UID- For whose benefit?

When UID was introduced to the general public, it was regarded as the sole primary document which would determine their fate. Everyone(1.2 billion people) would be issued a unique identification card and would be expected to carry it wherever they would go. Even the refugees and migrants would be issued the card. It was mandatory in the beginning so failing to produce it may have you branded as a terrorist. The Government defended this mammoth-size project by arguing that it will help check illegal immigration and terrorist activities. UID will also have other benefits. UID has been linked to social-welfare programs. There is now a proposal to use UID for realizing the goal of online voting. So UID will ‘empower’ India and Indians, they argue.

This was the Government version of UID. Let’s now see the reality.

UID is proposed to create a central repository of information of each of the 1.2 billion people. The data involves personal information as well as the bank details. It’s a risky affair. If not the ever-hungry Government, the Corporates or anyone can misuse the information.

The Government’s response to this was technology. The data will be stored in an online database. But let’s consider the technological challenges. 1.2 Billion people will mean 6 petabytes(6,000 terabytes or 6,000,000 gigabytes). It will be the world’s largest database. But can we imagine managing this volume? The technological challenges involve system performance, reliability, speed and resolution of accuracy and errors. But a more serious issue is regarding the security. The information can be hacked.

UID will also capture biometric information from the population. The fingerprints and IRIS will be scanned. Apart from the lack of technological infrastructure, a more important concern is the reliability of this information. Patterns of Iris change with age and disease. Also, What about the millions of people with corneal blindness? Fingerprints also face a similar issue. Fingerprints can be tapped and copied. There are also millions who may be without hands. Also, the labourers have their fingerprints marred.

One of the benefits listed out by Government is that it will be linked with the social welfare programs like PDS. Critics argue that the Government does not have resources to extend them to UID applicants. Jean Dreze, a development economist and the man behind the NREGA, argued, “I am opposed to the UID project on grounds of several civil liberties. Let us not be naïve. This is a national security project, not a social policy initiative.”

There is also fear that instead of checking illegal migration, it can actually ‘legalize’ it.The Indo-Bangladesh Border is porous. UID may actually increase the illegal immigration. Bangladeshis will be able to get themselves listed as Indians easily and enjoy the ‘privileges’ and ‘benefits’(if any).

Some months back, there was a demonstration by students of Indian Institute of Science against UID. One of the placards read “Happy New Fear”. UID demands our bank details. So though UID is an attached department to Planning Commission but in reality, UID can enable the Government an access to our bank account. They will be able to view all our transactions. So UID carries major privacy issues.

But the best thing about the UID is the inherent contradiction in its voluntary nature. Even though, it is voluntary. It is ubiquitous. UID holders are entitled for exclusive schemes and opportunities.

The idea of UID has been rejected by many countries. From privacy concerns to technological challenges, the concept has met severe opposition. So the effectiveness and nature of UID(whether compulsory or voluntary) varies among different countries. But inspite of this, India has decided to waste crores on this largely rejected policy.

cross-posted from:  http://www.adityakumarnayak.com/2011/uid-for-whose-benefit/


The agony of an auto-rickshaw wala

They are a notorious bunch… known for demanding arbitrary prices (50 rupees for south-ex from LSR), having a faulty meter (if they agree to use it) or finding excuses to charge extra. These little tanashahis(dictators) on wheels are a part of the everyday lives of the middle class. Yet, the middle class know (and care) so little of their grievances. Auto-hartals yields attention but not sympathy.

I had also belonged to the same “it’s his problem” attitude, until yesterday when I had an unusual auto ride yesterday where I was turned a mute listener. I had been advised to hire an auto from the prepaid system. It is easy and hassle-free but the auto drivers are not in favour of it (afterall, it kills their hope to ‘loot’ the ‘poor’ customers) so they try to convince you against it. But I had it my way. The traffic policeman then helped me find an auto. The auto driver that he had chosen tried to refuse as he had to go in the opposite direction for some work. But the traffic policeman did not listen. I felt a little bad for him but I couldn’t do anything (you don’t really argue with a policeman in Delhi).

Since I was coming from the station, he thought I was new to delhi so he started telling me the important places. He then told me how he had to report to his owner immediately. I told him that he should have told the policeman the same. I think that had pinched him. He then started off telling me how everyone- the policeman, the prepaid system, the government and even the trade union members are betrayers (he used “Harami” for each group).

The prepaid system has an in-built commission in the name of service tax. He told me the importance of that 5 rupees per ride. He argued that the policeman chooses the passing-by autos rather than the ones which are standing there as he takes money from the latter (they still have the hope to ‘loot’).

The government is a pain for everyone. But with the recent law, it has stung the auto drivers most bitterly. According to the new law, the autos will have a GPRS system and will have a machine which would calculate the fare and give a receipt. It will help exercise a lot of check on the drivers-turned-monsters and make the rides safe. It seems to be pro-customers (I don’t know if it means an increase in the fare). But one’s boon always turns out to be bane for another. The government expects the auto drivers to pay for this new facility. The original demand was of 50,000. After a hartal, it was pushed down to 14,000. But this is unacceptable and illogical. Why do they have to incur the cost? They will not be getting anything out of this unprofitable investment.

Auto driving is also not a very lucrative career option. How much can an auto wala earn each day? They also have to pay 250 or 300 rupees to the owner every day. CNG cost is also incurred by them. They work day and night to earn a few hundreds. Like their customers, they also have a family to support. I asked him about his family. He had two kids and a sister for whose marriage he had to save 5 lakhs.

I enquired about the auto trade union. I realized I had touched another nerve. He told me how they were all betrayers. Some would see the hartal as an opportunity for earning more. He had idealized the auto trade union of Maharashtra. The Delhi auto union, in contrast, is not well-organised and is divided on the lines of regional identities (He considered people from a certain state the worst of the betrayers).

This auto driver, whom I happened to meet, was not extraordinary. He was a simple man who just spoke his heart out. And by doing that, I saw the real face of an auto-wala…Another victim of this oppressive Govt. I am not justifying the harassment by most auto drivers. Cheating is unfair but they are also helpless, to a large extent. The new GPRS law is even more unfair. In their struggle against the Government, we can atleast sympathise with them, if nothing more.

Are we heading towards a revolution?

The 24-carat onions…Gujjars don’t let the trains go…if they do, the naxals blow off the trains…CWG shame…terrorism…the ever-burning Valley…Dragon’s steps…an equally-stained opposition…

This is the current political situation in our country. India never enjoyed a peaceful neighborhood. But now there is an on-going civil war. Nationalist aspirations, an economic crisis escalating social crisis and all this are being supported by a political crisis.

There is a political chaos in the country. The existing political order is based on representative democracy. But the representatives are no longer representing the people. A multi-party system is functional. But the various political parties are only dividing the country and the people. The Multi-party system has led to casteism, communalism, regionalism and other evils. There is not a single party which can call itself the ‘people’s will’. There also rests the dangerous evil of fascism. The ruling party, Congress is also accused of trying to establish a dynastic rule. People chose congress over BJP (the current opposition) on the grounds that at least it is not fascist in theory but while BJP rules to kill only a section of the people, Congress believes in killing all (mehengai daayan). The current ruling party is in power because people have no alternative. During elections, people choose the ‘lesser evil’. In this political crisis, there are also emerging alternative political orders. Naxalite movement offers an anarchic form of Government. There are also the regimes of Mayawati and Modi. Also, in some states, there is the Army ruling.

There is widespread discontent and disillusionment among the masses. Every section of the society is suffering. From the peasants to the rich capitalists, everyone has contempt for the politicians. Entering administrative services or the Judiciary to bring about that ‘change’ is also no longer appealing to the people. The whole system is corrupt, they argue.

Media is adding fuel to the fire. Media has become super-efficient. A new scam is reported every fortnight. News Channels are also propaganda machines. Some of them are clearly anti-Government. They’ll exaggerate every news and will blame the Government incessantly. They all create and influence mentalities. This over-all crisis and people’s struggles has also found a space in Popular Cinema. There are movies presenting the naxals in a positive light, highlighting the tragedy of the valley and the struggles of the aam insaan.

The stage is set. People are agitated. They are desperate for a change. The storm is over the cliff. But are we in for arevolution? Who will lead it? The opposition is equally handicapped. How widespread will it be? There are huge social and economic gaps. It’s always religion or caste first. And if not then it’s all about money. So who will unite them? Will it be ‘successful’? What will be the new order? Or if not, then what else will the frustration of the people amount to? Where are we heading to?

published also @ http://theviewspaper.net/are-we-heading-towards-a-revolution/