In an exclusive interview with TheBigScope, Lok Sabha Member Jay Panda who has been vocal supporter of privacy and Aadhaar and has introduced many private member bills in the Parliament talks about his suspension from BJD, his stand on privacy of individuals and why Universal Basic income is best suited to work in India. Edited Excerpts
Have you been wronged by Biju Janata Dal?
I was one of the first few people who helped found the party. I assisted the founding president for 15 years. As a party, we have always stood for the rights for Odisha. But the last few years has seen lot of wrong things affect the party. There has been a terrible rise i crimes against women which earlier was unheard off. The corruption allegations have also gone up.
There has been misuse of power by few bureaucrats in the state. I have always spoken against the wrong doings but have never spoken against the party leadership but about the band influence in the party. In the process, I have been physically attacked with stones, bricks and even pieces of timber for which i am undergoing therapy till now. I have opposed the coterie which is ruining the party.
I am still suspended member of Biju Janata Dal
In a age of selfie politics, how do you separate facts from fiction?
The internet has disinter mediated many industries. News has become segmented. Traditionally, news went from few to many wherein you had editors who would cull through information and decide what is news. Now, with the advent of social media, everyone is a editor and reporter. The concept of citizen journalism has gone to a different level. But this has also allowed fake news to take prominence.
We are going through a transition. Also, we have many journalists and editors who claim to be activists. You cannot be a activist and journalists at the same time. Being a activists means you take sides whereas a journalist has to remain neutral. A lot of ideologies have crept in mainstream media.
Fake News has affected me also. Certain local publications published incorrect politically motivated stories on how my usage of funds for my constituency is the lowest which is factually incorrect. After awhile I got frustrated trying to give clarifications. So i decided to furnish evidence against Fake news items on Facebook page which has a couple of million followers which helped people see the truth.
You support Aadhaar and also privacy. Isn’t that a conundrum?
I didn’t accept Aadhaar blindly. I had scepticism about the model. But after having several rounds of discussion with people building the platform and seeing for myself the leakage in the system in India, I believe Aadhaar is a great step forward. Out of every rupee spent by government, only 27 paise reaches the citizen.
The rest 73 paise is gone through corruption. I personally conducted reviews which pointed out that nearly 40 percent of student were fake. They were ghost students, they didn’t exist. These ghost students were enrolled to raise bills for mid day meals scheme, books, uniforms and shoes. Massive amounts of money were being siphoned off.
On the other hand, we need privacy irrespective of Aadhaar. We live in an era where increased amounts of data thefts happen but also the concept of absolute privacy is not feasible in 21st century. We cannot live like hermits today. We have to use certain digital platform and for our own convenience, give off certain amounts of digital privacy.
Will Universal Basic income work in India?
Infact, UBI will work in India. It’s a socialist idea which has come from the capitalist countries. It comes from some of the biggest technology entrepreneurs. We are undergoing a massive shift in jobs because of automation and more people if not skilled will lose out on jobs.
But re-skilling takes time and in India if we have UBI, then through channels such as Aadhaar, we will be able to furnish funds to the needy. It will help government cut through loses which happen because of the current system whereas in a developed country, they already have many such schemes for the needy and UBI on top will mean governments will have to reduce many such current schemes like food coupons etc.
When will Odisha see a startup culture?
It will take some time before we match up to other states in terms of job creation. In Odisha, we have made progress but not to the level I would have expected. We were rock bottom in access to primary health. We have gone from last state to the second last state in certain areas or fourth from bottom. Proper skilled jobs have not been created.