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.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

9934 - Modi’s Dbt Review 3: Dear Mr Modi, Some Things You Need To Do To Salvage The Programme - Swarajya


Modi’s Dbt Review 3: Dear Mr Modi, Some Things You Need To Do To Salvage The Programme

May 4, 2016, 4:31 pm

Snapshot:
  • It is clear that the Chandigarh Administration went into the pilot without adequate preparation
  • An important part of the political management of a cash-instead-of-food programme is to politically de-risk the beneficiary
As the second part of this series showed , the teething troubles that the rollout of the cash transfer pilot in Chandigarh are facing is leading to nostalgia for the old public distribution system (PDS), even though beneficiaries admit that it was far from perfect. The many critics and opponents of cash transfers have been prompt to exploit these flaws, convincing affected people that the idea itself is problematic. The harried beneficiaries, who do not have the bandwidth to run around getting grievances redressed, are readily convinced. 
Is this the result of a concept problem, a design flaw or just lackadaisical implementation? 

“The conceptual case for going to cash is very clear, but a lot of attention needs to be paid to implementation detail” says Karthik Muralidharan professor at the University of California San Diego, who has been involved in cash transfers experiments for several years.

Muralidharan flags two issues that need to be addressed in any cash transfer in lieu of PDS programme (he refuses to speak specifically about Chandigarh). One, before the policy change, there should be a political economy analysis of vested interests who could be affected and how they are to be neutralised. Two, the focus should be more on keeping the beneficiary experience as painless as possible rather than fiscal savings.
So, where did the government go wrong and what does it need to do?

It is clear that the Chandigarh Administration went into the pilot without adequate preparation, though it denies it. Hence, the problem of people getting left out because of bank accounts not being seeded with Aadhaar and the technical and administrative glitches that result in people not getting cash. It may have been worth the while for the rollout of the programme to have been delayed till the Administration ensured that all the identified beneficiaries had Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. The Chandigarh pilot may then have had a smoother ride and not generated resentment.

When problems do arise, effective grievance redressal mechanisms have to be available. Two successful cash transfer in lieu of food experiments have been managed by SEWA-Bharat, a civil society organisation. In both these cases, there was a lot of hand-holding by the activists. In Chandigarh, the grievance redressal mechanisms are there, but need to be toned up.

Two, implementing a programme with huge political consequences as a purely bureaucratic exercise is an unwise move. What appears to be missing in Chandigarh is political and perception management; the programme is seen as being driven by remote and faceless bureaucrats from Delhi.

The SEWA-Bharat pilots in Delhi and Indore were successful because the organisation took care to explain to people what they were signing up for and what it involved. The beneficiaries in Chandigarh are clueless about the logic behind cash transfers, how the Rs 95 per person figure has been worked out, how this is the same as the benefit reaching them earlier, except that the government is now actually putting in their hands the cost it used to bear.

This perception management cannot be done by the bureaucracy, which should focus on processes. Chandigarh did use the National Service Scheme to do a survey-cum-awareness building exercise, but student-volunteers do not have the same resonance with the people that civil society activists and grassroots political workers.

True, many civil society activists are ideologically opposed to cash transfers and cannot be used to explain its benefits. There could also be a problem in using party cadres. They are controlled by local leaders who are often in league with ration shop owners (the section that stands to lose out the most because of cash transfers). In Chandigarh, the chairman of the Govt Fair Price Shop Welfare Association is also the vice-president of the Chandigarh unit of the BJP and the president is a local Congress leader!

So, it is important for the central leadership of a political party to send out a clear message. The BJP aggressively marketed the Jan Dhan Yojana and Mudra schemes; why cannot it do the same with the cash transfers pilots? This will send out a message to local leaders as well. It may not always work. The Congress tried to involve local leaders and cadres when it rolled out a direct benefit transfer scheme in food, the Annapurna scheme, in 2012; but many of these leaders were unhappy with then chief minister Shiela Dikshit and so did not work to make the programme a success; it got discontinued when the NFSA was enacted. But it is worth a try.

Politically sensitive programmes need a party big gun to market them. In Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal often takes to FM radio to explain new initiatives, especially when they could generate resistance. After the floods in Chennai, residents of affected areas got phone calls with a recorded message from chief minister J Jayalalithaa assuring them that the government would reach compensation to them. Though the cash transfers programme is known as a pet scheme of the Prime Minister, it does not have his branding. Could the government not have somehow used Narendra Modi to sell the idea? Could other ministers (Ram Vilas Paswan, food and public distribution minister or finance minister Jayant Sinha) not have been deployed in some way? At least in Chandigarh, both these leaders could have struck a chord with the migrant labour population from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
A clear signal should also go out to all levels of the bureaucracy – that this is an important programme and that any dawdling or active sabotage will not be tolerated. Such a message went out from no less than the chief minister in the case of flood relief in Chennai. Bureaucrats facilitating the programme should be supported; those erecting roadblocks should be face the rap (except if they are raising genuine concerns).

Muralidharan points out that implementation hassles could often be the result of deliberate sabotage by those who lose out. “There are enough powerful intermediaries who would fight back,” he notes.

J-PAL did a proof of concept study on cash transfers in lieu of PDS in Patna in 2012 and its report highlighted the problem of pushback from local power-brokers, including ration shop owners who actively discouraged people from exercising choice (people could choose between cash and PDS grains).

Indeed, ration shop owners are closer to the beneficiaries than even the lowest level food inspector is and have enormous potential to influence opinions. In Chandigarh, too, the ration shop owners are often the first point of contact when beneficiaries face problems and are quick to add fuel to the resentment fire. There are complaints of open market prices rising after the launch of the programme and, if true, then this could be deliberate.

Perhaps the biggest mistake made in Chandigarh was to completely shut down all the 93 ration shops. The only sop they got was licences to sell 5 kg LPG cylinders. This was hardly sufficient to make up for the loss in business. The angry backlash was inevitable.

Last year, the Rajasthan government started branding ration shops as Annapurna Bhandars in collaboration with Future Retail, allowing them to stock select non-PDS items and thus increase footfalls. One of the four objectives of this initiative was to act as a sweetener to get ration shop owners to shift to biometric POS machines which will curb diversion – what they would have lost in earnings from pilferages would hopefully be made up with the extra business. The buy-in to Annapurna Bhandars is still slow, but it does attempt to address the resistance problem.

An important part of the political management of a cash-instead-of-food programme, says Muralidharan, is to politically de-risk the beneficiary. “It is necessary to think about a transition path that protects the poor.”

This is best done by giving people choice – let cash transfers work along with PDS to see which works better. In Chandigarh, the shutting down of all ration shops was a huge mistake - people had no alternative when their transfers did not come through and the government came across as callous. Renana Jhabvala of SEWA-Bharat points out that the one-year pilot programme it conducted in Delhi showed that errant ration shop owners started falling in line when they realised people were preferring to buy from the open market. Perhaps, the Chandigarh Administration has realised this and has now re-issued licences of 45 ration shops.

Six months is not enough to pronounce a cash-in-lieu-of-food programme either a resounding success or an abysmal failure. It is, however, time to fix the problems dogging it. If Narendra Modi wants to make his mark in the field of subsidy reform, he has to pay attention to this.

This concludes the series. The first and second parts can be accessed here and here.