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Aadhaar Act: SC may have to take another call

The Aadhaar issue is far from settled despite Supreme Court ruling on its validity and necessity under the Constitutional norms on Wednesday.

The ruling Modi government would go at breakneck speed in firewalling the data protection so it could approach Supreme Court again on removing the ban on private companies from accessing the users’ data. The opposition Congress, through its protagonist P. Chidambaram, in all probability would challenge the Aadhaar Bill being introduced in SC as a Money Bill in order to bypass the Rajya Sabha.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court has cleared the Aadhaar Act but barred private companies, such as banks and telecoms, from accessing the users’ data as was enabled by Section 57 of the bill. Supreme Court had also ruled that decision of (Lok Sabha) Speaker to certify Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill is open to judicial review.

Supreme Court clamping down on Section 57 wouldn’t please the ruling NDA government. The Supreme Court ought to have asked for a stronger privacy and data protection measures rather than bar private companies from mining Aadhaar. All the world’s technology giants, be it Facebook or Google, Alibaba or Tencent, have been empowered by their governments to control global businesses. India’s only chance is with Aadhaar: after all it enabled a newcomer like Reliance Jio to build a 200-million users’ base for its telecom operations. India’s UPI, RuPay and Bhim platforms are today earning world’s respect only because of users’ Aadhaar being available to them. Supreme Court ruling makes Aadhaar cost-effective but not profit-enabled.

As for the Money Bill part of the Aadhaar ruling, Congress would be encouraged by the dissenting note of Justice Y. Chandrachud who declared it a Constitutional fraud and illegality. (If one could ask, what’s so Constitutionally upright about Collegium System where judges choose judges?). Chidambaram and his ilks are unlikely to let go the opportunity of Aadhaar as Money Bill being open to “judicial review.”

Readers must also remember the dichotomy of Congress/Opposition position vis-à-vis Aadhaar. It was alright for them—and the Lutyens’ Media—to allow Right To Information (RTI) where the privacy of a petitioner is compromised. The privacy and dignity of an individual doesn’t matter to them on RTI. But they have used it as a handle to obstruct the march of Aadhaar.

And if one could ask, what about the private data of millions which UPA collected without committing themselves to Aadhaar in pre-Modi era? Wasn’t it foul, fraud and illegal given that it hadn’t obtained a judicial consent?

The fact is that because of Aadhaar, no longer the beneficiary receives only 15 paisa of the Rs 1 allocated to him. The Modi government has already saved upwards of Rs 90,000 crores from leakages and frauds in the benefit schemes. As per a World Bank report, Aadhaar could save upwards of Rs 11 billion in exchequer’s outflow of funds to the really poor—and not fill the coffers of ghost and duplicate entities. Today, the dole-outs are auditable. Fake ration cards and MGNREGS job cards are no longer working, saving the tax-payers’ hard-earned money. If Chidambaram could explain, how could benefits be paid without identifying the beneficiary?

As for Justice Y. Chandrachud’s critique, just a mere suspicion of constitutional and legal impropriety is not enough to overturn or jeopardize countless schemes and billions invested in enabling technology. If other Judges had gone along with Justice Y. Chandrachud, it would have caused chaos and havoc, not to mention billions of taxpayers’ money going down the drain. Judiciary needs to uphold laws and Constitution but not when its’ at odds with the larger interest of poor and society. Laws are for the citizens; not the other way around.

 

Panama Papers: have a great laugh about it

Indian Express is preening that alongside International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) it poured over 11.5 million leaked documents of 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients, between 1977 and 2015, and found over 500 Indian individuals using the tax haven.

The leak first appeared in NATO-friendly Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Munich and then shared by the ICIJ with selected mainstream media partners, including Indian Express.

A few of the smeared names you already know: Amitabh Bachchan, Harish Salve, Aishwarya Rai, KP Singh and Vinod Adani, elder brother of industrialist Gautam Adani.

Now a few things which you don’t know and must be told about:

The ICIJ is funded by Washington-based Center for Public Integrity which in turn gets its source income from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockfeller Family Fund, the Kellogg Foundation and the George Soros-owned Open Society.

Another of ICIJ patron is Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the US government through USAID.

And yes, about Panama: a well-known US vassal state. As famous analyst Pepe Escobar says: “Absolutely nothing in real substance happens in Panama without a green light by the United States government. Or as an international tax lawyer told me, “you have to be an idiot to stash money in Panama. You cannot flush a toilet there without the Americans knowing about it.”

So in this selective leak, there is no US senator, European Union politicians, no big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama. Apple, Google, Starbucks—a few of the biggest tax evaders using offshore schemes—have miraculously evaded the scrutiny.”

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes: “The filtering of this…information by the corporate media follows a direct western government agenda….The Guardian is quick to reassure that much of the leaked material will remain private.”

This “leak” is essentially to cause domestic rows and embarrassment to BRICS nations, Russia, China and India alongside Bashar-al-Asad of Syria. Certain leaks are held back to potentially blackmail those in times of need. The other persons named are relatively minor players in the big game which West, embarrassed by Russia-inspired victory in Palmyra, has chosen to sacrifice.

So you have the names of demented king of Saudi Arabia; Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Avad Allawi, ex-interimt PM of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of Iceland; Argentina President Mauricio Macri; Dov Weisglass, the butcher of Gaza, already convicted of corruption. These are all disposable individuals.

And then comes the sucker-punch: Western corporate media I shouting from rooftops that Russian president Vladimir Putin has stashed US $2 billion offshore. The fact is: he hasn’t. He is guilty by association to Arkady and Boris Rotenberg’s alleged ties to money laundering. The same method in hauling over the coals Adani, for the acts of his brother; and Bachchan who was seen as ruling party’s candidate to be India’s president.

As for China, unnamed eight Chinese Communist Party current and former officials and brother-in-law of Chinese president Xi Jinping has been named.

Syria was always going to be a target. Most of Western media has put its focus on Rami Makhlouf, “Assad’s fixer.” He is already under US sanctions since February 2008. Nobody bothers to ask how this “poster boy” of corruption was sheltered by HSBC.

The “leak” is of selected nature, likely obtained by US secret service, meant to serve two purpose:

  • To smear BRICS and enemies of empire
  • To hold details for blackmailing in future and keep those targets fall in line

The leak essentially is of several dozen firms and individuals who are already blacklisted by the US sanctions. If ICIJ and its partners are really serious, they ought to go after Cayman Papers or the Virgin Island Papers. That’s where the biggies are.

Says Escobar: “The so-called international banking/financial system is a demented casino. It’s not only 8 percent; Hong Kong players tell me as much as 50 percent of global wealth may currently be parked, undisturbed, in non-taxable offshore havens. If a fraction of these astonishing funds would be taxed, governments right and left would be paying their debts, investing in infrastructure, launching round after round of sustainable growth, and a productive spiral would be in motion.”

Three months ago, Andrew Penney, managing director of Rothschild and Co, in a Bloomberg piece, essentially stated that US “is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world.”

So, essentially, we now know a little more about Indian Express and its association with US-backed dubious bodies of investigative journalists.