Demonetisation Is Another Dangerous Move


'This is what subdivisional magistrates are ordering across rural India.
It's the police that is maintaining order as the situation is riot-like at times.'


Last month we shared this interview with advocate and researcher Usha Ramanathan, published in Catch News, on our Facebook feed. In the interview Ramanathan comes out strongly against demonetisation and the move to a 'cashless economy', saying that the project, together with the UIDAI's Aadhar database, exposes Indian citizens' transactions, movements and personal details to data-hungry financial technology companies, as well as the government. One of our readers, an IAS officer known to us, responds.

The founding fathers envisaged the IAS to be free and fearless. However, due to rules recently passed by the government, I am no longer allowed to discuss these issues on a public platform. So, I would like to contribute anonymously to the discussion on demonetisation.

I believe this form of money control, without a legislative mandate, is purely immoral.  The government is intruding too far into the private realm of the citizen. This move will only enhance state control over citizens' lives. The worst part is that BIG data infrastructure and databases are all in the private domain, with little or no legal backing to protect people's privacy.

Most folks entering the government at the middle/ senior management level don't care for anything apart from their own profit or career progression—this is true of every organisation and government is no different. Although a few of us government officials—at every level, young or old—are alarmed by new developments under the present government, we no longer have free speech. Even our comments on Facebook can get us into serious trouble. [See, for instance, here or here.]

The present system of decision-making has become very opaque and, most of the time, HIGHLY undemocratic. Almost every information-technology based solution meted by the government will, no doubt, make lives better, reduce corruption and move things along faster—but all this at a significant cost to citizens' freedom, privacy and autonomy. Through Aadhar, the government is making a huge database of information on each citizen, recording every activity she or he might ever undertake in their lives.

I would like to point out here that, even in the villages, ordinary citizens understand that government intrusion and disappearing privacy are going to be a major problem. Contrary to the elitist picture painted by the media, ordinary Indians, who don't by and large have a formal education, are intelligent and have solid common sense. But most people who support these moves are the ones financially benefitting, either directly or via an increase in the general efficiency of the government.

To come to the effect on money. The situation is truly alarming: my autonomy to earn a livelihood is being subverted under executive control! Add to this the utter collapse of rural economy right before the harvest season. The government doesn't own the economy. The economy is sui generis [unique; of its own kind] and at best the government regulates it. The primary problems we face are being perverted to fit solutions, or products, that have been put forward. This is an extremely unethical and anti-democratic form of government.

The judiciary and legislature are afraid to voice their dissent as they are being labelled "anti-national" by the government and its allies. As for journalism, we have few sane voices left in the media space these days. The media should never be throttled as it is being today; our nation was built on this founding principle. All of what I have said is clearly enshrined in our constitution and our laws.

In the constitution our founding fathers left enough measures in our governance to protect the citizen. Unfortunately, we haven't yet translated any of these into a framework for IT or ITES [Information Technology Enabled Services] solutions. We desperately a case like Kesavananda Bharati which would address the issue of data security and privacy rights for the ordinary citizen.