Rajasthan’s Gag Law: Why It Needs To Be Opposed Strongly
The Rajasthan government, in September 2017, issued an ordinance that dealt a body blow to the cause of transparency and accountability in governance. Ironically enough, the same state saw the birth of the right to information movement in India! 
 
The ordinance bars investigation of current and former public servants, including judges and magistrates, for allegations of corruption,...
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  • Eminent jurists, citizens seek more balance and greater transparency in Data Protection Committee
    As many as 22 eminent jurists and concerned citizens have sought more balance and greater transparency in the newly constituted Data Protection Committee. The Committee is set up by the Government to deliberate on a data protection framework for India. 
     
    One of the main contention of the signatories is on members of the Committee. The letter sent by the 22 signatories to Justice BN Shrikrishna (Chairman of the Committee), point out names of members and their bias towards citizen privacy and Aadhaar. In addition, presence of some of the members on this 10-member Committee is probable professional conflict of interests, the letter says. 
     
    Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive (CEO) of Unique Identification Authority of India – the agency that oversees Aadhaar enrolments, is a member of the Committee. Other members include Aruna Sundararajan (Secretary, Department of Telecom –DoT), Ajay Kumar (Additional Secretary, Electronics and IT Ministry); Rama Vedashree (CEO, Data Security Council of India) and Dr Arghya Sengupta (Research Director at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy), the think tank that assisted the government in drafting the Aadhaar Act. 
     
    This committee is chaired by Justice Srikrishna, in whom, the signatories says have complete faith and not a shred of doubt. The signatories – including Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, and senior lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Indira Jaising – said they were worried that most of the members on the panel expressed had support for Aadhaar in the past. Other signatories of the Letter include Aruna Roy, Dr Anupam Saraph, Nikhil Dey, Maj Gen SG Vombatkere, Shantha Sinha, Prof Trilochan Sastry and Venkatesh Nayak.
     
    According to the Letter, members, listed below, are potentially biased towards Aadhaar or against citizen privacy and there are probable professional conflicts of interest (information provided is only indicative and what exists in the public domain):
     
    1. Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Department of Telecom: The DoT is currently pushing Aadhaar-mobile linkage. She had stated that linking SIMs with Aadhaar “is in your interest and my interest
    2. Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, UIDAI: Leading the Aadhaar project all over the country and who, even before the work of this committee is complete, has already stated that the “Aadhaar Act will pass privacy test”.
    3. Dr Ajay Kumar, Addl Secretary, MeitY: who states that “[MeitY] & Banks urge inking Bank account with Aadhaar”.
    4. Prof Rajat Moona, Director, lIT, Raipur: has launched an Aadhaar tech product and, many Aadhaar leaks notwithstanding, believes that “UIDAI offer safe solutions”. 
    6. Prof Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM, Indore: thinks that Aadhaar should be used to “to start maintaining health records on the cloud”, which is highly sensitive personal data of a citizen.
    7. Dr Arghya Sengupta, Research Director, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy:
    a. Appeared for the state of Haryana and TRAI in the Right to Privacy case and argued against the Supreme Court recognising a fundamental right to privacy.
    b. Has “represented the Unique Identification Authority of India in the Supreme Court” (includes the Binoy Viswam Aadhaar-Pan Case).
    c. Rohini Nilekani, spouse of Nandan Nilekani (former Chairperson UIDAI), is a patron of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy who has given them funding
    d. Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy is “a New Delhi-based think tank that assisted the government of India in drafting the Aadhaar Act” and its regulations.
    e. Authored an article titled, “Aadhaar project: Last chance for the welfare state”. 
    8. Ms. Rama Vedashree, CEO, DSCI: who, despite several leaks of Aadhaar data, believes that “the core of Aadhaar seems safe and secure”.
    9. Joint Secretary, MeitY: The ministry is “promoting Aadhaar in a big way
     
    Other concerned citizens include Gopalkrishna Gandhi and many petitioners in the Aadhaar related cases that will be heard by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the end of November 2017. 
     
    This letter follows a letter by former civil servants to Prime Minister Modi with critical concerns on Aadhaar.
     
    As a first step towards greater transparency in the working of this committee, Rethink Aadhaar demands public release of the following:
     
    1. All available information related to the formation of the expert committee. 
    2. The data protection bill drafted by MietY that is being considered by this committee.
    3. Composition of the working groups that have been formed.
    4. Minutes of all the meetings and complete information relating to the formation of this committee.
     
    “This Committee is important because it will lead to a legislation which will lay the contours of privacy in India; building up from the historic judgment passed by a nine-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India. The privacy judgment, in fact, refers to this committee, whose work will have a bearing on the collection and use of data by commercial entities as well as for projects such as Aadhaar,” the Letter says.
     
    Here is the letter signed by eminent jurists, Aadhaar petitioners and other concerned citizens…
     
     
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    How I was digitally paralysed by RCom: A true story 
    Last few days, I had a small experience of what can happen if one is digitally shut down. All of a sudden, the nightmare scenario of what can happen if one is shutdown by a universally linked 'Aadhaar’ became almost real — that too with just my telephone company going into an unexplained shut down with no recourse. When Reliance Communication (RCom) suddenly switched me off on 25th October, it did not merely cut me off my communication with friends, family and social networks, but snapped my financial transactions too. My mobile number is linked with all my bank accounts. For the 10 days, I did not receive any transaction alert, one time passcode (OTP) or balance SMS. Luckily, after much effort, frantic calls to helplines, RCom executives (whose phones were not reachable) and trying to get answers on social media, my mobile connection has been re-activated today. 
     
    Earlier today I received a well argued WhatsApp forward about what could happen if your Aadhaar, linked to your bank account and phone could do to you. It reminded us about how, during the biggest threat to our democracy — the Emergency — leaders like George Fernandes and Dr Subramanian Swamy went underground disguised as turbaned Sikhs. They were able to travel incognito, raise money and garner support from people against the Indira Gandhi government. "With the increased encroachment of Aadhaar upon our lives, this is not possible any more” said the post, which is going viral on social media. 
     
    In one of his speeches, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had described how he, Dr Swamy and other people fought against Indira Gandhi government during the emergency days. 
     
    []
     
    The social media post says, "Under such a circumstance (emergency), just switching off your cell phone will not be sufficient to avoid the government from tracking you down. Thanks to Aadhaar, you will not be able to withdraw money or make any transaction using even a debit card. The government is linking Aadhaar to train tickets and boarding passes. You will not be able to travel. Being a centralised database, it just takes a few seconds to switch off your Aadhaar authentication. That can deny you your own money, deny you any movement, deny you any form of communication. You cannot hide behind an alias. It is linked to your biometrics. The government does not need to even arrest you. It can just deny your existence in a matter of few seconds. You are not dead, but you can be termed dead in a matter of few seconds. You can be Switched Off!"
     
    Exactly same thing happened with me but with my mobile connection from RCom. One fine day RCom, the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group company, decided to get out of the mobile retail business and simply pulled the plug without any formal communication to its subscribers, stock exchanges (it’s a listed entity and mandated to share all updates) and even the telecom regulator.  
     
    On 25 October 2017, RCom disconnected my mobile number. All my incoming, outgoing calls, messages and data connection was down. When I tried to make a call from that number, I received a message to contact the customer care (198 and 022-30333333). Nevertheless, that proved to be another disaster. When I called RCom's customer care number, after lot of efforts, I received a message "Due to emergency situation you cannot access our services". This was same case even when I tried calling from other phone to RCom landline number for customer service centre. 
     
    All my efforts to connect with RCom Customer Care, its Nodal Officer and other senior officials, were unfruitful. I then sent emails, but there too was no response till date. The only person, I managed to speak with was a senior executive from RCom. However, after few days, he too stopped receiving my calls or responding to my messages. 
     
    I then escalated the matter with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Department of Telecom (DoT). TRAI is the telecom regulator, but despite my several emails, nobody, including its Chairman RS Sharma (who was incidentally Director General of Unique Identification Authority of India -UIDAI) even acknowledged my mail. Forget about replying. 
     
    My mail to Manoj Sinha, Telecom Minister, evoked some response, but it was more pathetic than not receiving any reply at all. Mr Sinha's office forwarded my message to DoT's Director for Public Grievances, who told me to file my complaint through the PGPortal. When I replied saying that I had sent a notice (yes, the situation had become hopeless by then) and not grievance, I received the same automated reply from the Director.
     
     
    Finally, on 3 November 2017, my mobile was 'reactivated' as per the SMS I received. However, since RCom is shutting its shop (well for retail mobile), I was told that my re-activated connection will be alive for few more days only. This also means I need to go for mobile number porting (MNP). However, there is another big issue. Even after trying to send several messages to 1900 for MNP, I still have to get a porting code, without which, I cannot switch. 
     
    In the meantime, and as per my conversation with an executive from RCom, I paid all my current outstanding dues (not related with disconnection, though) and is promised that they will not block my porting request and issue no objection as soon as such request comes to them. Well I am keeping my fingers crossed. 
     
    The viral post on social media puts these things rightfully. It says, "We do not need rights or protection for Achhe Din. Rights and protection are meant for the bad times. But it is during the good times, it is important to not lose sight of how bad times can be and what we need to protect about ourselves."
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    COMMENTS

    ramdas naik

    2 years ago

    Most people have more than one mobile number. Your number registered with your bank for SMS and OTP need not be your mobile number registered with Aadhar. Plus you have cheque book to withdraw money. Also your debit/ credit card. If you loose your mobile is almost the same as loosing your SIM. You will be inconvenienced for a few days,but the picture painted here is too extreme. Linking Aadhar is necessary in our country to eliminate the parallel economy. India has to get ahead if it wants to develop like US. Same ppl have no issues when they emigrate to the US and have to carry their ID, social security etc and produce it on demand to a Cop. When folks give their biometric for apps and share all confidential information on FB
    Why crib only about Aadhar

    Girish SV

    2 years ago

    Sir, the picture you have painted, though bit far fetched is scary and cant be so simply wished away. A minor tech glitch or human error can switch off someone at right moment when he needs money or has to travel. However aadhar is being used to plug lot of gaps in governance rather pilferage of benefits. Moment it is made optional, though generally honest would/may go for it, criminals/those who are over cautious and some more category of people may not go for it and then it becomes difficult to switch off those who really need to be switched off at times. I have been seeing lot of opposition for aadhar top protect privacy but not seen constructive ways/suggestions from those where a better and/or safe approach is presented. WOuld be good if you can direct me to any paper/article offering alternate approach to the problem we face now. Else it would just be scare mongering though it could one day turn out to be real.

    ramchandran vishwanathan

    2 years ago

    You have highlighted an issue which is common place for any citizen (a phone company disconnecting services with no notice to its subscribers). Citizens are to fend for themselves despite the plethora of communication/feedback channels available (facebook, twitter, whatsapp....)
    The Aaadhar is a wrong example & must not be linked to your service disruption
    At this rate we will not be able to see any progress . It was after Suchetaji & Debashisji exposed the Stock market wrong doings in the SCAM that the digitization of Stock markets happened. But has this digitization curbed new challenges like High Frequency algorithm trades ... No .Was this unfair to we retail investors ... Yes
    Hence we must highlight such issues separately & avoid linking or cross linking of potential scenarios

    srik

    2 years ago

    very bad article. you havent said the real root cause of why the disconnection happened. i am presuming this could be only related to your number (payment dues etc.). the issue with RCom is real and everyone have to raise voices against unethical practices of RCom in treating their customers. however, you are generalizing and maliciously pulling the govt's aadhar initiative and indirectly bringing emergency discussions in it. worst thought by you sir.

    REPLY

    Yogesh Sapkale

    In Reply to srik 2 years ago

    Thanks for your comment. Basically, you had commented on three points.
    1. We would appreciate if you can tell us how this is a 'bad' article, when you yourself had admitted the issues faced by RCom customers are real and we need to raise voice against unethical practices.
    2. As stated in the article, I am still waiting for reasons (from RCom, TRAI and DoT) for which my mobile was disconnected and I will update this article as soon as RCom informs me about this. But as informed by the senior executive from RCom the disconnection has nothing to do with payments or dues.
    3. I have just given an example, how with a simple mobile connection, your life can become very tough. When there is a hard push to link aadhaar with everything, there would always be a dangling thread over your head of being switched off from the system, as per whims and fancies of those in power. Remember, as an individual, you have no option to get out from aadhaar, but the UIDAI can make your number redundant within seconds. Example of Emergency period is just to remind citizens of what can happen with you in current age. Request you to think it over.

    Best regards,

    kiran mehta

    2 years ago

    # With multiple frauds being d password for success,honor,reputation&social status,it will take some time before....

    Harish M Belani

    2 years ago


    A nightmare of becoming a non-person and effectively non-existent in the world you inhabit can be realized with the flick of a switch ...

    yoppindia

    2 years ago

    Thanks for reporting i am facing similar situation . No media outlet is covering this. Useless trai only knows to collect bribes.

    Arvind Singhvi

    2 years ago

    मेरा समस्या है कि मैने 2004-5 में वायरलेस लैण्डलाइन फोन ले लिया ।फोन बन्द है ग्राहक परेशान
    सबसे बड़ी समस्या है नम्बर पोर्ट ही नहीं हो सकते
    क्या नम्बर पोर्ट के लिए किसे एप्लाई करें।

    Shamith Puthran

    2 years ago

    Whataboutery.
    Linking and creating a story of a worthless company to aadhar.
    Wild imagination indeed.

    Kasula Venkatesh

    2 years ago

    Same with my number....I am senior executive and handling equipments related to packaging industry...I don't know what my customers are suffering and no idea how they will react when my phone restored back.

    satish yaramalla

    2 years ago

    Same thing happened from RCom dth services.... I was paid an amount for my connection year package just two months back...our money was wasted... We are using dth services from the past 3 years...now we have to port dth also...

    REPLY

    sawan soni

    In Reply to satish yaramalla 2 years ago

    Reliance DTH going to shut down and merge with TATA sky kindly contact TATA sky before its too late

    Vijay Tapadiya

    2 years ago

    Even though RELIANCE COMM has shut down on it's own Authorities are urging employees to resign own their own.Absolutely UNETHICAL.

    Vijay Tapadiya

    2 years ago

    I only demand 6 months of salary, PF, Gratuity, and clearance of all pending dues of market #saveRcomemployees

    Vijay Tapadiya

    2 years ago

    Sir,abt 3k rcom employees were asked to resign without any proper compensation.Need ur support

    sawan soni

    2 years ago

    Sir i fully understand problem that u r facing this days...same with Rcom employees on 26th oct Rcom says to all employees to put resignation with personal reason with only 1 month notice period..just think within 2 days i m jobless and around 5000 families are going to jobless due to this decision of mr anil ambani.
    From last few days we are fighting for justice with only one demand that 6 month salary to be given to employees but still no support from Rcom/media/goverment nobody request to you please support us on #saveRcomEmployees on Twitter

    Thanx n regards

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