I wrote this as a comment on the blog of a very good friend.
I write this because this is a subject that fills me with anger. It is not so much Aadhaar, but the fact that our educated elite, with very few exceptions, think it is ok to sign away your hard earned liberties this way. So if you will please permit me a rant..
The Indian political class – with some small exceptions – are uniformly corrupt and/or uneducated. I am sure they all have degrees after their names but I am not sure how many of them are scholars in the real sense. You have a 50 year old youth diletante hanging on to his mother’s apron and talking of meritocratic leadership while having got there because of his parentage. You have a humble man, who flaunts his humility, his right wing credentials and his appeal to a majoritarian identity that scratches the surface to expose all the resentments of a thousand years – and he has surrounded himself with a bunch of non-descript ministers in such key domains as Finance, Home, Law and Foreign Affairs.
This political class now has access to a tool that potentially has the ability to switch off your access to modern life – your bank account, your home, your phone, your internet connection, your job. All of this is being done in the garb of nationalism backed by a law that has been hastily drafted and passed in our joke of a Parliament in a few minutes. Most of the MPs who raised their hands have never heard of all the landmark events in the struggle for liberty whether overseas or in India. Most of them have not even read the profound debates in the Indian Constituent Assembly during the drafting of the Constitution. They have never heard Dr Ambedkar (I am no fan of his BTW) sensibly appeal to the members to resist the appeal of a demagogue, to ensure the Constitution protects the people against a majoritarian dictatorship, and to guard against the loss of liberty.
The people behind Aadhaar probably never intended to create a Frankenstein but this is potentially Mary Shelley’s vision come true. All the original architects of Aadhaar are wealthy men who made money in the free-wheeling, laissez-faire capitalist markets of the United States. They have now come back in their old age to create statist monopolies in the land of their birth.
Can you imagine what would happen to a person who runs foul of any government? Our corrupt courts would grant the necessary powers to invoke some by law that has been buried in a dozen acts of Parliament rushed through past somnolent legislators by bureaucrats. This will enable your accounts to be frozen, your phones to be cut off, your property to be confiscated.
Does anyone remember the repression let loose by Mrs Gandhi for two years between 1975-77? Most of the readers of this blog were probably not born. It happened then, and it can happen now. Had Mrs Gandhi – or her idiot son Sanjay Gandhi – had access to the Aadhaar database, the heroics of the opposition leaders in going underground would not have been possible.
So now let me come back to the educated idiotic elite of this country. These people were educated and brought up in this imperfect country, which boasted of a system that tried to be fair, gave them a subsidized education which allowed them to go out and conquer the world. These very same people are now swayed. On the one hand – by the glittering progress of our neighbour China where you belong to the State and you dont exist if the State says you dont. And on the other hand – by the resentments against Mughal and Muslim rule in the past that now seems to offend their Hindu identity.
These people are the biggest supporters of this massive identity grab. And they see no harm in surrendering liberties to a government as long as that government conducts its right wing dog-whistle politics. I am very sure if I explained to my uneducated maidservant what could potentially happen with her Aadhaar card, she may think twice. But she cannot. Because whatever little she gets from our venal state comes from this Aadhaar in the form of subsidies.
I despair. We need a strong executive but there is a choice. A strong accountable executive matched by strong protection for civil liberties. But our IAS class got hold of this problem and have applied their unique colonial calculus of control on it.