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.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

11004 - Evidence no bar - Indian Express


Discussion on Universal Basic Income shows an ignorance of inconvenient facts in our experience with direct benefit transfer and Aadhaar

Written by Reetika Khera | Published:April 5, 2017 12:10 am

In the month preceding The Economic Survey, leaks from the Ministry of Finance helped created a buzz around “Universal Basic Income” (UBI). Two key principles of UBI are universality, so all citizens are covered, and an entitlement to a “basic income” that allows dignified living even in the absence of other earnings. Yet, the ideas that have been discussed so far are mangled versions of a UBI. The Economic Survey starts with an enthusiastic conversation with Mahatma Gandhi on UBI. For instance, it highlights the conceptual strength of the “universal” in UBI by pointing to India’s abysmal record on targeted transfers. The Survey, however, ends up discussing skimpy and targeted cash transfers.

Public commentary has been no different. An Indian Express column, ‘Financing Basic Income for the Bottom 50 per cent’ (IE, January 7) presented estimates “to aid our thinking, and formulation, of a UBI policy”. Contrary to the headline, the estimates in that article were for 25 per cent of the population, while simultaneously riding on the “universal” label. This is not the only time that the columnist takes undue advantage of his column title (“No Proof Required”).

Even these whittled down proposals are expensive, so the Survey turns to the question of affordability. Earlier writing on UBI created the impression that non-merit subsidies (seen as undesirable subsidies) are nearly 10 per cent of the GDP. It turns out that the data was about two decades old — latest estimates suggest that the corresponding figure was only 5 per cent or so in 2011-2012, possibly even less today.

Next, the Survey eyes social spending, notably the MGNREGA, the public distribution system (PDS), and the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme. However, as research on these has shown encouraging results (for example, implicit transfers from the PDS reduced one-fifth of the poverty gap in 2009-10), an explicit case needs to be made for dismantling them. To do so, a bizarre new measure of targeting is deployed to help claim that these programmes are poorly-targeted. Favourable evidence from international peer-reviewed journals on these programmes is largely ignored by the Survey. For instance, a large body of evidence shows that the MGNREGA has been reasonably well-targeted across social groups and time. To evaluate school meals (MDM) through the narrow prism of targeting, when its main objectives are to contribute to better enrolment, attendance, nutrition, learning efforts, socialisation, etc betrays the Survey’s desperation for fiscal space. I am not suggesting that these programmes are perfect, but want to highlight a cherry-picking tendency in the Survey. Unable to square the circle, the enthusiastic conversation with Gandhi fizzles out towards the end.

Moving away from the Survey, a related development needs mention. In 2015, in Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Puducherry, the government initiated Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT), or cash transfers in lieu of grain under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The government also commissioned concurrent evaluations by J-PAL. An interim report J-PAL has submitted to the food ministry and NITI Aayog is damning. In phase 2 (mid-2016), nearly one-fifth of entitled respondents did not receive any cash. In Puducherry, the situation got worse between phase 1 and phase 2 — in phase 1, up to 25 per cent received no cash, in phase 2, this rose to 37 per cent Unsurprisingly then, the report finds that the majority of their respondents continue to prefer food over cash.

The DBT-PDS evaluation is important because its results have a direct bearing on the UBI debate. The evidence shows that cash transfers are not quite the spectacular success that the government would like to believe. Were the results kept under wraps by the government because they were inconvenient? Another key area where inconvenient evidence has been ignored is Aadhaar (seen as being key to the UBI debate). From the word go, promoters of Aadhaar relied on propaganda to package a surveillance and data mining infrastructure as a benign welfare project.

Successive governments have relied on two strategies to maintain the Aadhaar project’s benign façade. First, ignore or deny unfavourable evidence. Whenever Aadhaar has been used in welfare programmes (pensions, MGNREGA, PDS, scholarships), it has led to exclusion, increased hardship and hassles and in some cases, even corruption (for example, through its cadre of middlemen). Yet, the list of programmes for which Aadhaar is compulsory gets longer by the day, as the government brazenly violates the Supreme Court’s orders. Somehow, the court does not seem to mind these violations.
The second strategy is to inflate or fabricate benefits. DBT in LPG is the key example. Everyone (ministers, the chief economic advisor and World Bank) participated in the promotion of inflated savings estimates, even after the CEA clarified that he meant “potential” not “actual” savings and the CAG has said that the bulk of the savings are due to reduction in international prices.

In the end, the UBI buzz was a tactic to distract from having to enhance meagre social provisions. The government has been violating its maternity entitlement obligations (Rs 6,000 per child) under NFSA since 2013. It has shamelessly held its contribution to social security pensions (for the elderly, single women and disabled persons) at Rs 200-300 per month since 2006. Pressure on both these counts had been mounting. The belated announcement on maternity entitlements in the budget is reportedly being limited to just the first child.

If the government had been serious, it would have universalised social security pensions at Rs 1,000 per month and implemented universal maternity entitlements. Together, these will cost less than 1.5 per cent of the GDP. Evidence suggests these programmes work well. But perhaps their affordability and good performance are inconvenient evidence.

The writer teaches economics at IIT, Delhi