Social Exclusion?

Modi is losing glamour despite his dynamism in diplomacy. The corporate lobby that backed him during elections, seems to have already developed a kind of passivity towards him. They are restless, they want rapid pace in ‘reforms’ of their kind. They want land but land-bill being locked in parliament, they now think Modi too cannot pursue aggressive policy without which their ‘Idea of India’ remains elusive. Not that Modi is not trying, he is trying only to face road-blocks here and there. Even his new Transport Bill otherwise aimed at massive privatisation of the transport sector, may face stiff resistance when it comes up for debate in parliament. In truth Ratan Tata the other day came in defence of Modi and assured his fellow travellers in the corporate club that it was too early to lose faith in Modi. True, he must have some more time to prove his neo-liberal notoriety.

For one thing he is faithfully implementing some of his previous government’s anti-people policies that were responsible for Congress Party’s isolation from masses. One area of controversy is Aadhaar. After Supreme Court’s ruling it cannot be mandatory but the Modis are trying to make it mandatory by the backdoor while ignoring the Apex Court’s verdict.

The Unique Identity (UID) Aadhaar project is of universal enrolment, but numerous applications are possible. Without any control over its applications Aadhaar ceases to be a voluntary facility notwithstanding Supreme Court’s order. The Union Government of India has been keen to impose Aadhaar on a whole series of schemes, which required identity verification. Aadhaar steadily lost its voluntary principle, with the government’s imposition of UID as an eligibility condition for social benefits. Enrolment to Aadhaar became fast tracked, as the scheme became essential to anyone who wanted to function in the system, from driving licence, transfer of property, civil marriage, payment of MGNREGA to workers, refund of cooking gas cylinder subsidy. In the absence of adequate identity documents, Aadhaar has become compulsory. Aadhaar has created a vast infrastructure of social control that could be misused. Without any legal framework, the entire project has been rolled out. Users of Aadhaar can face huge hardships if the technologies of electricity, biometrics, computers, mobiles and the internet malfunction. The coverage of the Aadhaar facility being far from complete, the identification system could turn into a source of social exclusion. Aadhaar enlarges the growth of state power, which could be misused in democratic functioning. Earlier the Union Home Ministry had supplied identity cards to both genuine citizens and illegal migrants in the border states, a decade ago. India’s Supreme Court has ruled in March 2015, that no person should be denied benefits or ‘‘suffer’’ in the absence of the Aadhaar Card. The PAN Card, Voter’s Card, Ration Card, Passport, Driving Licence and Aadhaar Card comprise multiple identity documents. It is sheer wastage of public money. Concerned people are scared about Aadhaar. But the Modis are not listening. They have their own game plan.

Vol. 47, No. 44, May 10 - 16, 2015