Indo-Sri Lankan bilateral trade has the definite potential to reach $10 billion in the next few years, if efforts are made by both sides, considering the existence of free trade agreement signed way back in 2000
Sri Lanka, our southern neighbour, occupies a close, strategic and religious association and connection with India, from time immemorial. True, there was a brief period of problems created by LTTE and with the elimination of Prabhakaran in the north, peace has slowly returned to this emerald Island.
It is predominantly an agricultural country and, has been a leading grower of quality tea throughout the world for almost a hundred years now. It may be remembered that the back bone of the plantation workers were originally from India (mostly Tamils) who were taken to the island by the British masters, and who has stayed there all these years.
Sri Lankan imports are a little over $20 billion and the imports about $11 billion, according to information published by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of Sri Lanka, for the year ending 2011. It has a large non-resident population of working men and women in the Middle East, who are the biggest foreign exchange earners, and who, dutifully remit the funds back to the country. It traditional exports, apart from tea and spices, are textiles, apparels, pharmaceuticals, precious stones like diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Other items of importance are rubber and rubber products, coconut, fish etc.
Only recently, Cairn India has discovered some gas offshore and further explorations are underway. However, the country continues to import petroleum and allied products, textile fabrics to support the apparel industry which is well organized in the country, mineral products, steel and allied products, foodstuffs and transportation equipments are the major items.
Imports of many of these items come from India, and the Indian share in 2011 (calendar year) was 21.3%; China was a close second with 16%; Singapore at 8.6%; Iran at 7.7% UAE 4.4% and Malaysia at 4.3%.
Indo-Sri Lankan bilateral trade has reached $5 billion and has the definite potential to reach $10 billion in the next few years, if efforts are made by both sides, considering the existence of free trade agreement that was signed way back in 2,000!
Being India's closest neighbour, Sri Lanka is also subject the whims of the Monsoon which can play havoc in its agriculture. The last monsoon, unfortunately, was insufficient and has brought untold misery to its farmers.
Media reports indicate that the ensuing harvest is likely to be much less than half of what was obtained last year, particularly for the Northern province. Rice cultivation has been hit hard and for the "aam aadmi" in Sri Lanka, the main food on the plate has been traditional rice with dry fish! There is fear about the New Year celebrations, which falls around the middle of April (and it coincides with the Tamil New year for the Sinhalese, which comes a day before or after).
In so far as fishing is concerned, the Tamil population on either side, both the Sri Lankan Tamils in the north and the Tamils from Tamil Nadu, have been at logger heads, each accusing the other for poaching in "their" waters, with Lankan Navy playing a role, causing heartburn to both!
According to information available, the Northern Provincial Council has been trying to obtain foodgrains from farmers' cooperatives for supplies to the people, but this is not happening, simply because the last monsoon was not bountiful; there is not guarantee, at this stage, that the ensuing monsoon will be adequate to drench the parched lands!
Estimates vary, but overall production of rice may fall between 25% and 35% of the requirements. Already small quantities of rice are being continuously imported, in the last few months from Thailand, China and India.
Sri Lanka may be heading for a food crisis and the only way they can manage to overcome the current impasse by immediate imports of foodgrains, such as rice, wheat, maize and items like sugar and pulses.
India must not wait for Sri Lanka to approach for assistance. India must offer all that is required, if necessary, on medium to long term credit all these items. Our marketing effort in that country has been inadequate, to say the least.
Sri Lanka is our friend; it needs assistance and India must volunteer to meet this need.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Directing the UIDAI not to share personal info of Aadhaar holder with any agency, the Supreme Court asked the Indian government to withdraw all orders making Aadhaar mandatory for availing services
In a path breaking decision, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Indian government to withdraw all orders making Aadhaar or the unique identification (UID) number mandatory for residents. The apex court also asked Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), not to share any information, including biometrics that it has collected under the Aadhaar project through registrars, with any government agency without the permission of the person.
The Supreme Court pronounced this decision on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice KS Puttaswamy and Maj Gen (retd) SG Vombatkere, who retired as Additional Director General, Discipline and Vigilance in Army HQ, challenging the Constitutional validity of Aadhaar. In addition, the UIDAI had also challenge a decision of Goa Bench of Bombay High Court asking it to share its biometric data to solve a criminal case. Both the cases were heard before the three-judge Bench.
Shyam Divan, the counsel for Maj Gen (retd) Vombatkere, told the Court, that there is no statute to back the (Aadhaar) project and even if there were one, the statute would be violative of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution as the project enables surveillance of individuals and impinges upon right to human dignity. “The action under the impugned project of collecting personal biometric information without statutory backing is ultra vires even where an individual voluntarily agrees to part with biometric information," he said.
Adv Divan had contended that “…the (Aadhaar) project is also ultra vires because there is no statutory guidance (a) on who can collect biometric information; (b) on how the information is to be collected; (c) on how the biometric information is to be stored; (d) on how throughout the chain beginning with the acquisition of biometric data to its storage and usage, this data is to be protected; (e) on who can use the data; (f) on when the data can be used.”
According to Gopal Krishna of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), the SC order paves way for a verdict against the unscientific exercise of indiscriminate biometric data collection by Planning Commission's UIDAI, Home Ministry's Registrar General of India for Aadhaar number and National Population Register (NPR) and other government and private agencies.
The Goa case
Earlier, a Magistrates Court in Goa had asked UIDAI to share with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), biometric data of all residents enrolled in Aadhaar scheme from the state, to help the agency solve the gang rape of a seven year old girl in Vasco.
UIDAI challenged the Court's decision before the Bombay HC. The Goa Bench, however directed the director general of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory to examine the technological capabilities of the UIDAI database. The HC also observed that UIDAI had agreed to test the competence of its database in comparing the chance fingerprints with its biometric record.
Aggrieved by the HC decision, UIDAI had approached the Supreme Court.
According to a report from the Indian Express, even as the UIDAI describes its biometric technology as one of the best in the world, it pointed out that there was a 0.057% occurrence of false identification. "Therefore, the implications of the False Positive Identification Rate of 0.057% when applied in the UIDAI database of 60 crore residents, will imply false matches of lakh of residents," the report says quoting the petition filed by UIDAI.
The biometric number is an identifier, which is used to "authenticate" and verify whether or not the person is what the person claims to be. A stunning aspect of how the UIDAI was sought to be implemented without the nod of parliament is the high level of ignorance about who can get an Aadhaar and implications of biometric based identification. On 31 January 2013, it came to light that the members of Union Cabinet were unaware whether it is a number or a card. Instead of facing the issue upfront, a Group of Ministers (GoM) was set up to resolve it but no one knows whether it has been resolved.
"Biometric data itself has scientifically been proven to be 'inherently fallible' especially because of constant decay of biological material in human body. Global experience demonstrates that the trust in junk science of biometrics is misplaced. The stolen biometric passport of a passenger in the missing Malaysian airliner has exposed its claims for good. We demand that the opposition parties should promise that new government after the Lok Sabha elections will destroy the illegal and illegitimate database of biometric features as has been done in UK and other countries," Gopal Krishna added.
Notably, the Strategy Overview document of the UIDAI said that "enrolment will not be mandated" but added, "This will not, however, preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrolment." It must be noted that Nandan Nilekani, former chief of UIDAI and now a Congress candidate from South Bengaluru constituency, headed dozens of committees whose recommendations made Aadhaar mandatory.
Tricked by the marketing blitzkrieg, some political parties were wary of taking a position that would appear anti-poor. They did not realise that what may be the real beneficiary of this biometric identification is UIDAI, which wants to meet its target of enrolling 60 crore Indians by 2014.
Earlier, in November 2013, Adv Divan, the counsel for Maj Gen (retd) Vombatkere, in the Supreme Court stated “The Aadhaar project was ultra vires as it did not have a statutory backing. Moreover, no statutory guidance exists on crucial questions such as—who can collect biometric information, how it is to be collected and stored, protection of collected data, who can use the data and when it must be used.”
He pointed out to a two-member bench of Justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde, how UIDAI signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with States which had no legal sanctity. He said, “State appoints registrars, who could even be a private person, who engaged private companies to collect biometric data. There is also the fear that the private party which collects the data then stores it in a personal laptop, which does not belong to the government.”
He also told the apex court about how UID changes the relationship between the state and the citizen. “Convicted criminals relinquish some privacy rights. They have their fingerprints taken for record. Here the government is treating all people as criminals,” Adv Divan had said.
Last year in September, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar or the UID number, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)'s ambitious scheme, is not mandatory to avail essential services from the government. While hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice KS Puttaswamy and advocate Parvesh Khanna questioning the legal sanctity of Aadhaar, the apex court said, "The centre and state governments must not insist on Aadhaar from citizens before providing them essential services."
A Bench of Justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde also directed central and the state governments not to issue the Aadhaar to illegal immigrants.
In its reply, the Centre had earlier claimed that for an Aadhaar, consent of an individual was indispensable and hence it was a voluntary project, with an objective to promote inclusion and benefits of the marginalised sections of the society that has no formal identity proof.
In July, replying to an un-starred question in the Lok Sabha on 8 May 2013, Rajiv Shukla, minister of state for parliamentary affairs and planning said, "Aadhaar card is not mandatory to avail subsidized facilities being offered by the Government like LPG cylinders, admission in private aided schools, opening a savings account etc."
You may also want to read…
Read more articles from a series on Aadhaar by Gopal Krishna