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

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