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#IndiaUnites to set things right
February 4, 2019 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
There are many serious problems before the country that are simply beyond the scope of a nine day agitation. This day serves to at least give them recognition. The day will cover different issues.
Revive science and research
In recent years, the Indian Science Congress has become an abject mockery of the rational thinking that is usually associated with science. Established scientific work is dismissed in an evidence-free manner while pseudoscientific nonsense is spouted chiefly to curry favour with the current government. Frequent claims are made, equally without evidence, about the supposed superiority of ancient Indian “science”. Such nonsense is also heard in speeches by Prime Minister Modi himself. In tandem with the declining public support for research in the country, there is a serious threat to the future of science and research in the country.
The degrading of scientific thought can have disastrous consequences for the country. The quality of intellect in the country is very important to research, employment and technological independence. It impacts the quality of both professional education and related career opportunities. At a time when jobs are scarce, innovators are urgently needed to ensure continued productivity and progress. Actively hindering such innovation via support for unscientific practices and a lackadaisical attitude toward rigor in process in effect cripples the entire nation. While disdain for processes and bombast over unproven claims can make for good drama and possibly votes, it catastrophically impedes any actual development and renders the nation vulnerable to dependence on – and exploitation by – scientifically superior foreign powers.
More immediately, the state has continuously undermined the quality of health services in the country. Health budgets have been either slashed or increased marginally, ensuring that there continues to be a severe shortfall in terms of available healthcare facilities. Among the most severely affected by this are India’s children.
Put an end to environmental degradation
India’s cities are among the most polluted in terms of air quality; our rivers are fast turning into sewers; our jungles and farmlands are threatened ever more by industries and land-grabbers. All of this projects a dismal picture from the environmental perspective and the threat of rapid climate change only puts this scenario in sharper focus. Environmental activists in India continue to be at risk – either through allegations of foreign exchange violations, or through accusations of being anti-nationals.
Many senior and respected scientists of this country have joined hands to demand that the government end support for pseudoscientific practices and ensure that scientific research is well-funded, as are public health schemes. Further, the government should take stringent measures to protect our forests, rivers, and environment, and punish those violating laws on pollution, deforestation, and illegal land acquisition in an exemplary manner.
Scrap Aadhaar and end the surveillance regime
On September 26, 2018, the Supreme Court delivered a scathing judgment on the use of the Aadhaar number and the Aadhaar project. The Court struck down provisions of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, that allowed private entities to use the Aadhaar number for authentication. Further, even the use of Aadhaar-based authentication for welfare services was declared to be on a purely voluntary basis. The minority judgment of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud went even further and declared the entire Aadhaar project unconstitutional.
However, the government has not paid heed to the SC judgment and is now attempting to allow private entities use of Aadhaar-based authentication through amendments to the Aadhaar Act, with the relevant Bill currently pending passage in the Rajya Sabha. Concerned citizens have written to the Vice President, who is also the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, as well as the Prime Minister and leaders of the Opposition, demanding the withdrawal of the Aadhaar Amendments Bill; at a minimum, the Bill must be scrutinized by a Select Committee.
Among the fears raised by the linking of the Aadhaar number with various other identity databases (linking with PAN has been upheld by the SC; linking with Voter ID and driving licence has been proposed) is that of 360° profiling, or a state of surveillance wherein data on the citizen’s every action is available for monitoring. Recent actions, including an order to surveil computers, have furthered these concerns. While petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the government’s notification, Indian citizens must unite and demand an immediate halt to such snooping on citizens.
Social Security for Unorganized Workers
The Working Peoples’ Charter (WPC) (already submitted to the Minister for Labour and Employment) acknowledges that the NDA government has recognized the need to provide a comprehensive social security cover to all unorganized workers and has initiated a number of schemes. The Second Labour Commission  constituted during NDA I, had also categorically recognized the need for a universal social security system implemented through single window system.
We would like to reiterate that social security is a right and its provision must be justiciable. We urge the government to make adequate financial provision in the forthcoming budget to finance a universal [with exclusion criteria] non-contributory individual worker based ‘social security scheme’ for all informal workers, including unpaid women workers, who do not have social security cover. The campaign holds the view that contributory social security schemes (based on workers’ contribution, or contribution by states) should be treated as add-ons and should not form the core of the social security programme.
former chief scientist CSIR-NISCAIR
Scientist, Delhi Science Forum, Nation For Farmers
Internet Security Researcher
Working People’s Charter
V K Bansal
All India Vyapar Mandal
Dr. Kamala Menon
Secretary, Delhi Science Forum
Committee For Protection of Journalists
JAC against Foreign Retail & eCommerce
Vijay Prakash Jain
Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal
H S Rawat
Working People’s Charter
Free Software Foundation, Newsclick, AIPSN
Former President and General Secretary, AIBOC
Executive Director, IFF