August 19, the day Telangana will be under `house arrest’

By T S Sudhir
“Don’t spread rumours and panic,” K Chandrasekhar Rao gently admonished the media, asking them not to do anything to dissuade people of Telangana from taking part in the August 19 intensive household survey. (Read previous blog by T S Sudhir here)
On his part, the Telangana chief minister is leaving nothing to chance. Short of calling it house arrest, the government won’t make it easy for you to stir out of home. No bus, no auto will ply in the ten districts of the state, all government and private offices will be closed. So will be commercial establishments and educational institutions. Four crore Telanganites have been asked to be at home.
My colleague, a native of Telangana has a genuine concern and something that reflects the doubts over data privacy. “Should I declare my property details or not? If I do not declare the land I have in my village, isn’t it quite possible that it will be grabbed and because I did not declare it in the survey, the government of Telangana will tell me it is no longer yours,” is his dilemma. 
Though the column that would have revealed nativity has now been removed, after much public outrage, doubts persist that identifying the settlers (people from Andhra Pradesh) in Telangana is the prime objective. But fear not, because that cannot be identified with this survey. The Telugu Desam is however, doing its bit of mischief by leaking a video of someone who is identified as the PRO to the Telangana CM, who makes outrageous claims that settlers will be thrown out of Telangana after this survey.
The Telangana government has now said that taking part in the survey is optional and KCR has also clarified that revealing bank account numbers is optional. But what about lakhs of people, who fear they will be targeted if they do not reveal all information. Plus there is no guarantee of data privacy. When an unauthorised employee in the bank where you hold an account can unethically peep into your bank account and ask you the reason you have parked your funds there and suggest other financial options, where is the guarantee that only a few officers in responsible positions will have access to personal information about you.
Defenders of the Telangana government argue why this outrage was not there when Aadhaar demanded your bank account number. It wasn’t there for the simple reason that there was a clear linkage that was sought to be established between LPG reimbursement and Aadhaar card. The TRS government so far at least, has not spoken about any such financial linkage. Also if that was indeed the reason to demand bank account number, one account number would have sufficed, why ask for all of them. No one in the establishment has answered these queries satisfactorily.
P.S. The next time, you get a telemarketing call, asking you if you will like to buy a second AC, since you have only one, you know where they have got that info from. Or if you get a telemarketing call, suggesting better quality food for your dog, you know you are barking up the right tree.

Stand up and be counted in Telangana

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.