Transparent Funding Demystified

November 18th, 2013 Posted in India, Politics

The Union Home Minister, Mr. Shinde made a huge blunder by calling for an investigation into the funding sources of the Aam Aadmi party (AAP). The supposed motivation for the probe was that AAP is the beneficiary of foreign funding. The more likely reason for the probe was that Sheila Dixit requested one in a desperate attempt to destabilize her new adversary – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). For the first time in India’s political history we have in AAP a party that depends entirely on donations provided by the common man – bulk of it is received online. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand from the AAP website that the donations are listed almost instantaneously. In fact, it’s fascinating to see donations of all sizes coming in every few minutes – an unheard of level of citizen engagement in Indian politics. Just seeing this level of transparency is enough to give any true lover of democracy goose bumps.

Anyone who knows anything about technology should know that AAP can simply export a spreadsheet and provide the government the details of every single transaction in no time. Also, anyone who knows anything about technology should understand that if the donation page does not appear it is most likely because of an overload of traffic on that page. Spokespersons of political parties trying to evade direct questions on their party funds is bad enough, but these folks take this one step further with completely inane comments about the donation list page on the AAP website not loading when they accessed it. The spokesperson for a major party showed his complete ignorance when he said, “Your website is ok except for this donation page? This must be the greatest invention since Google.” An infuriated techie friend who saw the clip said, “I wish there was a way to provide virtual slaps when participants go beyond the scale of permissible ignorance”

NRIs who contribute to the AAP are asked to provide their passport information before they can make a donation. This is as transparent as it can possibly get given the current state of technology and government guidelines. Ideally, there should be a way to dynamically verify passport numbers against a government database (or semi-automatically) of passport numbers. But given the state of our government and security and privacy concerns this level of sophistication is perhaps a long way off. The only scope for foul-play of any sort is if someone deliberately posed as an NRI and provided a fake passport number in order to donate to AAP. Now what are the odds of that happening? How crazy would someone be to even attempt such a donation? And even if they did the government should be able to identify this from the spreadsheet that AAP can provide and the party can simply return the donation.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

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