Aarogya Setu app: Surveillance in times of coronavirus
The duty of governance is to oversee the great apparatus of democracy, not to monitor the participants.
Governance is the tonic of democracy. The prescription of governance is to control resources and not citizens, except those people who break the law. Democracy is in sickbay when the definition of that violation changes. Imposing Aarogya Setu on cellphones hasn’t received legislative approval. Nor have the penalties. There is a British era provision to punish people disobeying instructions of a public servant. In those days, ‘public servant’ meant a British officer who implemented draconian colonial laws against which freedom fighters fought, died and went to jail. If anyone who refuses to download an app today is a freedom fighter, it casts a dark shadow on the tenets of Indian democracy.
The surveillance state did not die with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. No longer confined to dictatorships, it found a fertile ecosystem in democracies after 9/11. ‘National security’ made privacy redundant—in America, if Homeland Security deems you a threat to national security, off you go to Guantanamo to be never heard of again. They just need not to like your face or views. National security is also the first cousin of moral security.
A review of George Orwell’s novel 1984 by Lionel Trilling in New Yorker magazine in 1949 reads, “The life of pleasure is inimical to the health of the State. It stimulates the senses and thus encourages the illusion of individuality; it creates personal desires, thus potential personal thought and action... by that much a diminution of the power of the rulers.”
After the Bois Locker Room incident again exposed the sadistic sexuality of the Indian male, legally fiddling with Instagram is a poor solution. Survey the root cause of savage patriarchy, especially in rural India belt where gender violence is rampant with subaltern female acknowledgment and caste arrogance. No cure has been found for this pandemic—mainly for lack of trying.
The Indian cultural umbrella ignores it as “boys will be boys”. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tinder etc all are used by millions worldwide. Bringing them under state purview is fortunately impossible, and some even boost the popularity of politicians. Congress tried to crash the party and failed. The BJP government couldn’t get in through a backdoor either. The duty of governance is to oversee the great apparatus of democracy, not to monitor the participants. Trilling further wrote, “No one knows better than he (Orwell) how willing is the intellectual Left to enter the prison of its own mass mind, nor does anyone believe more directly than he in the practical consequences of thought, or understand more clearly the enormous power, for good or bad, that ideology exerts in an unstable world.” India has legitimized an universal ideology that nurtures social and spiritual evolution, not state control. There should be an app for that.