Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Ramamritham falls in love

Who is the person I hate the most ? No; not that one, whom I frankly don't care about . He is half the planet away and troubling other folks; not me. My visceral hate is reserved for somebody much closer home. The "dotard" called Ramamritham. Allow me an unhinged rant please; I badly need it !

You see, the problem is that Ramamritham has fallen head over heels in insane love. We all know how crazy he is even when supposedly normal. Now that his brain circuits have been singed with love, he has become a monster. The delectable damsel who has swept this idiot off his rockers is called Aadhaar.

For the benefit of the one American reader who claims to be ignorant about India (no; not the lady - she is an expert !), Aadhaar is the national ID that every resident of India is supposed to get.

The government introduced Aadhaar some 5 years ago ostensibly as a way to identify individuals to whom subsidies could be paid directly and thereby minimise leakages.  The government gave pious assurances (including to the Supreme Court) that Aadhaar was not compulsory or mandatory and it would never make it so.

I think the government framed this with good intentions, but had not factored that the old toothless fart, Ramamritham, would fall in love with this.  They say love makes you irrational, and if anybody needed any further proof of this, look at what this apology to the human race is doing.

He first made Aadhaar mandatory for buying gas cylinders. Then he made it mandatory to operate any bank account. Then he made it mandatory to file a  tax return.  But where he has gone completely bonkers is that he has now made it mandatory for a mobile connection !! And where it truly descends into madness is that its not just an Aadhaar number that this clown wants. He wants a fingerprint match for every mobile owner !! No; I am not joking. He wants to fingerprint you before you have a mobile phone.

Consider the logistics. There are 1.2 billion people in India. Perhaps some 800 million own a mobile phone. And we being the argumentative Indians we are,  don't possess just one connection . Almost everybody has two SIM cards. And this is what Ramamritham wants us to do.

1. Go physically to a store of the mobile company (they usually have one store for a million users)
2. Stand in a queue ; you can imagine the length of the queue yourself
3. Give your mobile number and Aadhaar number to whoever is behind the counter
4. You will get a one time password on your phone
5. Give this number to the flunkey
6. He will enter some 10 fields into a computer system that has been ordained by Ramamritham.
7. You then place your thumb on a fingerprint reader
8. If it goes through (and that's a big IF - see below), then the flunkey does some more fiddling with the system
9. You then place your thumb a second time (Ramamritham wants to make absolutely sure)
10. If it again goes through, then say four different prayers and then go home
11. You'll get a SMS saying that your request has been registered and that you will get a confirmation in 24/48 hours
12. If you get a SMS after 24/48 hours, you should follow the instructions there and type Y or N or don't do anything
13. If you fail in any of these steps, go to Step 1

Note : The big IF arises because , this being India, any sensible store has bought a cheap Chinese fingerprint reader and it is impregnated with the smudges of the half a million people who have tried to bestow their affections on it.  Therefore your fingerprint is rarely read on the first attempt. If you fail in three attempts, your Aadhaar gets locked and if you want to unlock it then you have to undergo some contortions not dissimilar to what a certain Mr Scaramucci suggested a Mr Bannon was in the habit of doing.

800 million Indians have to do this twice ( not just once, for you see everyone has two SIM cards). If you are stretcher bound, you still have to do this. Nobody else can do it for you because you have to press your damn thumb on that damn machine in the store. If you don't do this by February, be prepared to just not have a mobile phone. Cost estimates for the whole nation to cater to Ramamritham's love affair have been pegged at Rs 1000 crores.

I have lived in the most obsessed country in the world which wants to control every single bit of information you have access to - China. This is the country that has blocked Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, ............ This is the country that employs a million people to read every tweet and delete those that it doesn't like. Even in that country, buying a SIM card was as simple as going to a corner shop and just buying it. No paper, no forms, no crap. It takes all of 2 minutes. And I am now supposed to be living in a liberal democracy called India. And I have to do all of what I have outlined in this post, simply to have the privilege of talking to a friend.

Unfortunately this is not the worst of it. The other day, I had to receive a payment from some company. They demanded my Aadhaar. Very soon, if I have to pee, I am sure I will have to validate my Aadhaar.

Readers are invited to design the most creative torture that can be inflicted on Ramamritham. And to the good American referred to earlier in the post. Let's do an exchange. I'll gladly take your dear leader in exchange for Ramamritham !!


Deepa said...

Oh Nooooo!!!!! I was planning to get a mobile phone connection for myself in India. I already have to devote days of my vacation to link my Aadhar number to my bank accounts and now standing in line to get my fingerprints for a mobile phone. This Dussehra I am burning a 'Ramamritham' effigy.

You are too funny by the way! :D

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Easier to get your folks to buy it in their name for you. Yes, burning the effigy is a good idea. Let loose a few choice curses in the process :)

Sriram Khé said...

Oh please, our dotard can kick your dotard's ass big time!
your dotard only troubles your country. Our dotard is a global pain (except for his dictator BFFs!!!) And our dotard won the contest to become a pain. What contest did your dotard ever participate in????

i tell ya, funny not funny!

btw, Nancy, er, Deepa, burn the Indian dotard effigy. Else the nutcases will come after you ;)

Ramesh, what is with India's obsession with ID and forms for every damn thing??????

Ramesh said...

@Sriram - Nice to see you go all ga ga over the Queen's English. Needed a Kim Jong Un to get you to use words like dotard :):):)

Yeah ; we are obsessed with forms, red tape and rubbish like that. Its the British legacy unfortunately which we have embraced wholeheartedly and perfected into a fine art.

Ramesh said...

Posting a comment received from my good friend Ravi who had difficulty posting it. Reproducing it verbatim in two parts because of the length restriction on comments

Hi Ramesh good to see you back to blogging. I thought of responding to 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. On the one hand 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. On the other hand 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 nincompoop 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 how Mary Shelley thought about how monsters are created. 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.

Ramesh said...

Ravi's comments continued

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 don't exist if the State says you don't. 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.

You may want to censor this Ramesh. I will not mind at all if you take this down. After all you are an Indian citizen. I am not.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Thanks Ramesh. for some reason your blog would not let me post. To readers - all flame mail to be directed to me please. Ramesh was simply the postman.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

@Sriram - you said "Ramesh, what is with India's obsession with ID and forms for every damn thing?????? " - best to read "India Conquered" by Jon Wilson. In sum, the British tore down all local self government and wrote rules so that some lily-pink collector could run the place.

Sriram Khé said...

Ravi, thanks for your rich comments.

"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."
I was a tween then, but remember all those all too well because even as a kid I was interested in all things politics. I was always shocked when one of my favorite political commentary sources--the Tamil language magazine "Thuklak"--carried blank spaces that were censored!!!

I am with you on your comments on "the educated idiotic elite of this country." The length to which people go in order to defend the various corrupt and dangerous practices that are well on their way to annihilate freedom all because of the mirage of trying to match the Chinese!!!

Living in the US, I am doubly depressed, watching and living the unfolding events in the old and adopted countries alike. I would never have imagined such a situation in either country back when I was energized by the anti-Emergency political rhetoric :(

Finally, about the (tax) collector ... as a kid, like many kids, I was always impressed with the "IAS" and the "collector" ... and then one day, somebody shattered the world for me by explaining that the IAS Collector was a system set up by the British for tax-collection and hence the "collector." One of these days, I will check out the book you refer to ...

(Ramesh, it seems like Ravi might not always read your blog ... will you, therefore, do me a favor and copy/paste my comments in an email to him? Thanks.)

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

@Sriram - thanks for your notes. George Washington wrote that "To be prepared for war is the most effective way of preserving peace". Paraphrasing that comment, we need to presume that liberties surrendered to the state can be misused, and build the necessary defences against it, in order to ensure that this misuse never happens.

Unfortunately, the behaviour of some companies who were using Aadhaar for authentication has been irresponsible. (They were storing biometric data collected for authentication, so that they could re-use them. Saves money, but breaks the law). When this happens Joe Public now looks to the government to save them from the irresponsible private sector. It takes only a moment for us to ask for socialist solutions to technology and legal problems.

Do read the book - it has an impressive set of recommended readings. Since you are an academic and with access to a great library do go through them.

Thanks! (And thanks again to Ramesh for writing such a superb blog).

Venkat said...

Ravi Sir happy to hear your words.. I agree to an extend..
UID in other countries are used for enhanced security where genuine policing system and genuine enforcement of law is practiced.

In India DGMO recommended AADHAAR for security reasons, but it is been misused at present losing its objective. Its impossible in india to expect genuine people in bureaucracy. There will be some kind of misuses but it can happen even without AADHAAR, with any other IDS so there is no need to fear only for AADHAAR.

At the same time giving our fingerprints or signatures in soft copy to private players is serious issue which government need to stop. I am the one not willing to update my finger print with my phone operator and waiting to see what happens. I wrote a petition to TRAI in this regard. if some can join and write it to the right place i think peoples concern will be addressed.

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