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, December 7, 2016

10554 - A vote on referendums - The Hindu


OCTOBER 21, 2016 00:00 IST

The Brexit and Colombian surprises aside, a referendum can be an instrument to deepen the participatory process of Indian democracy — but it needs built-in safeguards

The maturing of Indian democracy with the slow but sure strengthening of representative institutions, the separation of powers, and increased participation in elections is a triumph for the people. But there are questions about the depth of our democratic consciousness. 

How much say do Indian citizens have in influencing important legislations that have a strong bearing on their lives? Is it merely enough for citizens to elect and thrust responsibility upon parliamentary representatives to make choices for them? Can there be other devices to supplement the functioning of Indian democracy to make it more accountable, participatory and deliberative?

Two recent referendums

As we ponder these questions, referendums — instruments of direct democracy where citizens get to directly vote on specific and important issues rather than for representatives who will make a choice on their behalf on those issues — have been in the news recently. 

The Brexit referendum, on whether Britain should stay in the European Union, concluded on June 23 with 52 per cent (of 72.2 per cent of the electorate that turned out) voting to “Leave”. 

The October 2 referendum called by the Colombian government to ratify the accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) resulted in a “No” vote favoured by 50.3 per cent of the less than 38 per cent of the electorate that turned out.

In both these referendums, held in diverse regions, the outcome came as a surprise. Anger at perceived loss of jobs due to immigration saw many Britons (especially in England and Wales) voting for a Brexit. Post-vote analyses showed how this referendum was more of a protest vote aimed at the economic state of affairs in post-financial crisis Britain than a well-considered mandate for a new Britain that is out of the EU. Even the most ardent proponents of Brexit distanced themselves from their own autarkic positions in the run-up to the referendum after the vote. The complications of a Brexit seemed to have never been thought through by the proponents and Britain’s political class is still roiled about the manner and method of the impending Brexit.

In the case of Colombia, a painstaking series of negotiations between President Juan Manuel Santos’s government and the FARC, with external brokerage from Cuba, came to naught after the referendum failed to ratify the deal. Participation was low, and the defeat margin for those in favour of the deal was narrow. But the outcome put a major spanner in the implementation of a peace deal which was to bring closure to a half a century-old civil war that resulted in lakhs of deaths.

The opposition to the deal was driven by detractors who derided it for political rather than functional reasons. Former President Alvaro Uribe now suggests that the referendum was for a renewed peace deal that emphasises greater accountability on FARC leaders for war crimes but this seems to be more of a feint to seek power during future negotiations.

Reasons for the results
The question that arises when we look at these referendums is this — are they too risky? Are political representatives in an indirect democracy more capable than voters themselves to deliberate on important public policy matters and make informed choices?

The first question can be easily answered. Referendums tend to add legitimacy to difficult legislative choices and it is more risky to take unpopular decisions without that stamp of legitimacy. As regards capability, legislators are voted less on the basis of their lawmaking competency and more on their promises and popularity in democracies today. In India for example, legislations are influenced more by party satraps than individual Members of Parliament.

Rather than questioning if instruments of direct democracy have a role at all in a representative system based on the British and Colombian examples, we need to do the following. First, we should not conflate the outcomes of referendums, even if the outcomes are unexpected, with the need for them. Each outcome has its rationale rooted in its specific political economy. 

In the case of Britain, the country stayed out of the Eurozone and therefore managed to use its currency control systems adroitly to escape the worst of the fallout of the global financial crisis. But stagnant economic growth and competition for blue-collar jobs between the lower middle classes and the immigrants had made EU membership a proxy issue for anger against immigration policies.

In Colombia, the FARC’s later-year strategy of using hostage taking and pumping profits from its allowances for drug production had seen to its intense notoriety among voters from non-interior parts of the country. A peace deal was more welcome to the harried electorate from the interior parts which had borne the brunt of internecine warfare. This reflected in the voting patterns. In any case, there should have been a minimum bar on participation to decide upon the ratification. With only 38 per cent of the electorate taking part, the referendum’s outcome should not have been binding in the first place.

Second, the need is for identifying when and how referendums are used in a representative democracy and not to question their efficacy. In India, there are very limited means of citizen participation in lawmaking, as this is a prerogative only of representatives. There are devices such as the Standing Committees in Parliament which invite members from civil society to weigh in their views on Bills that are up for discussion in the Houses. But largely, legislations are a matter that can only be influenced by public opinion through media coverage.

Relevance in the Indian context

If there are provisions which enable public voting on certain legislations — say, a mechanism that calls for referendums on select Bills and Acts based on a large quantum of public signatures seeking to vote on them — it could go a long way in not just sensitising the public towards important laws but also for a means of getting popular approval for them.

For example, today, the Aadhaar Act seeking to provide legal backing to the Aadhaar project was passed as a money bill, reducing an important legislation that could affect the welfare state, and which raises several issues related to privacy, to merely a legislation on government spending. Would it not be fruitful to have mass participation over deciding whether Aadhaar should be mandatory to avail of welfare entitlements or services? It even seems imperative considering that there are serious questions being raised about the implementation of the project in schemes such as PDS distribution.

There are dangers, of course. Referendums can lead to majoritarian and not just majority outcomes and therefore constitutional safeguards on the kinds of Bills and Acts that can be brought up for voting are a must. A lot of thought has to go into creating the mechanisms that allow for referendums.

In today’s milieu where legislatures are driven more by narrow political battles between the power-seeking executive and a cynical opposition, a demand for an instrument of direct democracy to be incorporated into legislative actions could seem impractical and utopian. But it is not an idea to be scoffed at as it has its merits. India, according to studies on referendums held across the world till 1993, is one of only five democracies to have never held them. It is worthwhile to consider this mechanism at least as a limited device to enhance our democracy into a substantive one.
srinivasan.vr@thehindu.co.in



Would it not be fruitful to have mass participation to decide whether Aadhaar should be mandatory to avail of welfare entitlements?