THE government presented the Aadhaar Bill as a financial Bill to circumvent the Rajya Sabha where it knew the Bill would not get passed (Cover Story, April 15). This is a breach of democratic norms.
The government claims that the data collected for Aadhaar will remain private and not be shared with other agencies. By its own admission, it has shared data with the French and U.S. administrations. Hackers and rogue elements have often breached national security, and governments around the world have been helpless.
The government’s claim that the biometric data is safe sounds unconvincing in light of the real threat that hacking and cyberattacks pose. Recently, hackers broke into the servers of a hospital in Los Angeles and installed a computer virus that prevented employees from accessing files. The institution had to pay a ransom in bitcoins to get its files released. In this digital age, one’s digital footprint is under the care of the government, which is ill-prepared to protect this data.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bengaluru
THE government’s eagerness to coerce all people to submit to biometric identification is dubious. Those in power seem to have forgotten one of the first protests that Gandhi led in South Africa was against the rule that required Indians to register their fingerprints with the police and carry identification papers on their person.
Firoz Ahmad, New Delhi
INDIA needs a data protection Act at the earliest as millions of people now have Aadhaar numbers and their data are available with different private and public entities. Citizens have no recourse if the data are misused.
A crucial issue is whether the data are hack-proof. Hackers from across the border have regularly attacked government websites. The law will also help to protect the data of users of mobile phones, which various applications ask permission to access when one wants to install a particular application.
Deendayal M. Lulla, Mumbai
THE Supreme Court made it clear to the government not to make Aadhaar mandatory for citizens who need to access any benefit otherwise due to them. The Central government’s aggressive push for Aadhaar is inexplicable and unreasonable. The way the government bulldozed the Bill through Parliament smacks of high-handedness.
Although the court has ordered that Aadhaar should not be used for any other purpose except under a court directive, mass surveillance using Aadhaar is a distinct possibility. People are being forced to enrol in Aadhaar, but the process is not hassle-free. Central government employees have been advised to link Aadhaar to their salary accounts without being told why this is necessary. Even schoolchildren have not been spared. The government should first take steps to issue every citizen an Aadhaar number before making it mandatory.
J. Anantha Padmanabhan, Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu
PRIVACY is not an abstract issue but is related to how the Aadhaar data are accessed and used. This must not be done in a way that can hurt citizens accidentally or deliberately. It is worth thinking about what could go wrong.
Although the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory for accessing services and benefits, there are many instances of old people being denied pension because they do not have an Aadhaar number or because the thumb impression does not tally with their biometric information.
It has been claimed that Aadhaar can eliminate the duplication of beneficiaries in government schemes and thereby save the public exchequer thousands of crores of rupees. In fact, de-duplication of identity cards such as ration cards has been done several times but with only a little success. It is not right to say that Aadhaar is the only means of identifying beneficiaries for government schemes.
T.S.N. Rao, Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh
THE Cover Story articles were well written, but no counterpoint was presented. Sweden and other welfare states and the U.S. have had social security cards/numbers for a long time now, so we cannot assume that India’s version will invade citizens’ privacy.
Bobby Balachandran, Chennai
IT is disturbing that “honour” killings relating to inter-caste marriages have assumed alarming proportions in Tamil Nadu (“In the name of honour”, April 15). Such dastardly acts will continue until the government, political parties and civil society make a concerted effort to put an end to them. It is only because political parties formed on caste lines continue to extend tacit support to the frenzied mobs of their caste that such heinous crimes are committed without fear of the law.
Merely ordering a probe into the daylight murder of V. Shankar in Udumalpet and submitting a report to the Human Rights Commission will not put an end to the agony victims’ families face. Only a law along the lines of the Nirbhaya Act will help prevent such murders from taking place.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad, Telangana
THE ugly phenomenon of khap panchayats with their instant justice is seen in many Indian villages (“Deceptive calm”, April 15). This sort of justice is a kind of terrorism as it strikes terror in people and creates a sense of insecurity and fear. Khap panchayats should be banned.
A.J. Rangarajan, Edison, New Jersey, U.S.
TERROR attacks such as the ones in Lahore and Brussels no longer shock many people as there are so many of them happening all over the world regularly (“Blowback in Europe”, April 15). No religion is in favour of killing people, but some preachers in their own self-interest are spreading a wrong message and brainwashing young people to follow it. Everyone has to be involved in destroying the roots of such terror activities. There is no other solution to end this kind of worldwide terror. The sad reality is that countries affected by terrorism are yet to devise a common strategy to combat the menace.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
THE sedition law hangs over Indian democracy like the sword of Damocles even though Jawaharlal Nehru made a strong argument for its annulment 65 years ago (“Colonial relic”, April 15). It is baffling that such an archaic law continues to get judicial approbation in India. It is all the more preposterous when the present dispensation uses the repressive law to suppress the voice of students and threaten the autonomy of universities.
Ayyasseri Raveendranath, Aranmula, Kerala
DESPITE the upheavals in some Central institutions of higher education, students pursuing higher education are generally docile and are not much perturbed by the events in the country (“Rising spirits”, April 15). The administrators mistake the silence of the majority of students as acceptance of their stand and believe that the unrest can be contained through bullying and repressive measures.
The media should be thanked for their extensive coverage of the happenings in HCU and JNU. It is regrettable that it has not evoked much anger among students and the public, but this cannot be taken as acceptance of the irresponsible action of the administrators. There is need for some hard thinking on the role student bodies should play in the administration of institutions.
S.S. Rajagopalan, Chennai
THE BJP government’s second Railway Budget was a welcome departure from the populist ones of its predecessors (“Off the rails”, April 1). Suresh Prabhu needs to be complimented for his efforts to seek to generate new/alternative sources of revenue for the Railways and to address the burning issues of cleanliness and passenger safety. The plan to introduce Wi-Fi in 100 more stations and satellite railway terminals in major cities is a truly pioneering step. What stands out in this Budget is the unprecedented focus given to punctuality of trains and the resolve to reduce accidents through the concept of “Mission Zero Accident”. The Budget can be described as a vision document that will lift the Indian Railways from its current economic morass.
B. Suresh Kumar, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
Art of Living
V.P. Rinshad, Puthur, Kerala
WHEN the arrangements for the festival were almost complete, the National Green Tribunal had no option but to give the green signal for the event. When the NGT was aware of the massive arrangements being made from December on the Yamuna floodplains, why did it not take suo motu action against the organisation? It is unfortunate that almost all the authorities that were entrusted with protecting the environment behaved like the proverbial ostrich when the floodplain was being wantonly destroyed.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
IT is not correct to say that the RSS never joined the freedom movement (“The nation according to Hindutva”, March 18). The first Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, Dr Kesav Baliram Hedgewar, was punished with nine months’ imprisonment in Akola Jail for participating in Jungle Satyagraha.
When the Indian National Congress decided to celebrate January 30, 1930, as “Independence Day”, Hedgewar directed all RSS shakhas to celebrate the day by hoisting the national flag and spreading the message of freedom. The government in the Central Province issued a circular prohibiting employees of government and local self-government bodies from taking part in RSS activities. It was the anti-imperialist character of the RSS and its unconditional support to the Congress movement that appalled the British administration and made it issue the circular.
National leaders also kept in touch with the RSS, participated in its camps and appreciated its activities. A Home Department report in 1940 said: “RSS is intensely anti-British and its tone is increasingly becoming militant. RSS volunteers were introduced into various government departments in order that there may be no difficulty in capturing administrative department when the time comes.” During the 1942 Quit India Movement, RSS activists provided safe shelter to prominent underground leaders of the movement.
A 1943 report of the Intelligence Department on the RSS said: “The ulterior objective of the RSS is to drive away the British from India and free the country.” The RSS’ history is one of active participation in the anti-colonial struggle and unconditional cooperation not only with the Congress but also any other any other group committed to the liberation of the motherland.
Vidhya V.S., Kollam, Kerala