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.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

9015 - India still needs the Direct Tax Code - Live Mint

Last Modified: Sun, Nov 01 2015. 11 42 PM IST


The tax structure needs radical change rather than meddling at the corners

Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint

In his budget speech in February, finance minister Arun Jaitley in effect said that the Direct Tax Code (DTC) was being buried. 

The appointment last week of a new committee to rewrite Indian income tax law should be seen against this backdrop. Jaitley had explained that most of the provisions of the proposed code have already been integrated into existing tax law. Jurisprudence under the Income Tax Act is also well developed—even though there is a massive pile of money stuck in litigation. The finance minister concluded there was no merit in going ahead with the DTC.

The die seems to have been cast. It may seem like a losing battle, but this newspaper still feels that the DTC in its original form should be brought back on the table. After all, as we thankfully saw in the case of Aadhaar, government decisions can be changed. The Narendra Modi government almost scrapped Aadhaar before it saw the light. Now the biometric identification programme is one leg of its social inclusion policy, when teamed up with mobile payments and the Jan-Dhan Yojana.

It would be far better if the government even now decides to go ahead with the original version of the DTC as the best way to reform the Indian tax structure, even though it is five years since the original bill was tabled in Parliament by the previous government. The radical promise of its original version had already been watered down in the subsequent political bargaining.

The original DTC is elegant in its design. Its main strength is a simpler tax code that does away with discretionary exemptions on the one hand while creating space for lower tax rates on the other hand. Jaitley has recently reiterated his decision to bring down the corporate tax rate to 25% in the coming years. That would still keep Indian corporate tax rates several percentage points above the median for the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD (a gap that, among other things, acts as a perverse incentive for tax arbitrage through transfer pricing). A deeper tax cut needs the DTC.

Of course, it is quite reasonable for the revenue collectors in the government to worry about whether lower rates will further constrict the flow of money into the treasury. The DTC will actually help increase the tax base to deal with the problem of potential revenue loss. It is thus very important that the entire DTC architecture is accepted. As in the case with the goods and services tax (GST), a diluted version of the DTC undercuts its potential to transform the Indian economy. Some corner solutions matter.

Why does the DTC still deserve another chance? The economist will say that a clean tax code results in more efficient capital allocation in a growing economy. The tax consultant will know that it can dramatically reduce tax terrorism by undermining the discretionary powers of the tax department. The personal finance expert will argue that it can minimize the distortions in savings behaviour as well as reduce the incentives for mis-selling of financial products. It is also worth pointing out that a complicated tax structure in effect helps large business groups who can game the system with the help of a battery of in-house tax experts.

India should by now have put into place a new tax structure via the DTC and the GST. Our ratio of tax to gross domestic product is one of the lowest among emerging market peers. The small tax base reduces the ability of the Indian government to build physical as well as social infrastructure. The messy tax structure we have also has malign indirect effects, since it distorts the decisions of companies, investors and households. Think about the fragmented nature of production chains in India because of a surfeit of state taxes or the obsessive shopping for tax breaks that have led to so many wrong investment decisions by households.

The tax structure needs radical change rather than meddling at the corners. And that is why the original DTC should not be given up as a lost cause.

Should the government bring back the original DTC? Tell us at views@livemint.com