uid

When I opposed Aadhaar in 2010 , I was called a BJP stooge. In 2016 I am still opposing Aadhaar for the same reasons and I am told I am a Congress die hard. No one wants to see why I oppose Aadhaar as it is too difficult. Plus Aadhaar is FREE so why not get one ? Ram Krishnaswamy

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mahatma Gandhi

In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. Mahatma Gandhi

“The invasion of privacy is of no consequence because privacy is not a fundamental right and has no meaning under Article 21. The right to privacy is not a guaranteed under the constitution, because privacy is not a fundamental right.” Article 21 of the Indian constitution refers to the right to life and liberty -Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

“There is merit in the complaints. You are unwittingly allowing snooping, harassment and commercial exploitation. The information about an individual obtained by the UIDAI while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a court for the purpose of criminal investigation.” -A three judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar said in an interim order.

Legal scholar Usha Ramanathan describes UID as an inverse of sunshine laws like the Right to Information. While the RTI makes the state transparent to the citizen, the UID does the inverse: it makes the citizen transparent to the state, she says.

Good idea gone bad
I have written earlier that UID/Aadhaar was a poorly designed, unreliable and expensive solution to the really good idea of providing national identification for over a billion Indians. My petition contends that UID in its current form violates the right to privacy of a citizen, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. This is because sensitive biometric and demographic information of citizens are with enrolment agencies, registrars and sub-registrars who have no legal liability for any misuse of this data. This petition has opened up the larger discussion on privacy rights for Indians. The current Article 21 interpretation by the Supreme Court was done decades ago, before the advent of internet and today’s technology and all the new privacy challenges that have arisen as a consequence.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP Rajya Sabha

“What is Aadhaar? There is enormous confusion. That Aadhaar will identify people who are entitled for subsidy. No. Aadhaar doesn’t determine who is eligible and who isn’t,” Jairam Ramesh

But Aadhaar has been mythologised during the previous government by its creators into some technology super force that will transform governance in a miraculous manner. I even read an article recently that compared Aadhaar to some revolution and quoted a 1930s historian, Will Durant. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP

“I know you will say that it is not mandatory. But, it is compulsorily mandatorily voluntary,” Jairam Ramesh, Rajya Saba April 2017.

August 24, 2017: The nine-judge Constitution Bench rules that right to privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the World; indeed it's the only thing that ever has"

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” - Edward Snowden

Special

Here is what the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance, which examined the draft N I A Bill said.

1. There is no feasibility study of the project]

2. The project was approved in haste

3. The system has far-reaching consequences for national security

4. The project is directionless with no clarity of purpose

5. It is built on unreliable and untested technology

6. The exercise becomes futile in case the project does not continue beyond the present number of 200 million enrolments

7. There is lack of coordination and difference of views between various departments and ministries of government on the project

Quotes

What was said before the elections:

NPR & UID aiding Aliens – Narendra Modi

"I don't agree to Nandan Nilekeni and his madcap (UID) scheme which he is trying to promote," Senior BJP Leader Yashwant Sinha, Sept 2012

"All we have to show for the hundreds of thousands of crore spent on Aadhar is a Congress ticket for Nilekani" Yashwant Sinha.(27/02/2014)

TV Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer and head of human resources, tweeted: "selling his soul for power; made his money in the company wedded to meritocracy." Money Life Article

Nilekani’s reporting structure is unprecedented in history; he reports directly to the Prime Minister, thus bypassing all checks and balances in government - Home Minister Chidambaram

To refer to Aadhaar as an anti corruption tool despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is mystifying. That it is now officially a Rs.50,000 Crores solution searching for an explanation is also without any doubt. -- Statement by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP & Member, Standing Committee on Finance

Finance minister P Chidambaram’s statement, in an exit interview to this newspaper, that Aadhaar needs to be re-thought completely is probably the last nail in its coffin. :-) Financial Express

The Rural Development Ministry headed by Jairam Ramesh created a road Block and refused to make Aadhaar mandatory for making wage payment to people enrolled under the world’s largest social security scheme NRGA unless all residents are covered.


Monday, October 5, 2015

8818 - Pilot projects for single-window help to sex workers proves successful - First Post

by Sathya Saran  Oct 3, 2015 17:40 IST

A small room in Ramnagar, in the drought-prone Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh, is the venue of a meeting. The babel of voices subsides as the meeting is called to order. The women, dressed in colourful saris and matching cholis are of all ages. Some look quite poor, others, the younger ones, have what is obviously new gold glittering on their ear lobes. They could well be a group of housewives; there is nothing to set them apart from any other woman in the houses around the area. In actuality, they are all professionals, and discriminated against because of their profession: that of offering sex for money.

Discrimination leads to deprivation. Older women find the clients dwindling, and with no alternative source of income available, are reduced to penury. 

Though the government has a number of schemes that sex workers can access to improve the quality of their lives, few are made available to them. 

Whether it is a widow's pension, or the National Family Benefit Scheme, the Right to Education scheme for her children, or health benefits, especially if she is afflicted with HIV, lack of knowledge about her rights as an Indian citizen, and stigmatisation of the profession by society and officialdom in general end up denying a sex worker access to schemes. 

As Mahalakshmi, one of the younger women put it, "We did not know whether we would ever live a life with dignity."

Mahalakshmi.

Mahalakshmi is 30 years old. Dressed in a white sari with a green border and matching green blouse, her mangalsutra and green bangles proclaim her marital status. Articulate and exuding a strange mix of bold and demure, she narrates to those present how things are changing and how even marginalised women like sex workers can now hope to live a better life. She quotes her own example. From being the wife of an abusive alcoholic who, at 19, was led into sex work which she adopted as a way of life to feed her three children and which ruined her health, Mahalakshmi today is a financially secure mother of educated children, with a leadership role in helping other sex workers get their rights.

When her failing health forced her to seek medical aid, Mahalakshmi sought out Hands, an NGO which counselled her about safe sex, the need to educate her children and other aspects of safety. "I realised there were so many like me, and I could help them by sharing what I had learned." Her chatty demeanour helped her reach out easily enough to other sex workers, and soon they formed a core group to dispense information on health issues to peer groups. 

By 2006, Mahalakshmi had joined Hands and in 2009 she was a founder member of a community-based organisation that addresses the concerns of sex workers. "2009 was a crucial year, when collectives of women sex workers were formed," she explains.

The story that led to Mahalakshmi's empowerment started on Republic Day in 2014 in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh when the pilot project of the ' single window initiative was launched.

Two years earlier, the ball had been set rolling. A consultation with 13 government departments was initiated by the Centre For Advocacy and Research (CFAR) in Hyderabad on how to bring sex workers into the mainstream. A survey was initiated by CFAR in Rajamundry a year later. It explored, for the first time, why sex workers were so marginalised as to be denied access to schemes they had a right to. When state level directives were sent out, district collectors came forward.




The 'Varadhi' scheme started the same year. Women who headed the town level collectives of sex workers stared by NGOs like Hands were asked to join forces under the 'Varadhi' umbrella. "As an active member who was mobilising members of the community, I joined 'Varadhi' as a coordinator for Guntakal and Gutti region," Mahalakshmi explains. Soon she would be actively involved in all CFAR programmes.

The 'Varadhi' project uses a simple system to help sex workers access welfare schemes.

A distinctive blue file identifies applications from the sex workers' community. Coordinators educate community members about relevant schemes and ensure the necessary documents are filed before carrying the file to the administration. This ensures there are no delays over missing documents and ensures the anonymity of the applicant. The administration, on its part, has agreed to fast track such files, with a response made available to the applicant within 15 days. CFAR maintains an MIS on each file, and follow up action is overseen and monitored.

Thanks to this 'Single Window' project, women from the community do not have to knock on the windows of many departments.

Jamini from Guntakal is one beneficiary who tells us how it worked for her. Jamini wanted a loan that could be made available to her as a person living with HIV. But the double stigma of being a sex worker and HIV positive was a deterrent. 

Through interactions with Mahalakshmi, Jamini realised she was eligible for the PL-HIV loan for economic activity, besides three other benefit schemes she was entitled to as a member of a scheduled caste, for being a widow and for her daughter's education.

Today, blessed by the 'blue file's' efficacy, Jamini runs a cloth shop that has made her economically stable enough to pay back instalments of the loan and buy medication for her treatment. She is watching her 16-year-old doing well in her studies in the 12th class. "The Aadhaar card came in a month; it took five to six months for the loan, but now I am able to apply for more help for my girl's future education," Jamini says.

Being nomads of a sort, sex workers often rely on Aadhaar cards as a form of identification in government circles. The ration card is practically non-existent, or follows the Aadhaar, they explain. “Having an Aadhaar card makes these women visible and gives them an identity as human beings and citizens; it has an amazing value in their eyes," Ravi Kiran explains. Coming from the community, Ravi Kiran has great understanding and empathy and works with CFAR for mainstreaming the community in a number of districts.
Other women have managed to get plots of land and pensions, all of which was denied to them by uncaring officials who gave them cold stares and rude comments.

In sharp contrast, local officials who have joined the meeting on this particular morning, listen to problems still pending, and offer advice on how to solve them. The mood is friendly and cooperative. "Today we are rights holders interacting with officials who are duty bearers," a woman explains smiling broadly.

ALSO SEE

Persuading parents to educate their children, finding safe hostels for girls if the fathers are alchoholic, getting children admissions to schools and sensitising the police towards better treatment of sex workers are some of roles performed by coordinators such as Mahalakshmi.

One telling incident about the scope of her work includes an incident where she took on rogue traffic policemen who attacked, physically abused and raped a few sex workers who had gone from Anantpur to Gutti to work the highway, where truck drivers were the main customers. The policemen stole the women's mobile phones too. Unable to seek help in a new place, they finally reached a hospital for first aid. That was when they were advised to approach Mahalakshmi who was in Gutti at that time. Wasting no time, Mahalakshmi lodged a complaint at the DSP level. Action was promptly taken; the women were given free medical aid, and two of the policemen were suspended and the others who had not directly been involved were let off with a stern warning.

Like many other coordinators, Mahalakshmi continues to live in the community, and be a 'friend and leader ' to her 'sisters' even though she now has financial stability and her children are being educated for ultimately finding mainstream employment.
The success of the two pilot 'single window' projects has been submitted to the government. Hopefully, the pilot will evolve into a nationwide reality soon.