WTFJH: October 26

#1. When the most powerful man in the country takes time out from the onerous task of building a New India to reach out to a lay party worker, it sends a message — the prime minister, like democracy itself, is of and for the people. Here, watch this chicken soup for the political soul moment:

Doesn’t it do you good to listen in? Did you see those lovely little human touches, as for instance when the PM inquires after Gopal-bhai’s stationery business?

Question is, how is it possible for you to listen in? How did the very private conversation of a prime minister, speaking behind cupped hands while on a very public stage under the umbrella of his protective security detail, get recorded with such crystal clarity (listen again — see how clean the recording is, how shorn of all ambient noise? Was everyone on stage, and in the audience, holding their breath while this was happening)? And how did this recording — a shocking breach of security in itself — then get leaked to the television channel and then to social media?

Will there be an inquiry into this unprecedented security breach? If this conversation can be recorded so easily, what else is being recorded, and by whom?

If those questions are too much for you, then try this: Who writes the scripts for these shitty publicity stunts? Ekta Kapoor?

Speaking of publicity stunts, the Congress and other opposition parties announced a couple of days ago that November 8, the first anniversary of the infamous demonetization drive,  would be marked as Black Day. The BJP promptly came back with its counter: the party will celebrate the same day as Anti-Black Money Day. Very neat, that — the narrative is being reframed as ‘demonetization was to root out black money from the system, so anyone opposed to that is in favor of black money’. Only, this:

Do yourself a favor: Open Google. Do a search for “objective of demonetization”. Set the date field for 8/11/2016 to today. Check the results, see if you can count the number of times the “objective” has changed, the goalpost has been shifted.

If the FM’s objective was to squeeze the quantum of cash in circulation, then how does he explain that it is under his watch that CIC grew by an astonishing 31% in the first place? As under:

And if, less than a year ago, such a drastic step was taken to reduce CIC, then how to explain this?:

Governments are manned by human beings; errors will happen, even gigantic blunders will get committed. It is not ideal, but it happens. And the graceful way of dealing with it is to admit to error, to apologize, and to work to rectify whatever went wrong. It is when a government — any government — embarks on a year-long series of lies and obfuscations to cover up its original blunder that the mess gets compounded. Worse, because you cannot admit to having erred, you obviously cannot take corrective action.

#2. Aadhar is boiling over quite nicely, with the key hearing proceeding in the Supreme Court. The best source to follow the court proceedings is advocate and constitutional law expert Gautam Bhatia, who does highly informative Twitter threads after each hearing. Here is Bhatia’s update after yesterday’s hearing.

Meanwhile, the government continues to push Aadhar down every throat by every means, most of them in direct violation of the Supreme Court’s order that Aadhar cannot be made mandatory until the case in chief is heard in full and a judgment handed down. What is breathtaking is not the open flouting of the court’s directive, though — that is almost par for the course now — but the sheer hypocrisy of it. Here’s a news item worth your while:

Modi Government has made linking Aadhaar card mandatory to get benefits of all government services that the 125 crore Indian citizen utilise. But, PMO does not have the information about the Aadhaar card details of its own Ministers working under Modi government. This information has come to light through a reply which was provided to RTI Activist Anil Galgali for his query.

Here is where it gets really rich, though: The main complaint of anti-Aadhar activists is that the act of linking the ID number with services such as bank accounts, telephone numbers etc breaches an individual’s privacy. It is this argument that the government has been strenuously fighting. But then (emphasis mine):

The information regarding the PM’s Aadhaar number was rejected under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act 2005. Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information officer or State Public Information officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such Information.

Meanwhile, the defenders of Aadhar continue to insist that all is kosher, that the system is working absolutely fine. So there’s this:

The Maharashtra government’s attempt at online registration for loan waiver implementation has sent the authorities into a tizzy as names of over 100 farmers have been found linked to a single Aadhaar number.

One of the consequences of this government’s serial fakery is the number of people who have taken it on themselves to carry out fact checks. As for instance the Twitter handle India Subsidy Data, which has been meticulously tracking the figures the government puts out and comparing those with public statements. A case in point is the government’s argument that Aadhar has led to thousands of crore in savings, and the Twitter tear-down:

Elsewhere, on the Medianama site, Anand Venkatanarayanan has been doing a series on the various claims surrounding Aadhar.

Parts one and two are a detailed rebuttal of claims made by Aadhar’s presiding genius Nandan Nilekani. Part three breaks down the government’s claims of massive LPG savings as a result of Aadhar. And part four, the latest in the series, deals with Aadhar and the MNREGA scheme.

#3. What’s today? October 26? The polling dates for Gujarat were announced yesterday, and simultaneously the Model Code of Conduct came into force. Here’s a breakdown of Rs 11,000 crore worth of sops announced by Modi and the state government in a span of just 13 days, from October 12-25. Remember that at some point, someone has to pay for all this. Guess who?

See you tomorrow.

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