Who’s Afraid Of Aadhaar UID?


     Political corruption is a manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth. www.transparency.org

It was around midnight, and the family was having their late, last supper. As the clock struck twelve, they heard the dreaded midnight knock! The family looked up in fright, their faces changing colour rapidly but prettily to pleasing shades of brown, from bitter chocolate to burnt toast, from ochre to copper, from russet to burnt sienna, from sepia to rust, from tawny to tan, and before they knew what they were doing they quickly and agilely dove out of sight, soundlessly hiding like mice.

The family patriarch drew himself up, composed his grim but austere features into a sphinx-like mask and walked straight-backed to the door and opened it fearlessly. At the door was the handsome, scar-faced and large toothed officer of the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), his even longer canines, sharp as serpent’s teeth, overhung the sides of his mouth, dripping a viscous reddish liquid (paan juice) and behind him… his many menacing men.

“Fear not” said he, to the unbending patriarch, smiling through his snarl and walking into the house assertively. “I am” he said, “the new UID area enforcement officer, and I am just getting acquainted with the people in my area, and would like to explain the benefits of the Aadhaar card and the UID number and the repercussions to those who do not get a number”. He went on, “The UID scheme will enable inclusive growth by providing each citizen with a verifiable identity; it will facilitate delivery of basic services; it will plug leakages in public expenditure and it will speed up achievement of targets in social sector schemes”.

He made himself comfortable and continued smoothly, “according to the former UID chairman, Nandan Nilekani, Aadhaar number would become ‘ubiquitous’; he had advised people to ‘tattoo it somewhere lest they forget it” the many menacing men leered lewdly at the old man.

The officer of the UID then began to slyly peer and mooch around the room, “you already have taken the Aadhaar card for yourself, but where are your dependents? If they do live with you why are they not here with you?” said the serpent toothed officer of UID, speaking louder than before. “Do you know the price you will have to pay for not having the Aadhaar card? Anything can happen to those without a card! They will not be counted! They will not be eligible to the delivery of basic services. They will not participate in plugging leakages in public expenditure! They will become non-entities! They will not get gas. Many basic services and amenities will be unavailable without the Aadhaar card and UID number.  Furthermore, those who do not have the card will be shunned by society for their inability to speed up achievement of targets in social sector schemes. Meanwhile, the many menacing men smirked smugly.

The officer of the UID went on to say “I am a reasonable man, and I expect compliance without complaint. After all this is a government scheme and the government is of the people, for the people and by the people. So this is for the benefit of all. If the government, politicians and the bureaucrats benefit from the unaccounted expenditure and receipts from this simple identification scheme, then, in effect, you are benefiting too, because you elected the government and put them in a position to watch over you. So everybody benefits.”

The patriarch gulped, visibly shaken by the implied threat to his independence and individuality, but he bravely stood his ground and assured the compliance officer that he had understood. The fanged officer and his menacing men goose stepped out of the house; the patriarch bowed his head and reflected on the Aadhaar card: what it is – and what it could become.

The Aadhaar scheme established by UPA-II in 2009 is a 12-digit unique identity card that is being issued to every citizen in India by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) based on biometric information like fingerprints and iris scans.

The UIDAI Aadhaar card scheme went underway without a referendum, public discussion or agreement from the people of India, and the UIDAI, operating under the authority of the executive branch, began processing individuals and issuing numbers in anticipation of Parliamentary approval of the legislation. The Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2010 questioned the program’s legality. Now, in 2017, though the Supreme Court of the country had stayed the UID Aadhaar project, it inexorably bulldozes its way into our lives. The government, in March 2017, proposed through an amendment to the Finance Bill 2017, to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns and also applying for a Permanent Account Number (PAN).

The patriarch thought, existing systems in this country are not perfect and most of the simplest systems malfunction, so there is no guarantee that the UID will be perfect; therefore the scope for misuse of UID is overwhelming, he then recalled that the USA, the UK, Australia, China, Canada, Germany and the Philippines have tried such projects and have given them up as impractical, unjustified and dangerous.

The patriarch remembered reading “Fear: The Foundation of Every Government’s Power”, by Robert Higgs, in 2005, which said that “Absolute power rides on absolute fear. Large parts of the government and the “private” sector participate in the production and distribution of fear”. “By keeping the population in a state of artificially heightened apprehension, the government-cum-media prepares the ground for planting specific measures of taxation, regulation, surveillance, reporting, and other invasions of the people’s wealth, privacy, and freedoms”.  http://www.independent.org

The patriarch thought, corrupt politicians control citizens by creating an atmosphere of fear, and the Aadhaar UID scheme is the perfect vehicle for politicians to create fear by invading and intruding into our privacy. Aadhaar UID would subject all of us to monitoring and control, surveillance and suspicion. Surveillance through Aadhaar UID technology could become a weapon to threaten, intimidate and suppress independent minded thinkers from voicing their views.

Here is how Transparency International (www.transparency.org) – the global coalition against corruption defines – Corruption – The abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Petty corruption – Everyday abuse of entrusted power by public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies. Grand corruption – The abuse of high-level power that benefits the few at the expense of the many, and causes serious and widespread harm to individuals and society. It often goes unpunished.

It is up to us to stand up for ourselves, protect ourselves and fight corruption by opposing politicians from controlling us. We must not succumb to fear, the patriarch thought, Aadhaar innocently enters our private lives and gives us a false sense of protection, but in reality, it is a perpetual point of persecution intruding on our privacy while we are being profiled and kept under surveillance.

Pratap Antony: Passive activist/Active pacifist writer on ecology and environment, compassion and humanity, dogs, social justice, music and dance – http://pratapantony.blogspot.in/. Management Ideas and Issues – http://reformcommunications.blogspot.in/





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