My notes and musings …

Posts Tagged ‘media

Tech Fixes – The unique ID project in India

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I have major concerns about this whole Unique Identification Number project, recently in the news in India, on three grounds :

  • who is doing it?
  • which problem are they trying to fix? and
  • how will the proposed solution solve the stated problem?

Who is doing it?

As I posted in the comments section on Ashwin’s article at India Together, the primary issue I have with the UIDA is that is an “Authority”. One that is not directly accountable to the people.

The establishment of more and more ‘Authorities’ is very unnerving. Cities are no longer governed by elected representatives, services like water, sewage, electricity are being either contracted to fully private entities or carted out as PPPs. In spite of CAG reports that indicate that these entities are as corrupt and inefficient as the govt., we seem to be heading towards creating more such bodies to decide on a bigger slice of the ever shrinking pie of resources.

Technological solutions to governance issues are like pain killers, good till you are popping the pills. Good governance can be realized and sustained only through an aware and participative citizenry.

Which problem are they trying to fix?

According to media reports, the objectives of having a UID range from national security to govt. programs to law enforcement to access to medical records to ‘having a homogenized identification’ – something that doesn’t show one’s caste, class, religion, region, etc. The last reason being the most disturbing. It will take ages before we have a citizenry that is aware and participates in civic issues. So we might as well use technology to show that we are trying to ensure citizen rights. Especially when we are talking about contracts worth thousands of crores !

How will the proposed solution solve the stated problem?

Almost every one going ga-ga on this seem to think the challenge is purely technological and that this challenge can be easily overcome by The Great Indian IT Prowess. Well, storing a billion numbers and running a few lakh simultaneous compare operations is only one part of the challenge. One needs to look at (if and) how this solution would reach a jawan patrolling in Kashmir, or a ration shop contractor in a village in rural India let alone the lakhs of other places where we use identification.

As I see it, like the interlinking of rivers, this is yet another mega-mega project that is intended to show that we are fixing the problem. The lack of an informed and public debate on this and the structures being used do not reflect well on our much proclaimed democratic ethoes. Running after such solutions, we are loosing focus of the problem and the root causes will lie unaddressed that much longer.

http://mnic.nic.in/ is the under construction web site of the agency set up to translate the UIDAI’s UID to a card. The wikipedia page on this has some background information though it is more than a year old.

Written by Dwiji

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 at 15:49

Two Press conferences

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Back in April I volunteered with Delhi Forum during a three day protest against the GoI’s policies on land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation, and the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) mushrooming around the country(side). It was an event with participation from more than 30 movements, organizations, and campaigns from across the country. Working with the team preparing the daily press release I got a taste of the effort and tact needed to get a press release out in such events. While each of the participants by themselves would not have attracted much media attention, the presence of the many regional and national campaign and movement leaders, and ofcouse Medhatai leading the dharna, seemed to be a fairly decent media attraction. And it was quite understandble that each of the participating groups wanted to see their issues & challenges projected in the press releases.

On July 2nd I was on the other side of a press conference. This one was organized by the Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi). A ‘multi-product’ SEZ is proposed to be set up on 12,500 acres of fertile land leading to the displacement and loss of livelihood to more than a lakh people. The press conference was addressed by leaders from the Karnataka Rajya Raithara Sangha, CITU, CPI-M, and those from the Samiti. A new government had assumed power in the state less than a fortnight earlier and was planning to submit its budget within the following fortnight. The press conference was focused on getting the media to publicise the not so fruitful meetings with the new Chief Minister and the renewed declarations of solidarity by leaders of politically active bodies. Though the anti-SEZ campaign was the focus of the press conference, it was not the only one. The well attended press conference was also reconfirmation of the media’s attraction towards star power. After the press conference, Mr. Kenche Gowda a leader of the samiti and the KRRS leader Chandrashekar both made themselves available for interviews outside the venue. Once again, the local was not in much demand …

Written by Dwiji

Thursday, July 10th, 2008 at 16:30

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