Censorship in the age of Internet

Advent of Internet ushered us in an era of connectivity with the hope that the world would be more open, transparent and fair when there are so many eyes watching. But the purpose was beaten to smithereens when censorship came into play. Censorship means the practice of blocking or modifying certain content (Videos/ Text /Images) to prevent it from making an impression on the mass.

While censorship comes with both its pros and cons, it is its scope and expanse that is under question. Where and when is censorship ethical? This question is indeed difficult to answer but every nation in the world has found a way to answer it in their own way. Being a communist nation, China took the path of blocking major foreign websites and instead supported local websites like Baidu and Alibaba. Censorship was done to protect nationalist interest. Countries like North Korea practice heavy censorship, the people of NK have no access to outside world. All the websites, TV programs are owned by the state and the content is heavily curated. But in the recent times, thanks to internet, quite a few documentaries (shot by undercover agents)have emerged, providing insights into the life in NK. Countries like Syria, Israel censor websites  to prevent the information of political unrest in the country to reach out to common people inside/outside the country. Then there is Saudi Arabia that censors “Content from the West” to protect its people from the western culture which it frowns upon.  

Censorship in democracies has been practiced quite rationally but not without criticism. Very often censorship on movies and songs are debated in countries like India and Pakistan. For Instance, when the movie “Udta Punjab” was released in India it came under a lot of scrutiny from censor board while the supporters of the movie insisted it showed the reality of our country which was indeed dark and hence should be released uncensored. Censorship proves quite useful when it comes to regulating content for children, family TV etc. but there comes time when the debates become quite grey and it is difficult for anyone to take sides.

In the past decade or two, internet has played an important role to expose truths and bring more transparency (Wiki leaks, Hillary Clinton’s emails etc) to the world. If censorship is to be practiced, it should be done on more rational, democratic lines. No doubt the countries that heavily sensor the Internet are the ones with one or other form of authoritarian governments. Here we need to promote openness and condemn irrational censorship. Any steps to increase transparency should be welcomed. But there are certain grey areas where we need to take censorship with a pinch of salt as its application might not be always right or always wrong. To conclude, censorship is integral to maintain our democracy, culture and to uphold our freedom but it should be done in moderation and on rational lines.

Indian Tiger Vs. Chinese Dragon

China and India, two fast growing economies in the world with largest and second largest populations respectively, have all eyes on them. The world looks to the east and sees the sun rise on these two nations. But the relationship between two economies has been competitive and complicated at its very best. Armed with a communist/authoritarian regime, China plays by rules much different than those of India. While the intellectuals vehemently spoke of the benefits of a dictatorship and that a dictator would be able to get more out of its populace in forms of taxes and labor and thus give rise to a richer economy, India held democracy close to its heart and managed to prove that the road to growth does not have to be stained with the blood of its people.

Today India’s GDP stands at approx 6% of World GDP, while that of China stands at approx 16% of World GDP. But the difference can be accounted for. While the Chinese dragon started breathing fire in 1980, Indian tiger started roaring around early 1990s. Given the head start and the repressive regime policies, Chinese economy soared high. But now the times are a-changing. Recently the IMF forecast predicted that Indian economy will grow faster than that of China in the next fiscal year. Though Chinese economy is already much bigger than that of India and this comparison doesn’t really matter, it is a good news for India. We might not be there yet but the signs are showing good times ahead and India seems prepared to grab the silver lining.

While China will have to deal with an aging population in the coming decade, India will have the world’s largest young/working population. China’s ‘One child policy’ has done great damage to its economy. It is left with a very large aging population that cannot contribute to its economy and a relatively small working population to support it.  On the other hand, India placed no such restrictions and very soon will reap the benefits of it (at least from an economic standpoint). While the Chinese economy is showing lowered manufacturing activity, India is all set to increase it with various government schemes such as Make In India in place.  Indian manufacturing sector has a lot of potential as it can provide employment to relatively less educated/uneducated population in the form of manual labour. With the current government’s emphasis on brining in FDI, the economy is set to benefit in the long run as better investment will lead to better infrastructure, employment and growth.

Apart from Internal factors, there are a lot of external factors that will affect both the countries in the coming years. One of them being US President Elect, Donald Trump. His disbelief in Chinese government might influence the future policies that US makes with China and could hurt the Chinese economy. India is not safe either as our highest FDI Inflows come from US and Donald Trump is inclined towards reshaping US to a protectionist form of economy. Donald Trump is not the problem, it is the will of people of US and other countries in the west. During US presidential elections 19 out of 20 candidates supported protectionism in the markets. Brexit occurred as a result of people wanting to close their borders, even if it came at the expense of economic growth. These events are a window to the mindset of people in west. With such a disaster looming on global front, both India and China will have to prepared to reduce their dependence on other countries and If possible, use it as a golden opportunity to rise as leading global economies.

China is already making efforts to make its presence felt globally. Chinese currency Yuan was recently added to SDR ( Special Drawing Rights) basket at IMF, making it part of the elite group. The ambitious CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor)  and OBOR (One Belt One Road) will improve trade connectivity  of China and improve its trade prospects by facilitating smoother/faster trade via land and water. While CPEC is being seen as an act of strategically side stepping India politically, it has more to do with the economic health of China. It will facilitate its exports and give a boost to its economy.

On the other hand, India is trying to improve its global prospects by improving its strategic relationships with countries. It has launched schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana to pull its poor out of poverty. Schemes like Make in India, Digital India are revolutionary and have the potential to uplift our economy. With focus shifting to cashless fair/transparent economy in the wake of Demonitization, there is no doubt India is leaving no stone unturned to ensure its people rise with the country.

While things look quite bright for India, there is still a lot of work to be done. China has a large proportion of its female population in the workforce while the corresponding numbers in India are very low. India also lags behind china when it comes to Infrastructure and education/literacy rates. For India to do well in the longer run, it will have to improve on all these fronts. Encouraging women empowerment and education, improving investment in roads/railways and imparting quality education to all will work to India’s benefit. We have indeed come far, but we still have a long way to go.

Democracies fail when they ask too little of their people. India needs to call its people to participate in this wave of growth and play their part well. We all need to contribute to ensure our country achieves its true potential. Given the right strategy, India Tiger will rise against odds and will emerge as a winner irrespective of how many dragons breathe fire on its way.

A Statue of Eros

This morning, Sangeeta woke up feeling rather exhausted and dull. It was a gloomy Sunday morning. Weather was rainy and the room was dull with procrastination. She woke up feeling rather lackadaisical, a weird thing to feel at such an hour. But our moods are affected weather nonetheless.

Sangeeta thought it a lazy morning. Sunday meant holiday for Mrs. Gupta next-door. Sunday meant a Monday for a housewife like Sangeeta.

Mrs Anjali Das Gupta was a 27yr old beautiful young wife of Mr Gupta next door. A gorgeous young ambitious woman with dark eyes. She was an object of jealousy for every woman on the block. Everyone, except Sangeeta.

Her jealousy was only directed to Mr Gupta. Something unusual for a woman, so she religiously fought it every day while watching Mrs Gupta drive back home from work. Heart apparently is capable of love and pleasure even when it’s brimming with guilt, she discovered. Strange, she thought. Two good reasons for your heart to stop beating altogether and yet it just won’t. Not a pleasant thought when you have a husband on his way back home.

Guilt takes over easy on rainy mornings, yet she somehow managed to get out of her bed. She glanced at her husband sleeping on the bed. He’ll probably sleep till noon, she thought.

She put on her gown and her slippers and went out in the kitchen. A hot cup of tea would be nice at this hour. Mrs Gupta was probably not up yet, she could see through her window which opened in front of Mrs Gupta’s mansion. The doors were closed, and so were the windows.

Sangeeta stared at her brewing red tea and marvelled at its rich red color. Anjali would look beautiful in this color, she thought. Her thoughts now made her angry. She felt angry at her other self for not having any self control. It’s called other self for a reason. The reason being it is not yours, atleast not consciously. It is an another. So she could pass on some blame there. Maybe a chronic disease or a genetic mutation perhaps. That’s what they said in the papers. But Anjali would look Gorgeous in red nonetheless.

Tired at her own failure to exercise self control, she turned to perform her daily chores.

Sunday afternoon went by quite swiftly. There wasn’t much to do though. A tv serial binge saved her from having to converse with other fellow beings. She wasn’t one to share her thoughts or feelings or to banter about things that people generally like to banter about. She enjoyed her peaceful self critical existence. What could she share even if she decided for it? Nobody could understand, much less empathize. Her pain had overstayed its welcome and yet wasn’t ready to leave, so she has let it stay under her stairs. Being a woman, you cannot a love a woman. But how could she not?

Evening fell and Sangeeta could no longer feel comfortable in her chair. She walked out into the lawn and sat next to her husband.

“What are you reading? “She asked, trying to start a conversation.

“It’s a novel”, came a brief reply.

One mustn’t disturb others while they are reading, but Sangeeta felt too uncomfortable to worry about making others feel so.

“I can see that”, she said, “what is it about?”

“About a girl.”

“I thought you didn’t read that kind of books.”

He looked up from the novel and raised an eyebrow at her.

“What kind of books?”

“Romantic ones. I thought u didn’t like them.”

“No I don’t.”

“Then why  are you reading this one?”

“It’s better to read some crappy novel than to sit in front of tv and watch your stupid serials.”

“It’s not stupid”, she retaliated,”if you try and sit through it, you might even like it.”

“I wish I could believe you.”

He looked down and started reading again. That was her cue to leave.

“Listen”, he called back.”

“Yes?”

“Could you make me a cup of coffee?”

“Sure”, she replied and headed to the kitchen.

This marriage isn’t going to work, she thought. But don’t be ridiculous, she told herself. Men watch sports, drink coffee and complain about women. Its their thing. The thought didn’t linger long enough to bother her through the night.

Next morning, Sangeeta woke up feeling irritated yet again. She complained about the weather for a whole 15 mins before getting out of bed. But there was a silver lining.

All Monday morning she could stand in her kitchen, cook and look at Mrs Gupta’s mansion. Anjali could be seen running around the house , getting the children ready for school, bidding goodbye to Mr Gupta and then finally getting ready and off to her office. Monday mornings were pleasant for this exact reason, she had the peace she needed to accommodate both guilt and pleasure.

May be it is simply sexual, she thought. It could be a meaningless attraction that would eventually fade away. It must fade away. For how long she could go on living like this? Her pain felt fresh like the first heartbreak. “What monster is locked in my rib cage? How can it be a heart.” This isn’t natural. She felt her thoughts slowly drifting into extreme guilt. A voice from the hall shook her from her stream of thoughts.

“Sangeeta, my tea?”

She went out to get cups from the shelf and saw her husband reading the newspaper.

“What are you reading?

“Can’t you see?”

“No, I mean, read me the headlines”, she said, desperate to get her head off things.

Well, the big news is from USA. Yesterday, the US government legalized homosexuality in all its states. So same sex marriage is valid now. Its all over the social media too.

“Really?” She felt lighter suddenly.

“Yes.”

“Well what do you think about it?” It didn’t matter what he thought, but she was curious anyway.

“I think its stupid” he said, “Its clearly an anomaly, something against nature and social order. Probably a genetic disorder or something. Such people should be denied relationships or marriage. Its better if they are simply eliminated or, fixed.”

“You believe so?”

“Yeah.”

His words lingered in the air for a minute before she turned back and started walking towards the kitchen.

A smile crept on her lips. She was glad her husband wasn’t the president of America or any other country for that matter. She looked down at the brewing red tea and thought of Anjali in red. She let the thought stay for a little longer. This time, without any guilt. Her husband will never understand. Maybe she won’t understand it either. But it was real irrespective of it all and without the need of comprehension. She mused over the thought and decided to let it linger a bit longer and closed her eyes. Wrong some would say, but she closed them anyway.

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