Been a bit slow here lately. 'Tis the holiday season after all. There are some exciting things happening lately in India though. This whole MMS [multi media service - trans. sending and storing video clips on your cell phone] mess, for example.
Some Delhi school kid recorded a tryst with his girlfriend back in November and passed the clip on to his friends - via his cell. It spread like, uh, wild fire through Delhi and beyond, eventually, ending up on Baazee.com - the Indian eBay. The authorities tracked the kid and arrested him, arrested the kid who sold it on Baazee.com but also arrested the CEO of Baazee.com for allowing the listing.
Two things are of immediate interest to me: the cultural impact of surreptitious video-recordings and the tensions between the IT elite and traditional bureaucratic/political elite in India.
The internet cafe scandals in Pakistan, as covered on CM here and here, show that salacious footage finds a mass market in a heartbeat. This is not purely a technological issue, in my view, but the rapidity of exposure makes it at least partly that. Like I said earlier, such materials and tapes have always existed but now they are accessible quickly and cheaply to every pimple-ridden teenager in South Asia. Anecdotal evidence suggests that such clips are becoming increasingly common. I have heard similair stories from other friends in Pakistan. I hesitate to say that it is a class issue but that may very well be how the press eventually spins it - the rich immoral kids with their toys. At least, a few editorials in India already point that way with phrases about the "posh New Friends Colony" where the boy lives.
Now about that poor Avnish Bajaj, the Harvard-returned CEO of Baazee.com. This guy is an American citizen and eBay has protested his arrest. Why arrest the CEO of an ebiz company? He wasn't diligent enough in checking each listing? Many have said that this arrest will curtail IT development while the press is enthusiastically noting that he will now eat 4 rotis and a sabzi a day. Some are miffed that the Condi Rice (I need a nic for her) is getting involved. The Indians, it appears, are getting testy with the Americans. More anecdotal evidence about that. Anyways, I find it curious that the police jumped so quickly to arrest the CEO of a tech company when the guy responsible for yet another train tragedy goes free. Obviously, the IT elite have no real purchase in the Indian bureaucracy. With the foreign press focused and the State Dept. watching, it will be interesting to see how the Indian government handles all this extra attention. Just let the guy out.
In related news: Pakistan Cricket team can call this guy. 491 runs. Unbelievable.
Imran definitly is not a unique case of this kind. Asghar Khan is another example of the same kind.
Obviously, the IT elite have no real purchase in the Indian bureaucracy.
Bajaj should have seen this coming. The done thing when the police get into this mood is to stay out of reach. Any prudent Indian CEO would have done that, but the soft living in the land of milk and honey must have dulled Bajaj into expecting a fair inquiry.
I don't think he's being subjected to the misery of jail life too much (he's rich and well connected), but nevertheless it's a mess he's in. There's a lot of talk and some action about a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) being drawn up by interested citizens. Of course if we are really going to be fair about all of this I call for the further arrests of:
(1) The CEOs of the mobile telephone networks through which the MMS spread (2) The Dean of IIT-K where the seller claims to have found the offending clip on a LAN (3) CEOs of the credit card companies that processed the payments (4) The CEOs of ISPs offering email services to IIT / Baazee
No doubt privacy and freedom is an issue here but what I focus on more is that 'sensitive' videos are so sensitive and damaging to the one's in them only because our societies are so sick and desperate. If these things weren't considered shameful it wouldn't even matter if your sister was recorded having kinky sex or not and as long as we do consider these things shameful we will have people demanding for more 'dirty' stuff and we will always have blackmailers and abusers. So, is it the culture to blame or the technology?!!