Citizens' Issues
Cellular operators reaffirm support for net neutrality
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Sunday reaffirmed its support to the principle of net neutrality, making a strong pitch for the government's vision of "net equality" that will enable access to the internet for a billion Indians.
 
"We support an open internet and believe that consumers should decide what to do online. Our job is to enable consumers to benefit from that freedom," COAI said in a statement here.
 
"We offer choice and do not block or provide any preferential access to any website or app," it added.
 
Network neutrality, or open inter-working, means that in accessing the World Wide Web one is in full control over how to go online, where to go and what to do, as long as these are lawful. So firms that provide internet services should treat all lawful internet content in a neutral manner.
 
It also required such companies not to charge users, content, platform, site, application or mode of communication differentially. 
 
These are also the founding principles of the internet and what has made it the largest and most diverse platform for expression in recent history.
 
Urging all stakeholders to have a comprehensive and informed debate on the subject, the industry association said India's telecom revolution has empowered over 950 million citizens through affordable services "and the internet revolution must now touch every citizen of the country".
 
"The operators have invested billions of dollars in licence fees, spectrum fees and network roll-outs. Yet the industry still makes negative return on the capital employed," COAI said.
 
It estimated that India would need an additional capital outlay of Rs.300,000 to Rs.500,000 crore over the next 10 years in spectrum, new technology, equipment, towers, and optical fibre backbone, among others, "to meet the PM's vision of Digital India".
 
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg of Internet.org -- a platform with Reliance Communications as its India partner and which offers free access to data -- and Bharti Airtel, whose Airtel Zero venture was also drawn into the debate, have both said they are completely committed to net neutrality.

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Avantha Group executive held for extortion call to director
 An official of the $4-billion Avantha Group and his accomplice have been arrested for making extortion calls to the tune of Rs.25 crore to the company's director while the latter was travelling with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his recent three-nation tour.
 
The calls were made by a 47-year-old Jaspal Singh, a senior executive, when the company's director Anil Bhargava was travelling with the prime minister as part of the corporate delegation. 
 
Jaspal Singh, a general manager of corporate affairs of the group's Ballarpur Industries unit, was arrested on Friday, three days after the filing of complaint about the extortion calls.
 
"Both the accused are in police custody till April 20," Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Sanjeev Yadav told IANS.
 
Singh's associate, Deepak Kishore, 43, who travelled to Mumbai to make the calls on April 11 and 13, was also arrested.
 
On Bhargava's behalf, a complaint was received by the Delhi Police's Special Cell on Tuesday (April 14).
 
"Threatening calls were being made to Bhargava and SMSes containing details of family members of the victim were sent on the cell phone number of Gautam Thapar (the chairman of Avantha Group) as well as on the number of the personal secretary of the victim demanding an amount of Rs.25 crore as protection money from the recently concluded sale of a power project of the company in Chhattisgarh to the Adani Group," Yadav said.
 
The caller had also threatened to eliminate the victim and harm his children who are studying abroad in case the demands were not fulfilled.
 
"Massive human efforts coupled with deft technological penetration paid fruit when it was revealed that the person after making the threat calls from Mumbai, arrived in Delhi on April 13," said the official.
 
The police laid a trap and arrested the person, later identified as Kishore, from his residence at Lal Kuan area in south Delhi's Badarpur locality, the official said.
 
"Kishore later disclosed the role of Jaspal Singh, the mastermind behind the conspiracy, who was also subsequently arrested. The mobile phone and the SIM used in the crime were seized from them," said Yadav.
 
Police said Singh, being among the senior officials in the Thapar Group, was privy to a corporate deal of Rs.4,200 crore made by the Avantha Group, a conglomerate Indian company led by Thapar Group.
 
"Investigation has revealed that Singh knew details of the company's management including their children and hatched a conspiracy to extort money from them to the tune of Rs.25 crore. 
 
"He also knew about a recently concluded business deal and believed he could blackmail them. We are also looking at Jaspal Singh's financials to determine the motive," the official said.
 
Police said Singh hired Kishore and made a plan to execute the extortion threats using his intimate knowledge of the affairs of the conglomerate as well as his proximity to the corporate bosses.
 
Kishore, a bus driver in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) on a contract basis, was lured by Singh on the pretext of a handsome amount of money.
 
Police said Singh hired Kishore to blackmail Bhargava and gave him money to procure a SIM card and a cell phone to make the threat calls.
 
"Kishore arranged a SIM card from Manipur and made calls from Mumbai," police said.
 
"Singh was confident that the management would never report the extortion attempt without involving him. However, his luck ran out when Anil Bhargava went directly to the police," said another police official.
 
Singh, born in 1969 in Mohali in Punjab, had joined Ballarpur Industries Limited as manager in 2005 and has been a regular Thapar employee for 10 years.
 
Gradually, Singh gained the trust and confidence of his bosses and became their valued liaison man for all corporate affairs and was made the head of corporate affairs of Ballarpur Industries, India's largest paper manufacturing company.

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After unseasonal rains, 'aam' set to be a 'VIP' this season
'Aam' or the mango - the summer delight for millions across India - might finally be a 'VIP' this season. This, as unseasonal rains have wreaked havoc on the harvest and production is likely to dip by over 30 percent. While heavy and gutsy winds have brought down most of the 'baur' (mango flower), much of the remaining has been hit by fungal attack due to moisture.
 
Mango growers in Uttar Pradesh rue the fact that unseasonal rain, hailstorms and inclement weather could actually spike the harvest further, leaving fewer mangoes and out of reach of commoners. The prices, they warn, are going to rise steeply. The western belt of mango orchards and the Mallihabad belt have taken the brunt of the rain over the past few weeks.
 
In Saharanpur, 70-75 per cent of the mango crop has been damaged, leaving growers haunted with the spectre of "very poor yield". The crop damage becomes more worrying as last year, the extreme heat of June had damaged the mangoes. With the temperatures comparatively low in April, mango growers point out that the fruit will take time to ripen and could miss the domestic and export markets.
 
Shabi-ul-Hasan, a major mango exporter from Saharanpur, said he is keeping his fingers crossed for the next few weeks, adding that "as of now, the crop has been badly hit" owing to the rains.
 
The western belt of UP - Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Shamli, Saharanpur, Syana in Bulandshahr, Shikarpur and Gulawathi - export more than 200 tonnes of various mango varieties to the Gulf countries, Europe and the US.
 
In 2014, the crop damage was not as bad as this year and the exports had dropped to a mere 40 tonnes. Mango exporters are worried that this year could "render a body blow" to the harvest.
 
The Rataul mangoes, which make Baghpat a favoured export centre, has also witnessed extensive damage. The situation is similar in Mallihabad, neighbouring state capital of Lucknow, where the famous Dussehri variety comes from.
 
Haji Qalimulla, an eminent mango grower referred to as 'Mango Man', feared that the cost of Dussehri, the commom man's 'darling fruit', could cost an additional Rs 10-20 this time round. He also said that making any more predictions on the mango harvest could be dicy as rains have been unseasonally coming and going. Any further rain could further scale-up the prices.
 
The situation is the same for the Chaunsa, Safeda and other varieties grown in the state.
 
Mango is grown over almost 300,000 hectares and the yield varies from 3.5-4.2 million tonnes. While a sizeable chunk is exported, the rest is consumed domestically. So, brace up for the sweet mango season to be slightly bitter and out of reach!

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COMMENTS

Gopalakrishnan T V

2 years ago

VIP Culture cannot be tolerated. Better refer this toTimes Now.

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