

Haryana also has the worst sex ratio in the country: 877 girls for 1000 boys. Much of this could be attributed to male child preference and female foeticide which has created a shortage of marriageable age women has resulted in brides being imported from the eastern states of India.

The state, like many Indian states, is a mixture of tradition and modernity. It is dominated by Khap Panchayats, or groups that are informal system of justice.

In the last few years Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (the adjoining state) have been in the news as young couples have flouted Khap Panchayat rules and married. They have been banished from their villages, their families humiliated, socially boycotted and even killed.

Khap Panchayats originated in times – almost 7 centuries agowhen there were no formal systems of governance or law as we know it now. Society organised itself into clans which were based on one large gotra(clan) or a number of closely related gotra (clans). Decisions were made by a Council of five elected members (Panchayat), by consensus.

In 2011 the Supreme Court declared illegal those Khap Panchayats that decreed or encouraged honour killings or other institutionalised atrocities against boys and girls of different castes and religions who wished to get married or had married. While this illegality was impossible to implement, it did harden the stand of some Khap Panchayats.

But this week, history was created when the five-member committee of the Satrol Khap Panchayat in Narnid village in Haryana ruled to allow inter-caste marriages. It also allowed marriages within 42 villages under its jurisdiction, which till now was banned. The Khap, however, continued to ban inter-caste marriages in the same and bordering villages and same clan marriages.

This decision is significant as it suggests a shift in how Khaps view society.

Satrol Khap Panchayat leader Indra Singh says that the decision was made due to the declining male-female sex ratio in the state and the changing social fabric of society. He admitted that the increased interaction between men and women could not keep them apart. Love relationships were common, he admitted.

For the first time, a woman was been appointed as a Khap member and there is a plan to have more of women’s concerns and points of view in the Khap meetings. There is talk of a youth brigade too.

This shift must be applauded by rights activists who came down heavily on the Khap Panchayats treatment towards love, marriage and treatment of women. The Panchayats were called many derogatory names. However, in a fast changing world, making sense of social norms takes time and patience. And it needs engagement.

The Khap announcement needs to be recognised and applauded. It would give an incentive for the Khaps to make more changes that reflect the changing reality of society.

I for one am applauding.

By Anita Anand

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