There is no royal road to science and only those who do not dread of its fatiguing climb have a chance of gaining its luminuos summits.
-Karl Marx

May 27, 2012

Information Highway and Surveillance


Today around 10% of Indian population uses internet and this ratio is rising rapidly. The number of internet users and the number of mobile phone users in our country is third highest and second highest in the world respectively. Undoubtedly, these mediums have provided innovative ways to propagate pro-people ideas among the masses. Internet is being used extensively to raise voice against the atrocities committed by the Indian state from the North-East to Gurgaon workers' movement. Even Occupy Wall Street movement as well as the Arab Spring owed a lot to these new media. However, there is another facet of this new media revolution. There has been a directly proportional increase in surveillance of the state machinery with the advent of the new media. 
The huge information highway growth can be mapped by the fact that for 7 billion people in the world 5.6 billion mobile connections are there and 2 billion internet connections are in use. Obviously, this data could be misleading because most of these mobile and internet connections are used by huge corporates and wealthy class, who often own hundreds of mobile and internet connections. All these fruits of information technology revolution are owned by corporations. Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, Google monopolizes the market of internet related products and services. Corporate houses keep heavy surveillance on other corporate houses and individual consumers. But there is another type of surveillance that remains hidden to most of us. It is the surveillance by the government agencies on our private and political lives. 
Information Technology Act 2008 allows the government to tap any phone call, encrypt any information exchanged over internet or phone in any part of India. To make this encroachment even more effective, the government proposed CMS and NATGRID which will centrally collect all data exchanged and provide all information to secret agencies like RAW, IB, CBI etc. It also plans to fuse the anti-people NCTC with these institutions. It means any single word you speak on phone or write in email is under the eye of government and if you are under suspicion government agencies can arrest you without any arrest warrant, with no bail for 6 months! The 2012-13 Budget proposes to bring 400 million Indians under the UID scheme. 
Who the Indian state is afraid of? Its own people, which it claims to represent? Ironically, yes! Former president of India Venkatraman had said at the time of the inception of neoliberal policies in the early 1990s that if the Indian state persists with such policies, it will need a huge repressive and intelligence network. His allusion was clear. As an intelligent bourgeois statesman, he knew that such policies will necessarily lead to massive popular discontent and revolt-like situations, that in turn will necessitate a highly repressive state machinery to silence all voices of dissent. Presently the Indian state is bracing itself for precisely this task.
In such state of affairs, we can easily understand the real character of the state. We have our democratic rights! But the democratic rights to obey, give consent, to comply! We have the democratic right to practice statolatory! The moment you go against any action or step of the state, you'll be caught and declared a terrorist, an enemy of the state.