India’s Half Assed Approach to Security

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I thought after the tragic events of 26/11 in Bombay that security would get beefed up around the city. Instead “security theater” started to appear at hotels and malls, which is the illusion of security but is just smoke and mirrors. We would drive into the Phoenix Mills mall complex and the routine would begin, they check your glovebox and your trunk. For a period of 3 months, I had an empty suitcase in my trunk and not once did they question me. During busy periods the outsourced security guards sort of give up and just let people through.

The reason for the theatrics is to give you the illusion that things are safe but when the shit hits the fan that’s when you see the true colors.  For example on 26/11, most of the police force abandoned their posts and ran home. I don’t blame them, when you confront someone who has a semi-automatic machine gun and you have a police issued wooden stick, what would you do? If the Indian government was really serious about security it should own the responsibility just like it does for airports and providing protection for government officials.

Over the past few days, I’ve see this “security theater” playing out again but this time involving the internet. The government is trying to curb all the rumors that are being spread about what is happening in Assam and I can understand their reasoning for stopping it. What is more difficult to understand is their method for going about it.

Currently, if they find questionable content they will goto Facebook or Google and ask them to take it down. If those companies don’t take down the content then the Indian government adds that website link to their blacklist of sites to block. All of this takes time and honestly is pretty useless because people can create hundreds of links a minute and their is no way to regulate it via this manual process that the Indian government loves so much.

Twitter seems to be the current flashpoint in part because it has no business operations on the ground in India and doesn’t have to listen to the Indian government. Facebook and Google are in a tough spot since they don’t want to be known for censoring content but then again they don’t want to jeopardize their large workforce in India. Thus the Indian government is looking at various options in dealing with Twitter, if they block the entire service in India they will look stupid in the eyes of the world. But the cat and mouse game of blocking certain accounts is also a waste of time.

If the Indian government was serious about this issue they would look at creating a firewall for screening content and blocking content on the fly. But, it will never get implemented since it will cost real money and I don’t think the Indian government is that serious about this issue, again it’s about “security theater.”

 

City of Apathy

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mumbai_trainsIf Calcutta is the City of Joy then Bombay is the City of Apathy. Today is Republic Day which marks the day when the Indian Constitution was adopted and it also happens to be the 2 month anniversary of the November terror attack. What has changed since November 26? Sadly not much. During the attacks everyone in India was calling it “their 9/11”, the comparison is a joke. During 9/11 the mindset of Americans changed within minutes of seeing planes being flown into the World Trade Center.

The local media that I so highly talked about during the attacks is now missing, they have moved onto the latest news story – The Satyam Scam. The foreign media is more concerned, CNN is running a special on a little girl named Moshe that was saved by her maid while her parents got slaughtered at Nariman House. All the candles that were lit in protest helped boost sales for the candle makers but did little else. The cops in Bombay are as unprepared as ever still wielding their government issued bamboo stick and whistle. You would think the incoming Chief Minister of Maharashtra would make a speech and lay out his plans to avoid another attack – wrong.

Here we sit two months later and many unanswered questions remain about the attack:

  • When is the trial of the only surviving terrorist Kasab?
  • What is India planning to do about Pakistan?
  • How is the state government going to provide better security?
  • The updated death and injury count

I believe it’s an economic issue as well. Since the Indian government is fairly inept, people don’t have the luxury to sit around and cry while waiting for the government to help. They have to get back to reality and pickup the pieces on their own. 9/11 is and always will be a defining moment for the US, for India the November attack was just another event to showcase how clueless the Indian government is.

Lost in Translation

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Who would have thought after 60 hours of terror in Bombay we would be laughing so soon.  One of the most popular Indian TV shows is The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, however that show is nothing compared to the statements being made by our caring and affectionate government leaders.  The laughter you hear is because most people are laughing in pain at the mockery these elected officials are making of this massacre.  Anyway, let’s go through some of their sound bites:

“If it had not been Sandeep’s (slain NSG commando) house, not even a dog would have glanced that way”

V.S. Achuthanandan, Chief Minister of Kerala (pic shown), was quoted after the father of the slain NSG commando told the minister to take a hike. This would be the equivalent of California Governor Schwarzenegger telling a firefighter’s father to get lost.

 

“I was on an official visit to find out for myself the damage caused to the hotel. It was a sheer coincidence that producer Ram Gopal Verma was also present”

V. Deshmukh, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, was quoted after protests over his actor son Ritesh and director Ram Gopal Verma toured the Taj Palace with him. Imagine if George Bush had Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg visit ground zero within hours of the 9/11 attack.

 

“The odd incident does happen in a big city like Mumbai”

R.R. Patil, Home Minister of Maharashtra, was quoted as the attack was occurring. Maybe, but these “odd incidents” don’t usually last 60 frikken’ hours due to government stupidity.

 

“These are just a few women wearing lipstick and powder taking to the streets”

M.A. Naqvi, BJP Leader, was quoted as saying when talking about citizens protesting. Fair enough, maybe this guy REALLY doesn’t like lipstick and powder.

The larger issue is that most of them are still sticking by their quotes because they don’t see anything wrong with their statements. In fact, many have said their words were incorrectly translated from their mother tongue to English. This is India baby!…where the world knows about “India Shining” but internally we are “India Crying.”

Hundreds dead…now what?

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There are some people that are slowly getting back to their routine after the massacre and thinking there is not much they can change. But, many people are shocked and horrified at how the government has addressed the massacre during and after the attacks and want to do something. For me lighting a candle is something you should do when there is a power outage, instead I rather focus on actionable items and have the government get out of their comfort zone. Their comfort zone is a 20 car entourage on Marine Drive and everyone gets out of the way, so if you light candles and have a sit-in on Marine Drive and Mantralaya that would be a much better idea because you are now forcing them to take notice.

Me personally, I’ve been busy putting my thoughts together and will soon approach several large media houses – traditional print media and digital content providers. The overall theme is that we need to have a daily status report front and center on what is happening on a day to day basis in regards to the massacre. But that is only half of it, the other piece is having people such as yourself able to share information and keeping the government honest via collaborative technology. One of the tools we’ll be using is the government’s own Right To Information (RTI) website. Once we get the green light and the basics are in place, I’ll let you know via my blog how you can affect change.

Do I think it will work? Only time will tell, my only fear is that people in South Bombay have always had some what of an elitist attitude and this might be just another example – “MY friends got affected thus the entire nation should give a damn.” Let’s pray people all over India feel violated like the victims in the massacre and want change.

P.S. You might have noticed a new tag/label I’ve been using – WTF. It’s because every time I think of the Mumbai Massacre, I think to myself “What The Fu!@#$.”

Welcome New Guy

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The Indian economic situation is so bad that even Chief Ministers are losing their jobs. Vilasrao Deshmukh is rumored to be getting his pink slip from the central government any moment. Between going to every film award ceremony and giving hotel tours to movie directors, it became painfully clear to the central government that his hectic social calendar was getting in the way.  The government is looking at several candidates to replace him, I hope they use a new vetting process to select these most critical positions.  Here is my list of required questions I would ask and every media person should demand be answered:

  1. Name
  2. Education (If you mention Harvard it better be a 2 or 4 year degree, none of those lame-ass 3 week programs. Bonus points for an IIT/IIM grad)
  3. Previous Job
  4. What is your cell phone number/e-mail address
  5. How much did you earn last year?
  6. What is your attitude towards bribery and corruption
  7. Have you ever committed a crime, if so describe
  8. What will your first 100 days look like (since sh@#$ is slow in India, I’ll give you 200 days)
  9. What are your top 5 areas you will focus on
  10. What has been your biggest accomplishment?
  11. What has been your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
  12. How large of a car entourage/security detail will you require and why?  (Most US Governors have 2 cars or is India so unsafe you need more)

I know many of you were hoping that this blog entry would talk about what I’m planning on doing for change, but I had to put together a list of questions when I heard CM Deshmukh might resign. I promise the next blog entry will be about what I’m planning to do.

Boston.com has a section called the Big Picture and they have some amazing pics from the Massacre: Set 1Set 2

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