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Why Aadhaar Act is a Black Law -Part III

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, June 15, 2018 | 8:50 AM

Citizens would face an unprecedented onslaught from the provisions of Aadhaar Act and Human DNA Profiling Bill and other related surveillance measures being bulldozed by unregulated and ungovernable technology. Aadhaar Act paves the way for the manufacturing legitimacy of the proposed Human DNA Profiling Act. Biometric profiling of every sort is dehumanizing.

The dangers of trusting identification technologies for determining social policies is bound to be consequential in a situation where “[A] warrant requirement will not make much difference to a society that, under the sway of a naive and discredited theory of genetic determinism, is willing to lock people away on the basis of their genes.”

The 21st century ideology of genetic determinism is being promoted through biometric identification. Such identification includes DNA profiling. DNA profiling is ‘undesirable particularly as forensic DNA developments are intertwined with significant changes in legislation and contentious issues of privacy, civil liberty and social justice.’ The argument which is often mouthed in defence of biometric National Population Register (NPR) and unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar number is that it is meant for social security akin to social security number in the US, which incidentally is not based on biometric data. This must be seen along with a similar argument being advanced for a DNA profile. They say such profiling is required because it “is very much like a social security number—though it is longer and is assigned by chance, not by the federal government”. Clearly, the ramifications of automatic profiling, tracking and surveillance is unfolding and trapping unsuspecting citizens in its ambit.
 The Draft Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2018 (listed for introduction) is linked to the emergence of a surveillance and database state using Union Surface Transport Ministry’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Union Finance Ministry’s National Information Utility, Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar, Union Rural Development Ministry’s Land Titling Bill, World Bank’s e-Transform Initiative, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)’s identification policy and Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations etc. Notably, Lokniti Foundation, an entity of questionable integrity which unsuccessfully tried to get UID/Aadhaar linked to mobile phones had also filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking DNA Profiling. l  
Having initiated collection of biometric data like fingerprints and iris scan for NPR and UID number, the Draft Human DNA Profiling Bill takes the next step and provides for procurement of “intimate body sample” which means a sample of blood, semen or any other tissue, fluid, urine, or pubic hair, a dental impression; or a swab taken from a person’s body orifice other than mouth obtained through “intimate forensic procedure”.
 A paper ‘Prelude to a Miss: A Cautionary Note against Expanding DNA Databanks in the Face of Scientific Uncertainty’ by Jennifer Sue Deck wherein a text of Office of Technology Assessment, US Congress, ‘Genetic Witness: Forensic Uses of DNA Tests’ reads: “DNA fingerprinting is all but foolproof, but some fool is going to use it”. This is apt about all kinds of biometric identification.
Profiling based on Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) is aimed at examination of human biological material acquired through intimate forensic procedure. This biological material is coded with "the past history and thus dictate the future of an individual's racial and genealogical makeup, and influence an individual's medical and psychological makeup."
The intimate forensic procedure means the following forensic procedures, namely:-
(a)An external examination of the genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in the case of a female breast;
(b) Taking of a sample of blood;
(c) Taking of a sample of pubic hair;
(d) Taking of a sample by swab or washing from the external genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in the case of a female;
(e) Taking of a sample by vacuum suction, by scraping or by lifting by tape from the external genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in the case of a female;
(f) Taking of a dental impression;
(g) Taking of a photograph or video recording of, or an impression or cast of a wound from, the genital or anal area, the buttocks and also breasts in  the case of a female.
DNA Profiling is aimed at regulating the use of DNA analysis of body substance profiles and making provision for establishment of DNA Profiling Board consisting of eminent scientists, administrators and law enforcement officers to lay down standards for laboratories, collection of body substances, custody trail from collection to reporting and establishment of a databank and to create policies for use and access to information from such data bank, appointment of a DNA Databank Manager to supervise, execute and maintain the databank and for matters connected therewith.
A decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about violation of the right to privacy and family life by DNA profile retention in criminal justice databanks is relevant here. The case was heard publicly on 27 February 2008, and the unanimous decision of 17 judges was delivered on 4 December 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 and ruled that the United Kingdom had “overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation” in this regard. This was before David Cameron became the Prime Minister in May 2011 defeating Tony Blair's Labour Party which had introduced identity card legislation and compulsory DNA recording.
The technique of DNA profiling was pioneered in the UK and it was the first nation to establish a criminal justice DNA databank. The decision is non-appealable. Unmindful of this, in India National DNA databank is being proposed.
 Once the DNA databank is in place the enlargement of scope for its new predictive uses cannot be ruled out given scientific advancements underway. In such a situation a readymade DNA based inferences adversely impacts impartiality of the criminal justice system and other systems become questionable. Contrary to the existing legal provisions under Census Act and Citizenship Act, the Bill states that the DNA data will also be used for the "creation and maintenance" of population statistics that can be used for "identification, research, protocol development or quality control".
 The Bill once it becomes a law will grant the authority to collect vast amount of sensitive DNA data of citizens merely on the ground of suspicion in a criminal case. The data will be held till the person is cleared by court. Under the Identification of Prisoner Act, there is a reference of collection of sensitive biometric data like fingerprints wherein biometric data of prisoners can be collected that too with the permission of a Magistrate but on acquittal the biometric data is required to be destroyed. The Draft Human DNA Profiling Bill is far more regressive than the colonial law. The provision of collection of citizens DNA data in the Draft Bill for DNA Database in effect treats the citizens worse than prisoners. UID/Aadhaar database (CIDR) and DNA database can turn citizens’ body itself into a prison.
It has been admitted that "DNA analysis offers sensitive information which, if misused, can cause harm to a person or society". It proposes the creation of a National DNA Data Bank which will be headed by an officer in the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India. Similar provisions exist in Aadhaar Act. There is a section in the Draft DNA Bill that allows for "volunteers" to give their DNA profiles. It is quite strange that "volunteers" are expected to share their sensitive data with the government. It is noteworthy that Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) too had initially claimed that enrolment based on biometric data is voluntary. Subsequent events and official documents reveal that it is explicitly mandatory by implication.

Image result for aadhaar act black act The DNA Data Bank like other databases like Centralized Identity Data Register (CIDR) of UID/Aadhaar and NPR are saleable commodities but the Draft Bill provides for the imprisonment of a few months or a fine of Rs 50,000 for "misuse" of the DNA profiles. All databases are commodities. Like all commodities they are available for a price in the global data market.
In all likelihood DNA Data Bank, CIDR and criminal database will get converged in furtherance of World Bank’s e-Transform Initiative unfolding in partnership with six transnational companies namely, Gemalto, IBM, L-1 Identity Solutions, Microsoft and Pfizer and two national governments of France and South Korea. Such convergence poses a threat to minorities and political opponents whose targeting is imminent.
It may be noted that US Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA), 2008 prohibits US insurance companies and employers from discriminating on the basis of information derived from genetic tests. The necessity of such law underlines that biometric and genetic information like DNA facilitates discrimination.
In all likelihood the manifesto of biometric identification promoters of CIDR of UID/Aadhaar numbers and Human DNA Profiling Bill will read like the 1,500 page regressive manifesto titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” brought out by Norwegian gunman and neo-Crusader, Anders Behring Breivik who carried out the heinous attacks on his fellow citizens. It refers to the word “identity” over 100 times, “unique” over 40 times and “identification” over 10 times. There is reference to “state-issued identity cards”, “converts’ identity cards”, “identification card”, “fingerprints”, “DNA” etc as well in this manifesto.  Biometric profiling of every sort is an invitation to deeper, structural and physical violence.
These words and their imports merit attention in order to safeguard human rights of present and future generation of citizens which faces an unprecedented onslaught from the provisions of Aadhaar Act and Human DNA Profiling Bill and other related surveillance measures. These are being pushed down citizens’ throats by unregulated and ungovernable technology vendors at the behest of their beneficial owners. A joint reading of Aadhaar Act, Collection of Statistics Act, Human DNA Profiling Bill and manifesto titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” reveals that profiling of human body is being done in such a manner that it has genocidal implications.

 The author had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that examined the Aadhaar Bill and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution that examined the Consumer Protection Bill. He is editor of www.toxicswatch.org and is the convener of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties which have been working on UID/Aadhaar issue since 2010.

Why Aadhaar Act is a Black Law -Part II

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, June 14, 2018 | 2:40 AM

The Database State is an exercise in outsourcing of government through technologies that make individuals subservient to admittedly undemocratic entities wherein biometric identification is being made a pre-condition for citizens to have any rights.

Database State, a report from the UK revealed how the old maxim, 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' has been given a very public burial. The report states, ”In October 2007, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs lost two discs containing a copy of the entire child benefit database. Suddenly issues of privacy and data security were on the front page of most newspapers and leading the TV news bulletins. The millions of people affected by this data loss, who may have thought they had nothing to hide, were shown that they do have much to fear from the failures of the database state.” Likewise, creating database containing biometrics is a giant leap towards authoritarian control by data mining companies. It turns citizens into subjects and suspected criminals, who can be kept under leash by control over sensitive data. Through convergence each data can be transformed into sensitive data.

If consent for it is granted by uninformed citizens then citizens become a number on a computer of a state actor or non–state actor engaged in ‘welfare’ services. This would automatically create a file on each citizen. In an effort to appear harmless, the claims are that the file would contain very little information like but as has now come to light it is being linked to ‘preventing terrorism’, ‘stopping crime’ or ‘protecting children’ etc. This in turn creates logic for profiling and tracking citizens based on their financial transactions, mobility, religion, caste, region, orientations, health records and driving record.

Right to privacy and freedom belong to citizens by right. It is not granted by government. A government is the servant of the citizens, not its master. Governments are supposed to seek the permission to limit these rights in certain circumstances. It signals a break-down of a democratic government if it chooses to engage in indiscriminate surveillance of citizens or to impose a system of compulsory identification or to open a file on each citizen or to criminalise citizens who refuse to comply.

When political candidates of the ruling party and its allies stood up for elections and sought votes did they seek the mandate to put the voters under surveillance?  

The 'database state' is the tendency of the state and non-state actors to use computers and biometrics to manage society by putting people under watch by mouthing benevolent schemes and excuses.

Databasing people is akin to modern day enslavement by those who are wedded to the faith in property-based democracy. Slavery by whatever name is wrong on principle.

Non-state actors have prevailed on state agencies to adopt "Transformational Government" initiative. It might sound good unless one comprehends that what is being transformed is not government but it is power over citizens under the dictates of non-state actors.

This was attempted by UK’s Tony Blair government, which misled the world and its own citizens about Iraq having nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme although it knew that it was not true. Not surprisingly, the British citizens could see through the fraudulent misrepresentation and voted for the coalition of David Cameron-Nick Clegg. As UK's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said, “This government will end the culture of spying on its citizens. It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop. So there will be no ID card scheme. No national identity register, a halt to second generation biometric passports” in the British House of Commons.

Clegg added, “We won't hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so. Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question. Schools will not take children's fingerprints without even asking their parent's consent. This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.”

But like Sonia Gandhi-led coalition government, Narendra Modi-led coalition government in India chooses to follow the discredited path of Tony Blair and his UK's Identity Cards Act, 2006. Both, Blair and UKID Act have been abandoned by voters in UK. 

Given the fact that ‘radical restructuring of the security architecture at the national level’ is underway, when Nandan Nilekani, as the chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was asked as to how tracking of citizens can get facilitated once different databases like National Population Register (NPR), National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), central monitoring system (CMS) , Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), National Investigation Agency (NIA), national cyber coordination centre (NCCC), national critical information infrastructure protection centre (NCIIPC), telecom security directorate, Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations and UID are converged, you can actually track all the information. He responded saying, “I don't want to talk about that.” His silence remains deafening. But intelligence agencies be it UIDAI or any or any of it incarnations are known for adopting such stances.

Under NATGRID, 21 sets of databases is being networked to achieve quick, seamless and secure access to desired information for intelligence/enforcement agencies, it is quite clear that the biometric databases under creation are meant for such agencies in India and elsewhere. The Rules made under the Information Technology Act, 2000 in April 2011 provide access to any data held by any "body corporate" in India. This does not seem to apply to body corporate of foreign origin.

In such a backdrop, there is a compelling logic in resisting attempts “to merge the Election ID cards with UID”. Such an exercise would mean rewriting and engineering the electoral ecosystem with the unconstitutional and illegal use of biometric technology in a context where electoral finance has become source of corruption and black money in the country. This would lead to linking of biometric UID/Aadhaar, election ID and electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are not as innocent and as politically neutral as it has been made out to be. It is noteworthy that all EVMs have a UID number as well. This will amount to electoral surveillance. Aadhaar Act paves the way for merger of UID/Aadhaar with Voter ID. 

Surveillance is a “shameful act” of supervising and imposing discipline on a subject through a hierarchy system of policing. Michel Foucault, the author of 'Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison' examined the systems of social power through the lens of the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the originator of the now iconic Panopticon. This Panopticon was/is a design for a prison in which the inmate's cells are arranged in a circular fashion around a central guard tower. The architectural configuration allows for a single guard's gaze to view all inmates, but prevents those inmates from knowing exactly when they are being watched.

It was aptly observed, “The major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” This design is a “generalised model of functioning and a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday lives of men.”

In initiatives like biometric identification the subject, the citizen is seen but he/she does not see. He/she is the object of information, but never a subject in communication. Foucault's Panoptic model is quite valid for biometric database because these databases are meant to ensure real time tracking and profiling of citizens and turns them into subjects and in a slave like situation. Tumultuous colonial history of the technologies associated with surveillance reveal that the origins of surveillance happened during free trade of slaves.

Biometric identification treats Indian citizens worse than slaves. It is an act of identification prior to any act of omission and commission.  It is a case of a deepening of everyday surveillance. It is similar to what was done under the Britain's Habitual Criminals Act of 1869 required police to keep an “Alphabetical Registry” and cross-referenced “Distinctive Marks Registry. The first held names and the latter descriptions of scars, tattoos, birthmarks, balding, pockmarks, and other distinguishing features. This registry of marks was systematically disaggregated into nine general categories pertaining to regions of the body. Therefore there were files for the head and face; throat and neck; chest; belly and groin; back and loins; arms; hands and fingers; thighs and legs; feet and ankles.

The proposed convergence of biometric information with financial and personal data such as residence, employment, and medical history heralds the beginning of the demolition of one of the most important firewalls in the structure of privacy. Such convergence of databases poses a threat to minorities and political opponents as they can be targeted in a situation where government is led by any Nazi party like political formations. 

Late Roger Needham, a British computer scientist aptly said, “If you think IT is the solution to your problem, then you don’t understand IT, and you don’t understand your problem either.” It sounds like he was addressing this observation to gullible citizens, political class and the proponents of UID/Aadhaar and Human DNA Profiling.
(Photo: Section 2 (g) of Aaadhaar Act 2016 defines "biometric information)

Safeguarding of citizens' privacy and their civil liberties in the face of an unprecedented onslaught from collection of biometric data and other related surveillance measures that are being bulldozed by unregulated and ungovernable technology companies by overawing the Governments through its marketing blitzkrieg is emerging as fight between the David and the Goliath. Database State cannot be the aim of any democratically healthy government. It is an exercise in outsourcing of government through technologies that make individuals subservient to admittedly undemocratic entities wherein biometric identification is being made a pre-condition for citizens to have any rights.

In effect, Aadhaar Act makes right to have rights dependent on being biometrically profiled and not on constitutional guarantees and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a regressive step that takes citizens to pre-Magna Carta days (1215 AD) or even earlier to the days prior to the declaration of Cyrus, the Persian King (539 BC) that willed freedom for slaves. Should it not be resisted?  

The author had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that examined the Aadhaar Bill and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution that examined the Consumer Protection Bill. He is editor of www.toxicswatch.org and is the convener of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties which have been working on UID/Aadhaar issue since 2010.

Why Aadhaar Act is a Black law? Part I

Written By Gopal Krishna on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 | 3:12 AM

Ever wondered as to why bankers are immensely interested in biometric identification and verification of citizens? Biometric identification implies that movements of present and future generations of citizensare tracked like those of bacteria under a microscope. This exercise of creating a centralized ‘online database’ of biometric information of Indians is unfolding under the gaze of all the public institutions in general and the Supreme Court in particular. The core issue here is: will efforts to undermine the fundamental right of Indians to move and transact freely around the country and to live without constantly having to prove who they are, succeed or fail.

What is ironical is that while it is inevitable that no centralized electronic database of biometric information can be made leak proof in the post Wikileaks and Edward Snowden world, the bankers, biometric technology companies and their collaborators are marketing it as an answer to increasing demand for identity proof and identity protection from citizens.

In 1998, National Biometric Test Center, San Jose State University set up by the Biometric Consortium, which is the U.S. government interest group on biometric authentication was asked to testify to the USA’s House Committee on Banking and Financial Services hearing on “Biometrics and the Future of Money”. This testimony of May 20, 1998 was reprinted under the title, “Biometric Identification and the Financial Services Industry. This centre emerged from a meeting of Biometric Consortium held in 1995 at the FBI training facility. This Test Centre has defined biometric authentication as “the automatic identification or identity verification of an individual based on physiological and behavioral characteristics”.

Whatever is happening in India is an exercise in imitation of what was attempted in USA through the REAL ID Act of 2005 amidst bitter opposition. As of 2018, half of all the 50 states have taken extensions. One state, American Samoa has chosen not to comply with the REAL ID Act. It has been 13 years since the REAL ID Act was passed. The current round of extensions expires October 10, 2018 but the extensions are renewable.

The US Senate never discussed or voted on the REAL ID Act specifically and no Senate committee hearings were conducted on the Real ID Act prior to its passage exposing its undemocratic character and the bill's proponents avoided a substantive debate on a far-reaching piece of legislation by attaching it to a "must-pass" bill. Barack Obama had categorically opposed it during the 2008 presidential election campaign.

A significant number of US states are not participating in the program. Among other concerns they have argued is that it infringes upon states’ rights. Bills have been introduced into US Congress to amend or repeal it. The controversial, $4 billion Real ID initiative is meant to provide secure licenses in the hands of 245 million Americans. It is surprising as to why unlike in US, States in India are yet to argue on how Aadhaar Act for Centralized Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar numbers infringes upon states’ rights.  

In India, when one looks at the definition of the “Biometrics” which “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” as per 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 that the plan of data collection does not end with collection of finger prints and iris scan it goes quite beyond it. As per Section 2 (g) of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, “‘biometric information’ means photograph, fingerprint, iris scan, or such other biological attributes of an individual as may be specified by regulations.”

The fact remains biometric data like finger print, 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 to. 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 International Biometric Industry Association has listed potential applications for including voter registration, access to healthcare records, banking transactions, national identification systems and parental control. Indeed “Biometrics are turning the human body into the universal ID card of the future”. Unmindful of dangerous ramifications of such applications, if citizens and political parties concerned about civil liberties do not act quickly enough biometric ID’s are all set to be made as common as email addresses without any legal and legitimate mandate. Biometric information includes DNA profiling 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.

In its report titled ‘Regional Economic Outlook, Asia and Pacific Shifting Risks, New Foundations for Growth’ as part of World Economic and Financial Surveys, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) notes that “India is planning to enhance its existing cash transfer program and identification system in connection with the ongoing subsidy reform”.  

Elaborating it further it reports how “This program will also present large opportunities for savings. A nationally uniform, biometric database would cut down on leakages from outdated biographical information, ghost identification, double registration, and other losses, which have been estimated in the range of 15–20 percent of total spending.”

Underlining the convergence underway, it says, “The integration of these two programs, aadhaar and direct cash transfers, promises further savings but will involve many challenges: the timeframe for bringing India’s population of 1.2 billion into the aadhar program could extend beyond 2014, and integrating this database with information on individuals eligible for subsidized fuel will take time. Shifting the fertilizer subsidy from companies to individual farmers and building up the capacity to deliver payments electronically could also be challenging in such a large country. But the total savings could be substantial: if the combination of direct cash transfer and aadhaar eliminates the estimated 15 percent leakage cited above for the programs being integrated, savings could total ½ percent of GDP in addition to the gains from the better targeting of spending on the poor.”

Such claims are figments of IMF’s imagination unless the total estimated budget of the UID/Aadhaar project is disclosed. It is irrational for anyone to reach inference about benefits from any project without factoring in the costs but World Bank Group is doing it and endorsing similar acts by UIDAI. 

Not surprisingly, having applauded both biometric identification and cash transfer, Jim Yong Kim as the World Bank Group President underlined the importance of the subject to the World Bank Group in his opening remarks at the Bank's Development Economics Lecture series on April 24, 2013 in Washington where Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Nandan Manohar Nilekani spoke about the unique system for the biometric identification of Indian residents. It may be recalled that Robert B. Zoellick, as the then World Bank Chief had met Chairman of the UIDAI on December 4, 2009. What transpired at these meetings is not in public domain.

In the aftermath of these meetings what is least talked about is that the E-identity and UID/aadhaar related projects are part of World Bank’s eTransform Initiative formally launched on April 23, 2010 for converging private sector, citizen sector and public sector and Interpol’s e-identity database project. This along with the then Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee’s announcement in January 2011 voluntarily seeking full-fledged Financial Sector Assessment Programmee by IMF and the World Bank merits attention of the legislatures and concerned citizens. 

In April, 2010 L-1 Identity Solutions Inc. (which has now been purchased by biometric technology company Safran group, a French corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between L-1 and the World Bank was signed as part of the launch of the initiative at a World Bank Spring Meeting event attended by many developing country Ministers of Finance and Communications. It claimed that this collaborative relationship with the World Bank is meant to improve the way governments in developing countries deliver services to citizens as part of the launch of the World Bank eTransform Initiative (ETI).

The World Bank's ETI seeks to leverage Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to build a knowledge sharing network that helps governments of developing nations to leverage the best practices of practitioners like L-1 and others to improve the delivery of social and economic services. The knowledge sharing network will focus on areas such as electronic Identification (eID), e-Procurement, e-Health and e-Education; areas vital to promoting the participation of citizens in democratic processes, such as voting, and helping undocumented citizens get access to health and welfare programs. The World Bank is currently funding 14 projects related to e-government and e-ID around the world. Are citizens supposed to believe that the World Bank Group is working to ensure that India's national interest and its citizens’ rights are protected?

"The speed and precision with which developing countries administer services is dependent upon many factors, not the least of which is the ability to verify the identities of those receiving services," said Mohsen Khalil, as Director of the World Bank's Global Information and Communication Technologies Department in a statement.

Robert V. LaPenta, as Chairman, President and CEO of L-1 Identity Solutions had said, "We believe that identity management solutions and services can make a significant contribution to society and undocumented citizens in developing countries, bringing them out of anonymity and helping establish their place and participation in society and affirming their rights to benefits they are entitled to receive as citizens."

It has been underlined that the “game-changing UID applications in payments, savings, and other tools for driving efficiency and transparency” using “already created one of the world's largest platforms (that is)  transforming not only authentication but also everything from government payments to financial inclusion”. In effect, it is a case biometric profiling by the IFIs who have vested interest in surveillance of financial transactions.

In his book Imagining India, Nilekani refers to Bank’s economist, Hernando de Soto's book 'The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else' to argue that national ID system would be a big step for land markets to facilitate right to property and undoing of abolition of right to property in 1978 in order to bring down poverty! In the post capitalist and post socialist era, such assumptions of triumph have been found to be deeply flawed.  In fact even the title of the books sounds weird in the post financial crisis era. 

It does not appear to be a coincidence that Lyon, France based Ronald K Noble, as Secretary General, INTERPOL, and world’s largest police organisation too has called for global electronic e-ID identity card system. When Nilekani was asked about the relationship of UID/Aadhaar with the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) in an interview by Hard News magazine, his reply was ‘No Comments’.  Isn’t global electronic e-ID identity card system proposed by INTERPOL, e-Identity project of World Bank Group and UID/aadhaar related databases linked? Is ‘No Comments’ a convincing answer?

Biometric documentation of undocumented citizens in developing countries which is underway in some 14 developing countries under ETI is aimed at bringing them out of anonymity without any legal mandate. Such documentation of sensitive data of citizens facilitates bullying and invasiveness by the state and international financial institutions.

Identifying citizens biometrically is an exercise in empire building by ‘commercial czars’ and turning citizens in to serfs. Modern day Jaichands, Mir Zafars, JeewanLals and Mirza Ilahi Bakshis seem to be collaborating to help empire builders to earn myopic rewards through attempts to compromise citizens’ sovereignty for good.

The journey of biometric identification and numbering of Indians commenced a year after the first war of India’s independence was brutally suppressed by the army of British East India Company with the help of collaborators like Jeevan Lal, Mirza Ilahi Baksh and Rajab Ali. The first systematic capture of hand images for identification purposes initiated by William Herschel, a civil servant in colonial India in 1858. It is noteworthy that in 1898, Edward Henry, Inspector General of the Bengal Police established the first British fingerprint files in London.

Referring to the British victory over Indians in 1857, William Howard Russell of London Times wrote: “Our siege of Delhi would have been impossible, if the Rajas of Patiala and Jhind (Jind) had not been our friends”. The seize of the database of personal sensitive biometric information of all the Indians would have been impossible but for the help of ‘commercial czars’ and the complicity of civil servants. 

Occupy Wall Street Movement has a pithy slogan ‘Empire is on the Wall Street’. The exercise of biometric identification of citizens is a comprehensive intelligence initiative with financial surveillance at its core. The personal sensitive information like biometric data that is collected in myriad disguises and through numerous tempting claims about its benefits is going to be purchased by banks and other financial institutions to be correlated with other data, and used for purposes that was neither agreed nor foreseen. This data is bound to be stolen or illegitimately released, exposing citizens to risks of profiling, tracking and grievous embarrassments as has happened in the case of Greece, Egypt, Pakistan and UK.

So far legislators and citizens have failed to make bring World Bank Group and other international financial institutions under legislative oversight. A situation is emerging where if the pre-existing databases like electoral database, census and other databases which are under preparation is converged, these unaccountable and undemocratic financial institutions will never come under parliamentary scrutiny. The identification and surveillance technology providers are appear to be aiding an empire of a kind where every nano activity is under the vigilance of the Big Brother.
Image result for aadhaar act 2016 GAZETTE of india
Aadhaar Act is based on the flawed assumption of Government of India that the benefits of biometric systems are sufficient to warrant use of biometric technology for financial transactions. This presumption is misplaced. States and citizens have succumbed to such presumption because they have not been informed about potential risks of biometric and electronic determinism. The blatant use of financial rewards akin to bribes to promote citizen’s participation in biometric identification programs sets a very harmful precedent as it violates the principle of free and informed consent. Informed citizens and democratic legislatures can respond to it only through non-cooperation, civil disobedience and voting against parties which support the banker-biometric technology vendor nexus.

The author is a public policy and law researcher, convener Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) and editor of www.toxicswatch.org. He had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that examined and trashed the Aadhaar Bill, 2010. He has been working on the subject of UID/Aadhaar and surveillance technologies since 2010. The author had also appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution that examined the Consumer Protection Bill.

Permanent Closure of Vedanta group's copper plant after Madras High Court's interim order

Written By Gopal Krishna on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 | 2:19 AM

Ahead of the commencement of the session of Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, the State Government has ordered "permanent closure" of Vedanta group's copper plant in Tuticorin.

The decision has come in the aftermath of 23 May, 2018 interim order of a Division Bench of Justices M. Sundar and Dr Anita Sumanth of Madras High Court in a case filed by Ms. Fatima, an academic activist challenging the environmental clearance given to Vedanta Limited (formerly Sterlite Industries Limited).

The petition is based on the information gathered under Right to Information Act from the Public Information Officer. The information contains 600 pages of documents including notices to show cause issued by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT). The information has been furnished under cover of letter dated 30 April, 2018. 
This company has been carrying on construction activities on the site for the proposed Copper Smelter Unit II at SIPCOT, Tuticorin. According to the petitioner, the environmental clearance (EC) was obtained by Vedanta company without the conduct of a public hearing because the requirement for such hearing had been waived on the incorrect representation of the company. The matter was mentioned before the Vacation Bench on 16 May, 2018 requesting listing for urgent hearing.

This Vacation Bench heard the matter and issued the following directions on 23rd May: "(i) The application for renewal of EC submitted by Vedanta shall be processed expeditiously after conduct of mandatory public hearing. In any event, the application shall be decided by the appropriate authorities within a period of four months from today i.e. on or before 23.09.2018."

(ii) In the meanwhile, Vedanta shall cease construction and all other activities on-site proposed Unit-II of the Copper Smelting Plant at Tuticorin with immediate effect."

The order was delivered by Justice Dr Anita Sumanth. 

The order reads" "In issuing the above directions, we believe that we have taken into account and balanced the interests of all parties before us, the public as well as Vedanta. While, on the one hand, the economic benefits of encouraging industries cannot be ignored, the toll extracted on available resources, water and soil regimes by such industries, cannot also be lost sight of. There is thus yet another stakeholder before us, one that is invisible in the array of parties, the environment in itself. In balancing the interests of all parties to this Public Interest Litigation, we believe that the interests of this hapless party be treated on par, if not paramount."

It is must be noted that Phase I of SIPCOT is stated to cover 1083 hectares and Phase II is stated to be proposed to cover a total of 1616 hectares of which it is proposed that Unit II of Vedanta will occupy 300 hectares. An EC was granted to Vedanta dispensing with the requirement of mandatory public hearing as set out in terms of clause 7(c) of Environmental Impact Notification dated 14.09.2006 based on its representation that the proposed unit was to be located inside a notified area of the SIPCOT Industrial park. This aspect is recorded in the High Court's order. This order has come to the rescue of the "hapless party" which has been a victim of corporate crimes.

In a related development, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has appointed retired judge Aruna Jagadeesan to head the probe into the Thoothukudi violence in which 13 people died in police action during anti-Sterlite protests. 


Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 | 3:07 AM

Police violence in Thoothukudi has left several people dead and many more injured. Not only was this tragedy totally avoidable, it appears that the Police have even given hot pursuit and shot at women and others in fishing hamlets like Theresepuram. The sheer brutality of the police action reminds one of the manner in which the Jallikattu protests were dealt with.
The Government of Tamil Nadu, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Thoothukudi District Administration are squarely responsible for allowing the situation to get to this unfortunate state by allowing Vedanta Sterlite to violate environmental and land use planning laws with impunity for over two decades.
The people who died are just ordinary people who have been forced to take to the streets, and march to the Collectorate to demand action from an administration that has systematically and for decades failed to enforce the law on Sterlite. The District Collector, the chairperson and member secretary of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, the Secretaries holding the environment portfolios in the central and state governments, the ministers of environment at the state and centre, and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu need to account for their inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence of illegalities, environmental harm and damage to public health.
This is not the first time that Sterlite's pollution and the impunity it enjoys has been the cause of public anger in Thoothukudi. In 2013, the Supreme Court of India curiously found the company guilty of misrepresentation, unlicensed operation and polluting the environment, but allowed the company to operate after paying a small fine as it felt India needed the copper.
The company failed to reform its ways even after this narrow judicial escape. The regulators -- TNPCB and Ministry of Environment and Forests -- too continued their cosy relationship with Sterlite ignoring blatant violations of statutory conditions and clear indications of pollution. It is a known fact that the state and central governments have allowed Sterlite to operate with lower-than-required chimney stacks, thereby exposing lakhs of residents to higher levels of toxic pollutants.
It has ignored the tentative findings of a government medical college's health study that reported higher incidence of certain health problems among the villagers living around the factory.
Let us not forget that for the second time in two months more than a lakh residents of this coastal town have taken to the streets with one clear demand: Immediate and Complete Shutdown of Sterlite. The state government and the district administration should also be blamed for failing to appreciate the depth of resentment among the people of Thoothukudi to Sterlite's illegal and polluting operations and the betrayal by the State of its people.
The Government of Tamil Nadu has lost its moral right to govern, and should at the very least ensure that the senior ministers who failed to read the signs properly and take preventive action resign. But before anything else, the Government of Tamil Nadu should have the decency to declare an end to the toxic terrorism unleashed by Sterlite and permanently close down the polluting unit.
Henri Tiphagne, Advocate & National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert – India ( HRDA), Executive Director, People’s Watch
Justice D Hariparanthaman (Retd.)
MG Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.)
Vetri Maaran, Filmmaker
Charu Govindan, Voices of People
Dr. V Vasanthi Devi, Former Vice-Chancellor, Manormanium Sundaranar University
Chandra Mohan, Arappor Iyakkam
G Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal
Nityanand Jayaraman, Writer and Social Activist
V. Geetha, Writer and Publisher, Chennai
Prema Revathi, Writer, Publisher and Actor, Chennai
Piyush Manush, Salem Citizen’s Forum
A Mangai, Professor
V Arasu, Professor
R Rathindran Prasad, Filmmaker
Divya Bharathi, Filmmaker Sofia Ashraf, Writer and Rapper
Kavitha Muralidharan, Journalist, Chennai
Sujata Mody, President, Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam
M. Subbu, Tamil Maanila Kattida Thozhilalar Sangam (TMKTS)
Dr. Rakhal Gaitonde, Public Health Researcher
Swarna Rajagopalan, Gender Equality Activist
Nadika Nadja, Writer, Chennai
L Ramakrishnan, Queer & Women's Rights activist
Ashley Tellis, LGBT activist
Srijith Sundaram, Theatre practitioner, Kattiyakkari
Amirtharaj Stephen, Photographers for Environment & Peace collective
Anushka Meenakshi, Filmmaker
Iswar Srikumar, Filmmaker
Archanaa Seker, Writer and Activist
Satyarupa Shekhar, Social Activist
Om Prakash Singh, Social Activist
Bharat Nayak, Founding Member & Editorial Director, The Logical Indian
Shweta Narayan, Environmental Researcher and Activist
Dharmesh Shah, Environmental Activist & Public Policy Researcher
Pooja Kumar, Chennai Solidarity Group
K Saravanan, Fisherman
Aiswarya Rao, Public Health and Disability Rights Activist
Balaji Sampath, Activist and Educator
Kaber Vasuki, Writer and Musician
Shravan Krishnan, Animals Rights Activist
Sudha Ramamurthy, Persons with Disabilities Rights Activist
Subathra, Arappor Iyakkam
AR Dileep Srinivasan, The New Face of Society
Kavitha Rajendran, Coordinator - People’s Platform Against Fascism
Ram vaitheeswaran, Filmmaker
Mythri Prasad, Associate Fellow, Institute for Human Development
Sudipto Mondal, Journalist, Bangalore
Suseela Anand , Advocate
Sandeep K, Cinematographer
Elangovan kulandaivelu, COO, Zinnea
Gurumoorthy M, AID India Bangalore Chapter and Entrepreneur
Rajkumar Sivasamy, Bangalore
Steevez Rodriguez, Photographer
Venkatachandrika R., IT Engineer
Rahul Muralidharan, Researcher, Chennai
T Venkat, Independent Journalist, Chennai
Annapoorni Devaraja, Classical Dancer
Lakshmi Premkumar, Activist, Delhi,
Delfina Kanchana Sundar, Independent Researcher, Chennai
Namithaa Jayasankar, Queer Femme Activist
Samyuktha PC, Chennai, Theatre Director
Satwik Gade, Illustrator
Aparnaaa Nagesh, Founder, High Kicks dance ensemble
Ravindra Vijay, Actor
Akhil Al Hassan, Entrepreneur
Janani Sathviga, Pune
Sonal Jain, Social Entrepreneur
Pradeep Kuttuva, Researcher, Chennai
Pazhani Aarya, Researcher
M.Shreela, Law student
Amba Salelkar, Advocate, Chennai
Chenthil Nathan, Translator, Chennai
Ramya Sadasivam, Artist
Smitha Sadasivan, Member, Disability Rights Alliance, India
Gayatri Nair, Photographer
Nilakantan RS, Data Scientist
Dr. Anbudorai, Psychiatrist

Nuclear weapons possessing States opposition to abolition of nuclear weapons defies logic

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, March 23, 2018 | 8:22 PM

After a press conference addressed by Dr Tillman Ruff - Founding Chair of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Dr Ira Helfand - member International Steering group of ICAN,an international seminar on"TREATY PROHIBITING NUCLEAR WEAPONS - OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES” was held on 24th and 25th march 2018 at Constitution Club, New Delhi. It was organised by CNDP and Indian Doctors for Peace and Development.

At the conference, Kamla Bhasin, a social scientist spoke in the session on Social Dimensions of Nuclearism. Bhasin is co-chair of the worldwide network Peace Women across the Globe and the South Asia Coordinator of the global One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women and girls. She encouraged audience participants and senior doctors to chant our Slogan for Peace and Equality.

Major General (retired) BC Khanduri, former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Chairperson of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had agreed to meet a delegation in this regard. The four-person delegation included Dr Bansidhar Mishra, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Nepal, former MP and health minister, Nepal, Dr Anindya Shams, PSR Bangladesh, Dr Arun Mitra, Co-President of IPPNW, and Dr Tilman Ruff, Founding Chair of ICAN and co-President of IPPNW.
But few hours before the delegation was due to meet Gen Khanduri, Dr Arun Mitra rang his office to confirm that all was in order for our visit. He was put through directly to Khanduri, whose tone was generous and cordial – “Let’s meet and talk,” reassuring Dr Mitra that if there were any issues with us gaining passes, given heightened security as parliament was in session, we should call his office and his staff would expedite passes for us.

About an hour later Dr Mitra received an email from Gen Khanduri’s office, informing the delegation that Gen Khanduri “is not well and hence is not in a position to meet the visiting Doctors,” and that he “will meet the delegates from IDPD sometime in near future.” 

In the meeting the delegation planned to discuss the  the new Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty that was passed by 122 votes in favour and only one against it. For the struggle by ICAN - the International campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, the ICAN has been awarded Nobel Peace prize for 2017.

The treaty faces huge obstacle because the nine nuclear weapons possessing States including the 1) USA, 2) Russia, 3) UK, 4) France, 5) China, 6) Israel, 7) India, 8) Pakistan and North Korea chose not participate in the treaty negotiations. Unless all nuclear weapons states realized the need to save the world from mutually assured destruction, the enforcement of the treaty will remain a pious wish.

It is significant that the 100 page long Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) of the USA which was released in February 2018 is dismissive of the  Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, which opened  for  signature at the U.N. in 2017 saying, it "is fueled by wholly unrealistic expectations of the elimination of  nuclear  arsenals  without  the  prerequisite  transformation  of  the  international security environment.  This  effort  has  polarized  the  international  community  and  seeks  to  inject disarmament issues into non-proliferation fora, potentially damaging the non -proliferation regime. This Treaty could damage U.S. security and the security of many allies and partners who rely on U.S. extended nuclear deterrence. The terms of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty  also  could  undermine  ongoing  and  prospective military  cooperation  between  the United States and signatory states, cooperation that is critical to the maintenance of credible extended nuclear deterrence."

US position does not seem consistent with Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that binds every signatory to the treaty (including the United States) to “pursue negotiations in good faith…on the cessation of the nuclear arms race…and to nuclear disarmament…”

Such reasoning on the part of US is not at all convincing but other nuclear weapons possessing States appear to be complicit in such an approach especially in the aftermath of the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who had agreed to eliminate his country's weapons of mass destruction program, including a decades-old nuclear weapons program. The fate of Gadhafi seems to have been playing a role in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's refusal to surrender his nuclear weapons program.

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