[Reader-list] Faiz, Iqbal Bano resonate in India’s Maoist heartland

Taha Mehmood 2tahamehmood at googlemail.com
Mon Mar 22 12:34:46 IST 2010

Dear Yousuf,

Thanks for this.

I think from the perspective of UIDAI, this is an important article. I
have tried to juxtapose the views of Arundhati with Nilekani. Please
have a look

Warm regards


Regarding poverty- (a cause)

Arundhati writes-

The Constitution ratified colonial policy and made the State custodian
of tribal homelands. Overnight, it turned the entire tribal population
into squatters on their own land. It denied them their traditional
rights to forest produce, it criminalised a whole way of life. In
exchange for the right to vote, it snatched away their right to
livelihood and dignity.


Nandan Nilekani says-

“We definitely think it (Unique Identity Number) has great value,
especially for the poor and the marginalised, because they are the
ones that are suffering today due to the lack of acknowledged
existence by the state,”


Regarding Identity- (an effect)

Arundhati's description-

He said his name was Mangtu. I soon learned that Dandakaranya, the
forest I was about to enter, was full of people who had many names and
fluid identities. It was like balm to me, that idea. How lovely not to
be stuck with yourself, to become someone else for a while.


Nandan Nilekani's argument-

I think there are many roles for technology, particularly information
technology, in the Indian context. First, we can use it for better
delivery of public services – whether it is government, health care,
education, or whatever. Second, we can use technology for identifying
beneficiaries, especially the poor, so the correct people get
entitlements from government.


Arundhati's reportage-

As part of the Hindutva drive, the names of villages were changed in
land records, as a result of which most have two names now, people’s
names and government names. Innar village, for example, became
Chinnari. On voters’ lists, tribal names were changed to Hindu names.
(Massa Karma became Mahendra Karma.) Those who did not come forward to
join the Hindu fold were declared ‘Katwas’ (by which they meant
untouchables) who later became the natural constituency for the


My dilemma-

Sarkaari Logic-

To provide marginalized people with goods we need to identify the
marginalized. A unique ID number is a token of that identification.

Arundhati's intervention-

Marginalized have multiple identities.

My questions-

Assuming Arundhati is describing a reality as it is, if it's true then
how is Mr. Nilekani's team going to identify the most marginalized
people of India? People who are so frustrated with the State that they
have taken up arms against it?

 If the poorest of the poor in India, are rendered uniquely
unidentifiable because of various practices of governance then what is
the moral legitimacy of an organization like UIDAI? Why waste public

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