Uncomfortable Truths

Congress is in opposition but the party of Gandhis has nothing to oppose. Modi is increasingly opting for failed Congress policies. And that’s where the relevance of Gandhis come in. They are happy passengers in Modi’s bullet train. So it seems. Congress cannot disown its immediate past and as a result they cannot oppose Modi’s policies which they once tried to implement without much success. For all practical purposes they are caught in a bind. As there is no major difference between Congress and Modi’s party—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—in basic policy orientation they are all on the same page and work toward the same goal. So controversial Aadhaar is back, this time under Modi’s baton. Only a few months back BJP opposed this pet Congress scheme of Sonia Gandhi—originally a brainchild of the redoubtable Nandan Nilekarni—highlighting the question of national security and sovereignty. With elections gone, the issue of security and sovereignty is also dead.

Modi has suddenly discovered virtues in Aadhaar programme which was, not very long ago, billed as a colossal wastage of public funds and allowing American agencies to store bio-metric data of Indians. The other day Prime Minister Narenda Modi, with a lot of fanfare, launched ‘Jeevan Praman’—an ‘‘Aadhaar-based Digital Life Certificate’’ for pensioners, numbering over a crore throughout the country. Right now pensioners find no difficulty in furnishing life certificates as they are covered by the Pension Act. Why they are going to complicate the existing system is open to question—it may not be that innocuous as it ex-facie looks.

Congress backed out from Aadhaar project when the Centre’s attempt to link subsidised LPG cylinders with Aadhaar produced huge resentment among middle class voters who are in the main, the major beneficiaries of subsidised LPG. The Aadhaar panic was so real that Rahul Gandhi, finally abandoned his mother’s swan-song idea in the middle. In truth bureaucrats in oil companies opposed this government move right from the beginning in view of complications the project might create in day to day work. The ploy was actually aimed at systematically dismantling subsidised regime as per their grand plan of ‘more reforms and more market’. Apprehending a backlash on vote and legal hurdles Congress was virtually forced to discontinue the scheme without offering any valid reasons for their action.

For one thing earlier the Supreme Court ruling made it a non-mandatory plan without any legal sanction and parliament’s approval. The status of Aadhaar has not changed since then but Modi has no compulsions to face electorate with folded hands at the moment. Assembly polls in a state or two can be addressed with a different stick. So they are hell bent on expediting the process of bio-metric digitisation which will eventually bring in all Indians under the scanner of intelligence agencies.

No political party is interested in exposing the wrong side of Aadhaar. Unless Aadhaar makes ripples in electoral fortunes they won’t react. Who bothers about India’s national sovereignty? Nobody. Campaign against Aadhaar was launched by the civil society through PIL—Public Interest Litigation. Even the parliamentary select committee rejected it on the grounds of technical feasibility and possible misuse. A number of retired judges and top ranking officers reacted sharply against this grandiose plan of looting public funds while compromising with national security and sovereignty.

No proof is full proof against infiltration. So Aadhaar is no answer to infiltration though the authorities would like people to believe that it could check infiltration. Soon Aadhaar like voter identity cards would be easily available on premium, mocking at the very idea of tightening the system of identification.

Congress being the original architect of Aadhaar cannot oppose it. As for Mandalites their world outlook doesn’t go beyond caste and religious prejudices. And for Left parties, they have no agenda of their own. So Modi has nothing to worry about as he is not going to face any opposition from any quarters in implementing this dubious scheme.

These days left avoids all sensitive issues affecting ordinary people. Having failed to initiate any positive step in mitigating the ever widening gap between haves and have-nots after his much publicised coronation. Modi is busy to sell gimmicks. So a few days back, a poster with an area of 36000 sq ft, carrying hundreds of slogans promoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhijan’, was unveiled by the Chief Minister of Chattisgarh Raman Singh who has earned enormous notoriety in crushing Maoist movement. This drive to maintain sanitation and cleanliness in areas that enjoy better amenities suits well the people like the Ambanis who have now a job to please Modi, with brooms in hands. Most people living in slums, authorised or unauthorised alike, and remote villages, have no access to safe drinking water and the word sanitation sounds alien to them. They live in unhygienic conditions generation after generation.

Aadhaar-based service provider cannot provide better services to the needy. Oddly enough, this time civil society groups are not coming forward to oppose this controversial plan as they did on the earlier occasion. Even the far left, not to speak of the official left, doesn’t raise the issue in any forum as if it is a minor affair which it is not. All government policies are framed to deprive the people of their basic rights while allowing power-brokers to enjoy the right to do whatever they like. In today’s India government policy has become increasingly complex and interrelated, there has never been a more important time to scan every aspect of government activity from a people’s perspective but tragically the so-called people’s representatives on the left would like to remain in a calculated hiberation.

Vol. 47, No. 20, Nov 23 - 29, 2014