Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Right to Privacy Goes for a Toss!!

The Supreme Court today sent the Right to Privacy for a toss!! While hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the introduction of Aadhar, the biometric identification system being administered by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) and the slow but sure way in which the Government was making it mandatory for all citizens, the three judge bench of the court said that the matter of Aadhar violating the right to privacy could only be resolved by a seven judge constitution bench now that the Government had brought in legislation that overruled the earlier order of the five judge bench. However, the court refused to set up one immediately or give an early date to decide whether to stay the implementation of Aadhar pending the disposal of the current petitions.

The main concern is that the registration under Aadhar has now been outsourced to private parties, some of which are multinationals that have close links with the American intelligence establishment and so there is a real danger of the biometric data being stolen in the process of being uploaded to the UIDAI server. Since the Supreme Court itself has mandated that Aadhar will be mandatory for having mobile telephone numbers in another order and the Government in its latest Finance Act 2017 has made it mandatory for the income tax permanent account number (PAN) and income tax returns to be linked to Aadhar, as also bank accounts, these crucial data will now be prey for hackers or even those who can deliberately set up a parallel server to skim off the data while it is being uploaded. Even those who are taking a person's core biometric data for verification of his identity can easily store them in their systems without anyone being the wiser. Thus, there is genuine concern regarding the safety of digital transactions that use the Aadhar authentication process. At a higher libertarian level there is the question of surveillance by the Government of the activities of citizens.
The Supreme Court of course said orally that Aadhar cannot be made mandatory for the disbursal of welfare benefits. However, this is a weak oral statement in the face of clear contempt by the Government of the written order passed by it in this regard earlier. Moreover, if Aadhar becomes mandatory for having bank accounts, filing of tax returns and for having mobile telephone numbers, then it is of little use to say that for getting welfare benefits one need not have Aadhar because one won't be able to receive these benefits without a bank account that is linked to Aadhar!!
The Government is saying that on the one hand there are the terrorists who use both mobile phones and bank accounts obtained with fake identity and address proofs to further their nefarious designs and on the other there are the equally nefarious tax evaders and black money generators and it thinks it will be able to snare these people with Aadhar. The Supreme court by taking an ambivalent attitude regarding the right to privacy by not constituting the seven judge constitution bench and not giving a stay on the implementation of Aadhar has given the Government the leeway to bring in legislation that makes Aadhar mandatory and so the huge power of the state has thus been enhanced even further vis a vis the citizen.
As a diehard anarchist I had held out against registration under Aadhar till now. But today's observations of the Supreme Court made me go and register!! The reason is another arbitrary act of the Government that unfortunately no one has challenged in court so far. Whenever, any person earns more than Rs 30,000 for some service then the person paying for the service has to deduct 10 per cent and deposit it as income tax in the payee's PAN. Thus, regardless of whether one's total income at the end of a financial year is taxable or not, if one is a freelance service provider, then every time one provides a service worth more than Rs 30,000, tax gets deducted to the tune of 10 per cent. It is only after income tax returns are filed at the end of the financial year, that one can show that one's net taxable income after deduction of expenses incurred in the provision of the services is in a bracket that is to be taxed at less than 10 per cent and so claim a refund. Thus, filing of income tax returns, having a PAN and having a bank account and a mobile number to receive important messages related to this work are all necessary if one is to claim one's income tax refund which is money that was deducted from one's income in an unjustified manner earlier. The only way to ensure that I do get my income tax refund this year is to have an Aadhar number and in future I will need it to continue having a PAN, mobile phone and a bank account for all of which I will have to submit my Aadhar number. Indeed the law also states that if one does not file one's income tax returns despite having taxable income then one is liable to pay a fine and bear imprisonment. Thus, just legal activism against Aadhar won't do as one will have to give up one's tax refunds and go to jail in protest by not filing income tax refunds if one is to fight hard against Aadhar and for one's right to privacy. Only a beggar who survives on day to day cash doles or a militant or terrorist who operates outside the state system, can in the present circumstances avoid having an Aadhar number.    

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