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.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

9581 - Replacing welfare schemes with cash transfers would be a mistake: Jean Dreze - Governance Now


Replacing welfare schemes with cash transfers would be a mistake: Jean Dreze

As a development economist, he shares his thoughts on DBT, Aadhaar, and cash transfer under the National Food Security Act, 2013

Pratap Vikram Singh | March 17, 2016


Jean Dreze is equally concerned with theory of development economics as with its practice. A visiting professor at the department of economics in Ranchi University, he has extensively worked on issues related to hunger, famine, gender inequality, child health and education. He has also been at the forefront of several social movements, including the right-to-information and right-to-food campaigns. As a member of the national advisory council (NAC) during the UPA1 government, he conceptualised and drafted the first version of NREGA. In an email interaction with Pratap Vikram Singh, he shared his thoughts on direct benefit transfer, Aadhaar, and cash transfer under the National Food Security Act, 2013. Excerpts: 

What are your views on the cash transfer scheme that aims to replace supply of subsidised ration to beneficiaries?
I support some cash transfer schemes, such as social security pensions and maternity entitlements. Interestingly, the central government is undermining these schemes even as it swears by cash transfers as a substitute for the public distribution system (PDS). I am not in favour of that, at least not for the time being. The National Food Security Act is finally being implemented in most states and this is not the time to confuse matters with hasty attempts to replace the PDS with cash transfers. Most of the pilots have failed so far, confirming that there is a long way to go before cash transfers are an appropriate alternative to the PDS, especially in the poorer parts of the country.

Since India is a welfare state, should the government relinquish its responsibility of providing subsidised ration to the deprived and vulnerable?

I don’t think that India is a welfare state by any stretch of imagination. From international perspective, social spending levels in India are very low, as a proportion of GDP. The health system is almost entirely private, and there is no social security system worth the name. Some Indian states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh have relatively well developed welfare provisions. These are doing quite well. But the bulk of India is way behind. It is against this background that there is a strong case for expanding social programmes, more so because the economy is doing really well.
Coming to the PDS, it has become a very important form of social security for millions of families, especially in the poorer states. Perhaps a day will come when cash transfers can serve that purpose too, but I think that time is quite far away. So I am in favour of consolidating and improving the system, starting with effective implementation of the National Food Security Act, rather than winding it up hastily.

The government has been advocating cash transfer to ensure that beneficiaries receive their entitlement. Isn’t pilferage a matter of concern?
Beneficiaries can also receive their entitlements from the PDS. Many states have made very good progress with PDS reforms in recent years, including Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. Other states have their work cut out. Poor families generally prefer food entitlements to cash transfers for a variety of reasons: inadequate banking facilities, fear of misuse of money, lack of faith in the government’s commitment to protecting cash transfers from inflation, and so on. It is not the poor, but the government who stands to gain from cash transfers, by saving money. That is certainly a consideration, but people’s interests come first.

How do you look at the prospects of integrating Aadhaar with welfare schemes, including MNREGS and pension?
Most of the welfare applications of Aadhaar that have been proposed so far are unnecessary and counterproductive. In Jharkhand, where I live, some of them have caused a lot of damage. For instance, there have been repeated attempts to make Aadhaar compulsory for NREGA workers, for no clear purpose. NREGA functionaries were mobilised for months on end, using very top-down methods, to “seed” the accounts of NREGA workers with Aadhaar numbers. Wage payments were often held up or even blocked because of seeding problems. Worse, job cards were cancelled en masse as a short-cut to enable NREGA functionaries to meet the seeding targets. Supreme court orders were brazenly violated on the way. Today, there is a serious danger of further damage as Aadhaar technology is sought to be imposed on the PDS in Jharkhand, again with no clear purpose.

If the government really wants to proceed with welfare applications of Aadhaar, it has a lot of homework to do. First, it should abide by the supreme court order. Second, a legal framework for Aadhaar needs to be created, with adequate safeguards against violation of privacy and other abuses. Third, hidden coercion must stop and all applications should be genuinely voluntary, as they claim to be. Fourth, the purpose of the welfare applications must be clarified. Only then will a sensible debate on these applications be possible.

The government is planning to manage all welfare schemes through a proposed social security platform – a national electronic database of beneficiaries with their Aadhaar, NPR and socio-economic caste census. Is it the right way? 
We have heard of many such “plans” in the last few years. It is difficult to comment until something specific is on the table. If it is a plan to bring cash-transfer components of all welfare schemes, such as NREGA wage payments and social security pensions, into a single payments platform, it may have some merit. If it is a plan to replace welfare schemes themselves with cash transfers, I would oppose it. Cash transfers have a role, but we also need midday meals, health care, free textbooks, and many public services in kind. This is elementary economics as well as a clear lesson from development experiences around the world, or for that matter within India.

The article was published in March 15-31, 2016 issue. The interview was taken before Aadhaar Bill was Passed in LS