P. Chidambaram

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.

 

Paradise Papers: BJP MP hauls Indian Express up!

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha MP, Ravindra Kishore Sinha, has sought Privileges Proceedings against top brass of Indian Express, namely, (a) Vivek Goenka, chairman; (b) Rajkamal Jha, chief editor; (c) Ritu Sarin and (d) Shyamlal Yadav on its “motivated attempt to tarnish his reputation” via expose on “Paradise Papers” on November 6, 2017.

In a letter written to Venkaiah Naidu, Chairman, Rajya Sabha, published as an advertisement in newspapers on Wednesday, Sinha has accused Indian Express of “unethical journalism…in the name of freedom of the press.”

Indian Express had alleged that Sinha was “illegally associated with (a) an offshore company, viz SIS Asia Pacific Holding Limited (SAPHL), incorporated in Malta; (b) that his nomination papers of Rajya Sabha election in 2014 didn’t declare his interest in offshore entities.

In his detailed letter/advertisement, Sinha has pointed out

  • Malta has an approved jurisdiction of full Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with India and doesn’t amount to “tax evasion, money laundering or any malafide intent”;
  • His holding company recently underwent “in-depth scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)…covering all regulations, including the Companies Act, Income Tax Act, SCRA, Stamp Act, FIPB, FEMA etc…no deficiency was found in terms of compliance.”
  • Rajya Sabha nomination form requires only “provisions of details of Assets and Liabilities of which I am the owner or direct beneficiary” which is not true in Sinha’s case (see the full advertisement in pic).

Sinha’s anguish stems from a clearly “vested interest” of Indian Express in publishing the report—and a sneering a mocking version of it online—which he termed as “misleading and devoid of facts,” despite Sinha having shared the details with Indian Express !

Over to Sinha:

“These facts were transparently shared with the Indian Express team prior to publication of the news report. Despite that, they have carried the misleading report devoid of facts and indulged in reputation assassination for vested interests.”

“If the Indian Express claims to be the beacon of independent journalism, why are they not targeting other reputed public figures such as Sachin Pilot, P. Chidambaram, Pinarayi Vijayan etc who have all been named in the ICU Paradise Papers?”

“The Indian Express report is unethical journalism in the name of freedom of the press/freedom of speech and is motivated attempt to tarnish my reputation built over decades. It is extremely sad to see the high standards of neutral and independent journalism set by Ramnath Goenka being destroyed under the current editorial leadership.”

In one word: Damning!!!

One doesn’t know if Sinha tried to put this advertisement in Indian Express for it’s not in its today’s edition. Or, if he did and failed in his attempt. Still, the matter is now in public domain and Express would’ve to come up with an explanation.

At least the Privilege Proceedings against Indian Express is being sought for. Whether Editors’ Guild of India reacts to it is a guess as good as yours as mine. Press Council of India, a Central Statutory Authority, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting—Mrs Smriti Irani being at the helm—surely should step in as Fake News in Mainstream Media—Lutyens’ Media—is more rampant than ever.

MSM Fake News Monitor: Express on Bhagwat

This has also appeared on NewsBred).

(Facebook has set out 10 tools to check Fake News. A few give-aways are headlines, source, evidence and photos. Indian Express, no surprises here, continues to be the leader of Fake News in Mainstream Media –call it Lutyens’ Media).

Indian Express today had a four-deck headline on its front page: “Farmers, small business must not suffer, RSS chief tells govt” (Sub headline: Mixes praise for Modi with caution, seeks “new provisions” in Valley).

On the parameters set out by Facebook, this is clearly a Fake News. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat never said the “Farmers, small business” are suffering; and even if he thought so, he never addressed it to the government!

Indian Express chose “small business” as the essence of Bhagwat’s speech even though he had some quite explosive opinions on mischief-makers in today’s India: The RSS chief asked for some constitutional provisions of J & K to go; he wanted Rohingyas to be thrown out on security; and he exhorted those involved in cow-protection to keep up their good work and not be dissuaded by sinister coining of word “vigilantism” to make them appear criminal. Pointedly, Bhagwat asked: “Many activists who were peacefully involved in cow protection were attacked and killed. This issue is neither discussed nor being inquired into.” (His entire speech can be watched here).

Yet, Indian Express found merit in giving a Fake Headline to Bhagwat’s speech. They ignored the sumptuous praise which Bhagwat had reserved for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The evidence of their foul play is the headline in its web-edition: “RSS chief praises Modi”, some 20 hours earlier before it was fabricated for the print edition!

One can understand this anxiety of a mouthpiece of Left ideology to keep harping on India’s economy in view of the forthcoming Gujarat assembly elections. Such assault on India’s economy also finds expression in running down “Bullet Train,” more so in the wake of recent stampede tragedy in Mumbai.

Thus you have a story running down “Bullet Train” in Lutyens’ Media. Today, Express has given big displays to P. Chidambaram, Raj Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray, so much so that it almost makes up the entire Page 9. Never mind, such set of people not long ago were worrying that speed of our trains haven’t changed since 1971. This sort of ideology was against metro in cities. Remember the outrage on Mumbai-Pune expressway project? It is this expressway which has made Pune so alluring to corporate and IT sectors. Yojana Bhawan had once declared the Maruti Project as a pipedream. Such ideology couldn’t care less that land prices along the Bullet Train would shoot up and bring a great deal of investment, growth and jobs.

Bullet Train as such is not a Fake News in Indian Express but when politicians and media work in tandem, who are we to disbelieve our politicians and Lutyens’ Media are not part of the same ecosystem which is intent on spreading mischief, a softer version of Fake News?

Another such example of acting in concert is on Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, director of a centre in the Maulana Azad Urdu University in Hyderabad. The man has gone berserk in claiming his life is under threat for writing books such as : “Post-Hindu India, Buffalo Nationalism, Untouchable God” etc. Among his suggestions are to say prayers in English. For the last four months, this ecosystem of mischief and fake news are fuelling each other on Shepherd.  Yesterday it was Indian Express, today it’s Times of India which has splashed his interview in its edit page. No prizes for second guessing that ScrollWire etc have long set the agenda rolling.

Now all those who interview Shepherd, don’t ask him some simple questions: “Sir, why you have nothing ever to say about the discrimination and oppression within Muslim communities?” Or “Sir, why don’t you mention the Reservations which the state grants to your oppressed community of Dalit-Bahujan, depriving many meritorious of the upper castes?” Or, “Sir, any views on why the Leftists, whom you support, have zero representation of Dalit-Bahujans in their top hierarchy?”

Such agenda is visible everywhere. Today, in Indian Express we have a full page interview with a Magsaysay award winner outlining the system’s failure. The less said about Magsaysay awards the better for the CIA-Ford Foundation links in its background are unmistakable. Arvind Kejriwal, or Manish Sisodia, would certainly have something to say on it.

Then there are two pages on the plight of manual scavengers in Indian Express. There are many reasons to sympathize with their plight; but every reason to condemn the attempt to link it with Swachh Bharat mission and by inference show it in poor light. Even as the word is pouring in on Swachh Bharat’s success.