Mahua Moitra, a Trinamool Congress MLA from Karimpur constituency in West Bengal, is the only politico to take on PM Modi in the social media prying case.
Mahua was born in Assam and she spent her childhood years in the state. A woman of grit, she has dared to stop the Modi government from prying into our social media feeds or breaking into our computers.
She has filed three petitions at the Supreme Court against Modi government’s efforts to keep a tab on our social media.
She is the TMC candidate for Krishnanagar Lok Sabha seat and is pitted against BJP’s Kalyan Choubey.
Out of her three petitions, one is against UIDAI’s bid to monitor social media accounts in context with Aadhaar.
Her second petition is against the Ministry of Home Affairs notification giving power to 10 government agencies to pre-emptively intercept, monitor or decrypt any computer to prevent any cognisable offence.
Her third petition seeks an interim stay on the government’s move to put computers under surveillance in West Bengal.
The 42-year-old says that she was on a vacation last year when she came to know that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) was inviting proposals from private agencies to help them monitor social media accounts.
Mahua is livid with the I&B Ministry for doing everything in a “deceitful manner” – they published their request for proposal just on their website.
Filing the petition worked for the 42-year-old. In August last year, the Supreme Court was informed by the Attorney General of India that the I&B Ministry’s proposal to monitor social media accounts was being “withdrawn”.
Huffpost quoted Mahua as saying, “But while the attorney general was standing up in the court and saying that they were withdrawing the proposal, the UIDAI was floating bids inviting the exact same kind of proposals for social media surveillance. It was shocking.”
She moved the court against the UIDAI proposal, and KK Venugopal said that the government was ready to accommodate her objections.
Mahua says that she filed the petitions purely in her “personal capacity” and not with any political interests in mind – “Issues like data privacy does not make much meaning to an electorate who is more receptive to rousing speeches on religion, job or government schemes”.
Mahua said that she decided to move court against the government’s social media snooping move, because millions of people like her mother did not even have an iota of idea that their right to privacy is being infringed upon by the government.
Mahua had a brilliant career – she was the vice-president of JP Morgan in London. She quit her job in 2008 and came back to India with the sole purpose of joining politics.
She joined Congress in 2009. As the party had no roots in West Bengal, she decided to join the Trinamool Congress in 2010 after a chance meeting with Mamata Banerjee on a Kolkata-Delhi flight.
She spent her childhood in Assam and Kolkata and moved to the United States to study when she was all of 16. She studied economics at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts and then worked as an investment banker in the US and London.