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The challenge of being a citizen


The introduction of Aadhaar Bill (2016) as a money bill to avoid any possible obstructions and opposition by the upper house of the parliament in turning it into an act by the Narendra Modi Government has put forth serious questions before the already depressed and undermined intelligentsia and social activists regarding the citizen’s threatened privacy rights. Since inception, this government has shown its conservative and radical approach while dealing with the socio-economic and political dimensions of the nation.

With brand-making and rhythmic slogans like “Sabka sath sabka vikas ” and the presence of multifaceted divisive government policies based on class, caste and community, a hypocritical attitude is on the rise. The self-proclaimed ‘pro-poor’ budget of 2016-17 lacks the welfare measures to cater to the bigger and needier section of the society, reflecting the absence of true intentions on creating a welfare state.

A few radical and fanatic groups like RSS and its subsidiaries are working as pressure groups to limit the definition of freedom, citizenship and patriotism. They themselves are a huge threat to the people, ranging from commoners to intellectuals. This threat is being provided aid by the government’s style of legislation and execution.

As a citizen of a nation, we have a few duties towards her as well as rights which are to be assured by the government on behalf of the nation. But the problem arises when the balance of power get disturbed due to lack of understanding among people and the actions of a propagandist government.

Aadhaar Act (2016), at first look, may appear as an effective tool to fight discrepancies in distribution of amenities provided to the people. But at the same time, through a few exemptions, it interferes in an individual’s rights to guarding one’s privacy, one of them being the disclosure of the information on district judge’s demand and the second in cases relating to the national security.  It has nothing to do with delivery of benefits, subsidies and services  that gave this bill an edge over normal bills to get approval only in the lower house of parliament.

Rather, the haste shown in the introduction and passing of this bill in form of a money bill makes one suspect the intentions of the government which created a subway to get into the fort of individual’s privacy.

The complications attached to these exemptions may become clear if we closely observe the judicial outcomes of the local judicial bodies, heavily influenced by political social prejudices. Likewise, the way government has dealt with several cases under national security including the recent incidents of JNU where students were slapped with charges of sedition, makes the door of exemption vulnerable to misuse.

Another problem with this method of unannounced surveillance is that these exemptions may lead to excessive and inappropriate use of it, like it happened with telephone tapping in and before 1997 which, according to the Supreme Court, was a violation of Fundamental Rights (Art.19 and Art. 21).

Governance is a tough job to accomplish, but nowadays, even being a citizen is not easy. Limiting the degrees of freedom and restricting the radius of citizen’s sphere of freedom may lead to conflict, distrust and differentiation between the ruling class and those being ruled, a situation that will only benefit the former.