George Orwell, in his one of the most celebrated works, 1984, writes about the surveillance state. In George Orwell’s surveillance state, the government places microphones and television screens in homes of the people and also in the public places. The state detects each and every movement of its subjects. The state uses the technology to alter the consciousness of people and to take control over their lives. According to Huffington Post, we are seeing something like that unfolding in the present-day Andhra Pradesh.
The Andhra Pradesh government has initiated a scheme called e-Pragati, a digital initiative aimed at connecting citizens to 34 departments, 336 autonomous organizations and 745+ services. According to Huffington post report, through e-Pragati, Andhra Pradesh government intends to realize its vision of “Sunrise AP 2022”.
This data can be easily pulled up on the screens in the control room, opposite of CM office of AP, called the Real-Time Governance Centre (RTGC). In the control room, people continuously monitor government programs and schemes in order to improve the implantation, reduce inefficiency and to make sure that welfare schemes are reaching to its targeted beneficiary.
According to Huffington Post, state has data of all 43 million people of Andhra Pradesh: GPS coordinate of their homes, what they are buying, where they are going, what food ration they are eating and also what are they saying about their Chief Minister on their social media accounts, real-time footage from thousands of cameras (people can even request to place CCTV cameras inside their homes), caste and sub-castes of people, religion and many other things including Aadhaar numbers. Such a system has been created without any public debate or discussion.
The Andhra Pradesh government claims that e-Pragati project would be a catalyst in the strong implementation of various developmental projects and welfare schemes. It will cut down red-tapism. The problem of the digital divide would be addressed. It will empower the state to focus on the quality of life of its citizens with a special emphasis on quality of education, healthcare, skill development, agriculture, infrastructure, and services. E-Pragati would help to improve law and order. And it will also bring more transparency.
In its quest to bring transparency the state is blurring the line between transparency and right to privacy. No doubt that this project would do many good things but it can cause so much unimaginable damage as well. It can be exploited to create an Orwellian world. It gives massive power to the state to control the people. It’s alarming. In India there are no laws to safeguard people from something like this. It can be very dangerous the moment it lands in the wrong hands. This is a huge security risk.
All this is based on a Huffington Post report, and they even claim that they have seen all this and verified it themselves. If the report is true then it is a matter of concern. Along with the advantages of e-Pragati, the danger which it invites cannot be ignored. India needs better laws and a better security system in this regard. There should be a clear-cut distinction between what can be stored, tracked and used, and what cannot. Without these things, people and their privacy will always remain in danger. We should not forget that the road to hell is always paved with good intentions.
Get real time updates about our posts directly on your device