Friday, December 27, 2013

Stop-question-and-frisk

The recent spat over frisking of an Indian diplomat in the United States was uncalled for. What difference does it make if she is a diplomat. Stop-question-and-frisk is certainly a tough policy on New Yorkers but then what is law for one is law for everyone else. What makes India’s deputy consul general, Mrs. Devyani Khobragade different?

Stop and Frisk is not a regular thing in other cities in the United States but in New York City it is a policing strategy where an individual can be stopped, questioned and frisked without any warrant. The practice was enforced in New York way back in the 1990s to reduce crime rate and is still active. Many New Yorkers have expressed discontent with the law and there have been many complaints of harassment of the minority community. Besides New York’s stop-and-frisk practices has been criticized over racial profiling and privacy rights. So if Mrs. Khobragade is upset about the way she was treated, she should join these protestors and make her voice heard. It is absolutely ridiculous to be asking for immunity because of her status in society. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled stop-question-and-frisk procedures constitutional and so until it is reversed there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Above all underpaying her nanny less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is unpardonable. The Indian diplomat should remember that if the accusations are proved true, it’s questionable and punishable. She will join the chorus of many similar employers who exploit minorities to get their work done within a meager wage. 

Stop-question-and-frisk will always be remembered as a legacy of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Right or wrong it is one of the most controversial practices that the Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy faces. Even one of the reason the new mayor elect Bill DeBlasio won in the recent New York City elections is his campaign promising that he will reform the stop-and-frisk practice. His election to the mayoral seat with a landslide victory further reinforces what New Yorkers want when it comes to the stop-and-frisk practice. Come January 1 2014, the city folks hope that their brand new Mayor De Blasio will either completely thrash the stop-and-frisk practice or at least reform it. 

Withdrawing diplomatic ID cards of US consular officials was an explosive over-reaction and not a sensible response by the Indian government. The tit-for-tat kinda reaction was naive. Worst, all hell broke out when the government got the Delhi Police to remove the barricading outside the US embassy in New Delhi. The question is was this reaction a political campaign toward the 2014 general election? 

Well there's some good news for those you say that stop-question-and-frisk is an invasion of privacy and that it leads to racial profiling. The New York City's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman published a report in November 2013 questioning the effectiveness of the policy. And the new mayor elect De Blasio is another hope for change of the policy. Until then, everyone in New York ought to abide by the practice, whether you like it or you not. Or else attend the "Know Your Rights" workshop conducted by a few New Yorkers in the city. This workshop teaches people how to defend their rights without making the situation worse.

Although I defend the stop-question-and-frisk practice, I also believe that it should be carried out only if there is real suspicion. I don’t support it if it is done based on the color of skin, religion, or nationality. If there is a practice that can safeguard my safety and the safety of the city as a whole, there is no reason to oppose the policing practice. And as long as it is done with respect and without intimidation, I see no point to resist or oppose the stop-and-frisk practice.  But then since I have never been stopped-questioned-and-frisked, it’s really difficult to say what it feels like to be at the receiving end.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Drone on

The Merriam dictionary defines a drone as a stingless male bee that has the role of mating with the queen and does not gather nectar or pollen. That one lucky guy who gets all the good things in life without slogging his butt. If you ask me to define a drone, I would rather describe it as that unmanned aerial vehicle loaded with arms. I would go on to say that these unmanned armed flying objects are made in particular to kill terrorists. Why me, ask anyone today what a drone is, and they would give you a completely different definition that has nothing to do with bees.

However controversial the use of drones will always be, these unmanned aerial vehicles only seem to find a wider and different usage. The CEO of the largest American international electronic commerce company Amazon.com recently spoke about his fantasy to deliver packages to customers using drones. Packages that ideally took a day-or-two to reach its destination will take only 30-minutes if the company’s vision becomes a reality. And you never know very soon our ordered packages will reach us even quicker than pizzas. And like pizzas if it doesn't reach within the promised time, it could be free, free, free!

Of course Amazon CEO's fantasy can come true only if the federal authorities facilitate a widespread use of drones. Today it is Amazon, tomorrow farmers may want to use drones to spray fertilizer over their crops, the search and rescue team may want to use drones to find people stuck in a catastrophe, film makers may want to use drones to document a film, and worst drones will be used as spy robots to keep a watch on the content of our calls and our whereabouts. Everyone would want to use it. Even individuals who have the money to buy a drone will have one in their backyard to help them walk their dogs, buy groceries, pay their bills, and do all the personal jobs they can think of.

So while the rich, famous and the powerful use these unmanned drones to fulfill their dreams, visions and fantasies, the people in the middle and lower class of society either become victims of these robotic flying machines or remain spectators of complicated and controversial foreign and internal policies.

So if authorities pass the use of drones for commercial purposes, we'll not only be cribbing about road traffic but air-traffic will also become a thing of concern. Traffic rules would change. We will have to stop at a red signal warning us of an approaching drone. And then, what about our beautiful birds? They will curse the human race for encroaching into their territory. We talk about saving endangered animals like the Bengal Tiger, the African Wild Dog, American alligator and many such species. But with drones getting a green light for commercial use, we will have to worry about our colorful birds too. Many of them will not only remain endangered but will become extinct.

Recently hundreds of world leaders got together in Johannesburg to be a part of Nelson Mandela's last journey. Many of these leaders delivered speeches about the greatness of Mandela. They called him a hero. They said how important it is to live by Sir Mandela's teachings of non-violence. But then, how do drones fit into his teachings?

There are many advocates who swear by the tactical advantages that drones bring. Some call it the best modified robotic machinery bringing in a revolution to mankind. What do you think, are they really the best thing that happened to us?

Well, I like the bees that make my sweet honey!