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


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.


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Sunday, May 1, 2016

9883 - Like Aadhaar, Like GST: Even if GST legislation is blocked, plenty can be done through executive action - Nandan Nilekani

Like Aadhaar, Like GST: Even if GST legislation is blocked, plenty can be done through executive action
April 25, 2016, 2:00 AM IST TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Edit Page, India | TOI


By Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah

In the run up to this year’s budget finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “GST has been supported by most political parties and I am sure others will also see reason and this law will become a reality very soon. Reform is a continuous process and there is no finishing line. It has to go on because challenges keep coming up.”

Every single budget speech in the last six years has mentioned GST. By some measures, we are closer to GST than we have ever been, and by others, we are as far as we ever were. If the yardstick for measurement is passage of the GST legal framework, we have made little progress. If the yardstick is all the hard things such as overall design, stakeholder buy-in, readiness, institution building, and technology, we are quite close to launching GST. The question naturally arises – should GST wait for the law? The answer is an emphatic No.
In 2009, the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers put out its first paper on GST. In 2010 the Empowered Group on IT for GST, headed by Nandan Nilekani, proposed the IT Strategy for GST. This solution consisted of creating a professional company, the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), to manage the technology for GST. The ownership structure of GSTN would include the central government, all the state governments and various other institutions.
A key part of the IT Strategy was that the technology development could get a head start, while the political establishment finalised business rules such as tax rates and exemption lists. This design was unanimously accepted by the Centre and all states, and the GST Network was announced in the 2012-13 budget speech and created shortly thereafter. Over the last few years, the GSTN has made substantial progress towards technology readiness. GSTN is a fine example of cooperative federalism.

Most steps towards GST readiness can be taken through executive decision. The excise and service tax arms of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in the finance ministry can be merged. Combining excise, a tax on goods, with service tax will present many conceptual difficulties which can be ironed out. State VAT which is a tax on goods is actually easier to integrate. Then the GSTN can offer a state of the art VAT system, which is future compatible with GST, to all states on a opt-in basis.

A common gateway for payments of both central and state taxes, and common taxpayer registration can be done right now. At least 15-20 states will be happy to implement this solution. When the law is passed, GST can be enabled with far less disruption.

The combination of invoice matching from a state of the art VAT system with data sharing, which can be done by GSTN in partnership with CBEC and the states, will give a huge boost to tax collection at both states and Centre, and show the power of cooperation. After all the real issue is not about autonomy, but to simplify taxation for businesses, and fight tax evasion.
Synchronous design, where everyone has to agree to everything at the same time is almost impossible to implement. Either everyone comes on board or nobody does. In government, the key to success is to design asynchronous systems, so that participants can come on board at their own pace, and the progress of many is not thwarted because of a few. While the GST legal framework is synchronous, the actual design and implementation through GSTN is not. GSTN can on-board states one by one, modernising their VAT systems, and states with well-developed VAT systems can join later.

Laws are the software that drive society. Just like software takes time to develop, so do laws. All laws, especially around taxation, should be simple enough that they can be expressed as software. Eventually, while tax rates and exemption lists are simply values in tables that are easy to change, the software rules that are embedded in the GSTN will be sticky. We believe that laws can be finalised even as implementation starts using a well-designed technology framework and all field and software aspects are well understood.

A similar approach was taken with Aadhaar. Aadhaar reached a billion by having a scalable design that aligned incentives of all stakeholders and was asynchronous in its design. Registrars, enrolment agencies, technology vendors, and even the residents all came on board at their own pace and convenience. The benefits due to financial savings and inclusion convinced the establishment to get the law passed. While the lack of a law curtailed the usage of Aadhaar, the final law incorporated valuable feedback from implementation experience and put Aadhaar on a much firmer footing.

GST needs similar out of the box thinking. It will lead to the economic integration of India, smooth movement of goods, realise Make in India, and lead to our overall prosperity and well-being. The lack of a law ought not to prevent all these good things from happening. If the law is passed, this work will make the world’s largest business process re-engineering project much simpler. If not, upgrades to existing archaic systems will be welcomed by one and all.

Nandan Nilekani headed Infosys and is former chairperson, UIDAI. Viral Shah is co-inventor of the “Julia” programming language

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.