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, August 7, 2017

11727 - How withdrawal of LPG subsidy can raise India's healthcare costs - Business Standard


LPG subsidy was in many ways an investment into public health; now that will be withdrawn

August 4, 2017 Last Updated at 08:00 IST

Empty Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders are seen at a gas distribution centre at Dujana village in Noida (Photo: Reuters)

In India, 4 to 5 lakh people die of household air pollution every year – largely due to improper ventilation combined with the use of biomass fuels for cooking and lighting. Even today, a majority of rural households continue to use biomass (such as wood and cow dung) as the primary cooking fuel. The burning of these fuels emits pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, benzene, and metals including lead and copper.

The use of dirty biomass fuels for cooking has several detrimental impacts on human health by either directly causing or aggravating acute and chronic diseases. For instance, pollution from such fuels contribute to 12% of still births in the country. The National Family Health Survey (2005-06) also revealed significant increases in child morbidity due to poor household air quality. There is a gender angle too, as household air pollution leads to a range of diseases among women, who are the primary cooks in most Indian households. Over 2.4 million cases of chronic bronchitis, 0.3 million cases of TB, 5 million cases of cataract and various adverse pregnancy outcomes among Indian women are attributable to household air pollution due to the use of biomass as a cooking fuel. 

joint study by the World Bank and the University of Washington showed that in 2013, welfare losses cost India 7.7% of its GDP due to premature deaths and illnesses caused or aggravated by air pollution (both household and outdoor). The loss of labour output due to air pollution was $55.4 billion in India. There is an undeniable and significant impact of air pollution on both public and personal health expenditures. 

An obvious solution to this is the use of cleaner fuels to cook, and the provision of electricity for lighting. The latter is taking place at a steady pace. To tackle the former, the government introduced the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in 2016 to promote the use of LPG for cooking. LPG is a fossil fuel, but it burns significantly cleanly with no production of soot. LPG connections to households have steadily and significantly increased over the past few years. 

However, having an LPG connection is one thing, while actual continued usage for cooking is quite another.  

High usage costs and an inefficient supply chains are stumbling blocks, which is why “fuel stacking” is common in Indian households – i.e. many households continue to use biomass even if they have an LPG connection. Studies have shown that due to these reasons, some households make the transition back from LPG to biomass after initial usage, while others continue to use biomass primarily. 

An LPG subsidy therefore assists the poor in ensuring that this clean cooking fuel remains within the budget of many poor households, thereby keeping them healthy and saving on time spent on collecting wood. However, naturally, subsidies are a cost on the exchequer. Total petroleum subsidy was Rs. 22,000 crore in 2016-17, but it has fallen significantly from Rs. 1,61,000 crore in 2012-13. 

The quantum of the subsidy fell because not only did oil prices more than halve from over $110 per barrel in 2014 to under $50 a barrel today, but concurrently, the government removed subsidies on the sale of petrol and diesel in 2010 and 2014 respectively. 

Even as crude prices fell, India’s petrol and diesel prices remained largely stable because the government kept increasing the taxes on these products. One justification for this is that fluctuating prices at the consumer’s end can be politically risky, and the taxes will be reduced when crude prices rise. The government later termed these taxes as “green taxes” in a communication to UNFCCC. 

To further reduce the petroleum subsidy burden, the government has urged people to give up their LPG subsidies, and the petroleum ministry reports that over 1 crore have given it up so far, who are from presumably middle to high income households who do not need the subsidy. Further, households with taxable income over Rs. 10 lakh per annum have been excluded from the LPG subsidy. 

With this background, it is therefore surprising that the government has decided to end LPG subsidies too. On the 31st of July 2017, the Petroleum Minister announced the increase of LPG prices by Rs. 4 per month until the subsidy on it is completely eliminated, or until March 2018, whichever comes first. This will potentially delink the government budget with crude prices. 

While this move will have a positive impact on the government budget, it is likely to have a detrimental impact on the transition to modern fuels in rural India, and on the health of the citizens. After all, what has not changed is rural India’s reliance on biomass for cooking. The poor continue to use it – and suffer from the air pollution caused by it. 

Apart from the impact on human health and therefore the economy, what has also not changed is the affordability of LPG. This is in particular of concern at this juncture as there have been reports of significant job losses in the aftermath of demonetization – particularly in rural India. 

The removal of the LPG subsidy therefore comes at a precarious time. The subsidy was in many ways an investment into public health. The concern is that this will impact marginal households and keep many households trapped in biomass use for daily cooking – which has no place in a modern economy.


Siddharth Singh is a German Chancellor Fellow and a Visiting Fellow at the 'Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie' in Berlin. He is a researcher and consultant on energy policy and is available on Twitter @siddharth3