Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Friday gave a statement, amidst the fresh allegations of data breach, “…ten pages of information which you have never even confessed to your wife ever, or to your husband, have to be passed on to a white man to get an American visa. We have absolutely no problems going and putting our fingerprints and the iris and getting your whole body naked before the white man at all. But when the government of India, which is your government, asks you your name and your address, nothing more… there’s a massive revolution in the country… saying it’s an intrusion into the privacy of the individual…” While the minister is no stranger to making bizarre statements, his latest remark on Aadhar defies any logic. The Visa policy, in America or anywhere, is protected by several rules and there is an assurance of protection of privacy; same cannot be said about Aadhar. A visa applicant to America gives her/his “ten pages” of information with full consent and faith and on the other hand, an Indian has to feel crippled in securing basic facilities if he doesn’t mandatorily hand over the information which perhaps can be misused.
In a digital world, where people are becoming increasingly apprehensive about the Artificial intelligence, no 13 feet high and five feet thick wall can secure our sensitive information which has already been digitalized. People have noted extreme security lapse in the UIDAI system. In response to Security Editor at CBS Zack Whittaker’s tweet about the security breach of Aadhar (as reported by Buzzfeed), NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had said, “it is the natural tendency of government to desire perfect records of private lives. History shows that no matter the laws, the result is abuse.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before coming to power in 2014 general elections, had serious concerns about Aadhar but even after being in power for almost four years, he has been unable to resolve it. In fact, his own official app, known as Narendra Modi app, has serious privacy risks as it shares the personal information of a user with a third party. The alleged role of Cambridge Analytica shows how the social engineering can be done and the poll outcomes be affected in a democracy.
Minister’s remark not only shows his ignorance but also his lack of respect for common citizen’s privacy. Privacy is one of the keys to sustain democracy as it gives an individual an autonomy and control of oneself. It limits the power (state or non-state) on a person’s life and maintains the basic human right of thought and speech. In a judgement by Supreme Court in August 2017, it was observed that” the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.”
Modi led BJP-government has, in past, refused to disclose the details of the Rafale deal, terming it “classified information”. On March 14, 2018, the government passed a bill that would exempt political parties from a scrutiny of foreign funds they have received since 1976. The same government in past has been hell-bent on refusing to disclose, graduation details of Prime Minister Modi. Air India, in response to an RTI filed by, has also refused to share the details of the foreign trips made by the Prime Minister, citing security reasons. Lack of accountability by the government and that of privacy of the citizens in a state displays how undemocratic and dictatorial a government, really is.
On being naked for a Visa in front of a white man, it can only be said that what might be true for some cannot be true for all.
Hanzala Aman is a columnist writing for HW News Network. The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of HW News Network or any employee thereof. HW News Network makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.