My problem with Aadhaar

“Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric ID system, with over 1.19 billion enrolled members as of 30 Nov 2017, representing over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above. World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer described Aadhaar as ‘the most sophisticated ID programme in the world’”

Let me start by saying I totally like the idea of Aadhaar. The idea that almost everyone in India would have an ID that would work as proof of identity in the most scenario and it would be impossible to fake. For a country like India with its complexity and population, to get this done properly has huge benefits. Not only for the individual but also for the government and corporations. The whole identification process would become seamless.

My concern is right now it has become more than what it was plan for. Aadhaar is not just an ID card now, it is becoming a monster with all data linked to it. The government has done a fabulous job in getting most Indian to make one. Now it is forcing everyone to link it to all his other data like bank account/phone/tax etc. In itself if you think about it, it is fine if government wants to have everything under one umbrella, the concern is data breach. Once Aadhaar becomes all powerful then if there is a data breach that would be a huge disaster.

Recently I read an article where Bill Gates talks about Aadhaar a bit, very interesting what he says. Here are some quotes “Aadhaar is just a 12-digit lie detector. You may claim to be someone and Aadhaar can tell if you’re speaking the truth or lying. Yes, there are many applications linked to Aadhaar and there are records related to them. Privacy issues can come up with the applications that get built on top of Aadhaar. But none of the records reside on the Aadhaar system itself. The irony is that I often tell Nandan (Nilekani) that if I had built Aadhaar, I would have created it with many more inbuilt capabilities, but Nandan was very careful about not intruding on privacy.”

So the chief architect of Aadhaar Nandan Nilekani, who I respect because of what he has done with Infosys, had the idea from the very beginning of what it should be, at the core a lie detector. Problem is he is no longer in charge, the people now may be modifying the code as we speak and including all sorts of data in it. Another big issue is transparency, information flow has always been a big problem in India, many people say many different things and common people just do not understand fully. Most of the time they just do as told. So there is less clarity on the scope of Aadhaar and many doubts.

There are currently multiple cases being fought in the courts right now regarding this. Fundamental to them is the right to privacy, people are arguing that the government cannot force them to link their other data to it. They fear that their data are going to be misused. We will see what the court says, but people’s opinion is split now about Aadhaar. Many people legitimately fear(including me) and there are equally many sound people who argue that these are fears are baseless.

There have already been few data breaches mainly due to mischievous people who had access to the data and who leak them. The fear is there will be lot more and at larger scale, these are not good signs especially when the people in charge refuse to acknowledge that there are some problems.

I had a personal issue with it which raises my doubt. My dad had linked the gas subsidy to his bank in Canara bank long time back, he was getting the subsidy in that bank every time no issue. Then we open an ICICI account for him and connected the Aadhaar to it also(as is needed). The subsidy money started going to ICICI instead of Canara! This happened without our permission! and if I had not checked I would never have known as there was no notification. This kind of things creates doubt about how the system was developed and how its getting implemented now.

In my opinion, Aadhaar is a great concept but currently, it feels like something is broken with it. It is too important to not be near perfect. The government has to get this right. I hope they take security issue seriously and fix the loopholes.

Two is better than one

There are few things I have learned along the way which are worth sharing. Here are few which are club together with a general theme being multiple options are always better than having only one.

Bank account

There was a financial article I read sometimes back, basically, it suggested to create accounts for a specific purpose and use it for that purpose only. The idea being that money saved for a particular purpose is not mixed with others, this way it easier to focus and you do not end up over spending. It gave an example of a holiday trip abroad, for some people this might mean a saving for few years. I would not create too many accounts but I like the idea. In general, a person should have at least two.  I have an account for saving and an account for spending. I would put a particular amount from the saving one at some time to the other when it crosses a limit but this way I have more control over my expenditure. Let me explain it like this I have one big bucket of water and one small bucket of water, if I have to take water I almost always take it from the smaller bucket. Knowing it is a smaller bucket you will generally tend to take lesser water. Once you have set your virtual limit, you will be more aware when you spend. Additionally, when you calculate at the year end how it went, the financial statement is easier to read.

 

Browser

If you want to buy stuff online, like on Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal. You will notice that whenever you visit other sites like Facebook etc, there is a small section which reminds you of that stuff or similar stuff. This is because whenever you go to Amazon etc and look for a stuff to buy, it ‘remembers’ it in the browser, then feeds it as an ad when you visit other sites. At least for me, this is very annoying. One simple hack I found of dealing with it is, if I need to buy things I use another browser to do it, not my regular one. Like I regularly use Firefox, it’s my default but If I need to buy anything online, I will use IE or Chrome.

 

Email

Current email clients are pretty good at segregating emails to a category and prioritizing important emails. But this does not work perfectly, and If you are someone who gets a lot of emails, you will soon have a mess. What I do is create separate accounts for the separate purpose. So I have one mail id I use only for my family and close friend. Another for banks and other such related stuff. Yet another for public purposes. I have even one which is basically for junk, sometimes you require to give the email to try stuff. That is probably one too many but you get the idea.

Demonetization

Last year this time, the Prime minister announced demonetization with immediate effect. At that time I thought that the drastic step was a game changer. It all depended on how well the government was going to implement it. It soon became clear they had not done their homework, they had not done proper planning to take such a huge step which upset such a large part of the economy. They obviously did not fully understand the enormity of the task, did not understand the obvious problems which will come out. To be fair this kind of step, one cannot be fully prepared and some surprises were expected, but continuous missteps which caused innumerable pains for the common man were inexcusable.

The cash drought dragged on from days to weeks, only after a couple of months things started to get back to normal. In the meantime, many businesses slow down, some even shut down.The ripple effect was huge, workers were not paid or started to find that they were out of a job. Farmers had no cash to put into their crops and had to sell existing crops at a much more lower rate, marriages were postponed or severely scaled down. Numerous deaths were accounted for which directly/indirectly related to demonetization. Most people were not willing to spend, so economy came to a grinding halt. At that point, I was increasingly getting frustrated at the state of affair but I also noted that it was not the right time to judge if this exercise was worth it. We needed to wait for probably 6 more months before we see the full effect.

A year now, my opinion is that by most accounts economy has been hit badly, it has still not recovered yet, not sure it will anytime soon. Growth had slowed down. The push to get people to be less dependent on cash and more on the digital transactions worked initially but once people had cash again, most still prefer cash. There is still a long way before we become a mostly cashless society(note less cash means less likelihood of black money). The initial opinion was that a good portion of the black money which people stored in the banned 500 and 1000 notes would not be allowed back in the system as these were ill-gotten/unaccounted money so those people would be reluctant to expose themselves, so a loss for black money hoarders. Recently RBI has said more than 98% of the demonetized cash had come back to the system that means people were able to dupe the system and convert their black money. There is a famous word in Hindi, which is one of my favorite called ‘jugaad’, the government underestimated the people, they always find some way out.

Though my opinion is mostly negative, there were some positives, more people have started to use banks and other digital options. There was a surge in tax filings, the government was able to collect a lot. (The more the people get into the tax system the better it is for the whole country.) I have to give it to the government also, though there were many negatives, in many ways this was a loss for the economy but they were able to score high politically. They won the perception battle. People like me are in the minority, most people still view this exercise as a positive. For any politician that is what eventually matters most, if people agree with your policy then they will vote for you.

Sundarban

“The Sundarbans is a vast forest in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal, considered one of the natural wonders of the world, it was recognized in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site”

This puja me and my brother went on a trip to Sundarban. We took a package tour from a tour agency called Jupiter travels. It costs 4500Rs per person, which is quite reasonable. You can choose the more expensive package which would mean better boat/hotel/food, for us this was just fine.

The bus picked us from Science City and dropped us to Godhkhali, from there it was another 2 hours of a leisurely motorboat ride to our resort. One of the main fun of the tour is the travel around on the boat enjoying the picturesque natural beauty of Sundarban. If you have sea sickness you can be sure to avoid the trip, because the whole trip will be about traveling in the boat. There are no cars, no roads, there are just multiple small islands of forests and the only way to travel is by the boat.

The great attraction of Sundarban is to see the tiger, the tiger here is so famous that they have a special name for it, they are called “Royal Bengal Tiger”, some of these tigers have even earned the reputation of being “man-eater”. Unfortunately, in India, some people have to risks their life to earn a living. So people here goes in the jungle(illegally) to get honey, catch fish etc few of them are attacked and killed sometimes by the Tigers.

If you travel to Sundarban in hope of seeing these increasingly rare animals, you will most likely be disappointed. Sighting tiger is incredibly difficult, first, the forest is huge and dense and you will have access to only very small portion. Then the tiger population is around 100, so your chance to see one in action is minuscule. Of course, the guide here will play it up and try to keep you excited at the prospect of seeing one :).

The other interesting point of interests are alligators, dolphins, deer, many different migratory birds. We were able to sight some birds and a deer in the wild, which caused considerable excitement in the boat :). The chances of more sightings depend on the time you go. There was also a cultural programme of folk dance at the resort by local artists. Which was enjoyable to watch, the style of dance and song was very local which becomes very different what we usually see.

In summary, if you enjoy nature then Sundarban is great to place to go, even if you do not see the animals you will enjoy the sight of the dense forests, the ride in the boat, the freshness of the natural environment.

https://500px.com/hsushenon/galleries/sundarban

Bucket list

Bucket list- “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.”

Here is my current list

  • Visit China
  • Watch Arsenal play live at the Emirates Stadium
  • Visit Africa (wanna see the Safari)
  • Learn Mandarin (already had two go at it without success)
  • Learn to play an instrument (had one go at Guitar without success)
  • Own a home near river/hill (it’s a toss up between the two )
  • Have my own farm (what to grow is yet to be decided)

to be cont…

GoT

In my opinion Games of Thrones is the best TV drama series ever. The seventh season just started with a bang just as it left last season. While watching the first episode starting scene, I got puzzled at what was happening, and I am a person who has watched all the episodes before. I thought I might have been watching something of last season, I recheck and it was season 7, then maybe this is a recap cause the guy died last season how come he is there in the scene!! Of Course, in few moments, it is explained with more killings. GoT captivates you just like this every time, you get instantly hooked even after watching just for few moments.

The story is great, a lot of credit goes to George R. R. Martin for writing such a great series of books. Which has so many interesting characters and plots. Many people including me had never heard of the book till the TV series started, the adaptation of the novels to the TV has been perfect. A huge credit to David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for creating the epic drama series. You cannot point to one particular thing as to why the drama is so good. The casts, locations, directions, videography, music are all great.

Its one of the show that everyone is talking about it, even those who have not watch it has heard about it. It’s everywhere, many newspapers, websites have dedicated sections to just analysis the show. One of the things to watch out for are the spoilers and there are plenty. If you have not watched the last episode then you got to stay away from anything which talks about GoT, even your friends and family cause inadvertently they will give away a plot that would have been interesting to watch.

There are many ways to follow the show. There are many fan sites, Youtube channels dedicated to it and fans really go crazy there. They discuss every scene, every plot to the minute detail. I generally stay away from them because they give out too much detail. I like to watch the show and enjoying what unfolds there. One place I like to read about it is in theVerge. They have series of articles about it, and generally writing is very interesting( Its great place to get tech news also). Every year they conduct an online game in Fantasizr and I like to participate in it. Rules are simple you choose your team from the show in the start of the season. After every episode, a writer writes an article about it in theVerge, and gives out points depending on the happenings in the episode. Like if you have Arya Stark in your team and she kills someone, you get points.

There have been many memorable moments in the show for me which is one reason I consider it the best. One scene stands out for me, the “Red wedding” episode, it totally shocked me. I have watched many TV shows/movie which has lots of violence in it but this one was so chillingly done that it’s one of the few times I got shocked while watching TV/movie.

After this, there is only one more season left, up till now the TV drama was closely following the books but now we are in new territory which makes it more exciting as to what is going to happen. One thing is for sure the show has been able to constantly shock us and so I think the ending might not be what we suppose it will be.

Trump

Schadenfreude: It is pleasure derived from the misfortune of others

Like a lot of people in the world, I too have been obsessing about Trump since he started running for president. I thought after his lost I would forget about him but to my and world’s horror a big portion of Americans voted for him and he became the President of United States!

Suffice to say I absolutely loathe the guy. He is an example of a bully, racist, sexist, narcissist, and more. A look at him and his behavior and you know the guy is not genuine. It is beyond me how a section(not small) of public continue supporting him even now!

I describe my current obsession with Trump as like watching gladiators. You know it’s bad, but you just can’t take your eyes off it. It’s so entertaining, it’s almost like he is on a stage and the world is the audience. He has become one of my favorite topics to read, and every day there seems something interesting is happening.

One of a good way is to follow him is to watch Morning Joe on YouTube. Here the hosts gives a very good analysis of the political scene of US, plus there are often very good guests who talk sense. As I write this, Trump has used Twitter to insult the hosts of the show with shameful language. It’s very unbecoming of the president to talk this way, but by now we all do not expect much better from him.

As difficult as it is to understand why people would support him there is some good reason why he has become very popular. He is very unconventional, he will say and do things which normally nobody will say/do, this agrees with a lot of people who feel the conventional/established ways have hurt them. He is very good at tapping into the fears of the people. So he will go after Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans etc. He has mastered the art of using Twitter, in some ways, it’s because of Twitter he was able to win. He has currently a very strong base who will support him no matter what he says or does. It’s incredible how much he has got away with so far. Every time a controversy happens and you think he will not recover but he seems to bounce back. What will be interesting is to find what is the one thing that eventually brings him down.

I do hope sooner rather than later he does go. Since to hope for him to change his way is foolish, the guy is never changing. He is currently single-handedly destroying many values of America before long he will start to have the real effect on the world itself.