PFC has published names, complete addresses, telephone or mobile numbers and email IDs of around 1.2 lakh individuals, which raises several questions of privacy and investor protection
In yet another instance that proves the government and its units are insensitive to issues of transparency and privacy, Power Finance Corp (PFC) has published complete data of its investors on the web. This too when, concerns are being raised about the government's unique identification (UID) program that not only collects detailed information, but also takes biometric data like iris and finger scans. This UID data is accessible for anyone who is associated with the UID Authority of India (UIDAI) as registrar.
In a stunning case of placing private data out in the public domain PFC, which collected money from investors for its infrastructure bonds, has published names, addresses, telephone or mobile numbers and email IDs of around 1.2 lakh individuals. The revelation of this data has angered several investors. "I was not aware of my personal data being uploaded on the website. This is a clear violation of my privacy," says a Mumbai-based investor.
This is surprising, especially when last year Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee rejected a proposal from National Intelligence Grid (NatGrid) to access details of all bank accounts. Mr Mukherjee, in a hand written note, had warned that intrusion into the privacy of bank depositors will discredit the banking system and people will start using other modes for securing their funds.
However, either PFC is not aware of the Finance Minister’s opinion or does not understand the difference between transparency in its operations and violating personal privacy.
Currently, the UIDAI is under heavy criticism on privacy issues, use of biometrics and the incentives being paid for enrolling more residents. Many voices have been raised against the forceful implementation of the UID project, with most objections focused on concerns over privacy. Advocate and activist Kamayani Bali Mahabal, who started petitioning Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh against UID scheme or Aadhaar, said, "Privacy law is still being made, and until it is in place, the UIDAI should not be doing what it is, and it certainly cannot be allowed to share information as it proposes to do under the 'information consent' clause in its form."
Although, the Constitution does not explicitly specify privacy rights, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement (Unni Krishnan, J.P & Ors. Etc., versus State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors,) on 4 February 1993, had ruled that "This Court has held that several un-enumerated rights fall within Article (21) since personal liberty is of widest amplitude."
We sent a mail to PFC officials, who assured us that the mail has been forwarded to concerned department and they will act upon the issue at the earliest.
The Railways have reduced tatkal booking period to one day before the journey and also barred agents from booking tickets on the Internet from 8am to 10am
The Indian Railways have revised the Tatkal (urgent ticket booking) scheme, making it more ‘passenger-friendly’ by reducing the advance booking time to one day, excluding the journey date, from the earlier two days. The Railways also increased the booking time by one hour to 8am to 10am and has barred agents from booking tickets under the tatkal scheme over the Internet. The changes came into existence from Monday.
According to experts, these changes have been introduced following passengers’ complaints of not being able to book tatkal tickets mainly due to touts and agents who would book all the tickets immediately after the window was opened.
Passenger organisations have welcomed this move. Madhu Kotain, president, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, told Moneylife, that, “Tatkal was meant for emergency journeys. There is no logic in allowing booking such tickets three days prior to the journey. These new changes would benefit passengers and curtail mischief of agents.”
The revised system will permit the passengers, to book maximum four tickets per PNR and tickets will be issued on producing identity proofs, from any one of the eight points mentioned by the Railways.
“The details of the identity proof will be captured by the system and indicated on the reserved tickets as well on the reservation chart. It will not be mandatory for the passenger(s) to go to the counter to book the Tatkal ticket, however, the proof will have to be sent in the aforementioned manner,” the Railway said in a statement.
Further there would be no refund given on the cancellation of confirmed Tatkal tickets, expect if such cancellation is due to cancellation of trains/late running of trains for more than 3 hours. However in case of partially confirmed tickets, refund will be given for waiting list passenger.
Subash Gupta, president, Mumbai Yatri Sangh, says, “Though the time has been reduced to one day, it will at least ensure that tickets can be booked. Earlier it was impossible to book the tickets due to agents’ mischief. These touts used to book tickets and then sell it at inflated prices. Overall these new rules are passenger friendly.”
The Railways say that “during the journey, the passenger, whose identity card number has been indicated on the ticket, will have to produce original proof of identity indicated on the ticket, failing which all the passengers booked on the ticket shall be treated as travelling without ticket and charged accordingly.”
A though-provoking documentary on what the media feeds the masses
“When I see a movie getting good ratings, I go watch it. If it turns out to be bad, I lose Rs150 for the ticket. How does paid news affect me then?”
A member of the audience asked the panellists after the screening of the movie ‘Brokering News’ by Moneylife Foundation and vCitizens Action Network and MxM India. The movie was produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT).
While there is no apparent serious affect on the likes of this gentleman except wasting a small amount of money; paid news is something that the masses should be wary of. The movie showed how, mass media, which is responsible for reporting correct information and mould public opinion; has started to act as mouthpiece of corporate houses, power lobbies and politicians—misleading the people and redirecting public opinion for their benefit.
Umesh Agarwal, director, has dealt with four aspects of paid news in his movies: sports, entertainment/movies, election coverage and business analysis/industry news.
Much of the movie revolves around the Press Council’s once suppressed report on paid news, which indicted many publishers and broadcasters of taking money for reporting on state assembly elections in 2004 and 2009; praising one candidate while maligning others; which had a significant effect on the voting results.
The movie started with how, every regional political party have started news channels to broadcast propaganda and praise themselves. Even national channels are not immune to paid news. Then there are movie/entertainment promotions that masquerade as news. Mr Agarwal showed how just before the release of the movie ‘Rann’, Amitabh Bachchan acted as the ‘editor’ of Star News. “The bad thing is that the channel did not flash any disclaimer that this was a promotion. And that is not acceptable for a news channel,” Mr Agarwal later said. Equally strange was seeing Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan debate on why a Muslim is not always a terrorist (!) just before the release of Kurban, which eventually tanked.
The most recognisable and repeated category is of course, sports. ‘Brokering News’ showed how channels offer ‘news packages’, which hype over sports events and matches which otherwise fail to generate interest. Even the most irrelevant events, like a five-day test between India and England see hours dedicated to speculation, commentaries, post-mortem and stock footage. The most glaring example is Sachin Tendulkar’s next century, which has become a morning fixture on all channels.
The most damaging aspect, probably, is that of skewed business analysis. Stock advices are often contradictory, shallow and confusing. There is no broad discussion which includes all sides and facts, and such programs are interested in pushing up stock prices of certain companies. A very interesting example is that of the Reliance ADAG deal with foreign telecom companies. For three consecutive days, newspapers announced ADAG’s tie-ups with three different companies, all of which denied the claims. “Isn’t there a pattern? Someone must look into it. The information is either cleverly ‘leaked out’ or the publishers are paid to publish such things to manipulate stock prices,” said Ms Sucheta Dalal, trustee of Moneylife Foundation, who also featured in the film.
Apart from interviewing journalists and media commentators, ‘Brokering News’ also talked about reporters and activists who have turned crusaders against the issue. But, like one such former correspondent of a Hindi daily said, “Often there is no documentary evidence on paid news, since most transactions are made in cash.”
The movie ended with emphasising the need for having a competent and independent regulatory authority for the media which can clamp down on erring channels and publishers and even penalise them; and also listed the numerous recommendations that the paid news report had made. After the screening, an interactive panel discussion on the various aspects followed, which ended in applause.