Friday, December 20, 2013

Far from Vietnam

The defeat  marked a severe setback for America, one that affected the psyche of   its  society.  There  was  a  growing feeling that the war was a blunder.  That impression  coupled with the Watergate scandal   led   to   President   Nixon's  resignation. Isolationist forces were strengthened   at   home   and   the   US  government was cautioned about any such   involvement    in    future.    The   victory   of   Ho   Chi   Minh   and   his  associates boosted the morale of the Communist world ~SUBRATA MUKHERJEE
The protracted war in Vietnam, which ended in 1973, was one of the most defining events in the last three decades of the 20th century. This is evident from a sequence in Satyajit Ray’s film Pratidwandi (Adversary) made in 1970. In reply to a query as to what was the most important event of the last decade, the answer  was the ‘war in Vietnam’. This was followed by a counter-query, ‘Not man reaching the moon’? The reply ~  ‘No, the progress in the field of science would have made that possible. The war in Vietnam brings to surface many new dimensions’. Are you a Communist was the retort, to which the reply was, “One need not be a Communist to admire Vietnam”.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. One major contribution of the Eisenhower administration was the domino theory ~ “If there is a line of dominos standing on end close to one another and one is pushed over, it will knock over the next in the line”. This supplemented the Containment theory by which if one nation in a regional setting is taken over by Communism, its spill-over effect would affect its neighbours. On the basis of this doctrine, he supported the South Vietnamese government and though it violated the earlier agreement of holding an election for the whole of Vietnam, the Eisenhower administration continued to support the Vietnamese regime and increased military and economic aid to the Diem regime, which successfully convinced the US policy-makers that the Communists were behind all the mischief. Both Kennedy and Johnson followed this line of action and enhanced economic and military aid to South Vietnam.
This policy was defended on the ground that intervention was essential to protect the independence of the people of South Vietnam. But the actual reason was to keep the country outside the Communist bloc as a continuation of the Containment policy. This was the situation when America changed the course of its policy, aware that the Vietcong (the name of the guerrillas) were receiving substantial assistance from North Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh defended the policy because of South Vietnam’s refusal to agree to the earlier agreement to hold elections.
John F Kennedy, who was the US President from 1961 to 1963, proposed an anti-guerrilla campaign to create ‘safe villages’ in which local peasants were moved to fortified areas in order to isolate the Vietcong. He had sent 16,000 advisors, helicopters and other military hardware. This policy came a cropper  as the Vietcong consisted predominantly of peasants and had no problem in successfully carrying out their mission inside the villages. By 1964, the Vietcong and the NLF controlled roughly 40 per cent of South Vietnamese villages and enjoyed the support of the local people. Johnson (1963-69) assumed that the Vietcong was controlled and directed by Ho Chi Minh and ordered bombing of supplies. Over the next seven years, North Vietnam was heavily bombed, indeed  more than all the bombs that were dropped in Germany during the Second World War. In addition, more than half a million US troops were sent to South Vietnam. But even such massive deployment could not stop the advance of the Vietcong. By February 1968, the Vietcong controlled 80 per cent of all towns and villages in  South Vietnam. However, many of these areas were recovered by the US-assisted South Vietnamese troops; yet public opinion in the USA was building up against the war and there was an increasing demand to withdraw from Vietnam. Johnson rejected the demand of withdrawal but suspended bombing of North Vietnam in March 1968.
Nixon (1969-74) was convinced about the need for a new approach as increased US presence became untenable. Early in 1969, there were half a million US soldiers, 50,000 South Koreans and 75,000 South Vietnamese against 450,000 Vietcong and approximately 70,000 North Vietnamese troops. In this situation, Nixon introduced the new concept called ‘Vietnamization’, by which the USA would re-arm and train the South Vietnamese army to take care of defence,  allowing gradual withdrawal of US troops. This led to the reduction of US troops to half by mid-1971. Nixon resumed heavy bombing of North Vietnam again along with the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos and Kampuchea. But this did not change the ground reality and by the end of 1972, the Vietcong effectively controlled the entire western half of the country. Nixon was under tremendous pressure both at home and abroad to withdraw.
Several factors led to the demand for withdrawal ~ the revulsion caused by the massive bombing of North Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea; the extensive use of chemicals to destroy jungle foliage and of inflammable napalm jelly which burnt people alive; the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians; and the brutal killings of captured Vietcong soldiers and civilians which were highlighted by the media throughout the world. A ceasefire was agreed in January 1973 and this process  was facilitated by the Russians and the Chinese who were helping Vietcong but were also looking for a way out. The agreement stipulated that all US troops would leave Vietnam and both North and South Vietnam would respect the border along the 17th parallel. But the Vietcong continued the war. And without the support of the US troops, the Saigon regime collapsed and South Vietnamese defence proved to be no match for Vietcong.
In 1975, Saigon was occupied by the North Vietnamese army and Vietcong, leading to the unity of the nation and freedom from foreign occupation first from the French and then from the USA. Eisenhower’s domino effect proved to be correct;  along with the establishment of a Communist government in united Vietnam, Communist governments were installed in Laos and Kampuchea in the same year. The containment theory failed in South-east Asia.
There were several reasons for the debacle ~ Vietcong and NLP had massive popular support; the Vietcong were fighting in an area of which they had complete knowledge and intensive links with the hinterland. They were experts in guerrilla warfare; the US military could not stop the supplies to it from North Vietnam; and  the moral plank of the South Vietnamese position was weak as it did not hold the promised elections, fearing that the Communists would win any such election.
The defeat  marked a severe setback for America, one that affected the psyche of  its society. There was a growing feeling that the war was a blunder.   That impression  coupled with the Watergate scandal led to Nixon’s resignation. Isolationist forces were strengthened at home and the US government was cautioned about any such involvement in future. The victory of Ho Chi Minh and his associates boosted the morale of the Communist world. However, both the Russian and the Chinese leaderships were restrained in their reaction. Both wanted to reduce international tension, which facilitated the process of détente. A shift from the policy of containment became the cornerstone of US foreign policy from the 1970s till the collapse of Communism in the 1990s.
The writer is retired Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi
The Statesman 19 December 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Janamuktikami December 2013 Issue Available

December 2013 issue of Janamuktikami is now available.
Visit Janamuktikami

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ In the name of the poor

Usha Ramanathan

In the beginning, and for some time thereafter, the UID project based its claims of legitimacy on the 'inclusion' of the poor. In marketing the project, phrases such as giving identity to those without an identity, being "recognised in the eyes of the government", the "lack of identity" as "especially detrimental (to) the poor and the underprivileged", and the people who live in India's "social, political and economic periphery" have been used liberally.

The movement away from the promise of inclusion to the threat of exclusion if a person is not enrolled for a UID came later, beginning tentatively in 2011 but becoming aggressive and vocal in 2012. It was January 2013 before the poor were led into panic when UID-linked bank accounts were made mandatory for receiving entitlements by cash transfer into banks. Many of them had IDs that recognised their entitlements, for instance ration cards, NREGA job cards, voter ID, post office accounts - but they were now being told that they could not reach their entitlements if they did not have a UID number.
Enrolling the undefined class of the unidentified poor is a complicated exercise. The N.Vittal headed Demographic Standards Committee recognised this, and suggested an approach where "approved introducers" could introduce a person to the system and "vouch for the validity of residents' information." This idea was borrowed from the account opening procedure in banks; with a significant departure. An introducer must have a UID number; must be easily accessible to the resident; must be above the age of 18 and must not have a criminal record. NGOs were encouraged to act as introducers. But, while an introducer needs to be "approved" by the Registrar, there is no requirement that the introducer must know the person to be enrolled. This might have seemed a pragmatic resolution of the issue of enrolment of the poor and those without identity, but it was bound to raise its own set of problems.
A case in point is the well-documented instance of the homeless in Delhi. In January 2011, I visited the Pul Mithai enrolment centre to understand how the poor were being enrolled. Under the Delhi Government's 'Mission Convergence' in which the government and NGOs share a platform for policy-making and implementation, a survey of the homeless had been carried out using the benignant though inexperienced services of an informal roster of young persons. At that point in the exercise, which had covered about 80,000 people, a "provisional ID card under Homeless Survey" carried the name, gender, age and a photograph along with an ID number which ran like this: 10HP 58/1G. 3042397. 'HP' stood for 'homeless people' and 1G for the place where they had been surveyed as sited on the Eicher map. 1G was Mori gate, 1B was Yamuna Bazaar and so on. On the reverse were a series of caveats and explanations, including this: "This ID card has been issued on the basis of self-reported information by the cardholder." The UID enrolment was done on the basis of this card.
The actual enrolment was a parody. The names were not complicated, but there were some discrepancies; for instance, where a card recorded a woman as Pooja Devi, she insisted that she was just Pooja. Gender was the easy part. Age was less certain. It often went by approximations and in some cases, the age recorded in the survey was plainly in error - a lady whose daughter had married recently couldn't be 26! We did a 'panchayat' to help her arrive at her age. 
The columns for the name of the father, and of the mother were left blank. The young lads doing the enrolment explained: "Yeh log NGO ke hain" or these people belong to the NGO, a new version of mai-baap. Where fingerprints did not work, and iris did, the system 'accepted' the fingerprints after the fourth try - in what is called 'forced capture'. Those enrolled had no idea of the consequences.
The address posed a problem. What is the address of a homeless person? The street where they are when surveyed? A pavement they occupy until a 'clean-up drive' chases them away? 
On the UID form, another option was used. The homeless were given the address of an NGO that out of benevolence was willing to lend its name. Except the NGOs are in places in South Delhi while Pul Mithai is near Old Delhi railway station and the address for delivering the UID letter, and for the UID linked bank account, would be that of the NGO. The two "introducers" at the enrolment centre were young and motivated but had no idea where those they were helping to enrol could be reached. 
So, many UID letters stayed undelivered - where the name and photograph did not help locate persons; or where, as in Geeta Colony, there was a 'clean up' drive between the enrolment and the UID letter reaching the NGO; or in Nizamuddin, where labourers engaged on works for the Commonwealth Games had moved to another site and could not be traced. Later, the Homeless Resources Centre became the address. But the problems are generic and won't vanish; and the HRCs are linked to projects with a limited shelf life after which they may cease to exist, or may morph into an altered entity.
This may have "enrolled" the homeless, but not in ways that gets them into an identity system that will help them.
Those in poverty live in a twilight zone of (il)legality. To them, an identity document is an especially valued possession. That is one reason that the voter ID was so sought after although not having a voter ID was no disqualification for voting; one among a plethora of ID documents would serve for the purposes of voting. The casualness with which the identity of the poor is being trifled with by the UID, and piggybacking on the poor in carrying on an experiment is, to use a euphemism, less than fair.

The dependence on an introducer who doesn't know the person being enrolled holds the potential to actually distort identity. At his World Bank talk in April 2013, Mr. Nandan Nilekani gave a description that has the virtue of simplicity but not quite of accuracy. An introducer, he said, "will say 'I know this person, he's Ram Singh approximately born in 1977, so, we give a date of birth. He has a home, he has a home; otherwise, if he is a homeless person, we'll give him an address c/o Homeless Shelter or whatever. Basically, then, the introducer stands as some sort of guarantee in some sense for that person. Then that person's data is entered, and he gets an ID. So, that's how these people get into the system… Remember, fundamentally you get only one ID in the system. So the ID that you give at the time of your enrolment is your name in this system for the rest of your life…which is why I refer to this as a 21st-century Ellis Island…what happened at Ellis Island, let's say in the 19th century or Nova Scotia in Canada in the 19th century? 
“You had all the boatloads of people coming from Europe, Eastern Europe, Croatia, Poland, wherever, Ireland, Italy, all that. And they would land at Ellis Island and they would have very complicated names. And the immigration officer would say, ah, no, I think from now on you be Sam David. And, from that day onwards, in the New World, he would be Sam David, no matter what his name was in the Old World. So, we do the same thing, you know. This person was out of the system, except physically he is in the same place, but virtually he is outside. He comes in and gets a name and that's his name in our system for the rest of his life. So think of it as a 21st-century version of the Ellis Island."
The author is an academic activist. She has been researching the UID and its ramifications since 2009.

The Statesman 26 July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ Card or number? Crow or cuckoo?

Usha Ramanathan
Four years into the UID project, on 31 January 2013, Ministers in the Central Cabinet were asking, what is the UID? A card? A number? Or both? 
There has been much perplexed questioning in these four years. Is the UID project about identity or identification? Is it about control and tracking or transparency? Is it about information or data? Is it a unique identity (UID) or a “Know Your Customer” (KYC)? Is the UID voluntary or mandatory? Is the information collected kept on a government database or with private companies? Is the UIDAI part of the state, or an entity that transits through the Planning Commission to become a private company when it reaches “steady state”? Is the UIDAI a back office for the National Population Register (NPR), or is it a competitor in the race to enrol? Is the UID part of a surveillance apparatus, or is it only to deliver entitlements? Is biometrics unimpeachable or this an experiment? Is it a game changer or an app? Is it a crow or a cuckoo? 
Despite the opacity of the project, its encounter with Parliament being disastrous, and many questions being raised about it, the project has surged ahead. How did that happen? 
Mr Nandan Nilekani answered that in his April talk at the Centre for Global Development in Washington. “Our view was that there was bound to be opposition,” he said. “That is a given. So, how do we address that? One was, do it quickly... Second was, do it quietly ... Third was, we said in any case there is going to be a coalition of opponents. So is there a way to create a positive coalition of people who have a stake in its success? So, one of the big things here is that there is a huge coalition of, you know, organisations, governments, banks, companies, others who have a stake now in its future. So, create a positive coalition that has the power to overpower or deal with anyone who opposes it.” 
Quickly.  It was announced very early in the project that the numbers would begin to roll out between August 2010 and February 2011. Enrolment actually began on 29 September 2010, well within target. This was a demonstration of efficiency which was to show up the difference between the UID project and any other such task undertaken by the government. The problem, of course, was that this haste left no time for field testing, or to verify the feasibility of the project or its details. Details such as, biometrics as unique identifiers across the swathe of population and across time; introducers who do not know the persons they are introducing to the system but who are “approved introducers” because they are known to the Registrar; “biometric exceptions”, that is persons for whom neither fingerprints nor iris work to enrol or to authenticate; the errors that rampant outsourcing was introducing into the system; the leakage that One Time Passwords has made likely, and the faked and spoofed fingerprint and the ease of identity fraud. 
These were still in the realm of the little known or unknown, but decisions to adopt biometrics had been made even before the experiment was to begin. Haste has meant that an untested system has been imposed on an entire population, and whether it will work or not will be known after a passage of time. The problem is compounded by the fervour with which the UIDAI, and Mr Nilekani, have been working to have the number seeded in all databases, and to have systems re-engineered to accommodate the UID. 
Quietly. There has, in fact, been no public debate on the project. The government has not spoken except to make the UID mandatory. Mr Nilekani and his team have been hard selling the UID to individuals and institutions, so that their adoption of the UID number would push up enrolment. The quiet on the consequences of the project is especially deafening, and no amount of questioning has produced more than a sullen silence. That explains why Aruna Roy has been speaking out against the project as being disrespectful of the poor and imposing on them a project about which they have been told nothing, the implications of which are unknown to them, and where they have been informed - after being initially told that this is an inclusive project - that they will lose their entitlements if they do not enrol and get themselves a number. 
The silence has been used effectively in the non-provision of information. When information was requested on the “full name, address and websites of the foreign companies which are of US and non-US origin or control”, there was something brazen about the response that “there are no means to verify whether the said companies/organisations are of US origin or not”. These companies were Sagem Morpho, L1 Identity Solutions and Accenture Services - with close ties with foreign intelligence agencies such as the CIA and Homeland Security! RTI activist Rakesh Dubbudu asked for the  Detailed Project Report which Ernst and Young produced for the UIDAI, but it was denied to him, citing breach of privilege of Parliament as the reason - presumably because the UIDAI had made it part of its submissions to the Standing Committee of Finance. When the contracts with companies that are holding our data were asked to be disclosed, commercial and competitive interest was cited while refusing to give information. 
Creating a positive 
coalition to overwhelm opposition: state governments, central ministries and departments, banks, oil companies, the medical establishment, schools ... the list continues to grow of those who are being encouraged to demand the UID as a prerequisite to services. On 29 June, Mr Nilekani reportedly said in a speech at the IIM Bangalore that they were in preliminary discussions with embassies to use the UID number to “simplify visa application procedures”. The passport, it would seem, is not sovereign document enough! Is 
anyone in government 
In May 2010, a team of corporate heads including the leadership from Chlorophyl, Pidilite, Future Brands, and Procter and Gamble with a few others put together a document for the UIDAI titled “Aadhaar: Communicating to a Billion”. The UID was a product to be branded and sold, and the group's prescription was to “create a simple uncomplicated construct that is not open to multiple interpretations”. The message of basic data + biometrics producing an identity was indeed simple. When it did not generate the enthusiasm that the UIDAI had perhaps hoped it would, mandatory enrolment did the trick. Alongside, by dwelling on the corruption and leakages that are commonly perceived problems in service delivery, and the `last mile' being somewhat intractable, the UID has been promoted as the wand that will wish all this away. At the Centre for Global Development, in April, Mr Nilekani fed the audience a wild fantasy: “Today, we have reached a point where large intractable social problems - not all problems but many of them - can be solved using what we have.” May be it was hyperbole; just may be.  
Mr Nilekani says to “think of this (the UID) as an app that answers the question ‘who am I?’ and then you can build all kinds of applications on it.” 
This is how the business model is being currently marketed.

The author is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009

The Statesman 26 July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ When Parliament spoke on the UID

Usha Ramanathan
There is currently no law that covers the UID project.
On 28 January 2009, an executive notification set up the UIDAI. It was to be the responsibility of the UIDAI to lay down plans and policies to implement the UID scheme, which would include giving UID numbers to residents, interlinking UID with partner databases on a continuous basis, to keep the database updated, and "take necessary steps to ensure collation of National Population Register (NPR) with UID (as per approved strategy)". It was also to "identify new partner/user agencies"; to "issue necessary instructions to agencies that undertake creation of databases… (to) enable collation and correlation with UID and its partner databases". The Planning Commission would be the nodal agency and the UIDAI “shall own and operate the database".
Since at least September 2009, concern about the consequences of enrolling and databasing people began to be voiced. At a meeting on 23 November 2009, Mr. Nandan Nilekani said that state governments, who were being approached to act as Registrars, that is those who would collect the data and pass it on to the UIDAI, were asking how they were to respond if queried about the authority under which they would hand over enrolment data to the UIDAI. Then there was the vacuum in law on privacy which no one denied was going to be impacted by a project such as this.
It was at a meeting called by the Planning Commission on 6 May 2010, that Mr. Nilekani conceded that a law would be drafted to govern the project. On 30 June 2010, a draft Bill was uploaded on the UIDAI website, and kept there for 14 days for comments. On 3 December 2010, the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha with scarcely any changes from the UIDAI's June 30 draft. The finance minister had apparently objected to a clause that would exempt the UIDAI from all taxes and duties, and that was deleted; and the definition of 'resident' was reworked with the Registrar General of India. By this time, enrolment, the issuing of numbers and databasing had already begun, from 29 September 2010.
The NIAI Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) which, after yearlong consideration of the Bill, and necessarily of the project, rejected both- the proposed law and the project itself. 'The Committee', the SCF concluded, "would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme as also the proposals contained in the Bill in all its ramifications and bring forth a fresh legislation before Parliament."
In July 2011, when some of us deposed before the SCF, its members were only talking about tweaking the law and seeing how they could help it reach a legally acceptable form. By December 2011, after they had had time to study the project and hear both proponents and detractors, the SCF had had a total reversal of opinion. What was it about the project, and the Bill, that led the SCF to this rejection?
For a start, the SCF was scathing about the UIDAI proceeding with the project when the law was still in the process of being devised; this is "unethical and violative of Parliament's prerogatives", the SCF said.
Then, they were concerned that the UID is for all residents, not only citizens.
The UID scheme, the SCF said, "is riddled with serious lacunae and concern areas". The UID scheme "has been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose ….  it is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion… [It has] failed to take concrete decisions on important issues such as identifying the focused purpose of the resident identity database; methodology of collection of data; … conferring statutory authority to the UIDAI since its inception …" Without a law, how would the UIDAI address key issues of security and confidentiality of information, the SCF asked, and how would it initiate proceedings and penalise breaches?
Overlapping of various initiatives, duplication of efforts and lack of coordination raised concerns about cost, and that it was being done in an "overbearing manner without regard to legalities and other social consequences". The committee was also "unhappy", they said, "to observe that the UID scheme lacks clarity on many issues such as even the basic purpose of issuing `aadhaar' number." And, "although the scheme claims that obtaining aadhaar number is voluntary, an apprehension (has) developed .. that, in future, services/benefits including food entitlements would be denied in case they do not have aadhaar number."
The United Kingdom had disbanded its ID cards project for reasons including the huge costs, the complexity, because it is "untested, unreliable and unsafe technology", and the possible risk to the safety and security of citizens. The SCF was impatient about the unwillingness to draw lessons from this, and related, global experience.
Reflecting the concerns that had been brought before the SCF, they were categorical that "considering the huge database size and possibility of misuse of information, the committee are of the view that enactment of national data protection law … is a prerequisite for any law that deals with large scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases. In the absence of data protection legislation, it would be difficult to deal with issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information, etc."
On 28 September  2010, 17 eminent citizens including Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Prof Romila Thapar, SR Sankaran, Aruna Roy, Justice AP Shah, KG Kannabiran, Bezwada Wilson and Prof Upendra Baxi had released a statement of concern in which they had spoken of the no-law status of the project, and of the disconcerting fact that no feasibility study had been done before launching the project. The SCF iterated these concerns.
Further, "despite adverse observations by the UIDAI's Biometrics Standards Committee," the SCF said, "the UIDAI is collecting the biometric information …. Considering the possible limitation in applications of technology available now or in the near future, the committee would believe that it is unlikely that the proposed objectives of the UID scheme would be achieved."
This severe report on the proposed law and the project provoked no response from the government. Except for a document from the UIDAI defiantly claiming that all was well with biometrics, there has only been silence. On 31 January 2013, confusion was manifest when ministers in the Union cabinet said that they were unclear about the project, whether it is a number or a card, and what its link was with the National Population Register. This was four years after the project had been set off, and a year and two months after the SCF report.
(The author is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009)

The Statesman 13 July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ Inclusion project that excludes the poor

There are claims, and ambitions, that surround the UID project. The claims first. 
The UID, it is claimed, will be an identity that will bring down the barriers that prevent the poor from accessing benefits and subsidies. Unfortunately for the UIDAI, this claim is already being severely eroded. What was projected as a project of inclusion is already turning into a threat of exclusion. So, the poor have been told that if they do not enrol for a UID, if they do not have bank accounts, if those bank accounts are not embedded with the UID number, then they will become ineligible for the subsidies that they have been getting so far. That is the first obstacle that has been set up by the project.  
Then, a person needs to produce a pre-existing document to be able to enrol; a voter ID, a PAN card a driving licence or one of the many cards that are listed. Those who do not have a document to establish their identity or those whose documents are not accepted by the enrolment agency - and this is invariably the poor and the less privileged - will need an "introducer" to help them get enrolled. The introducer, as was explained by the Demographic Data Standards Committee that reported to the UIDAI in December 2009, would be akin to a bank introducer - with one significant difference: while a bank introducer would be expected to know the person he or she is introducing, it is different with UID enrolment. 
The state government or other agency acting as Registrar would have to appoint an "approved introducer" to do the task. That is, introducers must be known to the Registrar, but do not need to know the persons they are introducing! The accuracy of the data can be imagined. No wonder, then, that in January 2012 the Home Ministry protested that they could not accept UID data because it was insecure and unreliable. 
A second stated ambition is that of reducing leakage in the system. Mr Nilekani refers to himself as a plumber, plugging the leaks. The savings will be huge, it is said. No one would deny the pervasive corruption that has blighted many systems of distribution. 
The RTI, "transparency walls", public hearings, the use of technology to computerise, communicate and monitor the movement of goods and grain, the opening of post office and bank accounts for payment of NREGA wages, the use of mobile phones to let people know when their rations are to reach so that they may watch and collect their entitlements, the use of GPS to track the movement of vehicles carrying grain to the shops - these have already greatly improved systems. 
The UIDAI, however, suggests that salvation lies elsewhere - in a centralised system of identification. 
That, it believes, would do away with duplicates and ghost beneficiaries. There is, of course, no evidence about the extent of the leakage, and what the saving would therefore be. In fact, the first paper attempting to explain that the UID would reduce leakage appeared only a few months ago, done by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. 
The paper is littered with assumptions for, as they admit, there isn't any data in some areas and, in others, the data is outdated. 
In addition, contrary to Mr Nilekani's assertion at the talk in April 2013 that this was an `independent study', scholars at the NIPFP have admitted to "the group's research affiliations with the UIDAI (which) should preferably have been made (clear) in the study itself". 
How many us know of the One Time Passwords which are to be used to "manual(ly) override" when the biometric identification fails? When fingerprints or iris fail in recognising the person, for whatever reason, a request can be sent to the UIDAI to send a One Time Password to any mobile phone that is on hand. 
That OTP can then be used in place of the biometric.  
The potential for `leakage' and identity fraud and corruption in this, and the problem this poses for the `last mile' is undeniable, although it is not being acknowledged. 
No wonder everyone including the UIDAI is shrinking from taking on liability where there is "false accept", or "false reject", or where identity fraud occurs is a telling circumstance. 
The risk, till things change dramatically, rests heavily on the individual, while the system carries on experimenting. 
Is this too harsh a way to read the UID? Fact is, the UID project has been attempting to derive its legitimacy from the failures and corruption and non-performance of the system as it now is.
 Yet, since it is the excitement of technology, and not an intimate understanding of the poor and marginalised, that informs the project, the gap between its claims and how it is playing out on the ground is huge. 
And how much the bureaucracy and the political establishment have understood is moot; they have spoken too little for us to tell. 
With the claims not quite holding up, what ambitions are these that drive the project?
(The writer is an academic activist. She has been researching the UID and its ramifications since 2009.)

Then again, the biometrics on which this whole system hinges is still in an experimental stage. For the poor, manual workers and the old, authentication of who they are is more than likely to be a problem. This is what the DG and Mission Director of the UIDAI said in November 2011: "The other challenge we face is the quality of fingerprints. Capturing fingerprints, especially of manual labourers, is a challenge. The quality of fingerprints is bad because of the rough exterior of fingers caused by hard work, and this poses a challenge for later authentication.... Issuing a unique identity will not be a major problem. But authentication will be, because fingerprint is the basic mode of authentication." So, it seems, the idea is to expand to iris authentication - increasing cost through the introduction of a mode in which pilots are yet being run.

The Statesman 4July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~A virtual monster in the cloud

Usha Ramanathan
UID is an acronym for unique identification. But first, this is not an identity scheme; it is a system that leverages emerging technologies to help various governmental and commercial agencies identify and database persons. That is why concerns about the UID project include the hugely increased potential for convergence of data, tracking, profiling, tagging and the violation of norms of privacy.
Then, as we have been told many times over, UID is not a card, but a number. Some have mistaken the paper which is used to communicate the number to the resident to be an ID card. Mr Nandan Nilekani -- Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) -- explained, during a talk to the World Bank on 24 April 2013: "First of all, this is not an ID card project. There is no card. There is a number. It's a virtual number on the cloud, and we don't give a physical card. We do send you a physical letter with your number, which you keep in your pocket, but the real value of this is the number on the cloud."
The identification is to be done by matching the number to biometrics that are collected and kept on a Central Identities Data Registry.
The uniqueness of the number depends on the biometric system being failsafe; but biometrics is still at an experimental stage. All we have for the moment are some proof-of-concept studies, and the "faith", "belief" and "conviction" of the project proponents that peppers every document and speech.
Third, while the driving licence, voter ID and PAN card may be used as
identity cards, the UID
number is different. The UID is synonymous with another acronym ~ KYC, or Know Your Customer. The UID proposes to partner with Authorised User
Agencies (AUA), which may be any agency including banks, mobile companies, LPG service providers, insurance companies, departments with the state and central governments, hospitals and so on. When the AUAs decide to use the UID, they will have to deploy fingerprint and iris scanners, which will be used to "authenticate", that is, verify if the person is who she says she is.
This is a business model, where the UIDAI proposes to make its profits on authentication -- the Strategy Overview document calculates that once the project reaches a "steady" state, it should be able to make Rs 288.15 crore.
Four, the UID is supposed to be voluntary, but that was a deliberate untruth put out as part of the marketing exercise for the project, and because the UIDAI has no power to force anyone to enrol. After all, their legal status is highly suspect.
In the first two years of enrolment, it was evident that there was little enthusiasm to get on to the database. After all, it was not even clear what the point of the UID number was. Fact is it is still not clear.At the World Bank talk in April 2013, Mr Nilekani said, in answer to a question: "Obviously people don't know what benefits will come from this -- even I don't know what benefits will come from this...But broadly, they know that this is some kind of a gateway to the future. There will be benefits. What these benefits are, they don't know..."
Declaring that the UID was mandatory changed things for people. How the idea of making the UID mandatory was sold to the various governments is not widely known. We do know that the UIDAI had banked on the UID being made mandatory by different agencies even when it put together its Strategy Overview. The strategy was for the UIDAI to continue pretending that it was voluntary. This deceit is a part of the way that the UID project has been rolled out.
Five, the words `universal' and `ubiquitous' are used to describe the ambitions of the project. By getting everyone on the database, there is to be "universal" coverage. And by getting every possible agency to subscribe to the UID as a KYC, it is to be "ubiquitous". Mr Nilekani, of course, explains that the UID is an "identity platform". It is "open architecture" on which many "apps" may be built. Unlike the driving licence, ration card, voter ID, the UID has no purpose of its own. It is just an "ID verification system" and all manner of "apps" can be built on it. Direct Benefit Transfer is such an "app". And in explanation of what it will do, he says: "You can use the ID and create a credit history...or you could build an electronic health system." Since it is on a cloud, your health record will be portable and "you can take it with you wherever you go". Of course, this also "gives you complete traceability", of persons and their transactions. "Obviously," he admits, "it doesn't solve the problem of eligibility. You have to build some other systems for that."
The casual disregard of the law, the authoritarian demands to hand over personal and intimate information, creating databases that put people at risk, and passing off half truths and outright lies as facts are some among the disturbing features of the UID.
The writer is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009.
"The real beneficiary (of mandatorily linking the UID to bank accounts to be eligible for cash transfers) is neither the finance ministry nor the nodal ministries or citizens but the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which has struggled to meet its target of covering large sections of the population. Compared with the average monthly enrolment of 7.4 million people in the last seven months, it needs to add 25 million a month to meet its target of 600 million by 2014.  In the absence of parliamentary approval, forcing eligible citizens to take Aadhaar cards to avail the existing benefits, will, perhaps, be the most pernicious legacy of this plan, which is nothing more than an effort to rescue UIDAI."
Himanshu, an economist at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University who has been studying the UID, in the context of cash transfers.
The Statesman 3July 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Janamuktikami July 2013 Available

July 2013 issue of Janamuktikami is now available.

Monday, April 8, 2013

‘Odisha Gave Undue Benefits to Posco India’

press trust of india
BHUBANESWAR, 7 APRIL: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has accused the Odisha government of extending undue benefits to South Korean steel major Posco in allotment of a piece of land in the state capital here.
“The company extended undue benefit in allotment of land, disregarding zonal regulation and charging of premium at a reduced rate,” the CAG in its latest report tabled in the Assembly yesterday said.
The CAG observation was made based on the performance audit on the land allotments by the state government's General Administration department headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The auditor has come across widespread irregularities in land allotments.
The CAG report said that the country arm of South Korean Steel major POSCO-India had applied for allotment of a plot measuring 12,000 square feet for its Chairman-cum-Managing Director's (CMD) residence-cum-guest house in 2006.
However, later it enhanced the requirement twice to 25,000 sq ft in April 2007 and later 2 acres for the same purpose.
“Though the same area was earmarked in the Comprehensive Development Plan of the Bhubaneswar Capital city for commercial use, the company was allotted 1.700 acres land in January 2008 at a premium of Rs 25 lakh per acre against prevalent market value of the land of Rs 64 lakh per acre resulting in a loss of Rs 66 lakhs to the state government,” the CAG has observed.
The CAG report also observed that the land was lying vacant till June 2012.
“The company, thus, was extended undue benefit in allotment of land disregarding zonal regulation and charging of premium at a reduced rate,” the CAG said in its report.
CAG raps govt for other arbitrary land allotments

BHUBANESWAR, 7 APRIL: The CAG has rapped the Odisha government for allotting valuable land here without any proper policy for the past 12 years.
The latest CAG report for the year ending 31 March 2012, that was tabled in the Assembly yesterday, said the General Administration (GA) department allotted 464.47 acres in Bhubaneswar in 337 cases during 2000-12 to individuals, government offices, government undertakings and private bodies for establishment of hotels, hospitals, educational institutions and NGOs. Of the 464.47 acres, NGOs/organisations were allotted 183.44 acres by the department headed by Mr Naveen Patnaik.
“Although the GA department was entrusted with the management of this land since 1952, yet no rules, regulations, manuals for allotment of land have been framed by the department for the past 60 years ... The department has no comprehensive data on total land available, allotted and encroached upon,” the report said. A test check of 164 cases of the total 337 found that the process of land allotment lacked a defined policy and procedure and absence of any rule or criteria gave room to arbitration in allotment. Of the cases checked, 63 pertained to other than government parties. Of these, 16 applications for land were disposed off within a year while in the rest delays ranged from a year to 24 years, it said. pti

Source: The Statesman, 8 April 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sugar Decontrol to up Subsidy Bill by Rs. 2,500 Crore: Chidambaram

The government's subsidy bill will shoot up by Rs. 2500 crore per year on account of decontrol of sugar, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Saturday.

The Cabinet decided on Thursday to decontrol the Rs. 80,000-crore sugar industry. While the move does not affect open market prices, the government will pay the difference between ex-mill price of Rs. 32 and the public distribution system (PDS) price of sugar.

The finance minister said that the states will have to make their own arrangements. "States are free to obtain sugar from competitive bidding and from sugar mills," he said, adding that the difference will be born by the government as a subsidy for two years.

In October last year, a panel headed by Dr C Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, had recommended the removal of two control measures -- the regulated release mechanism and the levy sugar obligation -- immediately and of other restrictions gradually.

At present, the sugar sector is controlled from production to distribution. Through the release mechanism, the Centre fixes the sugar quota that can be sold in the open market. Under the levy system, it asks mills to contribute 10 per cent of their output to run ration shops costing the industry Rs. 3,000 crore a year.

The government currently buys sugar from mills for about Rs. 20 per kg and sells to ration card holders for Rs. 13.50 per kg.

Under the decontrolled regime, the sugar requirement of states for the public distribution system (PDS) will be met through purchases from the open market and the states will be given a fixed subsidy based on their existing allocations.

Karnataka Ministers’ Assets Grow 665 Per Cent

statesman news service
BANGALORE, 4 APRIL: The average assets of a minister in Karnataka increased by 665 per cent at Rs 6.96 crore between 2004 and 2008.
This has been revealed by the Association of Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch bodies comprising over 1,200 non government organisations and other citizen-led organisations. The findings follow analysis of 24 ministers’ assets from a batch of 27.
The results are based on the affidavits filed by them during the 2004 and 2008 elections. The progress between 2008 and 2013 would be known after they file their papers before contesting the 5 May Assembly polls.
According to Mr Tirlochan Shastri, member ADR, the exercise is part of an effort to educate the voters on bringing about  better governance and  cleaner elections This is being done under the Karnataka Election Watch, a non-political body which is plumbing for making the elections fair and transparent.
He told newsmen here that ADR’s analysis also revealed that 18 out of the 24 ministers whose assets were studied were crorepatis. This is not all. About 61 per cent or 131 out of 215 legislators whose details were examined turned out to be crorepatis in 2008.
In fact, BJP legislator from Vijaynagara constituency in Bellary–Hospet belt, Mr Anand Singh, topped the list with his wealth pegged at Rs 88 crore  followed by Mr V Somanna who accounted for Rs 11 crore and Mr A Asnotikar  a close third at Rs 10.4 crore. All of them were ministers in the BJP government.
Responding to queries, the ADR members explained that the average asset per MLA in Karnataka Assembly in 2008 was Rs 5.98 crore, at least  in the case of 214 out of the 224 legislators. Against this ,in 2004,   the average possession of  about 186  legislators  stood at Rs 1.29 crore.
Interestingly, the Karnataka MLA's average assets, at Rs 5.98 crore, were  the highest in comparison to his counterparts from the southern region. The Tamil Nadu legislator’s average assets, for example, in 2011 stood at Rs 3.98 crore and that of the Andhra Pradesh MLA’s at Rs 3.98 crore. The Kerala legislator, in turn, proved to be a poor cousin in that his average possession  in 2011 did not exceed Rs 1.43 crore.
Personal wealth and possessions apart,  the NEW found that  42 per cent ,or ten of the 24 ministers who were investigated, had “self-declared" criminal cases against them.
This information was based on the affidavits that they had submitted to the Election Commission before the 2008 elections. Further, two others had declared that there were serious charges of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and theft against them.
Source: The Statesman, 5 April 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

CAG Indicts Modi Govt for ‘Undue’ Favours to Corporates

press trust of india
GANDHINAGAR, 3 APRIL: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has come down heavily on the Gujarat government and state Public Sector Undertakings for causing a loss of nearly Rs 580 crore to the exchequer by bestowing “undue” favours to large corporate entities.
The major industrial houses to whom the Narendra Modi government played the benefactor included Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Essar Steel and Adani Power Ltd (APL), the report for the year ended 31 March, 2012, said.
The government auditor's report, tabled in the state Assembly yesterday, also said the state government tweaked rules to grant land to automaker Ford India and engineering and construction major Larsen and Toubro resulting in loss of revenue. “Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (GSPL) was responsible for deviating from the agreed terms of recovery of gas transportation charges from the specified entry point of the company's pipeline network and this led to passing of undue benefit of Rs 52.27 crore to RIL,” the report said.
CAG was of the view that GSPL had failed to safeguard its own interest and passed on undue benefit to RIL. Similarly, it noted that Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL) did not adhere to terms of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which led to short recovery of penalty of Rs 160.26 crore and passing of undue benefit to Adani Power Ltd (APL).
The CAG also indicted the Gujarat government for regularising 7,24,897 square metres of land “encroached” by Essar Steel Company Ltd (ESCL) at Hazira in Surat at “unjustifiable” price, resulting in short recovery of ad hoc occupancy price to the extent of Rs 238.50 crore.
“Government land measuring 7,24,897 square metres was encroached by ESCL in Hazira, Surat district. On request of the company, the government decided in July 2009, to regularise the encroachment by levy of 2.5 times of ad hoc value of land at Rs 700 per square metre, on the ground that the land in a nearby area was given to L&T,” the report said.
“We noticed that Rs 700 per square metre considered by the government for working out the ad hoc value was not justifiable,” the CAG report said.
The report said the state government granted land to Ford India and Larsen and Toubro at concessional rates “playing around the rules”.
L&T was alloted government land for manufacture of super critical steam generators and forging shop for nuclear power plant. The price of land was fixed by the District Level Valuation Committee instead of State Level Valuation Committee rate which resulted in forgoing of revenue of Rs 128.71 crore, it said.
The government auditor said the state government had allotted around 460 acres (18,63,687 square feet) valued at Rs 205 crore to Ford India Private Limited without price fixation by the State Level Valuation Committee. The report, however, did not mention the quantum of loss to state exchequer on this account. “It is desirable if the government followed a uniform policy for allotment of government land to safeguard its revenue and public interest at large,” the report said.
Source: The Statesman, 4 April 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Janamuktikami April 2013 Available

April 2013 Issue of Janamuktikami is now available online.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Twisted Truth

Lessons of the 1962 War With China
subrata mukherjee

EVER since the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) it has been universally accepted that a well-defined boundary is the first pre-requisite of a modern state. Post Independence, the boundary issue between India and China assumes crucial significance and yet remains unresolved to this day. China claims to have resolved its border disputes with several countries, except India. Within this country, the popular perception is that it was wronged and that China was the aggressor in 1962. India lost disastrously and the effort to fix responsibility continues even 50 years after. 

In China, the issue is peripheral. In its reckoning, the 1962 war was the consequence of India not accepting the truth about the border problem. As observed by Wang Hong Mei, the Indian government ought to re-educate the public about the basic cause of the dispute and correct the ‘truth of a twisted truth’.
In the 1914 Shimla convention between Britain and Tibet, the McMahon line was established as the official border between British India and China, denying Chinese suzerainty over Outer Tibet. However, McMahon was summoned to London as he had presented a different map to the Chinese representative. Britain distanced itself from the question of  legitimacy of a well-settled border between India and Tibet. The British administrators ensured that its cartographers showed the McMahon line as the settled and legitimate border between the two countries.
On 29 October 2008, David Miliband, the British foreign secretary in the Labour government, announced that the Shimla Accord of 1913, which led to the agreement between India and Tibet resulting in the promulgation of the McMahon line, was an anachronism and part of a colonial legacy. He  apologised to China for the lapse. This announcement had the support of Lord Chris Patten, the last British Governor-General of Hong Kong, who described it as ‘quaint eccentricity’.
When India became independent, it inherited all the British territorial agreements, including the McMahon line, as the legitimate border since 1914. The then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as the architect of India’s foreign policy,  refused to entertain the Chinese proposals for a negotiation in 1954. He argued that since the McMahon line marked the border between India and China, there was no need for negotiations on a settled issue. However, as Karunakar Gupta has pointed out, India has accepted the legitimacy of the McMahon line; China has not signed the Shimla convention and rejects any agreement between Tibet and Britain as it violates Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and that the Chinese stand is legitimate.
Gupta’s perception is a classic example of two rights in the Hegelian sense. The Chinese position is consistent as both the two previous regimes, the imperial government and Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, had also rejected the agreement. If the McMahon line is accepted as the border, it covers only the eastern sector of the border but not the western and central sectors.
According to AG Noorani, on 1 July 1955, Nehru shut the door to negotiations on the India-China boundary question. He rejected Zhou En-lai’s proposal put forward on his visit to India in 1960 on the eastern border, accepting the McMahon line. India also refused to accept the actual line of control in the western sector ceding the Aksai Chin area to China. Nehru unilaterally drew the lines where the border was undefined and also ordered the destruction of the old maps.
In the crucial years between 1959 and 1962, there was considerable ad-hocism in Nehru’s policy towards China and related issues. In 1959, when Ayub Khan proposed a joint defence mechanism between India and Pakistan, Nehru’s reply was: Against whom? On 16 March 1959, China cautioned India not to have two fronts. Nehru concurred with Defence minister Menon’s assertion that both Communism and non-alignment pursued the same objective. Apart from rejecting any barter between the western and eastern frontiers, Nehru ignored the American assurance to China that it would  not intervene (27 June 1962). The Soviet Union, in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, advised India to settle the border issue on China’s terms. In the larger geo-political perspective of the Soviet leadership, India was  accorded a relatively minor rating.
The Chinese attack was simultaneous in all the areas; it was led by the hardened veterans of the Korean War. It was swift and decisive. But the Indian response was half-hearted and poorly coordinated. Menon attended the UN General Assembly session on 17 September 1962 and returned on 30 September. Nehru left Delhi on 8 September 1962 to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference and after visiting Paris, Lagos and Accra returned on 20 September. Nehru again left for Colombo on 12 October and returned on 16 October. Meanwhile, during the exchange of  notes  between Indian and Chinese officials, Nehru ordered the Indian army ‘to throw the Chinese out’ (12 October 1962). The two most senior army commanders and the Director of Military Operations were away from Delhi.
Nehru ignored Menon’s interference in crucial army postings and promotions and even in strategic matters. It was a measure of disgust within the military that General Thimayya threatened to resign. Though he persuaded the General to stay on, the Prime Minister did not rectify the serious shortcomings of the army. The news of Thimayya’s resignation was first published in The Statesman. Nehru’s speeches and White Papers also  impeded the diplomatic process. When the war began there was a panic reaction from Nehru and he convinced himself that it would be a long-drawn conflict and that China would follow an expansionist policy.
NJ Nanporia, who later became the Editor of The Statesman, had asserted in 1962 that the Chinese favoured negotiations and a peaceful settlement and that India should continue with the talks. China’s intention was clear ~ it wanted India to learn a lesson and withdraw. Nehru with all his knowledge of history never imbibed what George Washington did, specifically that a recently independent  nation ought to concentrate on a long process of nation-building exercise in which tactical adjustments even with one’s enemy and rival were imperative. He even seemed to forget Mahatma Gandhi’s dictum of the “beauty of compromise”.
 Fifty years after the war, Indian opinion is broadly divided into two categories ~ (a) criticism of China for its treacherous act; and (b) blaming Menon and the then intelligence chief BM Mallik. Nehru has been considered to be naive. Maxwell’s India’s China War and Karunakar Gupta’s numerous publications are strictly avoided by the think-tanks and security analysts. China takes credit for maintaining peace for 50 years and its position has not changed from that of Zhou in 1960 except that along with the barter proposal it also wants to stake a greater claim in the eastern sector of Arunachal Pradesh.
The tendency of not analysing the shame and humiliation of 1962 threadbare is reflected in the government’s decision not to publish the Henderson Brooks/Bhagat Report on the 1962 debacle and an astonishing statement that the HimmatSinghji Committee Report on the North-east borders is ‘untraceable’. This clearly indicates that we are still fearful of facing the truth of 1962. The Henderson-Brooks report, from which extensive references have been made by Maxwell, is believed to be a serious indictment of the role of Nehru, Menon, the Defence Ministry, the Army headquarters, several generals involved in the conflict as well as the Congress and opposition parties. The Congress leadership remembers 1965 and 1971 but not 1962. The book edited by President Pranab Mukherjee entitled 125 years of the Congress is an example of this political expedience. As a nation, we all have a collective responsibility to unearth the truth of the disaster which SarvepalliRadhakrishnan had once described as ‘credulity negligence’.

IN 1962, the entire Assam region was left practically defenceless. The District Magistrate of Tezpur had fled. The Indian press preferred safety to news coverage. The underground Nagas did not take any advantage of the situation and Pakistan, on the advice of the USA and Iran, refrained from opening another front.

In the 1955 Bandung conference, which was convened primarily on India’s insistence, Pakistan, already tied to the USA through SEATO, was essentially against China’s participation. However, at the conference, Zhou assured Pakistan that it had no dispute with it. India did not initiate any talks on the border and Zhou did not criticise the West in his speech and instead stressed on Asian-African unity. It was a master-stroke as it ended China’s diplomatic isolation and helped it to forge a feeble but a tactical de facto bloc against the West. China needed this front in order to consolidate its position in the context of the Sino-Soviet split. Patel’s warning in 1950 that for China, nationalism was more important than communism proved to be prophetic.

Nehru’s Tibet policy was based on certain principles ~ (a) not to push China to an extreme position; (b) China would not be able to maintain a credible number of troops in a distant and difficult terrain divided into three difficult borders; and (c) China would not involve itself in an attack on India. But Nehru was also convinced that after the cakewalk in Goa and the supply of sophisticated weapons both from America and the Soviet Union, ‘the military balance has changed in favour of India’. His “forward policy”, by virtue of which India wanted China to vacate all Indian territory, was implemented within this policy framework. In 1953, Nehru started this process of redrawing. It included Aksai Chin within India; this ran counter to the British policy of keeping it out of India as proclaimed in 1899. The Chinese road-building activity in this area came to light in 1957 and could not be ignored by India. This was the beginning of the India-China conflict which culminated in the war of 1962. By 1961, Nehru’s “forward policy” had taken shape creating 60 forward posts, 43 of which were situated north of the McMahon line. Intermittent clashes took place before the massive invasion by China on 20 October 1962. India was caught with its pants down  and Nehru admitted the government’s failure in the RajyaSabha in 1963. He said: “What India has learnt from the Chinese invasion is that in the world of today there is no place for weak nations and that we have been living in an unreal world of our own creation’. China signed a boundary agreement with Pakistan on 2 March 1963 which facilitated an alliance between them.

According to Noorani, China had initially ignored Pakistan’s effort to forge an alliance with it. But when it seemed to be in accord with the country’s foreign policy, it went ahead. The close equation with Pakistan is still manifest. The alliance provides for agreements on broad principles but along with a boundary protocol running over hundreds of pages. What precipitated matters was Nehru’s hobnobbing with the Soviet Union and his efforts to exert pressure on the Chinese. This exacerbated the situation to a point of no return. As such it is difficult to agree with RamchandraGuha’s assertion that there would have been a war either way, even if there was no Nehru or his “forward policy” and close ties with the Soviet Union. Nehru had enough opportunity to settle the issue.
The Opposition blundered in the run-up to the war. Its attitude was based primarily on the perception of short-term gains. Maxwell blamed the Right-wing Opposition leaders of the day, notably Kripalani, Masani and Rajaji for the crisis.  
DeenDayalUpadhaya compared Nehru to the effete 19th century ruler of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah. The then Prime Minister was blamed for the lack of preparation and his “weak and timid nature”. RammanoharLohia, the socialist leader, gave a clarion call for getting all the territories under Chinese control to be vacated by force. He also echoed the Jana Sangh line of beefing up the country’s strength. Rajaji wanted the policy of non-alignment to be jettisoned. He called for a close association with the Western powers led by the USA. He identified China as the aggressor. However, he never supported a unilateral adventure of an isolationist nation and wanted an alliance with world powers which were against communism. Upadhyay called for mobilisation and Lohia for collective social action. Only Rajaji advocated a new strategic alliance with the Western powers. In his own way, MahavirTyagi responded to Nehru’s statement that Aksai Chin is a barren area, where nothing grows. He took off  his Gandhi cap, pointed to his bald scalp and asked Nehru whether he would have conceded it too! None of them really led the government towards a formula to settle the issue with China. Both the Congress and the Opposition were engaged in myopic politics.

There was no conceptual framework for the formulation of foreign policy. No wonder that formulation has fluctuated since 1947 to the present day.  There is no broad theoretical framework that can be valid even within a larger time-scale. It is this critical shortcoming that provoked Ram Jethmalani to remark that non-alignment was a “lofty pretension and a cruel joke as no non-aligned country came to our rescue in 1962”. But have we really learnt the lessons of 1962 which RamchandraGuha calls ‘a study in failure’? As GiriDeshingkar has pointed out, ‘during Nehru’s initial years in power he was more or less the sole maker of  the China policy’ and ‘as the imperial legacy claimed more and more of Nehu’s imagination it got reflected in India’s official cartography’. 

In 1950, the new Indian map showed the McMahon line as ‘undemarcated’ and the middle and the western sectors as ‘boundary undefined’. But in the map published in 1954 the McMahon line becomes the firm boundary as also the boundaries in the middle and western sectors. In the 1950 map, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan were shown outside India but in the 1954 map, both Sikkim and Bhutan were shown as part of India. Nehru’s three basic assumptions of unilateralism, pan-Asianism and as the key mediator between the two blocs and the non-aligned nations were rejected by China. S Gopal cites many instances of Nehru’s attempts to mediate not only between the USA and China but also between the USA and the Soviet Union. Even during the Indochina conflict, China never fully trusted India and rejected the notion that it needed mediation by anybody.

Unlike the Japanese who learned their lessons after Commodore Perry’s victory in 1853, we have yet to learn the lessons from history. From the past blunders we must realise that a nation is respected as an entity when it has the capacity to solve its major problems, ensuring firm and well-defined borders with all its neighbours in a spirit of accommodation and by admitting past mistakes and misgivings. 
The desperation of Nehru after the debacle of 1962 was reflected in his belated efforts to solve the problem of Kashmir with Pakistan with the release of Sheikh Abdullah and making extraordinary efforts to reach an understanding with Pakistan. The efforts came to nought and the process was abruptly halted after Nehru’s death, proving yet again that no new perspective had evolved even after the war with China.

We still aspire for a big-power status and a permanent seat in the UN Security Council knowing very well that our prospects are uncertain. Assuming that it materialises, it will not enhance our status within the comity of nations until we can demonstrate to the world that India has arrived as a nation, is governed properly, is capable of addressing its basic contradictions and can create an atmosphere within its neighbourhood to usher in a pluralistic security community.

The Statesman
5 & 6 December 2012