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Written By Gopal Krishna on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 | 2:05 AM
Anchor: Qurban Ali, Rajya Sabha TV
Panelists: Sanjay Hegde Satya Prakash KTS Tulsi Gopal Krishna
Centralised Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar numbers initiative is a privacy invasion project. It has ramifications for all the democratic countries of the world. In UK, the British Parliament has repealed its Identity Cards Act 2006 even as Government of India has chosen to give approval to cyber-biometric UID numbers project that threatens citizens’ privacy. Germany has stopped doing its census because it has not been able to regulate private and foreign biometric and digital technology companies. Clearly, what is poisonous for civil liberties in US, UK, Australia, China, France, Germany and other countries which have abandoned UID like projects cannot become non-poisonous in India.
When asked about why India chose to go with the UID/Aadhaar model when several countries like France, Britain and Germany have disbanded such identification projects, Nandan Nilekani, a former official of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) replied, “Their purpose was not development, inclusion, saving government money or curbing corruption. How can you compare Aadhaar with the smart card project in some other country? Even I would have disbanded those” in an interview with BusinessLine. His reply is a classic case of outright fibbing, misrepresentation and sophistry. It represents a sample of all the replies UIDAI’s has provided to concerned Indians since its inception.
Take the case of Britain mentioned by Nilekani, a 15-page Wipro document, titled 'Does India need a Unique Identity Number?’ cited the example of the United Kingdom's Identity Cards Act, 2006, on page no. 6 to advance the argument for a biometric UID/Aadhaar number in India. If it was not comparable as Nilekani will have us believe, why did Wipro cite Britain’s identification project to make a case for UID/Aadhaar for Indians.
Wipro’s document is significant because UIDAI and UID/Aadhaar is a product of a 14-page long document titled 'Strategic Vision: Unique Identification of Residents' prepared by Wipro Ltd and submitted to the Processes Committee of the Planning Commission which was set up in July 2006. Its vision statement reads: 'Creating a unique identification system of all residents in the country for efficient, transparent, reliable and effective delivery of various welfare and private services to the common person.' The cover page of the document mentions the National Institute for Smart Government (NISG), Department of Information Technology (now named MeitY-Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), and Wipro Consulting. Admittedly, Wipro was the consultant for the design phase and programme management phase of the pilot UIDAI project. The Hyderabad-based NISG is a not-for-profit company incorporated in 2002 by the Government of India and Nasscom. NISG aims to 'establish itself as an institution of excellence in e-governance and to leverage private sector resources through a public-private-partnership mode in establishing eIndia.'
But when the UK government stopped its biometric National Identity Cards Scheme neither Wipro nor its donors and promoters in the government examined as to why the UK did so and why this decision too is relevant to India. The decision was announced in the British parliament, the same legislature which passed the India Independence Act, 1947.
It must be recalled that under Nilekani’s tenure UIDAI extended “undue favour” to Wipro Ltd. As a consequence UIDAI incurred an avoidable expenditure of Rs.4.92 crore on an annual maintenance contract, according to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India presented to the Parliament. UIDAI also incurred a loss of Rs.1.41 crore by not routing advertisements through the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity. Unmindful of manifest conflict of interest UIDAI had entered into a contract with Wipro in May 2011 for supply, installation and commissioning of servers, storage systems, security systems and accessories with incidental services in the data centres of the authority in Bengaluru and Delhi/NCR at a cost of Rs.134.28 crore.
This is not the only case of irregularity and corruption by UIDAI. It awarded projects to several companies without issuing tenders. In a RTI reply UIDAI itself disclosed that total project contracts worth Rs.13,663.22 crore were awarded without any tenders of which an amount of Rs.6,563 crore has been already spent on issuing 90.3 crore Aadhar cards till May 2015. It also informed that a total 25 companies were awarded different responsibilities for the massive project and their empanelment was done under the process guidelines of Request For Empanelment dated May 19, 2014. The companies which have been awarded more than one project works include: Tata Consultancy Service, Mac Associates, Wipro, HCL, HP India Sales Pvt. Ltd., National Informatics Centre, Sagem Morpho Securities Pvt. Ltd (French Safran Group), Satyam Computer Services Ltd, L1 Identity Solutions (earlier US company now part of Safran Group), Totem International Ltd., Linkwel Telesystems Pvt. Ltd. Sai Infosystems India Ltd, Geodesic Ltd, ID Solutions, NISG, SQTC, Telesima Communications Pvt. Ltd. The companies that were awarded a single contract include: Reliance Communication, Tata Communications, Aircel, Bharati Airtel, BSNL and Railtel Corporation of India Ltd. Notably, companies like Accenture (USA), L1 and Ernst & Young has been given access to sensitive data of present and future Indians.
During his tenure at UIDAI, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance its Sixty-Ninth Report on the ‘Demands for Grants (2013-14)’ observed, “A provision of Rs. 2,620 crore has been allocated in Budget Estimate (2013-14) for Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and a major part of the budget provision for Rs. 1,040 crore is earmarked for ‘Enrolment Authentication and Updation’, out of which an amount of Rs. 1,000 crore has been earmarked under the head ‘other charges’.” The total budgetary allocations made for UIDAI since its inception upto 31 March 2014 was Rs 5440.30 crores. For the year 2009-10, it was Rs 120 crores. For 2010-11, it was Rs 1,900 crores. For 2011-12, it was Rs 1,470 crores 1,200. For 2012-13, it was 1,758 crores and for 2013-14, it was Rs 2,620.00 crores. For the year 2014-15, the budget estimate was Rs 2,039. The budget estimate of expenditure on the project being implemented by UIDAI was Rs 2,000 crore in 20015-16. For the year 2016-17, the budget estimate was Rs 990 crores (that included 190 crore first supplementary). As of February 2017, UIDAI has incurred a total cumulative expenditure of Rs 8,536.83 crores. This includes undefined “other charges” pointed out by the Parliamentary Committee. Shouldn’t UIDAI provide the details of the expenses incurred under “other charges”? Take the case of the year 2009-10 when the budget estimate was Rs 120 crores. The final expenditure was Rs 26.21 crores. In the year 2015-16 the budget estimate was Rs 2,000 crores but the final expenditure was Rs 1679 crores. In 2016-17, when budget estimate (BE) was Rs 990 crores, the final expenditure is Rs 877.16 crore upto February 2017.
The Parliamentary Committee on Finance has wondered in its report as to why inflated targets were consistently being given. It observed, “the total budgetary allocations made for UIDAI since its inception upto BE 2013-14 is Rs 5440.30 crore, out of which Rs. 2820.30 crore has been utilized upto 31.03.2013 and the remaining amount of Rs. 2620 has been allocated in BE 2013-14. The Ministry have informed that the average cost per card is estimated to range from Rs 100 to Rs 157. Taking the average cost per card to be Rs. 130, the total expenditure for issue of 60 crore cards is estimated to about Rs 7800 crore. Thus, the expected requirement of funds during 2013-14 is Rs. 4979.70 crores, whereas only Rs. 2620 crore has been kept for BE 2013-14, which is thus grossly inadequate.” It is apparent that there is more to it than meets the eye.
When Nilekani was asked about “concerns that the Aadhaar could be used in surveys such as the Socio-economic Caste Census (SECC) for racial profiling, or be linked to EVMs to determine voting patterns”, he gave an evasive reply saying, “The SECC or EVM machines have nothing to do with Aadhaar.” Notably Aadhaar is a brand name of Unique Identification (UID) Number. The UID project was renamed the Aadhaar project after the UIDAI avowedly had a nationwide competition to find a logo and a brand name. Curiously, Aadhaar name echoes the name of Bangalore based Adhar Trust that Nilekani and Rohini Nilekani set up to fund their initiatives into a government function.
Election Commission of India on its website has provided answer to a question about the “system of numbering EVMs”, it states “Each Control Unit has a unique ID Number (UID), which is painted on each unit with a permanent marker. This ID Number will be allowed to be noted by the Polling Agents and will also be recorded in a Register maintained for the purpose by the Returning Officer. The address tag attached to the Control Unit also will indicate this ID Number.” A careful perusal of UIDAI documents reveals that it is linked to the electoral database too. A confidential document of UIDAI titled ‘Creating a unique identity number for every resident in India’, leaked by Wikileaks on 13 Nov 2009 reads: “One way to ensure that the unique identification (UID) number is used by all government and private agencies is by inserting it into the birth certificate of the infant. Since the birth certificate is the original identity document, it is likely that this number will then persist as the key identifier through the individual’s various life events, such as joining school, immunizations, voting etc.”
The proponents of world's biggest citizen identification scheme aims to converge electoral photo identity card (EPIC) numbers of electoral database, the UID/Aadhaar number database called Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR). In their myopia, political parties in particular and citizens in general have failed to fathom its ramifications for voting by electors in a democracy.
In a letter dated 7 June 2011, the Director General and Mission Director of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) wrote to Chief Election Commissioner saying, “The Election Commission of India (ECI) may also like to leverage Aadhaar infrastructure in cleaning/ updating their existing electoral data base. Aadhaar numbers issued by the UIDAI can also be included in the list of valid proof of identity (POI) and proof of address (POA) documents of the Election Commission during the polls for identity verification.”
The file notings by ECI on the UIDAI’s letter reads: “How can Aadhaar number used as proof of address”. The reply from ECI dated 17 June 2011 on the letter from UIDAI. It further wrote, Aadhaar numbers can be seeded into EPIC and electoral roll databases to clean those databases and also to bring standardisation and uniformity in the Election Commission’s databases across the country. UIDAI does provide necessary technical and financial support under its information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure scheme for integration of Aadhaar number with database of concerned Ministries/ Departments to make them UID compliant. However, the process and schemes to use Aadhaar numbers for their applications are to be defined by the concerned Departments themselves.”
The notification of 28 January 2009 that set up UIDAI, provides the terms of reference (TOR) for its work. There is no reference to the collation of UID number database with electoral database in the TOR. But the TOR does refer to “collation and correlation with UID and its partner databases.” If this reference to ‘partner database’ included electoral database, the UID/ Aadhaar enrolment form never revealed it and took Indian residents for a ride.
Notably, UIDAI was constituted in pursuance of the fourth meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by the then External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherji held on 4 November 2008. Shivraj Patil, the then union home minister and A Raja, the then minister for IT and Communications, HR Bhardwaj, the then law minister and Mani Shankar Aiyar, the then panchayati raj minister, were members of the EGoM wherein Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of Planning Commission was an invitee.
UIDAI argued, “Aadhaar database is restricted to the name, date of birth, gender, address, facial image, ten fingerprints and iris of the resident. The data fields are based on the recommendation of the Demographic and Data field Verification Committee headed by N Vittal, former chief vigilance commissioner (CVC). Since Aadhaar database contains absolute minimum information of a resident necessary to establish identity, it is not possible to include EPIC numbers in the Aadhaar database. However, the ECI should seed Aadhaar numbers in the electoral database as clarified above.”
Prior to this KM Chandrasekhar, cabinet secretary, Government of India (GoI) wrote a letter dated 25 April, 2011 addressed to VK Bhasin, secretary, legislative department stating, “Aadhaar can be treated as a valid Proof of Identity (PoI) and Proof of Address (PoA).”
The Election Commission in its letter dated 4 March 2013 to UIDAI on the subject of “Seeding of Aadhaar number in Electoral Database” wrote that “Commission feels that it would be better that EPIC no. is collected at the time of enrollment for Aadhaar and put in the Aadhaar database…ECI has already issued instructions that Aadhaar cards can be used as alternative identity documents at polling station…It may be mentioned here that Ministry of Home Affairs has also agreed to print EPIC no. on smart card as issued by Registrar General of India…Under the circumstances, it is once again requested that EPIC no. may be made mandatory for enrollment in Aadhaar.” In its letter dated 29 October 2012, the ECI had argued that “including EPIC no. as mandatory field in UIDAI database would enable better integration between UIDAI database and electoral database, which will make Aadhaar numbers more useful.” This enthusiastic endorsement of illegal UIDAI’s database and its inexplicable eagerness to merge EPIC no. and electoral database with a database that faces robust legal challenge merits rigorous scrutiny.
In a letter dated 16 April 2012, RK Singh, the then secretary, ministry of home affairs (MHA), currently MP from BJP wrote to Dr SY Quraishi, the then Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), with reference to latter’s letter dated 4 April 2012 “regarding inclusion of Electoral Photo Identity Card -EPIC number in the Aadhaar database.”
The secretary, MHA wrote, “The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India is in the process of creating the National Population Register (NPR) in the country. The NPR, when completed will be a register of all usual residents of the country, which would have the Aadhaar number besides the demographic and biometric data. The Government is also considering a proposal to issue Resident Identity (smart) Cards to all usual residents above the age of 18 years. The scheme is already making good progress and is likely to be completed in the next two years.”
The combination of the office of Census Commissioner and RGI creates a legal conflict of interest that is required to be examined because Census Act requires that data of residents of India has to be kept confidential. But RGI created under Citizenship Act admittedly puts the data in public domain.
Besides this MHA has also feigned ignorance about the illegality of biometric data collection under NPR, a fact pointed out by the then BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.
At that time, the secretary, MHA also wrote, “As a part of the process of creating the NPR, the EPIC number is also being collected. This would enable mapping of the Aadhaar number to the EPIC number right from the beginning…Once the mapping is completed, there could be a lot of synergy between the EPIC and NPR databases.” He pointed out that “while the registration under the NPR is mandatory under the provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955, the production of EPIC Card during the NPR enrolment and capturing the EPIC number is being done on a voluntary basis from the residents. There are, therefore, gaps in the collection of the numbers. The gap can easily be bridged as the Authorities notified for the creation of the NPR are the same as those notified under the Electoral Law and if necessary instructions are issued by the Election Commission, they could easily ensure a complete coverage.”
It is intriguing as to how Election Commission has failed to comprehend the adverse consequences of such convergence. There is nothing in public domain to suggest that implications of such merger have been examined.
The then secretary, MHA informed the CEC that there is mutual agreement between the MHA’s RGI and ECI that “there is a considerable potential to synchronise the two databases and set up a unified platform for future updating of the same and sought CEC’s advice to take it forward. Does the Election Commission realize that synchronization of the two databases is happening as per the design of Wipro’s document and is beyond the mandate given to UIDAI and RGI?
But in the meanwhile as a consequence of Supreme Court’s order, Election Commission of India revised its order dated 27 February 2015 on 13 August 2015 stopping merger of UID/Aadhaar with Voter ID. Its revised order reads: “All further activities relating to collection/feeding/seeding of Aadhaar Number being undertaken currently under NERPAP shall be suspended with immediate effect till further directions from the Commission. In other words, henceforth no more collection of Aadhaar Numbers from electors or feeding/seeding of collected Aadhaar data shall be done by any election authority or officials connected with the NERPAP.” (National Electoral Rolls Puriﬁcation & Authentication Programme). While this revised order of the Election Commission is a model order as it demonstrates how to comply with the Court’s order for all the organisations and other public and private agencies which are implementing UID/Aadhaar related schemes and systems. The fact remains the seeding of UID/Aadhaar and Voter ID did happen while the previous order of Commission regarding National Electoral Rolls Puriﬁcation & Authentication Programme was in operation given the fact that it was widely advertised.
It may recalled that one of the earliest documents that refer UIDAI is a 14-page long document titled ‘Strategic Vision: Unique Identification of Residents’ prepared by Wipro Ltd for the Planning Commission envisaged the close linkage that the UIDAI’s Aadhaar would have with the electoral database. The use of electoral database mentioned in Wipro’s document remains on the agenda of the proponents of Aadhaar.
The reply of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) dated 1 April 2014 transferring the right to information (RTI) application to Election Commission seems to indicate that linkage of UIDAI with the Commission has already been established.
In such a backdrop, PMO’s reluctance to share all the file documents and correspondence relating to Nilekani and right up to his resignation appears quite sensitive and deserves scrutiny.
Nilekani referred to the current “three-member UIDAI Committee under J Satyanarayana, the former IT secretary”. Satyanarayana is currently a part time Chairman of UIDAI since September 6, 2016. He has been on Board of NISG. Notably, Satyanarayana has been the member of the Task Force for preparation of Policy Document on Identity and Access Management under National e-Governance Programme (NeGP). This Task Force was constituted by Office Memorandum dated 31 October, 2006, which was supposed to submit its report by 25 December 2006. Coincidentally, the Processes Committee of the Planning Commission which was set up in July 2006 commissioned the task of preparing “Strategic Vision: Unique Identification of Residents” to Wipro Ltd during the same period. The other members of the Task Force included 34 members besides the Chairman, Dr S.I. Ahson, Professor & Head, Department of Computer Science, Jamila Milia Islamia and the Member Secretary, Ms Pratibha Lokhande, Scientist, National Informatics Centre. The members included 11 Technology Solutions Providers namely, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Computer Associates, Novell, Honeywell, HP, Red Hat, ILANTUS Technologies, MPhasis and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The Task Force submitted version 7 of its 65 page long report in April 2007.
This report talked about “Citizen Identities” and “Owner of identities”. This report states, “The Identity Information is stored by multiple agencies in multiple documents like Ration card, Driving License, Passport, Voter’s card, Birth Certificate etc. The purpose of the Project unique ID (UID) initiated by the Planning Commission is to create a central database of resident information and assign a Unique Identification number to each such resident (Citizens and Persons of Indian Origin) in the country….The appropriate Identity Aggregations and Synchronization should be used to integrate systems to share their identity information.” This April 2007 report reveals that “National UID Project: This project has been initiated, with Voter ID Numbers and BPL households in the first instance.” It is evident that long before the arrival of Nilekani in July 2009 as Chairman of UIDAI, the UID/Aadhaar project was already unfolding. He just came and dishonestly claimed credit for it. This report also discloses that each registered judicial court has a unique identification (UID) number at Sub ordinate Courts, High Court and Supreme Court. This effort seems to be part of profiling and surveillance of judicial institutions.
Notably, this report appears to be making one of the earliest references to “Biometric authentication” in India as “any process that validates the identity of a user who wishes to sign into a system by measuring some intrinsic characteristic of that user. Biometric samples include fingerprints, retina scans, face recognition, voiceprints, and even typing patterns. Biometric authentication depends on measurement of some unique attribute of the user. They presume that these user characteristics are unique, that they may not be recorded and reproductions provided later, and that the sampling device is tamper-proof.”
It defines biometrics as “A measure of an Attribute of a Natural Person’s physical self, or of their physical behavior. In principle at least, a Biometric can be used: to validate an entity (where the entity is a Natural Person); as an Authenticator for an Assertion involving an Entity; and as a means of restricting the use of a personalised Token to the appropriate Natural Person. Examples include: fingerprint, voiceprint, and iris-scan. Biometrics is generally, “the study of measurable biological characteristics. In computer security, biometrics refers to authentication techniques that rely on measurable physical characteristics that can be automatically checked. There are several types of biometric identification schemes: Face: the analysis of facial characteristics; Fingerprint: the analysis of an individual's unique fingerprints; Hand geometry: the analysis of the shape of the hand and the length of the fingers; Retina: the analysis of the capillary vessels located at the back of the eye; Iris: the analysis of the colored ring that surrounds the eye's pupil; Signature: the analysis of the way a person signs his name; Vein: the analysis of pattern of veins in the back if the hand and the wrist; Voice: the analysis of the tone, pitch, cadence, and frequency of a person's voice.”
This report defines “Identification” as “The process whereby data is associated with a particular Identity. It is performed through the acquisition of data that constitutes an Identifier for that identity.” It also defines “Identifier” as “One or more data-items concerning an Identity that are sufficient to distinguish it from other Identities, and that are used to signify that Identity. Identifiers include names. A natural person may use more than one name, and variants of each name. Identifiers also include ‘id numbers’ or ‘id codes’ issued by other Entities that the Entity interacts with. An Entity may be assigned many such numbers and codes. A legal person may have many names (e.g. associated with business units, divisions, branches, trading names, trademarks and brand names), and multiple ‘id numbers’ and ‘id codes’ assigned by other Entities that the Entity interacts with. Identifier Unique pointer, within a certain context (namespace) to an identity.” These definitions are significant because they underline that UID/Aadhaar is an identifier and not a conventional identity proof.
Satyanarayana who was the member of the Task Force that authored the above mentioned report finds mention at page no. 46-47 of the report Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology that examined the work of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, asked about the surveillance by National Security Agency (NSA) of the US. It states that in the context of privacy of data, the Committee desired to know the Department’s stand on the issue of surveillance by US and interception of data sent through e-mails. To this, Satyanarayana, as Secretary, DeitY, responded during the evidence as under:-“Sir, about the US surveillance issue, there has been a debate, as you are aware, this morning in the Rajya Sabha itself and the hon. Minister has addressed this issue. He also emphasised that as far as the Government data and Government mails are concerned, the policy, the copy of which I have given to the Committee earlier, is going to address a large part of it. Hopefully, by the end of this year, if it is implemented, the things will be absolutely safe and secure…x.x.x.x…In the reply, the Hon. Minister also said that we have expressed our serious concern about the reported leakages and in the name of surveillance, the data that has been secured from various private sources, internet resources by the US Government. We have expressed it formally to the Government of the US and also during the Secretary of State’s visit a few weeks ago in India, this has been reinforced on a person to person basis.”
He added, “We have been assured that whatever data has been gathered by them for surveillance relates only to the metadata. It has been reiterated and stated at the highest level of the US President that that only the metadata has been accessed, which is, the origin of the message and the receiving point, the destination and the route through which it has gone, but not the actual content itself. This has been reiterated by them, but we expressed that any incursion into the content will not be tolerated and is not tolerable from Indian stand and point of view. That has been mentioned very clearly and firmly by our Government.”
In effect, the Government of India has formally communicated to Government US that India has no problem if they conduct surveillance for metadata in fact it is acceptable and tolerable but “incursion into the content will not be tolerated and is not tolerable.”
The Parliamentary Committee observes, “While taking note of the Department’s stand on the recent instances of surveillance and interception of data (though only meta-data) by other countries, that incursion into the content of the country’s data will not be tolerated, the Committee is of the strong opinion that the Department should have exercised enough caution so that such a situation was not allowed to occur at the first instance. Further, the Committee feels that the Department should be extremely vigilant and cautious in terms of safety as well as in terms of policy with different countries so as to avoid such leakage and interception of sensitive data in the name of surveillance. The Committee, therefore, strongly recommends the Department to take remedial measures and come out with a policy which should be implemented stringently so as to obviate recurrence of such instances.” MeitY which has been formed by giving the status of ministry to the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) has been misleading the State Governments, media and the citizens. It must be remembered that the idea of UID was incubated in this very Department. It is evident that Satyanarayana and this Department has no problem in sharing meta data of Indians to foreign agencies.
Nilekani refers to Vijay Madan who was the UIDAI CEO. Notably, Madan made false claims in a presentation titled “Digital ID for Benefit and Service Delivery to Billion Plus People” in the ‘Special Session on National ID Programs’ at the International Joint Conference on Biometrics held during 29th September – 2nd October 2014 at Clearwater, Florida, USA. He claimed that “Security and Privacy of personal information ensured” by UIDAI in its implementation of UID/Adhaar project. This claim is an exercise in misrepresentation. Given the fact that some 91,000 of USA’s classified pages reached the website of Wikileaks in August 2010 reveals that such claims of security and privacy are mere empty claims with no privacy law in the country. The Ministry of Planning, the nodal ministry for UID/aadhaar informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee that concerns sharing of data, surveillance and profiling is being addressed by a proposed legislation on privacy. The committee observed that the enactment of such data protection law is a “pre-requisite for any law that deals with large-scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases.” This promised law has not been enacted till date. Notably, till date there is no data protection and privacy protection law in the country. Thus, the claim of UIDAI and Nilekani remains a bogus claim.
Nilekani forgot mention the name of his first Mission Director. It is relevant to observe that the letterhead of the UIDAI’s Director General under Nilekani, Ram Sewak Sharma revealed his personal email ID as email@example.com. The question is who authorized the UIDAI’s Director General to use Google’s email account? Is it the case that UIDAI does have its own email account? After relinquishing his post at UIDAI to join as Chief Secretary, Government of Jharkhand, did Sharma surrender his email ID to UIDAI? Currently, Sharma is the Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Prior to this assignment, he worked as the Secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology after his tenure as Chief Secretary, Government of Jharkhand where is promoted UID/Aadhaar project enthusiastically using the same Google’s email account. UIDAI officials, Nilekani and Sharma were/are privy to massive trove of communications about the inner workings of the world’s biggest biometric database project aimed at creating a Centralized Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of all the UID/Aadhaar Numbers and related aspects of nation’s diplomacy, national security and personal sensitive information of present and future Indians. The email accounts of Nilekani and Sharma must be investigated to ascertain all the locations around the world from which it has been accessed especially in the light of disclosures about the controversy surrounding use of private email account by Hillary Clinton who began using it as “a matter of a convenience" disregarding the advice of tech experts who didn’t allow personal email accounts to be installed on government-issued devices. Her official communications included thousands of emails that would retroactively be marked classified by the US State Department. This issue was raised vociferously by Donald Trump, the President of USA because it compromised USA’s national security.
The fact that one of the senior most official of UIDAI chose to receive such sensitive information on the server of Google, a private company, is a threat to national security and privacy of Indians. This company is regulated by US laws and has been working in collusion with foreign intelligence agencies. The authorities in the US, where Gmail is headquartered, can legally access the information on the server of Google without a court warrant and without any civil and criminal liability. The Indian government will remain in dark about it. In fact US’ Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) make the exchange of electronic information between Internet Service Providers and the government of US possible. The use of Gmail account demonstrates the lack of professionalism of UIDAI, which has been given the task of handling the database of the personal sensitive information of Indians. This act of omission and commission merits attention. Such gullibility of ministers, Secretaries and Chief Secretaries besides other IAS and IPS officers in particular and officials in general is inexcusable. This merits high level probe.
Nilekani also refers to Ajay Bhushan Pandey, the current CEO of UIDAI. Pandey claimed that “At least from the UIDAI side, we have not said it shall be mandatory.” If it indeed true that UID/Aadhaar is not being made mandatory by UIDAI then MeitY should have withdrawn the letter to Secretary Department of Defence Production and other departments, agencies and State Governments. Given the fact that he has not done so demonstrates that articulations of UIDAI are equivocal and questionable. It has compromised national security and the personal sensitive information of present and future Presidents, Prime Ministers, judges, legislators and officials handling sensitive assignments besides all the Indians.
Contrary to the claims of the promoters of biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar like Nandan Nilekani that “Millions of people without any ID, now have an ID”, the fact is that of all the Aadhaar numbers issued to Indian residents till date – 99.97 per cent had pre-existing identification (ID) documents. This has been revealed in a reply to an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). The enclosed reply reveals that out of the 83.5 crore UID/Aadhaar numbers issued till then, only 2.19 lakh residents (0.03 per cent) have been given numbers based on the introduction by the introducer system because they did not have a pre-existing ID. This proves that that ‘an inability to prove identity” has not a major barrier to access benefits and subsidies.
Contrary to claims of the promoters of UID/Aadhaar about there being a cumulative saving of 50,000 crores that was being diverted from genuine beneficiaries, as per the minutes of the meeting of Committee of Secretaries (CoS) held under the Chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary on 23 November, 2015 on the subject of “Implementation of DBT in Government Schemes”, there was an annual subsidy saving of Rs 91 crore. DBT stands for Direct Benefits Transfer. The minutes of the meeting is dated November 30, 2015.
A bizarre situation is emerging where citizens chose a government that was supposed to represent them but their government is undertaking the task of coercively biometrically authenticating whether or not those it represents are indeed those who they claim to be. It ends up breaking the sacrosanct social contract between the citizen and the State in an unprecedented act of breach of trust. The attempt to undertake convergence of all the sensitive databases of Indians and the confidence of promoters of UID/Aadhaar in the irreversibility of their efforts has thrown as yet an unmet open political challenge to the opposition parties and informed citizens.
For Details: Dr Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), who has been working on the subject of Big Data and biometric-digital surveillance technologies. He had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing on Finance that examined and trashed Aadhaar Bill, 2010. He is editor of www.toxicswatch.org
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The invitation of the NITI Aayog for public comments on its Draft National Energy Policy assumes greater significance in the context of scandal ridden energy sector. The disclosures in "Modi Government’s Rs 500-Crore Bonanza to the Adani Group" by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Advait Rao Palepu, Shinzani Jain and Abir Dasgupta on 19th June, 2017 underlines a critical moment. These revelations illustrate the structural reasons for energy injustice in our country.
This Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) article (is available on thewire.in but removed from EPW website) refers to notification 9/2016 dated February 16, 2016 which specified that the largest power plants in the country with installed capacities of more than 1,000 MW each that received formal approval for establishment in an SEZ prior to February 27, 2009 have been granted complete exemption from payment of duty. This move apparently benefited companies like Adani Power Limited but smaller power plants (of less than 1,000 MW capacity) continued to be taxed.
As per the EPW article, in August 2016, the Special Economic Zones Rules, 2016, were amended by the department of commerce to insert a provision on claims for refund under the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005. The amendment seems to be made to specifically provide Adani Power Limited a chance to claim refunds of some Rs 500 crore on customs duty. The author of this article is in possession of documents that reveal that this company did not pay customs duty on the coal imported for the generation of electricity.
But Department of Commerce is allowing the company to claim refunds on duty that has never been paid by it.
Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Ministry of Finance noticed over-invoicing in coal imports from Indonesia and siphoning of funds outside the country by firms in the Adani and Essar Groups who are also accused of over-invoicing imported power plant equipment. Other firms like Reliance Infrastructure & Rosa Power Supply too have been been under the scanner.
In this regard deafening silence of Arun Jaitley, Nirmala Sitharaman and Deepak Nayyar, Chairman of Sameeksha Trust & publisher of EPW is intriguing. Notably, Deepak Nayyar has worked as Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Commerce and has been Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India and Secretary in the Ministry of Finance. It is significant to note that Nayyar ordered removal of EPW article on Adani from EPW website with immediate effect.
In such a backdrop, Draft National Energy Policy issued by NITI Aayog merits greater attention at a time when invisible and anonymous beneficial owners of institutions of all ilk are calling the shots and draining nation's wealth in myriad disguises. It is essential for establishing energy democracy and securing it from Puppet Masters.
Labels: Energy Justice
After more than 700 days in compliance of the 11 August, 2015 order of Justice J. Chelameswar 3-judge bench order, Supreme Court's Constitution Bench is hearing the UID/Aadhaar number case during 18-19-20 July 2017.
The Constitution Bench comprises of Chief Justice of India, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice S.A. Bobde, Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.
Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 | 7:33 AM
The Constitution Bench comprises of Chief Justice of India, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice S.A. Bobde, Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.
Ahead of this hearing a talk by Gopal Krishna on UID/Aadhaar related issues reveal the dangerous ramifications of this biometric-cyber initiative in Pitthora, Chhattisgarh before a gathering of leaders of peoples movements on 14 July, 2017. He underlined how digital colonisation is unfolding through UID/aadhaar.
He observed that claims about biometric data deeply unscientific, illegitimate. It promotes genetic determinism and digital casteism.
He observed that claims about biometric data deeply unscientific, illegitimate. It promotes genetic determinism and digital casteism.
Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar, Justice N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud observed on January 5, 2017 that “biometric data collection by private agencies is not a great idea”, it is time to examine the idea of biometric data based 12-digit unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar number project which is linked to proposed imminent DNA profiling of Indian residents.
The Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015 aimed at regulating the use of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) analysis of human body substances proﬁles and to establish the DNA Profiling Board for laying down the standards for laboratories, collection of human body substances, custody trail from collection to reporting and also to establish a National DNA Data Bank and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Bill 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”. 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) the taking of a sample of blood; (c) the taking of a sample of pubic hair; (d) the 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) the 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) the taking of a dental impression and (g) the 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.
As per Section 2 (g) of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, “ ‘biometric information’ means photograph, finger print, Iris scan, or such other biological attributes of an individual as may be specified by regulations.” The reference to “such other biological attributes” makes it clear that voice sample and DNA profiling is included under its ambit. This Act seems to make the proposed Human DNA Profiling Bill redundant.
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.
The fact remains biometric data like finger print, voice print, iris scan and DNA do not reveal citizenship. 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.
Such profiling is aimed at examination of human biological material that 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 proponents of the biometric profiling such tools can make all citizens ‘safe’ forever. "Biometrics are turning the human body into the universal ID card of the future". Unmindful of dangerous ramifications of such applications, biometric ID's are all set to be made as common as e-mail addresses. 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.
Supreme Court’s observation must be looked at in the light of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The case was heard publicly on February 27, 2008, and the unanimous decision of 17 judges was delivered 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 and ruled that the United Kingdom had “overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation” in this regard. The decision is nonappealable. The Court cannot ignore this decision because the Aadhaar Act extends to DNA through the definition of biometric information in Section 2 (g).
The Court’s observation must be seen in the context of what happened in 1998 at National Biometric Test Center, San Jose State University set up by the Biometric Consortium, which is the US government interest group on biometric authentication. The centre 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) training facility. This Test Center has defined biometric authentication as "the automatic identification or identity verification of an individual based on physiological and behavioral characteristics". Agencies like US Department of Defence, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, World Bank Group, USAID and Interpol has been promoting such automatic identification in at least 14 developing countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal without any democratic mandate as part of a convergence project to ensure merger of private sector, public sector and citizens sector. The E-identity and biometric UID/Aadhaar related projects are part of World Bank's e-Transform Initiative formally launched on April 23, 2010 for convergence.
The Court’s observation faintly and partly echoes the Public Statement by 21 concerned citizens of August 2015 and the Statement of Concern against UID/Aadhaar by 17 eminent citizens issued in September 2010 demanding that the project based on biometric profiling "should be halted before it goes any further”. The signatories to the statements included Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Supreme Court of India, Prof. Romila Thapar, Prof. Upendra Baxi, Justice A.P.Shah, Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Prof. Kalpana Kannabiran and others. The Court made these observations in the cases filed by Justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd), Major General S.G. Vombatkere, former Additional Director General Discipline & Vigilance in Indian Army, Col. Mathew Thomas, a defence scientist and several eminent persons which include several transfer petitions from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and other states subsequent to the order of Supreme Court Bench of five judge headed by Chief Justice of India which reads: "Since there is some urgency in the matter, we request the learned Chief Justice of India to constitute a Bench for final hearing of these matters at the earliest" in its order dated October 15, 2015 in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012. This case pertains to supreme national interest filed by stalwarts of impeccable and unquestionable integrity. This is a test case for how the Court deals with genuine public interest litigation filed in pursuance of citizens’ fundamental duties taking in to account.
Neither the Court nor the concerned lawyers been able to read both the biometric UID/Aadhaar Number Act and Identification of Prisoners Act (which is force) together to in order to fathom the disturbing ramifications of the former. The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 reads: “The object of this bill is to provide legal authority for taking measurements, finger impressions, footprints and photographs of persons convicted of, or arrested in connection with, certain offences.” According to the Identification of Prisoners Act at the time of the acquittal of the prisoner, his biometric data is required to be destroyed. Since 1857, fingerprint identification methods have been used by police agencies in India and around the world to identify suspected rebels, political dissidents and criminals. 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. The biometric UID/Aadhaar Number project goes further by storing the biometric data forever. The UID/Aadhaar Number project and related s schemes is unfolding to undertake indiscriminate profiling citizens and residents of India. It is like fixing a dehumanizing genetic caste identity on a person.
The promoters of biometric UID/Aadhaar Number are promoting digital caste system and digital racism. Jacob Appelbaum, computer security researcher, hacker, activist, and a spokesperson for WikiLeaks has warned, biometric Aadhaar/"UID will create a digital caste system because going by the way it is now being implemented, if you choose not to be part of the system, you will be the modern-day equivalent of an outcast. In theory, you are supposed to have the freedom to choose but in reality, the choice will only be whether to be left out and left behind".
If biometric identification under Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 is deemed legitimate then there is a logical compulsion for the Court to declare The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 as redundant because the latter provides for a government limited by law and the former provided for a government made unlimited by law as far as indiscriminate human profiling is concerned.
It is apparent that there is a need for the Supreme Court, High Courts and legislatures to examine whether or not biometrics provides an established way of fixing identity of Indians. Has it been proven? A report “Biometric Recognition: Challenges and Opportunities” of the National Research Council, USA published on 24 September 2010 concluded that the current state of biometrics is ‘inherently fallible’. That is also one of the findings of a five-year study. This study was jointly commissioned by the CIA, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. Notably, West Bengal legislature has passed unanimous resolution against biometric UID/Aadhaar number. It is high time other State legislatures ponder to ponder over it as well.
Another study titled “Experimental Evidence of a Template Aging Effect in Iris Biometrics” supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Biometrics Task Force and the Technical Support Working Group through Army contract has demolished the widely accepted fact that iris biometric systems are not subject to a template aging effect. The study provides evidence of a template aging effect. A “template aging effect” is defined as an increase in the false reject rate with increased elapsed time between the enrollment image and the verification image. The study infers, “We find that a template aging effect does exist. We also consider controlling for factors such as difference in pupil dilation between compared images and the presence of contact lenses, and how these affect template aging, and we use two different algorithms to test our data.”
Neither the Court nor the concerned lawyers have been able to recognize that citizens’ opposition to biometric UID/Aadhaar has a historical context. It is linked to more than a century old world famous 'Satyagraha' of Mahatma Gandhi in order to oppose the identification scheme of the government in South Africa. On 22nd August, 1906, the South African government published a draft Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance. The Ordinance required all Indians in the Transvaal region of South Africa, eight years and above, to report to the Registrar of Asiatics and obtain, upon the submission of a complete set of fingerprints, a certificate which would then have to be produced upon demand. The move proposed stiff penalties, including deportation, for Indians who failed to comply with the terms of the Ordinance. Knowing the impact of the Ordinance and effective criminalisation of the entire community, Mahatma Gandhi then decided to challenge it. Calling the Ordinance a 'Black Act' he mobilised around 3,000 Indians in Johannesburg who took an oath not to submit to a degrading and discriminatory piece of legislation. Biometric aadhaar case demonstrates how 'Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it'.
Biometric profiling is inherently dangerous because it tracks individuals based on their religious, behavioural and/or biological traits. History is replete with examples wherein such profiling has been used for genocide, holocaust and violence against all kinds of minorities.
The reference to “Aadhaar card” by the Court’s repeated orders unequivocally illustrates that it has not applied its judicial mind to the core concern relating to ‘UID number’, ‘Aadhaar number’ or ‘Aadhaar’ and the Adhar Trust. Unless arguments in the Court and Court’s orders make rigorous distinction between them, they cannot do justice to their role.
An application filed on July 16, 2015 in the Supreme Court intending to formally make biometric UID/Aadhaar applicable to other government schemes such as obtaining passports, PAN cards, immigration, railways, telecommunications and prison management systems shows that that unmindful of Court’s orders biometric UID/Aadhaar number is a tool for exclusion, not for claimed inclusion. In fact such profiling with biometric data is fraught with dangers of unprecedented communal crisis at the local, regional and national level in the country.
The promoters of world’s biggest biometic database project based on the unscientific and questionable assumption that there are parts of human body likes fingerprint, iris, voice etc that does not age, wither and decay with the passage of time. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is acting on a manifestly unscientific basis. Those who support UID/Aadhaar number and related initiatives display unscientific temper by implication.
The reason for the vehement opposition to (UID)/Aadhaar number project is that it is contrary to the basic structure of the Constitution of India, which provides for a limited government and not an unlimited government. The project is aimed at creating an unlimited government. It is incorrect, bad and illegitimate.
For a 21 month period between 25 June 1975 to 21 March 1977, the country was put under internal Emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India, effectively bestowing on Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties. This was made legal and it remained so as long as it lasted. The powers given to her virtually had no limits. The human body came under assault as a result of forced vasectomy of thousands of men under the infamous family planning initiative of Sanjay Gandhi. UID/Aadhaar number project constitutes a bigger assault on human body because it links “biometric information” to “demographic information” which includes “information relating to the name, date of birth, address and other relevant information of an individual, as may be specified by regulations for the purpose of issuing an Aadhaar number, but shall not include race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, records of entitlement, income or medical history” as per Section 2 (k) of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
Given the fact that judicial orders from the High Courts and Supreme Court have so far dealt with the limited issue of how UID/Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory, first thing anyone should understand with regard to gathering momentum against biometric unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar number is that the very first document that residents of India encounter in this regard is UID/‘Aadhaar Enrolment Form’. At the very outset the enrolment form makes a declaration is that “Aadhaar Enrolment is free and voluntary.” This is a declaration of Government of India. This is a promise of Union of India. As a consequence, all the agencies state governments, the Government of India and the “agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services” are under legal and moral obligation to ensure that the UID/Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory. As such the Supreme Court has simply stated what the Union of India itself has promised. In its interim order what the Court has done is to simply reiterate the significance of the promise made by Government of India. If programs, projects and schemes are launched in breach of Governments’ promise, it will set a very bad and unhealthy precedent and no one ever in future trust the promise made by Union of India. The column number 8 in the UID/Aadhaar Enrolment Form on the first page refers to “agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services” but does not define who these agencies are. It appears that its definition has deliberately been kept vague. Which are the agencies that are involved in delivery of welfare services? Aren’t security agencies and commercial agencies with ulterior motives included in it?
On page number 2 of the UID/Aadhaar Enrolment Form provides, “Instructions to follow while filling up the enrolment form” which states that column numbered 8 is about seeking consent from an Indian “Resident (who) may specifically express willingness / unwillingness by selecting the relevant box” by ticking “yes” or “no” options. The column number 8 reads: “I have no objection to the UIDAI sharing information provided by me to the UIDAI with agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services.” Now, the issue is that if residents are promised that enrolment is “voluntary” they may give their consent unaware of its ramifications but if they know that it is made “mandatory” they may refuse to give their consent.
Are the agencies with whom Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on behalf of President of India has signed contract agreements with foreign surveillance technology companies like Accenture Services Pvt Ltd, US, Ernst & Young, US, L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company, now France (as part of Safran group), Satyam Computer Services Ltd (Mahindra Satyam), as part of a “Morpho led consortium” (Safran group), France and Sagem Morpho Security Pvt Ltd (Safran group), France “engaged in delivery of welfare services”? Admittedly, these agencies have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India for at least seven years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future. The purchaser is President of India through UIDAI.
The contract agreement is applicable to both Centralised Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of digit biometric unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar number which is ‘voluntary’ and the ‘mandatory’ National Population Register (NPR) of Ministry of Home Affairs which is also generating Aadhaar number. Notably, column number 2 in the Aadhaar Enrolment Form on page number 1 and 2 refers to “NPR Number” and “NPR Receipt/TIN Number” and at states “Resident may bring his/her National Population Register Survey slip (if available) and fill up the column” number 2.
The databases of both the numbers namely, UID/Aadhaar number and NPR number are being converged as per approved strategy. Does it not make both the databases of biometric identification numbers one and mandatory in the end? Is the promise by the Prime Minister about Aadhaar Enrolment being “free and voluntary” truthful? It is not “free” for sure because it costs citizens’ their democratic rights. As to it being “voluntary” it is not so by design. It is evident that the Prime Minister has been miser with truth.
Initially, it seemed surprising as to why L1, a high value company that worked with the US’ intelligence was sold to French conglomerate Safran group which has a 40 year partnership with China. It also seemed puzzling as to why the contract amount given to Sagem Morpho of Safran Group is not being disclosed. There is no confusion as to why such agencies of US, France and China are eagerly collecting the biometric database of Indians at the rate of Rs 2.75 per enrolment and de-duplication. It is reveals the lack of business of Indian decision makers. These foreign entities are getting possession of national assets of Indians along with payment for doing the favour of collecting it! “Biometrics Design Standards for UID Applications” prepared by UIDAI’s Committee on Biometrics states in its recommendations that “Biometrics data are national assets and must be preserved in their original quality.” Isn’t such preservation being undertaken by these foreign agencies in their supreme national interest of their own governments?
UIDAI’s paper titled ‘Role of Biometric Technology in Aadhaar Authentication’ based on studies carried out by UIDAI from January 2011 to January 2012 on UID/Aadhaar biometric authentication reveals that the studies “focused on fingerprint biometric and its impact on authentication accuracy in the Indian context. Further, improvements to UID/Aadhaar Authentication accuracy by using Iris as an alternative biometric mode and other factors such as demographic, One Time Pin (OTP) based authentication have not been considered in these studies.”
This paper explains, “Authentication answers the question ‘are you who you say you are’”. This is done using different factors like: What you know– user ID/password, PIN, mother’s maiden name etc, What you have – a card, a device such as a dongle, mobile phone etc and What you are – a person’s biometric markers such as fingerprint, iris, voice etc. The ‘what you are’ biometric modes captured during UID/Aadhaar enrolment are fingerprint, iris and face. It is noteworthy that this paper also refers to biometric markers like ‘fingerprint, iris, voice etc’ revealing that after fingerprint and iris, ‘voice’ print is also on the radar and its reference to “etc” includes DNA prints as well.
Notably, ESL Narasimhan, governor of Andhra Pradesh said, “We are spending thousands of crores on identification cards every other day and then saying it is useless card. It happened in case of citizenship card, PAN card, voter identity card and now they are coming to Aadhaar card. He was speaking at the inaugural session of fifth international conference on 'emerging trends in applied biology, biomedicines and bio-forensics'. This was reported by Business Standard on 30 November 2013. Narasimhan is a former head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). DNA analysis has become so cheap that within a few years instead of an Aadhaar, one can have whole DNA sequence with unique marker because “with a few thousand rupees, everybody's entire DNA sequence can be put on a card", argued Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, vice chancellor, University of Hyderabad, speaking at the same conference. It is noteworthy that these efforts are going in a direction wherein very soon employers are likely to ask for biometric data CD or card instead of asking for conventional bio-data for giving jobs etc. It is likely to lead to discrimination and exclusion.
A report “Biometrics: The Difference Engine: Dubious security” published by The Economist in its October 1, 2010 issue observed “Biometric identification can even invite violence. A motorist in Germany had a finger chopped off by thieves seeking to steal his exotic car, which used a fingerprint reader instead of a conventional door lock.” So far the Court has not been able to appreciate such concerns.
In villages, they say when you give a hammer to a blacksmith he/she will only think in terms of nailing something. The only difference is that here it is the human body which is being nailed. If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. If biometric technologies are at hand, some people under the influence of technology tend to see every problem as an identification problem.
The UIDAI paper states, “Of the 3 modes, fingerprint biometric happens to be the most mature biometric technology in terms of usage, extraction/matching algorithms, standardisation as well as availability of various types of fingerprint capture devices. Iris authentication is a fast emerging technology which can further improve Aadhaar Authentication accuracy and be more inclusive.”
Such absolute faith in biometric technology is based on a misplaced assumption that are parts of human body that does not age, wither and decay with the passage of time. Basic research on whether or not unique biological characteristics of human beings is reliable under all circumstances of life is largely conspicuous by its absence in India and even elsewhere.
Notwithstanding similar unforeseen consequences Prime Minister’s faith in biometric remains unshaken. It seems that considerations other than truth have given birth to this faith. Is there a biological material in the human body that constitutes biometric data which is immortal, ageless and permanent? Besides working conditions, humidity, temperature and lighting conditions also impact the quality of biological material used for generating biometric data. UID/Aadhaar number is based on the unscientific and questionable assumption that there are parts of human body likes fingerprint, iris, voice etc” that does not age, wither and decay with the passage of time.
It is apparent that like Indira Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has become instrumental in the installation in establishment of authoritarian architecture through biometric identification of Indians. This is likely to get the similar response from voters as they had given in the aftermath of proclamation of emergency. The human body is again under attack through indiscriminate biometric profiling with patronage of the ruling parties at the centre and in the states.
Unmindful of such glaring evidence that creates a logic compulsion for stoppage of UID/Aadhaar number projects, all the political organisations and institutions of government which supported imposition of emergency are likely to support biometric identification project as it helps build a permanent emergency architecture which was conceived during the imposition of internal emergency. The institutions which supported suspension of right to life and personal liberty and provided exemplary justice to victims of Bhopal disaster seem to be suffering from the curse of Albatross.
The observations based on many inferred past "facts" can be deceptive. This does not mean that there are no methods at all for exposing a hypothesis concerning "facts" about emergence of a surveillance transnational state to critical objective evaluation.At a time when computing cloud beyond India’s jurisdiction is unthinkingly being embraced by the National e-Governance Programme amidst apprehensions about technological and legal challenges associated with the concept of ‘shared platform’ without ascertaining the risks associated with its usage of such emerging technologies, the specter of Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or investment Court system (ICS) that is making national judiciary subservient is looming on the horizon.
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 “national assets” of database of personal sensitive biometric information of all the present and future Indians would have been impossible but for the help of 'commercial czars' and the witting or unwitting complicity of civil servants, legislators, ministers, editors and other legal entities. 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.
The audio of the first part of the talk is available at: http://www.mediavigil.com/
investigation/gopal-krishna- on-uidaadhaar-ahead-of- hearing-in-sc/
The second part of the talk on link between UID/Aadhaar and Goods & Services Tax Network (GSTN) is available at:
Indeed it has right been said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” It appears that the Court is on trial (to paraphrase “Courts on Trial” by Judge Jerome Frank). Amidst the observations by the three-judge bench, the Supreme Court’s website continues to refer to the case as a “Five Judges Bench Matter” since October 2015 as per a written order of a five judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India which underlined that “there is some urgency in the matter”. It is apparent that the advertising and public relations blitzkrieg unleashed by identification and surveillance technology vendors have clouded the minds of legal fraternity. The dangers of trusting such technological advances for determining social policies will consequent 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” among other adverse effects.