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Adding digital layers of indignity

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Governance: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes


Source: The Hindu

Context: The article highlights a few threats to digital governance as technology also dehumanizes humane aspects. A few examples of the negatives of technology can be noted down.

Examples of how digital initiatives in governance may over-ride human rights and dignity:

  • Biometrics use in PDS: As was seen in the Jharkhand study a few years ago, the use of biometrics had led to numerous cases of omissions from the PDS list (as many times biometrics doesn’t work), leading to deaths due to hunger.
  • Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)-
    • It provides supplementary nutrition for children in the 0 to 6 years age group, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
    • Poshan Tracker (a centralised platform, to monitor all nutrition initiatives, including ICDS) makes it mandatory for linking the Aadhaar data of beneficiaries.
    • Technocratic issues: Nearly three-fourths of children between the ages of 0 to 5 years do not have Aadhaar cards, and Supreme Court orders specify that children cannot be denied their rights for lack of Aadhaar.
      • Common Service Centres (CSC) owners reported that the biometrics of 42% of the users don’t work on the first attempt.
    • MGNREGA:
      • It uses National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) app to obtain “two time-stamped and geo-tagged photographs of the workers in a day”.
      • It was introduced to “increase citizen oversight of the programme besides potentially enabling processing of payments faster.”
      • Issues: Workers have to stay back after work to take photographs, many times ‘Mates’ (supervisors) don’t have smartphones, and technical glitches in uploading image lead to loss of attendance.

Thus, when trust and humane aspects of governance are outsourced to technologies, dehumanisation is the likely outcome.


  • Social audits need strengthening instead of technocratic solutions of transparency. Democratic dictum suggests that people should be able to ‘see’ the state clearly, not the other way around. It is the dignity and trust of people at stake otherwise.

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Practice Questions

Q. Digital governance and initiatives are the future but they should not compromise the dignity and rights of the poor and needy. Examine. (250 words)


Q.In India, the term “Public Key Infrastructure” is used in the context of

(a) Digital security infrastructure

(b) Food security infrastructure

(c) Health care and education infrastructure

(d) Telecommunication and transportation infrastructure

Answer: A

Public key infrastructure (PKI) is a set of roles, policies, hardware, software and procedures needed to create, manage, distribute, use, store and revoke digital certificates and manage public-key encryption.