Aruna Roy leaves National Advisory Council

May 29, 2013

New DelhiNoted social rights activist Aruna Roy has decided to leave the National Advisory Council (NAC). Her letter of resignation has been accepted by NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who also heads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The task of the NAC is to provide inputs in the formulation of policy by the government, and to provide support to the government in legislative business.

In her letter to Sonia Gandhi, Roy listed differences with the government, specially over the refusal to give minimum wages to beneficiaries under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The noted social activist said that despite its contribution to changing the lives of the rural poor, implementation of this crucial flagship programme remains a challenge.

“There is a huge group of MGNREGS beneficiaries who are critical, but supportive of the law. They are losing public and political space to a small, vocal, and powerful minority determined to undermine the basic objectives of the MGNREGS,” Roy said in her letter.

“This is in continuation of the conversation we had some time ago, when I had requested that I not be considered for another term in the NAC. I am grateful for your accepting my request, while assuring you continued support to campaigns for social sector causes being taken up outside the NAC,” Roy wrote.

She said that it was “extremely unfortunate” that the prime minister rejected the NAC recommendations on payment of minimum wages to MGNREGS workers and chose instead to appeal against the Karnataka High Court judgment ordering the payment of minimum wages to MGNREGS workers.

“Even more distressing is the government’s refusal to pay minimum wages even after the Supreme Court refused to stay the Karnataka High Court judgment. It is difficult to understand how a country like India can deny payment of minimum wages and still make claims of inclusive growth,” Roy said.

Listing the achievements of the NAC, Roy said: “It is a matter of great significance that the NAC has approved a pre-legislative consultative process and will send it to government for necessary action. In my opinion, the NAC is itself a kind of pre-legislative body that has benefited immensely from the public consultations it has held.”

The functioning of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, and its celebrated report in the aftermath of the Dec 16 gang-rape in Delhi, were also an outcome of a pre-legislative consultative process, Roy noted, hoping that the process of public consultation would become more robust.

Favouring immediate passage of the food security bill, Roy said: “Given the hunger and malnutrition scenario in the country, a food security bill should have been debated and passed by parliament by now.”

In her letter accepting Roy’s resignation, Sonia Gandhi said: “I respect your decision to move on from the National Advisory Council. I hope that we will continue to have the benefit of your wisdom and thoughts as a friend and supporter of NAC.”




#India – Why is mainstream media silent on the ( IL)LEGALITY of #UID #Aadhaar

Uid- I am not a criminal
by-PoliticallyIncorrect ,
Why is the Mainstream Media Silent on the (il)legality of the UID Project?- II
In my last post on the UID project of the UPA government, I had raised a few issues about the manner in which the UPA went about implementing the project by circumventing constitutional protocol. In this post, I will address specifically the fundamental legal infirmities of the campaign. In doing so, I will keep this post as lucid as possible without inundating it with legalese.
As stated in the last post, when the Ministry of Planning was asked to clarify on the legality of constituting an executive body such as the UIDAI without there being a specific legislation in place which sanctioned the collection of information under the UID project, the Ministry cited the Attorney General’s opinion who seems to have relied upon Article 73 of the Constitution.
Now what does Article 73 envisage and permit? Below is the relevant portion of the Article which the Attorney General appears to have relied upon to justify what he calls “Executive Authorisation”:
Article 73: Extent of the Executive Power of the Union
Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive power of the Union shall extend
To the matters with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws
Let’s interpret this Article step by step. The provision starts with a contingent clause i.e. a “Subject to” clause. This means that all other relevant provisions of the Constitution shall act as a limitation on the executive power of the Central Government (“Union”) to deal with matters with respect to which the Parliament has the right to legislate.
Simply put, if there is any other provision in the Constitution which prevents the Central Government from issuing notifications in the absence of a specific legislation made by the Parliament, such notifications would be patently unconstitutional.
The UID, without a doubt, deals with the private details of individuals, and consequently falls within the realm of “privacy”. The Supreme Court has time and gain clarified that privacy-related issues fall within the ambit of Article 21 since right to privacy has been interpreted as being integral to “right to life” under Article 21.
Therefore, the question is, does the Constitution permit intrusion into privacy through mere executive orders such as the UIDAI notification? Or does the Constitution mandate passing a legislation which is fair and reasonable before private details can be collected?
Article 21 states,
Protection of Life and Personal Liberty: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law
Clearly, Article 21 frowns upon intrusion of privacy except “according to procedure established by law”. Therefore, if the UID notification does not fall under the category of “procedure established by law”, the UPA government cannot invoke its “executive powers” under Article 73 to lend legal sanctity to the UID project.
In as early as 1950, in what is still one of the most celebrated decisions of the Supreme Court on the power of the State to summarily abridge the rights of an individual, the Apex Court in A.K.Gopalan v. The State of Madras held that the reference to “law” in “procedure established by law” in Article 21 is to a formal statute/legislation. In other words, there must be a specific statute which must be invoked to impose restrictions on the life and liberty of any person. This applies to restrictions on and intrusions into the privacy of any person (not just citizen).
Keeping with above requirement of a formal legislation, when information is sought by passport offices, they do so under the Passports Act, 1967. When Road Transport authorities seek details for issuing driving licenses and permits, they do so under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and Central Motor Vehicles Rules. In stark contrast to these legislations, there is no parent legislation which governs the UID notification. This ground alone is sufficient to strike down the UID notification as being unconstitutional. But the story doesn’t end there…
Let’s take a look at what the UID Authority is empowered to do:
(i)    Generate and assign UID numbers
(ii)    Define mechanisms and processes for interlinking UID with partner databases on a continuous basis.
(iii)    Frame policies and administrative procedures related to updating mechanism and maintenance of UID data base on an ongoing basis.
(iv)    Coordinate / liaise with implementation partners and user agencies as also define conflict resolution mechanism.
(v)    Define usage and applicability of UID for delivery of various services.
(vi)    Operate and manage all stages of UID lifecycle.
(vii)    Adopt phased approach for implementation of UID especially with reference to approved timelines.
(viii)    Take necessary steps to ensure collation of NPR with UID (as per approved strategy).
(ix)    Ensure ways for leveraging field level institutions appropriately such as Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in establishing linkages across partner agencies as well as its validation while cross linking with other designated agencies.
(x)    Evolve strategy for awareness and communication of UID and its usage.
(xi)    Identify new partner / user agencies.
(xii)    Issue necessary instructions to agencies that undertake creation of data bases, to ensure standardization of data elements that are collected and digitized and enable collation and correlation with UID and its partner data bases.
(xiii)    Frame policies and administrative procedures related to hiring / retention / mobilization of resources, outsourcing of various tasks and budgeting and planning for UIDAI and all State units under UIDAI.
The sheer magnitude of powers vested in an executive authority such as the UIDAI in relation to an issue which affects privacy of individuals, in the absence of a governing legislation which provides for safeguards, is atrocious and outrageous.
Where is the safeguard to prevent the use of skewed metrics to profile the population, and that too to facilitate anti-national policies of the Government of the day? Where is the attribution of liability for goof-ups and blunders committed by the authorities? When illegal migration is a raging issue, where is the caveat against legitimizing illegal immigrants by providing them with Aadhaar cards?
Excessive delegation of such vast powers to the executive authority is a strict no-no under Indian law. Here’s what the Supreme Court had to say in Devi Das Gopal Krishnan and Ors.Vs. State of Punjab and Ors. (1967) on the issue of excessive delegation:
“The Constitution confers a power and imposes a duty on the legislature to make laws. The essential legislative function is the determination of the legislative policy and its formulation as a rule of conduct. Obviously it cannot abdicate items functions in favor of another. But in view of the multifarious activities of a welfare State, it cannot presumably work out all the details to suit the varying aspects of a complex situation. It must necessarily delegate the working out of details to the executive or any other agency.
But there is a danger inherent in such a process of delegation. An overburdened legislature or one controlled by a powerful executive may unduly overstep the limits of delegation. It may not lay down any policy at all; it may not declare its policy in vague and general terms; it may not set down any standard for the guidance of the executive; it may confer an arbitrary power on the executive to change or modify the policy laid down by it without reserving for itself and control over subordinate legislation. This self effacement of legislative power in favour of another agency either in whole or in part is beyond the permissible limits of delegation..”
This was the observation of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a case where there was already governing parent legislation in place. In the case of the UID project, I repeat there is no parent legislation at all. Therefore, this caveat against vesting an executive authority with unchecked powers applies all the more to the UID authority.
In light of the above, I can’t help asking this question- How on earth have the Congress-led UPA government in the Centre and a few State Congress governments gotten away with the blatant implementation of the UID project for 4 years since 2009. Where are the bleeding heart liberal voices and mombattiwallahs who arrogate to themselves the exalted status of being the sole guardians of civil liberties? Hypocrisy much? I’d say so…


#India – All in the Name of the Poor #UID #Aadhaar


Vol – XLVIII No. 13, March 30, 2013 , Editorial

Who will be the real beneficiaries of the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme?

Why is there little or practically no information in the 2013-14 budget on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s pet scheme to bring about direct cash transfer payments to eventually replace price subsidies for food, fuel and fertiliser products? Who are going to be the real beneficiaries of the direct cash transfers via Aadhaar-linked bank accounts using the unique identification (UID) platform?

Food will not immediately be replaced by direct cash transfers, but the ultimate objective is to do so, especially with the impending passage of the National Food Security Bill. The union cabinet has approved the draft legislation which is expected to be introduced in the current session of Parliament. An election promise of 2009, the bill has had few supporters in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. If it is now being pushed through it is surely on account of electoral considerations with an eye to the next Lok Sabha elections. But the food subsidy budgeted for 2013-14 is only Rs 90,000 crore (compared to the revised figure of Rs 85,000 crore in the current financial year), though the finance minister has said he will provide Rs 10,000 crore more. This will still be grossly inadequate for any food security programme. The fertiliser subsidy, on its part, has actually come down quite significantly, from the actual figure of Rs 70,013 crore in 2011-12 to the budgeted Rs 65,971 crore in 2013-14. The revised petroleum subsidy was Rs 96,880 crore in 2012-13 (revised estimates) and has been put at a mere Rs 65,000 crore next year. Should we not see all these figures in the light of what is on the anvil?

For political reasons, the government has been promoting the direct cash transfer scheme as an anti-corruption measure. But the real objective of the government is, of course, that it sees this as the way to reduce the “major subsidies” bill. On food, for example, given food inflation at more than 10% per annum, if the government keeps a check on the direct cash transfer payments, indeed, ensures that its real value per average household, i e, relative to consumer food price inflation rate, is not protected, then it will gradually reduce the major subsidies bill as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Beginning this year, the government has initiated the Direct Benefit Transfer programme in 26 schemes (mainly for payment of scholarships of various kinds), confining it to persons who have a UID card and a bank account linked with the UID interface. But next month, the direct cash transfer scheme is to be introduced in the public distribution system (PDS) in six union territories. So the government will eventually presumably do away with the PDS in these union territories. But the direct cash transfer scheme is to be eventually scaled up to the national level. To understand the implications, keep in mind that the UID is not just for the poor or those eligible for cash transfers who have to procure UID cards. The UID involves the recording of photographs, fingerprints and iris scans of the whole population, and the entire information is then stored in a centralised, national security database. In 2013-14, some 600 million persons are expected to be photographed, fingerprinted and iris scanned. Most of the 6,00,000 villages in the country do not have a bank branch, but the government envisages the opening of some 200 million accounts, all interfaced with the UID. What is, in effect, being created is an information technology (IT) infrastructure that links all bank accounts to the UID, and, this, at the public expense.

The poor, in whose name all this is being done, have no savings worth the name and the banks do not give them loans because they lack the collateral security. We are not exaggerating; the pilot schemes that we just referred to are going to be “expanded nationwide to various transfer of all benefits” (“Statements…as required under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act”, Union Budget 2013-14). Of course, the poor will have to deal with the banks via their banking correspondents (BCs) who will no doubt get their cut from the banks via the government coffers, but who is to stop these BCs from charging their customers more than the banks’ approved rates?

Think of it, a whole centralised, national security database is being created that can potentially be used to monitor the people enrolled in the UID, all this with no democratic accountability. Besides, via the banks, the financial system, much of it private-profit oriented, will have in place access to this database and thousands of crores of rupees under direct cash payment transfers, in effect very large additional sums of money, routed through them. And, the increasing flow of such benefits will be accompanied by the gradual dismantling of the PDS.

What then about diesel, kerosene, LPG, fertiliser and electricity subsidies? Basically, the pricing policy for subsidised goods will change to make the total amount of the subsidy “affordable” to the government and the subsidies will be better targeted, once more via Aadhaar-linked bank accounts using the UID platform. Overall, the expenditure on “major subsidies” will be targeted to come down from 2% of GDP in 2013-14 to 1.8% in 2014-15 and 1.6% in 2015-16. After all, doesn’t the UPA government fully agree with Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch that its major subsidies bill is “unproductive expenditure”? And, isn’t the Bharatiya Janata Party also won over to this idea of direct cash transfer payments? The biggest two beneficiaries of the whole operation, especially of the UID platform and the integrated database it has created, will, of course, be so-called national security and the financial, especially the banking, system.

The Aadhaar Card – What are the real intentions of the UPA ? #UID

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN07 - Nandan M. Nilekan...





Berges Malu / Monday, DNA  February 18, 2013 0:38 IST


The UPA government operates by stealth these days, everything from passing IT laws (remember how the IT Law was passed without any opposition) to executing terrorists, all committed through stealth. It seems the government either doesn’t seem to have the guts or the wherewithal to be bold about the decisions it would like to take.



The latest stealth move by the current government, is to demand citizens have an Aadhar card for such regular things as buying cooking gas to demanding information under the Right to Information (RTI) act. This shows how the current government would like to turn India from a liberal democracy into a closely monitored police state cause let’s be honest, this government has no intention of taking care of the aam aadmi, if it did, it wouldn’t let lakhs of farmers commit suicide around the nation, displace thousands in the commonwealth games and let the economy slow down thus stifling the creation of new jobs for youth coming out of school every year. The UID is simply a method of surveillance, surveillance not to prevent rapes, thefts and murders, which this government has no intention of preventing, but instead to make the life of the common man a bigger struggle than it already is.





The Aadhar card was introduced by the PM along with Nandan Nilekani and his ‘dream team’ (which comprised of mostly NRI’s- an issue for another debate) as an optional card that wasn’t meant to be mandatory for all citizens. What started out as a simple identity card that would be provided to all Indians, turned into a card that would benefit the poor and now into a card mandatory for receiving all/any benefits from the government. Recently it was reported schools in Thane started demanding that parents provide an Aadhar card number or admission wouldn’t be granted to their children and in a separate move the chief secretary of Maharashtra JK Banthia sent out a circular saying one should provide their Aadhar card number to demand information under RTI. This deception by the government is unsurprising what with the massive scams we hear about daily.




The writing on the wall is thus clear, the government is slowly using stealth means to make the Aadhar card mandatory for all citizens. And oddly enough, the Aadhar card by itself is illegal, as Parliament has refused to pass a bill that was aimed to legalize the Aadhar card, and the government is pumping large amounts of money into the scheme, according to some estimates nearly Rs 150,000 crore. I won’t be surprised, if a scam turns up out of this too.




Besides there’s no clue where all that bio-metric data that the government plans on collecting may land up, as The Hindu recently had a story that mentioned that much of the data is being collected and collated by an American company that under US law would have to turn over data to the US government if asked for it.




Soon power will not be measure in how much money you acquire or who you know but the anonymity you possess.



“You don’t have a digital footprint… people with that kind of anonymity in this age, that’s true power” – Logan Pierce – Person of Interest




#India’s Cash course- will it succeed ?

As the government gets ready to roll out its ambitious cash transfer of subsidies scheme on January 1, an on-the-ground report on how the experiments are working outVeenu Sandhu, Santosh Tiwari & Indulekha Aravind / New Delhi/ Bangalore

Dec 08, 2012, 00:10 IST , Buisness Standard

M B Chinnappa, chief manager of State Bank of Mysore, has been rushing from one meeting to another. It’s his job to ensure that by December 15, at least one member of each of the 535,000 households in Mysore district has a bank account. The account will be linked to his unique identity number, Aadhaar, and subsidies for different welfare schemes will be transferred directly to the account from January 1. For Chinnappa, the challenge is to make sure that over 200,000 accounts are opened in a little over a week in the 360 bank branches in the district. “Efforts have been launched on a war footing and I’m sure we will meet the target,” says Chinnappa, before rushing off to his next appointment at the Akashvani station where he is scheduled to give an interview on the subject which will be broadcast all over Karnataka.

Men like Chinnappa have been galvanised into action for what is being seen as the biggest governance reform of recent times: transfer of subsidies directly to the poor and needy. The spin doctors of the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, have begun to call it a game changer — something that will help it overcome the negativity generated by recent scams before the 2014 general elections. The political overtures of the tagline leave nothing to the imagination: Aapka paisa aapke haath (Your money in your hand; the Congress’s election symbol is the hand).

Ever since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced at Dudu in Rajasthan on October 20, in the presence of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, that the scheme would soon be unveiled, his office has worked overtime to ensure that it is launched in 51 districts on January 1, 2013, and the entire country by April 1, 2014. The real force behind the initiative is none other than Rahul Gandhi.

The starting point was the observation made by his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, that only 15 paisa out of every rupee given in subsidy reaches the poor. From the government, it is being piloted by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. He is supported by Finance Minister P Chidambaram who had, when he was home minister, raised serious doubts about the Aadhaar drive. Singh’s principal secretary, Pulok Chaterji, a bureaucrat known to be close to the Gandhis, is coordinating between the various agencies.

Nandan Nilekani, the Infosys promoter and honcho who left the corporate world to head the Unique Identification Authority of India, or UIDAI, is overseeing the Aadhaar rollout. That’s actually the real challenge. The Aadhaar numbers currently stand at 220 million, about 18 per cent of the country’s population. And about 40 per cent of these enrollments have come from just two states: Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Nilekani’s job is to enroll another 400 million by April 2014 in 16 states (the rest of the country will be covered by the home ministry in its National Population Register), or about 25 million a month.

Recent numbers aren’t encouraging. At the most, UIDAI has done 24.7 million enrollments in a month (January this year). In the last four months, enrollments have ranged from 5.31 million to 11.6 million a month. In at least half of the 51 districts that will go live with cash transfers from January 1, the target of 80 per cent Aadhaar penetration is yet to be achieved.

To begin with, the government plans to put 29 social schemes on cash transfer mode. These include payments of wages and pensions. The first pilot was run in four districts of Jharkhand a year ago; wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme were put into the bank accounts of more than 3,500 beneficiaries using their Aadhaar numbers. In Aurangabad, Maharashtra, pensions under five social-security schemes are now paid on the basis of Aadhaar. Another pilot for pensions is running in Tripura. That’s the easy bit. The tough part will be fuel, food and fertiliser subsidies. The first of these will be fuel subsidy: kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG.

* * *

Kotkasim, a block of 24 villages in Alwar district of Rajasthan, some 180 km south of Delhi, is where the pilot on kerosene is being carried out. Since last December, ration shops here no longer sell kerosene at the subsidised price of Rs 15 a litre; it’s sold at Rs 50 a litre (the price was recently raised from Rs 45 a litre). The difference is put into the bank accounts of the people by the government. There are 25,000 ration-cards in Kotkasim. Those with two LPG cylinders were told that they are not entitled to subsidised kerosene. Finally, 20,000 eligible beneficiaries were identified. Those with a gas connection could buy two litres of kerosene, and those without could buy three litres. As many as 14,000 new bank accounts were opened. The subsidy for the next three months, which ranged from Rs 175 to Rs 263, was deposited in each account. Subsequent subsidy would be deposited into the accounts of only those ration-card holders who buy the kerosene from the ration shops.

Kerosene, admit both the shopkeepers and ration-card holders, was being sold in bulk to anybody who came armed with ration cards. At Rs 15 a litre, it was much cheaper than diesel (around Rs 42 a litre) and was used to run generators, water pumps and, as one dealer claims, even tractors after mixing it with diesel. Not every family in this rather well-to-do area needed three litres of kerosene a month and would willingly lend their ration cards to proxy buyers, for a cut of course. The difference between the market price and the subsidised one was a huge incentive for shopkeepers to divert supplies. Most succumbed to the temptation.

The year-old pilot project has, however, put an end to this. “Kerosene sale in the area, which was about 84,000 litres a month a year ago, has plunged by nearly 70 per cent,” says Alwar District Collector Ashutosh A T Pednekar with evident satisfaction. This, he claims, has happened because leakages have stopped and the black market has disappeared. Shopkeepers and buyers, on their part, say many poor people can’t afford to buy kerosene any longer. Maybe they’ve found some other use for the money, though liquor shops and sweetmeat sellers haven’t seen any noteworthy rise in demand. People also blame the administration, saying it doesn’t deposit the money on time in their accounts.

There are other problems too. Dharamvir Singh Chaudhary has been running a ration shop in Kotkasim for 13 years. Till last year, he would get 1,800 litre of kerosene a month and every drop of it would get sold. His commission was 90 paisa a litre. Now, he has to buy kerosene at Rs 50 but the commission remains the same, 90 paisa. This has seriously cut his return on investment. “Initially, the district supply officer gave each dealer a cheque of Rs 3,000 to compensate for this sudden burden, but we’ve got nothing since then. On top of that, I’m straddled with this,” he says pointing to the 220-litre drum of kerosene lying in the courtyard in front of his shop. “The government is forcing us to buy it and stock it.”

Last month, after much resistance, Chaudhary bought two drums (440 litre) for Rs 22,000 from the supply van. “The inspector said if I don’t stock it, my licence as dealer would be cancelled,” he says, calling it blackmail. He then decided to pass on this “burden” to the people who came to buy ration from his shop. “We [the shopkeepers] told them that if they wanted to buy wheat from our shops, they would have to first buy kerosene,” he admits, adding that he managed to “get rid of” one drum between 90 ration-card holders. Nirmala Devi, another shopkeeper, wants her commission to be raised from 90 paisa a litre to Rs 5-6.

Beneficiaries make numerous visits to the designated banks (State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and Rajasthan Gramin Bank) to find out if the subsidy has come into their accounts. But there are others, daily-wage earners, who cannot afford to make even one trip. The villages in Kotkasim are spread out; some are 17 km away from the bank. One trip to the bank would mean a day’s work gone, a day’s wages (Rs 150-300) lost.

Sensing a business opportunity, a team from Vodafone has been visiting Kotkasim to study the feasibility for mobile-banking solutions. Teams from Kerala and Chhattisgarh too have descended on Kotkasim to study its cash transfer model. The verdict: the administration is satisfied, shopkeepers are hassled and consumers confused.

* * *

Several hundred miles to the south, in Mysore, another pilot was launched in January this year for the targeted delivery of LPG cylinders using Aadhaar: gas connections will be linked to the Aadhaar number. In the next phase, consumers will be given the subsidy directly in their banks. The district was chosen for its high Aadhaar enrollment rate — till last month, 94.8 per cent of the total population of 2.99 million had enrolled. Three gas agencies have been chosen for the experiment, one each of state-owned IndianOil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum.

At his swank IndianOil agency in Vani Vilas Market, Vinod Maroli says he has delivered close to 18,000 cylinders so far in this manner. (The agency has over 25,000 customers.) The new delivery mechanism has helped check diversion to the black market, says Maroli. Due to the streamlining of the process, the number of days a customer has to wait for a new cylinder has gone down from seven to two. Tellingly, the number of cylinders the agency delivers has also reduced, though Maroli cannot say by how much. “But the fact that there has been a 40 per cent dip in product movement across the country should give you an idea of the scale,” he says.

An IndianOil executive, requesting anonymity, says the results have been encouraging. “We have established that the first phase [the delivery of cylinders via Aadhaar biometric identification] works, so now we have to test the next stage,” he says. All three agencies have delivered around 40,000 cylinders that were Aadhaar-verified since the scheme was launched in January, he says, and subsidy transfers have already taken place in small groups. At the moment, all agencies in the district have been asked to focus on ensuring their customers have Aadhaar-linked bank accounts, he adds. From January, the project will go live. The first phase seems to have gone off without glitches. The next phase is the acid test.

However confident State Bank of Mysore’s Chinnappa may be, it will be no mean task to ensure that over 200,000 people open bank accounts in the space of a week. Many feel that the deadline could well be postponed. At the food and civil supplies department, the overseeing authority for LPG cylinders, officials are unclear about the next phase of the Aadhaar pilot, saying they are yet to receive any kind of official notification of the January 1 rollout. “Whatever we know is from what we read in the newspapers,” says one of them.



#India- Sibal’s Law: ‘Grossly offensive’ and of ‘menacing character’ #censorship #foe #fos

courtsey jasrajbhatti at
November 01, 2012 10:41 IST,
Kapil Sibal has passed a law that anyone posting anything “offensive” on Twitter can be jailed for three years. That’s section 66A of the IT Act amended by United Progressive Alliance [ Images ] II in 2008.’

‘It’s a cognisable offence so you have to be arrested and apply for bail. As though you had committed murder!’ notes Shivam Vij.

So an aam aadmi tweeted that the Union finance minister’s son Karti P Chidambaram [ Images ] has amassed more wealth than Robert Vadra, and voila, he gets arrested! Chidu Jr tweets: ‘Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets.’

Except that, as far as is known, the businessman whose Web site describes him as ‘The Young Politician’, has not charged the writer of the ‘defamatory’ tweet with defamation. Why not?

Because he’d have to prove defamation in court. Because the person won’t be arrested right away. Because Chidu Sr’s esteemed colleague Shri Kapil Sibal [ Images ] has passed a law that anyone posting anything ‘offensive’ on Twitter can be jailed for three years. That’s section 66A of the IT Act amended by United Progressive Alliance II in 2008.

It’s a cognisable offence so you have to be arrested and apply for bail. As though you had committed murder!

If the same allegation was made on wall graffiti or by Arvind Kejriwal at a press conference, nobody would go to jail. But say it on Twitter and the long arm of the law gets a little longer.

Why is it that Subramanian Swamy can make strong corruption allegations against Karti P Chidambaram, as he did back in April, but Chidu Jr won’t put Subramanian Swamy in jail?

An aam aadmi, however, is not dangerous to politicians. The Tamil Nadu police even wanted to keep the man in jail ‘on remand’ for 15 days, but a magistrate granted him bail.

This proves what a lot of us have been arguing: That the real and only intent of Kapil Sibal’s draconian Internet laws is to crush dissent, is to tell people that talking about the Congress party‘s corruption is not allowed.

Welcome to 1975, or was it 1984?

While various aspects of growing Internet censorship in India [ Images ] have been commented on, it appears that the most dangerous one of them has not received sufficient attention. That’s because it’s a draconian aspect of the Information Technology Act which many thought wouldn’t be misused. After all we aren’t China.

But alas, our blanket faith in the inherent goodness of the Indian democratic system allows our rulers to trample upon our rights. That is how Communications Minister Kapil Sibal can grin and claim, every now and then, that he is not for censorship and control over the Internet. He can lie through his teeth and we allow him to get away with it.

Section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, came into force in 2010. The section makes punishable with three years in jail posting online ‘any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character.’

There’s more to it. A non-bailable arrest warrant for you if you upload information that you knew was false, but you posted it only to cause ‘annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will.’

Yes, annoyance and inconvenience.

There have already been at least three cases of misuse of this section, before even Kapil Sibal’s colleague’s son put it to use.

In April 2011, the West Bengal [ Images ] police arrested Jadavpur University Professor Ambikesh Mohapatra for merely forwarding on e-mail a cartoon making fun of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee [ Images ], using a reference to a Satyajit Ray [ Images ] detective story. It reached Mamta Banerjee and she was offended.

Sibal’s Law was used and the cartoonist was in jail.

Other charges — such as defamation and insulting women under the Indian Penal Code — were not cognisable, so it was only Sibal’s Law that treated him like, well, a gross offender.

Similarly, Congress and Dalit activists in Maharashtra [ Images ] targeted cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for his anti-corruption cartoons that he displayed at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai [ Images ] in December 2011. Their real intent, it seems, was to show the Anna Hazare movement as being anti-national. They charged him with the cognisable offence of sedition, but also with Sibal’s Law — because the cartoons were also available online.

His Web site cartoonsagainstcorruption was shut down in less than 24 hours, using another bit of Sibal’s Law, the intermediary liability rules. Aseem found himself in jail for a few days in September.

More recently, a Chandigarh resident Heena Bakshi was angry with the local police for not doing much to recover her stolen car. She posted an angry message on the Facebook page of the Chandigarh police. It said:

You people kill us with your ‘nakaas’ n check points. Harassing us if we are just driving around at night. But you have no f*****g clue when somebody steals that car from under your eyes. The police started questioning me. If I was making this whole **** up or if someone actually stole it.

Does she deserve jail for this? Well, Sibal’s Law came to the aid of the Chandigarh police. I don’t know if Ms Bakshi has found her car yet.

In all these cases it is clear that the powers-that-be — politicians and government – are using Sibal’s Law to muzzle our voices, to silence dissent, to discourage we the people from expressing out anger against the government.

If this is not the Emergency mindset, what is it?

I find Kapil Sibal’s eyebrows offensive. I can’t put him in jail for that but he can put me in jail for saying as much online. If his law did not apply only to the Internet, but to everything, then that would be fair. In such a fair world I would be able to apply Section 66A against the gross offence his eyebrows cause me.

Sibal announces every other week censorship is not his intent. He says it as if we are supposed to be grateful to him for that. As if we should burst into screams of joy, ‘All hail Indian democracy!’ But the above examples show that Internet censorship is very much his intent.

In other words, he spreads a lie every time he claims censorship is not his government’s intent. If he was to say this on the Internet I would be able to apply his own law on him and have him arrested!

As I said, section 66A includes this as punishable, cognisable offence: ‘Any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill-will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device.’

The government has appropriated to itself the task of deciding what is reasonable speech and what is unreasonable speech. That task should belong to the courts and the Indian Penal Code is enough for that.

If the tweet is defamatory, Chidu Jr should file a defamation case. There is no need for any special law for the Internet. The need for special Internet laws is felt by the powerful who realise that criticism and dissent are no longer the monopoly of a pliable, corporate media.

Those troubled by the aam aadmi‘s uncontrollable criticism include the corporate media. Senior television journalists like Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose constantly complain about online trolling and ‘hate speech’. They have thus helped build an environment in favour of Sibal’s Law — ‘causing annoyance’, ‘menacing character’, ‘grossly offensive’ are all good descriptors of how the powerful see online dissent.

These journalists have thus favoured draconian laws while paying lip service to free speech by arguing that while corporate media is covered by legal restrictions online media seems to be a free-for-all.

But I am also only demanding equality. Mamta Banerjee walked out of a Sagarika Ghose show in Kolkata [ Images ]. She was offended by the questions posed to her. She was also offended by the cartoon a professor forwarded on e-mail.

While the professor had to go to jail and seek bail and will be doing the rounds of the courts to defend himself, Sagarika Ghose has not been charged with the cognisable offence of ‘causing annoyance’ or being ‘grossly offensive’ to Mamata Banerjee.

If Sibal’s Law applies to a professor, why should it not apply to an editor? Is CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose more equal before the eyes of the law than a professor who imparts education?

I have a point Sagarika, don’t you think so? If my question annoys you, please don’t use Sibal’s Law against me.

Shivam Vij


#India- Blundering on land and #Aadhaar #UID #Biometrics

Praful Bidwai,

Aadhaar-UID system is fraught with serious flaws which will affect poor the most.

The fanfare with which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi launched a service delivery scheme in Rajasthan based on the Aadhaar (foundation) unique identity (UID), and celebrated the issue of the first Aadhaar number topping the 200-million mark, should make the Indian National Congress a very worried party indeed—assuming it has a good survival instinct and basic grasp of practical politics.

To put it starkly, the Congress and with it, the United Progressive Alliance, is sleepwalking into a minefield with plans to roll out Aadhaar-enabled service delivery schemes in 51 districts in India, and later extend them to the entire country.
The Aadhaar-UID system is fraught with serious flaws and uncertainties, which will affect poor people the most. To make the provision or entitlement to the Public Distribution System (for food), payment of wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), and delivery of old-age pensions and scholarships dependent on Aadhaar is to expose them to unacceptable risk.
Yet, the Rajasthan government has linked 10 schemes to Aadhaar, including those listed above, and entitlements to subsidised medical treatment, the Mukhyamantri BPL Gramin Awas Yojana (rural housing for those officially recognised as BPL, or living below-poverty-line), and the Asha Sahayogini scheme for women who raise public awareness about health, nutrition and sanitation and mobilise people for health facilities.
What is wrong with Aadhaar? First of all, the 12-digit Aadhaar identity number generated by the Unique Identity Authority of India for each citizen is neither unique nor reliable. The biometric techniques it uses, involving a photograph, fingerprints and an iris scan, is untested and riven with uncertainty. Experts point to many technical errors, including indistinct fingerprints due to calluses, and poor iris scans due to cataracts. The UIDAI mission director has himself admitted that fingerprints are not likely to work reliably for authentication. These errors could end up excluding up to 15 percent of the population.
Second, Aadhaar is susceptible to some of the same factors—e.g. bureaucratic lethargy, callousness towards the poor, and influence of the powerful—that result in inaccurate compilation of BPL lists, leading in many cases to the exclusion of 40 percent of poor people. Technology provides no assurance of authenticity for Aadhaar. Every exclusion of the genuinely poor from Aadhaar will heap yet more injustice upon them besides costing the UPA heavy erosion of political support.
Third, last year Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 (to give legal backing for the whole exercise), and termed the project “directionless” and “conceptualised with no clarity of purpose”. It also called the technology used “untested, unproven, unreliable and unsafe”. It raised concerns about privacy, identity theft, misuse, security of data and its duplication and also noted serious differences of opinion within the government, including objections by the Planning Commission.
These are matters of great gravity. No computer is foolproof against hacking; and data loss or theft has serious consequences. The Committee strongly disapproved of the hasty manner in which the UID scheme was approved and said that going ahead with it would be “unethical and violative of Parliament’s prerogatives”.
Faced with these objections, UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani promised that the Aadhaar number would not be used as mandatory proof of identity for the provision of public services. But the opposite is happening. It’s even proposed to make Aadhaar compulsory even for opening a bank account.
India is moving towards converting public-service provision into Aadhaar-based cash transfers so the state can wash its hands of its obligations to the people. Dr Singh has just up a high-level committee on cash transfers. But cash is no substitute for creating services/facilities, which don’t exist.
Even more politically disastrous is the UPA’s deception on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill. Land is probably the most important site of people’s struggles in defence of their livelihoods and survival rights.
The Bill was meant to be a generous improvement over the colonial Land Acquisition Act 1894 and was touted as a major gain for farmers, and a great legacy of UPA-2, comparable to UPA-1’s NREGA. Originally, it was to exclude tribal lands and limit the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land to five percent of the total, to require the consent of 80 percent of both land losers and those whose livelihoods depend on land (e.g. agricultural workers, rural artisans, etc), to apply to ongoing land acquisition where possession hasn’t been taken, and to provide compensation at four to six times the market value of land.
All this was diluted under pressure from the industry, commerce and urban development ministries, and Big Business lobbies, to make the Bill “investor-friendly”. In the Group of Ministers headed by none other than Mr Sharad Pawar, said to be one of our biggest landowners, the 80 percent consent norm was downgraded to “approval” by two-thirds of land losers—never mind the livelihood losers. Tribal land can still be acquired, but as the “last resort”. Contrary to earlier promises, even double displacement would be permitted, albeit in “exceptional” cases. But permitted it will be.
The proposed National Manufacturing and Investment Zones have been exempted from the Bill. It will only apply to future, not ongoing, land acquisitions. And the states have been asked to follow a “sliding scale” of compensation, of between two and four times the market value. Besides, “linear projects” like railways, highways and power lines have been exempted altogether.
Relief and rehabilitation obligations on private buyers, earlier mandatory for acquisitions above 100 acres, have been left to the discretion of the states. Instead of taking rehabilitation responsibility till the project is completed, promoters will only make a one-off payment into an escrow account and won’t have build infrastructure or amenities for the affected people. The account will be managed by a special agency. How responsive it will be to people remains to be seen.
Since then, Ms Sonia Gandhi has intervened to restore the 80 percent consent norm for land losers, but that’s a relatively minor change which only partially undoes the harm. The truth is, even in its modified form, the LARR Bill would at best be a cosmetic improvement over the 1894 Act. No wonder the National Alliance of People’s Movements has called it retrograde because it will transfer “precious natural resources to private corporations and fuel corruption and land conflict”.
The main positive feature of the Bill is that it mandates a Social Impact Assessment, including of whether a project serves a public purpose, and evaluate its presumed benefits and social costs for the project-affected families, with public hearings to be held at the site. The SIA report would be examined by an Expert Group, with some non-governmental representatives, including two social scientists, which can recommend the scrapping of a project.
Another positive feature is that the loss of a house would be made up through the grant of another house, and families affected by irrigation projects would get one acre of land in the command area—although they might lose much more.
However, as past experience with the corrupted Environmental Impact Assessment process vividly shows, the SIA is no guarantee that the project would be properly assessed. Besides, the Bill has accepted the industry lobby’s demand that the SIA be completed within six months—a virtually impossible task if an in-depth assessment is to be made and critically scrutinised.
As for compensation, it took many years even to estimate the social and environmental damage from the Narmada dam projects, leave alone compensate people for it. Thousands of displaced families, who were promised “land for land”, still remain un-rehabilitated, as the recent moving jal satyagraha in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh showed.
India has displaced 60 million people from land since Independence—equalling the entire population of Britain. Land is now the hottest subject of contestation between the people, on the one hand, and corporate interests and the state, on the other. Not only is land crucial to people’s right to live with dignity. It’s also tied up with the central question of control over the natural resources which it holds, including water, forests and minerals.
Under the present neoliberal model of capitalism, corporations invade nature in ways they have never done before to take over land, water and air, and forcibly turn them into commodities. All Third World countries, and especially fast-growing ones, are witnessing a modified repetition of what England saw in the 18th century—Enclosures of the Commons, or common property resources, including farmland and pastures—only at a faster pace, and with greater ruthlessness.
The UPA is facilitating this to feed corporate greed. Clearly, Ms Gandhi has decided to abdicate her responsibility to exercise a moderating influence on the UPA and push pro-people measures. She has probably convinced herself, perhaps against her own instincts, that GDP growth is all-important; to engineer it, India needs investment, whatever the cost. The UPA will end up paying heavily for this Himalayan misjudgment.
(The article was first published in The Kashmir Times)

Won’t allow Wal-Mart in Bengal: Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee
 West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said she would not allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailin the state.”They (union government) allowed FDI in retail, capped subsidised cooking gas and now they will invest pension money in the share market. By doing this, they want to ruin the country. They want to sell the country to foreigners,” Banerjee said at a public meeting in Tamluk in East Midnapore district.”They want to snatch your land and livelihood and set up Wal-mart here. But let me say this: ‘As long as I’m here, we will not allow Walmart to enter’. We cannot and will not allow anything that jeopardises the interest of common people,” Banerjee , the Trinamool Congress chief, said.

She was in district to inaugurate a slew of projects in Haldia.

Banerjee came down heavily on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for the steep hikes in diesel and fertiliser prices and said the government would have to roll back the hikes.

Following the UPA government’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, her party had withdrawn support from the ruling coalition last month.

Earlier in the day, Banerjee inaugurated a PET resin plant of Dhunseri Petrochem & Tea Limited, an edible oil plant of JVL Agro and a logistic park of Apeejay Surrendra Group in Haldia.

Dhunseri plans to increase its PET resin production capacity to 4,10,000 tonnes per annum with the second plant, investing Rs.400 crore.

JVL Agro has set up the 1,200 tonnes per day capacity plant, pumping in Rs.165 crore, while investment for the first phase of logistic park of Apeejay Surrendra would be around Rs.100 crore.

Banerjee expressed unhappiness over the union government delaying environmental clearance for eco-tourism project in Nayachar in the district.

She sought immediate clearance for the project. She said the government was also blocking Haldia’s industrial expansion by imposing a ban on industries citing environmental issues.

“Once there was a proposal that there would be a petrochemical hub. Then the objection was there. Now we will be doing eco-tourism. I do not know why they have blocked it. If they do not clear the area for the tourism project, let us go for another area and not wait for anybody,” she told a gathering here.

“I do not want to wait for anybody. If you want to do a job, you do it immediately. We cannot wait,” she said.

Banerjee had opposed the chemical hub for environmental reasons during the previous left Front government. After coming to power in May 2011, she revived Nayachar’s industrial plan, and proposed an eco-tourism project instead of the petrochemical project.

But the eco-project too hit a roadblock with the Ministry of Environment and Forestsseeking certain clarifications from the state government since a thermal power plant was also proposed along with the project.

About 70 percent of India is poor: NAC member

New Delhi: Debunking the government’s claim that the number of poor in India has come down, a top adviser has claimed that around 70 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion population is poor, and stressed the need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty.

“The government claim that poverty has come down is not valid… there is a need for a multi-dimensional assessment of poverty as around 70 percent of the population is poor,” National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena said in an interview.

According to Saxena, the various poverty estimates the government relies on to assess the impact of developmental schemes are faulty as they fail to factor in the lack of nutritional diet, sanitation, drinking water, healthcare and educational facilities available to the people.

The former bureaucrat, who now is part of the NAC that reports to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, claimed that not only the National Sample Survey Organisation data is faulty, the ongoing Socio-Economic and Caste Census, which is expected to throw up the latest poverty estimates, is highly flawed.

“The NSSO data is unreliable and the SECC is highly flawed,” said Saxena.

The National Advisory Council (NAC) was set up as an interface with civil society. The NAC provides policy and legislative inputs to the government with special focus on social policy and the rights of disadvantaged groups.

After the government faced flak over its latest poverty estimates, according to which anyone earning over Rs 28 per day in urban areas and Rs 26 per day in rural areas is not poor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a multi-layered approach is required to assess poverty as the widely accepted Tendulkar committee report “is not all inclusive”.

The government now plans to set up another expert panel to devise a new methodology to assess poverty levels in the country, said the prime minister.

The government recently revised its poverty estimates from earlier Rs 32 per day in urban areas and Rs.26 per day in rural areas based on 2011 prices, to the current estimate which is based on 2009 prices.

Using the Tendulkar panel report, the Planning Commission pegged poverty at 37.5 percent of the population.

Saxena said in reality out of about 200 centrally sponsored schemes, only 5 or 6 are linked to the poverty estimates, pegged at 37.5 percent by the Planning Commission.

Having a realistic assessment of poverty in not only crucial for the government to ensure that around Rs 80,000 crore that it spends on various welfare schemes annually reaches only the genuinely poor, it is also important for the United Progressive Alliance which hopes to roll out the ambitious National Food Security Bill, which aims to provide subsidised rations to around 65 percent of the 1.2 billion population some time next year.



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