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, February 1, 2017

10819 - The politics of demonetisation

The politics of demonetisation


 JANUARY 28, 2017 00:15 I

As Parliament prepares to convene again after a winter session washed out due to the Opposition’s protest on demonetisation, it is worth asking why political mobilisation against the exercise is proving to be so difficult

Demonetisation has been the most hotly debated topic since November 8, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the high-denomination notes then in circulation would cease to be legal tender. In a single stroke, nearly 86% of the currency in an economy powered by cash transactions, with 54% people without bank accounts, was wiped out. The move disrupted the lives of ordinary people, led to widespread hardship for the poor, major job losses and over a hundred deaths. Despite the huge distress and disruption, the general sentiment seemed to be in favour of the decision.

The shock move invited widespread criticism. It provoked protests and a lot of anger and agitation, but most of it was directed against local irritants, particularly banks. There are numerous reports of angry crowds locking up banks and jamming roads to protest against the non-disbursement of cash.

 As for more organised opposition, the winter session of Parliament saw Opposition parties locking horns with the government over demands for a vote on demonetisation. The tussle between the government and the Opposition washed out the entire winter session. Opposition parties staged several protests in different parts of the country, but this did not coalesce into a larger expression of protest against the government despite the pain caused by demonetisation to the poor who have suffered overwhelmingly because of it. The question that needs to be asked concerns the relative importance of social and political influences that generated greater support than opposition against demonetisation.

ALSO READ

Diversionary tactic
Much of the debate on the demonetisation move has focussed on its economic consequences; not enough attention has been paid to the politics of this drastic decision which can possibly explain the lukewarm opposition to it. One of Mr. Modi’s big campaign promises was to end corruption. But that didn’t happen. The growing criticism of the government’s failure to deliver on the promise of bringing back black money stashed abroad and depositing ₹15 lakh into every bank account as promised at the time of the Lok Sabha polls led the Prime Minister to do something bold to offset the negative feelings in the context of impending State elections. It was seen as a dramatic measure that would enhance the regime’s credibility in fighting corruption and black money and divert attention from its perceived failures on this and other fronts. Instead of finding ways to tackle graft through the tightening of regulations and controls on real estate and political party funding, demonetisation was promised as the ultimate solution.

As a political decision, demonetisation was aimed at setting the agenda for State Assembly elections. The timing of the decision clearly indicates this: it was announced three months before five Assembly elections, particularly in the crucial State of Uttar Pradesh. It was unleashed as a political strategy to checkmate regional parties (by threatening their cash reserves) and expand the BJP’s support base in the Hindi heartland by projecting demonetisation as a pro-poor measure.

ALSO READ

Shifting goalposts
With this background in mind, it is possible to speculate about the political repercussions of demonetisation on popular discontent. The focus of discussion has been the inconvenience, not the policy of demonetisation — the acme of unreason (it is not open to question) — which exposed a deliberative deficit in the government and cast a shadow on its capacity to effect sound policies. In the event, the efforts to combat black money have been so far ineffective. The government has assumed that a significant portion of illegal wealth is stored in the form of banknotes when it is well known that it is not. By December 30, practically the entire stock of old bank notes had been deposited, thus undermining the government’s claim of extinguishing black money. This happened within a few weeks of the announcement. It put paid to hopes that the government can profit from old and unreturned notes as the Reserve Bank of India could transfer that money to the government to spend. Given the failure of the initial drive against black money, the goalpost was changed from curbing black money to cashless economy to digital transactions, all this to justify the move which had caused so much disruption.
Nonetheless, the 50-day deadline for depositing old notes allowed the government time to reposition demonetisation, which made it more difficult to trigger and sustain protests.

ALSO READ

‘Good’ intent, ‘bad’ management
Further evidence of the overwhelming influence of what might be loosely termed as political constraints emerges from the fact that even critics assume demonetisation was motivated by good intent, which makes it more difficult to go against it. This intent was supposed to include the elimination of black money, the curbing of counterfeiting, controlling terrorism and moving the nation to a cashless age. Most critics of the government have had to preface their criticism with a disclaimer acknowledging the laudable motivations of the exercise even as they bemoan its incompetent implementation. This shields the Prime Minister and the government from criticism, which is limited to inconvenience and time spent in accessing bank accounts. But the poor and people working in the informal sector have not only been inconvenienced, they have been dislocated and their livelihoods irreparably damaged. Standing in a queue or being late to work is an inconvenience, but collapsing businesses and losing jobs go beyond inconvenience.

At the social level, demonetisation was presented as a great moral project to clean up the national economy. It has been portrayed as a crusade against tax evaders to help the poor. Mr. Modi describes it as ‘redistributive justice’, ‘a war unleashed against the corrupt’ and venal elite flaunting their black money. Hence, many people believe that in trying to curb black money, Mr. Modi is acting against the unscrupulous rich hoarding piles of illicit cash. The idea that the rich are suffering because this was a measure that caused problems for them is undoubtedly appealing to poor people, but such resentment doesn’t translate into protest. In this case, it is actually thought to explain or excuse the pernicious effects of demonetisation. Martha Nussbaum argues in Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame and the Law that disgust is a questionable formation, one that has the social function of maintaining hierarchies, while the really democratic act would be to criticise and undo social hierarchies. The same could be said about the formation of resentment in perpetuating social fault lines rather than undoing it.

ALSO READ

Climate of fear
Three other reasons can be adduced to explain the relative shortage of protest. First is the general climate of fear and the government’s intolerance of dissent which deters people from expressing opposition against the move. Second is the Indian obsession with black money. For the past few decades, black money has become the single greatest marker of what is wrong with India today. Successive anti-corruption movements have played a major role in creating this perception. Thanks to Bollywood films and their good-and-evil stories with an unremitting focus on corruption and black money, they fire the popular imagination like no other issue can. Hence, visible action against black money successfully channels the anger of the people in favour of those who are seen to be doing something to eradicate it.

ALSO READ

Third, to strengthen his position, the Prime Minister has repeatedly offered the trope of nationalism so that anyone opposing demonetisation is denounced as corrupt and anti-national. The analogy with a war against corruption is also designed to do this, to make people participate in a sacrifice for ‘cleaning up’ the nation. Thus, the Prime Minister compared the war on black money to the external aggressions India faced in 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil), when the ‘intrinsic strength’ of citizens was on display. He went on to add: “Such collective energy and patriotism is understandable in the face of external threats. However, when crores of Indians unite to fight a war against internal evils, it is unparalleled.” Hyper-nationalism and grandiloquent rhetoric are constant responses of this government every time it finds itself on the defensive.
Any discussion of public protests must also take into account the fact that large and visible protests are not spontaneous, they are usually an outcome of mobilisation by political parties; but parties have been stymied because mobilising against demonetisation can be instantly condemned as support for corruption. ‘Only black money hoarders are opposing demonetisation’ was one unvarying refrain of the ruling dispensation. In the face of this kind of propaganda, no one can afford to be seen as directly opposing measures to clean up black money and weed out counterfeit currency. The public also fears that opposition to demonetisation will make them appear corrupt and immoral.

The lack of large-scale protest is by no means an expression of popular support for the government’s decision but it has been interpreted not just as acquiescence but endorsement of the demonetisation move. The Prime Minister has repeatedly claimed that people overwhelmingly support his policy. One might ask how he is privy to this sentiment given that he is a master of one-way communication and hasn’t deigned to speak in Parliament, leave alone talk to people. Most likely the support is deduced from the fact that so far the BJP has not lost any elections, local or otherwise, since demonetisation. This reasoning suggests that as long as there are no large street protests and people continue to vote for the BJP, there is no need to accept the downside of this decision and the social obligation to address public grievances arising from it.

Zoya Hasan is Professor Emerita, Centre for Political Studies, JNU, and Distinguished Professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi.