Saturday, 22 January, 2022
HomeThoughtShotGaurav Gogoi wants new pollution law, Manu Joseph calls govts 'sophisticated snoopers'

Gaurav Gogoi wants new pollution law, Manu Joseph calls govts ‘sophisticated snoopers’

The best of the day’s opinion, chosen and curated by ThePrint’s top editors.

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Intransigence as villain of the peace?

Pradip Phanjoubam | Author and Senior journalist

The Hindu 

Phanjoubam writes that it is “fortunate” that the “peace talks between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) did not break down on 31 October”. He explains that the “deadlock” was over the “insistence for a separate flag and constitution by the NSCN (IM) to make way for India and Nagaland to be independent allies in a shared-sovereignty federal relationship”.

He argues that there is an apparent “intransigence of vision on the part of the NSCN (IM)” as well as a “refusal to accept radical shifts in aspirations all around”. This “fight is getting weary”, writes Phanjoubam, and notes that the struggle has seen “violent splits, ugly divisive tribalism, fratricidal feuds and untold sufferings”.

He adds that the Framework Agreement “envisaged a bilateral truce” between India and Nagaland but now “is set to be a multilateral one” with different Naga groups joining deliberations. He maintains that “whatever is to be given to the Nagas in their State, they want it done via their existing State governments and institutions”. Phanjoubam claims that the NSCN (IM) leadership “should have read the writing on the wall earlier to make way for aspirations of the new era”.

Let’s clear the air

Gaurav Gogoi | Congress MP

The Indian Express 

Gogoi notes that Delhi has “officially entered the public health emergency category” as the capital’s Air Quality Index crosses 500. He calls out “the state and the Central governments” for “simply indulging in blame-games”. There has been a “deafening silence at the helm of policymaking because it has not become an electoral priority for political leaders,” he writes.

The Congress MP argues that “we are ignoring the change that progressive legislation can bring” and it is “essential to retrace our steps” back to the Air Act of 1981 that “governs our pollution control system”. Gogoi states that a “new bill will plug many loopholes in the 1981 Act and would align the functions and priorities of the Pollution Boards towards reducing the adverse impact of pollution on human health in India”.

He adds that the new law “must push central and state boards to convene joint sitting with a multi-sectoral participation”. It must also give an “additional mandate to either a senior minister such as minister of environment, forest and climate or, the prime minister’s office needs to be involved directly”.

Why there cannot be any national security without individual privacy

Apar Gupta | Lawyer and executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation

Hindustan Times 

In light of WhatsApp suing the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-arms firm “for allegedly hacking the messaging platform” to spy on 1,400 users, Gupta argues that it is a “worrying development for India’s national security apparatus for three reasons”.

One, the “security” of our device “becomes one of the fundamental bedrocks of maintaining user trust as society becomes more and more digitised”. Second, “by virtue of the interconnection of networks… a single compromised device can put the integrity of the entire network at risk”. Third, such a “scale of spyware is only permitted to a government agency approved by the Israeli government,” which raises the question that “if the Government of India did not procure such spyware, then who did to spy on Indian citizens?”

Gupta notes that there have been “three denials” by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Ministry of Home Affairs and CERT-IN, a technical body that probes cyber threats and such an approach “belies appreciating the injury and threats to individuals and the country.” He calls on an “urgent need to take up this issue” with “credible members and experts that can restore confidence and conduct its proceedings transparently”.

The right way

Ravi V.S. Prasad | Alumnus of Carnegie Mellon University and IIT-Kanpur.

Financial Express

Before any more roads or flyovers are built, Prasad writes that traffic patterns in Indian conditions need to be reassessed, experts should helm projects with minimal interference from politicians and, metro or bus routes should take into account the popularity of public transport. The last factor should also reflect the number of bottlenecks that form near metro stations, he adds.

Prasad applauds Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s announcement that roads in Delhi will be redesigned to reduce traffic congestion but points out that urban road design is often misguided by ‘Braess Paradox’, which shows that “building more bypasses and flyovers and bridges actually increases traffic congestion”. New roads can ease traffic jams but often congestion moves to another junction as seen with Barapulla, Dhaula Kuan flyover and more, he explains.

Study of ants has also provided key insights into avoiding traffic congestion, he writes. “There is a very delicate mathematically-determined balance between public transport and private transport,” and blindly constructing flyovers and roads will “only serve to make a few selected contractors very rich,” adds Prasad.

All governments are at war with their own people

Manu Joseph | Journalist and novelist

Mint

Taking the WhatsApp-Pegasus hack as an example, Joseph calls the government “sophisticated snoopers” of their citizens. He briefly describes the current proceedings of the case. So far, WhatsApp owner, Facebook has sued Israel company, NSO Group for selling advanced spyware to governments leading to the breach. IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has “denied the accusation of government-grade spying”, explains Joseph.

Joseph explains that surveillance is considered an efficient way for governments to know “what is going on” and is defended on the grounds that it is meant to protect citizens. He refers to Obama administration defending “large-scale and sophisticated snooping on Americans” during his presidency.

He describes the ethical stakes of the case and the constant tug of war between governments and their citizens when it comes to surveillance and privacy rights. “ He says, “All governments are at war with their people. This holds even in nations where they get to vote.’’

Beware of online frauds

Devangshu Datta | Journalist and Novelist

Business Standard

Datta discusses cyber-breaches and data-leaks that have been making headlines recently. He begins with the “frightening” cyber-attack on the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu that proved the “vulnerable state of India’s power sector infrastructure”. Pegasus-driven surveillance and the sale of “data trove INDIA-MIX-NEW-01”, which contained the details of some 1.3 million debit and credit cards, were also a cause for concern. The first showed the “systematic, illegal surveillance” by state actors while the second was a “good index” of how valuable card details are to cyber-criminals, he explains.

Credit and debit card details can be leaked if point of sale (PoS) devices or ATMs are compromised, explains Datta. The customer holds “zero liability” if there is a third-party breach during a transaction. As a precaution, customers should “flag any strange transactions”, avoid using ATMs with an attachment to the card-reader and opt for credit cards instead of debit cards since it is easier for scammers to “clean out… account[s]” with the latter.

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