New Delhi: The news of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) reportedly asking Internet service providers to block access to 78 URLs from India had the Indian cyberspace abuzz.
According to a DoT directive dated February 14, 2013, addressed to all Internet service licensees, accessed by MediaNama, a website that covers telecom and digital media, 78 URLs were to be blocked with immediate effect. Of the 78 URLs, 73 contained content apparently critical of the controversial Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), including a University Grants Commission (UGC) notice on the unrecognised status of IIPM.
While IBNLive is unable to independently ascertain the veracity of the DoT directive, the department has had a history of trying to enforce blocking of several websites in the past and many of its actions resulted in widespread protests in the online world. According to Livemint, the DoT directive was issued on basis of an order from a court in Gwalior.
The Government of India's recent attempts to block selected websites has drawn comparisons to communist China, where access to the Internet is anything but free.
The list of URLs to be blocked, including many from mainstream news organisations such as Firstpost, Outlook, Times of India, Rediff, Indian Express and Economic Times, largely includes those that don't paint a pretty picture of the chain of educational institutions headed by self-proclaimed management guru Arindam Chaudhuri. This action has raised concerns about free speech in the Indian cyberspace.
At the time of posting this report three of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter were related to the blocking.
IIPM has a long history of being embroiled in controversies. Back in 2005, IIPM had threatened to sue two bloggers and the Indian blogging community rose against IIPM.
In 2011 IIPM had filed a lawsuit claiming damages to the tune of Rs 50 crore against The Caravan magazine, citing grave harassment and injury for its cover story of February 2011 issue which focussed on the institutes main man Arindam Chaudhuri. The article, titled Sweet Smell of Success: How Arindam Chaudhuri Made a Fortune Off the Aspirations and Insecurities of India's Middle Classes, was written by Siddhartha Deb, a contributing editor at The Caravan and a university professor based in New York.