The 'business' of open letters  

Posted by Praveen

It is the season of open letters. From Narendrabhai Modi(whose usual line of thought is that the sword is mightier than the pen) to Rajdeep Sardesai, everyone is writing an open letter. Then, there was an over-the-top open letter from a Madrasan to a Delhi boy, which resulted in this particular Madrasan girl trending on twitter and which spawned a 100 other equally over-the-top open replies. The latest open letter is by the bleeding hearts of India Inc(minus the likes of TATA and Ambanis). The letter is addressed to the govt of India. 

The letter is divided into four parts. The first three parts vaguely deals with issues related to corruption, eradicating which will supposedly make our country heaven. They talk about how the common man suffers because of corruption and also on the need to come up with reforms to fight this. There are also brave references to the corporate-politician nexus. Suggestions are made to enact a law similar to The Bribery Act, 2010 of U.K. And then there are suggestions for a proper redressal mechanism and cleansing of the judiciary. But when it comes to the last point, one will realise why India Inc(one of the biggest benefactors of corruption) is suddenly so concerned about corruption. 

The fourth point talks about 'environmental clearances which continues to delay several investment proposals and hamper economic growth'. The environmental clearances, tied up with the Forests Rights Act is a particularly touchy issue which even resulted in the 'transfer' of former environment minister Jairam Ramesh to another ministry. When he was the minister, he refused to give clearances to many projects and later had to cave in, most notably in the case of the POSCO project. It was a constant tussle between him and the 'development at any cost' advocates in the government and the PMO. It is no secret that these tussles and pressures from vested interests in the industry resulted in his job change. 

Forests and natural resources are being raped and reaped across the country over the last few years. The arrival of huge FDIs and the need for more land has resulted in indigenous communities getting uprooted and huge amount of land being given to corporates for a pittance. The 'environmetal clearances'can be an effective tool in able hands. So, it serves the corporates well if they can take the sting out of these regulations. The letter says-

"it is worthwhile considering the introduction of an on-line AUCTION process for allocation of natural resources which will provide the much needed TRANSPARENCY and prevent discretionary and irregular practices. Owing to several such impediments, fresh investments are not forthcoming at the pace required for a rapidly growing economy such as ours. Policy uncertainties and delays in approvals are forcing many large corporate entities to seek out opportunities in other geographies"

It looks more like a heartfelt appeal to the Govt to give every available land to the corporates. The first three points on corruption looks like a cloak to cover this intended request. 

Are we all writing Open letters?

Talking about open letters, we all seem to be unknowingly writing open letters. This report about google handing over a wikileaks volunteer's gmail data to US government is a shocking reminder of how our privacy is at the mercy of google. Even though google can save itself from some of the blame by pointing to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act under which they had to reveal the information, it is no excuse for not fighting it out for their clients' privacy. The google transparency report gives some disturbing figures. It is a report on the requests to google from government agencies and federal courts around the world to remove content from their services and hand over user data. The number of requests from India(1700) and the percentage of compliance(79%) tells some tale. And as expected, Switzerland, that country which is the symbol of secrecy, has made 'zero' requests. 


This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at Wednesday, October 12, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Ok this is scary. First of all, that open letter is bogus.

But what drew my attention was the google transparency report. India has 1700 requests??? And what does this 79% compliance mean?? They gave out data? User data? Why in the name of God??!!!

2:12 PM

u might have heard about the whole Pawar cartoon issue. Satish got into trouble for his pole dance cartoon.
Coincidentally, Crank's corner had a similar post about open letters
and the 79% compliance rate is indeed scary.

~ cheers..!

8:44 PM

yea...that means they gave away the details of 79% of people that the govt requested for

yea, and the other guy who got into trouble for the Narendra Modi cartoon...
read that post in Crank's corner ..really good one:D

10:12 PM

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