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Pune’s traditional katta culture, wherein like-minded people gather informally to chat in public places, has now, RTI, as the new topic of discussion
Although Maharashtra is one of the states with a large number of users of Right to Information (RTI) Act, knowledge and information about the Act, is still found wanting. This is amply reflected during my RTI workshops or public lectures on this topic.
In an innovative and fun-loving approach, leading RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, who is the founder president of Surajya Sangharsha Samiti, launched the `RTI Katta’ last fortnight at Pune’s premier public garden, Chittaranjan Vatika, in the upper crust Model Colony neighbourhood. More than 50 Puneites attended the meeting, out of which several of them came from across the city. Within a week, the ‘RTI Katta’ fervor has spread to five more public gardens, with the respective local residents taking initiative to host them.
The objective of the `RTI Katta’ is not to preach about the RTI Act, says Kumbhar, “but to empower oneself through discussions amongst each other. It is an umbrella where the attendees get an insight into various issues that crop during the informal chat. A person’s query or problem is answered by several people which results in a healthy and relevant solution than one RTI expert providing the answer. Moreover, it strengthens the belief in RTI movement which is time and again scuttled by the government through various circulars and amendments.”
Kumbhar has laid down some rules for forming an RTI Katta, one of which will soon be launched in Ahmednagar: RTI Katta should be formed in such a public place where no official permission is required, a public garden is the best bet; the name of any individual or organisation should not be added wherever the RTI Katta is being formed; the meeting should be purely a discussion forum and there should be no one-sided speech; any attendee is welcome to seek advice on his RTI applications; any attendee is welcome to give his opinion, however he or she should ensure that he is not misguiding the person; no one should object or scorn if an attendee, new to the RTI Act asks an irrelevant question – he/she should be enlightened through this forum; there should be no exchange of money for either asking a query or answering it; since this forum is all about individual empowerment, no person should try to solve the problem of the other but encourage the individual to fight his/her own RTI battle.
Shamala Desai, a noted social activist who had attended the maiden `RTI Katta’ stated, “there was tremendous curiosity and eagerness to be a part of the RTI movement. It also showed that many people put a RTI application but do not know how to follow up if they do not get a reply. Several youngsters too who attended it were keen to make this citizen-friendly law, stronger, by its constant use.”
Pune is the pioneer of the RTI Library, which was named after stalwart journalist-activist Prakash Kardaley and inaugurated by Arvind Kejriwal in 2008. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is also the first city to introduce the 3pm to 5pm walk-in for citizens, every Monday, in all its departments. Pune was the first city wherein Inspection of files under Section 4 of the RTI Act was conducted, the RTI activist being Vijay Kumbhar. With Pune having so many firsts to its credit in the RTI movement, its latest addition–RTI Katta–is sure to bring more people close to RTI.
Here’s wishing that many more cities, towns and villages start `RTI Kattas’ which is a real cool way of gaining knowledge about RTI and using it to good effect. For more details on how to start a RTI Katta get in touch with Vijay Kumbhar at [email protected] or call him on 09923299199
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
In the course of writing her book, Dragnet Nation, ProPublica reporter Julia Angwin tried various strategies to protect her privacy. In this blog post, she distills the lessons from her privacy experiments into useful tips for readers.
One of the easiest and simplest things you can do to protect your privacy is to be a smarter Web browser.
This is surprisingly difficult because most popular Web browsing software is set up to allow users to be tracked by default. The reason is simple economics – you don’t pay for Web browsing software, so the companies that make it have to find other ways to make money.
The most egregious example of this conflict came in 2008 when Microsoft’s advertising executives helped quash a plan by the engineers to build better privacy protections into the Internet Explorer 8 Web browser. Microsoft has since added additional protections – but they are not turned on by default. The situation is no better at Google, whose Chrome Web browser has “buried and discouraged” the “Do Not Track” button, and is pioneering the use of new tracking technology that cannot be blocked. And it’s worth noting that the other big Web browser maker, Mozilla Corp., receives 85 percent of its revenues (PDF) from its agreement to make Google the default search engine on Firefox.
Even worse, many of the tools that Web browsers offer to protect privacy are not effective. Tracking companies have refused to honor the “Do Not Track” button. And Google Chrome’s “Incognito” mode and Internet Explorer’s “InPrivate Browsing” mode won’t protect you from being tracked. Those settings simply prevent other people who use your Web browser after you to see where you’ve been online.
And so, in order to prevent the most common types of tracking, I ended up loading up my Web browser – Mozilla’s Firefox – with a bunch of extra software. It sounds like a lot of work, but most of this software can be installed in a few minutes. Here’s what I used:
I installed “HTTPS Everywhere,” created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project. This tool forces your Web browser to use encrypted Internet connections to any website that will allow it. This prevents hackers – and the National Security Agency – from eavesdropping on your Internet connections.
I also installed Disconnect, a program created by former Google engineer Brian Kennish, which blocks advertisers and social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, from tracking which websites you visit.
And finally I set my default search engine to be DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t store any of the information that is automatically transmitted by your computer — the IP address and other digital footprints — so DuckDuckGo has no way to link your search queries to you. That means DuckDuckGo won’t auto-complete your search queries based on your previous searches or based on your physical location, as Google does. So you’ll have to be a little smarter about your searches, and remember to bookmark the pages that you visit often, to save time.
After browsing with my ungainly setup for nearly a year, I found a Web browser that had all the features I wanted built in — called WhiteHat Aviator. It has built-in HTTPS Everywhere, it doesn’t retain or sell your online activity, and it uses Disconnect to block trackers from advertisers and social media companies. Its default search engine is DuckDuckGo.
It’s built by a computer security firm called WhiteHat Security, but it hasn’t been audited by any computer security experts yet, as far as I can tell. So use it at your own risk (and currently you can only use it on the Mac OSX operating system). But I’ve been using it for a few months, and after some bugginess in the beginning, I’ve started to enjoy the unusual feeling of having privacy as a default setting.
Bloomsbury withdraws all copies of Jitender Bhargava's book that chronicles the fall of Air India and tenders an apology to former aviation minister Praful Patel, even as the author has refused to back down and avers that whatever he wrote was factual
In a sudden and shocking incident, Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt Ltd has withdrawn Jitender Bhargava's 'The Descent of Air India' with an apology to Praful Patel, the leader of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and union minister. In his book, Mr Bhargava detailed all the people, including Patel and events that led to Air India's downfall. But Mr Bhargava is not planning to take it lying down. In his post of facebook, he has made it very clear that he does not agree with the publisher's stand and will stand by his charges recorded in the book. Here is what he says in his facebook post:
"This decision of Bloomsbury was unilateral, and without discussing with me, as an author. Their stand thus naturally came to me as a surprise. And it may surprise you too when you see the apology of Bloomsbury published in the newspapers," said Jitender Bhargava in an email.
According to Mr Bhargava, after the book, 'The Descent of Air India' was formally released on 11 October 2013 in Delhi attempts were made by Praful Patel to obstruct its distribution. "Besides ensuring that the books were not sold at airport book stores (he still appears to wield clout with airport operators) had TV channels to drop scheduled programmes relating to the book - in the case of one news channel even after the interview had been recorded; he served a legal notice, alleging that the book contents were defamatory," says Mr Bhagava.
"He (Patel) filed a case in the court of the metropolitan magistrate, Mumbai. While I told the judge on 6 January 2014 that everything stated in the book about Praful Patel is true, backed by documented evidence and will be duly justified and contested in the honourable court, the publishers, Bloomsbury, on whom also the notice was served, decided on not pursuing it, and instead agreeing to offer an apology to Praful Patel," Mr Bhargava said.
Earlier, in November, Moneylife Foundation organised an event in Mumbai where Dr Subramanian Swamy, former minister of commerce and law launched the book. On the decline of Air India, Dr Swamy highlighted a few reasons: harmful bilateral agreements, all profitable routes of the airlines were shutdown and made available to other airlines. He also mentioned that the airline bought aeroplanes that were probably overpriced and recently they sold these brand new planes as junk to Etihad, at one-third of the buying price.
Mr Bhargava, who was the executive director of the airlines till January 2010, mentioned that every decision was being taken by the government as Air India never had a culture of speaking up. Those who voiced their opinion were asked to leave. Instead of implementing decisions that should have been taken, the airline was bleeding because of decisions that should not have been taken. Impractical expansion plans and thoughtless use of the airline's resources contributed to the national carrier's collapse.
Highlighting one such instance in his book, Mr Bhargava wrote that when India won the T20 cricket world championship, Praful Patel, former aviation minister who oversaw the airlines for some seven years, awarded the entire Indian Team and their families’ free tickets on Air India for five years. The loss making airlines was also made to spend Rs3.5 crore on advertisements to celebrate the T20 win. A media house, for its annual summit, was given Rs30 lakh verbal commitment of free tickets from Air India, again by Praful Patel, in return for publicity! This oral commitment too was honoured since it was made by the minister.
Mr Bhargava also explains how the airline reached a point of no return under chairman V Thulasidas who acted as ‘His Master’s Voice’ to minister Praful Patel who seemed bent on decimating the airline. The story is important for all concerned citizens, at a time when opposition to privatisation is based on false romanticism about it being a national carrier. Politicians will continue to plunder the airline as long as it remains under State (minister’s) control.
Speaking about the publisher’s decision to withdraw the book, Mr Bhargava said, "As everything stated in the book is true, based on documents, I will have the book, 'The Descent of Air India' reprinted either on my own or through a new publisher. Simultaneous action is being initiated to bring out ' The Descent of Air India', as an e-book. I am told this can take up to four-five weeks. I will be back soon because neither can I be bulldozed into submission nor can facts be allowed to be suppressed."