‘No’ To Aadhaar

To fight for one’s fundamental rights is not always easy but it is essential particularly in a situation where threat to Indian Constitution is more serious from the Executive arm of Government having scant respect for law. Powers that be do hardly follow the constitution when it comes to the oppressed. With the Supreme Court declaring the much talked about and yet less understood Aadhaar Numbers or Cards being issued by the Unique Identification Authority (UIDAI), not mandatory to avail the government’s various services, the very idea of propelling such a grandiose scheme with huge wastage of public funds poses a big question mark. The simple truth is that it is the government that systematically resorts to extra-constitutional measures to have their dubious way of doing things. The project has been deeply flawed right from the beginning and yet no political party showed eagerness to read between the lines. Only some concerned citizens fought against it without being able to reach broad masses who now face myriad hazards because some heads of various government bodies at state and central levels are doggedly insisting on Aadhaar numbers to disburse poverty alleviation and subsidy-related essential services.

Aadhaar, not Maoist violence, is the biggest threat to India’s security because of UIDAI’s dependence on questionable technology and foreign firms having alleged links with American intelligence.

Political parties, more precisely left parties look disinterested in Aadhaar for reasons best known to them. For them it’s not a serious issue. For them transferring the bio-metric data of the entire population to foreign agencies is no concern. There are too many devices to loot the exchequer and the ‘Aadhaar’ is the latest one. Initially the parliamentary standing committee rejected it on the question of its viability and feasibility in view of overseas experiences. It had no legal sanction and yet the persons in power went ahead with it. In truth ‘Aadhaar’ created panic among middle class and lower middle class people, who were asked to procure ‘Aadhaar’ numbers within a stipulated time to avail the subsidised LPG cylinders. They apprehend the proposed plan of Direct Transfer of subsidy money to their bank accounts will wither away in due season under one pretext or another and they will be left with no option but to buy services at market price. In palin language it would be the end of subsidy.

The programme of direct cash transfer through ‘Aadhaar’ is dangerous as it will soon prove counter-productive. Ex-facie it sounds fine that they are too willing to empower rural poor and other vulnerable sections of the society by giving them cash doles bypassing the middlemen, but there remains a lot to discuss why they are doing all this with a kind of religious zeal. They are now spending millions on advertisement by highlighting the beneficial aspects of ‘Aadhaar’. Vote matters and they are doing this to buy votes, not in a crude manner of course. It is expected that target beneficiaries will oblige the executors of these schemes in ballots. The hard fact is that if direct cash transfer is the real issue, it can easily be done without ‘Aadhaar’ as Indian citizens have now so many cards—Voter ID Cards, Passports, PAN numbers etc and all of them are issued by Central Authorities. A multi-thousand crore project without legal sanction! Caught on a wrong foot the Centre is now talking in multiple voices. They hope to bring a Bill in the winter session of parliament to give statutory status to the UIDAI. For the first time they are conceding that there are problems in getting ‘Aadhaar’ cards and it should not be made mandatory where people are facing problems, thanks to judicial activism.

Ludicrously enough at one stage they failed to reach a firm decision about the very nature of ‘Aadhaar’—whether it is a number or a card. May be both. But they never dwelt on the issue of danger lying in engaging foreign agencies to collect bio-metric data of Indians.

In a suffocating atmosphere of voicelessness, voice of dissent is being increasingly heard only through legal activism as people have lost faith in most political parties. The point at issue is how to implement court verdicts. After all judicial activism cannot be the beginning of the end of Congress-style authoritarianism. Legal activism can bring in temporary relief as the interim order on ‘Aadhaar’ has brought in but to defeat an anti-people measure what is needed is massive mass mobilisation. And it is simply not happening in contemporary India though echo of Arab Spring is reverberating in a number of third world countries despite setbacks in the Arab world itself. If people are being hoodwinked, repressed, regressed and outright oppressed by the powers that be—it’s in their best interests to protest. But protest through legal activism cannot go beyond a certain point.

Whenever the government faces the possibility of opposition by parliamentary opposition, not by hard-core terrorists, they take the ordinance route to bypass parliament as they tried to do to protect convicted sitting members of parliament and state legislators. Ironically enough, the Congress party said by doing so they were protecting the sanctity of constitution. The march of history has been from authoritarian to democratic states. Gandhians in this land prefer a reverse journey. Even if they move a bill in the winter session of parliament to regularise UIDAI, the question remains ‘why Aadhaar’. It’s not necessary. The best way to stop it is to launch a movement—‘Stop Aadhaar’.

Meanwhile the centre got the flak for the second time on ‘Aadhaar’ on October 8, when the apex court rejected the centre’s petition seeking modification of its earlier ruling dismissing the ‘Aadhaar’ card as mandatory for essential services. The very validity of the Unique Identity Card, a multi-million rupee bonanza for the ‘uniquely’ placed persons in authority, is now open to question despite the Union Government’s renewed attempt to provide statutory status to the Unique Identification Authority of India. It will give only identity and no entitlement under any scheme. Nor is it any proof of citizenship. Yet they are ready to spend so much money while duplicating residential proof and all that.   22-10-2013

Vol. 46, No. 17, Nov 3 -9, 2013

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