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Database State: Decoding the Implications of Unending Census

Written By mediavigil on Tuesday, October 03, 2023 | 3:07 AM

Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health (CSMCH), JNU Alumni Association Lecture Series 
Topic- Database State:Decoding the Implications of Unending Census
Speaker- Dr. Gopal Krishna
Moderator- Dr. E Premdas Pinto

Abstract: The lecture dwells on the journey of census and its sister databases, their convergence and State’s effort to classify ‘valids’ and ‘in-valids’. It examines the dominant narrative which persuades people to think that they have nothing to fear after trusting their personal sensitive information to a database State. The lecture probes questions like: Will the marriage of statistics of biological attributes and identification technology with digital sculpture alter the relationship between the citizen and the State? Is online version of ‘age-old register' indeed a ‘digital equivalent' of offline ‘age-old register'? Is ‘digital tattooing' an equivalent of age-old tattooing? Isn’t the idea of a population database linked to ‘close observation’ of the entire human population? Can it transform State’s legal assault on the human body in exceptional situations into capture of the human body by the State for good? 

The lecture interrogates the maxim: “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” articulated by Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister of Nazi Germany. The big database driven state actors will have citizens believe that the idea of big database is linked to the concepts of inclusion, cooperation, partnership, and consultation. They make it sound benign through donations, distribution of petty contracts, powers of persuasion, peer pressure, publicity, advertising and by making citizens’ entitlements condition precedent.

The lecture is available at: https://mega.nz/file/PxIRTQCY#N4bK8TodVdOrKnGTurwt1HCFX1ZBzV9eqJFFS_1YPkQ

I am in the process of filing a case in supreme Court.

Profile: Dr. Gopal Krishna did his Ph.D from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). His thesis is on "Corporate Crimes, Public Institutions and Their Accountability: An Inquiry into the Industrial Disaster of Bhopal”. He has formally studied philosophy, law and mass communication. His post doctoral work at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) focused on the status of the inter state migrants. During 2019-2022 he was a Fellow of the Berlin based International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counter Strategies (IRGAC). His current work explores the relationship between processes and practices that are taking the world towards the “commodification of everything”, including nature, human experience, public space and data with consequences for cognitive justice.

He has authored a monograph on the subject of role of WTO Tribunal in the Asbestos case. He wrote another monograph on the subject of nature of pure consciousness in Brahmasutra and Dhammapada. 

He has been writing on various aspects of corporate crimes, and the war on the ecosystem. Since 2000, he has been working as a law and public policy researcher and writer. In 2010, he co-founded Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) to undertake research and advocacy on the subject of data justice, citizenship and consciousness of justice with specific focus on big data based automatic identification and mass surveillance technology. As convener of CFCL, he gave oral and written testimony before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that examined the National Identification Authority of India, Bill, 2010, the original Aadhaar Bill, which was withdrawn and re-introduced as Money Bill in, 2016. The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forest, Science and Technology on the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill 2019 acknowledges his submission. The government withdrew this Bill in July 2023. He gave oral and written testimony on the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution. His submission is acknowledged in the report of the parliamentary commitee. His submission dealt with e-commerce and the rights of citizen consumers. 

He has written for publications like Science, Economic & Political Weekly, Academy, Labour and Development Journal, Mainstream, Business Today, The Wire, Samayantar, The Tribune, Outlook, Rediff.com, Deccan Chronicle, livelaw.in, Moneylife.in, Hindustan Times, Newslaundry, Dainik Bhaskar, Yathavat, and Prabhat Khabar. His articles have been cited in several publications. He is the editor of a web journal www.toxicswatch.org. He has written over 100 articles in English and Hindi on the subject of UID/Aadhaar number database and related aspects of national security. 

He has contributed to publications like Disputes Over Ganga, Kosi Deluge:The Worst is Still to Come, The Return of the Giants, Omnishambles of UID and Migrants in Electoral Time. 

He has been invited by the German Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport in the past besides the European Parliamentary Committee on Environment in Brussels and a European Parliamentarian’s Group in Strasbourg, France for his testimony. He has been an invitee before several UN Committees, Supreme Court Committees and Parliamentary Standing Committees. Most recently he appeared before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Biological Diversity Amendment Bill.

In July 2020, he wrote a paper titled "Revisiting the concepts of Panopticon and Synopticon: An inquiry into naturalisation of totalitarian surveillance in the name of covid19 pandemic". The paper discusses the state-proposed app Aarogya Setu which traced citizens’ contact with COVID-19. It also discloses how the pandemic was used as a justification for the profiling and mass surveillance of Indian citizens without their consent, nor any transparency mechanisms. 

In the summer semester of 2022, he taught a course titled “New Faces of Authoritarianism: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from the Global South”. The course was hosted by the Institut für Sozialwissenschaften at Humboldt University as part of the Chair for Comparative Political Science and Political Systems of Eastern Europe. 

In recent years, he has been writing on farmers and agricultural produce market laws and digitalisation of agriculture in response to aadhaar based "agristack", agrarian distress and farmers' suicide. His paper on the subject has been published in the 18th Volume of Law, Environment and Development (LEAD) Journal managed by School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and Geneva based the International Environmental Law Research Centre (IELRC). 

He has been capturing the phenomena of the emergence of Database State and the role of the non-state actors, the beneficial owners of big data firms in his writings.

Aditya-L1, India's first solar observatory to study sun’s photosphere, chromosphere, and corona

Written By mediavigil on Thursday, September 07, 2023 | 8:00 AM

After the successful launch of Chandrayaan-3 on August 23, 2023 by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), on September 2, 2023 India's first solar observatory began its journey to the destination of Sun-Earth L1 point. The vehicle has placed the satellite precisely into its intended orbit. The launch of Aditya-L1 by PSLV-C57 has been accomplished. 

Aditya L1 is going to be the first space based Indian mission to study the Sun. The spacecraft shall be placed in a halo orbit around the Lagrange point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system, which is about 1.5 million km from the Earth. A satellite placed in the halo orbit around the L1 point has the major advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation/eclipses. This will provide a greater advantage of observing the solar activities and its effect on space weather in real time. The spacecraft carries seven payloads to observe the photosphere, chromosphere and the outermost layers of the Sun (the corona) using electromagnetic and particle and magnetic field detectors. 

Using the special vantage point L1, four payloads directly view the Sun and the remaining three payloads carry out in-situ studies of particles and fields at the Lagrange point L1, thus providing important scientific studies of the propagatory effect of solar dynamics in the interplanetary medium.

The suits of Aditya L1 payloads are expected to provide most crucial information to understand the problem of coronal heating, coronal mass ejection, pre-flare and flare activities and their characteristics, dynamics of space weather, propagation of particle and fields etc.

The major science objectives of Aditya-L1 mission are:

  • Study of Solar upper atmospheric (chromosphere and corona) dynamics.
  • Study of chromospheric and coronal heating, physics of the partially ionized plasma, initiation of the coronal mass ejections, and flares
  • Observe the in-situ particle and plasma environment providing data for the study of particle dynamics from the Sun.
  • Physics of solar corona and its heating mechanism.
  • Diagnostics of the coronal and coronal loops plasma: Temperature, velocity and density.
  • Development, dynamics and origin of CMEs.
  • Identify the sequence of processes that occur at multiple layers (chromosphere, base and extended corona) which eventually leads to solar eruptive events.
  • Magnetic field topology and magnetic field measurements in the solar corona .
  • Drivers for space weather (origin, composition and dynamics of solar wind .

The instruments of Aditya-L1 are tuned to observe the solar atmosphere mainly the chromosphere and corona. In-situ instruments will observe the local environment at L1. There are total seven payloads on-board with four of them carrying out remote sensing of the Sun and three of them carrying in-situ observation. 

The four payloads will study the star’s photosphere, its layer visible to us; the chromosphere, a thin layer of plasma on top of the photosphere; and the corona, the outermost layer of the sun that starts about 1,300 miles above the photosphere

The photosphere is the source of solar flares: tongues of fire that extend hundreds of thousands of miles above the sun's surface. Solar flares produce bursts of X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, electromagnetic radiation and radio waves.

The chromosphere emits a reddish glow as super-heated hydrogen burns off. But the red rim can only be seen during a total solar eclipse. At other times, light from the chromosphere is usually too weak to be seen against the brighter photosphere.

The sun's corona can only be seen during a total solar eclipse (or with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory). It appears as white streamers or plumes of ionized gas that flow outward into space. Temperatures in the sun's corona can get as high as 2 million degrees C. As the gases cool, they become the solar wind.

Why the corona is up to 300 times hotter than the photosphere, despite being farther from the solar core, has remained a long-term mystery.

Out of five scheduled Earth-bound maneuvres before picking the speed for journey to orbit around L1, the first Earth-bound maneuvre has been performed successfully from ISTRAC, Bengaluru. The new orbit attained is 245 km x 22459 km on September 3. The satellite is healthy and operating nominally. The second Earth-bound maneuvre was performed successfully on September 5. The new orbit attained is 282 km x 40225 km.

ISRO is the space agency of India. The organisation is involved in science, engineering and technology to harvest the benefits of outer space for India and the mankind. ISRO was previously the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), set up by the Government of India in 1962, as envisioned by Dr. VikramA Sarabhai. ISRO was formed on August 15, 1969 and superseded INCOSPAR with an expanded role to harness space technology.

Global economic cost of invasive alien species exceeded $423 billion annually in 2019

Written By mediavigil on Tuesday, September 05, 2023 | 10:27 PM

Invasive Alien Species Pose Major Global Threats to Nature, Economies, Food Security and Human Health

Key Role in 60% of Global Plant & Animal Extinctions

Annual Costs Now >$423 Billion – Have Quadrupled Every Decade Since 1970

Report Provides Evidence, Tools & Options to Help Governments Achieve Ambitious New Global Goal on Invasive Alien Species 

The severe global threat posed by invasive alien species is underappreciated, underestimated, and often unacknowledged. According to a major new report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), more than 37,000 alien species have been introduced by many human activities to regions and biomes around the world. This conservative estimate is now rising at unprecedented rates. More than 3,500 of these are harmful invasive alien species – seriously threatening nature, nature’s contributions to people and good quality of life. Too often ignored until it is too late, invasive alien species are a significant challenge to people in all regions and in every country.

Approved by representatives of the 143 member States of IPBES,  the Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control finds that alongside dramatic changes to biodiversity and ecosystems, the global economic cost of invasive alien species exceeded $423 billion annually in 2019, with costs having at least quadrupled every decade since 1970.

In 2019, the IPBES Global Assessment Report found that invasive alien species are one of the five most important direct drivers of biodiversity loss – alongside changes in land- and sea-use, direct exploitation of species, climate change and pollution. On the basis of this finding, Governments tasked IPBES to provide the best available evidence and policy options to deal with the challenges of biological invasions. The resulting report was produced by 86 experts from 49 countries, working for more than four and a half years. It draws on more than 13,000 references, including very significant contributions from Indigenous Peoples and local communities, making it the most comprehensive assessment ever carried out of invasive alien species around the world.

“Invasive alien species are a major threat to biodiversity and can cause irreversible damage to nature, including local and global species extinctions, and also threaten human wellbeing,” said Professor Helen Roy (United Kingdom), co-chair of the Assessment with Prof. Anibal Pauchard (Chile) and Prof. Peter Stoett (Canada).

The authors of the report emphasize that not all alien species become invasive – invasive alien species are the subset of alien species that are known to have become established and spread, which cause negative impacts on nature and often also on people. About 6% of alien plants; 22% of alien invertebrates; 14% of alien vertebrates; and 11% of alien microbes are known to be invasive, posing major risks to nature and to people. People with the greatest direct dependence on nature, such as Indigenous Peoples and local communities, are found to be at even greater risk. More than 2,300 invasive alien species are found on lands under the stewardship of Indigenous Peoples – threatening their quality of life and even cultural identities.

While many alien species were historically introduced on purpose for their perceived benefits to people, the IPBES report finds that the negative impacts of those that do become invasive are enormous for nature and people. “Invasive alien species have been a major factor in 60% and the only driver in 16% of global animal and plant extinctions that we have recorded, and at least 218 invasive alien species have been responsible for more than 1,200 local extinctions . In fact, 85% of the impacts of biological invasions on native species are negative,” said Prof. Pauchard. Examples of such impacts include the ways that North American beavers (Castor canadensis) and Pacific Oysters (Magallana gigas) change ecosystems by transforming habitats – often with severe consequences for native species.

Nearly 80% of the documented impacts of invasive alien species on nature’s contributions to people are also negative – especially through damage to food supplies – such as the impact of the European shore crab (Carcinus maenas) on commercial shellfish beds in New England and the damage caused by the Caribbean false mussel (Mytilopsis sallei) to locally important fishery resources in India.

Similarly, 85% of documented impacts negatively affect people’s quality of life – for instance through health impacts, including diseases such as malaria, Zika and West Nile Fever, spread by invasive alien mosquito species like Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegyptii. Invasive alien species also damage livelihoods, for example in Lake Victoria where fisheries have declined due to the depletion of tilapia, as a result of the spread of water hyacinth (Pontederia crassipes), which is the world’s most widespread terrestrial invasive alien species. Lantana (Lantana camara), a flowering shrub, and the black rat (Rattus rattus) are the second and third most widespread globally, with far-reaching impacts on people and nature.

“It would be an extremely costly mistake to regard biological invasions only as someone else’s problem,” said Pauchard. “Although the specific species that inflict damages vary from place to place, these are risks and challenges with global roots but very local impacts, facing people in every country, from all backgrounds and in every community – even Antarctica is being affected.”

The report shows that 34% of the impacts of biological invasions were reported from the Americas, 31% from Europe and Central Asia, 25% from Asia and the Pacific and about 7% from Africa. Most negative impacts are reported on land (about 75%) – especially in forests, woodlands and cultivated areas – with considerably fewer reported in freshwater (14%) and marine (10%) habitats . Invasive alien species are most damaging on islands, with numbers of alien plants now exceeding the number of native plants on more than 25% of all islands.

“The future threat from invasive alien species is a major concern,” said Prof. Roy. “37% of the 37,000 alien species known today have been reported since 1970 – largely caused by rising levels of global trade and human travel. Under ‘business-as-usual’ conditions, we project that total numbers of alien species will continue to increase in this way.”

“But business-as-usual is actually unlikely,” continues Roy. “With so many major drivers of change predicted to worsen, it is expected that the increase of invasive alien species and their negative impacts, are likely to be significantly greater. The accelerating global economy, intensified and expanded land- and sea-use change, as well as demographic changes are likely to lead to increases in invasive alien species worldwide. Even without the introduction of new alien species, already established alien species will continue to expand their ranges and spread to new countries and regions. Climate change will make the situation even worse.” The report underscores that interactions between invasive alien species and other drivers of change will be likely to amplify their impacts – for example invasive alien plants can interact with climate change, often resulting in more intense and frequent fires, such as some of the devastating wildfires experienced recently around the world, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The IPBES experts point to the generally insufficient measures in place to tackle these challenges. While 80% of countries have targets related to managing invasive alien species in their national biodiversity plans, only 17% have national laws or regulations specifically addressing these issues. This also increases the risk of invasive alien species for neighbouring States. The report finds that 45% of all countries do not invest in the management of biological invasions.

On a more positive note, the report highlights that future biological invasions, invasive alien species, and their impacts, can be prevented through effective management and more integrated approaches. “The good news is that, for almost every context and situation, there are management tools, governance options and targeted actions that really work,” said Prof. Pauchard. “Prevention is absolutely the best, most cost-effective option – but eradication, containment and control are also effective in specific contexts. Ecosystem restoration can also improve the results of management actions and increase the resistance of ecosystems to future invasive alien species . Indeed, managing invasive alien species can help to mitigate the negative effects of other drivers of change.”

Prevention measures – such as border biosecurity and strictly enforced import controls – are identified by the report as having worked in many instances, such as the successes achieved in Australasia in reducing the spread of the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). Preparedness, early detection and rapid response are shown to be effective at reducing rates of alien species establishment, and to be especially critical for marine and connected water systems . The PlantwisePlus programme, assisting smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America is spotlighted by the report as a good example of the importance of general surveillance strategies to detect new alien species.

Eradication has been successful and cost-effective for some invasive alien species, especially when their populations are small and slow-spreading, in isolated ecosystems such as islands. Some examples of this are in French Polynesia where the black rat (Rattus rattus) and rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) have been successfully eradicated. The report indicates that eradication of alien plants is more challenging due to the length of time that seeds may lie dormant in soil. The authors add that successful eradication programmes depend on, amongst other elements, the support and engagement of stakeholders and Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

When eradication is not possible for different reasons, invasive alien species can often be contained and controlled – especially in land-based and closed water systems, as well as in aquaculture – an example being the containment of the invasive alien Asian tunicate (Styela clava) in aqua-cultured blue mussels in Canada. Successful containment can be physical, chemical or biological – although the appropriateness and effectiveness of each option is dependent on local context. The use of biological control for invasive alien plants and invertebrates, such as introducing a rust fungus (Puccinia spegazzinii) to control bitter vine (Mikania micrantha) in the Asia-Pacific region, has been effective – with success in more than 60% of known cases.

“One of the most important messages from the report is that ambitious progress in tackling invasive alien species is achievable,” said Prof. Stoett. “What is needed is a context-specific integrated approach, across and within countries and the various sectors involved in providing biosecurity, including trade and transportation; human and plant health; economic development and more. This will have far-reaching benefits for nature and people.” Options explored in the report include considering coherent policies and codes of conduct across sectors and scales; commitment and resourcing; public awareness and engagement, such as citizen science campaigns like those promoting ‘check, clean and dry’; open and interoperable information systems; filling knowledge gaps (the authors identify more than 40 areas where research is needed); as well as inclusive and fair governance.

“The immediate urgency of invasive alien species, with extensive and growing harm to nature and people, makes this report so valuable and timely,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, the Executive Secretary of IPBES. “The Governments of the world agreed, in December last year, as part of the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, to reduce the introduction and establishment of priority invasive alien species by at least 50% by 2030. This is a vital, but also very ambitious commitment. The IPBES Invasive Alien Species Report provides the evidence, tools and options to help make this commitment more achievable.”

Key Statistics and Facts from the Report

>37,000: alien species established worldwide
200: new alien species recorded every year
>3,500: invasive alien species recorded globally, including 1,061 plants (6% of all alien plant species), 1,852 invertebrates (22%), 461 vertebrates (14%) and 141 microbes (11%)
37%: proportion of known alien species reported since 1970
36%: anticipated increase in alien species by 2050 compared to 2005, under a “business-as-usual” scenario (assumes past trends in drivers of change continue)
>35%: proportion of alien freshwater fish in the Mediterranean basin that have arisen from aquaculture

34%: proportion of impacts reported in the Americas (31% Europe and Central Asia; 25% Asia Pacific; 7% Africa
75%: impacts reported in the terrestrial realm (mostly in temperate and boreal forests and woodlands and cultivated areas)
14%: proportion of impacts reported in freshwater ecosystems 
10%: proportion of impacts reported in the marine realm
60%: proportion of recorded global extinctions to which invasive alien species have contributed
16%: proportion of recorded global extinctions in which invasive alien species have been the sole driver
1,215: local extinctions of native species caused by 218 invasive alien species (32.4% were invertebrates, 50.9% vertebrates, 15.4% plants, 1.2% microbes)
27%: invasive alien species impacts on native species through ecosystem properties changes (24% through interspecific competition; 18% through predation; 12% through herbivory)
90%: global extinctions on islands attributed mainly to invasive alien species
>$423 billion: estimated annual economic cost of biological invasions, 2019
92%: proportion of economic costs of biological invasions attributed to invasive alien species damaging nature’s contributions to people and good quality of life (with the remaining 8% of costs related to biological invasion management)
>2,300: invasive alien species documented on lands managed, used and/or owned by Indigenous Peoples
4x: rise in the economic cost of biological invasions in every decade since 1970          

Policy and management:

80% (156 out of 196): countries with targets in national biodiversity strategies and action plans for managing biological invasions
>200%: increase in the last decade in the number of countries with national invasive alien species checklists, including databases (196 countries in 2022)
83%: countries without specific national legislation or regulations on invasive alien species
88%: success rate of eradication programmes (1,550) conducted on 998 islands
>60%: success rates of biological control programs for invasive alien plants and invertebrates   

"Humanity has been moving species around the world for centuries. This practice has brought some positives. However, when imported species run rampant and unbalance local ecosystems, indigenous biodiversity suffers. As a result, invasive species have become one of the five horsemen of the biodiversity apocalypse that is riding down harder and faster upon the world.
While the other four horsemen – changing land- and sea-use, over exploitation, climate change and pollution – are relatively well understood, knowledge gaps remain around invasive species. The IPBES Invasive Alien Species Report is a welcome effort to close these gaps. By providing critical information on trends in invasive species and policy tools to address them, this report can provide a springboard to concrete action on invasive species. I ask all decision-makers to use this report’s recommendations as a basis to act on this growing threat to biodiversity and human well-being – and make a real contribution to achieving the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by 2030," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director,  United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Invasive alien species pose a substantial threat to livelihoods and food security around the world. They can, for example, manifest as destructive crop or forest pests or displace species targeted by fisheries. They are an important driver of biodiversity loss and hence a threat to the various ecosystem services that support agricultural production and sustainable livelihoods. The information contained in this report will contribute greatly to efforts to combat the spread of invasive alien species and to meeting Target 6 of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. It will be especially valuable for all of us who work to integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into the world’s agrifood systems to enhance their productivity and resilience, said QU Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Invasive alien species -- plants, animals or microorganisms that are introduced intentionally or unintentionally into areas where they are not native -- remain one of the most striking symptoms of the adverse effect of human activities on our natural world. They not only contribute to wildlife species extinctions, but also pose a rapidly growing risk to progress on the Global Goals -- affecting entire ecosystems, economies and food security to human health, wellbeing, and livelihoods. As anthropogenic factors such as climate change provide the perfect petri dish for alien species to multiply and spread, our decisions and actions must be rooted in a comprehensive understanding of this threat and its future implications. Addressing this need, this timely analysis by IPBES combines the latest science, data, and new thinking to guide countries, communities, and the United Nations family to prevent, mitigate, and manage invasive alien species, a pivotal step towards advancing the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework targets. That includes leveraging invaluable local knowledge and outlining a range of practical solutions. This new understanding will allow our global community to take new measures to protect both people and planet from the unwanted and severe consequences of invasive alien species, said Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Invasive alien species are one of the five main direct drivers of biodiversity loss globally and the threats they pose to species, to ecosystems and to human well-being are rapidly increasing.
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, in its Target 6, aims to tackle the impacts of invasive alien species on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to reduce the rate of introduction and establishment of invasive alien species by at least 50% by 2030. This is an ambitious target, especially when we consider the increasing levels of global trade and travel.

The IPBES Assessment will provide the best available scientific knowledge to help countries and stakeholders understand and address this growing threat. It will identify tools and policy measures for identifying and regulating pathways of introduction and for eliminating or controlling invasive species that have already been established. Critically, the assessment will take into account different value systems and help to focus actions on priority species, pathways and sites....I believe it will be a critical resource to facilitate the urgent actions necessary to achieve Target 6 and work towards living in harmony with nature, said David Cooper, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Global Biodiversity Framework Fund launched

Written By mediavigil on Wednesday, August 23, 2023 | 9:01 PM

The seventh assembly of Global Environment Facility (GEF)  has launched Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBF Fund), a new source of funding for protecting species and ecosystems globally in compliance with promises made at the COP15, the 15th UN Biodiversity Conference in December 2022. GEF's governing Council approved plans for this in June 2023 in Brasilia.

The GBF was ratified and launched on 24 August, 2023. Two countries announced initial contributions to start its capitalization. This included 200 million Canadian dollars from Canada and 10 million pounds from the United Kingdom. The poverty of imagination of rich countries is quite apparent. 

The GBF Fund is supposed to support the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, its goals and its targets. It provides an opportunity to receive funding from all sources, disburse through streamlined procedures, with enhanced access for indigenous peoples and local communities, according to their own priorities. The Fund provides the opportunity for a greatly enhanced involvement of Multilateral Development Banks and Development Finance Institutes, which will facilitate the mainstreaming of biodiversity necessary to implement the Framework.

The Assembly brought together ministers, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists, leaders of international agencies and environmental conventions along with representatives of youth groups, civil society, and indigenous people. 

The GEFs every-four-year gathering of 185 countries is taking place at a time when the world is struggling to cope with record air and sea temperatures, deadly and destructive wildfires, and extreme flooding. It has to set a path to end nature loss and turn down the heat.

Significantly, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF) which was adopted in Montreal, Canada, commits the world to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. It is being deemed as an equivalent of Paris Agreement under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

Under Target 19 of the KMGBF, countries have to generate at least US$200 billion per year by 2030 for biodiversity. At its Brasilia meeting in June, the GEF Council had greed on a record $1.4 billion work program in order to advance efforts to address environmental challenges in an integrated way. 

Recent months have seen significant advances in environmental diplomacy, among them the COP15 breakthrough on biodiversity, the UN pact to preserve the high seas, a pledge from world leaders to work toward a global deal on eliminating plastic waste, and a World Trade Organization agreement to bar harmful fisheries. 

A joint international open letter by civil society institutions had underlined the importance of international public finance for combating global nature crisis. It has called for donor countries to announce ambitious contributions to the GBF Fund. 

GEF was ceated three decades ago. It is the world’s largest multilateral funder of environmental action, and a trusted partner of both donor governments looking to make a global difference, and developing countries looking to tackle their biggest ecological and sustainability challenges.

CFCL welcomes proposed withdrawal of DNA Technology Regulation Bill, demands repeal of Biometric Aadhaar Act 

Written By mediavigil on Saturday, July 15, 2023 | 8:18 AM

 Briefing Paper


CFCL welcomes proposed withdrawal of DNA Technology (Use & Application) Regulation Bill, demands repeal of Biometric Aadhaar Act 


Unlike EU Parliament’s questionable creation of the Common Identity Repository (CIR), a gigantic biometrics database, Indian Govt’s withdrawal of DNA Bill is consistent with verdicts of European Court of Human Rights and Indian Supreme Court   


Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) welcomes proposed withdrawal of 36 page long the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 and demands repeal of Biometric Aadhaar Act.

The DNA Technology Regulation Bill  which made provisions for collection of “biometric information” and “biological attributes” is listed for withdrawal in the upcoming session of Parliament from 20 July, 2023 as part of Government Business expected to be taken up during the Twelfth Session of Seventeenth Lok Sabha, 2023. The DNA Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on 8 July, 2019. In its scientism, the press release of the Ministry of Science & Technology had boasted that “The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill “will add value in empowering the criminal justice delivery system by enabling the application of DNA evidence, which is considered gold standard in crime investigations” disregarding its adverse ramifications.


The withdrawal is proposed in the aftermath of the 144 page long report of  Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change which was tabled in Lok Sabha on 3 February 2021 factored in its ramifications. Drawing on the deliberations of the committee, CFCL demands repeal of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 which enables collection of “biometric information”and “biological attributes”. As per Section 2 (g) of Aadhaar Act, 2016, “‘biometric information’ means photograph, fingerprint, iris scan, or such other biological attributes of an individual as may be specified by regulations”. The “other biological attributes” include biometric information like DNA.  


Union government’s decision to withdraw the DNA Profiling Bill is consistent with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in S and Marper vs. United Kingdom (2008) on violation of the right to privacy and family life by DNA profile retention in criminal justice databanks and Supreme Court of India’s verdict of 9-judge Constitution Bench dated 24 August 2017 on fundamental right to privacy in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs. Union of India (2017). The decision in the former was delivered by 17 judges on December 4, 2008. The Court found that the “blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the power of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples, and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offenses, failed to strike a fair balance between competing public and private interests.


In the latter, the Indian Court grappled with the issue of collection of DNA in its verdict It drew on this ECHR decision and the UK Supreme Court’s verdict in R vs. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (2011) which held that the police force's policy of retaining DNA evidence in the absence of 'exceptional circumstances' was unlawful and a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It also drew on the 2012 report of Justice A.P. Shah headed Group of Experts on Privacy which recommended a framework for protection “multi-dimensional privacy” with specific reference to “use of personal identifiers, bodily privacy including DNA as well as physical privacy.” But the Union government’s decision to promote online databases like Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of “biometric information” and “biological attributes” based Aadhaar Numbers is indefensible and is contrary to India’s supreme national interest.


Significantly, biometrics “means the technologies that measure and analyse human body characteristics, such as ‘fingerprints’, ‘eye retinas and irises’, ‘voice patterns’, “facial patterns’, ‘hand measurements’ and ‘DNA’ for authentication purposes” according to Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011 under section 87 read with section 43A of Information Technology Act, 2000. It becomes clear from these provisions that the plan of data collection does not end with collection of fingerprints and iris scan; it goes quite beyond it and envelopes "other biological attributes".


Subsequent to the recommendations of the report of Jairam Ramesh headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Bill is listed for withdrawal. The submission made by CFCL is acknowledged in the parliamentary report. CFCL has argued for long that the Human DNA Profiling Bill in question  must be read with Clause 2 (g) of Aadhaar Act, 2016 that defines 'biometric information' and includes human DNA profiling and voice samples by mentioning "other such biological attributes of an individual" by any future regulation, apart from photograph, fingerprint and Iris scan.

The dissenting opinions expressed by members of this Parliamentary Committee are included in the report. These include Note of Dissent received from the Shri Asaduddin Owaisi, M.P., Lok Sabha (page no. 38-49) which among other things raises the issue of fallibility of DNA Evidence, absence of Data Protection Law and disregard of verdicts in Puttaswamy case and Subramanian Swamy case and Note of Dissent received from Shri Binoy Viswam, M.P., Rajya Sabha (page no. 50). Viswam observes, "the impact of this law on marginalized and minority communities such as, Dalits, Adivasis, religious and gender minorities, among others, make it impossible for me to support it. In light of the social, political and economic realities of India especially given the history of oppression faced by particular social groups cannot be ignored while considering such laws. It is time that the Government puts a hiatus on the passing of legislation that continues to encroach upon the right to privacy in the name of reasonable restrictions, till the time comprehensive data protection laws are not passed in the country." He also raised the issue of non-compliance with verdict in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India and breach of fundamental rights recognized by the Constitution of India. 

In his long dissent note Owaisi draws attention towards Crimes solved by DNA evidence fall despite millions being added to database (telegraph.co.uk). It has been noted by Christopher Hope that the case for the national DNA database has been undermined by figures showing that the addition of millions of profiles in the past six years has not increased the number of crimes solved by DNA evidence. In the past year the number of crimes solved using DNA has actually fallen despite the number of people on the database rising to more than four million. The news comes as European Union judges decide whether to wipe over a million profiles from innocent people from the database. Figures show that for the past six years the number of crimes solved using DNA evidence has remained static at between 0.34 and 0.36 per cent - about one in 300 of all recorded crimes. The number of crimes which were solved by a DNA match fell by 13 per cent to 17,614 last year as recorded crime fell overall, according to figures contained in Parliamentary answers. Over the same period the number of people's whose identity was on the national DNA database more than doubled in size from 1.9million people to 4.1million. There was a big boost to the figures in April 2004 when police were able to take DNA from anyone arrested for a recordable offence before they were charged. Previously, they had to wait until the offenders were charged. "If your DNA is on the database the government could use it to track you or your relatives, even if you are innocent of any crime. A smaller database would be much cheaper and also more effective" observes Helen Wallace.  

The new report records the observation of Liberal Democrats' shadow home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne saying: "These figures undermine the Government's flawed argument in favour of holding the DNA of innocent people. Bigger is not always better..."The DNA database is not the universal panacea to crime ministers would have us believe – the huge expansion of the database has not improved detection.  It also records the view of the Tories’ shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve. He said: “It is a sign of this Government’s skewed priorities that a million innocent citizens have been swabbed and sampled onto the DNA database, while serious criminals are left off. This latest research just strengthens the case for a national debate on the scope of this database, including the criteria for retention of DNA.” CFCL's submission echoes these concerns as well. 

Clause 22 of the Bill seeks to provide that any person who was present at the scene of a crime when it was committed; or is being questioned in connection with the investigation of a crime; or intends to find the whereabouts of his missing or lost relative, in disaster or otherwise, may voluntarily consent in writing to bodily substances being taken from him for DNA testing, subject to certain conditions specified therein. The Parliamentary Committee has recommended its modification and replacement with the following provision: “If the person giving the voluntary consent is below the age of eighteen years and the consent of the parent or guardian of such person is refused or cannot be obtained, the person investigating the case may make an appropriate application to the Magistrate having jurisdiction, for obtaining such bodily substances and the Magistrate, if satisfied that there is reasonable cause from taking the bodily substances from such person, order for taking of bodily substances from that person and after giving a hearing to the parent or guardian and thereafter passing a reasoned order.” This assumes significance in the context of Clause 23 of the Bill which seeks to provide for the sources and manner of collection of samples for DNA testing. For the purposes of the proposed law samples for DNA testing may be collected from bodily substances; scene of occurrence or scene of crime; (c) clothing and other objects; or (d) such other sources as may be specified by regulations. It provides for collection of any intimate bodily substance from living persons and non-intimate bodily substance provided that before collecting bodily substances for DNA testing of a victim or a person reasonably suspected of being a victim who is alive, or a relative of a missing person, or a minor or a disabled person, written consent of such victim or such relative or the parent or guardian of such minor or disabled person shall be obtained and, in case of refusal, the person investigating the case may make an application to the Magistrate having jurisdiction, for obtaining such bodily substances and the Magistrate, if he is satisfied that there is reasonable cause for taking the bodily substances from such person, order for taking of bodily substances from that person.

The “intimate bodily substance” means a sample of blood, semen or any other tissue, fluid, urine or pubic hair, or a swab taken from a person's body orifice other than mouth; or skin or tissue from an internal organ or body part, taken from or of a person, living or dead. The “intimate forensic procedure” means any of the following forensic procedures conducted on a living person, namely:—(i) external examination of the genital or anal area, the buttocks and breasts in the case of a female; (ii) taking of a sample of blood; (iii) taking of a sample of pubic hair; (iv) taking of a sample by swab or washing from the external genital or anal area, the buttocks and breasts in the case of a female; (v) taking of a sample by vacuum suction, by scraping or by lifting by tape from the external genital or anal area, the buttocks and breasts in the case of a female and vi) taking of a photograph or video recording of, or an impression or cast of a wound from, the genital or anal area, buttocks and breasts in the case of a female.

The “non-intimate bodily substance” means any of the following taken from or of a person, living or dead, namely:—(i) handprint, fingerprint, footprint or toe print; (ii) a sample of hair other than pubic hair; (iii) a sample taken from a nail or under a nail; (iv) swab taken from any part of a person's body including mouth, but not any other body orifice; (v) saliva; or (vi) a skin impression.

The “non-intimate forensic procedure” means any of the following forensic procedures conducted on a living individual, namely:—(i) examination of a part of the body other than the genital or anal area, the buttocks and breasts in the case of a female, that requires touching of the body or removal of clothing; (ii) taking of a sample of hair other than pubic hair; (iii) taking of a sample from a nail or under a nail;(iv) taking of a buccal swab with consent; (v) taking of a sample by swab or washing from any external part of the body other than the genital or anal area, the buttocks and breasts in the case of a female; (vi) scraping or lifting by tape from any external part of the body other than the genital or anal area, the buttocks and breasts in the case of a female; (vii) taking of a handprint, fingerprint, footprint or toe print; or (viii) taking of a photograph or video recording of, or an impression or cast of a wound from, a part of the body other than the genital or anal area, the buttocks and breasts in the case of a female.

The Parliamentary report records the claim of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology that "nearly 60 countries have enacted similar legislation" but does not provide the names of these countries. It only mentions USA's DNA Identification Act (1994), UK's Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) and Criminal Justice and  Police Act (2001), Canada's DNA Identification Act (1998). It simply states that "Similar legislation has been enacted in other countries including Norway, Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and Bangladesh." 

In its recommendation, the Parliamentary Committee states that "some Members have expressed their fears that this Bill when it becomes a law could be used to target certain sections of our society. The Government must assuage these fears both in Parliament and outside." It records that "some Members believe that in order to ensure the prevention of misuse of the provisions of the Bill and avoid targeting of certain categories of people, the application of the Bill must be limited to the terms "victims‟ "offenders‟, "missing persons‟ and "unknown deceased persons‟ and not cover "suspects‟ and "undertrials‟ as well as provided for presently in the Long Title. The Committee has taken on board these concerns that must be addressed by the Government in a suitable manner." Despite such gnawing concerns regarding  inclusion of "suspects‟ and "undertrials‟ in the Long Title of the Bill, in keeping with the majority view expressed in the Committee, the Committee was compelled to recommend  retention of "suspects‟ and "undertrials‟ in the Long Title.

The Long Title of this Human DNA Profiling Bill "provides for the regulation of use and application of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology for the purposes of establishing the identity of certain categories of persons including the victims, offenders, suspects, undertrials, missing persons and unknown deceased persons and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto." Its overarching ambit leaves the scope of its misuse by totalitarian regimes in future.

Given the fact that words have meaning in specific national contexts, the reference to “Crime Scene Index” cannot be explained by referring to similar provisions in Australian and Canadian law. The Parliamentary Committee rightly observes that "The risk with a national databank of crime scene DNA profiles is that it will likely include virtually everyone since DNA is left at the “crime scene” before and after the crime by several persons who may have nothing to do with the crime being investigated. There is also DNA to be present of those who were  nowhere near “crime scene” but bodily material like hair may have been transported to the crime scene inadvertently by a variety of ways. Many of these DNA profiles will then find their way into the “crime scene index” without the knowledge of these persons." 

The Committee has recommended that "crime scene DNA profiles can be used in the investigation and trial but (i) should not be put in a databank; and (ii) destroyed once the case concludes with acquittal. If there is a conviction, only the DNA profile of the convict could be included in the databank." There was no consensus on this fundamental issue. Some Members feel that the “crime scene index” is unnecessary and is not a required feature to solve crimes. The Committee expressed the hope that the Government will address the concerns raised by the critics of the very idea of a “crime scene index” in the revised version of the Bill and when it is re-introduced in Parliament. 

The fact remains biometric data like fingerprint, voice print, iris scan and DNA do not reveal citizenship or residentship. While use of biometric technology, an advanced technique for the identification of humans, based on their characteristics or traits is unfolding there is agency within India too. These traits can be face, fingerprint, iris, voice, signature, palm, vein, and DNA. DNA recognition and vein recognition are the latest and most advanced types of biometric authentication. Biometric technology is being deployed in the application areas like government, travel and immigration, banking and finance, and defense. Government applications cover voting, personal ID, license, building access, etc.; whereas travel and immigration use biometric authentication for border access control, immigration, detection of explosives at the airports, etc. Banking and finance sector use biometric authentication for account access, ATM security, etc.


The potential applications of biometric information includes voter registration, access to healthcare records, banking transactions, national identification systems and parental control. Biometrics is turning the human body into the universal ID card of the future. Biometric information includes DNA profiling besides fingerprints wherein biological traits are taken from a person because by their very nature are unique to the individual and positively identifies that person within an ever larger population as the technology improves. 

It is noteworthy that Parliamentary Committee's recommendation with regard to the deletion of provision for "a Regional DNA Data Bank” seems to indicate its bias towards the virtues of centralised electronic online database like Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR), a centralised database in one or more locations containing all Aadhaar numbers issued to Aadhaar number holders along with the corresponding demographic information and biometric information of such individuals and other information related thereto. It demonstrates that no lessons have been learnt from the ongoing leakage of centralised online databases by the likes of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Ideally, such databases should be in decentralised silos. 

The Union Government's Approach Paper for Legislation on Privacy has aptly noted that "While many agencies of government collect personal data, this information is stored in silos with each agency of the government maintaining information using different fields and formats. Government databases do not talk to each other and given how differently they are organized, the information collected by different departments cannot be aggregated or unified. Data privacy and the need to protect personal information is almost never a concern when data is stored in a decentralized manner. Data that is maintained in silos is largely useless outside that silo and consequently has a low likelihood of causing any damage." It is crystal clear that centralised databases like DNA Data Bank and CIDR are aimed at eliminating the separation of data that currently exists between multiple databases. Indeed such a vast interlinked public information database has been unprecedented in India. This is being done without steps to protect personal data before the vast government storehouses of  private data are linked up and the threat of data security breach becomes real.

Notably, on May 3, 2023, Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, the Chief Justice of India, observed that he is considering setting up a bench of seven judges to address the constitutional matter concerning money bills. He was responding to Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi's request to set up the Constitution Bench to hear the Aadhaar Act case in view of the verdict by a 5-Judge Bench on 13 November 2019 in Rojer Mathew vs. South Indian Bank Ltd. This Bench observed that in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs. Union of India (2018), the Aadhaar case majority verdict authored by Justice A. K Skri did not adequately analyse the effect of the word 'only' in Article 110(1) of the Constitution of India. He did not explore the consequences of passing an enactment as a "Money Bill" if some of its provisions do not adhere to Articles 110(1)(a) to (g). Given the fact that the Rojer Mathew bench had the same number of judges as in the Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) case, the Chief Justice headed Constitution Bench forwarded the matter to a 7-judge Bench to determine the correctness of the interpretation given in the biometric Aadhaar Act case on 26 September 2018.


Instead of drawing on the sane advice of Giorgio Agamben, the 81-year-old Italian philosopher against the ‘bio-political tattooing’ that produces an ‘identity without person’, foreign biometric identification technologies are being adopted not realizing how it provides a continuity between the world of the Nazi concentration camp and contemporary democracy. The marriage of statistics of biological characteristics, and biometric technology with digital sculpture can displace the political class for good. In April 2019, European Parliament voted to build common identity repository (CIR), one of the world’s largest biometric identity databases by interconnecting a series of border-control, migration, and law enforcement systems into a mega biometrics-tracking, searchable database of EU and non-EU citizens. This is happening after the EU pulled out of negotiations for a mandatory treaty for regulating transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises initiated by Ecuador with endorsement from South Africa, India and several other developing countries. The US, UK and France are pushing the biometric profiling experiment. In a seemingly unrelated development, French Safran group which had purchased US firm L1 has sold one of its subsidiaries to a UK based company. Safran group has a French government stake in it and has 40 year partnership with China. Clearly, the EU is acting like the mouthpiece of TNCs. In such a backdrop, India’s withdrawal of the DNA Bill is a step in the right direction.  

Unmindful of dangerous ramifications of such applications, if citizens and political parties concerned about civil liberties do not act quickly enough biometric ID’s like UID/Aadhaar Numbers are all set to be made as common as email addresses without any legitimate constitutional mandate. The withdrawal of DNA Profiling Bill creates a compelling logic for the repeal of Aadhaar Act whose constitutionality is pending before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.

Dr. Gopal Krishna    

The author had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that examined the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010, the original Aadhaar Bill. He is a lawyer and is the convener of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL). CFCL has been working on the subject of biometric identification and surveillance since 2010. E-mail:krishnagreen@gmail.com





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