As I watch the Gorakhpur tragedy unfold, "Nero's Guests", a documentary by P Sainath, comes to my mind. It concludes with Sainath's speech where he shares a piece of ancient history involving Nero, the infamous emperor of Rome.
When Rome burnt and Nero could not control the fire, he decided to throw a party and invite "everybody who was anybody" to deflect attention from the fire. But there was no provision to illuminate the huge garden that was supposed to accommodate the laundry list of invitees. Which is when Nero had an idea.
He summoned the convicts in the Roman jail, particularly the ones about to be hanged or imprisoned for life, and burnt them alive in the periphery of the garden. The fire ensured there was no absence of light, and the party went on without any difficulties.
As horrific as it sounds, Sainath makes an important point. "The problem for me is not Nero," he says in the speech. "What did Nero's guests do? Did they speak out against it?"
The reactions to the Gorakhpur massacre and I use the word massacre with all responsibility, indicate we, as a society, particularly the urban middle class, have become Nero's guests. The government hospital does not pay 60 lakh rupees for kids' oxygen but spends 40 crores on cow ambulances. In the aftermath of what happened, the doctor who spent from his own pocket to save kids is sacked. One or two other people have been suspended, but the babus, and more importantly, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have shrugged responsibility when the buck directly stops with him.
Yet, social media is flooding with comments normalizing the incident. We are being told how people have died at the hospital in the past, and how Gorakhpur is an ideal town. The doctor who saved kids is sacked and we are told how he is actually an immoral man being accused of crimes in 2009. So when Times Now anchor Navika Kumar asks her guest to not "rake up kids' deaths and divert from real issues" while debating Vande Mataram, she seems to be a mere reflection of Nero's guests who watch her show.
When a man is killed in Dadri, we discuss whether the meat in his fridge was beef. When a man is lynched in Rajasthan, we wonder whether he indeed had a legitimate permit, as if it justifies the lynching if he did not. The way we, in the media, report rural India, and the indifference with which the urban middle class treats the plight of those who are not "one of them", are all examples of normalisation that establish ourselves as Nero's guests. However, If 60 infants dying due to criminal negligence does not disturb us, then nothing will.
The normalization has severely and successfully diluted the value of human life. As George Orwell famously said, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others."
The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely.
George Orwell, 1984, p. 127
Newspeak, for those unfamiliar with Orwell, is the name of an artificial official language in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Much of the vocabulary of Newspeak is based on Doublethink. Doublethink is the art of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them. The language in Orwell’s 1984 transforms societal values and the lives of the people completely.
From 2009, when Aadhaar was officially born, the governments in India too have invented an artificial official language. Let’s call it Aadhaarspeak for want of an official name. Although Newspeak is much more than WYSIWYDG, my tech friends call it WYSIWYDG. That’s the opposite of WYSIWYG.
Aadhaarspeak is considered the language of progress. The language of a youthful India. A language of technology and the future. A language that will transform India into a super power, whatever that is. It’s the language where the government is paperless, cashless, and presence-less.
As even existence in India becomes impossible without Aadhaar, many say that the purpose of Aadhaarspeak is to digitally colonise India. Some deny that Aadhaarspeak will cause the country to rid its people of their sovereignty, to become democracy-less, bank-less and defence-less.
There is no official dictionary of Aadhaarspeak. That’s why very few know of its existence. That’s also one of the reasons why very few understand what it means. I mean what it really translates to. If you don’t know a whole vocabulary, you don’t understand its world. You can’t make sense of the debate. You miss the point. Before you know it the language changes yourworld, your life with it. It alters your ability to survive or even exist.
So I decided to attempt a glossary for the benefit of those who like to know about it, understand their world and describe it accurately. Its purpose is simply to provide the beginner a first introduction to Aadhaarspeak. It can also be considered as merely a documentation of the voluntary words of 2017.
This modest effort is work-in-progress. Slow, with no sponsorship or even official recognition. This compilation is the result of contributions from hundreds of officials from various governments, thousands of people from all walks of life and over seven years of research. Hundreds of public documents, news reports contributed to this compilation. Painful, as the official references keep playing hide and seek. And sometimes even disappearing altogether. It is, therefore, neither complete nor the official version. Any official denials are, therefore most welcome, especially to set the record absolutely straight for posterity.
If it sounds like technology jargon, some of it is just that. In its fullness Aadhaarspeak is the work of genius. I leave it for you to attribute the quality of goodness or evil to the genius. For that is your right to choice, I would not rob from you. Especially as it will tell me more about you, than of the genius designing Aadhaarspeak.
I recognise that many users of Aadhaarspeak face many limitations in using it to communicate the past with those in the future. That, in the spirit of Newspeak, must be merely accepted as the shortcoming of those who cannot accept the universality of Aadhaarspeak.
Like any glossary is not meant to be read from A to Z, this too should not be read from A to Z. It is meant as a reference, not as a novel. Some early readers have commented that each word could become a Kafka plot, a Galsworthy tragedy or a Solzhenitsyn description of life in the now extinct USSR. That, is merely their imagination running wild.
Those seeking to end Aadhaarspeak seek right to choice, right to self-rule, freedom from coercion, and call an end to digital colonisation by Aadhaar
Just so you know, any resemblance to doublethink is, then, purely your imagination. As many geniuses have highlighted, after all, how can doublethink, the art of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them, be progress?
The intense debate in the highest courts of the land on just one word from Aadhaarspeak, privacy, after almost 5 years of whispered conversations in corridors on some of Aadhaarspeak, speaks volumes for the power of each word. It may take a lifetime to settle them all. Unless of course they start with the one word they started with in 2013 that is not in Aadhaarspeak.
The word that may not be spoken formed the directions of the highest court of the land in its orders of September 23, 2013. It’s a word we dare not utter anymore as no one, say the official statistics, suffers anymore as we are now voluntarily in Aadhaar land.
They say we-the-people have not spoken. We uttered no words when we spent long hours in queues to deposit our hard earned money back in the bank. So the official version must be true.
But then, I am told there are still overwhelmingly large number of individuals who are resisting and even rewriting the Aadhaarspeak. They hope this edition of Aadhaarspeak will be discarded. They look with hope to the Supreme Court to declare this list as corrupt and illegal. They pray that the Supreme Court will restore our right to choice, right to self-rule, freedom from coercion, and a call an end to digital colonisation by Aadhaar. They will ensure that these will not become thought-crimes.
Many would want the world to believe we are not the Mahatma’s India anymore. There is little meditation, satyagraha or civil disobedience left in us anymore. That, said the likes of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, is what character is all about. It is what shapes us and makes a nation great.
Perhaps those amongst you who are wiser and more equipped to create liberationspeak, for those of us who cannot understand or have little use of Aadhaarspeak, I wish you success. I wish you well. Godspeed.
A garbha sanskar event organized in Kolkata got challenged in the High Court by doctors over its claims to create super babies. This is a most welcome development in a country fast drowning in superstition.
There is a trend these days to sell superstition in the name of science. As though faith is not enough to do the absurd, there are claims of scientific evidence backing absurdities. But they use a very basic model of fooling people. I've started calling it the "Emperor's new clothes" business model in honor of the Emperor. If you can claim that some nonsense is backed by science confidently enough, few people take the time to examine it, and instead have blind faith in the claim (ironic, no?).
The latest such confidence trick to make news is when "Garbha Sanskar" program of Arogya Bharti ran into trouble in Kolkata when their event was challenged in court based on the claims they had made. While the court did not find enough evidence to ban the programme alotgether (because it does little more than mumbo jumbo to begin with), it specified that specialists could lecture but not treat anyone there (no problem, no one is treated there) and attendees couldn't be charged. Note, the "Garbha Sanskar" programme is basically a collection of ritualized superstitions that claim to create "super babies" - their basic claim is that while genetic engineering is done "in vitro" garbha sanskar is the "in vivo" method already given to mankind through vedic knowledge.
When I tell this to you like this, it is easy to see the absurdity of it. If vedic knowldge didn't give superbabies in so many thousands of years, the chance of a superman flying out of your loins within a few months is negligible. But when you are surrounded by the gullible hopeful in a room where the authority figure tells you this, it sounds like some secret key to the universe is handed exclusively into your hands. And no one pauses to ask why of all the people in the world, fate would choose such a lazy custodian who did little more than pay Rs. 500 to deserve such a potent miracle. Because our conceit enjoys hearing that we are special. And we don't mind playing a few dozen harmless games to enjoy the illusion for longer.
Here are some quotes from various garbh sanksar claims, teachings and so on.
Garbh sanskar can produce genius babies.
This is usually accompanied by some tall anecdotal "evidence" of what is possible "if you do it correctly" - so if you have an ordinary adorable baby waving arms wildly and blinking unfocused eyes on birth, you must have missed adding the superhero cape somehow.
60% of the brain development is complete in the womb (or some variation of it)
60% of a chicken's formation is completed in the egg. This doesn't mean you pay 60% of the price of an adult chicken for an egg, right?
But this is actually a very popular line to convince parents that they need to act urgently if they want a super baby. But here is the thing. 60% of brain development doesn't mean 60% of lifetime intelligence. These are biological processes and the foetus in the womb does all the "learning" it needs to do by figuring out how to move limbs and so on. It doesn't need to understand language since the most important sounds around it are generated by biological processes. It may recognize the mother's voice as it vibrates through her own body as well, but it doesn't understand meaning. Nor is the brain developed enough to link sounds together and make sense of them - even newborns don't figure it out for quite a few months after birth. That is simply how the brain creates connections and develops more complex functionality. the 60% is about the brain's ability to function and not intelligence.
Looking at art or listening to music is no more likely to make your child the next art world celebrity than driving all through pregnancy is likely to make him a driver or eating several meals a day during pregnancy is going to make him prone to overeating (or able to eat at birth). This is nonsense and I have met several garbh sanskar children and found them no more or less remarkable than other children - their parents are another story.
Will add more of the absurd claims here when I get time, but frankly it isn't rocket science. It is pure mythology applied to life and if you have the slightest ability for critical thinking, seeing through this rubbish is a breeze.
Basically what happens here is an authority figure makes claims of religious mythology being backed by science without providing robust evidence. But because we are conditioned to not question "scientific proof", we decide to believe it - this is the opposite of science. When you cannot verify something, it is called "unverified" not "probably they are right and let me obey to be safe". There is no such thing as science that cannot be questioned.
The Emperor's New Clothes business model is an old brainwashing tactic and it is refreshing to see doctors challenge it in courts instead of merely allowing it to proliferate stupidity in the guise of "harmless belief".
A Twitter tag #JaiKisan is attempting to educate Indians on the realities and conditions of farmers in India. Farmers produce the country's food. They purchase inputs at retail prices, sell produce at wholesale prices. Unlike a lot of products, farm produce is relatively short lived and takes a long time to grow. A crash in prices basically means doom, because they have already invested in the produce. The reasons for their losses are many and varied. From the vagaries of nature to corruption depriving them of irrigation. From failed crops to bumper harvests with no value because demonetisation has sucked all the money out of the market. This year we saw excellent harvests of tomatoes post a good monsoon being dumped on the streets or cut down as they stood ready for harvest, because there wasn't enough money in the market and prices had crashed so badly, that even transporting them to markets for selling was a loss making venture.
There are other oddities and absurdities you will notice on the #JaiKisan tag. Take for instance Tuvar dal with an MSP of Rs5050/Qt when the input Cost is Rs6403/Qt. Not only is this loss making by design, the farmers actually got only Rs4200/Qt resulting in a loss of Rs2200/Qt. On the other hand, India imported 28 lakh tonnes of tuvar dal at Rs 10114/Qt. The input cost for wheat is Rs 1943/Qt, while the farmer got Rs 1525 - resulting in a LOSS of Rs. 418/Qt!!! Where is the sense in this? Why couldn't the government purchase from farmers at fair prices that covered at least input costs and ideally at least some profit, when they were willing to spend foreign reserves to buy for much higher prices? There are no answers.
This is particularly brutal for small farmers, who have to live on the profits off much smaller land. Is it any wonder then that over 72% of farmer suicides are among small farmers with less than 2 hectares of land? One would think that small farms are inefficient and therefore they are making losses, but that is not true, research after research has shown that small farms are actually between 200% to 1000% more productive than large farms in terms of harvest per area around the world. The problem lies in the greater productivity being over a smaller area, and thus not amounting to large enough profit in total. Yet small farms are clearly the answer if we wish to have maximum productivity from available land!
"Jai jawan, jai kisan" was a powerful slogan by then Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1965 at a public gathering at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. Today, the average income of an Indian farmer is around Rs. 6,400. What sort of life can a person afford with that kind of income? Is it any surprise that India is losing farmers at a rate of about 2000 farmers a day leaving the occupation nationwide?
All this boils down to policies. We seem to have lost a holistic view of what sustainability means to a country. The only time policy makers appear to pay attention to the plight of farmers seems to be when it is time to get votes. Then you have big promises and loan waivers. But the story of loan waivers too is not what it seems. While the perception of agricultural credit is that it would go to farmers, agricultural credit is for the agricultural sector. Farmers get maybe 35% of it, the rest going to industries and businesses related to the agricultural sectors, or as P. Sainath puts it, "the starving farmers of Malabar hill (an elite locality in Mumbai)". Most small farmers find it extremely difficult to get loans from the bank, even when they have the required documents, Others cannot get the loans when they don't own the land they cultivate (no collateral). This drives most farmers to seek loans from informal money lenders, even, in many cases money lenders taking loans from a bank and forwarding them to farmers at higher interest rates! Thus, farm loan waivers amount to maybe 35% of the waivers going to farmers, with the rest going to businesses and industries that are not in distress, while having no impact on the crippling loans taken from moneylenders (though the money lender may get a waiver if they took the agricultural loan from a bank to lend at higher rate).
There has always been a lack of foresight in our approach to agriculture. Influenced by large industries and what they wish to sell rather than listening to the person working the soil. The "Green Revolution" that relied heavily on chemical fertilizers brought a period of bounty that led to heavily depleted soil that cannot produce without heavy applications of fertilizers. The chemical damage to soil ecology, the contamination of ground water from the chemical runoff, the thoughtless push of GM crops like Bt Cotton (which requires more water than regular cotton) in places with depleting groundwater tables and dependent on scant rainfall.... All this has resulted in long term damage to the viability of agriculture and the economic sustainability of farmers. We are not able to see solutions beyond magic wands waved for votes.
Consider the absurdity of pushing GM crops when they have not proved as beneficial to small farms. All that it has resulted in is more resistant pests in return for some short term increase in production, that is already dwindling. On the other hand, the government is also pushing organic farming to prove some utility for cattle manure. Here is the deal. Organic farming depends on a robust ecology of the soil and surroundings with natural checks and balances that enable thriving crops. GM crops are accompanied with heavy doses of fertilizers, herbicides and as the resistant pests increase, pesticides as well - these destroy naturally abundant life forms that are necessary for organic farming. Pushing both at the same time basically squashes the farmer between two completely incompatible methods of growing crops. One from big industry influence, the other for ideological justification. Who pays the price? It is the cultivator, forced to stand with one foot on two stones, becaue while he may choose one method or the other, the ground water or pests do not understand boundaries indicating ownership of land and other cultivators may be making other choices.
This is but the tip of the iceberg. What is needed at this time is to ensure that farmers have an income they can live on - particularly where food crops are discouraged by the government in favor of cash crops that are at the mercy of market prices and cannot be consumed by the farmer for survival, regardless of the gamble with nature. There is a need to ensure irrigation on a war footing. There is a need to ensure low input costs and better sale prices. There is a need for an agricultural vision that is grounded strongly in research and making the country food sufficient and not dependent on imports to meet nutritional needs. There is a need to improve the capacity for food processing and storage with farmers so that they are not forced to sell at low rates for fear of perishability.
But all this needs a government with a vision. It needs citizens with voice interested in where their food comes from, and what the risks are, if that system is breaking down. in my view, the #JaiKisan tag serves this educational purpose in a time where agitating farmers from Tamil Nadu are protesting in increasingly desperate ways - sitting with skulls of farmers who committed suicide, eating rats, drinking urine, eating food served on the road and worse - with complete disinterest from a government that always makes a big show of concern for farmers when it comes to seeking votes.
I urge you all to read the content on the tag #JaiKisan and educate yourselves. The future food security of your children could well depend on it. The current survival of your food growers does depend on it. Happy next meal.
Tighten the chokehold and kill dissent. When anonymity goes away, public debate is more silent. Too much democracy (sounds wierd, I know) and freedom is a bad thing for those in power.
What will be marketed:
Less tax evasion
Less leakage of subsidy
Easy transactions (finger lagaya, ho gaya!! OMG!!)
What really will happen:
suppression of dissent. (It is trivial for me to map out who all attended a protest demo and where they live if you carried your mobile with you or are videographed. Realtime facial recognition works even with hoodies and balaclavas. Even easier for me to blackmail you. Doubly easy for me to plant your aadhar in places you haven't authorized. How will you know? You wont know why and who used it anyway, you get fucked for it.)
Mining of data based on your browsing patterns (JIO does this already. Data is the new oil. It is easy to model populations right down to the galli level based on this data: Above point/URL.)
fear based compliance
attacks like 1984 riots become easier
the state can make you disappear
random and warrantless data fishing expeditions by government agencies or by those with incidental access
stalking by government (this happens even in the US with so many controls in place. God only knows what will happen here)
With aadhar based basic data and punitive measures (exclusion from the state/deletion of identity) in place, forced compliance with things like genetic testing to determine vague things like "indian-ness" becomes a possibility (Check out the kuwaiti example)
What wont happen:
Fine grained control on our own data including the ability to deny and/or revoke permissions to third parties
Liability of the UIDAI for breaches
Aadhar enabled transparency in elections
Aadhar enabled Transparency in bureaucracy and decision making by politicians
Aadhar enabled transparency of political party funding
Accountability for power grabs or unilateral decision making schemes based off of aadhar. We have essentially written off our rights to the UIDAI on how our data will be used in the future.
Why is this happening? Our population is now at a very dangerous stage with lots of young people and no jobs or other avenues. It helps to have control or situations and revolt can happen way too easily. Our ruling classes dont have a clue of how to solve basic issues apart from lining their own pockets, protecting their kids & investments and divide&rule. Emotive issues are used as a cover every week on TV to subvert actual debate while serious legislations are being made. Our population is largely uneducated and easily swayed by glitz and silly TV shows (the reason why TV now is crap and has large numbers of religious shows and kulcha based shows). Educated urban youth dont connect well with actual desi TV programming anymore.
Does Aadhar require this level of biometric info? No.
Should we let go of the control we have of our identities? No.
Should third parties have access? No.
Essentially, your access to freedom will now need to be mediated by Aadhar and what it says. Anyone with power can fuck your happiness and freedom.