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Tech manifestos 2019: Trinamool Congress on surveillance and more

The Trinamool Congress’ election manifesto is largely a rant against the BJP government, with criticism related to demonetization and other criticism on promises made in 2014. The party has extensively criticized steps the government has taken toward state surveillance. In the same breath, the party has made no mention of Aadhaar. The Trinamool Congress’ promises relating to the digital ecosystem, e-governance, and technology are vague and generic, with no specific policy proposals mentioned related to what their MPs will push for at the Centre.

Promises made

1. Aadhaar: The TMC’s manifesto does not make a single mention of Aadhaar, government schemes which are accessed via Aadhaar, or any mention of biometrics.
2. Blockchain, AI, ML, Data Analytics: The TMC said it will encourage AI, blockchain, machine learning, big data and data Analytics. It will form a holistic IT Policy inclusive which will include advanced training.
3. Manufacturing: Electric hardware manufacture which the party says “has thrust a huge import burden” will be a focus area for it.
4. Motor Vehicles Act: Trinamool Congress will relook the Motor Vehicles Act given the increase in vehicles
5. Banking:  Will target ‘no unbanked villages in the country’, Promises restructuring of Post Offices for financial inclusion

TMC’s claims of its achievements

1. Smart Cards:

  • Implemented the Swastha Sathi Smart Card, which is issued in the name of the women of the family. It benefits the women’s family and her parents as well.
  • Claims 100% implementation Digital Ration Card in West Bengal under the food security scheme ‘Khadyasathi’

2. IT Hubs:

  • Set up the ‘Bengal Silicon Valley Hub’ in Rajarhat for job creation in IT. The party said another 100 acres has been allocated for the hub given high demand, after an initial allocation of 100 acres
  • 8 new industrial parks formed for large scale industries, 16 IT parks established

3. Cyber crime: Formed 25 cyber crime cells across the state

Criticism of the BJP government

1. Surveillance

1.1. Social media surveillance: “They [all Indians] must think twice before they revolt, because ‘Big Brother’ is always watching them!”. The party criticized the Information & Broadcast ministry’s Social Media Communication Hub to track all Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp activities. The hub would enabled the centre to know the opposition’s views about it. The TMC, it said, “vehemently opposed” the social media surveillance system, and its MLA Mohua Moitra’s petition in the SC led to the Union government scrapping the hub. More on that here.

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Interestingly, the TMC makes no mention of Moitra other PIL against the UIDAI’s proposed social media agency, which also resulted in the Union government agreeing to change the terms of the proposed agency. The original terms for included tracking conversations and blogs about UIDAI and Aadhaar, classifying Aadhaar related activities on social media into problematic and non-problematic, and so on. More on that here. The party euphemistically made a mention of the fundamental right to privacy, or as it said “right to enjoy own personal spaces”.

1.2. Government computer surveillance: The TMC also said the BJP government December directive to put all computers under surveillance curbed fundamental rights.

2. Demonetization: The TMC criticized demonetization and failure to exposing black money. It pointed to suffering of general public, confusion due to the RBI’s 74 directives within the 50 days after demonetisation: “Crores of farmers, labourers and people belonging to the unorganised sectors had to go through so much pain due to PM Modi.”

3. CapitaWorld’s Loan under 59 minutes allegedly a scam: The TMC criticized PM Modi’s loan-in-59minutes proposal which was announced in November as part of MSMEs revival plan. It said that CapitaWorld was given undue favour and its selection violated tender stipulations. It said the firm would make money by charging fees to banks, and will have access to “massive personal data”. The party called this a “huge scam promoting the CapitaWorld” and said it needs to be investigated.

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