Aadhaar overkill

Originally conceived as an empowerment tool, it is disempowering citizens now
Times of India – Unique identification was originally sold to citizens as a way to efficiently deliver welfare benefits without duplication and pilferage by intermediaries. In the last couple of years, however, it has grown into an all-encompassing Leviathan even as there has been little progress on welfare. On one hand we have central and state governments conceiving uses for Aadhaar in everything from property to death registration, hailing ambulances to getting rations.

The enthusiasm has rubbed off on the private sector too, with three-year-olds requiring Aadhaar for nursery admissions and job opportunities tied to Aadhaar submission.

Making biometrics a keystone to access so many essential services invades privacy, increases the potential for abuse, makes doing business difficult and ties up everyday activities in red tape. Fake Aadhaar card rackets have been busted that allegedly exploited vulnerabilities in the UIDAI enrollment ecosystem.

Biometric verification is susceptible to failures and unauthorized usage. Poor connectivity, lax cyber security and data storage standards heighten the risks. All-encompassing Aadhaar linkages create the framework for mass surveillance and enhanced cybercrime.

It’s time to roll back the Aadhaar empire and initiate restrictions on its mandatory use. more>

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Kerala Police Harassment

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Following is a report of an incident that occurred on Nov. 3, 2017 at the check-post on the Tripunithura mini-bypass road. Even though the conclusions are based on one incident, the issues are systemic in nature that it must be prevalent through out Kerala Police.

The problem started with the practice of stopping moving traffic and demanding breath test by blowing into a device. I object to it as I consider it unhygienic, since it can facilitate the spread of germs, viruses or worse. Usually when I object, they let me proceed without the breath test. But on Nov. 3rd they insisted. Since I did not yield, they became argumentative, rude and started using abusive language. There were about 8 police officers.

Since I continued my refusal to blow into the device, they demanded my driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance. I produced the driver’s license, copy of vehicle registration, and previous insurance. I didn’t have copy of current insurance with me. They impounded the vehicle and said it will be released when I produce current insurance document.

I requested a receipt for the vehicle so that I can go and fetch the insurance papers. No one in the police station would give me a receipt for leaving the vehicle at the station, and wanted me to wait for the Sub-inspector responsible. The waiting took about an hour, and the Sub-inspector told me that he will not give a receipt.

I left vehicle at the station, came back with the insurance document and took possession of the vehicle without further aggravation.

Here are my observations about the incident:

  1. The breath-test is being used as an instrument for harassment and creating inconvenience.
  2. Since Kerala government actively sells and promotes alcohol consumption and depends on it as a key source of tax revenue, even to pretend that breath-tests are in public interest would be laughable. And the police have no business conducting unhygienic practices on the public.

  3. Based on some of their argumentative statements, it seems the traffic patrol team does not even have rudimentary understanding of “rule of law” concepts.
  4. Use of rude and abusive language seems to be their regular behavior pattern.
  5. The patrol team had a tendency to gang-up, with different team members making up facts and relaying to others so that they have a distorted view of the situation.
  6. Impounding a vehicle for non-availability of a document is abuse of power.
  7. Not able to fulfill the request for receipt for impounded vehicle indicate that the Kerala Police procedures are archaic, without established uniform rules.
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Waste management

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Lately, lot of attention is being devoted to clean India. However, the various programs suffer from a serious flaw. Not enough is being done to build cohesive systems for waste management. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on awareness campaigns.

Garbage, waste and pollution are an intrinsic part of a modern economy. Consequently, systems to manage waste being continuously generated by the economy need to be matched with counter-balancing systems. A systemic approach is required for tangible results — ad hoc and piecemeal solutions will not work –  For more details, please see “Waste and garbage are intrinsic part of consumer economy“.

For example, the Kochi Corporation has been toying with a waste management program for a long time. There seems an obsession with waste-to-energy idea, while garbage problems going from bad to worse. In the humid and wet Kerala situation, any waste-to-energy is a non-starter.

What is required is integrated systems for managing and disposing waste, including bio- compost, recycling and incineration. In addition, the primary responsibility for waste disposal need to rest with local governments — not with individuals. Individual actions can only be supplementary because the scope of the problem is beyond what can be achieved at a personal level. Producing real results — not publicity — require systematic effort at the government level, since clean environment is a public good.

This is the approach used by countries that have implemented successful waste management and clean environment programs. A waste management framework was developed after studying successful waste management programs implemented by Nepal, Japan and Sweden. It is available online: “A framework for clean environment“.

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