The UIDAI has taken two successive governments in India and the entire world for a ride. It identifies nothing. It is not unique. The entire UID data has never been verified and audited. The UID cannot be used for governance, financial databases or anything. It’s use is the biggest threat to national security since independence. – Anupam Saraph 2018

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 scholarUsha Ramanathandescribes 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

In the Supreme Court, Meenakshi Arora, one of the senior counsel in the case, compared it to living under a general, perpetual, nation-wide criminal warrant.

Had never thought of it that way, but living in the Aadhaar universe is like living in a prison. All of us are treated like criminals with barely any rights or recourse and gatekeepers have absolute power on you and your life.

Announcing the launch of the#BreakAadhaarChainscampaign, culminating with events in multiple cities on 12th Jan. This is the last opportunity to make your voice heard before the Supreme Court hearings start on 17th Jan 2018. In collaboration with @no2uidand@rozi_roti.

UIDAI's security seems to be founded on four time tested pillars of security idiocy

1) Denial

2) Issue fiats and point finger

3) Shoot messenger

4) Bury head in sand.

God Save India

Monday, May 7, 2018

13477 - Backstory: Working Class Blues, or Why Labour Never Makes the News - The Wire

A fortnightly column from The Wire’s public editor.



Another May Day/Labour Day has come and gone, but to a generation of post-liberalisation journalists, it holds no special significance. Such ice-cold indifference to the conditions of workers within the media could possibly be one reason why we have multiple recurrences of similar tragedies involving them.

Take those factory fires which occur with such regularity on the peripheries of India’s capital city. What is striking about the two recent fires that broke out in January and March this year in Bawana and Sultanpuri respectively, and which took away many lives including that of children, was that both occurred in illegal units; that conditions of work within them were hellish, and that the workers had found themselves virtually locked in when the infernos raged.

Yet how do we even know that such conditions exist without any direct knowledge or experience of them? Systematic media reporting on this sector could have bridged the distance, but it does not exist. All we have then are post-facto explanations for why sanitation workers choked to death while cleaning the sewage system of a five-star hotel; why a domestic worker was driven to hang herself in her employers’ drawing room; or how shop-floor tensions spun out of control and led to rioting in a prestigious car manufacturing plant.

Once in a while, there are national and international reports that throw some light on new developments. For instance, how many of us knew that India reports the highest percentage of workers in the informal sector in South Asia (along with Nepal)?: “Close to 81% of all employed persons in India make a living by working in the informal sector, with only 6.5% in the formal sector and 0.8% in the household sector”, according to a new ILO report (‘Nearly 81% of the Employed in India Are in the Informal Sector: ILO’, May 4). So thick is the apathy that even when an estimated one lakh workers protested the current regime’s anti-labour policies last November outside parliament, it was met by a sea of media silence (‘Media’s Indifference to Labour Issues Is Muzzling the Already Vanishing Voices of Workers’, November 25; ‘Massive ‘Mahapadav’ Protest in Delhi Highlights Plight of India’s Workers’).

There are important structural reasons for this excision of interest in the lives of such a large number. Even the lexicon of labour reporting has undergone transmutation. There’s rich irony when “labour reform”, once all about ameliorating the poor working conditions of those who labour, now signifies the new virtues of deregulation and flexibility of employment for the greater profitability of the entities that hire them.

The tipping point, as the writer of the piece, ‘Rough Edges: The Vanishing Tribe of Labour Reporters’ (January 31) correctly identifies, came with the economic liberalisation of the ’90s. “As the public discourse became more skewed towards identifying GDP rates as the sole marker of the country’s economic well-being, the condition of workers in the informal sector seemed to increasingly matter less. The media became enamoured by growth rates, and the labour ministry became a shadow of its former self. Labour reportage became ‘business journalism’,” she writes.

As a journalist of that period, one was always made conscious of the suspicion with which class as a category to understand society was looked upon by editors – caste in any case hardly entered the newsroom. As managements began to play a bigger role in information gathering, an anxiety grew within organisations that vibrant reportage on trade unionism would in some way result in radicalising journalists and create problems for these companies.

The tonality of reporting on strikes gradually shifted from the empathetic to the hostile, with readers and viewers now being constantly alerted to how their interests were being trampled upon by striking workers – how buses wouldn’t run, milk supplies would be hit, schools would be shut – rather than on the reasons for such action. There is enough media research to indicate that negative media coverage accorded to a certain category of the population directly shapes popular attitudes towards it. Unsurprisingly, this was also a period when trade unionism among journalists began to wither away even as the contract system slowly came to replace the guaranteed permanent employment of an earlier era.

This brief recall could be useful perhaps to understand the value of ‘The Life of Labour’, a feature that The Wire introduced over a year ago which brings readers the “latest news updates from the world of work”. The question is whether such an addition would go some way in countering the negative attitude to labour coverage, whether from the perspective that such pieces are “boring” or that they are irrelevant and disruptive. 

It would be fair to say that ‘The Life of Labour’ is possibly not the most popular on The Wire’s content menu, it also lacks primary news gathering and is essentially a compilation. Yet I would rate it as an extremely valuable addition for any media platform that sees itself as informing public opinion. Its clockwork-like like weekly appearance is useful for those who have a deeper interest in labour as a subject of research, scrutiny or work.

Even the general reader, I dare say, would be curious about why bank employees are on the warpath over the cash crunch in the economy or why IBM, long viewed as the standard bearer of the ‘American Dream’, has been ruthless in axing a quarter-million of US white-collar workers, most of whom are over 40 (‘The Life of Labour: Win for Striking Nurses in Delhi, Bank Workers to Strike Against Cash Crunch’, April 22). I, for one, found extremely interesting that short piece on India’s first union – Madras Labour Union – which has just completed its centenary run and also did its bit to resist “colonial power and exploitation” (‘The Life of Labour: 100 Years of the Madras Labour Union, Another Factory Fire in Delhi’, April 29).

Measures could be taken to make this feature more reader-friendly. One suggestion for what it’s worth: the lovely sketch by Aliza Bhakt could be used in a smaller way as the identifier of the series rather than  as the main image by default, which makes every column appear like the one before. Such similitude could be avoided if the lead image is linked to a subject that figures in the column. For instance, I would have been interested to have seen a period photograph of the Madras Labour Union, or even of the mill in which it is housed.
The defamation strategy to keep all matters of malfeasance from emerging in the clear light of day is alive and well it seems. As a founder editor of The Wire tweeted, soon after the story ‘In Selling Firm to Piramal Group as Minister, Piyush Goyal Pushes Ethical Boundaries’ (April 28) appeared, “This is becoming a pattern now. Whenever The Wire raises issues of transparency/conflict of interest concerning top ruling party functionaries, defamation cases are mounted by corporate groups as answer! It happened with Adanis. Now happening with Piramal threatening defamation!”

Interesting, Piyush Goyal himself has chosen not to respond to questions on the deal sent by the writer of this investigative story and I noted that The Wire has rightly undertaken to update the story should he choose to send in his version. 

Meanwhile, we have to be content, it seems, with his responses in media interviews and tweets to Congress party president Rahul Gandhi, after the latter had raised the issue at an election rally in Karnataka recently. Using language borrowed from the prime minister, he tweeted that he, unlike Gandhi, was a kaamdaar” not a “naamdaar” and “has not learnt the art of living without working”. Presumably, the profits he earned from the Flashnet deal with the Piramals should be regarded as just reward for his “kaamdari”.
I could not but pause when I read the title, ‘Why Women Construction Workers Will Continue to Deliver by the Roadside’ (April 28). It did little to draw the reader’s sympathy to women forced to give birth in such dangerous or precarious circumstances.  At the same time, I wondered whether this headline – with its note of almost deliberate nonchalance – could also be read as a bald statement of an existing reality that no one could do anything about. The question lingers…
My mail box was full of missives from readers who wanted to express themselves on a range of topics. Purushuttam Roy Barman, an advocate practicing in the Tripura high court, Agartala, recalled the late economist Ashok Mitra and argued that with his death “common Indians [have] lost a genuine indomitable fighter for their cause”. Incidentally, The Wire paid tribute to the economist by carrying two pieces on him, ‘Ashok Mitra, the Marxist Economist Who Was a Fierce Critic of the Government’ (May 1) and ‘Ashok Mitra: Railing Against the Times, But Very Much a Part of Them” (May 1).
Meanwhile, Mudit Dalmia, a senior executive in the investment banking space, reveals that he had been diagnosed with Isaac’s Syndrome since March 2016 and his struggle for a cure continues. He has carefully documented his own case and line of treatment, and now wants to share his learnings, details of helpful doctors and current research on the subject with others suffering from a similar condition.
Mukesh Jain draws The Wire’s attention to an Aadhaar security breach in Haryana caused by the Haryana government itself. It seems that since the state government is aware that it cannot force people to link their Aadhaar card with their electricity connections, it has ordered that Aadhaar data of all of its electricity customers be collected manually. No official notification was issued for this purpose. Instead ad hoc daily wage employees are being hired by UHVPN and DHVPN for the collection of electricity readings and distributing of electricity bills. These ad hoc employees are collecting the Aadhaar data of millions of users and giving it to their contractors. The salaries to those who do this job are accounted for under the head, “electricity reading expenses”. This is being done despite the fact that it is mandatory for any government or private organisation to take permission from UIDAI in order to collect Aadhaar data in a secure manner. Some of this information that Jain put together came from RTI filings.
Pariplab Chakraborty, a 22-year-old graduate (in journalism and mass communication from Kolkata), is presently living in Jharkhand and making independent documentaries on the lives of marginalised people, especially tribals. He would like to contribute an article to The Wire, but finds that it does not carry a proper e-mail ID for contributors on its home page. He is particularly keen to contribute to LiveWire, the new platform for young people that has been introduced.
Finally, it is great that the Shorenstein Journalism Award, that has been given to one of the founder editors of this platform this year, recognises the “critical reporting” element as central to journalism (‘Founding Editor of The Wire Receives Shorenstein Award for Defending Press Freedom’, April 4). As another founder editor The Wire had observed in a piece titled ‘The Toughest Enemy of Press Freedom Is the One Within’ (May 3, World Press Freedom Day), the present government has “finessed the game – it has managed to get large sections of the media on its side by making it a completely voluntary exercise.”

The need of the hour, it seems, is for Indian journalists not to let their critical guard down, especially when the attempt is being made to “undermine the cause of press freedom from within”.