ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Rhetoric of Fear

A week ago, I was going to forget about my boycott of Aadhaar and get my mother to enrol so that we do not lose our cooking gas subsidy. I could easily fan my family’s suspicion and laziness for any more cards and bureaucracy by quoting Usha Ramanathan (“A Unique Identity Bill”, EPW, 24 July 2010), Reetika Khera (“Not all that unique”, Hindustan Times, 30 August 2010) and Ramakumar (“Aadhaar: time to disown the idea”, The Hindu, 11 December 2011), but not after the government asked for Aadhaar to get the subsidy. Then, on 23 September 2013, the Supreme Court said that Aadhaar does not have parliamentary sanction and that it is illegal to link it up to essential services and social security entitlements. The Supreme Court’s observation came in the nick of time. One felt relieved. It is not every day that the Supreme Court reminds us that policy is not a thing and that it needs people’s approval embodied by Parliament. However, the relief goes away as one reads the fine print which is given below (“Aadhaar infringes privacy”, J Venkatesan, The Hindu, 24 September 2013).

Moreover, he alleged, Aadhaar numbers were being given indiscriminately, including to migrants without papers, creating a serious threat to national security. The executive order was ‘mala fide’ as the whole object of rushing through the Aadhaar scheme was to ‘secure political gains’.

The allegation is by the petitioner Justice K S Puttaswamy, retired judge of the Karnataka High Court. Clearly, it is not enough to have a sound argument to win a case; a rhetoric of fear is necessary too. It is not enough to argue that Aadhaar does not have parliamentary sanction, that it could potentially violate privacy by handing over large amounts of data to corporates and the government or that linking it up with social security is exclusionary. The spectre of the illegal migrant has to be brandished; that some Bangladeshi Muslim migrant might eat up our paltry welfare system.

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