Citizens' Issues
Illegal Phone-taps, Gumshoes and How It Works
On 27 December 2002, Reliance Infocomm was launched with a phone call from then telecom minister Pramod Mahajan to prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The minister compared Reliance’s high-tech empire to the NASA space station. That was also the day when friction between the Ambani brothers first became public with the conspicuous absence of Anil Ambani at the function. Soon enough, a full-fledged war was being fought through the pages of newspapers and magazines. The dirt that spilled out subsequently included information that Pramod Mahajan was given a 1% stake in Reliance Infocomm, allegedly in exchange for permission to launch a wireless in local loop (WLL) without paying the appropriate licence fee. 
 
The dubious share allotment to Mr Mahajan was withdrawn, given to an alleged associate and soon became the subject of a major income-tax investigation. Many more details about other shady transactions and diversion of funds became public as the Ambani brothers spewed venom at each other. That was the exact period (2002-2006) when Essar was allegedly recording the scandalous deal-making of the entire top brass of Reliance with their neta and babu friends to bury a securities scam investigation by the joint parliamentary committee (JPC), or interfere in a murder investigation, or fix prices for their telecom operations. 
 
And, yet, when Reliance Infocomm was launched, corporate India was wary about subscribing to its attractive offers, precisely because of fears about phone-tapping. It is hugely ironical that the Ambanis, who ought to be under tight security cover, were completely exposed to private phone-taps, despite having moles and tentacles in all seven government agencies that were officially permitted to tap phones a decade ago. 
 
Why were the tapes buried for a decade? I find it hard to believe that the Ambanis were clueless, because even I was cautioned by well-wishers about my phones being tapped in that period. I attempted to check it out through a source in the enforcement directorate who told me how things really work in the snooping business. Since the home ministry had a strict procedure to permit phone-tapping (it is now done through a Central monitoring agency), the government agencies had found a dubious shortcut, he said.
 
In violation of home ministry orders, several private investigation agencies imported high-tech telecom surveillance equipment under false import classification. Private investigators claim to use it to track down errant husbands and cheating wives. But the police and investigative agencies turn a blind eye to their activities in return for conducting illegal phone-taps for them. A decade ago, my source said that only six private agencies were involved in such tapping and that my phone numbers were not in their list.  
 
Now that technological advances have made phone-tapping, and even video-tapping, more sophisticated, how widespread is the use of spyware in corporate warfare and political blackmail? A source, heading the security at a leading telecom company, says that it is, indeed, widespread because equipment is far easier to procure. Moreover, the sale of bulk SIM cards and numbered SIM cards also continues unabated, despite tightening of identification and KYC (know your customer) rules. This is primarily because successive governments have not had the inclination to ensure a real clean-up that would mean a war on India’s widespread corruption.

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Data: What India needs to end malnutrition by 2030
It may seem like a no-brainer to say that we need data to guide efforts to end malnutrition. Would you run an economy without a regular stream of credible data? You'd be flying blind if you did, and we know what happens if you try to do that. And yet this is precisely the situation that those trying to end malnutrition in India find themselves in.
 
 
Until the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) data from 2013-14, seven years had elapsed since the last nationally representative nutrition survey, the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS 3). We hear that NFHS 4, the next big government survey, is in the field and we very much hope it will be out by 2018. If it is, that will be a gap of five years since the RSOC.
 
Why is data important?
 
As the 2016 Global Nutrition Report reminds us, it is important because it tells us which types of malnutrition are being reduced and how fast that is happening. If we know this we can adjust efforts and reallocate resources before it is too late. It is also important for accountability: We need to know how resources have been allocated and the effect they are having if we are to assess the performance of key stakeholders, whether from the government, civil society, the development agencies or businesses.
 
What type of data is critical? There are at least five.
 
First, we need to know the extent of malnutrition: Where it is and how fast it is (hopefully) decreasing. In India, based on the RSOC data and the Global Nutrition Report, the speed of decline in stunting rates has improved as has the speed of improvement in exclusive breastfeeding rates and this is great news. But the rate of wasting of under-five's remains high at 15.1%, adult diabetes rates are increasing and are currently 9.5% and women's anaemia rates are essentially static at 48.1%, one of the world's worst (170th out of 185; China and Brazil are under 20%, Sri Lanka is 26% and Nepal is 36%).
 
Data tells us where to apply the accelerator, where to try to apply the brakes and when to turn to different priorities.
 
Second, we need to know whether high-impact nutrition interventions are reaching the people they are supposed to reach. Interventions cannot work if they do not reach families at risk of malnutrition. India has a patchy record on coverage: Some interventions and practices such as exclusive breastfeeding have high rates of coverage but the coverage of infant and young child complementary feeding programmes is poor, with these infants and young children showing very poor diet adequacy and diversity. Coverage is where the rubber hits the road for nutrition action. We need to know whether the roads are seeing any rubber-and whether they are the right roads.
 
Third, we need to know more about how well certain sectors are doing in supporting nutrition improvement. Public distribution systems that use micronutrient-rich foods are more nutrition-sensitive than ones that do not. Water and sanitation programmes that have a child-centred focus are more nutrition-sensitive than those that do not. Cash-transfer programmes that incorporate some behaviour change communication work around nutrition will be more nutrition-sensitive than those that do not. The only way to assess the nutrition-sensitivity of these sectors is to go through the national and state and district budgets - as NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy recently said - line by line, and designate certain line items, say, 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100% allocations to nutrition. If they are fully nutrition-sensitive they will be given a 100% weight. If they are not nutrition-sensitive at all they will score zero per cent. The challenge is to increase the overall percentage allocated to nutrition. To meet that challenge, we need data.
 
Fourth, we need the first three types of data at the state and sub-state levels. As the India Health Report clearly shows, different states and different districts have different nutrition problems, have different capacities to address them and show different levels of political commitment and leadership. Moreover, the distance between people and their leaders narrows as we move towards the district and community levels, and so, accountability is easier to build. To guide action and promote everyday accountability, we need more disaggregated data.
 
Fifth, we need to know what works. If we don't know whether a nutrition programme actually works, where it works, for whom it works, why it works and how it works, then we are, again, flying blind, wasting resources and acting irresponsibly. More research funding inside and outside India needs to be directed towards making Indian nutrition interventions more effective and more easily scaled up. Innovations need to be developed, piloted, tested and, if cost effective, scaled up. While the costs of evaluating interventions are not trivial, as the 2014 Global Nutrition Report showed, the benefit-cost ratios of identifying and scaling up the interventions that work to prevent malnutrition are huge: Over 34 to 1 for India.
 
The implementation of a national, state or district economic strategy without reliable and regular data would not be attempted-investors simply would not take any such strategy seriously. And yet this is tolerated for a nutrition strategy.
 
The signing of the Sustainable Development Goals by the Indian government provides the perfect opportunity for India to develop its own dashboard of nutrition indicators-one that is linked to specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) targets. The hardest thing for any government to do is to put in place measures for its people to hold it accountable. But all governments need to act confidently and match the bravery exhibited by the mothers, fathers and families that struggle to prevent and cope with the malnutrition that affects too many of the world's next generation.
 
A government that stands up and allows itself to be counted on nutrition is a government whose bravery will be rewarded by an incredible legacy-the ending of malnutrition by 2030.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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PM's message in rejig: Controversy no substitute for good work
Giving a clear message that controversy is no substitute for good work, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday removed his one-time handpicked high-profile Smriti Irani from the crucial Human Resource Development Ministry and gave her the responsibility of the low-profile Textiles Ministry.
 
This is being viewed as a snub as Irani, a Rajya Sabha member, was personally chosen by Modi to run the HRD ministry in 2014 despite the move getting red flagged by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
 
However, Irani's stint has been marred by major controversies over protests in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in Delhi and also the students' protest over the death of scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad.
 
Angry protests and campus violence have been reported from various other universities too.
 
The role of the RSS in getting the former TV actress-turned-politician divested of one of the sought after portfolios is not ruled out as the Prime Minister carried out the exercise after repeated consultations with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley among others.
 
Shah reportedly reached out to the RSS leaders and took their inputs.
 
Seeking to give a message that he is sensitive to popular will and also to the wishes of RSS leadership, Modi brought in Javadekar, originally a Pune-based politician, for the crucial responsibility of handling the HRD ministry.
 
Javadekar as Environment Minister seemed to have left a positive impact on Prime Minister and the Sangh Parivar leadership with his industry-friendly moves, carrying out of Swach Bharat campaign in a mission mode and also pursuing environment diplomacy at the international level on climate change and related matters.
 
Javadekar is also credited with bringing the National and state Compensatory Afforestation Fund, paving the way to unlocking of nearly Rs.41,000 crore earmarked for forest land, lying unspent.
 
In fact after the passage of the bill in Lok Sabha on May 3 with support from major opposition parties, even Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had appreciated that the draft legislation was passed unanimously with members from different parties making their positive contribution by way of suggestions to improve the system.
 
In contrast to Javadekar, Smriti Irani has been mostly in controversies either against Congress, Trinamool Congress and Left leaders besides occasional skirmishes with the Sangh Parivar elements.
 
Besides found engaging in heated exchange of words with opposition members in Parliament, Irani did not quite go well with RSS leaders too.
 
Sources said during their both formal and informal consultation process, RSS leaders along with a few members from Sangh-affiliated educational bodies reportedly often found that as HRD Minister, Smiriti Irani was not quite easy to deal with.
 
Following is the list of Council of Ministers and their portfolios as announced by President Pranab Mukherjee on the advice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
Department of Atomic Energy Department of Space
All important policy issues,
and all other portfolios not allocated to any Minister
 
CABINET MINISTERS
 
Rajnath Singh Home Affairs
 
Sushma Swaraj External Affairs
 
Arun Jaitley Finance, Corporate Affairs
 
M. Venkaiah Naidu Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Information & Broadcasting
 
Nitin Jairam Gadkari Road Transport and Highways, Shipping
 
Manohar Parrikar Defence
 
Suresh Prabhu Railways
 
D.V. Sadananda Gowda Statistics & Programme Implementation
 
Uma Bharati Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
 
Najma A. Heptulla Minority Affairs
 
Ramvilas Paswan Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
 
Kalraj Mishra Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
 
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi Women and Child Development
 
Ananth Kumar Chemicals and Fertilisers, Parliamentary Affairs
 
Ravi Shankar Prasad Law & Justice, Electronics & Information Technology
 
Jagat Prakash Nadda Health & Family Welfare
 
Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati Civil Aviation
 
Anant Geete Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
 
Harsimrat Kaur Badal Food Processing Industries
 
Narendra Singh Tomar Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation
 
Chaudhary Birender Singh Steel
 
Jual Oram Tribal Affairs
 
Radha Mohan Singh Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
 
Thaawar Chand Gehlot Social Justice and Empowerment
 
Smriti Zubin Irani Textiles
 
Harsh Vardhan Science and Technology, Earth Sciences
 
Prakash Javadekar Human Resource Development
 
MINISTERS OF STATE
 
Rao Inderjit Singh Planning (Independent Charge), Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation
 
Bandaru Dattatreya Labour and Employment (Independent Charge)
 
Rajiv Pratap Rudy Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (Independent Charge)
 
Vijay Goel Youth Affairs and Sports (Independent Charge), Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation
 
Shripad Yesso Naik AAYUSH (Independent Charge)
 
Dharmendra Pradhan Petroleum and Natural Gas (Independent Charge)
 
Piyush Goyal Power (Independent Charge), Coal (Independent Charge), New and Renewable Energy (Independent Charge), Mines (Independent Charge)
 
Jitendra Singh Development of North Eastern Region (Independent Charge), Prime Minister's Office, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space
 
Nirmala Sitharaman Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge)
 
Mahesh Sharma Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge)
 
Manoj Sinha Communications (Independent Charge), Railways
 
Anil Madhav Dave Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge)
 
General V.K. Singh External Affairs
 
Santosh Kumar Gangwar Finance
 
Faggan Singh Kulaste Health & Family Welfare
 
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi Minority Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs
 
S.S. Ahluwalia Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Parliamentary Affairs
 
Ramdas Athawale Social Justice & Empowerment
 
Ram Kripal Yadav Rural Development
 
Haribhai Parthbhai Chaudhary Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises
 
Giriraj Singh Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises
 
Hansraj Gangaram Ahir Home Affairs
 
G.M. Siddeshwara Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises
 
Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi Drinking Water & Sanitation
 
Rajen Gohain Railways
 
Parshottam Rupala Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Panchayati Raj
 
M.J. Akbar External Affairs
 
Upendra Kushwaha Human Resources Development
 
Radhakrishnan P. Road Transport & Highways, Shipping
 
Kiren Rijiju Home Affairs
 
Krishan Pal Social Justice & Empowerment
 
Jasvantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor Tribal Affairs
 
Sanjeev Kumar Balyan Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation
 
Vishnu Deo Sai Steel
 
Sudarshan Bhagat Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
 
Y.S. Chowdary Science and Technology, Earth Science
 
Jayant Sinha Civil Aviation
 
Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Information & Broadcasting
 
Babul Supriyo Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
 
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti Food Processing Industries
 
Vijay Sampla Social Justice & Empowerment
 
Arjun Ram Meghwal Corporate Affairs
 
Mahendra Nath Pandey Human Resource Development
 
Ajay Tamta Textiles 
 
Krishna Raj Women & Child Development
 
Mansukh L. Mandaviya Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Chemicals & Fertilizers
 
Anupriya Patel Health & Family Welfare
 
C.R. Chaudhary Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution
 
P.P. Chaudhary Law & Justice, Electronics & Information Technology
 
Subhash Ramrao Bhamre Defence
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

Srinivas Sreeram

8 months ago

Every ministry to should put forth on its website the agenda for entire five years with split up for each year. The issues relating to the ministry and what is their road map . Even today India does not have database for convicted criminals ... so much for a IT savvy country !!! the websites of educational institutes is very pathetic to the point of being trash. There is no list of recognized institutes, their status, approved or accredited courses, staff or classroom or infrastructure set up..... NO forms available with many educational institutes have got into "frozen" mode for the website is not updated since 2011 or before. They are dead. Make it mandatory for each institute to have a working website & penalize them heavily. NTR university in Vijayawada the website seems to be designed by a kindergarten school kid. & we talk of performance of BJP govt or its ministries. They are no different from Khangress. Same rotten stuff.

Srinivas Sreeram

8 months ago

smrithi irani or any other minister in this BJP govt., have no vision or roadmap for their allocated ministries and just getting along with the work as it comes by is NO roadmap. Infact they did not do their own ground work nor understood the priorities or issues in each ministry. Education ministry has so much to do i.e. common syllabus, common exams, remove the power of universities giving certificates, conduct a centralized exam for each year and anyone who passes only will be given certificates and license to practise their trades. Let each college or education institution get recognized based on their own teaching merits and be rated along those lines. Surprising & disgusting to see 1950's syllabus is untouched and same rotten stuff being told & retold & taught to students.

Shrikant Dattatraya Sahasrabuddhe

8 months ago

Moneylife should have put a disclaimer about JNU & Vemula remarks.

REPLY

MDT

In Reply to Shrikant Dattatraya Sahasrabuddhe 8 months ago

Thanks for your comment. We already have a disclaimer just below the article for external news feeds.

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