Four Year Tenure of Nilekani in the rank of Cabinet Minister without oath of office and secrecy compromised India’s sovereignty
New Delhi, July 3, 2013: Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) which has been researching and campaigning against biometric identification exercise for the protection of privacy and national security since 2010 wants to know if anyone heard the chief of world’s biggest database project take the oath of office for a Cabinet Minister of the Union of India? CFCL had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that rejected this database project.
As per the Constitution of India, did citizens and legislators hear him say: "I, Nandan Nilekani, do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India,] that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge my duties as a Minister for the Union and that I will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."
CFCL wants to know as to what will be the consequences for him if Nilekani admittedly subverts the Constitution?
Four years have passed, Nilekani has refused to reveal whether or not he has himself enrolled for biometric unique identification (UID)/aadhaar number. Can we expect him and his bosses Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Dr Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee and cabinet ministers to enroll before his terms expires next year? This information has been denied under the RTI.
As per the Constitution of India, did legislators and citizens of the country hear him take oath of secrecy for a Minister for the Union of India stating: "I, Nandan Nilekani, do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person or persons any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as a Minister for the Union except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as such Minister."
CFCL wants to know as to know how will Nilekani and likes of him be penalized if they formally hand over the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of UID/ aadhaar numbers to foreign governments and companies?
What will happen to him if he does the same in the name of awarding contracts to biometric technology companies for de-duplication of CIDR?
His counterpart in Pakistan did offer the entire record of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to the United States as has been revealed by the diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks.
As per the communication from Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an attached office of Planning Commission, Government of India dated July 2, 2010, “The decision for appointment of Chairman was conveyed by the Cabinet Secretariat”.
The Planning Commission’s notification dated July 2, 2009 reveals that “the competent authority has approved the appointment of Nandan Nilekani, Co-Chairman, INFOSYS as Chairperson, Unique Identification Authority of India, in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister. Nilekani will hold appointment for an initial tenure of five years”.
The notification shows that a copy was marked to Nilekani, CEO, President & MD, Infosys Technologies Ltd., Corporate Headquarters besides the Secretary Generals of Secretariats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
While presenting the Union Budget 2009-10, the then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee announced the setting up of the UIDA to in “establish an online data base with identity and biometric details of Indian residence and provide enrolment and verification services across the country” in paragraph no. 64 of his speech allocating 120 crores to it. Coincidentally, immediately after this announcement, the then Finance Minister underlined the need for “the modernization of police force in the States” in paragraph 65 of the speech that dealt with “National Security”.
In this speech of July 6, 2009 the then Finance Minister informed the Parliament about the arrival of Nilekani without naming him saying, “This project is very close to my heart. I am happy to note that this project also marks the beginning of an era where the top private sector talent in India steps forward to take the responsibility for implementing projects of vital national importance.”
This was before the UID Bill (The National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010) was introduced in the Parliament and rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in its report to the Parliament in December 13, 2011 raising serious national security concerns.
Nilekani joined Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) not in person but in his role as co-chairman of the board of directors of Infosys Technologies Limited, which he co-founded in 1981 and served as director on the company's board since its inception to July 2, 2009. This appears manifestly incestuous. It was the Chairman, Infosys Ltd, an artificial person who was asked to head UIDAI, and not a natural citizen.
CFCL wants to know as to why has Nilekani not informed those enrolling for UID database that their data is to yield profit for the UIDAI, Rs 288.15 crore a year?
Will Nilekani inform his only investor, the government as to who owns the data being compiled by the UIDAI?
On June 24, 2013, there was a hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), August Kranti Bhawan, New Delhi in the matter of denial of copies of the contracts awarded by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to foreign companies like L1 Identities Solution and Accenture.
The former has been a US company that admittedly worked with intelligence agencies of USA. It has since been bought over by French corporate conglomerate, Safran Group after the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was convinced that there are no unresolved national security concerns with respect to the transaction. The latter is a US company that works with security agencies of USA. The next hearing will be after a month since junior UIDAI officials could not respond to questions raised by Mrs. Sushma Singh, the Information Commissioner at CIC. The UIDAI is citing Section 8 (1) d of the Right to Information Act to deny the copies of the contract given to these foreign intelligence companies.
The relevant section of the Act reads: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen— information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information”. CIC has asked UIDAI to file written submissions explaining the sensitive content of the text of the contract beyond merely quoting the Act.
It may be noted that CIC in its order dated July 27, 2009 has already given its verdict in the matter saying, “Any agreement entered into by the government is an agreement deemed to have been entered into on behalf of the and in the interest of ‘We the people’. Hence if any citizen wants to know the contents of such an agreement he is in the position of a principal asking his agent to disclose to him the terms of the agreement entered into by the agent on behalf of the principal. No agent can refuse to disclose any such information to his principal”. By withholding the information, it is clear that UIDAI is safeguarding the interest of foreign interest and not the public interest and the national interest.
As a consequence of Safran’s purchase of L-1 Identity Solutions, the de-duplication contracts of UIDAI’s Centralized Identities Data Repository (CIDR) and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) which was given to foreign companies on July 30, 2010 to three companies now lies with two companies of French and US origin.
CFCL's application to National Human Rights Commission in this regard has been sent to Union Home Secretary for reply but it has not got the reply as yet.
When Nilekani was asked about the sensitivity of de-duplicating firms which are working for the US intelligence agencies having been shortlisted, he replied, “These guys are just there for the de-duplication. We just give them the data, they compare and answer back. The data is going to their engineer. It's going inside our software. It's inside our firewall”.
CFCL wants to know if Nilekani will explain whether or not Pentagon’s data leaked by Wikileaks and data leaked by Edward Snowden were inside their software and their firewall?
When asked about fears that the biometric UID databases could be used for profiling in the future, he claimed, “That's where laws come in, where parliamentary oversight comes in, where everybody else comes in. We have a provision for an independent committee to evaluate the performance of the UIDAI. A lot of checks and balances have been put in place” in January 2011 in an interview with Hard News.
Now that four years have passed since he took charge of UIDAI, it is about time he revealed how his work has been under “parliamentary oversight” and where is the report of the independent committee which evaluated his performance.
It may be recalled that UIDAI was set up by Planning Commission’s notification dated 28 January 2009. Its Terms of Reference No. 8 in pursuance of the 4th meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers, states, “Take necessary steps to ensure collation of NPR and UID (as per approved strategy)”. The NPR refers to the project of Union Ministry of Home Affairs by the name of National Population Register (NPR) for Multi-purpose Identity Card (MNIC) for biometrically profiled citizens. This ministry is also the focal point for National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) and the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Had NPR been initiated prior to UID/aadhaar citizens could have easily understood the purpose. The UID/aadhaar project and its allied social services is like fish bait and the gullible citizens are falling prey to it.
As of March 31, 2013, a total of 31.19 crore Aadhaar numbers have been generated by the UIDAI, which also includes the 5.2 crore Aadhaar numbers generated through NPR. UIDAI’s total expenditure up to January 2013 is Rs.2369 crore. So far Planning Commission has failed to reveal the total estimated budget this illegal and illegitimate program. Is it surprising? Do we know the budget of intelligence agencies?
In the backdrop of ‘radical restructuring of the security architecture at the national level’ underway, when Nilekani was asked more than two years back as to how tracking of citizens gets facilitated once different databases like NPR, 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 is deafening. But intelligence agencies be it UIDAI or any other entity are known for adopting such stances.
Given the fact that under NATGRID, 21 sets of databases will be 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 apply to body corporate of foreign origin.
Mark Lerner, the author of the book “Your Body is Your ID” informs us that Safran which is handling UID database is a French company, 30% of it is owned by the French government and it has a 40 year partnership with China in the aerospace and the security sectors.
In the back drop of his phone being tapped by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Arun Jaitley, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha wrote, “This incident throws up another legitimate fear. We are now entering the era of the Adhaar number. The Government has recently made the existence of the Adhaar number as a condition precedent for undertaking several activities; from registering marriages to execution of property documents. Will those who encroach upon the affairs of others be able to get access to bank accounts and other important details by breaking into the system? If this ever becomes possible the consequences would be far messier.” It is evident that it has become possible but the opposition party continues to implement it in the states where it is the ruling party despite admitting gnawing concerns.
CFCL wants to know as to whether the opposition parties are too helpless in the face of intelligence agencies to disassociate their States from such initiatives? In UK, the opposition party did oppose it and displaced Tony Blair government.
When asked “whether or not you think by the year 2050 there could be a global system … (which) would be a real influence on knocking down the nation state, which I think needs knocking down.” Nilekani admitted, “there is nothing technologically limiting for having the whole population of the world on the system.” This poses a grave threat to sovereignty of the citizens and the country. He and his project appear quite complicit in the unconstitutional act of surrendering country’s interest in favour of a global system led by ungovernable and undemocratic business enterprises not by democratic legislatures.
CFCL wants to know whether Nilekani and his patrons admit in the post Snowden era whether or not they blundered in giving contracts to the mentioned companies and in initiating a biometric database project, the way countries like UK, France, Australia and China did?
The RTI reply wherein information about his enrolment with UIDAI was denied is attached. The letter of Nilekani’s appointment on July 2, 2013 is also attached.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 09818089660, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org