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How Rajnath Singh is wrong about Biometric NPR and the Prime Minister is right

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, June 19, 2014 | 7:27 AM

Opposed by Narendra Modi, Biometric National Population Register (NPR) is aadhaar by another name

How Rajnath Singh is wrong about Biometric NPR and the Prime Minister is right 

No lessons being learnt from misuse of electoral database and census data by Big Data companies


June 19, 2014

New Delhi: In a letter written to Minister of Home Affairs (MHA), Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) has submitted that Shri Narendra Modi had opposed biometric National Population Register (NPR) in his letter to Dr Manmohan Singh on October 6, 2011. It has argued that MHA’s support for 12 digit biometric aadhaar number generating NPR makes Indians worse than prisoners, violates Citizenship Act, Census Act and constitutional rights. 

Isn’t there a compelling reason for MHA, RGI and all the concerned ministers and officials in the government to read the letter of Shri Narendra Modi to understand why he had opposed biometric NPR not? How can MHA deprive itself of the wisdom of Shri Modi without facing any consequence? If this government does not reconcile its actions in the light of Shri Modi’s letter, it will tantamount to breach of citizens’ trust. It will set a dangerous and unhealthy precedent and in future no one will believe even the written words of political leaders. 

The MHA’s must explain as how is India’s NPR for identity cards different from Identity Cards that has been abandoned in UK. There is a need to guard against ID Card cartels and learn from the fate of such databases in Egypt, Pakistan and Greece. It must set up a committee to examine why countries like China, Australia and France abandoned such ID projects.

CFCL had appeared before t he Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance that examined the National Identification Authority of India Bill to legalize and legitimize aadhaar scheme. The PSC endorsed the concerns about national security and citizens rights and questioned and trashed the scheme. 

The parliamentary committee had categorically raised question about the absence of legal mandate for biometric data collection. The parliamentary committee’s report observes, “The collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information of individuals without amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 as well as the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament.”

Notably, the PSC’s report revealed that “Bharatiya - Automated Finger Print Identification System (AFSI), was launched in January, 2009, being funded by the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, for collection of biometric information of the people of the country.” But admittedly the same is not being used by UIDAI because according to the Government, “The quality, nature and manner of collection of biometric data by other biometric projects may not be of the nature that can be used for the purpose of the aadhaar scheme and hence it may not be possible to use the fingerprints captured under the Bhartiya-AFSI project.” It is bizarre as why the parliamentary committee did not question AFSI program of Ministry of Communications and Information Technology headed by A Raja. How can this program be allowed to continue without “amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955”?
Despite such observation of the parliamentary committee, MHA’s support for NPR is quite inexcusable. 

Besides the Ministry of Planning in their written reply stated, “UIDAI is adopting a multiple registrar approach and the Registrar General of India (RGI) will be one of the Registrars of the UIDAI. To synergize the two exercises, an Inter Ministerial Coordination Committee has been set up to minimize duplication. The UIDAI is making all efforts to synergize with National Population Register (NPR) exercise.” This recorded reply illustrates that NDA government’s proposal for NPR and UPA government’s aadhaar is simply the same rose with different names. 

It is quite clear from the conceptual design that aadhaar and NPR is one and the same. This feigned ignorance seems to demonstrate the collusion between BJP and Congress on biometrically profiling Indians.  Admittedly, biometric data is a property. It is not surprising that property dealers of all shapes and shades are visible on the horizon.    

The examination of the terms of reference of UIDAI reveals it all. The entire political class and citizenry was taken for a ride regarding a so called turf war between the Ministry of Home Affairs and UIDAI which media was made to understand that got resolved by diving the Indian population in two parts of 60 crore for coverage under aadhaar and the rest under National Population Register (NPR) which also generates Aadhaar number. The fact is the terms of reference of the UIDAI mandated it "take necessary steps to ensure collation of National Population Register (NPR) with UID (as per approved strategy)", to "identify new partner/user agencies", to "issue necessary instructions to agencies that undertake creation of databases… (to) enable collation and correlation with UID and its partner databases" and UIDAI “shall own and operate the database". The executive notification dated January 28, 2009 that set up UIDAI mentions this. The entire exercise has been staged to hoodwink unsuspecting Indians.

If there was still any doubt about the oneness of NPR and aadhaar, the report of Press Trust of India of January 30, 2014 revealed the proposal of the Planning Commission to allow UIDAI to start enrolments in areas other than 18 states and Union Territories allocated to it. The Commission's proposal is based on the view that this is required to speed up collection of biometrics details of residents and for issuing them Aadhaar numbers as well as a National Multi-purpose Identity Cards (NMIC) based on NPR. It was reported, "The Commission discussed the proposal with Registrar General of India (RGI) under the Ministry of Home Affairs. They have agreed that UIDAI can be allowed to enrol in some states where they are collecting biometrics details of resident, to speed up enrolments."

It may be noted that the states and union territories where RGI is enrolling residents and collecting their biometrics details under NPR are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep. Notably, RGI is also enrolling residents in Udupi, Gadag, Uttara Kannada, Haveri, Davangere, Bangalore rural, Chikkabalapur and Kodagu districts of Karnataka. So far 14 crore Indians have been enrolled under NPR.

UIDAI has been enrolling residents in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Tripura. It claims that so far it has enrolled 63 crore Indians.

Both NPR and aadhaar are online databases by design.  

Now that it has been established that surveillance agencies of USA, UK and their allies have dismantled firewalls created for online privacy and encrypted Internet communications, the new government must dismantle the illegitimate biometric database to undo the damage to done to Indians by the previous government.

In its letter CFCL said, “even as the surveillance infrastructure that was bulldozed by the previous  government unfolded in India, UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in a speech in British House of Commons 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,” He 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.” The speech of the British Deputy Prime Minister is available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8691753.stm” It added, “it is quite significant to take note of these developments to avoid the fate of Shri Tony Blair and his UK’s Identity Cards Act, 2006. Both have been abandoned.“

During the election campaign, BJP opposed biometric aadhaar in strongest words. Now it is apparent that the MHA has accepted aadhaar as irreversible and as a face saving stance it will have citizens believe that it will not accept biometric aadhaar but will gladly do so if it is mentioned as biometric NPR unmindful of Shri Modi’s opposition to it.   

The technological drive to ensure mastery over human beings is not merely a by-product of a faulty political economy but also of a world view which believes in the absolute control. It has become more and more apparent that genocides, ecodisasters and ehtnocides are but the underside of corrupt sciences and psychopathic technologies wedded to new secular hierarchies, which have reduced major civilization to the status of a set of empty rituals, observes Ashish Nandy in his book The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism. 

The lessons from database based genocides are part of recent world history should not be forgotten in the face of a large section of complicit and partisan corporate media especially those that regularly received advertisements from UIDAI and its partners.

The MHA's initiative for biometric NPR reveals that no lessons are being learnt from misuse of online electoral database and census data by Big Data companies. The companies like FourthLion Technologies and Modak Analytics have collected and analysed electoral data in the absence of any data protection law.  The latter analysed 18 tera bytes of data and built India's first Big Data-based Electoral Data Repository system and vetted about data related to 81 crore people to help our client understand the electorate on a wide variety of aspects such as caste, gender, age and economic status. We used all the publicly available data provided by Election Commission and Census figures.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731, E-mail: gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com

P.S: Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is the line ministry for NPR.
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