Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Posted by Tarun Vijay at 2:22 AM
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Published: May 8, 2013 01:57 IST | Updated: May 8, 2013 02:10 IST
The aura around the iconic search engine should not stop us from asking why it should be exempt from the law of this country
While the spirit of The Hindu’s editorial on Google (“Wrong route,” April 29, 2013) is appreciable, it is based on a flawed perception.
Google’s power and usefulness are well-recognised. An entire generation reveres Google as the god of all information. This aura makes it harder to understand the company’s conduct. It has not only contemptuously ignored the queries raised by India’s Surveyor General, but also put out a version in the media portraying those objecting to its violations as Neanderthals.
The basic issues are these: is Google India expected to follow Indian law or not? If there is a violation that is glaring and which could compromise India’s military and nuclear secrets, should we raise an objection or not? Can Google India be above all other mapping agencies working in India just because of the cosmetic aura it has woven around itself or should it be subjected to the same rules and norms applicable to others?
Google’s sin against the Constitution and the law is this: it showed vital military installations, with annotations depicting the core of the Apsara nuclear reactor, blast pens inside the Hindon airbase, ammunition depots, markings of hangers meant for specific fighter jets as well as those jets visible outside in the high resolution images, warships in naval dockyards, and much more.
To make matters worse, defence systems and infrastructure were marked over a period of time. This sensitive data showing changes on a timeline can lead to a comprehensive and accurate/predictive analysis of our defence preparedness and planned responses to a situation.
One of the arguments by Google enthusiasts is that all this information can also be accessed on Google Earth. So what’s the big deal if Google provides it on its maps? The very basis of this argument is flawed. Satellite imagery available on Google Earth or through any other remote sensing satellites can only give a viewer a vague idea of structures and objects. But it needs a highly sophisticated mechanism to decipher these images and have them accurately marked for actionable intelligence. For example, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre complex is huge, with several residential and office buildings, and reactors. It is the specific marking of the Apsara reactor that makes it vulnerable to a swift and precise attack.
Recceing an area is the key to preparing for military or terrorist action. That’s exactly what David Headley did in Mumbai before 26/11. Google is facilitating, unintentionally, a digital recce by enemies.
The other serious aspect of Google’s conduct is its brazen refusal to adhere to Indian law.
Besides the government’s Survey of India there are more than a dozen national and international mapping agencies active in India including Nokia, TomTom, MapmyIndia, etc. All of them follow the prescribed law. Why should Google be an exception? The New Mapping Policy 2005 requires that all mapping data above 1:50 K collected by private agencies should be vetted by the Ministry of Defence. While every other agency does it, the query that Surveyor General of India Swarna Subba Rao raised was whether Google had submitted the data collected through its Mapathon or its continuous map-making process through crowd sourcing for vetting, as required by the law.
Surprisingly, Google has said everything except answer this specific query. If Blackberry could be forced to provide access to its BBM data, why shouldn’t Google be asked to do so? Let this incident trigger a debate on India’s mapping policy and the changes it needs but till a consensus is reached, the nation’s constitutional position and security concerns cannot be compromised.
(Tarun Vijay is Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, and hon. director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, a centre for civilisational values and policy research.)
Keywords: Survey of India, Mapathon 2013, Google, National Map Policy, Google mapathon contest
Printable version | May 8, 2013 10:48:47 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/drawing-the-line-on-google/article4693193.ece
© The Hindu
Posted by Tarun Vijay at 10:23 AM
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Saturday, May 4, 2013
New Delhi: MPs of BJP-led NDA on Friday met President Pranab Mukherjee to express concern over Chinese incursions into Ladakh and the manner in which the case of Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh was handled by the government.
The delegation, led by NDA working chairperson LK Advani, met Mukherjee in the Rashtrapati Bhavan and submitted a memorandum seeking his intervention on the two issues.
They demanded that Mukherjee discuss these issues with the UPA government and ask them to take appropriate action.
Advani told reporters that Sarabjit had initially been given a death sentence which was commuted to life imprisonment.
"Sarabjit had reportedly completed his sentence and had received a condonation of his death sentence, as its execution had been delayed for too long. We are given to understand that he was due to be released but held back in Pakistan as a retaliatory gesture," Advani said.
The NDA alleged that Sarabjit's murder could not have taken place without "official connivance" in the Lahore jail and at least, some authorities were involved.
"What distresses us very greatly is the inaction of the Government of India, the Ministry of External Affairs and the officials concerned of not having constantly monitored this case... We are persuaded to emphasise this because we hold that our government's inaction in this case cannot be condoned. They owe the country an explanation and an apology," Advani said.
On the "unilateral and forceful Chinese occupation" in Ladakh, the NDA expressed concern that this may escalate into a 1962-like situation when there were similar incursions before it turned into a full-blown war.
"Government and the Prime Minister have repeatedly announced that this is a 'localised' incident. May we submit this would tantamount to a disingenuous evasion of government's responsibility?" Advani said.
"We would like to remind the government that silent acquiescence in the face of fait-accompli, whether of Pakistan or China is unforgivable pusillanimity. This is simply not acceptable," the NDA memorandum said.
Opposition parties submitted to the President that just because the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is undefined does not mean China can give it a unilateral physical definition through unilateral and forceful occupation.
Terming this as unacceptable, the NDA said, "This manner of unilateral 'localised' actions, resulting in seizure of land, amounts to giving a forcible and physical definition to the LAC."
The NDA leaders maintained that the "arbitrary and unilateral breach" by China cannot be viewed as normal conduct.
"It is violative of agreed principles governing the conduct of forces of China in respect of the LAC," the memorandum said.
NDA also emphasised on the need for recalling a resolution adopted by both Houses of Parliament in November, 1962.
"The government must govern, or it must go," the NDA said.
Advani insisted that the government should clarify both the Sarabjit case and the Chinese intrusions in Parliament next week.
"Is it true that Sarabjit should have been released as he had completed his life sentence?" Advani said, adding the NDA hopes government will give a response in Parliament on this issue.
BJP president Rajnath Singh pointed out to Mukherjee that before 2010 army was deployed in the Ladakh region where these incursions are taking place.
He requested that India should revert to the 2010 position and again post the army in the region. He also told Mukherjee that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid should cancel his proposed visit to China on May 9.
Posted by Tarun Vijay at 12:30 AM