Narendra Modi’s manifesto keeps the fear over data privacy and protection alive

Narendra Modi’s manifesto keeps the fear over data privacy and protection alive
Prime Minister and BJP leader Narendra Modi addresses at the release of the party's election manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha election in New Delhi, on April 8, 2019.IANS

  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched its election manifesto today.
  • During the launch of the manifesto the attending politicians made little mention of the digital initiatives that they have planned.
  • The manifesto itself makes little mention of the debate around data privacy and the right of privacy of citizens.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) just unveiled their election manifesto in New Delhi. Narendra Modi, the current prime minister, and the president of the BJP, Amit Shah, made little mention of the ‘digital aspects’ of the manifesto and debate around digital privacy.

Narendra Modi’s manifesto keeps the fear over data privacy and protection alive
Highlights of digital promises by BJP in its election manifesto for the Indian general election 2019

The only notable additions are the addition of new science missions for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. As well as the Language Translation Mission that aims to make all educational literature available in Indian languages.

Congress and the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M), have both made commitments to address the issue of digital rights. While the former promises to pass a law to protect the personal data of all persons and uphold the right to privacy, the latter takes on Section 69 — the issue of mass surveillance.

Since people have begun to realise the importance of data, both through the Aadhaar program and the many fumbles of tech giants, they’re all the more vary of its protection and privacy. Even businesses in India have been monetising it, even though they’re not as good as protecting it.

Aadhaar has its own set of controversies ranging from data leaks through third party portals, the vulnerability of its data servers, and how the data can be potentially misused. In the nine-years since its inception, 80% of Indians still don’t feel that the system is secure.

This year’s manifesto bears a little thin on technological aspects aside from what’s already in play. It promises to connect all the Gram Panchayats — a type of self-governing village council — in the country using high speed optical fibre network by 2022. But, The BharatNet program has already connected 110,000 Gram Panchayats in the country and is already geared towards bringing all the villages under its umbrella.

The BJP also reiterated their commitment to push for digital payments and extend banking services to within 5 km for every individual. That doesn’t necessarily mean opening bank branches at every 5km but then again, digital interfaces for customers to interact with banking correspondents are already in place.

The manifesto also restated the government’s take on Operation Digital Board which already launched in February and promises to bring e-resources and digital board to secondary schools as well as higher education institutions.

They also promise to continue with the current incentives to expand the use of digital transactions in the country and build on the already stocked ‘National Digital Library of India’ which provides e-books and journal papers to students for free.

The party also promises to build on the ongoing process of digitising governance process end-to-end including the digital delivery of government services.

While the BJP has been very keen on making the country more digitally connected it’s stance on data privacy and protection has been discomforting for many. This government now has a process in place that skims through people’s vacation photos on social media and matches that with the respective tax data to check for evasion.

This manifesto does little to ease the fear of an overarching big brother who may be looking over your shoulder all the time.

See also:
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