When we look around and see the developments in India, we see a spurt of agitations and oppositions to the actions of the Government. When educated persons and successful professionals, professors in reputed universities, students of advanced legal studies all join chorus with opposition politicians and oppose legislation like CAA, Abrogation of Article 370, Triple Talaq etc., and the Media seems to endorse their opinion, it appears as if there is an uprise against communalism in the country.
Similarly, when people and organizations oppose the Aadhaar, amendment to rules under Section 69 (ITA 2000), Intermediary Guidelines Notification, or UIDAI’s tender notification for self monitoring in the social media, and now the PDPA 2018 or PDPA 2019, it appears as if there is an uprise against an assault on democracy by the Government.
There is no doubt that the voice of opposition is strong, the gathering of people for CAA protests are impressive and there are some voices from the educated urban class also involved in such protests. Whether it is Sadguru or Amit Shah these voices will raise in unison to condemn any attempt to support the views of the Government.
If those who support the Government try to hide their expressions for the fear of being defamed by the opposition, then the society may perceive that there are no body to support the Government views and hence what the opposition is saying must be true to some extent.
It is therefore time that such people need to boldly voice their views also. In this context, I would venture to place my views that most of the opposition is not an in principle opposition to either the CAA or Aadhaar or PDPA etc. They are all manifestations of the opposition to Mr Modi not even the BJP. By calling all these efforts as communal and anti Democratic, a narrative is being built that can hide the real intention of the people which is to hate Mr Modi and bring him down if possible.
Again if one wonders why there must be so much hate towards the man who seems to be dedicated to the welfare of the country, the truth stares in the face. The truth is that the hate for Modi is not because Mr Modi is fascist or communal but because he has taken to a fight against “Corruption”. Whether it is demonetization or Linking of Aadhaar to different Government services or the CAA or NPR, the core of the opposition is that the corruption they are indulging in some times in the form of making money directly and some times creating a vote bank to get into power to make money.
The intense opposition to Aadhaar started when the Government made its intention clear to link Aadhaar to the Property ownership which could hurt the holders of benami property. The corrupt but intelligent politicians engaged the various NGOs who were themselves concerned that the money flow from abroad to manipulate the Indian political and religious developments would stop, to raise a more authentic looking opposition to the moves of the Government. The opposition to Aadhaar, Data Localization in PDPA 2018, surveillance in PDPA 2019 etc are all manifestations of these mechanisations of the corrupt. Unfortunately some have fallen to the trap of this propaganda and taken up opposition to the various legislations under the guise of supporting Privacy or Freedom of Expression etc.
Even the CAA opposition is pure political corruption since the intention of those who oppose is to let illegal immigrants to become their vote banks.
Today, there is a very informative article in epw.in title “The politics of India’s Data Protection Ecosystem” that has traced the legislation of Personal Data Protection bill currently in the Parliament and highlights some of the key issues.
Not withstanding the valuable information that the article contains, the article in its conclusion says “Safeguards for surveillance have received a big blow” and prepares the ground for further debates with the Committee of MPs, which is presently deliberating on the final corrections on diluting the provisions of national security enshrined in the Bill.
While any discussion on improving the drafting of the bill has to be welcomed, we should ensure that the discussion is held on a fair basis and the genuine interests of the “Security First” school of thought is not ignored. “Security First” principle is that for democracy to survive, first of all we should survive. If any opposition to the Bill is providing strength to the forces which try to destroy the country, we should recognize this before expressing our opposition.
During the struggle for independence, Mahatma Gandhi had several occasions when he suspended or threatened to suspend the agitation for freedom if the principle of non violence is violated. Similarly if the principle of national security is likley to be violated, we should not blindly support the opposition to the Government legislation that are basically meant for assisting the Anti national view point.
Let us therefore keep our eyes and ears open to discuss without forgetting that surveillance is part of good governance and refusing the Government to have some enabling power is like asking our police to use lathis against AK 47 wielding terrorists. We have made such mistakes in the past and we should not do it again.
We must understand that every law can be misused if the police or authorities have no integrity. In the previous Congress Government even the finance minister was subject to surveillance in his office. At that time also there was no law that was supportive of such surveillance. Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed emergency and suspended all Civil Rights misusing her powers. Such instances can only be corrected if we bring ethics into politics and prevent vote bank corruption.
The spirit of “Equality and Justice for all” which was enshrined in our constitution has long been forgotten and though people swear by the constitution to oppose surveillance, they forget that “Providing Security to all the Citizens” is a duty cast on the Government and it is the fundamental right of every citizen to ensure that the Government takes such measures as are required to provide safety to its citizens.
If this safety requires CCTV vigilance, or if it requires exemptions from obtaining consent before conducting intelligence activities , we should recognize that there has to be a legal enablement for the Government to do its duty. Any opposition to the surveillance aspects of the PDPA 2019 should be moderated in this context.
We should not expect the Government to secure our society with its hands tied behind its back with Privacy regulations that ignore the security interests.