Hello, Mr. Jones?

It maybe said that there has always been a gulf between the degree of freedom expected by progressive individuals and that granted by the government under which they lived. In the present times, with the availability of electronic media and worldwide webs, the individuals seem to be getting more of the freedom and govts. seem to be trailing but are trying hard to catch up to safeguard their controls.

One of the means the govt. chooses to achieve it is by introducing more and more laws. To progressive individuals most of these would seem unnecessary or superfluous or a waste of time and resources. Why do they need a special law outlawing hijacking of airplanes? Are there already not enough laws on stealing, threat of murder, demanding ransom etc. under which this offence would also fall? Will there be one for bus hijack too? But the law ministries will keep churning out laws and legislatures will keep passing them and judiciaries will keep interpreting them. It may be because, in most societies, there are  busy bodies that are more interested in consolidating their existence and are genetically incapable of questioning their raison de etre. So if you are dreaming of making a society for progressive individuals, be wary when it comes to introducing or supporting governmental controls. Perhaps you should rather take a leaf out of the unwritten code book of the bureaucracy itself for self preservation through inaction that goes like this: A – Avoid it, B – By pass it, C – Cover it up, D- delay it and so on.

In this Information Age modern governments are no more behind iron curtains always and their once secure grounds of authority are growing shaky. They are forced to declassify documents and cough up information through citizen activism. However there is still no diminishing of governmental greed for collecting information from the citizens. Pray why should a population census questionnaire ask people information that is unconnected to the head count? Leave alone the the census and take a closer look at more routine applications and forms to the governmental bodies or service providers. Let me recount for you one that I had to fill up a couple of months ago.

It was occasioned because my cell phone service provider suddenly blocked my outgoing calls and messaged me to rush to some office in Pondy before 8pm the same day and provide my Identity proof to reactivate it. It was outrageous as I had provided the identity proof at the time of availing their services and if they needed it again certainly this was not the way to demand it. Not being phone dependent  very much  I could go after a few days. I was taken by surprise when I was advised to fill up an application form and affix my photo again. I asked what happened to the application and photo given at the time of availing the service several months ago. The man at the desk smiled condescendingly and said that it is for people’s security and welfare that the govt. was asking it again. I asked what welfare and security? Can’t their lazy brains think of anything better than harassing millions of subscribers in order to try to prevent a few abusers? Please inform me how many terrorists they caught after this exercise.  There were a few harried people around who seemed to sympathise with my indignation and one or two among them said this was the third time they were giving the application and that they were annoyed. The deskman went on the defensive and said he was helpless as the pressure was on from higher up. Resigned to it I started filling up the form but stopped when I came to an out of place question: information on marital status. Why the telephone company or the govt. should know my marital status to allot me a telephone line? Everyone including the deskman laughed and seemed to have suddenly discovered the irrelevance of the information. And then father’s name, any other telephone line availed…  

If your attitude is to just provide without a thought or protest all the information asked or allow access to information related to you by govts and service providers hoping that nothing adverse may happen or you see only god in the govt. and is only too glad to surrender all and sundry information, one day conversations like the following may happen in your society:

Hello, is this Mr. Jones?


We are from the Infrastructure Services. This is to confirm that you have made a complaint about non availability of supply to your home.

Yes there is no supply since morning.

Mr. Jones, this is just to check your identity: May I have your date of birth?

Jones gives a sigh and provides it.

I see that you are now living with your second partner and have shifted to new house within the last five years. It is also seen from your pay card that you spent two thousand rupees within one week in July and it seems you had guests at your home in September. Besides you took ‘Eat, Pray and Love’  twice from movie library in October and put on ten pounds of body weight and purchased more petrol than usual in November.

Jones feels this is too much and says: Wait, what has all this to do with my complaint?

Mr. Jones we are just prioritizing which complaint to attend first. Our priority will go to those who are single,  married, work more than ten hours a day, are vegetarian and don’t have motorbikes. Next it will be for one child families and those who regularly take books from the library and attend yogasana classes etc.etc. 

Mr. Jones: Will you for god’s sake attend the complaint whenever you want and leave me alone?

Mr. Jones, please do not take a non cooperative attitude, it is not good for your mental and physical health. We know you have a chronic illness.  You took some pills from crown street medical store last week.

Hearing mouse clicks probably opening more files on him, Mr. Jones cuts off  his phone. But there it goes again… ring ring …

(The above is an imaginary conversation. The nature of complaint and prioritisation could be changed according to your imagination. Resemblance to anyone or anything anywhere is un-intended, coincidental and apologised. )

Will you find anything of the great future you dream of in the above conversation? Or will you be outraged? People in a few countries have already awakened to the nature of information collection and the consequent invasive potential into citizen’s life acquired by the govts. and have set up defenses or are in the process of doing so. Essentially two counter controls are adopted/proposed by the citizenry: one, Govt. can’t ask for more information than what is the barest required and two, where anything more is required and collected, it should not retain but destroy such information as soon as the original purpose is accomplished. I think such precautions are necessary for all societies that do not want to compromise their freedom to organizations supposedly set up to work for their welfare etc.


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