Control Data, Control People

Most people might have missed the full significance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reference to modern technology and electronic data management during his keynote address at Davos.

One sentence in particular—"Whoever controls data can control the world, he will have the power to shape the world"—revealed more about Modi's thinking than anything else he said in the speech.

For the record, what Modi said was—"Today, we face new and difficult challenges in terms of economic outlook and security. Technology driven transformation is taking place everywhere and data presents us with great opportunities to solve such issues. But data also presents its own challenges. It is believed whoever controls data is the most powerful and can shape the world".

Whether it was intentional or inadvertent, the Prime Minister provided his listeners with a glimpse of his inner-most thought-processes and the first-ever most candid clue to his real motive behind the three most disruptive structural reforms he has pushed through with such ruthless (some would say maniacal) zeal and determination.

Indeed, the most intimidating aspect of his tenure as Prime Minister of the world's most populous Democracy so far has been his evident disregard for the human sufferings caused directly as a consequence of three-pronged surgical strikes on the entire population of the country—Demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Aadhaar.

Each of these game-changing policy decisions has been so drastic, so devastating and so draconian that they have defied rational analysis.

The added fact that they were imposed and implemented in such rapid succession, without allowing reasonable time for absorption and adoption has perturbed and puzzled even his most ardent camp-followers.

The unsuspecting people of India—all one-crore-plus of them—had barely recovered from the shock and awe of being hit by the note-bandi (Demonetisation)bombshell, when they were plunged headlong into another suffocating trauma : so-called One-Nation-One-Tax regime which was and is perhaps, the most half-baked and disorderly taxation experiments ever to be foisted on small business and trade.

Virtually unnoticed at first was the initially benign-looking Aadhaar programme, running parallel and analogous to the other two frontal attacks. Born in the guise of a purely voluntary personal identity scheme, it rapidly underwent a menacing transformation and mutated into a mandatory bio-metric monster out to rob 130 crore citizens of their individuality.

In summary, this is what happened—first, Modi forced all Indians overnight to part with their cash; then he compelled them overnight to give up their traditional ways of eking out a livelihood; and all the while he was creeping up to deprive them of their sacred rights of choice and confidentiality.

What was the common link between three surgical strikes? What symbiotic link was there between Demonetisation, Aadhaar and the Goods and Services Tax? The answer is clear—Data, Big-Data. Electronic Data.
What did the Prime Minister say at Davos? He said—"He who controls Data, rules the world".

The cat is out of the bag. Narendra Modi’s ulterior motive is to wrest control of the personal data of the entire population of India, or as he is fond of saying "125 crore Bharatwasi".

That's why he delegitimised high value notes and pushed for electronic money and a ''cashless economy". So that every deposit, withdrawal and transfer of money can be tracked, traced and recorded on the databanks.

That's why he fast-tracked the implementation of GST, even though the tax rates had not been finalised and even the online infrastructure was not yet ready to take the load of countrywide commerce.

That's why he is in a tearing hurry to know everything about every citizen—income level, their standard of living, their tastes and lifestyle, buying preferences, investments and savings and spends, travel plans, where they live, what they eat, their favourite brand of ice-cream, alcohol, cigarettes and condoms.

Now people know the why and the what of the Modi model of draconian governance. The reason most people missed his revealing quote was probably because it sounded like just another rhetorical cliché often heard in this era of the Electronic Revolution. Not many in the elite gathering of the world's richest and most powerful men and women would have taken any special note of that single sentence. But to perceptive Indian ears, it provided an unexpected peep into Modi's thought processes and offered a clue to the game plan behind his draconian policies without any regard to the sufferings of the common man.


Vol. 50, No.33, Feb 18 - 24, 2018