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05 April, 2010

Bringing Orwell’s Big Brother to life

In an editorial page article in today’s issue of The Hindu, Usha Ramanathan, a researcher working on the jurisprudence of law, poverty and rights, discusses the implications of registering, tracking and profiling in the context of the government’s decision to gather data for the National Population Register along with the 2011 Census exercise, which has just got under way.

She points out that information collected under the Census Act is confidential. Information needed for NPR is being collected under the Citizenship Act and rules framed under it, which do not have a confidentiality clause. In fact, this information will be readily available to a number of investigative agencies under the control of the Central government.

While the Census creates a profile of the population, NPR creates profiles of individuals. “This,” she says, “will bring Orwell’s Big Brother back to life; we are asked to accept that each of us be treated as potential terrorists and security threats, for that is the logic on which this tracking and profiling of the individual is based.”

See text of article: Implications of registering, tracking and profiling

The fears expressed by Usha Ramanathan may be examined in the light of the actual experience social and political activists narrated at a conference on Media and Law organized by the Human Law Network in New Delhi on Sunday.

See The Hindu report of the conference: Downloading a document from the Internet can land you in jail

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