Citizens' Issues
Res ipsa loquitur—The thing speaks for itself

The Constitution of India says in sum and substance that all of us in this country are entitled to be protected against crime in whatever form it hits us. But what about the starving children, women and children of this country? One cannot hide under the tabled excuse of the distribution system is at fault or that there is ‘leakage’. Fix it, damn it! It is your problem

This is not about a muck encrusted creature from the swamp which has suddenly discovered the power of self expression but about a widely accepted principle of law.

The principle stated in laymanese is that even if you were not present say when a falling brick in a construction site hits a god-knows-why-he-was-there passerby on the head when you were at the site, you (the owner/operator/caretaker of the construction site) are legally liable for the said brick and the said brick—noggin clash.  I hope that you are greatly impressed with how I slipped in the legalese and into the laymanese with the clever use of the word ‘said’ not just once. But twice!

(I am sure that lawyers, advocates, solicitors and barristers will all have a point of view on this, shaking their wigged or otherwise wise heads at this flagrant ignorance of the finer legal points. Unfortunately I don’t know the difference between a lawyer, advocate, solicitor and a barrister, so I stand where I am, proud in my lawful naiveté.)

Anyway I heard this term for the first time when I was watching a TV serial about lawyers. I rushed to the fount of all wisdom, Google, and there found the meaning.

So it got me thinking as these things do. I am like an old car on a winter morning, and my brain like a reluctant engine needs to be kick started. The rest of the time I am happy to be in the garage of no use to myself or anyone else.

If res ipsa loquitir (I love saying this, Latin like Sanskrit having a majesty and imperiousness of purport which the English cannot summon) is to apply, then let us consider the constitution of India (C of I) and move forward from there.

The C of I says in sum and substance that all of us in this country are entitled to be protected against crime in whatever form it hits us. The police are there for that purpose presumably as are the courts. And the government, state or central is there for exactly the same reason. They are not rulers but managers and safe keepers of our liberty and security and well-being in general. Think of them as ward nurses in a well-run hospital. In fact if you visualize all the ministers, chief or otherwise, in those lovely white starched uniforms that the dedicated sisters of succour (who for some genetic and socio-economic reason mostly hail from Kerala), you would be well served in your diligent search for mitigated respect for them. Hey you may even chortle to yourself as I do now while writing this!

So when people are hurt in a riot started by person or persons unknown, and I hold no specific opinion on this, even if the government isn’t there, it's their construction site and their brick!

They are liable for damages. Res ipsa loquitir. There I said it again.

So why are governments which are supposed to uphold the law not following it?   Good question. And like many good questions like say where do babies come from, it has no good answer. The answer may be found in the latest court verdict censuring the offending government for not fulfilling this constitutional obligation. Which is really strange that the lawmakers and the law keepers are being censured by the law. It's a little similar to what happens to me the day after when I curse myself for having had too good a time the night before. Well not really, but you get the general drift of my argument.

Well, forget the whole compensation bit for a second and the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is a whole another matter, even if you are a teetotaller as many in the not-so-obliquely referred to state profess to be.

At the very least one should practice the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Incidentally this is a golden rule in very single major religion in the world. 

In the Mahabharata: Do not to others what ye do not wish done to yourself; this is the whole Dharma. Heed it well. 

Or exactly the same from the Jewish Talmud which says, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbours. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go learn it.”

Or in Islam, the Hadith quotes: “No one of you is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself”.

And in Buddhism. In Zoroastrianism. In Confucianism.  In any ism.

And even if you, God forbid, didn’t believe in God or such forces beyond your ken, take heed from one of the greatest Western philosophers of all time, Immanuel Kant who said that there is a supreme categorical imperative for man and for the society he creates and lives in.  Which simply says, Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.  

Simply put, without prejudice to none and with benefit to everyone.

This is the simple universal law. 

What in polite company we would call natural justice.

But even this is under serious pressure like a potato in a cooker. Everyday you hear of the Supreme Court taking the government to task for some sin of omission or commission. You would think that by now this public chiding would make the administrators of our country a trifle red faced. (I remember how ashamed I was when my mother scolded me in public. But that’s another long story and I don’t want to relive it, anyway!)  But it seems that shame has gone the way of the purple-faced langur; rare and absent from public gaze.

And in addition, now we are being told that there are monsters, oops ministers who are raising the proverbial finger to the Election Commission and the whole legal framework of the election process which is also pretty darned unconstitutional and has required the president of India having to write formally to the prime minister to keep his minions in check.

Tch, Tch. And I would wag a remonstrative finger at them if I could only see them to do so. 

But in all of this, what about the starving children, women and children of this country? They were guaranteed protection were they not when they were reincarnated in this country presumably because of extremely bad Karma? The government is responsible, accountable and bloody-well-ought-to-be-floggable for this. One cannot hide under the tabled excuse of the distribution system is at fault or that there is ‘leakage’ (a fabulously devious word for corruption). Fix it, damn it! It is your problem. These are not acts of God, raining thunderbolts on the hapless poor below. This is your linen—wash it.

If I starve, the minister for agriculture, the minister for consumer affairs (please note that has nothing to do with morality in or out the bedroom), and the minister for health should all at the very least be sent to bed for a week without food or water.

Just to show thumping of the table, Res ipsa loquitir, once again.

I am all for the law. Provided it is practiced. Provided it is implemented. And provided it is respected.

Even if there are those who think the law is an ass, justice is not.

(V Shantakumar is the former chairman & CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in India. He is now the managing partner at Doing Think, a consulting company. Mr Shantakumar has over four decades of wide ranging experience as a marketing strategist and communication specialist and has played a key role in the creation and growth of some significant brands in India.)





5 years ago

MK Gupta's comments are noteworthy for all concerned, save the govt. which is never really bothered about these hapless people unless the schemes purportedly made for their benefit bring in money for the bureaucrats and their bosses. True, there is now a very oroactive and purposeful minister of WCD, but ultimately it is the society (and not "society ladies") who must feel concerned about this most volatile section in the interest of the well-being of the upper middle class. The increasing number of these women and children may be the harbinger of doom's day for the mankind one day.

MK Gupta

5 years ago

"...But what about the starving children, women and children of this country? ..."is a very good question raised by the author. Why, there is a Ministry for womwn's welfare and children's development (WCD) and the govt. has done its job by keeping a minister of state with independent charge, duly minded (otr unminded) by the usual retinue of IAS and CSS officers who come on temporary visits for say about 3-5 years to serve the target population. What is the net result? Zilch. For, nobody has any sense of belonging to this "class", if one may say so. For the bureaucrats, this is only a job and a ministry with huge funds to be looted without attracting much notice, this being a rather low key ministry. CARA is an area which, informed sources say, brought huge personal profits to the personal coffers of the civil servants in this ministry. Then, ministers'relations, IAS and other civil servants' spouses/children/relatives/friends/
benamies float bogus NGOs and get huge funds on terms of "give and take". This is going on for years and even a well-meaning minister remains helpless onlooker as the real control of the entire govt. lies with someone else. The IAS is a curse on the country as much as its menian, the CSS is. But, are people really interested in these hapless women and children? What really is the credibility of the people manning the various committees/boards created to accommodate socialites with political clout? Are they really so committed to these people as to give up all their perks and privileges (of flying Executive Class, Staying in 5-Star hotels, attending photo-ops, etc.) and devoting their lives for the upliftment of the destitute women and children and education/healthcare, etc. of these people? What is the status of the NGOs without political clout or official backing vis-a-vis central assistance from the NCW/CSB, etc.? Can any NGO working in remote areas without the minimum presence of the govt. ever think of getting any assistance from the bureaucrats/ministries without paying bribes/"pairvi"? Let us face naked truth. The answer is--NO. There are agents openly operating in the field of NGO-funding through govt. sources. But it costs big money. And much of this is also spent in clubs and hotels, with suitable company, of course. It is sad that none of the soldiers of Annaji question the role of the officers/staff in these socially relevant ministries as they themselves run NGOs. And, as far as the media is concerned, unless there is "masala" (in terms of money and plus), NGOs doing real work get no coverage. Yes, as far as the foreign based NGOs are concerned, they get not only the blessings of the VVVIPs but also funding from the govt. and they have just to ask for all legal benefits and privileges--like FCRA, 35CCA in income-tax (beyond reach for genuine native NGOs for lack of funds to pay bribes/keep Delhi representatives), and what not.

So, the answer to the question raised by the author is that not one hi-fi NGO or the govt. at the centre or the states or the people are bothered about the starving/destitute nameless women and dying children.


5 years ago

In India, rights activism is a mere vocation, or a profession, for getting pecuniary, political and media mileage, devoid of any true idealism. At least, this applies to those activists whose faces are seen on p.3s, or in the media very often and are heard of everyday. They have the wherewithal to make their voices heard, they attend parties and fund raisers (including fashion shows!) in 7-star hotels, get inducted into Govt. bodies/Committees, hobnob with the power that be! The real activists remain silent workers, in hiding, lest publicity and media interference bring politicians and bureaucrats'spouses running to grab the power and dupe the target groups. Like, for instance, the Purbachal Ananda Ashram in Barjora in Bankura or the Sramajibi Hospital in Belur/Srirampur (WB), who get no support and assistance from the govt. and the latter also is least bothered about the likes of these like which there are hundreds of such organisations who are denied section 35CCA recognition for failure top engage high-priced "dalals"at Delhi to follow up their cases and entertain the dealing bureaucrats and their underlings. Like Baba Amte--a saint who came to be known after decades of service to the suffering people. Without publicity, one does get no recognition and publicity needs serious investment.

Who cares for street or bustee children? What will happen to upper-middle class and rich people if these animals are lost to education and a reasonably good future any human being deserves? How will they get cheap human labour? And, to tell the truth, if these child labourers are forced to give up their "jobs", who will feed them and their families?


C Jyoti

In Reply to Bidup 5 years ago

Very rightly said, but does Bidup realise that, in India, the Hindu religion and its mercenary activists have no concern for anything humanitarian? Otherwise, unlike the Christian missionaries or the huge mosques catering to millions of poor and destitutes, none of the rich Hindu temples (with fabulously rich purohits/archakas/mahants, etc., in power/control) have any schemes for the poor, destitutes, the ailing, the infirm, the street children's care/education, etc.? They collect crores on building a temple to enjoy power and prosperity, but have no consideration whatsoever for the suffering. Otherwise, there would have been a huge speciality hospital-cum-free dispensary erected on the spot being fought over the Ram Temple in place of Babri masjid. A majority community devoid of any fellow feeling and engaged only in heartless and lifeless rituals in the name of religious regulations must beget rootlessness and, in the result, human undeads without any sense of belonging to anyone or anything.

Amazon turns the heat on Apple with Fire

The litmus test of the newly-acquired market presence for Fire will come in the next two quarters as Amazon faces off against the arrival of Windows 8 tablets and the much anticipated iPad3

Apple might be beginning to feel the heat from Amazon, with the first signs of real competition emerging from the brisk sales of Amazon Fire in the final quarter of 2011. Amazon seems to be leveraging its well-oiled logistics machine and competitive pricing to finally mount a credible threat to the crushing dominance of Apple in the tablet market. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant shipped 3.9 million units during the fourth quarter of 2011 to garner an impressive 14.3% market share as per a recent study by IHS iSuppli. The stellar debut of Fire helped Amazon leapfrog a host of competitors who have collectively struggled to compete with Apple’s iPad since its launch in April 2010. If the trend holds, we could see the emergence of a first real threat to Apple’s incredible dominance of the tablet market.

However, it must be acknowledged that Apple’s iPad shipments faced a certain degree of cannibalisation from the iPhone 4S (37 million units in Q4) and the anticipation of a third version of the tablet later this year. In all Apple sold 40.5 million tablets in 2011, up 168% over the 15.1 million units in 2010, helping expand the fast-growing market. Amazon (6%) sneaked into third place, just behind Samsung which held on to second position for the year with sales of its Tab touching 6.1 million units for a 9% share in the market.

Another impressive development has been the emergence of Barnes & Noble’s Nook which managed to ship 3.25 million units in the year, for a 5% market share. The relative success of Fire and Nook point to the consolidation of value priced tablets as a credible form of competition to the dominant ways of Apple.

Clearly, aggressive pricing has enabled Amazon and Barnes & Noble to play a disruptive hand and upset the calculations of the market. First, they forced competitors such as Samsung, RIM (Research In Motion) and Motorola to slash prices—even forcing some to resort to fire sales to dispose inventory. Second, they leveraged a growing ecosystem of free to use apps to lure the price sensitive customer by offering them an alternative that was priced well.

On the evidence available thus far, one may suggest that Fire and Nook have caused more damage in the Android space more than the iOS market. A true picture will only emerge by the third quarter of 2012—during this time, the intensely competitive tablet market is set to experience the arrival of iPad3, Windows 8-based tablets and an increase in tablets on the ARM architecture.

While many analysts believe Windows 8 could help vendors mount a fresh challenge to Apple, the evolution of ARM into the tablet product will enable disruptive pricing strategies. “Although several processor architectures could be used to power tablet SoCs, the rich software ecosystem of the ARM architecture built around smartphones is proving to be a key differentiating factor," said Jim McGregor, Chief Technology Strategist for In-Stat.

In an earlier report this January, iSuppli swam against the tide to express optimism that Nokia is set to revive itself and catalyse the rise of Windows phones. They suggested that driven by instruments such as the Lumia 900, Windows phones would succeed in displacing the iPhone from its position by 2015. If a similar trend were to take play in the tablet space as well, 2012 could be a watershed year for the lucrative tablet market.

With a slew of launches planned for the rest of the year, these are interesting times for the market. All eyes will remain fixed on the space to see if the disruptive influence of Fire and Nook can continue to hold centre-stage and build on the momentum of their debut. The litmus test of the newly-acquired market presence for Fire will come in the next two quarters as Amazon faces off against the arrival of Windows 8 tablets and the much anticipated iPad3.

It is game on in the tablet market and 2012 could turn out to be year when the market finally starts mounting a credible challenge to the monumental dominance of Apple.



BlackBerry finally sets up server in Mumbai

After much controversy, BlackBerry has finally set up its server in Mumbai following intense pressure from the government to provide a mechanism for lawful interception of its messenger services and Nokia has been asked to follow suit

New Delhi: After much controversy, BlackBerry has finally set up its server in Mumbai following intense pressure from the government to provide a mechanism for lawful interception of its messenger services and Nokia has been asked to follow suit, reports PTI.

During a high-level meeting at the home ministry recently, officials of the security agencies were informed that Canada-based Research in Motion has installed the servers in Mumbai.

The servers have been inspected by a team of officers and permission for direct linkage for lawful interception was expected to be issued shortly, a presentation made at the meeting held in the office of the home secretary said.

About the Nokia Push Mail, the Department of Telecom (DoT) also prescribed a similar policy as in the case adopted by the BlackBerry, the presentation said.

The government and BlackBerry manufacturers were in a logjam over its services in India as security agencies had raised a red flag over its operations citing non availability of method to intercept its messenger service and enterprise mail.

However, there was a climb-down by the government on intercepting mail sent through BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) which decrypts the messages and sends it to the email server of the service provider where it remains stored in decrypted form. Then the message is pushed to the BlackBerry device in encrypted form.

DoT secretary informed that currently there are about 5000 enterprise servers for BES. Director Intelligence Bureau Nehchal Sandhu noted that these are communications between the employees of the enterprise only and, therefore, are not of "high concern" for security or Intelligence agencies.

"However, it was decided to obtain list and location of the servers from telecom service providers," the presentation said.

RIM representatives had explained that BlackBerry mobile device sends the encrypted email which is sent to BES located with the service provider.

The government had said the onus of giving access to security agencies to monitor the information on these smart phones lies with the service providers.

According to the licensing conditions, the service providers are liable to put in a mechanism to allow security agencies to intercept any conversation or message of any subscriber whenever required.

As telecom service providers like Airtel, Vodafone, RCom, the Tatas and the government-run BSNL and MTNL are offering BlackBerry services, it is the responsibility of these operators to ensure that the security agencies get access to all services they offer.

RIM has its operations in 175 countries.


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