Identity Project

Contentious Aadhaar Bill passed with only 73 of 545 members present in Lok Sabha

Ruling party overrules privacy concerns and adopts an unusual strategy to pass the legislation.

Only 73 of the Lok Sabha's 545 members were present as the lower house passed the controversial Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill on Friday.

With the passage of the bill, the government or any "requesting entity", including a private company, could ask an individual to produce the biometrics-ID Aadhaar card to avail any subsidy, benefit, or service. Critics have expressed concerns over citizens' biometric data ‒ such as fingerprints and iris scans ‒ being collected on a mass scale in the absence of a privacy law.

The listing of the Bill on Friday was unusual because, ordinarily, private members' business (bills and resolutions) are taken up before the weekend. The House was relatively empty because several members had already left for their constituencies.

The process was also noteworthy because this was moved as a money Bill, which does not have to be approved by the Rajya Sabha. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance lacks a majority in the upper house.

As critics pointed out, money Bills relate broadly to taxes or spending from the Treasury. But the government argued that the Aadhaar Bill qualified as one because it deals with expenditure incurred from the government Treasury. Legal experts pointed out that by this token, most Bills on health, education, railways, transport, agriculture could qualify as money Bills. This strategy, they said, would reduce the Rajya Sabha simply to a rubber stamp on any legislation.

Some clarifications

On Friday, the Bill was discussed only three hours.

As the BJP moved the legislation, several members, including those from the Congress, the Biju Janata Dal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, objected to the decision to classify this as a money Bill and suggested that it be sent to a standing committee.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarified some clauses of the Bill. He claimed that biometric data would not be shared under any circumstances. But the Bill actually allows for this data to shared with a joint secretary of the government in the interests of "national security".

BJD MP Tathagath Satpathy had moved several amendments, including on clause 33(1) which permits disclosure of an individual's data on an order by a district judge. Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy had also moved amendments but was not present in the parliament. However, ruling party MPs opposed all amendments by voice vote.

Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had earlier stated that the Congress would cooperate with the government on Aadhaar, but objected to the Bill being introduced as a money Bill.

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Five of the world’s most incredible magic tricks that went wrong

Even the best planned illusions are often unpredictable and can have unfortunate consequences.

Magic has a special hold on our imagination, especially when magicians and illusionists perform death-defying tricks. But magic, much like life itself, is unpredictable. These are some of the world’s most audacious magic tricks that show how even some of the best magicians often miscalculate the risk:

The bullet catch. In this trick, a bullet is fired at a magician on stage who appears to catch it in his mouth. The bullet, before being fired, is marked by a member of the audience to ensure that it is the same bullet that’s caught by the magician. The bullet catch has been described as the most dangerous magic trick in the world and around 15 magicians have reportedly died performing it.

The Chinese water torture cell. In this illusion, the magician, with feet locked in iron restraints, is lowered face first into a glass tank filled with water in full view of the audience. The magician then has only minutes to undo the restraints and escape before drowning. Many magicians have attempted variations of this trick, and as recently as 2015, an escape artist called Spencer Horsmann nearly drowned when he failed to escape.

Buried alive. Legend has it that this illusion has its origins in India. There are many variations of the trick with the essential feature being that the magician is trapped underground in a box. In a famous 1999 event, the American magician David Blaine was buried in a Plexiglas coffin for seven days. He survived the trick but many others have not. Joe Burrus, an American magician attempted the trick in 1990 and died when his coffin broke underground.

Sword swallowing. This ancient art involves the magician inserting a sword or other sharp metal objects down his or her throat and into the stomach. Many variations have been performed with magicians swallowing long swords, multiple swords, bayonets and even hot swords to make it more dramatic. It is estimated that over 25 magicians have died performing it since the 19th century.

Death-defying escape under the sea. This magic trick was first performed by the Indian magician PC Sorcar Jr in 1969. Sorcar was sealed in a mail bag and locked in a wooden crate that was strapped with steel, welded, chained and thrown into the ocean. Sorcar managed to escape from the crate within 90 seconds and became a legend. In 1983, an escape artist called Dean Gunnarson performed a similar stunt in which he was handcuffed, chained and nailed into a coffin that was immersed into a river. The stunt went wrong, and Gunnarson had to be rescued by his support crew and resuscitated back to life.

Despite the best preparations, magic tricks can go awry and leave families without financial security. The video below takes the lens of humor but drives the point home.

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