Monday, 26 September 2016

On the right to photocopy

S Sivakumar and L P Lukose in The Hindu


The DU photocopy judgment is a victory for access to education. But is it successful in balancing the competing interests of the academic community and the copyright holders?

On September 16, the Delhi High Court dismissed the copyright infringement petition filed by three international publishers against a photocopy shop located in the Delhi University premises (The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford v. Rameshwari Photocopy Services). The court ruled that making course packs for suggested reading for students by photocopying portions of various prescribed reference books does not violate the copyright of the publishers.

Right to reproduction

Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957, grants a bundle of exclusive rights such as the right to reproduction on copyright owners for commercial exploitation of the work. Making photocopies amounts to reproduction. Photocopies made in violation of Section 14 thus constitute infringement unless it is listed under Section 52 as an act not constituting infringement. The judgment holds that if any provision of the Act permits any person other than the owner to reproduce any work or substantial part thereof, such reproduction will not amount to infringement (Para 27).

The Copyright Act, to prevent stagnation of the growth of creativity, seeks to maintain a balance between the competing interests of the copyright owners on the one hand and the interests of the public to have access to works on the other. Copyright’s basic rationale is that there should be promotion of creativity through sufficient protection; and at the same time it also caters for dissemination of knowledge and access to copyright material through the doctrine of fair dealing. This doctrine, which is essential for research and academic purposes, is an exception to copyright holders’ exclusive rights. The Indian copyright law uses the term ‘fair deal’ (where listed purposes are statutorily embedded) whereas the U.S.’s copyright law adopts ‘fair use’ (which is merely illustrative). As per Article 13 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, these exceptions must confine to “special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder”. Since the term ‘fair dealing’ is not defined in the Act, the judiciary determines its scope on a case by case basis.

Fair dealing

Section 52(1)(i) of the Copyright Act treats as fair dealing “the reproduction of any work (i) by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction; or (ii) as part of the questions to be answered in an exam; or (iii) in answers to such question. Section 52(1)(j) uses terms such as “staff and students of an educational institution” whereas Section 52(1)(i) uses “teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction.” On analysing this difference, the judgment holds that “there is no reason to interpret Section 52 (1)(i) as providing for an individual teacher and an individual pupil.” The word ‘instruction’ is not defined in the Act. According to Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, the words “in the course of instruction” would include “reproduction of any work while the process of imparting instruction by the teacher and receiving instruction by the pupil continues during the entire academic session... imparting and receiving of instruction is not limited to personal interface between teacher and pupil but is a process commencing from the teacher readying herself/himself for imparting instruction, setting syllabus, prescribing text books, readings and ensuring, whether by interface in classroom/tutorials or otherwise...” Hence it would be fair dealing if the students click photographs of each page of portions of the prescribed book.

Limitations

Copyright must increase and not impede the harvest of knowledge. When the judgment reads, “Copyright is to motivate the creative activity of authors in order to benefit the public”, what is left for the copyright owners? The judgment places no limitation on photocopy if the material is prescribed in the course of instruction. Copyright holders invest considerably in creating works. Can this be ignored while interpreting Section 52(1)(i) as a license for reproducing unlimitedly everything prescribed in the suggested reading? If the legislature had intended to give such a wide interpretation to the words “in the course of instruction”, why does it add, “as part of the questions to be answered in an exam or in answers to such question” which should also be covered automatically? If the suggested reading provides for the whole book, does Section 52(1)(i) permit reproduction of the whole book or only reasonable excerpts? The judgment has conveniently avoided any direct reference to this aspect. The Court Commissioner had reported that “8 books were found being photocopied cover to cover”. Was the court successful in balancing the competing interests of the academic community and the copyright holders? When the university is entitled to free photocopy of 3,000 pages every month(Para 4), can the possibility of commercial interest be overruled? In that context, does it comply with Article 13 of TRIPS? Is it justified to cover the private photocopy shop in the university premises within the expression “in the course of instruction”? Doesn’t the judgment provide blanket immunity to the university to meet the demands of all the students by purchasing a single book?

Undoubtedly, the judgment, which is a breakthrough in the Indian copyright jurisprudence, is a major victory to access to education in a developing country like India. It will certainly have a far-reaching impact in academic circles as well as on the copyright industry. When access to education itself is a challenge, none of the students can be expected to purchase expensive textbooks, especially when syllabi prescribe certain portions from various books. Universities are expected to cater to students’ reading requirement without prejudicing copyright holders’ legitimate economic interests. Are the Indian universities honestly utilising funds earmarked for libraries for that purpose? The students’ demands can be met reasonably by permitting reproduction of reasonable excerpts.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

If you can’t beat Jeremy Corbyn, you’d better try to learn from him

Andrew Rawnsley in The Guardian


Speaking shortly before the re-coronation of Jeremy Corbyn, one Labour MP gloomily remarked of Owen Smith’s failed challenge: “It was always a kamikaze mission.”

Oh no, it has turned out much more desperate than that for Labour’s parliamentarians. Back in July, when the challenge was launched off the back of a no-confidence vote by MPs and mass resignations from the frontbench, few of his colleagues thought Mr Smith could win. The purpose of the exercise, or so they calculated, was not to install a new leader but to take the shine off the incumbent. Mr Smith was designed, and in more than one sense, to be the anti-Momentum candidate. If Mr Corbyn could be run reasonably close, so backers of the challenge hoped, it would diminish the “mandate” that he and his supporters have spent the last 12 months brandishing in the face of Labour MPs.

When the result was announced from the conference stage in Liverpool, it was instantly clear that the reverse has happened. Jeremy Corbyn has not only been reanointed as leader, he won by a larger margin than last year, he won in all three segments of the selectorate and he won on a higher rate of participation. The challenge has not diminished him; it has swollen the size of his congregation. The immediate fear of Labour MPs is that this will now be self-reinforcing. Mr Corbyn will further consolidate his grip on the commanding heights of Labour if centre-left members who have stuck with the party despite all the ugliness of the past year are so demoralised by his victory that they give up and quit.

Examining the entrails of defeat, many who originally backed it now acknowledge that this was the wrong challenge at the wrong time with the wrong candidate. Mr Smith ended up as the anti-Corbyn standard bearer on the grounds that a relative unknown from the soft left – “a clean skin” – had the best chance of getting a hearing from Labour activists. His first handicap was that he spent the beginning of the campaign having to say who he was. He had barely started to introduce himself before a ruthlessly efficient effort by Team Corbyn had already defined him as a former employee of big pharma and a “Trojan horse” for Blairite revanchism. He largely positioned himself in the same ideological zone as the incumbent in the belief that this would be the best way to appeal to Corbynistas. That strategy would have been no more effective had he also put on a fake beard. For this invited and received an understandable response from that constituency: why vote for an imitation when you can re-elect the real thing?

His claims that he would make a more credible and competent leader were undermined by his propensity to gaffe. One hundred and sixty-two of his parliamentary colleagues nominated Mr Smith. The more conventionally minded of us might think that, in a parliamentary democracy, it is quite important for a party leader to command the confidence of his MPs. Yet for those to whom Mr Corbyn is an appealing figure, it is one of his virtues that his parliamentary party are so hostile to him. Being the MPs’ candidate was not an asset for the challenger – it was massive liability. I have talked to a lot of Labour MPs who spent time canvassing members. They universally report that many activists blamed the party’s predicament and Mr Corbyn’s abysmal personal poll ratings not on the leader, but on the mutinous behaviour of Labour parliamentarians. The depiction of the challenge as a “coup” and the framing of the contest as Members v MPs, Grassroots v Westminster was toxic.

So Labour is back to where it was at the beginning of the summer, with a vast chasm between a leader with a mandate from the members and MPs claiming a rival mandate from their voters. With this difference. Those divisions are now more starkly exposed, more deeply entrenched and more poisonously bitter. One MP speaks about “taking bodyguards” to protect him at the conference. Another expresses genuine fear that fist fights – or worse – will break out in Liverpool.

If there can’t be a genuine peace between the two sides, could there at least be some form of truce? In his victory speech, a much crisper and more polished performance than 12 months ago, Mr Corbyn made magnanimous-sounding noises about wiping the slate clean. His campaign manager and shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, tells us that the party can move on from the venom that has flowed over the summer. “What is said on tour, stays on tour.” Even some of Mr Corbyn’s most implacable critics know that it would sound churlish to snipe this weekend and have largely fallen silent for the moment.

Beneath the surface, though, it is already evident that the party is as riven as ever. There will now be a struggle for control of the party machinery at both national and local levels. There is also the question, of importance to the country as well as to the Labour party, of whether it can become at least semi-functional as an opposition to the Tories in parliament. I can find some MPs willing to unresign and return to take on a frontbench role. Some will do so for fear of retribution in their constituencies or for careerist reasons. Some argue that the parliamentary party now has to make at least a show of being co-operative or the membership will carry on blaming the MPs, rather than the leader, when things go wrong. One of this tendency says: “We have to stop being an excuse for his failings.”

Others are prepared to return to the frontbench on the grounds that it is their duty to be a voice for the 9 million people who voted Labour at the last election and to provide an opposition to the Tories. Yet many say they will only do so if the parliamentary party is allowed to elect at least some of the frontbench. That would give them a way of returning on their terms and with at least some shreds of dignity. Mr Corbyn’s circle sound extremely resistant to that. From their point of view, they have good reasons not to accept the demand. They don’t see why he should agree to elections that would surround him with hostiles in his top team.

Nor do they see why he should concede to the demands of the parliamentary party when he has just seen off its attempt to unseat him. The general emollience of his victory speech had a streak of menace when he warned Labour MPs “to respect the democratic choice that has been made”.

With or without shadow cabinet elections, a lot of senior Labour figures will not serve in his team anyway. They say they cannot bite their tongues for long when, as they see it, the Labour party they love is being destroyed. They ask how it is possible to sit on Mr Corbyn’s frontbench when 172 of them have publicly declared him unfit to be leader of the opposition.

One thing they will now have time to ponder on is why their advice was rejected by the party. It might be convenient for moderate Labour MPs to blame the failure of the challenge entirely on the flaws of the challenger, but it would also be wrong. What the last three months have exposed again are fundamental weaknesses on the centre-left. Labour MPs often express dismay at Mr Corbyn’s claims to be building a “social movement” superior to his parliamentary party. They mock it as the politics of protest and a betrayal of Labour’s founding purpose, set out in Clause I of the party constitution, to aim for power. The former frontbencher Tristram Hunt wittily despairs that his party is becoming “the political wing of the Stop the War coalition”. They are right to say that there is a big difference between rousing rallies of the already converted and the harder challenge of moving enough of the wider population into your column to win a general election.

Sound as that analysis might be, you can see why Team Corbyn are not receptive to lectures about electability from critics who can’t win – can’t get anywhere near winning – an election in the Labour party. Comprehensively out-organised by Team Corbyn and their union backers in last year’s contest, the anti-Corbynites vowed to do much better this time. They have developed some infrastructure in the form of the groups Labour Tomorrow and Saving Labour. The latter claims to have signed up 120,000 new members. But the result speaks for itself. Momentum out-recruited and out-organised them. Labour has now become the largest political party in western Europe. That may say nothing about its capacity to win a general election under its current leadership, but it does say something.

Love him or loathe him, Mr Corbyn – or what he represents – is capable of attracting and enthusing support. If they are ever to get their party back, his opponents will have to do the same. And they will have to offer a more enticing prospectus than begging people to join Labour to save the party from itself. They have again failed to beat Jeremy Corbyn. Perhaps the best thing Labour moderates could do now, strange as this may seem, is to try to learn from him.

My difficult relationship with Wasim Akram

Dennis Freedman in The Dawn

Young Michael Slater is fidgeting at the crease.

Scratch. Shake. Rub. Repeat.

His career is off to a flyer. The New South Welshman averages nearly 50. In 1995, openers don’t average anything near that much. For context, Mike Atherton only averages 38.

The Hobart pitch looks clean. Wasim has the ball. The recipe is complete.

New wicket, master tradesman and some chilly dense Hobart weather.

The cable knit sweaters are on. Even those with extra natural padding are wearing them.

Old timers predict that there will be some cut and swing. In their minds, it’s as certain as death and taxes. But it is likely to only last a few overs until the shine is gone from the ball. If Slater can connect with a cut shot or two, the danger will quickly subside.

Wasim has a lazy 12 step run up. Perhaps it is only 10? The left arm swings around like an angry propeller on a Spitfire. The ball pitches on a length, cuts in hard and strikes the pad.

Slater had no chance. His fidgeting hasn’t been demonstrative enough to wake up his feet. They didn’t move.

An appeal. A really good appeal. Not Out.

Hitting outside the line? Too high?

The replay indicates that many an umpire would have raised the finger.

The Pakistanis share a knowing wink. Darrell Hair looks concerned. He has just realised that this will be a tough morning for him.

Slater shakes it off. We expected this, right? It is not as though Wasim wastes too many new balls in these conditions.

Ball 2.

Same shape. Slightly quicker. Slightly shorter.

The 25-year-old Slater gets in behind it and scrubs a defensive prod to short cover.

It looked awkward.

Where feet were expected to move, they didn’t. Michael Slater often looked awkward.

Back in 1995, openers were expected to look in control. Stylish. Dapper. Like Fred Astaire dancing in the rain. Slater could be that guy, but it wasn’t his natural happy place. He was more Vanilla Ice. In your face. New, exciting and baggy clothes.

He just wanted to make runs. Quickly.

Ball 3.

The sucker ball.

Pushed across the right hander and holding its line. The keeper takes it in front of first slip. A nervous Slater doesn’t bite. He wanted to. It was his ball. That mad cut shot wanted to come out of its cage. It didn’t.

Maybe if it were Steve Harmison bowling and not Wasim Akram? Surely he would have pounced at it then?

Slater continues to fidget at the crease. Perhaps this is where Steve Smith learnt it from?

Ball 4.

A half volley outside off stump. Not super quick, but still sharp. The batsman strides out to meet it. Almost overstretching.

Then he defends.

Wasim has got inside his head. Why didn’t that ball swing? Why didn’t I give it hell? It was there to hit. I’ll get him next time.

Mark Taylor is at the other end. He is practising the flick off his pads. It would be a dangerous shot against Wasim. Across the line. An invitation to produce a leading edge.

Ball 5

It is a repeat of ball 2. This time Slater jumps a little as he plays it. But to be fair, he is well behind it. Surely he feels more comfortable now? Apart from the first ball, the others have offered little danger to a set batsman. Like jelly in a blast chiller, Slater sets at a rapid speed. But he is not set yet. However, he is close.

Ball 6

Like Slater, Wasim also sets quickly. This is his effort ball. A full in-swinging yorker. We’ve seen it before. Close your eyes and you can picture it. Mitchell Starc took this dream and copied it.

Slater gets hit on the toe. His bat is still on its journey towards the ball. His bat is too slow. Wasim is too fast.

Umpire Hair fires him.

Peak Wasim. Classic Wasim. Just Wasim.

A tease of what he could do. A sense of what he would do. Then he did it.

He is like a gift from the gods. What is not to love?

What is not to respect?

Fast forward five years.

The dark clouds of match fixing would soon fall over Pakistani cricket.

They were always threatening to come in from the north, as they circled above the Kyber Pass. Now they had arrived.

These clouds set a waypoint for Wasim Akram. They threatened to unleash a thunderstorm from hell.

Winds. Hail. Lightning.

Instead, when one looks up at them, they are full of potential menace, yet never quite create more than a minor inconvenience.

These clouds are known as the Qayyum Report.

The typed pages of investigation that are contained within it are Pakistan’s attempt to look into corruption within the national team.

It opens up like a well laid out crime novel. A slow and steady start. A scene being set. Some explosive twists. Inconclusive conclusions and a reader left wanting for more.

Justice Qayyum, the author, is also fallible as we discover later. A cricket lover. A man working essentially with many contradicting first hand accounts and hearsay. His heroes are under attack.

But one in particular gives him the most troublesome time.

Wasim.

The Qayyum Report is clear in its condemnation of Pakistan’s greatest ever swing bowler.

Ata-ur-Rehman swore on oath that he was offered 200,000 rupees by skipper Akram to perform poorly in an ODI against New Zealand in Christchurch in 93/94.

Aamir Sohail had, on oath, also spoken ill of Akram.

Akram then, using his own personal credit card, paid for Ata-ur-Rehman to fly to London. Here, Rehman visited Akram’s lawyer and signed an affidavit supporting Wasim against the existing one penned by Sohail.

Essentially, Akram paid for Rehman’s travel so that he could perjure himself.

Akram does not dispute that he paid for Rehman’s ticket.

Rehman originally alleged that Akram threatened to have him “fixed” if he didn’t follow orders. Rehman then retracted his story after Akram paid for that flight to London to visit his lawyer. Rehman decided that, in fact, Sohail had coerced him to speak against Akram.

Perjury. A broken witness.

However, the great Imran Khan also testified that Rehman had told him of Akram’s approaches.

It is recorded for all eternity in the Qayyum Report.

Imran doesn’t lie, does he? (Politicians don’t lie?)

Other allegations are made against Wasim Akram in the Qayyum report. However, they are the classic ‘he says / she says’-type argument. They focus on Akram feigning injury, bowling badly and manipulating batting orders so as to lose matches.

They are difficult to prove either way. There is little corroboration.

Justice Qayyum dismisses them.

However, back on the match fixing charge where there are elements of corroboration, Quyyam states the following:

“As regards to allegation one on its own, this commission is left with no option but to hold Wasim Akram not guilty of the charge of match-fixing. This the Commission does so only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt.”

In isolation, natural justice clears Akram.

Not guilty.

We can all move on with our lives. Akram is still a national hero.

Or is he?

Qayyum goes on to say:

“However, once this commission looks at the allegations in their totality, this commission feels that all is not well here and that Wasim Akram is not above board. He has not co-operated with this Commission. It is only by giving Wasim Akram the benefit of the doubt after Ata-ur-Rehman changed his testimony in suspicious circumstances that he has not been found guilty of match-fixing. He cannot be said to be above suspicion.” [Emphasis added.]

So Akram is found not guilty because he helped finance a witness to change his story under oath?

What nonsense is this?

Think about it for just a second. Pause and reflect.

If this were a criminal trial, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that Akram tampered with a witness.

Unbelievable.

“It is, therefore, recommended that he be censured and be kept under strict vigilance and further probe be made either by the Government of Pakistan or by the Cricket Board into his assets acquired during his cricketing tenure and a comparison be made with his income. Furthermore, he should be fined Rs300,000.”

The classic Clayton’s verdict. You aren’t guilty, but please pay a fine for the little bit of guilt that you do harbour.

“More importantly, it is further recommended that Wasim Akram be removed from captaincy of the national team. The captain of the national team should have a spotless character and be above suspicion. Wasim Akram seems to be too sullied to hold that office.” [Emphasis added.]

Stained. But not guilty.


It is important to note that the Qayyum report was not a criminal trial. This impacts the burden of proof.

“.....it must be stated that the burden of proof is somewhere in between the criminal and normal civil standard.”

Akram argued that the burden of proof should be high. But of course, he would. The higher the burden of proof, the harder it is to convict him.

“It is not as high as the counsel for Wasim Akram recommended, that the case needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


This is a commission of inquiry and not a criminal court of trial so that standard need not be high.”

Its outputs are recommendations. Typically, outputs from these inquiries are followed by prosecutors and governments. As they should.

Pakistan moved on after this event. They purged themselves. Apparently, they chose to reject corruption in cricket.

Then Butt, Asif and Amir.

Then Amir back in the Pakistan national side after those with memories, including Misbah and Hafeez, initially protested.

Corruption - 1

Sanctity - 0

But the story takes another turn.

While all this is happening, Wasim Akram remained a powerful man. He took more power. His voice is now the most powerful in Pakistani cricket.

He becomes a commentator. He models. He tries coaching in the IPL and being an ambassador in the PSL.

He is Pakistan’s Mr Everywhere.

But if you don’t clean up filth properly, it festers and mould grows and eventually it rears its head once again.

Justice Qayyum later recalls that he had a “soft corner” for Wasim.

“He was a very great player, a very great bowler and I was his fan, and therefore that thing did weigh with me.”

Qayyum admits he was lenient to “one or two of them” based on reputation and skill.

Qayyum, like all men, is guilty of being fallible. But what a time to lose control to your weakness.

Can we deduce from this that without personal bias, Qayyum may have found Wasim guilty of match fixing?

For a swing bowler, Akram knew how to live right on the slippery edge of right and wrong.

He was almost a match fixer, but paid a fine for being one.


He coerced a witness to change his sworn testimony against him by using his own funds.

He was stripped of the captaincy.

All facts. Indisputable.

Yet, you all still adore him like a god.

You place his playing deeds ahead of the damage he did to the game.


Does being good at something absolve one from society’s judgement about what is right and wrong?

Should we allow that Akram is afforded a voice on our television screens, our newspapers, mingles with players and coaches professional teams?

Would you allow Chris Cairns to do it? He was found not guilty by a UK court of lying about match fixing.

Why is Wasim any different? Is it because Wasim was a better player than Cairns?

Then how about those actually found guilty of crimes against the sport of cricket?

Shane Warne is a convicted drug cheat and took money from bookies. Why do you cower to him?

Mark Waugh is an Australian selector. An official position. He also took money from bookies. Having said that, Cricket Australia has official bookmaker partners, so they aren’t even pretending to take this seriously.

I am not talking about those who get a speeding fine here.

I am talking about individuals who cheated the game. Put their selfishness ahead of the greater good. Frauds.

Why does the game owe these people anything?

Cricket is not society. It does not automatically have to bestow a second chance on anyone. Instead, it is the duty of everyone associated with the game to protect it.

Yet when it comes to our heroes, those who swung a ball in mysterious ways or batted like silk, we turn a blind eye.

Wasim is Wasim. He has made his choices. He has vandalised the sport. As has Warne. As has Mark Waugh.

Rod Marsh once placed a bet against a team he was playing in. Australia lost. Rod Marsh won big.

Rod Marsh is now the Chairman of Selectors for Cricket Australia.

If I were caught breaking serious rules at work, I would get fired. There is no way in hell that my employer would ever have me back.


In some industries, if I break the rules, I can never work in them again.

The legal profession. Working with children. Policing.

No second chances. Respect the fortunate position you have obtained or leave forever.

If cricket really wants to see corruption as a significant foe, why does it not take the same stance?


So next time you share a view with me about what Wasim has said, or what Warne did on the pitch, forgive me if I don’t partake in your idolisation.

For Wasim is not my idol and it is him who is to blame.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Hype, Hypocrisy And Hooch

R K Misra in Outlook India

Gujarat and its 'model' have been the toast of the Indian season ever since its Chief Minister, Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014.This includes its liquor prohibition policy which has adherents like Bihar now where Nitish Kumar came to power after knocking the wind out of Modi's sails!

Billowing in the political clouds ever since, are propounded perceptions of a 'dry' India. Kumar could do with a closer look at adversary Modi's 'model' state before giving wings to his national vision.

Proud and boastful of the fact that it has been the only state in the country which was born 'dry' and continues to remain so till date, Gujarat's much hyped liquor 'totalitarianism' took a humpty-dumpty like fall last week when over 20 people died after consuming hooch near Surat. What has now become a standard drill after decades of practice, is in place. Newly anointed Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is making all the right noises. Top cops and district heads-transferred, smaller fry suspended. The anti-terrorist squad (ATS) chief took charge of investigations. A three-man top cop panel headed by additional director general of police (ADGP), looked into the matter and submitted its report to the state home department head. Within 24 hours over a thousand country liquor cases registered. Carton loads are being seized at entry checkpoints into the state. A full blooded search for the culprit methanol is under way. Blah, blah, blah and the farce goes on.

Consumption or possession of liquor without a valid permit is a non-bailable offence in the state. A person arrested on either count has to be produced in court to be bailed out. And yet it oozes Bacchus brew from every nook and cranny of its ample frame.

Booze, as the upwardly mobile call it, is lucrative business and according to conservative estimates, a Rs 30,000 crore annual turnover, pure black money spewing industry. While Prime Minister Modi may have pulled out all the stops to unearth Indian black money stashed abroad, his decade and a quarter year stint as chief minister of the state, failed to dent the business. In fact, to be fair to him, no chief minister who held office in the state was ever able to stem the flow.

The business has three components. At the bottom of the pyramid is the poor man's drink--hooch, lattha or moonshine. Then follows the desi or country liquor which is the preferred drink of rural Gujarat followed by brewery liquor at the apex (rum, whisky, gin, vodka etc). Hooch is the preferred drink of the urban labour class while 'desi' distilled, largely for captive consumption in villages, ranks safer and a notch higher. The fruit liquor 'mahua' ranks in this category. With a consumer base of the middle and affluent class in cities and towns, Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) as brewery made liquor is called in official parlance, holds sway. Country liquor is a cottage industry but brewery liquor flows into the state from MP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra even Punjab and Haryana.

Let's take the case of Gujarat's biggest city Ahmedabad. A network of about 1000 bootleggers sell anywhere between 1.5 to2 lakh litres of moonshine per day. Women outnumber men in this business. This is besides the IMFL business where the brand of your choice is home delivered to you. The trade is tech-savvy and 'whats app' and other suchn mobile applications come in handy. Surat is reported to guzzle 50,000 litres per day and almost 70 per cent of the 18,000 villages in the state brew their own country liquor. All major cities report high consumption and rural areas are no exception. There are 61,000 health permit holders in the state and worth of the average daily consumption of alcohol to permit holders is put at around Rs 75 lakhs.

No bootlegger can operate in Gujarat without police connivance. At every 'point' of the operation, negotiations have to be done with the cop for a certain amount of money and this goes right up to the top and from there to the political top brass. The cops may be sloppy in policing but would be the envy of management experts in planning and distribution of ill-gotten spoils.

Thus it is the huge amount of unadulterated black money greasing the administrative-political system in Gujarat that ensures a high decibel sound and light show only for the benefit of the masses with little or no follow-up action. Take the case of the 2009 hooch tragedy in Ahmedabad where 150 people lost their lives. Modi, then the chief minister, made all the appropriate noises. A Commission of Inquiry was instituted with former High Court judge K M Mehta as the chairman. The panel submitted its report in 2011 and there has been pin drop silence thereafter. The Gujarat Vidhan Sabha was quick to amend the pertinent act provisioning for even death penalty for those convicted in spurious liquor cases. The Bill was cleared by the then Governor Dr Kamala Beniwal. Not a single person has got life imprisonment thereafter, let alone terminal punishment.

The whole business of prohibition in Gujarat is a big charade in which everyone is happy and the only ones who stand to lose out are the people. Gujarat is soggy wet so those who want to drink, get enough of it but for a price. The cop is happy, he gets his cut and the politician in power more so because he gets a fair share as well besides the rip off from transfers and postings by playing favourites. Right from the sub-inspector to the DGP, the transfers are all at the behest of the Home department and the politicians who preside over it. The bootlegger is happy because he still manages to make money for himself despite all the pricks and cuts. It is only the honest tax payer who gets fobbed because the state loses a huge amount of money in excise and allied duties. Never mind this common man, he was in any case, born to bear the burden of the cross. Moonshine for the earthy, sunshine for the dirty.