Say ‘No’ to Free-Basics

Three full-page advertisement has been given by Facebook in today’s Times of India to appeal the citizens of India to support ‘free basics’. Why Zuckerberg is so desperate about it? Do we really think that we missed out something in the past just because free basics was not available? When we have everything in abundance at an affordable cost why should be confine ourselves to whatever Zuckerberg wants us to see or access?

There was a column by Zuckerberg on 28th Dec 2015 in the Times of India wherein he detailed the benefits of his free gift to the people of India. He says, for India to make progress, 1 billion people need to be connected to the internet. Do we think free access to Facebook, WhatsApp and some other useless websites will directly or indirectly reduce poverty in our land? If he is so concerned about pulling our people out of poverty, why can’t he give free access to the poor to wide, open and plural web?

Another argument of Zuckerberg is that many people in India cannot afford paid-internet services. This is absurd. People, even in our villages, really don’t find it so difficult to spend Rs.150/200 a month to get required 2G/3G data. Even if their other needs are compromised, they make sure that they stay connected 24/7. And, most importantly, they are free to access whatever sites or services they wish to.

Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) supporting net neutrality, said that “If you dictate what the poor should get, you take away their right to choose what they think is best for them. The airwaves and wireless spectrum of India belongs to its citizens. When the government sell it out to private telecom companies on certain terms and conditions, they should ensure that the rights and individual freedom of its citizens are protected.

Authoritarian governments worldwide, be it left, right or centre are trying to curtail people’s access to internet and information. Someway, all these attempts by Facebook and like-minded companies, help our government also to achieve their agenda i.e. to limit the citizens’ access to information. That is why such initiatives get relentless support from our government. As per my knowledge, the government has not yet produced the agreements between them and Facebook in the Supreme Court despite repeated reminders. It means something is rotten in the state of Denmark.freebasics

Charlie

Watched the latest Dluquer Salman starrer ‘Charlie’ yesterday. Of course, a feel-good movie!

This is to point out a factual error in the movie. The character played by Kalpana is living with HIV and the hero takes her to the sea on a boat at midnight to celebrate her birthday which he thinks will make her happy and cared. Later, he shares her story with the owner of the boat and says that there is no medicine/treatment for HIV. This is not true. Being diagnosed with HIV doesn‘t mean that it is the end of everything. By getting linked to HIV medical care early, starting antiretroviral therapy (ART), adhering to medication and staying in care; those infected with HIV can live a longer, healthier and meaningful life.

The Government of India is providing free antiretroviral therapy through 500+ ART centres across the country. Such centres, branded as ‘Ushus’ are established in all Government Medical Colleges and major District Hospitals across Kerala as well. This is a life-long treatment. In order to provide continued care and support to People living with HIV, Care & Support Centres (CSC) have also been set up by networks of people living with HIV/AIDS in all districts and attached to the government treatment centres.

It is unfortunate that Kalpana’s character commits suicide jumping into the sea, immediately after the birthday celebration. HIV should no longer be a reason for someone to end his or her life. Cinema attracts people from all age groups and different walks of life. Therefore, filmmakers should ensure that right messages are being conveyed through this medium.

Charlie