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.


Monday, May 16, 2016

9977 - A K Bhattacharya: Towards a new cooking gas regime - Business Standard

May 10, 2016 Last Updated at 21:48 IST


It was in 1955 that India saw the roll-out of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections for use as domestic cooking fuel. For many decades since then, LPG connections have been expanding their reach across the country. By almost the middle of 2014, the total number of LPG connections was estimated at around 130 million. In the next two years, however, the coverage saw a sudden spurt as the number of active LPG connections increased by over 37 million. In other words, over 28 per cent of the number of LPG connections extended in about 60 years was added in just two years.

The periods chosen for comparison are significant for two reasons. One, they compare the performance of the various petroleum ministers in those 60 years with that of the current petroleum minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, in the last two years under the National Democratic Alliance government. Two, the two-year period from the middle of 2014 also coincides with a significant decline in international crude oil prices and a step-up in the coverage of the direct benefits transfer scheme for cooking gas distribution using the biometric identity-based Aadhaar system.

There is no doubt that an energetic and focused petroleum ministry, led by Mr Pradhan, has been a big help in spreading the LPG network. But it must also be noted that this initiative was aided by the falling crude oil prices which meant a steady reduction in the burden of under-recoveries on the oil marketing companies and subsidies on the central exchequer, even as the network of cooking gas connections rose sharply in these two years.

The oil subsidies burden on the government in 2013-14 was estimated at over Rs 85,000 crore. This saw a steep fall to around Rs 76,000 crore in 2014-15 and further down to Rs 27,000 crore in 2015-16. More than half of the petroleum subsidies go towards cooking gas for domestic use. Last year, LPG subsidies were estimated at Rs 16,000 crore.

The reduction in LPG subsidies has been achieved also with the spread of the Aadhaar-based direct benefits transfer scheme. Almost 90 per cent of the LPG connections in the country have been covered under this system of transferring subsidies directly to the bank accounts of the consumers. A district-wise monitoring of how the cash transfer scheme can cover more LPG customers has yielded huge benefits.

In addition, the wider coverage of the scheme has helped the government save on its subsidies bill. An estimated Rs 21,672 crore was saved on account of LPG subsidy in the last two years as the direct benefits transfer scheme helped weed out duplicate and ghost connections. The number of fake connections eliminated in the last one year is significant - over 33 million connections. Like his claim of the world's biggest cash transfer scheme for cooking gas, Mr Pradhan can also legitimately describe the elimination of false LPG connections as one of the world's biggest clean-up of fake customers in just one year.

Supplementing this initiative was a campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking the economically well-off sections of society to give up their subsidised gas connections. Even the government had perhaps underestimated the response to the campaign. In about a year or so, over ten million customers have given up their connections and the government has saved subsidies worth Rs 5,000 crore.

It is possible that many of those who gave up their connections in response to the campaign may have been enjoying multiple connections and they realised that the coverage of the direct benefits transfer scheme would soon put an end to the practice of their having more than one connection per person or household. Whatever be the actual reason, the campaign did reduce the burden of subsidies on account of the cooking gas sector.

Finally, a new scheme to offer subsidised cooking gas connections to the poor has been launched. About 50 million poor families are proposed to be covered under the scheme in the next three years at a cost of Rs 8,000 crore. The government hopes that the task of identifying the poor would be less difficult by using a combination of methods - the Socio-Economic Caste Census, Jan-Dhan Yojana bank accounts, Aadhaar-based identity and the national LPG database - so that there is no misuse. Only time will tell if that exercise helps achieve the desired goals of targeting the scheme only to the poor.

But there is no denying that, underpinning all these initiatives, there seems to be a pragmatic approach to improving the targeting of subsidies and expanding the reach of clean cooking fuel for the poor. The approach certainly makes good politics, but whether it also makes good economics is a relevant question. It will probably become good economics as well if Mr Pradhan pays attention to at least three areas while implementing the next phase of cooking gas reforms.

One, there should be no delay in removing subsidies on cooking gas for the rich and the criterion for the rich should not be determined not just on the basis of income, but on a set of identifiable physical assets. Two, the principle of the direct benefit transfer scheme should be extended to all modes of cooking gas supplies including the connections that are to be issued to the poor families in the next three years. This will reduce the burden on the oil marketing companies and leakage of subsidies.

Finally, Mr Pradhan must put in place a plan to strengthen the city gas distribution system across the country so that over the next few years, India's cities switch over to piped natural gas as cooking fuel, leaving LPG cylinders for smaller towns and villages.