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, April 10, 2016

9800 - Is the Indian Government Saving as Much as It Says on Gas Subsidies? - Wall Street Journal - India Real Time


By RAYMOND ZHONG

Mar 21, 2016 10:16 am IST

A liquefied petroleum gas vendor in New Delhi. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

India is trying to streamline the way it delivers billions of dollars of cheap food, fuel and fertilizer to the poor. It may, however, have overstated its progress so far—by a factor of 100.

That’s the conclusion of researchers at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, or IISD, a Canada-based think tank. Their focus is India’s new system of “direct benefit transfers” for supplying cooking gas.

Previously, the government compensated distributors of liquefied petroleum gas for selling to households at below-market prices. But since late 2014, it has paid subsidies directly into households’ bank accounts based on the number of gas cylinders they purchase, at full price, from dealers.

Because the new system makes it harder for people to use fake identities to claim more gas than they’re entitled to, India’s government says it saved 147 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) on gas subsidies in the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2015.

The IISD puts the savings at $21 million at most, and writes that the “misrepresentation” is “extremely damaging” to the design of future reforms.

K.M. Mahesh, a deputy secretary in India’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, said the government stands by its estimates. “Certainly the government saved that much money,” he said, thanks to the “better-targeted approach to giving subsidy.”
The World Bank and Center for Global Development have embraced the calculations underpinning the petroleum ministry’s estimate to conclude that the program can save India $1 billion a year. Other Indian officials have cited figures closer to the ministry’s: Arvind Subramanian, India’s chief economic adviser, and economist Siddharth George put the savings at $2 billion; Prime Minister Narendra Modi touted them as $2.3 billion.

India has high ambitions for direct benefit transfers. Grain and kerosene subsidies may someday be paid this way as well, to help save on the 1.5% of economic output—one of every nine rupees in the latest budget—currently spent on subsidies.
The retooled cooking-gas benefit is often referred to as a type of “conditional cash transfer” that development economists have studied intensely. But the IISD has argued the new system shouldn’t be conflated with initiatives like Brazil’s Bolsa Família, which the World Bank last year deemed the planet’s largest conditional cash-transfer program.

(India’s new gas program has, however, been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest “cash benefit program,” ahead of the U.S. earned income tax credit.)
Direct benefit transfer “is not necessarily a bad thing, and it potentially could be a good thing,” said Kieran Clarke, a Geneva-based IISD researcher. “But don’t sell it based on savings that don’t exist.”

MORE IN AADHAAR
The results on gas subsidies also bear on how India moves ahead with Aadhaar, the six-year-old system of biometric authentication that now covers nearly a billion people. It is harder for bank and gas accounts that are connected to their holder’s Aadhaar number to be used by scammers to claim bogus subsidies, or to be denied subsidies because the account-holder’s identity can’t be verified.

But the technology has stirred privacy concerns and been criticized as a costly solution for just one of the many forms of corruption and mismanagement that afflict India’s welfare system.

The petroleum ministry put forth its estimate of the savings last October, in a news release responding to an earlier IISD report.
The ministry said the new program and “related initiatives” had purged 33.4 million duplicate, fake or inactive gas accounts by April 1, 2015. With each account eligible to purchase 12 gas cylinders a year, and assuming the average subsidy is 366 rupees per cylinder, the subsidies not paid out to these accounts for the 2015 fiscal year amount to 147 billion rupees ($2.2 billion), the ministry said.

The IISD’s calculation, meanwhile, goes like this. The new subsidy system was first introduced in mid-November 2014 in 54 pilot districts. But households were given three months to sign up. So fraudulent gas purchases weren’t being restricted until mid-February 2015—almost the end of the financial year.
Mr. Subramanian, the government’s chief economic adviser, has estimated that direct benefit transfer reduces subsidized gas purchases by 25%. So assuming each of the 23.3 million registered households in the pilot districts was buying the maximum permitted 12 cylinders a year, you can estimate how much subsidy spending was avoided in February and March 2015.

The total: 1.4 billion rupees ($21 million). The IISD reckons the costs of putting the new system in place likely wiped out these savings and then some.

One reason for the difference between this estimate and the government’s is they rely on different assumptions about the subsidy paid per gas cylinder. Ministry data show the subsidy was 161.81 rupees in February 2015 and 166.26 rupees in March. Oil prices fell over the course of that fiscal year, so gas subsidies were lower then than in earlier months.

Mr. Mahesh, the petroleum-ministry secretary, said the 366 rupee figure in the government’s news release was the average subsidy paid, over the entirety of the 2014-15 fiscal year, only on gas purchased in New Delhi. The capital is a common ministry reference point, Mr. Mahesh said.

The IISD’s Mr. Clarke also disputes the government’s claim that the direct benefit program disabled 33.4 million illegitimate connections.

Well before the system was revamped, he observes, gas companies had already been blocking inactive accounts and those registered multiple times to the same name or address. The petroleum ministry said in March 2015 that 12.7 million irregular connections had been blocked this way.

The ministry’s figure of 33.4 million blocked gas accounts isn’t based on the results from “one particular initiative,” said the ministry’s Mr. Mahesh. Rather, he said, it reflects “the entire mechanism we are putting in place.”

Mr. Clarke said not enough data are available yet to precisely estimate savings in the current financial year, which closes this month. The government also hasn’t put out estimates.
What about Aadhaar? The IISD estimates the technology directly helped save an additional $1.8 million to $2.1 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year. That’s based on official findings that duplicate gas connections identified via Aadhaar made up less than 1% of those assessed, and that 35 million gas accounts became newly linked to Aadhaar before the end of that financial year.

Hence, the subsidies saved by denying gas to 350,000 duplicate connections totaled around $2 million. The current fiscal year’s savings, estimated the same way, are $18 million. The figure is higher because the new program wasn’t in effect for the entirety of the previous year.

Mr. Clarke said the deeper problem with India’s gas subsidies is they disproportionately benefit the urban middle class. In the countryside, delivery infrastructure is poor, and even subsidized gas can’t compete with cheaper fuels like firewood and cow dung.

The government is trying to prevent the well-off from buying subsidized gas. It has also budgeted $300 million this year to connect more of the poorest.

These are issues direct benefit transfers alone can’t resolve, Mr. Clarke said. “Why get so caught up with DBT instead of making the subsidy system work for the poor?”

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