By T S Sudhir
`Hidden agenda’ is a term that is being spoken about quite a bit in Telangana these days. The reference is to the real intention of the Telangana government in undertaking an ambitious household survey on August 19. The day has been declared a holiday and to ensure everyone in the 84 lakh households stay home on Tuesday, buses are unlikely to ply, petrol bunks will be closed and all offices – government and private – have been asked to shut shop.
The Telangana government says it wants to find out about the socio-economic status of its 4 crore citizens. The aim it says is also to get rid of anomalies like the existence of 1.47 crore ration cards for its 84 lakh families. Fair enough. That is indeed a honourable objective and law-abiding citizens should ideally have no qualms about being part of an exercise that seeks to get rid of bogus cards and thereby save public money.
The doubts arise because no one quite knows what the government plans to do with the data. When the government of India has access to almost all your financial details through the PAN card and knows your address details through the Aadhaar card, where is the need for yet another survey that asks for exhaustive details of your bank account numbers, property details, how many vehicles you own, their registration number, even how many air conditioners and pigs, cows, ox, dogs and poultry. The manner in which questions are raining cats and dogs, don’t be surprised if many citizens chicken out of revealing so much information.
Because the fear – and legitimately so – is whether this data will be safe. The opposition BJP and TDP have raised this bogey, further scaring the people. Those settled in the state capital from Andhra Pradesh do fear being targeted, though the controversial question “Where did you come to Telangana from?” no longer figures in the survey form. With the trust deficit, continuously fanned by the political class, suspicion is a dominant emotion.
A TRS leader Srinivas Taduri pointed out the government should know what every citizen is doing. Particularly in the light of ISI activities and bomb blasts that have happened in Hyderabad in the recent past, he said. I suppose he does not expect any citizen, even if he is part of an ISI sleeper cell, to put `Terrorist’ in the occupation column when the enumerators come visiting. Intelligence gathering does not happen through such surveys, that is a police job.
What is needed is someone right at the top, preferably the chief minister, to talk directly to the people to explain what he plans to do. Assuage their feelings, address their fears, concerns, apprehensions. KCR’s maiden Independence Day speech from Golconda Fort may give him just the right opportunity and platform.