Forget freedom of expression, we are Indian after all

Forget freedom of expression, we are Indian after all

By M.D. Nalapat | 11 December, 2011
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Minister for Communications & IT, Kapil Sibal at a a function in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI

Some days ago, a television show mentioned that of the top five supercomputers in the world, two were Japanese, one American and the remaining two Chinese. And now comes the Hindu telling us that only two out of the world's 500 top supercomputers are located in India, down from seven the year Manmohan Singh took over as PM. Given the lack of ambition of his team, it must come as a relief to them that the figure is not zero. Although that is probably what it will be well before the PM's second term in office ends in 2014. Although Jairam Ramesh loves comparisons with the People's Republic of China, making them is a depressing business. The PRC has leapt ahead of India in almost every segment of the knowledge industry, including in education, where not a single Indian university makes it to the top 500. And while Brazil and China have joined Russia in being able to locally design and manufacture aircraft, the Indian Air Force is on the cusp of giving a $12 billion order for just 126 military aircraft. The share of domestic procurement in key defence items has fallen steadily since the 1980s, and even within the "domestic" component, much of the output originates in assembly of foreign parts.

Does this bother the minister who is tasked with looking after the education system of the country, Kapil Sibal? Not at all. His attention is focused on the depictions of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh on the internet. Some go so far as to allege that Sonia Gandhi's family became hugely wealthy after Indira Gandhi took over as PM in 1966, while a few make an equally absurd claim about Manmohan Singh, that he is ineffective when it comes to managing the economy. Clearly, such reports are a national calamity. It is intolerable that citizens of a republic blessed with honest government, a superb social security system, excellent infrastructure, full employment and stable prices should bad-mouth the two responsible for such a felicitous state of affairs. Crass ingratitude, and Sibal is right in trying to stop such nonsense. Why can't our multiplying population of bloggers write about the fact that our political leadership lives in such humble surroundings? Just look at such dumps as 10 Janpath, 5 Race Course Road or even the poky official residence of Sibal and other hard-working, ferociously dedicated ministers in the Manmohan — sorry, Sonia — team? Not only do they live in cramped dwellings that even a respectable cockroach would avoid, but they commute to work on public buses, when they are not on bicycles or walking. Why is it that such obvious facts are never mentioned by bloggers? Clearly, they have an agenda, which is to destabilise the country and reduce it from prosperity to decrepitude. No wonder admirers of the ruling establishment want internet service providers to block "offensive" content, or in everyday language, any view of the Congress leadership that Abhishek Manu Singhvi would frown on.

Dropcap OnAlthough Kapil Sibal hates the very concept of internet freedom, he forced his offspring to go and study in that cesspool of depravity, the UK. Every day, each child would have been exposed to the many less than flattering comments made about Good Old Liz aka Queen Elizabeth. Despite her angelic qualities, most superbly expressed in her reactions following the death of Princess Diana, both British blogs as well as the regular media lampoon her and her family with an abandon that must horrify the Union Telecom-HRD Minister. If he and his family nevertheless go to even that depraved city, London, so often, it must purely be to conduct a study in what India ought never to be, a creative, vibrant democracy. Such a hell must never befall the people of this country, who need to be forced into silence about their rulers, in the same admirable way that Saudi Arabia or North Korea do. Before this latest effort at sanitizing the internet, Chidambaram and others in the "reformist" government of Manmohan Singh got passed a bill that is more draconian in its provisions than any legislation dreamed up by Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler.

Although most of the regular media in India seldom goes beyond what the I&B Ministry (and the advertisement-gifting DAVP) want it to be, yet the internet has seen a swelling tide of both comment as well as documentation, and clearly a lot of this is upsetting to Kapil Sibal's bosses, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, for it is in their name that he has followed the Chinese government in seeking to censor the internet. Amazingly, the members of the NAC seem speechless about such actions, even while getting voluble about Anna Hazare and others who challenge an establishment led by NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Why is the Opposition silent about the axe that Chidambaram and Sibal are taking to civil liberties? Perhaps because they are aware that the RBI will, by its lunatic policies, ensure that the Congress party gets defeated in the next general elections, and that it will be a Prime Minister Narendra Modi who can wield the restrictive regulations brought in by the UPA. Apart from the RBI, another doughty fighter for the cause of bringing the BJP back to power is the Union Environment Minister. Because these ministers interpreted their mandate literally, today a country that has huge reserves of coal and iron ore has to depend on imports to feed its generating plants and its furnaces. Only in India would nuclear power plants be allowed to fade away in terms of utilisation, because a handful of protestors (and that staple of the NGO, the Court Order) have over the decades ensured that the country's uranium reserves largely remain untapped. And now, when imported uranium has started flowing in, another small group has shut down Koodankulam. That the country is losing Rs 24 cr worth of power and Rs 6 cr of interest each day because of the non-commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant bothers few people. Certainly to Kapil Sibal, unflattering depictions by his fellow-citizens of his bosses are a far more serious matter than the holding hostage of the country's future by a clutch of NGOs.


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