Are you prepared to trade your privacy?

The documents exposed by former NSA agent, Edward Snowden, brought into focus the massive extent of data collection undertaken by governments and private institutions. The collection, analysis and use (or misuse) of terabytes of data, throws open the question: Does the reward of Big Data compensate for the privacy violations it generates?

Have you ever noted that the advertisements at the side of your Facebook screen is the exact product you selected while online shopping site recently? This customised advertisement is private corporations’ collection and analysis of your browsing data and online activities without your knowledge.

Is this creepy or convenient? Where do we draw the line between Big Data’s benefits and its privacy concerns? Big Data is a term broadly used to define a mindset that is obsessed with collection of quantitative information. Under Big Data, every bit of information is welcome, broadly under two types: One, is the active submission of own personal data by individuals to private entities or the government, and two, is the passive collection of data by private corporations and government agencies.

In 2011, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said that in ten years we’ll share a thousand times as much as we do now. This was both an observation and a goal. The accumulation of personal data has an adverse effect on privacy. A researcher will draw entirely different conclusions from a string of online search queries; by collating thousands of search queries, you can understand how data becomes more revealing. Moreover, once data – such as a click stream or a cookie number – is linked to an identified individual, they become difficult to disentangle.

It is both unfortunate, as well as risky, that we trade privacy for increased convenience in terms of customised content, or better product suggestions. We hit ‘I agree’ to different terms and conditions without fully understanding how the data would be handled and who would own it. The internet browsing, games, social networking sites – all seem ‘free’ to us – but, are used as an exchange. Companies take the user data, sell it to advertisers and make money. And yet, why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?

Unfortunately, the legal framework protecting privacy is as muddled as the notion of privacy itself. Moreover, cross border flow of information, or data stored in foreign servers cannot be covered under individual country laws and a global consensus is yet to be arrived at.

To tackle the issue, apart from a need for stronger encryption of shared information, what is required is an extensive discourse. This critical conversation needs to be brought out into public and research domains. You may not be able to stop them from tracking you, but you can make it harder by encrypting email accounts, adding a proxy to your OS and keeping your data out of hands of the private corporations that feed it to the government/third party buyers.

People need to come out and demand for their right to privacy – a very basic, yet essential right. Otherwise, a day might come when privacy becomes a luxury, or extinct.


Amidst tension with North Korea, USA flies powerful warplanes

The USA military flew advanced bombers and stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula and near Japan in drills with South Korean and Japanese warplanes on Monday, three days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan.

The United States often sends powerful military aircraft in a show of force in times of heightened animosities with North Korea. The North launched its latest missile as it protested against tough new U.N. sanctions over its sixth nuclear test on September 3.

The U.S. warplanes also conducted formation training with Japanese fighter jets over waters near the southern island of Kyushu, according to the Pacific Command. Since Kim Jong-un took power in North Korea in late 2011, his nation has tested weapons at a torrid pace. The country flight-tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July. Its nuclear test in September was its most powerful to date.

South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo told lawmakers on Monday that it is “not proper” to reintroduce U.S. nuclear weapons. He previously said the idea should be “deeply considered” by the allies, inflaming already-heated debate on the issue.

Meanwhile, China’s Communist Party newspaper on Monday criticised the United States for demanding that Beijing put more pressure on North Korea to rein in its weapons programs. China accounts for about 90% of North Korea’s trade and sends largely free crude oil shipments to the North.

ISRO to resume satellite launches by December

India will resume launching satellites in  December, unfazed by the failure of its rocket in deploying a spare navigation satellite in the Earth’s lower orbit on August 31, said an official. “We will resume the launches by November or December, with one of the remote sensing satellites though we are yet to finalise with which,” said A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The state-run space agency will schedule its next launch mission after a committee studying the cause of the failure submits its report soon.

“We have identified what the problem is and are going through the simulations to make sure what we are concluding is what has exactly happened (heat shield not separating and deploying the satellite in the orbit),” Kumar told reporters on the margins of a space event here. In a rare mission failure, the space agency’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C39) could not deliver the 1.4-tonne Indian Regional Navigation Satellite (IRNSS-1H) in the orbit as its heat shield did not separate minutes after its successful lift-off from spaceport Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, 80km northeast of Chennai. “The committee has been set up to go through the report, which will come out soon. Launches will resume after the committee gives its final report,” reiterated Kumar.

When Drums Welcomed Ganesha

Photo Courtesy:
Photo Courtesy:

Pune, the cultural hub of Maharashtra, welcomed Lord Ganesha in the city with great joy and pomp. The rhythmic sound of dhols and tashas during procession made the atmosphere divine. These instruments are a form of offering service to the lord by devotees and a means of sharing their delight both on the onset and closure of the festival.

Earlier, a dhol was a means to gather people for makingpublic announcements. Today, Dhol Tasha symbolise the cultural heritage of Pune. The sound of dhols enthrals the public.

There are many dhol tasha pathaks in Pune who, every year, put up a grand show for not only Punekars, but for tourists who come to witness this grand festival.Every year they experiment with different music and formats. Various competitions are also organised between different dhol pathaks.

The president of Shivdigvijay pathak, Narendra Suryavanshi said, “Our dhols will tune to a special taal called Mrutrunjay Taal, exhibiting a Sanskrit poem on Sambhaji Raje. The Hind Dhwaj flag demonstrates the exclusiveness of our pathak, which will be enthroned on Rajgad fort, post which we will be play our tunes.”

Satyajit Shinde, co-ordinator of Naad Bramha pathak, said, “We have introduced many Hindi tunes like Dhinka chika, Dabang songs entertain the public”.

Shivmudra, an experienced pathak, are using historical tunes this year. Shiv Stuti, a tunenarrating the Shivaji Maharaj era, will be played. Due to their historic show, they have received invites from popular and historicGanpatimandals like Kesariwada Ganpati, Tambadi Jogeshwari Ganpati, Zilbya Maruti Ganpati and Vishram Bagh wada Ganpati.

An interesting trend this year has been the increase in the number of women participants in dhol pathaks. KanchanKedar said, “It is great fun to play dhol for Ganpati bappa”.

Thus, the Punekar’s can witness a rhythmic dhol tasha music with a touch of both soulfulkirtans and Bollywood numbers.

Tea plantation owner killed by workers in West Bengal


Image courtesy: BBC

In another incident of clash between proletariats and bourgeoisie, the owner of Sonali tea estate in West Bengal was killed by the workers of the plantation on Saturday. This incident took place when Rajesh Jhunjhunwala, the owner of the tea estate, had gone to negotiate the pay dispute with his workers.

Apparently, the workers had not been paid for around two to three months, which enraged them. Agrawal had gone to pacify them, but that didn’t seem to help and he was beaten up and stabbed by them, which led to his death.

The police have arrested two men and five women in this case.

There have been several incidents in recent years wherein tea executives have been attacked by workers; one of them was in 2012 where a tea plantation owner in Assam was burned to death along with his wife.

These incidents throw light on the sorry state of tea plantation workers, many of whom are poorly paid and malnourished, in a country which is the second largest tea producer in the world.

Questioning Independence


Seventy years ago, India was created with the intention of bringing together people who had all been subordinate to the British Raj. Our forefathers, who struggled against discrimination, hierarchy and a loss of identity, came together to rebel and overthrow our rulers. People from various backgrounds, religions, ideologies were drawn together to fight one entity; one common enemy. However, today, we see that India is not really unanimous in any way, but rather conflicted.

On 15th August, 1947, after a nationwide revolt, India finally gained dominion status from British India. During 1947 and 1950, the Princely States and the Indian Union were united. When the new Constitution of India came into force in 1950, it made India a sovereign democratic republic. At this time, Indians took the initiative to keep India as a homogeneous country for administrative purposes, just as the British had.

What are we, the people of India, really freed from? Are the people being governed by the Government and its politics? For instance, looking at the bifurcation of Telengana from Andhra Pradesh a few months ahead of the election, we see that the people of Telengana feel that they will be better administered if the state is separated. In 1956, an intervention was held, forcing Hyderabad to accede to India, and those consequences are being felt today. Economically, socially and culturally there is a conflict in interest between the two sides, and the people feel they will receive better opportunities as their needs are different from those who are in Andhra. India is no more a unified country, in which the administrative decisions are applicable throughout the country. The people are uprising against the Governments and its commanding policies.

As India celebrates 70 years of freedom, we must take a moment to celebrate our long, functioning democracy with all its flaws, especially in a country of more than a billion people. At the same time, however, we must look around and realise that we really aren’t a united country anymore. Although, we once came together to fight a common enemy, today, independence has different meanings for each of us.

A vegan’s experience of transcendence: Sukanta


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A cup of tea, rather a bowl of Rabri with the royals?… You are at the right place. Sukanta restaurant, which lies at the heart of the Deccan Gymkhana, a 11 km ride from Senapati Bapat Road, shall definitely fit your bill. Literally!

The wall murals and ambience gives you the feeling of being in little Rajasthan and so does the food. Priced at Rs. 260, the thali served is a fusion of Gujarati and Rajasthani cuisine. It comprises of a variety of dishes that stand out for their authenticity and thus, joy to the typical vegetarian.

The thali also comprises of the Jawari rotla and the chawali usal that stand tall for their simplicity among the luxurious Malpoha and Rabri. I was left with a confused heart for I could find no beginning or end to the meal.

The bold spices in the Paneer Lavabdar with soft and juicy paneer made the dish a signature for the restaurant. The Dahi papdi chaat made me gorge into the streets of Maharashtra in the pleasantly lit, air-conditioned ambience of the restaurant.

Dices of Sangham Dhokla generously sprinkled with perfectly roasted mustard and shredded coconut was a treat to the eyes and my taste buds. The raising agents in the Dhokla had been  blended with the dough to get the right crumble when bit into.

I felt like I was opening a gift when I dipped into the Rabri bowl. My first spoon of Rabri was a memory that shall remain untouched. Meadow fresh cow’s milk cooled along with saffron and crystal sugar and voila! My eyes widened when I found chocolate chips buoying on the glamorous mixture.

As I noshed down my first bowl of surprise, the rabri man waited for me to slide it down my tummy. My bowl was brimming like my face again and this time, I gourmandized the chocolate rabri.

Steaming Khichdi with a dollop of ghee was served while I gorged on the rest.

In spite of a few constraints like parking area and proximity to the location, dining in there was a delightful experience, especially when you are away from home.