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Devangshu Datta: The ministry of pornography

In the looking glass world of India's governance, banning something is a good way to promote it

Devangshu Datta 

Devangshu Datta

The blocking of 857 websites by the Indian government because some of these “may” contain child pornography seems ludicrous. Many sites on that list contain no adult material at all. It is possible, even probable, that none of those sites has child porn.

Child porn is illegal almost everywhere. It is usually not found on websites accessible via normal browsers on normal urls. The US for instance, has regulations (Title 18, Section 2257) to ensure all participants in porn movies are above 18.

It is irresponsible, at the least, for a government to accuse random persons of being child pornographers. Every honest purveyor of adult porn on that list, and all the websites that don’t contain any erotic material, should consider suing the Government of India and the lawyer responsible, for defamation.

But in all the hullabaloo about bans, we have overlooked the economic angle. In practical terms, a ban on porn could provide a serious economic boost and be a driver for some of this government’s pet initiatives. Consider the following: 1) A ban must be enforced 2) People will want to bypass the ban 3) People will generate alternative content. All three processes will boost economic activity.

Trying to enforce a ban involves setting up web filters. This is a driver for “Make in India”. Contracts to create filters will generate revenues for the IT industry. The filters must be well-designed to avoid blocking websites selling “rapeseed oil”, and cricket sites publishing scores for matches involving “Sussex” and “Essex”. Those filters can be adapted and exported to every other tin-pot nation run by some other regime that’s sensitive to criticism. This will help boost exports.

Vast armies must be employed to monitor the Web 24x7 for content that slips past filters. China employs two million people to patrol the “Great Firewall”. India’s version would absorb at least 50,000 persons in the first tranche. These would be recruitments on Pay Commission pay-scales and pensions, with appropriate quotas and reservations. These Sarkari babus will be taught what to look for, and how to find it.

Ergo, India will develop a cyber-army, capable of finding anything online, no matter how kinky, or well-concealed it might be. That cyber-army will also be well-versed in the in-and-outs of sexual congress. So, personnel from the “Porn Ministry” can be seconded to the Health and Family Welfare Ministry to design and run sex education programmes and reassure youngsters suffering from “Nightfall” and other “diseases” unique to India.

A large number of citizens will want to bypass filters — India is already the fifth-largest porn consumer in the world. Courses can be set up to teach people how to evade blocks and filters. Again, this will boost IT sector revenues. And help to digitally-skill the population at large.

The good old principles of import substitution will also come into play. The desi porn industry will generate new content to replace blocked phoren porn, thus driving “Make in India”. Our local players will soon develop a major presence in the global market. In fact, the hardness quotient of India’s studs will help to enhance India’s soft cultural power.

Therefore, a porn ban would help to create a vibrant local porn industry; it would generate large amounts of employment, and significant revenues and also be a force multiplier for the Digital India initiative. Such a ban can also be funded by licensing porn surfing with a policy designed in analogy to the way drinkers are licensed in dry states.

In dry states, the doctor certifies somebody an “incurable alcoholic” on self-declaration. That person is then allowed to buy a certain quota of liquor legally. A similar system of licensing for “incurable porn watchers” could be launched. This would actually be an uniquely innovative revenue model — to the best of my knowledge, no government has conceptualised a porn-watching license anywhere.

In the looking glass world of India’s governance, banning something is a good way to promote it.

Twitter: @devangshudatta

First Published: Fri, August 07 2015. 22:44 IST