Centre for Culture, Media &  Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (CCMG, henceforth) in collaboration with Academic Staff College, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi conducts and organizes  every year the University Grants Commission Refresher Course  on Media Studies, Culture and Governance for the in-service faculty across the country. The first such RC was organized in February 2013.

The 2nd Refresher Course 2014 on Media Studies and Governance started on 14th January and will continue till 4th February, 2014.

Day 14/ 30 January 2014

As per the RC programme, Dr. Aditya Dev Sood gave a talk on “Ethnography of Telecom Usage”. Usha Ramanathan the last speaker of the RC, delivered a lecture on “Law and Information Politics”.

1st Lecture : Ethnography of Telecom Usage

???????????????????????????????Dr. Aditya Dev Sood is the Founder and CEO of Centre for Knowledge Societies. He gave a talk on “Ethnography of Telecom Usage”. He shared the CKS research findings and experiences on new media like mobile telecommunications. The new forms of media are challenging the traditional forms of media. They are interactive in nature. Moreover, they are mass media and peer media both at the same time. The people use new forms of media for various purposes, which are helping them in multi-tasking, for example listening to lecture sitting in class and posting a ‘status update’ at Twitter simultaneously. So far as telecommunications are concerned, they have been changed a lot in last five years. Now the cell phones are not only for making or receiving a call; one carries a world of its own kind in a cell phone.

With support from Nokia Corporation, CKS conducted a study in order to understand and predict the mobile usage pattern of the middle class income groups in the year 2003-04. The outcomes of the study, published in the form of The Mobile Development Report, were very interesting. The mobile phone was a costly possession for the middle class families in 2003. At that time only few handsets were present in the hands as compared to today’s situation when almost everyone carries a mobile phone.  The affordability of mobile phones is very crucial to the India scenario. Therefore the question was:  which kind of monthly plans for that costly device handset will attract consumers?

???????????????????????????????The data for the study was collected through empirical and ethnographic means. During the field studies for this report that were conducted exclusively in India, CKS researchers asked simple questions: the respondents were requested to describe their world, their surrounding, their routine activities, different kinds of hierarchy they face, etc. Apart from the status symbol, it was the convenience that pushed its rise. The mobile charger is not an important accessory of a mobile, however, it is important to sustain the mobile’s mobility. This necessity of charging a mobile when its battery gets exhausted, led to many jugad-like innovations. Solar panel mobile charging devices are a case in point.

2nd Lecture :  Law and Information Politics

???????????????????????????????Usha Ramanathan, an independent law researcher, works on the jurisprudence of law, poverty and rights.  She has been working on the use and abuse of UID and has published a series of articles in The Statesman. In the Refresher Course lecture, she spoke on “Law and Information Politics”. She said, in this world of global commons, there is an urge to peep into people’s life. The State and the Multinational Corporations both want to know what the people are doing. The ‘fear’ would be the key word in this regard. The incident of September, 2001 has made the nation-states sceptical in terms of terrorism and counter-terrorism. This has led to maintain the record of every citizen’s W’s. The corporates are milking this notion of fear as an opportunity.

In India there is a proposal to make a National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) – that would be a system in which 21 databases like travel, taxation, crime, health, etc. will be made available to eleven security agencies. The electronic governance is in undercurrent doing work of making the databases of citizens. The argument in its favour are: if someone is visiting any government agency in person, he or she might lead to corruption whereas getting services through computer information technology cleans the system as there is less chance of offering or receiving bribe.  ???????????????????????????????It brings transparency and accountability as everything is on record and available online now. According to its supporters, it is efficient and convenient. But if we look at the other side of the coin, the State and administration are using databases in governance to have control and surveillance on citizens. The entire data collection and convergence programme in the name of governance are not bound by the law. In Public Administration, there are rules to follow, but now the State has become above law, only to make rules, which it does not follow. The Right to Information Act, 2005 has helped bring transparency to some extent, by making the state agencies accountable. By manipulating fear, the State is pitching for different kinds of databases like Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS) in which databases of convicts, accused, missing persons, etc will be kept on record for use of various security agencies across the country.

After the attack of November, 2008 in Mumbai, the government used this opportunity to have a system where the record of every citizen to be available. This led towards Unique Identification System or UID Adhaar. The motive of UID is to put everyone in database and make it ubiquitous and universal to be used in all kind of services. The reality behind UID is the Unique Identification Authority in India, the governing body. The UIDAI is not covered by law. It has been set up by the Planning Commission through notification.

???????????????????????????????By providing simple information like name, date of birth, gender, occupation, etc. people are getting a number as their identity in return. UID is a number, not a card. Whenever one is quoting his or her UID number, it is to be verified by the UIDAI or its subsidiary agencies. This means that, the information is with the third party, and the individual and the service providing agency are dependent on the UIDAI for the transaction of work. Further it is also storing all sorts of information on the person holding the UID as wherever he or she will seed number, it will converge at one place. In a way it is making the individual an object of constant surveillance and gaze. It is killing privacy and rights of the citizen by silencing the people.

In short, UID is a complete hoax and failure in terms of authenticity and security. Further, it is a kind of bullying citizens as if being punished for refusing to divulge information. It is rule-less and lawless. Moreover, it is completely outsourced, beneficial to corporate interests at large. One must remember that everything is not to be shared on the internet.