To Aadhaar or Not to Aadhaar?

‘To Aadhaar or not to Aadhaar?’, is no longer a question. Government after passing the Aadhaar Act of 2016 as a money bill sent out a strong statement that Aadhaar is here to stay. Despite repeated orders from Supreme Court that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for welfare schemes, Government has gone ahead notifying Aadhaar as requirement for several things, including appearing for IIT-JEE! The government has vaguely assured or not assured privacy in the bills it has passed so far. For ‘national security’ reasons, Aadhaar details can be accessed by the bureaucrats. Now how do we define ‘national security’ here? Is slogan-raising Kanhaiya from JNU also a threat to a nuclear nation called India? Or MS Dhoni whose details were out on Twitter, also a threat to national security despite being a member of Territorial Army? Well, I agree, that we do need to start somewhere and the safeguards would be put up in place in the meantime.

The debate for privacy, as per some, in itself is elitist. What India needs right now is development, and Aadhaar is the key to that development. It has the potential to stop leakages (as in LPG subsidy), the benefits will directly reach the bank accounts, and more people would benefit from the system rather than a handful few. Imagine a poor village boy getting 1000 Rs. scholarship per month and getting the whole money without any hassle. The long term objective it seems is to make Unique Identification Number a repository of report cards, degrees, mobile numbers, bank transactions, jobs, travel journeys, etc. Anyone who can access the information will know probably know it all. Oh wait! How is this a privacy concern? Isn’t this uncannily similar to you accepting friend request of someone you have met once or twice? The newly added person now can know it all, all your posts, your photos, your good friends, your political beliefs, etc. Except, we do have a choice here. We have a choice to not use Facebook, or WhatsApp. We have a choice to not use Google, or Android phones. Privacy, they say, is a myth in twenty first century. Probably, yes. But then do we surrender it all? What choices are in front of us, at this juncture? With Aadhaar, for now, there is none. If we want to usher new era of development in India, Aadhaar is the way to go, at least that’s what Government is trying to say.

There are more than 1.1 Billion Aadhaar card holders in India now. In a matter of 6-7 years, we have created and successfully implemented a platform that if monetized can challenge the likes of Google and Facebook, writes, R Jagannathan of Swarajya. Though there’s no way to substantiate this claim, but it is still a valid argument. The data Aadhaar has is huge, and Jio and other telecom operators have banked on it successfully with e-KYC. But the argument that this data can be monetized, in itself, should be a valid concern. Do I have a choice, if I do not wish my data to be monetized. No. Aadhaar, though, has immense potential for data-driven governance to be implemented in a right manner. If the data is collected and segregated properly, the government will have a good idea of how much money is it spending and in which areas. Which areas should be targeted better, what can be done to improve facilities, etc. For proper implementation of Aadhaar-based services, proper technology and infrastructure needs to be put up in place. That itself is a big challenge. What if a farmer in Odisha goes to ration shop, only to realize his biometric authentication is not matching. This is not fiction, this has happened, and the UIDAI has admitted that it constantly monitors such happenings. The only hope is things will get better in coming years.

With government, having the authority to see all its citizens in their nakedness, the question arises, is the Government now the ultimate authority in a democracy? Replies to RTIs are being denied, uncomfortable questions are increasingly being seen as a threat to ‘positive’ nation-building exercise, whatever that means.  More and more media channels have become more like a mouthpiece of the Government, and the few those who do question are labelled as ‘presstitutes’ and ‘anti-nationals’. Now, if the State is all-powerful in a democracy, and citizens are denied a basic right to question, the question indeed is, whether the Big Brother is winning?

On the question of privacy:

This article in Scroll argues, that Aadhaar is being turned into world’s biggest surveillance system.

This article from The Wire takes on the privacy debate, with declaring that privacy is dead with Aadhaar.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in The Indian Express, eerily suggests that the Big Brother is winning.

This article on mashable.com, also argues that Aadhaar is a privacy nightmare.

Other related links:

A recent paper, by Vrinda Bhandari and Renuka Sane, puts up the question whether Aadhaar is grounded in adequate law and regulations. Find the article from Swarajya here.

Sunil Abraham, in Hindu Businessline, questions the security of Aadhaar. Find the article here.

Farhan Shaikh, in Swarajya, argues that we need Aadhaar to bank on India’s demographic challenges.

Some other issues that need UIDAI’s attention.

Scroll.in has run a series on Aadhaar, since last couple of years, named The Identity Project.

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Blemished

My face,
My love,
Is not without its blemishes.
Out in the sun and the moon,
Tanned, and scarred.
No pretense.

My face,
My love,
Is adulterated.
By hundreds of imperfections,
By thousands of memories.
Daunted and haunted.

My face,
My love,
Is not the best in the world.
But it is one of the many.
Smiling amidst heartbreaks,
Crying and laughing,
With you or without you.

My face,
My love,
Is not without its blemishes,
Is adulterated,
Is big enough to see and be seen,
Yet not enough,
To love and be loved.

शंतनु ( Shantanu )

Frida Kahlo: Self-portrait with thorn necklace

The Box

When she opened the box,
She found some silences,
Silence, when we lay together,
Looking at the stars.
Silence, when we swam together,
Meditating amidst the flowing bodies.
Silence, after the fight,
Silence, of things unsaid.
Silence, that speaks about the past.
Silence, that reminds about the future
that never was.

When she opened the box,
She found some silences,
Silences of mourning.
Mourning of you and I.
Memories that stayed silent.
Memories that we made together,
And memories that died with us.
The box smells of death,
Death of you and I, of us.

– Shantanudescott_evans_the_connoisseur

Unfulfilled

Some things in life,
are meant to be,
incomplete, unfulfilled.

Like some friendships,
some stories,
some treks, some journeys.

Like some hearts,
some cigarettes,
my love, and this poem.

-Shantanu

 

Happy World Poetry Day! Let there be resistance, let there be poetry!

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Anguish of a like

 

Last time I checked,
We were still friends,
on Facebook.
I think, you still follow me,
On Instagram.

Has the separation,
Of our real lives,
Affected our virtual likes?
You ‘loved” my poems, my posts.
You shared them.
I ‘loved” your poems, your pictures
Admired them, commented on them.
Now, I just ‘like” them.
Fearing, ‘loving’ would be too much.

My posts, they go unacknowledged.
A hundred ‘loves” won’t suffice,
A single like from you.
Am I asking for too much?

– Shantanu

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अपुरी (Incomplete)

 

कविता लिहिली,अर्धवटच..
वाटले की तू येशील, पूर्ण करशील.
तुला सांगितले पण बघ.
शब्द कळले नसावे, म्हणून भाषांतर केले..
कविता ऐकवली, अर्धवटच..

अपेक्षेने थांबलो होतो, चातकासारखा..
की तू येशील,
आणि त्या कागदावर,
शब्दांचा अमृत वर्षाव करशील.

मी दुष्काळातच रमतो आहे, अजुनही.
शब्द साठले बघ, आटले बघ.
कागदावर शाई अजुनही ओलीच आहे.
ते शब्दही व्याकुळ असतील.
की केव्हा त्यांचा अर्थ पूर्ण होईल.
की ते ही माझ्या आयुष्यासारखेच राहतील,
अर्थहीन.

– शंतनु

TRANSLATION: 

Wrote a poem, incomplete..
Wished you would come, complete it.
I told you about it,
Translated the words,
Hoping you would understand.
Narrated the poem, incomplete..

Waited for you,
Hoped you would come,
And pour your magical words,
On that paper.

I am entangled in a drought, still.
See, even the words have dried up.
The ink on that paper is still wet.
Even those words must be eager,
Wondering when would they give meaning to the poem.
Or would they, like my life, be rendered,
meaningless.

– Shantanu

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The Connoisseur

In a world defined by conventions,

we are anomalies.

You and I, it’s an anomaly.

Hope you find your voice,

to defy this order.

Hope you find your poetry,

to protest, to say the words unsaid.

And about me,,

I wish I’ll be the connoisseur.

 

-Shantanu

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D. Scott Evans – The Connoisseur

Reminiscence

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I am trying,
Trying to write a poem.
Hoping it’ll convey,
Some words unsaid.

In the long walks,
On those cold nights.
Treading on carpet, marble and grass.
Finding our way,
Contemplating life, people, and friendships.
Talking, drunk and high,
Sharing nightmares,
On those sleepless nights.
Barging into rooms,
Sharing chocolates, chips, and love.
Laying on one bed, lazily,
Or watching movies,
Amidst some adventures,
And misadventures.

Eternal return is a delusion.
Moment’s gone.
Life will not come back.
But memories will.
And hope you remember me,
And hope you miss me.
‘Cause I miss you.
‘Cause I love you.

– Shantanu

Incomplete

Read me a poem, will you?
In your presence,
In your voice.
The joys and the pain,
Amidst the sun and the rain.

Soon, you said.
I’m still waiting.
Nights are sleepless, you said,
And winters are cold.
I wait, in the cold winter,
And the same night sky.
Longing to hear,
Your words, your magic.

Now instead, I wrote a poem,
And it feels incomplete.
It’s not magical, but real.
I’m still waiting.
Come, complete it.
Fill it with magic, make it surreal.

– Shantanu