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EDITORIALS

SC clips states’ power
Courts can order CBI probe without consent
Wednesday’s Supreme Court judgement empowering the apex court and high courts to order CBI investigation into serious offences without the state governments’ explicit consent is a landmark verdict.

In the dock
Some ray of hope for ’84 victims
A
t long last, a non-bailable warrant has been issued against Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases. That is something which should have happened immediately after the massacre, but even 25 years later, it has brought some satisfaction to the victims who have been going from the proverbial pillar to the post all this while.

Poison in paints
Discourage the use of lead
T
hat lead-based paints can be harmful has been known for some time. Now a study by the Quality Council of India has made a startling revelation that over 51.3 per cent of children below 12 years have blood lead levels above the permissible limit, tracing it to lead-based paints.






EARLIER STORIES

Policemen as sitting ducks
February 18, 2010
Score it like Sachin!
February 17, 2010
Fresh crisis in Pakistan
February 16, 2010
Now it’s Pune
February 15, 2010
Ethics in the criminal court
February 14, 2010
Strengthen democracy
February 13, 2010
Vandalism in Mumbai
February 12, 2010
Bt Brinjal on back burner
February 11, 2010
General Fonseca’s arrest
February 10, 2010
The Agni-III success
February 9, 2010
Tackling food inflation
February 8, 2010
Subalterns in power
February 7, 2010


ARTICLE

US-China relations
Possible impact on India
by Inder Malhotra
I
N November last when President Barack Obama of the United States paid his first visit to China the world was struck by the unusual and excessive deference he showed to the host country. In order not to offend the Chinese he had declined to receive the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and pushed human rights down on his agenda even before leaving for Beijing.



MIDDLE

Under the carpet
by G.K. Gupta
S
omething was glaringly missing to give our drawing room a distinctive look. Understandably, it was a wall-to-wall carpet. But the cost was prohibitive and the idea had to be shelved. Such a luxury could wait.



OPED

Killing of Hamas militant
Israel reels from the backlash
by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
A
fter the excitement at a story worthy of Hollywood, the political fallout. Sharp questions are starting to be asked in Israel about an operation which left the physical appearance of the assassins exposed, appeared to have usurped the identities of, and perhaps even endangered, uninvolved Israeli citizens, and risked a serious diplomatic backlash because of the operatives’ use of European passports to enter Dubai.

Foreign universities will benefit India
by Ashok Kumar Yadav
W
ITH the HRD Ministry ready with the “Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations, Maintenance of Quality and Prevention of Commercialisation) Bill” coupled with allocation of Rs. 85,000 crore in the 11th Five Year Plan, the dream of acquiring a degree from an overseas university of repute from United States or Great Britain or Australia will not remain a mirage anymore. This would mark a major shift in expansion, excellence and inclusion in the higher education sector.

No secret is safe in cyber world
by Katy Guest
I
T was H L Mencken who wrote that nobody ever went broke underestimating the public’s intelligence. But the great journalist and professional cynic slipped up by doing the opposite n though in this instance it was more a case of overestimating the public’s sense of morality.



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EDITORIALS

SC clips states’ power
Courts can order CBI probe without consent

Wednesday’s Supreme Court judgement empowering the apex court and high courts to order CBI investigation into serious offences without the state governments’ explicit consent is a landmark verdict. A Constitution Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice D.K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal has rightly ruled that no Act of Parliament can exclude or curtail the constitutional courts’ power to enforce fundamental rights. As protectors of citizens’ civil liberties, it is the superior courts’ “constitutional duty” to order an independent inquiry by the CBI into a crime if they feel that the fairness of the state police probe is hampered because of political considerations. It is common knowledge that the state governments, instead of assisting the Centre, have been creating hurdles in ensuring fair and speedy investigation. Citing the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act, 1948, they claim that the state consent is a must for a CBI probe to protect the state autonomy and maintain the federal equilibrium.

However, the judgement is in consonance with the apex court’s inherent powers to do justice. As it has become the law of the land, the states will have to fall in line and can no longer challenge the courts’ power to order a CBI probe without their consent. At the same time, the Bench has ruled that no “inflexible guidelines” could be laid down on when courts should exercise such power. This implies that while the Bench has decided on a general principle of law, it has left individual cases to the courts hearing them.

Significantly, the Bench has asked the high courts to tread with caution and order a CBI probe only when it becomes necessary to provide credibility and instil confidence in a state police investigation. The ruling came on the 10-year-old Chhoto Angaria case in which CPM activists allegedly killed 11Trinamool Congress workers in West Bengal. The state government had opposed the Calcutta High Court’s order for a CBI inquiry into the case in 2001. The same High Court had suo motu ordered a CBI probe into the Nandigram firing that claimed 14 lives in March 2007. While allowing the CBI to complete the probe, the apex court directed it not to file a charge-sheet until the issue of the state’s consent was adjudicated.
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In the dock
Some ray of hope for ’84 victims

At long last, a non-bailable warrant has been issued against Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases. That is something which should have happened immediately after the massacre, but even 25 years later, it has brought some satisfaction to the victims who have been going from the proverbial pillar to the post all this while. It is really shocking how the entire legal process has remained in limbo for a quarter century just because the culprits happened to be some of leaders of the ruling party in Delhi. The attempt has been to get them off the hook instead of bringing them to book. Whatever forward movement has taken place is due to the pressure of public opinion.

The long delay reflects adversely on the CBI. Instead of acting as an independent investigation agency, it tended to be the hand-maiden of the politicians in power. It is losing the trust of the people which it would find hard to regain. In fact, it should treat the riots case as a litmus test for its performance, whether in future it can stand up to such pressure from powers that be.

More than 3,000 persons were massacred during the riots. Obviously, not all of them lost their lives due to former MP Sajjan Kumar alone. There were many more who orchestrated the horrifying dance of death. Each of them should be served his right desserts, including those who remained behind the scene. It is true that the trail has gone cold with the passage of such a long time but that does not mean that the murderers should go scot-free. The Congress has been demanding justice in the Gujarat riots cases where the BJP government has been equally callous in not giving justice to the victims and their families. They should let the law run its course in the ’84 cases as well as those of the Gujarat riots. Both weigh heavily on the nation’s conscience. A massacre is a massacre, whether it is engineered by BJP-backed elements or those of the Congress.
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Poison in paints
Discourage the use of lead

That lead-based paints can be harmful has been known for some time. Now a study by the Quality Council of India has made a startling revelation that over 51.3 per cent of children below 12 years have blood lead levels above the permissible limit, tracing it to lead-based paints. While the study is confined to the metros, the results are not likely to be any different in other big cities of India witnessing a construction boom, thus exposing more and more people to the risk of lead poisoning.

Lead is toxic and affects many organs of the body. In children it can cause irreversible brain damage and retard mental development. A sudden decline in their IQs can also be attributed to high levels of lead in blood sugar. While there can be many reasons for lead poisoning, including petrol and lead-lined pipes, the major cause is the use of lead based paints. In India, most paints have added lead. The New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment found that 72 per cent of the samples tested had a lead content higher than the limit specified by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). While developed nations have brought down the lead levels in paints to permissible limits, in India the paint companies do not care to inform the consumers about the potential health hazards of lead-based paints and the awareness in this regard, too, is almost negligible. To make matters worse, laws are silent and even the BIS limit is no more than a recommendation.

While laws to regulate lead levels in paints need to be framed, the consumers have to be made aware of the dangers of lead-based paints. Since many experts argue that there is no acceptable limit or safe threshold to lead exposure among children, lead-free paints are perhaps the only answer to safeguard the health of both children and adults. The government must offer incentives to the companies selling lead-free paints, and consumers must reject lead-based paints. The colour on the walls cannot be allowed to become a health hazard, especially for small children, who stand at a greater risk of lead poisoning, which can be fatal too.
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Thought for the Day

It is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and end as superstitions. — T.H. Huxley
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ARTICLE

US-China relations
Possible impact on India
by Inder Malhotra

IN November last when President Barack Obama of the United States paid his first visit to China the world was struck by the unusual and excessive deference he showed to the host country. In order not to offend the Chinese he had declined to receive the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and pushed human rights down on his agenda even before leaving for Beijing. For this he received much flak in his country but seemed not to care. Throughout his stay in China he took great care not to step on his hosts’ corns, even while his Chinese counterpart, Mr Hu Jintao, spoke bluntly, especially about the signs of “protectionism” in America.

Commentators across the globe considered all this rather odd though they were fully aware of China’s enormous economic clout vis-ŕ-vis the US at a time when the latter was struggling to overcome the economic recession. No wonder, the inheritors of the Middle Kingdom syndrome merrily talked of “G-2” which means US-China duopoly.

From this country’s point of view Mr Obama’s China sojourn was a disaster because he, in a joint statement with Mr Hu, assigned to China a role in promoting India-Pakistan dialogue and “stabilising” the subcontinent that our northern neighbour has constantly tried to destabilise. The ruffled Indian feathers were smoothened, however, when Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh paid a state visit to the US. But Indian concerns haven’t been fully removed.

Now there has been a spat between the US and China over President Obama’s decision to give Taiwan $6 billion worth of arms and the American demand for a revaluation of the Chinese currency yuan. The Dalai Lama’s status as an “hnoured guest” at the White House has also been restored. Vigorous Chinese protests against arms supply to Taiwan are nothing new but this time around these have been more ferocious than before. Similarly, the American sentiment on the yuan’s revaluation has turned much sharper because the undervalued yuan gives China undue and huge advantage in world trade.

The key question, however, is whether the current row between the US and China is tactical or a harbinger of strategic change in their relationship. Could things change again, as they have after a lapse of mere three months? In today’s world there can be no easy answer to such questions but the factors that would influence the course of events can be identified and analysed.

Unquestionably, the overriding fact is that the US-China relationship is the most important in the world and almost certainly would remain so for the foreseeable future. Both countries have invested heavily is getting closer to each other, and have no incentive to wreck what has been achieved. Secondly, while the US remains the mightiest country, its power is clearly on the decline whereas that of China is on the increase.

The US would surely not like to give the way to the second superpower but it would have to make room for it. One significant sign of this is to be found in the Pentagon’s latest Quadrennial Defence Review, published on February 1. It dwells far less on the “dangers” arising from China’s rise than did the previous such document, issued in 2006 under the Bush administration. Contrary to what was said four years ago, the new QDR states that China’s developing military capabilities could enable it “to play a more substantial and constructive role in international affairs”.

The inflamed issue of American arms for Taiwan, too, is not without nuances, despite the heavy storm China has raised. For instance, the Chinese know that President Obama has deleted from the list of Taiwan-bound weapons submarines that Mr Bush wanted to send. Moreover, relations between Taiwan and the mainland these days are very friendly and economically very close. Altogether, therefore, the general expectation is that the current squall over the issue would die down eventually, as in the past. On the other hand, China has broken the military relationship with the US. This might lead to the cancellation of US Defence Secretarty Robert Gates’s visit to China. But no one, on either side, has any doubt that Chinese President Hu’s visit to the US later this year will take place. No one expects Beijing to carry out its threat to impose sanctions on the manufacturers of weapons being sent to Taipei. China’s own dependence on them is substantial.

The US needs China’s cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear programme and on this the two countries are in broad agreement. Iran, however, could be a source of disagreement between them. Mr Obama has abandoned his plan to negotiate with the Iranian leaders. He wants instead to enhance the sanctions on Iran for which China’s support in the UN Security is necessary. Just a day after the Taiwan announcement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she understood why China hesitated to impose sanctions on “one of its major energy providers” but urged it to think about the “destabilising long-term implications of a nuclear-armed Iran”. According to some American commentaries, Washington would be satisfied if China votes against enhanced sanctions but does not veto them.

All in all, therefore, neither the US nor China seems to be working for a breach but for persuading each other to be mutually accommodative. Their relationship, as that between any other two-some among the major powers that prop the world order, such as it is, would be a mixture of cooperation and competition. Conflict seems unlikely. Evidently, every country would pursue its national interest as well as seek maximum possible flexibility in its relations with all principal actors on the world stage.

If India has stoutly to defend its supreme interests, as it must, it has to realise that the international context in which it has to function has become more complex and difficult. As Jim Hoagland has said in Washington Post, the Bush era in which close strategic relations with India had a very high priority is over. Indo-American ties do remain important but this country and the Obama administration “are out of sync” in several respects.

Thanks to America’s predicament in Afghanistan, Pakistan has acquired a greater leverage over it. To the extent Pakistan-fixated China gains increased say in world affairs, it would try to impair Indian interests. For example, China advocates a “regional solution” to the Afghan problem that, on the surface, coincides with the Indian view. The reality, however, is that China’s definition of regional powers in this context excludes India!
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MIDDLE

Under the carpet
by G.K. Gupta

Something was glaringly missing to give our drawing room a distinctive look. Understandably, it was a wall-to-wall carpet. But the cost was prohibitive and the idea had to be shelved. Such a luxury could wait.

But before long the opportunity presented itself. Our office was getting renovated.  Among the items that became surplus was the big Persian carpet, a trend-setting specimen of exquisite workmanship. It was in excellent shape and the price I paid was nominal. Such a  good fortune left me dazed.

The massive rolled carpet presented equally massive problems. For laying it wall to wall, it needed professional help. But the charges quoted by such  people were more than the cost of the carpet. On an impulse, I decided to tackle the job myself and the children found the idea exciting.

On a holiday we started the work in right earnest. The furniture was moved out and the floor swept clean. We were stuck for a while when it came to measuring the length and breadth of the room. The household measuring tape was miserably short for the purpose.  However, my wife’s pocket calculator proved invaluable for necessary additions and other simple calculations which could be stored in memory. 

The carpet was carefully marked. The cutting operation was far more difficult than imagined. Our simple pair of scissors had never been subjected to such an arduous task and in the process its plastic grips broke loose. But it did not dampen our enthusiasm and the work was completed by using a sharp kitchen knife.

After cutting the carpet to  the measured dimensions, it was rolled and unrolled on the floor a number of times for proper setting. There was no overlapping, no overriding on the wall and no visible gap anywhere. Any professional could be proud of such a well-done job.

Then suddenly I noticed a small rectangular lump in the middle of the carpet. I could well imagine what it was. The block of chocolate I had purchased for  Kabir, my little boy, must have slipped out of my pocket in a moment of inattention and landed on the floor.

 Removing and relaying the carpet was an unthinkable preposition. It was too time-consuming to retrieve a bit of chocolate and certainly not   worth the trouble. I had a brain wave. With a few hammer blows on the offensive lump, the surface was completely smoothened. I marvelled  at  my ingenuity.

Then two things happened simultaneously. I saw Kabir merrily eating the chocolate which was supposed to be under the carpet. And, my wife sailed in saying, “I have to  settle the grocer’s account.  Where is my pocket calculator?
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OPED

Killing of Hamas militant
Israel reels from the backlash
by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

After the excitement at a story worthy of Hollywood, the political fallout. Sharp questions are starting to be asked in Israel about an operation which left the physical appearance of the assassins exposed, appeared to have usurped the identities of, and perhaps even endangered, uninvolved Israeli citizens, and risked a serious diplomatic backlash because of the operatives’ use of European passports to enter Dubai.

If the assassination, as seems probable despite the plea of “no evidence” by Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman yesterday, involved the country’s overseas intelligence agency, Mossad, it will not of course be the first time it has hit trouble over its use of foreign passports. In 2005, two Israelis were convicted of fraudulently trying to obtain New Zealand passports. When the government in Auckland secured an apology from the Israeli authorities it regarded that in itself as proof that the two men were acting on behalf of the Jewish state.

Although there was no immediate UK confirmation yesterday, the Israeli press also reported that Israel was obliged to apologise when British passports the agency had been using were left in a phone booth in West Germany in 1987. Ten years later, Canada protested over the use of its passports in the famously botched attempt to assassinate the Hamas political bureau head Khaled Meshal in Amman – a failure which led at Jordan’s insistence to the Gaza Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin being freed from jail.

The latest hit was not a repeat of the failed attempt on Mr Meshal. In Dubai, the assassins got their man, identified as a key figure in the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry from Iran and the murder of two Israeli soldiers in 1989. But the disclosure by Dubai police of the details of the operation has triggered two sets of potential ramifications.

The first is domestic – the use of the names of apparently unsuspecting Israeli citizens who are dual-passport holders, and who appeared last night to have little obvious redress from official circles. This may be the easiest for Israel, assuming it is responsible, to see off. Zahava Gal-On, the leftist former Knesset member, protested yesterday at the “idiotic” assumption of the identities of real people, but Tzahi Hanegbi, chairman of the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, said he saw no reason for a parliamentary investigation. He argued it was not a problem for the government, and advised the people affected to hire a lawyer if they were worried.

In this the political establishment is helped by Israel’s ambiguity towards Mossad, reminiscent of its approach to its nuclear arsenal. Like its nearest British equivalent, MI6, Mossad is “avowed”; its head, currently Meir Dagan, is known, and it has its own website. The sober tones with which Ha Mossad (literally “the institution”) lists the activities it is mandated to carry out – including “planning and carrying out special operations beyond Israel’s borders” – do little justice to the fearsome reputation it has built up since it was formed in 1949 by David Ben Gurion.

That reputation has been enhanced by Mossad’s many well-known operational successes, including the smuggling of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichman to Israel for trial in 1960, the intelligence which led to the air strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, the spiriting of the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu back from London in 1986, and the assassination of various Palestinian militants abroad. Neverthless, there are few opportunities for vigorous political debate on its activities; as Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, said yesterday about the operation, “Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies.”

That said, the diplomatic fall-out may be less easy to contain. Among sharply critical commentators, Ben Caspit of Maariv criticised the operation for failing to take account of its likely exposure. While Mr Caspit was largely attacking Mossad for being caught out, he concluded by remarking that “it is not certain that Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was worth all this”. Amir Oren went further, calling for Mr Dagan’s removal, and warning of an impending “diplomatic crisis” with “countries whose passports were used by the assassins”. Assuming that the British investigation ordered by Gordon Brown is serious and finds Mossad responsible, and that other countries including the UK knew nothing of the Dubai operation, then Israel is unlikely to have heard the last of it. — By arrangement with

The Independent
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Foreign universities will benefit India
by Ashok Kumar Yadav

WITH the HRD Ministry ready with the “Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations, Maintenance of Quality and Prevention of Commercialisation) Bill” coupled with allocation of Rs. 85,000 crore in the 11th Five Year Plan, the dream of acquiring a degree from an overseas university of repute from United States or Great Britain or Australia will not remain a mirage anymore. This would mark a major shift in expansion, excellence and inclusion in the higher education sector.

More than 30 US Universities attended the Indo-American Education Summit- 2009 held in November, inaugurated by Dr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman of National Knowledge Commission. In fact, among others, high-profile institutions like Oxford, Harvard and Stanford have evinced keen interest in setting up their campuses here.

The raison d’etre of the Bill envisages that it will save millions of dollars with Indian students studying in foreign universities while staying in India. For thousands of graduates and the steadily increasing number of undergraduates who annually incur around $ 50,000 in places like Stanford, this would be a wish come true. With more than half of the billion-plus population below 25 and foreign entrepreneurs prepared to come to India, education sector can potentially entice a large amount of foreign investment apart from throwing wider opportunities in higher education.

According to survey conducted by National Knowledge Commission, nearly 60% of India’s population is under 25. Of these, only 11% sign up for higher education. Over 2.64 lakh Indian students have gone abroad for studies and they spend approximately $5.5 billion (about Rs 27,000 crore) every year. Of the total students making a beeline for Australia from the world, almost 80 per cent are from India and of these about 60 per cent hail from Punjab. Little doubt that repeated assaults on Indian students in Australia have started distressing education business estimated to the tune of about $ 6 billion per annum. The advent of foreign universities will essentially arrest the outpouring of foreign currency.

Experts believe that if foreign universities start settling here, it will offer a variety of courses with rich inputs, packed with new flavour. Further, it will bridge the chasm between the overseas demand and opportunities in higher education.

With the advent of foreign universities, an inter se competition among domestic institutes would usher in desired improvement in quality. Just as multinational companies have acted as conveyer belts for importing the state-of-the-art practices in management, foreign universities are also likely to bring with them a culture of rigour and excellence in research, academic standard with likely spin-off effects on their Indian counterparts. Little doubt, Indian students will benefit immensely by getting better education at moderate cost.

Presently, there are several foreign universities offering academic courses in partnership with local institutions. A majority of these universities conduct their business through “twinning arrangements” or program-specific collaborations. Once the Bill is enacted, foreign universities will be free to offer independent degrees, without any tie-up.

Carnegie Mellon, for instance, has for the past eight years been offering a master’s program at Chennai-based Sri Sivasubramaniya Nadar School of Advanced Software Engineering. Students fork over $53,000 for the entire 18-month program - 15% lower if the course-work was done in US. Similarly, the London School of Economics offers three-year undergrad degree in economics, finance and management through the Indian School of Business and Finance (ISBF) in New Delhi, for a total fee of $20,000, or one-fifth the standard cost. The International School of Business in Hyderabad has a tie-up with the Kellogg School of Management of US and the London School of Business to teach business administration.

Higher education decidedly set to be cheaper yet richer in quality with the entry of foreign universities; it will certainly attract streams of oversees students to one of the world’s vibrant economies. Just as the US did in the past 50 years, India has a similar opportunity to create a pool of well-educated, talented people who even if they choose not to work here, will carry a sturdy impression of India’s economic buoyancy and facilitate foreign investments in India.

While there are several advantages of foreign universities anchoring Indian shores, there are a few challenges too. For instance, emphasised Kapil Sibal in an interview that adherence to Indian laws, including on reservation, will be one of the basic pre-requisites for foreign players setting up their campuses here. Will they follow the diktat or seek special package is to be seen?

Equally interesting would it be to see whether foreign universities will bring in the same academic competence or like other products, will bring only B- grade faculty and research facilities to India. How will they amalgamate the requisite exposure to international culture and life style in their curricula would be another area of interest?

India is a huge unexplored market and numerous good and bad players would be competing to gatecrash and we, therefore, have to be vigilant to sift only the better ones to let in. We will also have to synchronise our primary and secondary sectors with the tertiary education system we wish to implant failing which our university entrants will find themselves bewildered at a crossroad.

The government ought to draw legal contours very carefully for foreign varsities settling in India so that the quality it promises to inject in the system empowers the posterity in its true sense.
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No secret is safe in cyber world
by Katy Guest

IT was H L Mencken who wrote that nobody ever went broke underestimating the public’s intelligence. But the great journalist and professional cynic slipped up by doing the opposite n though in this instance it was more a case of overestimating the public’s sense of morality.

The mighty Google thought it would be a great idea to create a social networking site by plundering Gmail-users’ email contacts books and kindly making users’ contacts into Facebook-style “friends” for them. It hadn’t occurred to them that some people might not want all their contacts to know who else they have been contacting. Some things, thank you Google, really ought to remain our little secret. Sorry if you’re very disappointed by our murky G-subterfuge.

A similar cold hand of panic grips Facebook-users when a spam message arrives promoting an application that can tell you who has been looking at your profile page. It would be fascinating to know which pathetic little weirdos have been tragically stalking one under cover of e-darkness, of course. But nobody wants that enough to allow anyone else to know when we have been looking at their profiles.

It is nothing more sinister than entirely natural human curiosity that makes a person want to find out how their ex is looking these days (gratifyingly rough, as it happens). But some sad people might take that healthy curiosity out of context n in particular, gratifyingly rough-looking exes, the arrogant little morons. So it’s a good job that the mythical snoop application remains nothing but a salutary fiction, for now at least.

Facebook, thank goodness, understands that some of its users have secrets.

The problem with modern technology is that, while it makes it exponentially easier to be duplicitous and underhand, it also makes it so much easier to be found out. Just ask Vernon Kay how temptingly simple it seemed to send saucy phone messages to raunchy textophiles none of whom was his wife.

The “sex text” appeals, it turns out, to the desperate, the exhibitionist, the very stupid and the alarmingly ambidextrous, which must be why footballers are so keen on the format. David Beckham allegedly had an epistolary extra-marital friendship a few years ago which was said to have involved the Napoleonic line: “I really wish we was in your bed now.” A line that was preserved in perpetuity the minute his errant thumb pressed the send button n the silly boy.

It would be sad to believe that social networking is mostly made up of antisocial behaviour: cheating on partners; checking up on exes; meddling maliciously in other people’s affairs. But it is always worth bearing in mind how one’s innocent written comments might look to others.

Mencken was ahead of his time when he wrote that “conscience [is] the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking”. If they’re not looking now, they probably will be very soon. Cheaters beware: there is no such thing as a secret in cyberspace. — By arrangement with The Independent
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Corrections and clarifications

The caption of a photograph (Page 18, February 18) suggests that MP Deepender Hooda was “hounded” by people at Rohtak. A more appropriate word would have been ‘mobbed’, ‘greeted’ or ‘congratulated’.

  • The word should have been ‘cannibalising’ in the report with the headline, Bofors returns and how (Page 20, February 17).
  • It should read field ‘trials’ in the report on the Bofors gun (Page 20, Feb 17)
  • The headline, Ferozepur SSP summoned in implication case (Chandigarh Plus, February 18) should have been, ‘Court summons SSP for alleged frame-up’.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

This column appears twice a week — every Tuesday and Friday. We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Kamlendra Kanwar, Senior Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is kanwar@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief

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