Will UID now be open to a debate on privacy and security issues?
The Supreme Court’s stay order of 23rd September on the implementation of Aadhaar has provided much needed relief to people who were being forced to avail of this biometric identity due to backdoor government mandates for access to essential facilities and services such as gas cylinders, registration of birth, property and marriages, salaries in municipal schools and even admission to schools. It has also triggered a discussion on this expensive and dangerous experiment with people’s biometric identifiers (iris scan and fingerprints), under the guise of delivering economic benefits to poor people who do not have an identity. The stay order given by Justices Dr BS Chauhan and SA Bobde in connection with a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Justice KS Puttaswamy (retd) has caused jubilation among privacy activists. Several other petitions filed in the Chennai and Mumbai High Courts have also been transferred to the Supreme Court for hearing. Fortunately, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) does not seem to be in a mood to challenge the Supreme Court order.
The immediate impact of the judgement is to create greater awareness among India’s largely indifferent middle-class to the dangers of identity theft or worse. Privacy activists have pointed out that, all over the world, there is recognition that centralised databases, especially those linked to a person’s biometrics, leave a person vulnerable to identity theft. Worse, the UIDAI, which was rejected by a parliamentary standing committee and has not been approved by parliament, has no provisions for providing recourse to any person whose unique identity number, or Aadhaar, has been misused. In fact, it does not even provide for cancellation of an Aadhaar, once it has been issued, or offer even the most basic assurance about how safely this sensitive data is being stored, or the precautions being taken to prevent its misuse. Finally, Aadhaar was being freely issued to illegal immigrants which the SC expressed concerns about.
The shutdown first in 17 years in the US means that national parks will close, most routine food inspections will be suspended, paperwork will slow at government offices and many federal employees will be furloughed
The US Government on Tuesday shut down — the first time since 1995-96 — as the Republican and the Democrats failed to reach an agreement on spending and budget mainly due to their differences over the healthcare reforms, popularly known as Obamacare.
With neither side blinking, despite last minute hectic efforts from both side, the White House immediately ordered the Federal Government agencies to begin shutting down, furloughing thousands of workers and curtailing some services for the first time in nearly 18 years.
In a video message to the armed services shortly after the shutdown came into effect, president Obama said, “Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again”.
“The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations — like our efforts in Afghanistan — will continue. If you’re serving in harm’s way, we’re going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions,” he added.
“Congress has passed, and I am signing into law, legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time. And we’ll continue working to address any impact this shutdown has on you and your families,” Obama said.
Mathews Burwell, director of Office of Management and Budget said, “Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations, a guidance to the agencies directing them to execute their plans for an orderly shutdown of the Federal Government.”
“We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programmes that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations,” the guidance said.
Shutdown, the first in 17 years, means that national parks will close, most routine food inspections will be suspended, paperwork will slow at government offices and many federal employees will be furloughed.
Only emergency and essential items would be able to operate, as a result of which lakhs of government employees would not receive their salary for the duration of the government shutdown.
Senator Ben Cardin alleged that the Republicans have manufactured a crisis that will cost taxpayers even more money while inconveniencing, if not harming, individuals, families and businesses across the country.
Earlier, Obama said as a result of the government shutdown, office buildings would be closed.
“Paychecks would be delayed. Vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung,” he said.
“Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits, or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for their country will find their support centers unstaffed,” he said.
“Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed. And of course, the communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck,” he added.
Noting that more than two million civilian workers and 1.4 million active-duty military serve in all 50 states and all around the world, Obama said because of Government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of these dedicated public servants who stay on the job will do so without pay and several hundred thousand more will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.
“A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away. Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy significantly. This one would, too. It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction,” he said.
The government increased the import duty on gold and silver jewellery to 15% from 10%. It said that import duty differential is needed to protect millions of artisans engaged in making jewellery. Gold jewellery imported during 2012-13 stood at $5.04 billion. In the April-June quarter of the current financial year, it was only $112 million. India imports the maximum jewellery from Thailand. The government hiked the import duty on gold in August, for the third time in 2013, to contain the widening current account deficit. The duty on silver and platinum was also increased to 10%. RBI also restricted the import of gold on a consignment basis by banks.