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2010 May 8 [Saturday]

chaturanga

Sexual assaults involving ministers mixed with never-ending power-cuts make a heady summer mix. Its not surprising that the frequency of water cuts and power cuts has spiked the moment local Municipal elections voting got over. People have filed PIL's but KPTC/BESCOM cant seem to curb the power theft that occurs right under its nose, which is self-evident when you take a walk around any main street with shops and direct your gaze skyward to see the criss-crossing wires from each electricity pole situated on the roadside--all illegal but under the benign gaze of the officials. The shopkeeper will tell you why you could not get away with it without the connivance of the employees of inefficient BESCOM whose palms they regularly grease, lest its converted into "commercial rates" which is four times higher than the residential rates....and thus residential power theft continues. The powers that be are aware of the irregularities and yet dont care. What would it take to turn things around?

If that is the local state of affairs, the national level is no better. Nope, Sonia Gandhi, a woman at the helm has not changed things for the better. Its not uncommon for women to bear the brunt and pay the price when it comes to law-making policies. India has always had women politicians and yet the scams continue to tumble out of the closet catching the players on a sticky wicket, and we continue to live with corruption, lobbying for power while the money-making games continue, resulting in tacit compromises instead of clean governance. If anything politicians lack the will to root out corruption and a citizen has no choice when it comes to choosing a clean political party to represent them. Today, corruption and crimes are committed by politicians from just about every party and ideological frame of mind --Quid pro quo.

2009 March 5 [Thursday]

Sexual assaults in public spaces

I've changed the title of this post thrice because I refuse to dilute sexual harassment and assaults by calling it eve-teasing -- sounds frivolous and trivialises crimes against women.

India in the 21'st century is definitely unsafe for women, even if she is accompanied by a man and nobody seems to care enough about public sexual harassment to act on it. I've had to warn many female (and male) friends visiting India to NOT travel alone or even in groups of 4-5 women as they dont know the local language and without men in their group its inviting trouble. Saying that about your country sucks big time.

On Monday after a protest was held outside the police commissioner's office, Shankar Bidari, the police commissioner of Bangalore said :

"Bangalore people are so cultured people they will never tolerate any indignity, harassment or assault on women. Even without police and without government, the dignity of women in Bangalore city is perfectly safe and protected,"

I wish !!  One of the women who was attacked describes her ordeal and after reading this article, its deeply disturbing that the PC who is responsible for the safety of the city's citizens has trivialized the issue with insensitive press statements but didnt the Home Minister Dr V S Acharya and District In-Charge Minister J Krishna Palemar called the pub attack and MLA’s daughter’s abduction as ‘small and common’ incidents and scream at the media reporter to "not waste his time with silly incidents" ?! There was a photograph of the Police Commissioner (check out "After hrs" last page of Bangalore edition of DNA newspaper dated 2009mar05) calmly enjoying the Mysore Maharaja's birthday bash on Tuesday at Palace Grounds Palace because : None of the women noted the assailants bike numbers, hence NOTHING can be done.

WRONG, Mr. Bidari, Bengaluru is not safe...... INDIA is not safe for women. I can narrate my experiences too BUT do you even want to listen to women like Archana and others who were attacked ?!

Join us :

Women in Bangalore are facing serious violence and attacks - for wearing jeans, going out in the streets, fighting back the moral police etc and we need to stop these attacks. This is a letter to the police commissioner/home minister/press release regarding the recent attacks on women in bangalore,

Endorse the petition at : http://www.petitiononline.com/petition.html


FRI, Mar06 :
Please come to ALF [Phone : 080-2286 5757] on Friday anytime between 2-6pm to make posters for the protest at the DGP'S office on saturday.. Charts and colours will be provided but feel free to bring your own and you can bring money you would like to contribute. Alternative Law Forum, 122/4 Infantry Road, (opposite Infantry Wedding House), Bangalore 560001, (nearest bus stop- Shivajinagar Depot)

SAT, March07:
1. Gather at Nrupathunga Road at 15:30.  (Parking available at YMCA, DG's office compound, etc.)  Stand on either side of the road, outside DG-IG's office, holding placards, silently.
2. Either the DG-IG comes out at 16:30 collects the memorandum and addresses the audience, or a small representative group goes in to his office when called and present the memorandum.
3. If the latter, then the representatives will address the gathering, when they come out.
4. Gathering shall disperse at 17:30.

SUN, March08:
0. On Sunday 2009March08, International Women's Day,members of the group and other citizens will walk down various prominent roads of the city. Its called "Take Back the Night Walk" and is being held by women to reclaim our lawful right to be safe at night across India. It starts at Indiranagar, Ulsoor and the other two places where the women were attacked
1. At 18:00, people will gather at the five locations as designated by the area coordinators.  They will interact with the audience (in as many languages as possible), and spread awareness about the various goals of the Fearless Karnataka campaign.   This will involve spreading of information flyers and testimonials, conducting bystander polls, and other such forms of interaction with the people on the streets.  This can go on till 20:00.  (Volunteers for poster-sticking will do so around this time.)
2. At 21:00, people gather at the designated spot in Majestic, bringing along with them necessities such as food, water, and community spirit.  There will be further performances, video projections (if possible), songs, and other such activities there.
3. This will go on till 23:00, when people will disperse in their vehicles (pooling as much as possible), in public transport, tempos (which are currently being investigated), etc.

[updated, from FKNK]

2009 February 28 [Saturday]

Cell-help

This week had more newspaper reports that gangs of fundamentalist men are attacking women in Bangalore for wearing jeans. The DeccanHerald and Express buzz also carried the news and local groups in Bangalore sprang forward to support women but this brouhaha subsides after a few days. Frankly I dont expect passers by to do anything, much less help a stranger and I say this with prior experience in multiple situations in the past.

Well, as a mark of protest against the jean-hating facists, I am contemplating wearing jeans to the next hindu wedding I attend. So there!  But before that I thought of blogging the whole specification that I had discussed with Ashwin Mahesh (of Mapunity). At the last barcamp (BCB7) I heard that they have implemented my idea so I'm blogging about it publicly, partly in the hope that cellular service providers encourage more such applications.

Ideally facilities like these should be available akin to the '911' service that North America has, but well, we live in a country where life and safety has lost meaning so I hope someone can take the idea and convert it into a social instrument of change and safety for Indian women, instead of the greedy entities that one gets to see always -- There is only so much value to caller tunes and ringtones and its my assumption that women (and children too) would be willing to pay for a safety service app. Millions of people dont use smartphones/GPS enabled devices in India and I wanted them to be able to utilize this tool and get help in an emergency too. Here is the spec :

APPLICATION #1

Pressing a combination of One or two buttons to initiate and send a distress/alert message to more than one person together with information like 'his/her location' and 'how to reach that location'.

PROPOSAL-1

Present day phone sets offer only single button (speed dial) feature to initiate a call to one single receiver/destination. In a situation where the person finds herself in danger/helpless, it may not be possible to use the instrument for dialing  or typing out an SMS. Hence the need for an emergency button feature. Besides, the emergency button when pressed can dial single numbers only which can be introduced by the handset provider. It is therefore necessary to introduce another emergency "2 button press" feature to initiate sending an SMS text message containing one or more telephone numbers to the Mobile service provider software running at the base station.

[ The SMS text along with the list of Cell# (max10) will be provided and stored during normal times. ]

Delivery mechanism to be built in base station software.

The software at the base station should be able to recognise this 'distress SMS', scan the message and read, select and dial mobile numbers, get the dialers location, decide destination from/to route , pass the parameters to 'XYZ software, get the route details for person in distress  and send the SMS/call to all the listed receipients in the users data file.


PROPOSAL-2

Current feature set in the mobile instrument hardware allows a single key to be associated with one single number store in the phone-book.

Change needed in software :-- Instead a new feature of storing and attatching a list of member (say max 10 numbers) is made and on pressing the 'hotkey' like # or * along with the 'call' key, the mobile can dial and send SMS (as explained in the XYZ paragraph above) one-by-one automatically till all the numbers stored in the list are exhausted.

Features : 

- ease of navigation
- does not need gps phone
- user creates the config say, "*key + 99"

USECASES:

The new feature can alert upto 10 people, including maybe the police, and help can be provided in emergency cases. The feature is extremely useful in unexpected situations like accidents, hijacking or kidnapping, rioting, dacoity, rape/assault cases, etc...

APPLICATION #2

[A] MOBILE user (requester) seeking route information to reach a destination

1] Mobile user to send SMS to '999' typing the text message containing parameters like :

+ names of destination,
+ landmark,
+ street name, etc...

Mobile service provider software with 'XYZ feature' to :
                  
- Analysis of the senders GPS location (starting point)
- analyse the destination parameter (by searching the database)
- decide their geo-spatial location on the city map,
- identifies the road name, junction name, etc... along with the route from starting point to destination.
- links traffic congestion details generated by 'transport information API' to select alternate route.
- and finally list out road names, junction names to be passed through to reach the destination.
- generate a 'reply SMS' containing the above details and transmits to requester.

SMS charge can be recovered from user and shared between Service provider and others.

USECASES:

0] local hospitals/shops/companies can advertise if the person passes through a locality.
1] The 'XYZ feature' can in normal situation be availed to obtain route details to reach a new destination or call/invite/give directions to a new place.
 

PRIVACY:

Privacy is a huge factor in both the Applications mentioned above, but since these are opt-in models, i.e. the user will have to subscribe or activate the features as they are not default services provided with a cell phone, its expected that the subscriber will know what they sign-up for.

The cellular operators would need to ensure that they dont bundle or sell these services to unscruplous advertising agencies which spam cellular service users with unwanted calls and sms -- since the approximate location of the user will be known to the operator, steps to avoid misuse  must be taken.

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