UID & EVM Are Against Basic Human Values

Gopal Krishna responds to the article by M K Venu in Indian Express on 24 September. Krishna is an activist. He runs ToxicsWatch Alliance, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), IMOWatch, MediaVigil & WaterWatch Alliance. He is also following the issues related to UID and EVM.

Gopal Krishna

Apropos the piece A unique liberal dilemma (M K Venu, Indian Express, 24 September), after the last UK elections, its clear that the campaign for citizens’ sovereignty in India directed against the UID project (Aadhar or Niraadhar) is most representative of the majority of Indians across all classes and all democracies. In a December 2008 paper of Population Council, New Delhi, it is estimated that 258 million adults in India are migrants, of which the majority are men migrating for employment. While there is an existing Inter-state Migrant Workmen Act,1979 and there is a Supreme Court judgement delivered in July, 1990 in a writ petition involving migrant workers to the effect that “every State/Union Territory in India shall be obliged to permit officers of the originating State of the migrant labour for holding proper inquiries within the limits of the recipient States for enforcement of the Act and no recipient State shall place any embargo or hindrance in such process”, the same has not been implemented. Has any newspaper raised this issue? How does UID play any role in this?

Citing migrant workers to justify UID appears to be an exercise in sophistry. The National Commission on Rural Labour, which submitted its report in 1991, studied the problem of inter-State migrant workmen in depth. This commission recommended third parties to file complaints to protect workers, ensure the liability of contractors and principal employers, setting up of Special Courts and changing the migration policy to reduce exploitation. Has any financial newspaper in particular deputed its reporters and editors to pursue it?

The most vulnerable and exploited migrant workers of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Orissa who work in Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat in a Guatanamo bay like condition akin to slaves with no rights. Their rights needs to be protected my genuine measures and not by fake initiatives like UID scheme. When The Financial Express took an editorial position to market Nandan Nilekani’s Image of India and his conception of identity of Indian citizens, the Managing Editor looked like a writer of a paid feature (advertorial). It does not engage with the issues raised by the majority of Indians who are as skeptical of UID as most political parties are of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM)which has been declared unconstitutional in Germany, scrapped in Ireland and many other countries. Notably, “Security Analysis of India’s Electronic Voting Machines“, a research paper to be presented in October, 2010 at the ACM Computer and Communications Security conference led to the arrest of Hari Prasad, the co-author of the paper although some 16 political parties representing almost half of the Indian parliament have expressed serious concerns about the use of electronic voting amidst intriguing silence by those who support UID project. It appears that somehow the mindset that promotes unquestioned use of EVM with a touching faith in likes of Nilekani is the same mindset that promotes UID project with astounding concerns for those Below Poverty Line and the migrant workers.

Mr Venu quotes Isaiah Berlin, a British philosopher and his concept of liberty implicitly underlining that UID does entail the issue of civil liberties. Did this newspaper ever take a position for migrant workers who face apartheid by local state governments and callousness from central government? The editor of this financial paper has failed examine why UK has abandoned a similar UID project because of massive and unprecedented people’s opposition. Had Isaiah Berlin been alive (he died in 1997)he would have supported his fellow British citizens in rejecting the party and the government that “oversold the advantages of identity cards” like Nilekani and his acolytes are doing. In UK, during the 2010 General Election campaign, the published manifestos of the various parties revealed that the Labour Party planned to continue the introduction of the identity card scheme, while all other parties pledged to discontinue plans to issue ID cards. The Conservative party also explicitly pledged to scrap the National Identity Register.

In the Conservative Party – Liberal Democrat Party Coalition Agreement that followed the 2010 General Election, the new UK government announced that they planned to scrap the ID card scheme, including the National Identity Register (akin to our National Population Register) as part of their measures ‘to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.’

In May 2010, the new UK government announced that the scrapping of the identity card scheme which would save approximately £86 million over the following 4 years, and avoid a further £800 million in maintenance costs over the decade which were to have been recovered through fees. Indian government will also save millions like UK did by scrapping Nilekani’s idea and accepting the opinion of majority of Indians who reject Nilekani’s allergy with citizens being sovereigns because it comes in the way of a toxic notion of industrial development. Isaiah Berlin had rightly said, “All forms of tampering with human beings, getting at them, shaping them against their will to your own pattern, all thought control and conditioning is, therefore, a denial of that in men which makes them men and their values ultimate.” UID project denies those non-negotiable values and is being marketed like a commercial commodity.