In the past couple of years, there has been a lot of talk in India about putting a ban on Facebook and Twitter. Such talks were, however, quashed after lot of protests, mostly in the form of spoofs and jokes.
Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped Kolkata Police from arresting two youths for posting cartoons of West Bengal’s “honourable” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Now the government has moved on from these, or rather, I should say, moved back. Forget the technology from the new millennium, rather the government felt the need to start restricting technologies from the last to last decade (when we were still in the last millennium). So it has gone backwards and put a ban on SMS messages. At this point, I would like to thank them for allowing 5 messages per day, lest I forget what SMS is all about!
When I first heard about this ban, I had a difficult time believing my ears. When I first read about it, I had a difficult time believing my eyes. I thought it was a temporary measure, perhaps for a day or two, the exodus of so many North-easterners from various parts of the country definitely being a cause of concern. Alas, it wasn’t so. The ban was for a period of 15 days.
It has become a habit of our politicians to put the blame on technology for everything that might go wrong. They want to ban Facebook, they want to ban Twitter, they want to ban Blackberry and now they want to ban SMS. Next up would probably be email and then, maybe, cellular and internet services altogether.
The government needs to realise that not being able to manage emerging, or even mature technologies, only adds another item to its long list of failures. While other countries of the world bask in the emergence of technology, our country repeatedly tries to curb its use. India has cellular services for almost 2 decades now. It has been almost 5 years since cell phones became so cheap that vegetable vendors started owning one. Yet, when it comes to managing law and order, the only step our law-keepers could think of, was to put a ban on SMS.
It is time the government came to terms with these technologies.
There were riots even in the non-cell phone era. Rumours spread back then too. To blame these rumours on SMS only shows that the government is in utter dismay. It has failed to go to roots of such riots and violence and is only looking to pass the buck.
Instead of blocking the use of SMS and Twitter, the government should look into ways of restoring peace in the country through efficient management and employment of forces. Restricting technology causes inconvenience. SMS is not only used by cell-phone addicted teenagers and rumour mongers. The police, farmers, traffic controllers all use it. Railways sends PNR status updates, airlines send flight status updates, banks send transaction alerts- all on our cell phones via SMS.
It is time to curb the short-sighted approach and think of cohesive long term solutions. One cannot keep blocking technology every time there are riots. Instead, our politicians should keep up with the current generation and think of ways to leverage these technologies to improve governance. There are laws that can be used against the wrongdoers, they only need to figure out how. Technology should be a facilitator, not a scapegoat.