19 Mar

Making things happen in the government

A fascinating lecture by Mr Anil Swarup (retired IAS, ex-Secretary to Govt. of India & State Govt of UP) at Lt Governer, Puducherry Raj Niwas. His Wikipedia page here and Twitter account here.

The first half is the talk itself, followed by some time of Q&A, followed by a short talk by Mr Ashwani Kumar (Chief Secretary to Government of Pondicherry) and in the end is Lt Governor Kiran Bedi.

Misc notes from this talk

  1. For an idea to fructify in a democracy like ours, it has to politically acceptable, socially desirable, technologically feasible, financially viable, administratively doable and judiciary tenable.
  2. Don’t get agitated about things over which you have no control.
  3. Key thing is to focus and change yourself and rest will just follow.
  4. The digitalisation helps significantly in reducing corruption and adding more transparency.
  5. For solutions to a large number of problems, we do not need to look outside (of the country) but inwards towards various states from the length and breadth of the country.
  6. There was a draconian section clause in the Prevention of Corruption Act 13 (1) d. The clause was: while holding office as a public servant, obtains for any person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage without any public interest; or (source)

    In simple terms, it means that if anyone makes an undue benefit in a process, the bureaucrat will be held for it whether or not he had any benefit from it. Eventually, Modi Govt. in the centre revoked it and this Gazette notification has a new law. Thus now for bonafide mistake bureaucrats are legally protected.
  7. Culture of views & counterviews in the bureaucracy got deteriorated because of RTI activism. “RTI activist” end up in matching the notes of multiple officers & then try to play them against each other.
  8. Systems like Aadhar should have been respected & promoted but became a major target of “activist brigade”. I personally had a discussion with some of the folks who are heavily against the Aadhar and would even go to the extent of suggesting to shut down the program. While they might make a couple of valid points, but a large part of their points come with the fundamental assumption that rest of society, systems, identification technologies etc are utopian in nature!
  9. E-office system of Govt. needs more improvement. In some case, it’s just another system and a process where one has to dump scanned documents instead of actually digitalising.

Ending this post with a poem from Mr Swarup in Hindi! 🙂

समय रुका नहीं, हम क्यू ठहर गए? अभी तो हम चले भी नहीं, फिर क्यू थक गए?
उठो पथिक, उठो पथिक मत भ्रमित हो धूमिल अंधियारे में, श्रेष्ठ वही जो घिरा नहीं हो षणिक निराशा में|
जागो जगाओ, मन मत बहलाओ, एक मसीहा तुम भी बन जाओ |

02 Apr

Railtel-Google free railway station wifi using 49Gbps!

Railtel (the telecom arm of Indian railways) is running free wifi hotspots across the country in collaboration with Google.  It’s there since last two years and started with the MoU between Railtel and Google (news here) back in 2015.
Fast forward to 2018 – the free wifi project railway stations seems to be doing quite well with so many users using it. The project covers 361 stations and is expected to reach it’s target of 400 stations soon. The IP network for the service is under the name “Mahataa Information India Private Limited” and originates IP pools from AS134426 – https://bgp.he.net/AS134426#_asinfo. It is a single homed network behind Railtel’s AS24186.

Google’s free wifi at Indian railway stations is better than most of the country’s paid services

I put an RTI to Railtel asking them about MoU details as well as bandwidth consumption for each state. In their reply, Railtel denied the request for MoU under the exemption from disclosure as well as NDAs they have with Google but they did share detailed of state wise bandwidth consumption.


Some interesting points


  1. This data is peak bandwidth usage and not average bandwidth.
  2. Highest usage seems to be of Maharashtra which very likely is because of high usage in Mumbai.
  3. Second highest in Uttar Pradesh which isn’t surprising based on the size of the state.
  4. Rajasthan, as well as Punjab, seem quite low against their size.
  5. It seems to be mostly 0 for North East states – Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura & Sikkim. The only traffic is in Assam (450Mbps) and Nagaland (90Mbps).  In Assam there are 5 active stations under the project and Nagaland there’s just one (Dimapur) station. 90Mbps usage for one station is interesting.
  6. Total bandwidth consumption of 49.68Gbps looks like a nice number. Hard to predict the cost of the bandwidth since a significant part of this would be local cached/peered traffic like Google, Facebook, Akamai, Amazon etc. My guess would be that 35% of the 49.68Gbps i.e ~ 17Gbps would be the IP transit expense part of it which would be much cheaper against the long haul network Railtel is maintaining.

For anyone interested in raw RTI, I have posted the reply from Railtel here which includes my question & their replies. Document hides my personal details like phone number & address. So far impact seems good but I very much wish to know the cost of offering such service for free and if it is sustainable or not.