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.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

9686 - Citizen, surveillance and statistics - Governance Now

Surveillance is an old game; its post-Aadhaar scope is a concern

Shivangi Narayan | March 30, 2016

Aadhaar has faced a volley of criticism for limiting a citizen’s right to privacy. But Aadhaar is not alone in intruding into your life. You can stake a claim to genuine privacy and escape state surveillance only if you opt out of all kinds of identification systems – birth certificate, driving licence, passport, election card and PAN card. And stop using your cell phone. And of course, the internet. 

Scholars and thinkers like Michel Foucault (his book Discipline and Punish is a seminal work on this subject) have illustrated how great empires that relied on spectacular shows of violence for disciplining their subjects turned into the modern humane states that depended on schools, prisons, asylums and hospitals and their subtle works of power to do the same thing. There was less or no violence involved in a process and the cost involved was much less.

What does a school, a prison, an asylum or a hospital do? Watch you, record you and use this knowledge to modify your behaviour. The underlying idea behind this was surveillance. Surveillance provided knowledge, and knowledge is power. 

More modernity brought with it states that wanted to make their citizens productive as a whole. How does the state modify and manipulate an entire population to work in a way that is productive to society? This kind of an operation needs immense knowledge of the people and the territory in order to work on them and to mould them to work in a certain way. The provider of this knowledge is surveillance, according to scholar Richard Ericson, which is simply the collection of all information about people that is useful for the administration. 

Thus, surveillance of people dates back to the time when the first land deed was registered in India: that citizen was forever trapped in the administration records along with whatever information about him that the state had. The story has been continuing ever since. Banks ask you to quote your pan number on transactions above Rs 50,000. That’s just the state keeping a tab on how many people spend above Rs 50,000 in a certain bank on a certain day. This is surveillance too.  

Therefore, if you are protesting the enhanced scale of surveillance post Aadhaar, there is still an argument. Sure, with Aadhaar the state would learn large amounts of information about people. Since every government service and benefit will be connected with Aadhaar, the state will have access to more information. The vantage point should be the scale and scope of this operation, not surveillance per se, because no modern state has been able to work without it.

This brings me to my second argument: the state is not interested in individuals. It is interested in data. And ‘data’ is plural. Which indicates that the state is interested in analysing the data generated by a large number of people, that is, statistics. Most people would think surveillance means being watched individually. However, do you think it is possible (and needed, and cost effective) for the state to be interested in each of the 1.2 billion people? The Big Brother imagination might be fancy, but it is a little far-fetched.

What the state intends with a mega surveillance system like Aadhaar is not to watch you or anyone else. It plans to analyse statistical patterns of information on every aspect of life in order to plan its resources to make the country as a whole more ‘productive’.

However, data are objective. Possible misuses of Aadhaar data analysis could be that state resources would only be allocated to areas that provide concrete, data-driven proof of being productive. Data never lies but it also does not provide a deeper analysis of failure. It gives you an answer to the “what” but it never answers the “why”. So, if the government argues to reduce, let’s say, Maharashtra’s education budget based on data that its education is not really its strongest points, and divert the money to another profitable sector, could anyone blame it?

The problems with Aadhaar are the obvious ones – data accountability, lack of privacy legislation and possible misuse of citizen data. However, these problems are common to all kinds of identification systems. Take for example the seemingly harmless electoral rolls, which were used to identify Sikhs in Delhi during the 1984 riots. Unprotected data – any data – is an invitation to trouble. Bigger the database, bigger the problem.

However, Aadhaar is not aimed to create some gargantuan individual, round-the-clock surveillance as portrayed in sections of media. The government can simply tap your mobile phone and get all the information it may need about you. By investing '3,500 crore (and more) it should be clear that it wants more.

Narayan, a research scholar with CSSS, JNU, is working on ‘Digital Identification, Surveillance and Governance in India’.
(The column appears in the April 1-15, 2016 issue)

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