Citizens' Issues
Activist urges Maharashtra home Minister to withdraw move to punish for Facebook 'like'
Bureaucrat-turned-activist and lawyer Abha Singh has termed the Maharashtra Government’s plan as 'draconian' that may set a dangerous precedent for democracy

Advocate and former bureaucrat Abha Singh has called for a withdrawal of  instructions given by Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil to Mumbai police, to book persons posting offensive comments on Facebook and even those who 'Like' such comments. 
Adv Singh, in a letter sent to the minister, said, “If such draconian instructions related to freedom of speech and expression are not curtailed at this stage, this may set a dangerous precedent for our democracy.”
“Such type of draconian instructions are contrary to the provisions of Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Further, it is a settled position in international law that a ‘Like’ in Facebook amounts to a constitutionally protected free speech. A ‘Like’ is only an expression of opinion and the person ‘Liking’ a Facebook post cannot be assigned the culpability of the person making such a post,” she said in the letter sent to the Home Minister.
According to media reports, Patil had said the state was exploring the need for legislation to prevent misuse of social media, such as 'posting', 'sharing', and 'liking' communally provocative issues and photos, to avoid communal tension. Maharashtra ranks first in the country in terms of use of social media.
This follows recent incidents where defamatory posts by unidentified persons on Facebook, regarding Shivaji Maharaj and Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray, caused the death of Pune based techie Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh. 
Even Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar was quoted by DNA as saying, “anti-social elements are misusing social media to spread hatred across the state. In the recent past, particular groups have been deliberately defaming social icons by morphing their pictures and uploading the distorted ones with fabricated messages. We want peace and harmony... (These) groups should be punished". 



Kisalay Somani

2 years ago

I think it's time Facebook pack their bags and shut shop in India - because if Maharashtra has it's way, I'll probably just go ahead and delete my Facebook account. Not that it mattered much, but was definitely a convenient way of catching up with long lost friends and family. Probably go the old school route of tracing down the person (if you are lucky) and calling them up :P

Toyota recalls 2.27 million vehicles globally over airbag defect

Toyota recalled 2.27 million vehicles globally covering 20 models, including its Corolla sedan, Yaris sub-compact and Noah minivan over an airbag system defect that could cause fires

Japanese car-maker Toyota Motor Corp on Wednesday said it recalled 2.27 million vehicles globally from 20 different variants over an airbag system defect that could cause fires.


Toyota, which has now recalled about nine million vehicles in the past two months, said the announcement covered 20 models, including its Corolla sedan, Yaris sub-compact and Noah minivan.


“The involved vehicles were equipped with front passenger airbag inflators, which could have been assembled with improperly manufactured propellant wafers (that) could cause the inflator to rupture and the front passenger airbag to deploy abnormally in the event of a crash.” the company said in a statement.


A company spokesman in Tokyo said the automaker had received a complaint from a Japanese customer who said his passenger seat was burned from the defect. No serious injuries or accidents linked to the defect had been reported, he added.


The fire risk covers about 1.62 million cars overseas and 650,000 in Japan, Toyota said, and follows a mass recall last year for the same glitch with the vehicles’ airbag inflator.


This recall is another blow to the world’s biggest automaker, whose safety reputation has been dented in recent years.


In April, Toyota recalled 6.39 million vehicles globally over a string of problems, and another 520,000 vehicles last month, mostly in North America, over several issues, including cable corrosion that could cause unused spare tyres to fall off.


In February, it had recalled 1.9 million of its signature Prius hybrid cars, after recalling millions of other models in recent years over a possible fire risk and other safety issues.


Coal industry outlook: Increasing production must be the priority now

 Let's develop our own resources that are lying to be discovered and mined. We have wasted enough time in getting fuel supply agreements -FSAs signed without backing up and increasing domestic coal production

Addressing the joint session of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee stated that the union government will pursue reforms in the coal sector "with urgency of attracting private investments in a transparent manner".


State-run Coal India Ltd, the world's largest coal miner, sits on the world's third largest estimated reserves of coal, in the region of some 250 billion tonnes and yet fell 20 million tonnes (mts) short of its mining target of 482 mt in 2013-14!


Coal India directly controls, as a holding company, seven collieries and produces 85% of the fuel mined in the country.


As a general practice, most of the Government controlled companies are headed by IAS officers, many of them may not have the technical expertise needed for the job or the experience required in the industry which they administer. Only the other day, Narasing Rao, chairman and managing director (CMD) of Coal India resigned to move on to be the Secretary to the Chief Minister in Telengana, as reported in the media.


So all the experience that he gained as CMD of Coal India has gone down the drain (or shall we say, down the mine-shaft?) and the new incumbent has to start all over again unless he is from the mining industry, preferably with years of experience that is needed to oversee such a huge operation.


In the past, the idea of privatization of the coal industry has often been tossed about. After all, we may as well remember that years ago the privately owned coal mines were nationalized with great fanfare and now, we are back to square one, reconsidering what is to be done in the context of increasing demand for the fuel and falling production from government owned mines!


Let's look at the industry dispassionately and start with seven mines which are independent (apparently) but under the CIL control, which is a government owned company with huge cash reserves. The second set of coal mines have been given away to end users as "captive" units to secure fuel supply so that their work goes uninterrupted. The third set of coal blocks that are available, some of which have been allocated, but are lying unexploited because of the clearances and approvals needed before they are able to commence mining operations. Many of them have been taken back by the government for a variety of reasons, and they need to be distributed again considering the urgency of securing more coal supplies.


For the time being, we leave aside the rest, and try to deal with the above.


According to the press, over 60,000 mining clearances are pending with various State Governments. In a circular issued by the Ministry of Mines, Karnataka has the highest number at 19,497, followed by Rajasthan at 13.893, erstwhile Andhra Pradesh 7,691, Madhya Pradesh 4,680, Gujarat at 4,517, and Jharkhand at 4,409.


Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Mines, Steel and Labour therefore faces the enormous task of clearing all these 63,395 mineral concession applications which are pending with various State Governments. In sorting out the mess, several minstries are involved. How can the Government go about doing this huge task?


We must start somewhere, so let's look at Coal India and its subsidiaries. But, before we go any further, let us also take a look at who are the affected parties? To our mind, these are:


- Localized labour force

- Railways who transport the coal

- Wagons/locos/signalling equipment makers

- Main consumers of coal like power generators/industries

- Any others whom we may have missed out


First, we need to prepare a Master Plan and establish the principle of government reducing its stake in Coal India at the very outset. Though the Unions have objected to the very idea of the Government giving up even 50%, it is better to take a bitter pill now than be forced into a painful operation later.


The Government needs to make these subsidiaries separate independent companies answerable directly to one supreme body. The government holding needs to be brought down to around 26% and rest of the shareholding be distributed, in a suitable manner, to all those who are "interested" parties. At this juncture we may also bear in mind that, sooner or later, Foreign Direct Investment in this industry would be beneficial to the country and it is in our interest to bring in the most sophisticated technology and equipment that is available and used by leading miners in various countries such as UK, USA, Australia, Poland, Russia, and others.


The public shareholding by investors needs to be rewarded by this CIL spin-off when these companies become independent entities. That said, investing public (20%), employees (10%), Railways (10%), Wagons, Loco/signal equpment makers (10%), Power generators (12%) and Industry (12%) may be ball-park figure to work on. The only major change would be, when FDI is permitted, the government holding would correspondingly come down to the extent to which they are allowed to participate!


The Ministry must invite FDI by a global tender, to come and participate in the Coal Industry's development in the country, offering to them both, the existing magnificent seven of the Coal India holdings and the virgin mines available for development. FDIs participation may be wholly in the form of technology and equipment and the Indian management team would have to be provided incentives to achieve set targets and goals. We should concede our outdated equipments need replacement and any modernization would have to be planned and done in a span of 6 to 8 months' time.


In the meantime, while the restructuring of Coal India proceeds, they must put on the back burner their grand idea of venturing into production of fertilizer and chemicals using coal gas. Yes, this can be done, provided we obtain an overseas partner who has the experience and technology to introduce it to our country.


Acquisition of overseas assets just because we have enough in the kitty and are unable to excavate more coal from our own known resources is also not a good move. We do not have technically experienced manpower to control overseas operations at the moment. We need to have young technocrats and mine engineers specially selected and trained for taking over such huge responsibilities in the years ahead.


Let's discover India first and let's develop our own resources that are lying to be discovered and mined. We have wasted enough time in getting FSA (fuel supply agreements) signed without backing up and increasing our production.


It's time to act. We must respond to the clarion call of the President and support the move made by the Prime Minister in this direction.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)


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