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Today’s Talk on Editorials November 13, 2017- Civils360

Aadhar Based Authentication System- The Hindu

Background: Aadhaar Authentication(ABBA) means the process by which the Aadhaar number along with the demographic information or bio-metric information of a Aadhaar number holder is submitted to the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) for its verification and such repository verifies the correctness, or the lack thereof, on the basis of the information available with it. Recently , Government has taken steps to impose Aadhaar-based bio-metric authentication in the Public Distribution System as well.

  • The sad demise of an 11-year-old child Santoshi Kumari of Jharkhand was widely reported in recent times. Although government insists it happened due to malaria , it was in fact a clear case of denying the basic necessity of food  and causing hunger deaths.
  • Starvation deaths are not uncommon in India’s recent past. Starvation deaths of 2002 spring into life many positive measures to ensure “Food for All”. It even included  a recognition of the vulnerability of the Sahariyas — a tribal community in Baran — and a special PDS package consisting of free pulses and ghee.
  • However, today government remains in denial mode.  The Central government has been insisting on 100% Aadhaar “seeding” across schemes such as the PDS, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and pensions. It turns focus away from the basic principle of India being a welfare state to profit motive state.
  •  The Central government has been insisting on 100% Aadhaar “seeding” across schemes such as the PDS, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and pensions.
  • To achieve 100% Aadhaar-seeding targets, some field functionaries just deleted the names of those who did not submit Aadhaar details. Others waited till the deadline and then struck off names.
  • In a massive programme like Aadhar based authentication , it is important not to have any exclusion error. In case of seeding, it does not work fool proof. The middlemen can seed it wrongly. Some still try  repeatedly but fail. Seeding is in fact a barrier out of Aadhar based authentication system. Also, while purchasing food from PDS store, it requires power supply , faultless PoS machine etc. which is difficult in rural areas.
  • Also, The Finance Ministry’s latest Economic Survey, based on micro-studies, reports high bio-metric failure rates causing denial of basic right of citizens. The ABBA has no role in reducing corruption. If the ABBA helps reduce corruption, it might be worth fixing these failures. Quantity fraud is the practice of cheating on quantities sold. Neither seeding nor the ABBA can stop quantity fraud.
  • Each month, people are being forced to cross five meaningless hurdles in the form of electricity, functional PoS, connectivity, servers and fingerprint authentication in order to have access to their ration.
  • The ABBA must be withdrawn immediately from the PDS and pensions in favour of alternative technologies such as smart cards.

Crisis is in the air- The Indian Express

Background: The air quality in Delhi, the capital of India, according to a World Health Organisation survey of 1600 world cities, is the worst of any major city in the world. Two other cities in India have worse air quality than Delhi: Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, and Raipur in Chhattisgarh. Air pollution in India is estimated to kill 1.5 million people every year; it is the fifth largest killer in India. India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma, according to the WHO. In Delhi, poor quality air damages irreversibly the lungs of 2.2 million or 50 percent of all children. In November 2017, in an event known as the Great smog of Delhi, the air pollution spiked far beyond acceptable levels. Levels of PM2.5 and PM 10 particulate matter hit 999 micro grams per cubic meter, while the safe limits for those pollutants are 60 and 100 respectively.

  • An important  parameter to measure air pollution is the smallest measurable particulate matter — PM of less than 2.5 microns — which was an annual average of 153 micrograms per cubic metre that year, well above the WHO limit of 35. Beijing, which was previously the black sheep of the world’s urban air contamination, recorded 53 micrograms.
  •  While Delhi continues to get all the attention on this score, one should pay heed to children and senior citizens in these other beleaguered cities like Gwalior, Allahabad, Patna etc. These residents can’t afford air purifiers like many of the capital’s well-to-do and diplomats.
  • Impacts of air pollution is multi dimensional . It could seriously affect the diplomatic visits and relations between two countries and could even affect flagship programmes of Central government like Make in India.
  • Certain causes, like the burning of farm residue require a carrot and stick approach to encourage farmers to recycle crop waste rather than burn it. But other causes like the pollutants from thermal power stations in and around the capital and the dust from construction can be more easily tackled by stiff penalties.
  • To tackle the pollution from vehicles, Delhi government has done well to experiment with an odd-and-even number plate scheme, which ought to be extended through the winter. It needs more than that with promotion of non- motorized transport, incorporation of public transport system etc. as well. Other steps include following Singapore’s example of setting a limit on the number of cars permitted on its roads; Singapore allows market forces to decide the price of such a licence, which can exceed the cost of a car sometimes.
  • All cities are making the mistake of prescribing metros as the solution for local transport. Although far superior to adding roads, these are expensive. In Delhi, and to a smaller extent in Mumbai, any raising of fares sparks off a controversy. In Delhi, the 200-km-plus Metro network doesn’t seem to have reduced the number of cars appreciably.
  • Honour should go to buses, which can run both long distances in cities, as well as provide last-mile connectivity to and from metros and local railway stations.