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.


Friday, December 4, 2015

9117 - Why Cash Transfer’s First ‘Beneficiaries’ Want to Opt Out of the JAM - The Wire


Protests are mounting in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Puducherry and Chandigarh as the poor insist they prefer getting their grain entitlement at ration shops rather than via deposits into their bank accounts


Why Should We Give This Up? File photo of Antyodaya beneficiaries at a PDS shop. Credit: DPRCG

Dadra and Nagar Haveli, whose ration shops are managed by cooperatives and not private dealers, has stalled the rollout of cash transfers, after opposition from local gram panchayats. Puducherry and Chandigarh have also witnessed similar high-decibel protests.

India has only 1 bank branch for every 11 ration shops. Nevertheless, cash transfers remain popular in the corridors of power in India and in international policy circles.

JAM Trinity
The Indian version has officially been christened ‘JAM’ – short for Jan Dhan bank accounts, Aadhaar unique identity numbers and Mobile payments. Even at the recent Delhi Economic Conclave with the prime minister and three chief ministers in attendance ( and where skeptics were controversially excluded) JAM occupied centre-stage.

In India, one of the key reasons that cash transfers are being mooted is to fill empty Jan Dhan bank accounts (37% in October 2015). But with few new revenue streams, the focus so far has squarely been to replace India’s foodgrain subsidy, at around 1% of GDP. However, it is often not appreciated that half of rural homes (75% in southern India) depend on the existing network of half-a-million ration shops − as a lifeline − to purchase subsidised foodgrain.

Instead, the central government had hastily announced that in September, three union territories – Puducherry, Chandigarh and Dadra and Nagar Haveli – would switch en masse. This was in line with the Shanta Kumar High Level Committee’s contentious push to roll out cash first in million-plus-cities and within 2-3 years nationwide.

But there has been intense opposition to the JAM cash transfers on the ground.

Union territories protest
The tribal-dominated Dadra and Nagar Haveli has been the most vocal. Its elected panchayats have protested both at public meetings and with written affidavits. 80% of ration shops in the industrial hub are managed by cooperatives, not usurious private dealers. Most tribal families already have Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration cards, which entitle them to 35 kilos of foodgrains at a highly subsidised price of Rs 3 per kilo.
So, their opposition to cash is reasoned. First, as in the rest of India, banks are few and far between. There is only one bank for every 28,000 people compared to a ration shop for every 4500. Second, the cost of travelling to the bank, often several times for a single transaction as internet links frequently get disrupted, is high. Third, also of concern is the opportunity cost of lost wages.

Further, two-thirds of the population is tribal, with low levels of literacy. They find banks intimidating and cash transactions difficult to navigate. Fifth, beneficiaries are also wary of potential misuse of cash even within the household, in a tax-free haven where liquor flows cheap. Sixth, there is no guarantee that cash will be able to keep pace with food price inflation, especially with the soaring prices of onions and pulses on everyone’s mind.

In Chandigarh, too, similar concerns have been aired. The opposition party has collected 41,000 signatures from ration cardholders who wish to revert to foodgrains. Despite that, all ration shops in the city have already been shut. Though 41,000 homes now receive a modest Rs 95 per person per month directly into their bank accounts, it is proving to be insufficient to cover the cost of foodgrains, compensate for travel expenses and the inconvenience of multiple journeys.

Puducherry has also witnessed considerable turmoil. The local government had this year unwisely launched its own cash transfer “pilot” for a sizeable 3-lakh families. But during the transition when people didn’t receive grain for months and the salaries of the ration shop salespersons were heavily delayed, the Left opposition parties organised street protests. Within 2 months, the government had to disband the experiment. But even before the dust settles, the central government has launched another cash transfer pilot for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.

Last mile
The last mile of the Indian JAM trinity is proving to be its weakest link. Not only are bank branches scanty – for every 10,000 adults India has only 13 ATMs compared to 50 ration shops – but mobile payments are also highly underdeveloped, compared to Kenya’s M-PESA and Philippines’ SMART. The Supreme Court has also repeatedly ruled against compulsory usage of Aadhaar unique identity numbers.

But insufficient attention is paid to the protesting voices. As the 2015 Nobel laureate, Prof. Angus Deaton has insightfully observed, that “…[cash] experiments are often done on the poor and not by the poor is hardly an encouraging sign.” Instead “…experiments are technical solutions to political problems, that really ought to be decided by democratic discussion.”


After all, can one size fit all? But, how do the union territories opt out of the JAM?