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Congress, AAP accuses Govt of seeking to curb individual freedom

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New Delhi: The now withdrawn draft policy on encryption which violates the right to privacy of communication was a move by the government to curb individual freedom, said the Congress and the AAP.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the government did a U-turn under public pressure.

He said the government’s move of first circulating the draft and then amending and withdrawing it was a “totalitarian, misconceived and a failed attempt” to override individual freedom of speech.

“Subjugation of individual freedom, surveillance of citizens and suppression of dissent have emerged as the DNA of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government,” Surjewala said.

The Aam Aadmi Party said the draft policy was a direct attempt to influence communication between citizens.

“The BJP government tried to push through a policy that appears to have thrown all sense of individual rights and privacy out of the window,” the ruling party in Delhi said.

“The government wants to monitor (rather snoop) the way we use modern communication platforms like WhatsApp, BBM, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, private server emails,” AAP said.

It said the draft policy also had clauses which would have had an adverse impact on businesses and start-up culture in India.

The Congress said that contrary to the stated objective of creating an information-secure environment and secure transactions, the draft policy gave the government a “license to indulge in 24×7 surveillance, monitor private lives of citizens – particularly the young population – and introduce a new registration and license raj”.

It said that by the end of 2014, India had 24.31 crore internet users (17.3 crore mobile internet users), 11.2 crore Facebook users, over eight crore Whatsapp users, 2.2 crore Twitter users and over 95 crore mobile connections.

The spokesman said individual liberty was fraught with “dangerous dimensions” in the Modi government.

Referring to the now withdrawn draft policy, he said if businesses store plain text version of encrypted communication for 90 days from the date of transaction, it would have led to massive expenditure on creation of additional storage capacity apart from risks of cyber-theft.

Surjewala said practically all online activity would have been controlled by the new policy as operating systems in Windows, Linux and Mac, e-commerce services like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and email services like Yahoo, Rediff and Gmail use encryption technologies.

And every communication device like telephone or tablet or computer would have been required to be registered.

Following an outcry, the govt on Tuesday withdrew the draft encryption policy. Earlier, it exempted social media sites and apps users, as also net banking and password-based e-commerce, from saving data for 90 days from the date of transaction.

(With inputs from IANS)

 

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Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

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An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

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To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)