Friday, March 25, 2011

300 - 776 - UID enabled India is a daunting task. - Video of Nandan Nilekani Live -

299 - (769) - Letters to the Editor - Mumbai Mirror

UID comes from Kargil
UIDAI says that UID is not a fallout of 26/11. True indeed! It originates from the Kargil War.  The Kargil war committee of Subramanyam recommended the issuing of ID cards to people in border areas to prevent such infiltration and extend it to the whole country to combat terrorism. This is ridiculous, since militants do not come with ID cards, but with AK-47s, and possession of ID cards or citizenship does not prevent one from becoming a terrorist.
— Mathew Thomas

Misinformation on UID
The UIDAI chairman, Nandan Nilekani, has misinformed people about the UID in the interview (Mumbai Mirror, Oct 10). One of the points was: Discussions with civil society organizations. It is unfortunate that UIDAI does not know the meaning of discussions. An invited-only meeting was called by UIDAI on May 6. There were so many issues that came up, that probably because of that, UIDAI just gave up on further civil society meetings.
— Dr Samir Kelekar

UID, a good project
With reference to your interview with the chairman of UID, Nandan Nilekeni, I wish to highlight a few points on the subject of human rights and privacy etc,.
1. Mobile numbers (private operators mostly) are available at a throw away price.
2. The details of all private clubs, hotel memberships are also available at a premium price.

The privacy question should also apply to the Social Security Number of USA. Kindly understand, UID is identifying you as a citizen of the country, where are you registered etc.
— Srikant S

298 - 764 - On the UIDAI - EPW article

A project that proposes to give every resident a “unique identity number” is a matter of great concern for those working on issues of food security, NREGA, migration,
technology, decentralisation, constitutionalism, civil liberties and human rights. The process of setting up the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has resulted
in very little, if any, discussion about this project and its effects and fallout. It is intended to collect demographic data about all residents in the country.
Before it goes any further, we consider it imperative that the following be done:
(i) Do a feasibility study: There are claims made in relation to the project, about what it can do for the PDS and NREGA, for instance, which does not reflect any understanding of the situation on the ground. The project documents do not say what other effects the project may have, including its potential to be intrusive and violative
of privacy, who may handle the data.
(ii) Do a cost-benefit analysis: It is reported that the UIDAI estimates the project will cost Rs 45,000 crore to the exchequer in the next four years. This does not seem to
include the costs that will be incurred by the registrars, enrollers, the internal systems costs that the PDs system will have to budget if it is to be able to use the UID, the estimated cost to the end user and to the number holder.

(iii) In a system such as this, a mere statement that the UIDAI will deal with the security of the data is obviously insufficient. How does the UIDAI propose to deal with data theft?
(iv) The involvement of firms such as Ernst & Young and Accenture raises further questions about who will have access to the data, and what that means to the people of India. The questions have been raised which have not been addressed so far, including those about:
(i) Privacy: It is only now that the Department of Personnel and Training is said to be working on a draft of a privacy law, but nothing is out for discussion,

(ii) Surveillance: This technology, and the existence of the UID number, and its working, could result in increasing the potential for surveillance,
(iii) Profiling,

(iv) Tracking, and
(v) Convergence, by which those with access to state power, as well as companies, could collate information about each individual with the help of the UID number. National IDs have been abandoned in the US, Australia and the uk. The reasons have predominantly been costs and privacy.
If it is too expensive for the US with a population of 308 million, and the UK with 61 million people, and Australia with 21 million people, it is being asked why India thinks it can prioritise its spending in this direction. In the UK the home secretary explained that they were abandoning the
project because it would otherwise be “intrusive bullying” by the State, and that the government intended to be the “servant” of the people, and not their “master”. Is there a lesson in it for us?
This is a project that could change the status of the people in this country, with effects on our security and constitutional
rights. So a consideration of all aspects of the project should be undertaken with this in mind.
We, therefore, ask that the project be halted; a feasibility study be done covering all aspects of this issue; experts be tasked with studying its constitutionality; the law on privacy be urgently worked on (this will affect matters way beyond the UID project); a cost-benefi t analysis be done; a public,
informed debate be conducted before any such major change be brought in.

Justice V R Krishna Iyer,
Romila Thapar,
K G Kannabiran,
S R Sankaran,
Upendra Baxi,
Shohini Ghosh,
Bezwada Wilson,
Trilochan Sastry,
Jagdeep Chhokar,
Justice A P Shah,
and others.
(Based on a statement issued on 28 September)

297 - 763 - Inflation fix is UPA’s underbelly - Live Mint

Inflation fix is UPA’s underbelly

The only way to bring parity, especially when it comes to dealing with a vital commodity like foodgrain, is to meet some of the excess demand by offloading stocks in the PDS—which by definition provides foodgrain at subsidized prices, mostly to those living below the poverty line (BPL)

In the next few weeks, the arrival of the kharif, or summer, crop in the local grain markets will begin gathering momentum, kicking off the annual procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). This time, however, it is going to give rise to a piquant situation that further exposes the fallacies of public policy pursued by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), especially with respect to managing inflation.

Though the country’s granaries are overflowing with surplus food stocks, the UPA will have no option—unless it is willing to court a political backlash from the farmer lobby ahead of key elections in Punjab next year—but to go ahead and procure more. Since it has not been able to offload the current surplus, either through the public distribution system (PDS) or the open market, it would mean that more foodgrain will rot away (as detailed in the Tracking Hunger series done jointly by Mint and the Hindustan Times) and the food subsidy bill will burgeon. A supreme irony, considering that food inflation was, as on 9 October, at the level of 15.63%; it has averaged double digits for most of the last 18 months.

Also Read | Anil Padmanabhan’s earlier columns

Common sense economics tells us that prices increase when there is a mismatch between demand and supply. The only way to bring parity, especially when it comes to dealing with a vital commodity like foodgrain, is to meet some of the excess demand by offloading stocks in the PDS—which by definition provides foodgrain at subsidized prices, mostly to those living below the poverty line (BPL).

This then begs the question: Why has the surplus food stock not found its way into the system? Not only will it help meet excess demand, it will also help reduce the food subsidy since the government will not have to bear the carrying cost of these foodgrain. Particularly since the Central government has instructed FCI to offer more food grains through the PDS and the open market.

Perusal of the data available on FCI’s website reveals that in the last one year, beginning October 2009, states and the Union territories (UTs) lifted only 45% of the 1.46 million tonnes of rice and little less than 8% of the 2.16 million tonnes of wheat allotted to them. On the face of it this seems counter-intuitive: when food prices are in double digits, why would the authorities not acquire stocks for distribution through the PDS?

Not really. The states and UTs have clearly been influenced by the price at which FCI has offered the foodgrain. In the case of wheat the price band is Rs. 10-14 per kg and for rice Rs. 14-16 per kg. Most states offer foodgrains to the BPL population at about Rs. 2 per kg. In other words, the states and UTs need to incur a loss of upwards of Rs. 9 on every kg of foodgrain that they distributes through the PDS.

Politically, yet again it makes no sense. Why wouldn’t states and UTs absorb the cost differential, because after all they risk the wrath of the people. The answer may lie in the fact that most states are fiscally stretched and would find it very difficult to absorb the cost. In other words, the onus, inevitably as it does in such extenuating circumstances—and the current bout of inflation is nothing but a national calamity—falls on the Union government. Understandably, the Central government has similar compulsions. But then it has no one to pass the buck to. And it also flies in the face of its otherwise generous spending when it comes to populist programmes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme—on which annual spending is above Rs. 40,000 crore. The government is now readying, under the urging of Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, a Food Security Act that will guarantee foodgrain at subsidized prices to the poor.

The reluctance may have a lot to do with the linear manner in which the Central government approaches fiscal reforms and the belief that the PDS is a waste since large allocations leak from the system. Alternatively, albeit a more cynical surmise, it could well be that the political arithmetic of bailing out the states would allow the UPA only indirect credit at a time when seven states in the country are ruled by the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

While tackling wasteful subsidies is without question critical, it makes no sense in doing so in a mechanical manner. The thrust of public policy cannot ever be to prevent misuse; instead, it has to encourage use of such subsidized initiatives by those at which it is targeted. The solution is to fix the PDS—the only demonstrable urgency for which seems to be coming from the newly created Aadhaar programme to provide a unique identity to all residents of India—or find another alternative. The strategy of throwing the baby out with the bath water is hardly desirable.

In a few weeks from now, when the results of the ongoing elections to the Bihar assembly will be declared, we will know whether inflation was a factor with the voters. If indeed it proves to be a factor, the ruling parties in the crucial states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal that would follow Bihar to the polls will need to find ways to counter electoral fallout from inflation.

Anil Padmanabhan is a deputy managing editor of Mint and writes every week on the intersection of politics and economics. Comments are welcome at 

296 - (762) - How to Fix Illegal Bangladeshi Migration - Yahoo News

How to Fix Illegal Bangladeshi Migration
By Nitin Pai

"Probably the most important event in (Assam) during the last 25 years -- an event, moreover, which seems likely to alter permanently the whole future of Assam and the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilization -- has been the invasion of a vast horde of land-hungry Bengali immigrants, mostly Muslims, from the districts of (Bangladesh)" You might think I am quoting a contemporary BJP leader. These are, in fact, words of C S Mullan, census commissioner under the British Raj. He made these comments in 1931. If you thought that the issue of "illegal immigrants from Bangladesh" is a recent one, then think again.

Demographic change in the erstwhile Assam province in the first half of the twentieth century was at the heart of the Muslim League's demand, in the 1940s, that the territory be given to Pakistan. So those who argue that large-scale immigration from Bangladesh is one of the biggest long-term threats to India's national security are right.

As much as the migration is driven by economic factors -- ordinary folks moving in search of a better livelihood -- it is inextricably linked with the politics of vote-banks. So we have allowed the problem to grow, by denying its existence, by underplaying its extent, by exploiting it politically and yes, by enjoying its benefits. You know that the lady who mops your floor is not quite from "Calcutta" as she claims. You know that the workers in farms as far south as Tamil Nadu are not all from "Bihar". You don't care because not only do they do the job, they are often the only ones who will. Forget Congress leaders in Assam: South Delhi housewives and rural Tamil landlords are unlikely to get too excited about taking action against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

In fact, the blunt, impractical and half-heartedly implemented measures we have used to address the problem have only worsened it. Attempts to force them to go back have created an illicit political protection racket that has undermined national security. Fencing is in progress, but it is impossible to erect an impenetrable barrier along the entire India-Bangladesh border. Over the years, many border officials and security personnel have become mixed up in organised networks smuggling everything from cough syrup to human beings. Indian and Bangladeshi border guards sometimes even exchange fire, indicating policy failure at so many levels. Amid all this, tens of thousands of illegal immigrants make their way into India each year.

We need a new approach. India should consider establishing a system of work permits to allow Bangladeshis to work in India, legally.

It is practically impossible to fight demographic pressure, not least given the geography of India's North East. It is, however, possible to ensure that the flow of immigrants does not concentrate in Assam or other states adjoining Bangladesh. The real political problem is not so much the inflow, but the accumulation of illegal immigrants in one state. If work permits are subject to state-wise quotas, then it is possible to distribute the flow across Indian states. This will allow migrant workers to work in states that need them, and prevent them from crowding in certain states.

Work permits with state-wise quotas can thus address Assam's genuine and longstanding concerns -- the state can cap the number of Bangladeshi migrants it will accept. India's national security concerns become more manageable by bringing the migration out into the open. Obviously, Bangladesh stands to benefit too, not least the immigrant who need not live a often fearful life in the twilight zone.

The time for work permits has come. You might be surprised to know that as many as 85 million Bangladeshis have biometric National ID Cards (NIDs) which were issued ahead of the 2008 elections. These cards are now required for opening bank accounts, applying for passports and accessing public services. Indian work permits could therefore be issued to valid Bangladeshi NID holders with a greater degree of confidence. There are challenges in getting the Bangladeshi authorities to co-operate, especially in terms of validating IDs, but these are not insurmountable.

That's half the solution. The other half involves the ability to positively identity an Indian citizen. This is where Aadhaar, the Indian UID, launched last month, becomes necessary. It will be a few years before most Indians have one. We do not have to wait, though, for Aadhaar to be ubiquitous throughout the country. The work permit scheme can be extended to only those states where Aadhaar implementation is complete.

We have the building blocks of what it takes to address a hundred-year-old problem. Now work permits are not the perfect solution. There will be people who will violate the quotas, there will be people who will slip into India for nefarious purposes, there will be attempts to form vote banks. Even so, it will still be a great deal better than the current situation of relentless, unmonitored, unchecked, unmanaged and irreversible flows of migrants into India.

What about the politics, you ask? There is something in the idea for either side of the political spectrum. The Congress party's fortunes in Assam will brighten once the illegal migration issue is settled. It can claim to have protected the rights of Bengali-speaking Indian Muslims who no longer face the risk of harassment. The BJP, for its part, can credibly call for the repatriation of all illegal immigrants.

Work permits for Bangladeshis offers absolute gains for most political parties. Their own calculations, however, are on the basis of relative gains -- "does it benefit our party more than the other party." Both great leaders and good politicians would smell a political opportunity here. We do have some of the latter.

By Nitin Pai

295 - 759 - What This Criticism of UID Reveals - The Acorn

10.21.2010 · Posted in Economy, Public Policy
To oppose the UID project on the grounds that it makes government services efficient is bizarre

Over in the op-ed pages of The Hindu there’s a surreal op-ed by R Ramakumar that argues that Aadhaar, India’s new Unique Identification (UID) project will lead to an invasive state security-wise and a retreating one development-wise. Now reasonable people can debate whether or not UID will lead to these outcomes, and whether these outcomes are desirable or not. But reasonable people cannot argue that the government must spend money indiscriminately. That, however, is exactly what Mr Ramakumar argues! The UID project, he alleges aims “to keep benefits restricted to the so-called “targeted” sections, ensure targeting with precision and thereby, limit the government’s expenditure commitments.”

How will UID lead to human rights violations? Mr Ramakumar’s argument is “Because Amartya Sen says so.” Appealing to authority is not quite the most persuasive way to make such an argument. The fact that the UID is not compulsory and the fact more than 500 million Indians have mobile phones—it’ll takes years before that many people get their Aadhaar—that are already capable of being tracked and profiled is ignored.

Go to Main link to read all comments

294 - 757 - Methods of defeating Indian E-Surveillance - Techno Legal news

Posted on October 22nds 2010
By Pritesh N Munjal

Those who are opposed to the Orwellian nature of Indian government must not sit idle but do as much as possible to reclaim their civil liberties. For instance, Indians can use self defence methods to defeat e-surveillance of Internet, e-mails, telephone conversations, instant messaging, etc by Indian government and its agencies.

Similarly, those who are not comfortable with the Aadhar project or UID project of India and its dubious management by the Nandan Nilekani led unique identification authority of India (UIDAI), must restrain from giving their biometric details.

As far as Blackberry services in India are concerned, it is quiet doubtful that Blackberry would fight for the human rights and civil liberties of Indians in Indian cyberspace. The only initiative in this regard in India seems to be managed by Praveen Dalal under the banner of protecting human rights in Indian cyberspace (HRPIC).

Fortunately, another good initiative in this regard has been launched in the form of RIM Check project. This project would analyse the data leaving Blackberry devices for e-surveillance and other civil liberty violations.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has decided to follow the footsteps of its Chinese counterpart. India is planning to control Indian portion of Internet and looking forward for a “kill switch” type option. Under this option, the Indian government and its agencies can cut off all Internet services during emergencies.

The times to come would be really challenging for human rights activists but the battle between e-surveillance and civil liberties would keep on going.

293 - (756) - Aadhar And UIDAI Have Failed In India by Catherine Frenandes

Posted on 22nd October by Catherine Fernandes

The unique identification project of India, now known as Aadhar project of India, is one of the worst projects in the Indian history. It is managed by Nandan Nilekani as the head of unique identification authority of India (UIDAI). Both Aadhar project and UIDAI are “unconstitutional” and they are surviving only because the government of India has bypassed the parliament and imposed the project upon Indians.

Fortunately, Aadhar project/UID project and UIDAI have been “big failures” as they have failed to gain the confidence of Indian masses. All the Indian government and UIDAI could have done in this regard is imposing the same upon illiterate and poor people. The educated and well informed have stayed away from Aadhar project.

Aadhar project must be seen in the light of other illegal and unconstitutional projects like national intelligence grid (Natgrid), crime and criminal tracking network and systems (CCTNS), etc. By using the biometric data of Aadhar project and other details of national population register (NPR) with Natgrid and CCTNS, a complete e-surveillance and Orwellian state has been established in India.

Indians must use self defence methods to defeat e-surveillance by Indian government and its agencies over Internet, e-mails, telephone conversations, instant messaging, etc.

As far as Aadhar project/UID project and UIDAI are concerned, Indians must not give their biometric details lest they wish to be watched 24×7.

Let us fight against illegal and unconstitutional projects like Aadhar/UID, Natgrid, CCTNS, etc and force the government of India to respect and preserve our civil liberties.

Monday, March 21, 2011

292 - (755) - Don't worry about privacy - Yahoo News

Tue, Oct 12 02:53 AM
Can the UIDAI be used for religious profiling or to collect data about an individual's spending habits? What about identity theft?

According to UIDAI authorities, the structure of the database is such that you cannot query it; it is like a black box. So, you cannot ask it, for instance, to give you all the names ending with Jain along with their addresses. Nor can you ask it for all the names of individuals residing in an area with a particular pincode. Since all that the database has is a name, sex, age, address, fingerprints, photograph and an iris-scan, there is no question of having information about spending habits. Since the database has been developed to only answer a simple yes/no, the UIDAI authorities claim identity theft is not possible.

Sponsoring a 'Project GetMyIris', with a reward of say a million dollars to a person who can hack into the system, to get your biometrics including the iris details, wouldn't be a bad idea to set everyone's hearts at ease!

If it can't be queried, how does it work?

It can be queried to answer yes/no to items within the database. Once you get UIDAI'd, or Aadhar'd to use the project's brand name, you get a laminated, waterproof, tearproof paper that can last 20 years. (In case you forget your number, or lose the paper, you can, with your fingerprints, get a duplicate ID number.) So, let's say the income tax authorities start asking for UIDAI numbers while issuing PAN cards, and now want to check if the person with the UIDAI number ABCD1234 is Sunil Jain, it will get a yes/no answer. If you submit the fingerprint of a person and ask if this is Sunil Jain, you will get a yes/no. If you ask for a fingerprint of Sunil Jain, the database is not programmed to give it to you.

Can the programming be changed to allow for this in the future?

Theoretically it can, but UIDAI authorities say the plan is to keep it this way. In addition, there are various other checks to protect the database. But since the database does not keep information on incomes or credit card histories, the incentive to hack into it is low.

Is it possible to get a fake UIDAI number?

You can, but you can never ever get another UIDAI number under another name. So, if an individual X goes and gets a UIDAI number under the name Y, she can never apply for another UIDAI number. Say, she does. The system will automatically reject her saying there is already another person with the same biometrics in the system. That is, the incentive to game the system is zero. In case you wish to have your ID changed, say you no longer think having an Amitabh Bachchan ID is helping, you can get it changed after submitting your biometrics again. But no person can ever have more than one UIDAI number.

How do you get a UIDAI number?

Each state government appoints registrars and they, in turn, could appoint a UTI or a Wipro as an enrolment agency. Go to the enrolment agency and get yourself a number.

Do they ask for any proof of address?

Yes. There are 17 documents that can be used as proof of identity, ranging from a PAN card to photo IDs issued by recognised educational institutions. There are other documents that are to be used as proof of address.

What if you don't have an address? And will the UIDAI go and check if the person actually lives at the address given?

If you don't have proof of address, as in you're a migrant, there is the concept of introducers and they can vouch for you. This could be the Panchayat head, for instance. No check of the address will be done, but this is where your UIDAI number will be sent.

How do you find an introducer if you are a migrant worker?

UIDAI has just tied up with an alliance of 20+ NGOs that work with migrants. So the NGO will find a way to help. In the case of Delhi's homeless who were given UIDAI numbers, the homeless shelters they lived in were entered as the address. The design execution is kept flexible.

Can I be the introducer for my maid servant?

Not right now! Since there is no penalty for introducing the wrong person, the idea is to limit the introducers to certain types of officials the government trusts. In Andhra Pradesh, the government has appointed the NREGA department as the introducer. As a last resort, the UIDAI can also appoint introducers and get them registered with it. So, DLF can be registered as an introducer given the number of migrant labourers it works with, or even TeamLease given its status as the largest temping agency in the country. But that's in the future.

How will UIDAI work with ration cards and how will it certify the income of the person getting the card?

UIDAI cannot certify the income of a household. So, in case of Delhi, the government will get a survey done to identify the poor and to give them ration cards. If they have UIDAI numbers, these will be fed on to the card. If this will be a smart card, with my biometrics (collected by the Delhi government) or with my UIDAI number, each time I buy rations, my card will reflect this. Now let's say that one person tries to get three ration cards, as a brother in one, a father in another and a son in the third, the Delhi government's computer will be able to spot that one UIDAI number figures three times. But if there's a rich person who has a BPL card, the UIDAI can do nothing to detect this.

So how can that be done?

If the Delhi government wants, it can run its UIDAI numbers against those with the Income Tax Department or those with various property registries or some other database. If the numbers are common, the ration card can be rejected.

Does the UIDAI pay money to people who get numbers?

The 13th Finance Commission has allocated Rs 100 for each person in case a state has 100% coverage of BPL households. So if the state government wishes, it can make a payment.

Is UIDAI a substitute for KYC?

Not yet, but RBI is considering this. Last fortnight, RBI called a meeting with all banks where UIDAI authorities demonstrated how the UIDAI number could be used to make financial transactions in faraway villages. The UIDAI is discussing the possibility of using UIDAI for telcos as a substitute for the KYC required as per the rules.

Why should a poor person get a UIDAI number?

Today, any person getting government money, through NREGA or various health and other schemes, has to go to a designated office to check on whether the money has arrived. This could end up wasting precious days of working time and involve significant transport costs. If a person has a UIDAI number and uses this to open a Post Office account, the money can be electronically wired by the government. While sitting in the village, using the Banking Correspondent in her village, she can get to know if the money has arrived and then withdraw it. Zero transaction costs.

How do you let the poor know of these benefits?

UIDAI itself has a Rs 50 crore budget for advertising this year. There is no limit to the budgets the states have.

291 -(750) - UID Card and Education in India

UID Card for Students
Section 3(1) of the recently passed Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act makes it clear that every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till the completion of elementary education. The compliance of this provision would necessitate an exhaustive survey of all children of this age group. Providing UIDs to these children will help subsequently to find out the children who are out of the education system.

Once UID is given at the childhood stage, it can be used for his entire lifetime including the period he is in the education age. His education can be tracked throughout his educational career. Monitoring of dropouts, which constitutes a significant problem in the elementary education stage, would become easier.

Currently the Primary Education System in our country faces a serious problem of inflated enrolment at the school level. This results into significant leakages and serous implementation problems. Leakages include mid-day meals, books, scholarships, provision of uniforms and bicycles etc. More importantly, it gives a distorted picture of the achievements of various programs like SSA. The inflated enrolments take place through enrolment of one child into multiple schools and non-existent children being shown on the rolls. If UIDs are given to children, it will remove the problems of multiple enrolments and ghosts. It will also help implementing a uniform teacher-student ratio which is currently distorted due to inflated enrolments (especially when this inflation is not uniform!). Of course the HRD Ministry will have to put in systems in place to have the database of children at one place to eliminate these problems.

Provision of UIDs will ensure that there are no problems due to migration of students anywhere within the country as one does not have to establish the identity at the new location. It will effectively address the issue of education of children of migrant labor as their children can be admitted at new place without any other verification. The present strategy of targeting such children at source can be used simultaneously with strategy of targeting them at destination also.

Provision of UIDs at birth will also help the planners of elementary education system in terms of planning for the schools, teachers and other logistics.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

290 - 744 - A chink in the armour - Hindustan Times

Pratik Kanjilal,
October 08, 2010
First Published: 23:02 IST(8/10/2010)

The Aadhaar universal ID has been rolled out to general applause and will soon change our lives across the board. The project should accomplish its mission, which is to improve the delivery of rural welfare. It may liberate the poor and marginalised from the cash economy and give them access to formal finance and banking. And if the ID is made mandatory for big transactions, it may reduce money laundering and shrink the black economy. And yet, a crucial chapter is missing from this bestselling success story. The law protecting Aadhaar data from illegal access is yet to be written.

Remember 1991, when Manmohan Singh and P.V. Narasimha Rao topped the bestseller lists by opening up the economy? That success story had suffered because Singh neglected to write a crucial chapter on safeguards. Liberalisation without adequate controls and oversight spawned the Harshad Mehta scam, which wiped out the stock market, destroyed nascent public confidence in investing and damaged the reputation of leading banks and institutions, including the Prime Minister’s Office.

Two decades later, we are repeating history by rolling out the Aadhaar story to gushing reviews, but with a chapter missing again. It was supposed to lay down the law on privacy and data security. In India, electoral rolls have been used to target riots. We have seen profiling by religion, region, class and community — ask the Muslims, the Nagas, the very poor and the ‘criminal tribes’. The government is blasé about even the lowest form of data crime, mobile spam. However, it temporarily banned bulk SMSes before the Ayodhya judgement, so it’s not helpless in this matter. It’s just not very helpful. It’s increasingly disrespectful of the citizen’s privacy and, invoking the spectre of terrorism, wants to read our lives like an open book. In this atmosphere, implementing Aadhaar without privacy safeguards is as risky as liberalising the economy without market controls.

Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, has said that the agency only gathers identity data, which is already available with separate government agencies, adds biometrics and uses it to authenticate identity.
But that is a half-truth. Aadhaar already has a financial profile thanks to its welfare and banking functions. Besides, it will connect the dots between the data stockpiles of various government agencies. It will assemble fragmented data about individuals into comprehensive information and, through connections with the National Population Register and the National Intelligence Grid, it will allow government to generate the profile of anyone residing in India, right down to their travel patterns and spending habits.

Terrorists and thugs will get their just deserts, but should the rest of us be data-mined? Especially when we know that our data will be leaked or sold eventually, like our phone numbers are sold to spammers? Many countries have seen misuse of national identity data despite having legal safeguards like the European Directive on Data Protection or the US Federal Privacy Statute. And the Aadhaar system’s data safeguards are merely technical and procedural, not legal. Before it is fully deployed, we should enact umbrella legislation specifying penalties for illegal or arbitrary data access, whether by government, private parties or individuals. Until then, Aadhaar will remain a success story with a tragic flaw.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

The views expressed by the author are personal

289 - 743 - What an idea, Sirji! - Financial Express

Sunil Jain
Posted: Tuesday, Sep 14, 2010

: What do programmes like the New Pension Scheme (NPS), the UIDAI, the Right to Education, the Right to Information, and many more, have in common, apart from the fact that all have been launched by the UPA?

Almost all, believe it or not, were originally efforts made by individuals/NGOs which have now got mainstreamed and have the potential, in both good ways and bad, to change our lives in a big way.

The Right to Information Act, it is pretty well-known by now, was borne out of the work of Aruna Roy and her campaign to have various registers/lists made public, muster rolls of workers who were supposed to have got money from various public works programmes, lists of public works sanctioned and the money allocated to them, and so on. The list of the other parents, as it were, is less well-known, and that is what this piece hopes to correct, at least partially. The timing is a bit off since it was actually meant to coincide with the 13th anniversary of the Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society (CCS) last month, but better late than never!

Parth Shah, who set up CCS, began talking of school vouchers several years ago. Why give a subsidy to a school, which is what government-run schools essentially boil down to; why not give it to parents? That way, if parents are dissatisfied with the quality of education, they will move their children to other schools; this will then put pressure on government schools to deliver. Many others were talking the same language, but what CCS did was different—it collected money to fund the education of 400 children for a year and then used volunteers to go across to certain wards in Delhi on cycle rickshaws using loudspeakers to publicise the scheme. For these 400 students, it got over a lakh applications. Poor India wanted to vote with its feet. The Right to Education Act has several shortcomings, the principal one being the insistence that all schools must be recognised by the government, which will drive up their costs and them out of business. But CCS’s school voucher system is inbuilt into the system since 25% of all school seats will have to be reserved for RTE children for whom the government will make payments. Not bad for a 13-year old.

In 2006, Gautam Bhardwaj, along with others like Vijay Mahajan of Basix, Renana Jhabvala of Sewa and UTI’s UK Sinha, set up Invest India Micro Pension Services (IIMPS), an outfit dedicated to work on pension funds among the poor—the company has set up a proprietary IT platform and even owns the brandname ‘micro pension’. By end 2008, it had begun working with the Rajasthan government in a scheme where the government co-contributed a one-time Rs 1,000 and 50,000 persons signed up for it, contributing Rs 100 per month—Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Haryana have now announced similar schemes, and IIMPS has got queries from other Asian countries to run similar schemes for them. Meanwhile, it also signed another 1,50,000 persons for a similar programme, but without co-contributions from the government—the fund, administered by UTI, has earned around 13% per annum in the last few years. To put this in perspective, the government’s New Pension Scheme has just 11,000 members. Since NPS contributors end up giving around 10-11% of their contributions in commissions, the regulator has now announced NPS-light, with IIMPS-type minimum deposits and is also looking at working with groups like Sewa to get more contributors and at lower costs.

Around the same time, ICICI Bank’s Nachiket Mor branched out into financial inclusion and, with Fino, began figuring out how to take banking to the unbanked. Fino tied up with several banks and financial service providers, began giving biometric cards that captured all financial transactions—service outlets had card-readers and acted as banks.

Fino has 18 million customers today. It gives out money on behalf of NREGA, government pensions and even offers cashless hospitalisation in five states under the Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojana. Unlike traditional MFIs like SKS who just lend money, Fino’s powerful backend allows banks to offer rural India insurance and money market mutual funds. Precursor to the UIDAI?

Yes, but not the only one. Anurag Gupta’s A Little World (ALW) began with smart-card based microfinance and then moved on to cardless mobile phone based banking. It has 3 million customers across 20,000 villages in 18 states. MCHQ, now mChek, the mobile payments solution, was originally developed by ALW. Others like Abhishek Sinha of Eko have improvised on this further and come up with one-time password generators for cash transfers. Rural banking, what RBI is stressing nowadays, couldn’t have come even as far as it has without these gents.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, similarly, was part of a process of focussing on urban planning and reform headed by individuals such as Ramesh Ramanathan (who is also an independent director of Fino and the technical advisor to JNNURM) and Nandan Nilekani. 

What an idea,  Sirji!

288 - 742 - "Stop UID Campaign meeting in Delhi, 16 October".


STOP UID Campaign - Public Meeting in Delhi

Date: 16 October, 2010

Venue: Indian Social Institute 10, Institutional Area, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, Tel.: 4953400

Registration and tea – 10.00 am

1030-1045 . Introduction to the meeting. Wilfred D'costa

1045-1100. UID - claims and questions. Kalyani Menon-Sen

1100-1115. Legal issues and threats to rights. Usha Ramanathan

1115-1145. Questions and interventions from the floor

1145-1200. UID and NREGA – claims and facts. Ruchi Gupta (MKSS)

1200-1215. UID and PDS – claims and facts. Reetika Khera (Delhi University)

1215-1330. Questions and interventions from the floor

1330-1430. Lunch

1430-1445. Technological issues and implications for democracy. Ravi Shukla (JNU)
1445-1630. Way forward – questioning and resisting UID in Delhi. Open discussion, Anil Chaudhary to lead and moderate.

STOP UID Campaign
A124/6 Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110017
Tele-fax: 011-26517814

287 - 741 - What the UID conceals by RamaKumar - The Hindu

21st October 2010
What the UID conceals - The Hindu
R. Ramakumar

The Hindu A woman giving finger print impressions on a digital machine at a special booth set up for the proof of UID project in Medak district. File Photo: Nagara Gopal
The UID project has both ‘security' and ‘developmental' dimensions. The former leads to an invasive state; the latter leaves us with a retreating state.

Is identity the “missing link” in India's efforts to rise as an “inclusive” economic superpower? Can an identity-linked and technology-based solution change the face of governance in India? Given the euphoria around the Unique Identification (UID) project, one is tempted to believe so. However, a careful look at the project would show that the euphoria is just hyperbole; only the politically naïve can afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of this Orwellian project.

One can summarise the criticisms of the UID project under four heads. First, the project would necessarily entail the violation of privacy and civil liberties of people. Second, it remains unclear whether biometric technology — the cornerstone of the project – is capable of the gigantic task of de-duplication. The Unique Identification Authority of India's (UIDAI) “Biometrics Standards Committee” has noted that retaining biometric efficiency for a database of more than one billion persons “has not been adequately analysed” and the problem of fingerprint quality in India “has not been studied in depth”. Third, there has been no cost-benefit analysis or feasibility report for the project till now. Finally, the purported benefits of the project in the social sector, such as in the Public Distribution System (PDS), are largely illusive. The problem of duplicate ration cards is often hugely exaggerated. Even so, some States have largely eliminated duplicate ration cards using “lower” technologies like hologram-enabled ration cards.

In this larger context, the UID project has two distinct political dimensions. The first dimension is that the project is fundamentally linked to “national security” concerns rather than “developmental” concerns. In fact, the marketing team of the UIDAI has always been on an overdrive to hush up the security angle, and play up the developmental angle, to render it more appealing.

The first phase of today's UID project was initiated in 1999 by the NDA government in the wake of the Kargil War. Following the reports of the “Kargil Review Committee” in 2000, and a Group of Ministers in 2001, the NDA government decided to compulsorily register all citizens into a “National Population Register” (NPR) and issue a Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) to each citizen. To ease this process, clauses related to individual privacy in the Citizenship Act of 1955 were weakened through an amendment in 2003. In sum, the ground work for a national ID project was completed by 2003 itself.

The parallels between the UPA's UID and the NDA's MNIC are too evident to be missed, even as the UPA sells UID as a purely “developmental” initiative. The former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, A.K. Doval, almost gave it away recently, when he said that UID, originally, “was intended to wash out the aliens and unauthorised people. But the focus appears to be shifting. Now, it is being projected as more development-oriented, lest it ruffle any feathers”.

The potential of the project to unleash a security frenzy is the reason why privacy concerns have to be taken seriously. The government and the UIDAI have made it appear as if the purported, and unsubstantiated, benefits of “good governance” from the project eclipse the concerns regarding privacy and civil liberties. This is where the problem lies. A foundational understanding in the study of individual freedoms, pioneered by scholars like Amartya Sen, is that consequence-independent absolute rights are rather hard to defend. Hence, the demand to trade-off one freedom for another (here, the “invasive loss” of privacy for“development”) is an untenable demand. Each freedom, independently, has an instrumental value, and the loss of one freedom undermines the individual's overall capability to expand up on other freedoms. No wonder then that Sen himself has voiced the privacy concern regarding the UID project.

There is a related concern: police and security forces, if allowed access to the biometric database, could extensively use it for regular surveillance and investigative purposes, leading to a number of human rights violations. As Amartya Sen has argued elsewhere, forced disclosure and loss of privacy always entailed “the social costs of the associated programmes of investigation and policing”. According to him, “some of these investigations can be particularly nasty, treating each applicant as a potential criminal.”

The second dimension of the UID project is the following: it would qualitatively restructure the role of the state in the social sector. Contrary to claims, the UID project is not an instrument to expand India's social security system, for whatever it is worth. Instead, the aim is to keep benefits restricted to the so-called “targeted” sections, ensure targeting with precision and thereby, limit the government's expenditure commitments. None other than the Prime Minister has made this amply clear. Addressing the National Development Council (NDC) on July 24, 2010, he noted: “to reduce our fiscal deficit in the coming years, … we must [be] … reducing the scale of untargeted subsidies. The operationalisation of the Unique Identification Number Scheme … provides an opportunity to target subsidies effectively.”

The UIDAI claims that UID would help the government shift from a number of indirect benefits into direct benefits. In reality, such a shift would represent the opposite: a transformation of the role of the state from a direct provider to an indirect provider. For the UIDAI, the UID is a tool of empowerment. In reality, the UID would be an alibi for the state to leave the citizen unmarked in the market for social services. Nowhere is the illustration more telling than in the case of the PDS.

Let me state the argument upfront. The UID project is part of a larger effort to dismantle the PDS in India. The aim is to ensure a back-door entry of food stamps in the place of PDS, and later graduate it to a cash transfer scheme, thereby completing the state's withdrawal from the sphere of food procurement and distribution.

According to the UIDAI, the most important benefit from the UID could be that you could have a “portable” PDS. In other words, you could have a system where you (say, a migrant worker) could buy your PDS quota from anywhere in India. The claim, of course, has a deceptive appeal. One would have to dig deeper to grasp the real intent.

If we take the present fair price shop (FPS) system, each FPS has a specified number of households registered to it. The FPS stores grains only for the registered households. The FPS owner would not know how many migrants, and for what periods, would come in and demand their quota. Hence, for lack of stock, he would turn away migrant workers who demand grains. Hence, the FPS system is incompatible with the UID-linked portability of PDS. There is only one way out: do away with the FPS system, accredit grocery shops to sell grains, allow them to compete with each other and allow the shop owners to get the subsidy reimbursed. This is precisely what food stamps are all about; no FPS, you get food stamps worth an amount, go to any shop and buy grains (on why food stamps are deeply problematic, see Madhura Swaminathan, “Targeted Food Stamps”, The Hindu, August 3, 2004).

What is interesting is that everyone, except those enamoured by the UID glitter, appears to know this. On its part, UIDAI officially accepts that food stamps become easier to implement with the UID. So does the Planning Commission, which sees the UID as the fulcrum around which its plans to “reform” the PDS revolve. It turns out that an opposition to the dismantling of PDS, and to food stamps, also involves an opposition to the UID.

On his part, Nandan Nilekani has been showcasing his extraordinarily poor understanding of India's developmental priorities.

According to him, “in the Indira years, the slogan was garibi hatao. Then it was roti, kapda, makaan. In the last few years, it was bijli, sadak, pani.” However, these slogans are “passé”; the in-thing is the slogan “UID number, bank account, mobile phone.” Such an inverted world view, totally divorced from the grim realities of poverty, has prompted critics to call AADHAAR as just NIRAADHAAR!

In conclusion, the UID project is marked by both “security” and “developmental” dimensions. The former leads to an invasive state; the latter leaves us with a retreating state. Either way, the “citizen” is worse off.

(R. Ramakumar is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.)

286 - (740) - The Values of Everything - Monbiot

Posted October 11, 2010
Progressive causes are failing: here’s how they could be turned around

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 12th October 2010

So here we are, forming an orderly queue at the slaughterhouse gate. The punishment of the poor for the errors of the rich, the abandonment of universalism, the dismantling of the shelter the state provides: apart from a few small protests, none of this has yet brought us out fighting.

The acceptance of policies which counteract our interests is the pervasive mystery of the 21st Century. In the United States, blue-collar workers angrily demand that they be left without healthcare, and insist that millionaires should pay less tax. In the UK we appear ready to abandon the social progress for which our ancestors risked their lives with barely a mutter of protest. What has happened to us?

The answer, I think, is provided by the most interesting report I have read this year. Common Cause, written by Tom Crompton of the environment group WWF, examines a series of fascinating recent advances in the field of psychology(1). It offers, I believe, a remedy to the blight which now afflicts every good cause from welfare to climate change.

Progressives, he shows, have been suckers for a myth of human cognition he labels the Enlightenment model. This holds that people make rational decisions by assessing facts. All that has to be done to persuade people is to lay out the data: they will then use it to decide which options best support their interests and desires.

A host of psychological experiments demonstrates that it doesn’t work like this. Instead of performing a rational cost-benefit analysis, we accept information which confirms our identity and values, and reject information that conflicts with them. We mould our thinking around our social identity, protecting it from serious challenge. Confronting people with inconvenient facts is likely only to harden their resistance to change.

Our social identity is shaped by values which psychologists classify as either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic values concern status and self-advancement. People with a strong set of extrinsic values fixate on how others see them. They cherish financial success, image and fame. Intrinsic values concern relationships with friends, family and community, and self-acceptance. Those who have a strong set of intrinsic values are not dependent on praise or rewards from other people. They have beliefs which transcend their self-interest.

Few people are all-extrinsic or all-intrinsic. Our social identity is formed by a mixture of values. But psychological tests in nearly 70 countries show that values cluster together in remarkably consistent patterns. Those who strongly value financial success, for example, have less empathy, stronger manipulative tendencies, a stronger attraction to hierarchy and inequality, stronger prejudices towards strangers and less concern about human rights and the environment. Those who have a strong sense of self-acceptance have more empathy and a greater concern about human rights, social justice and the environment. These values suppress each other: the stronger someone’s extrinsic aspirations, the weaker his or her intrinsic goals.

We are not born with our values. They are shaped by the social environment. By changing our perception of what is normal and acceptable, politics alters our minds as much as our circumstances. Free, universal health provision, for example, tends to reinforce intrinsic values. Shutting the poor out of healthcare normalises inequality, reinforcing extrinsic values. The sharp rightward shift which began with Margaret Thatcher and persisted under Blair and Brown, all of whose governments emphasised the virtues of competition, the market and financial success, has changed our values. The British Social Attitudes survey, for example, shows a sharp fall over this period in public support for policies which redistribute wealth and opportunity(2).

This shift has been reinforced by advertising and the media. The media’s fascination with power politics, its rich lists, its catalogues of the 100 most powerful, influential, intelligent or beautiful people, its obsessive promotion of celebrity, fashion, fast cars, expensive holidays: all these inculcate extrinsic values. By generating feelings of insecurity and inadequacy - which means reducing self-acceptance - they also suppress intrinsic goals.

Advertisers, who employ large numbers of psychologists, are well aware of this. Crompton quotes Guy Murphy, global planning director for the marketing company JWT. Marketers, Murphy says, “should see themselves as trying to manipulate culture; being social engineers, not brand managers; manipulating cultural forces, not brand impressions”(3). The more they foster extrinsic values, the easier it is to sell their products.

Rightwing politicians have also, instinctively, understood the importance of values in changing the political map. Margaret Thatcher famously remarked that “economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”(4) Conservatives in the United States generally avoid debating facts and figures. Instead they frame issues in ways that both appeal to and reinforce extrinsic values. Every year, through mechanisms that are rarely visible and seldom discussed, the space in which progressive ideas can flourish shrinks a little more. The progressive response to this trend has been disastrous.

Instead of confronting the shift in values, we have sought to adapt to it. Once-progressive political parties have tried to appease altered public attitudes: think of all those New Labour appeals to Middle England, which was often just a code for self-interest. In doing so they endorse and legitimise extrinsic values. Many greens and social justice campaigners have also tried to reach people by appealing to self-interest: explaining how, for example, relieving poverty in the developing world will build a market for British products, or suggesting that, by buying a hybrid car, you can impress your friends and enhance your social status. This tactic also strengthens extrinsic values, making future campaigns even less likely to succeed. Green consumerism has been a catastrophic mistake.

Common Cause proposes a simple remedy: that we stop seeking to bury our values and instead explain and champion them. Progressive campaigners, it suggests, should help to foster an understanding of the psychology which informs political change and show how it has been manipulated. They should also come together to challenge forces – particularly the advertising industry – which make us insecure and selfish.

Ed Miliband appears to understands this need. He told the Labour conference that he “wants to change our society so that it values community and family, not just work” and “wants to change our foreign policy so that it’s always based on values, not just alliances … We must shed old thinking and stand up for those who believe there is more to life than the bottom line.”(5) But there’s a paradox here, which means that we cannot rely on politicians to drive these changes. Those who succeed in politics are, by definition, people who prioritise extrinsic values. Their ambition must supplant peace of mind, family life, friendship - even brotherly love.

So we must lead this shift ourselves. People with strong intrinsic values must cease to be embarrassed by them. We should argue for the policies we want not on the grounds of expediency but on the grounds that they are empathetic and kind; and against others on the grounds that they are selfish and cruel. In asserting our values we become the change we want to see.


1. Tom Crompton, September 2010. Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values.
WWF, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, CPRE, Climate Outreach Information Network.

2. J. Curtice, 2010. Thermostat or weathervane? Public reactions to spending and redistribution under New Labour, in Park, A et al, S (eds.) British Social Attitudes 2009-2010: the 26th report. Sage, London. Cited by Tom Crompton, above.

3. Guy Murphy, 2005. Influencing the size of your market. Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. Cited by Tom Crompton, above.

4. Margaret Thatcher, 3rd May 198. Interview with The Sunday Times. Cited by Tom Crompton, above.


285 -738 -ID program (Aadhar) a draconian project by Samir Kelekar - Goa Herald

ID program (Aadhar) a draconian project
UIDAI project may infringe on civil liberty says SAMIR KELEKAR
When Nandan Nilekani a technocrat was appointed the chairman of UIDAI by PM Manmohan Singh, I had applauded the decision. The reasons were many, but mainly, given Nilekani’s background as an entrepreneur with high ethics with respect to Infosys, it was expected that he would bring the same standards to this government project. Fourteen months later, the hope of many on this front has not just been shattered, as the monster that is Aadhar (UID) unleashes on a hapless population, now there is a national campaign to stop this project.
For starters, this project has flouted all norms of accountability and transparency. The appointment of Nilekani is now widely called undemocratic. The legality of the project is called into question since it was launched by the Prime Minister and it does not have legal sanction as yet. The lack of transparency has been pointed out after only lip-service was paid to discussions with civil society organizations and all calls for transparency have gone unheeded.
There is a lot that has gone wrong and continues to go wrong with this project. Even the intent of this project is suspect. Jean Dreze, noted development economist, member of the prestigious National Advisory Council (NAC) of India chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and the one who conceived of NREGA the scheme that assures 100 days of labour in a year to the rural poor, has called the UID project a national security project camouflaged as a social welfare initiative.
Others who are opposing the project include noted Magasasay winner and social activist Aruna Roy also part of NAC, Former Justice of the  Supreme Court Krishna Iyer and a huge number of civil society organizations. Even Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has warned about this project.
The fact that UIDAI cannot solve anything other than minor problems with PDS (public distribution system) and NREGA is now backed by data. Both the schemes are plagued by corruption and most of this corruption does not take place at what is called “the last mile” which the UID project tries to fix. At best, the number of fake ration cards in PDS is pegged to around 8 to 10 percent in most instances.
In PDS, most of the corruption takes place at the higher end; grains are siphoned off before they reach the fair price shops. The UIDAI makes us think that ration card holders go to the ration shop and use more than one card and pilfer ration. This is not true by and large. Thus, checking the identity of the ration card holders will not solve the pilferage problem.
Similarly, in NREGA, the problem is not of identity. The village supervisors take bribes to mark the attendance of workers and only then the workers get paid. UID cannot solve this problem.
There are also serious issues raised about the PR campaign mounted by UIDAI which mainly harps on financial inclusion. Even this is proved wrong.  About 83 percent of NREGA payments already take place via bank accounts.

Also, there are fears that an ID card can lead to exclusion rather than inclusion and even ethnic cleansing. Now, as never before, it would be possible to list the names, addresses and possibly religion (with some more intelligence thrown in the system) of people at the click of a mouse. It wouldn’t take much for an average Indian to imagine the consequences.
UIDAI’s promise of a privacy law has been only lip-service till now. There is a clamour in a lot of quarters that the UIDAI program be halted till relevant laws are put in place, but that hasn’t gotten any response from UIDAI. And the project is going on at breakneck speed.
   Quite surprising though it is, coming from an organization headed by a former corporate boss, there is neither a project report, nor feasibility or impact assessment study nor a cost-benefit analysis for the UIDAI project.
   Thousands of crores of tax payers’ money are being spent without all this. And a recent report from the US National Research Council that has done a multi-year study on biometrics says that biometrics is not reliable as an authentication method and has to be used with some other method for good results. It is not yet known what effect the results of this report would have on the UID project.
   The biggest fear due to this project is the threat to civil liberties, democracy and freedom itself. Given that it is well known that fingerprints lying in various places can be captured, and now that the State would have fingerprints of its citizens/residents in a database, an authoritarian ruler can play havoc nailing people at will with false evidence. As yet, there is no law preventing this, only statements from UIDAI saying “we are looking into it”.
   Quite interestingly, the monster unleashed by UIDAI could even go out of its own control. It is also worth noting that UK has shelved a similar National ID project. The statements made while getting rid of the project reveal a lot.
   UK’s Home Secretary Theresa May said “The national identity card scheme represents the worst of Government. It is intrusive and bullying, ineffective and expensive. It is an assault on individual liberty that does not promise a great good.”
   Finally, Mahatma Gandhi’s first satyagraha in South Africa was against identity cards that segregated Indians from others. This identity card had the finger prints of all ten figures and the law was passed in 1906. Gandhi called it the Black Act. A century later, Gandhi’s own party the Congress is reintroducing a similar law in India.
The UIDAI project needs to be severely opposed. I urge Goans not to give their fingerprints and iris scans and oppose this draconian project with all their might.

284 - 737 - MasterCard CEO Banga smells big biz in UID project - The Economic Times

18 OCT, 2010, 05.18AM IST,NEW YORK TIMES

MUMBAI: A day after the Indian government started a campaign to give identification numbers to all its 1.2 bn citizens, Ajay Banga , chief executive of MasterCard , arrived in town, eager to lend a hand.

The programme will identify people based on fingerprints and retina scans, and could make it easier for government to route food stamps and other payments to people below the poverty line. Banga says he believes he has a simple way to process the payments: via the MasterCard network. “I wasn't educated in US; I was educated in India. I understand what you are trying to do,” he said. “I think it's a huge opportunity for our government and people and companies like ours” .

Government could find other networks for payments . But MasterCard hopes that Banga's ability to glide among languages and borders gives it an edge. Though Banga has risen to top ranks of American business, the roots of his success are firmly planted in India, where he was born, raised and got his start. His success at Master-Card may well depend on India, too.

283 - 734 - Constitutional, Legal, Historical & technological Reasons Against UID // Aadhar Scheme- by Gopal Krishna

Shri Anant Gangaram Geete
Chairperson & Members
Parliamentary Petitions Committee
New Delhi

Shri Hulasi Ram,
Deputy Secretary
Parliamentary Petitions Committee

Subject-Constitutional, Legal, Historical & Technological Reasons Against UID//Aadhaar Scheme


This is to draw your attention towards the structural basis being laid out for future authoritarianism by providing a unique identification (UID) number to all the Indian citizens. It is claimed that this UID “scheme shall ensure that various development deliverables reach the poor and needy in time, shall enable better monitoring and help plug leakages.” This claim of chairperson of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is suspect.

The fact is becoming clearer that UID scheme is a naked declaration of war on civil liberties and natural resources like land. Nanadan Nilekani, chairperson, UIDAI refers to Hernando de Sotto's book 'The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else' to argue that national ID system would be a big step for land markets to facilitate right to property and undoing of abolition of right to property in 1978 in order to bring down poverty!

Among many questions that have emerged, one is: Has Nilekani, the Cabinet Minister taken the oath on constitution to abide by its provisions? While he is mutilating the rights of citizens and right to information, PDS, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act etc through his marketing gimmicks about the wonders of UID scheme, the fact is that even Mahatma Gandhi opposed a law similar to UID as a Black Act in South Africa from 1906 to 1914 saying,"...I have never known legislation of this nature being directed against free men in any part of the world. I know that indentured Indians in Natal are subject to a drastic system of passes, but these poor fellows can hardly be classed as free men" and " of finger prints, required by the Ordinance, was quite a novelty in South Africa. With a view to seeing some literature on the subject, I read a volume on finger impressions by Mr. Henry, a police officer, from which I gathered that finger prints were required by law only from criminals.”

In August 1906 the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance became law in the Transvaal. Any Indian who did not register by a certain date would no longer be allowed to stay in the Transvaal. This law stated that every Indian man, woman or child older than 8 years must register with a government official called the registrar of Asiatics. This registrar was to also take the fingerprints of the people he registered and issue them with registration certificates, which they had to show to any policeman who asked to see them. Notably, UID scheme too is based on biometric data like finger prints and iris scan.

In the face of such fascist attack on citizen's sovereignty, a statement has been issued by eminent citizens like Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India, Prof Romila Thapar, Historian, K.G.Kannabiran, Senior Civil Liberties Lawyer, Kavita Srivastava, PUCL and Right to Food Campaign, Aruna Roy, MKKS, Rajasthan, Nikhil Dey, MKKS, Rajasthan, S.R.Sankaran, Retired Secretary, Government of India, Upendra Baxi, Jurist and ex-Vice Chancellor of Universities of Surat and Delhi, Uma Chakravarthi, Historian, Shohini Ghosh, Teacher and Film Maker, Amar Kanwar, Film Maker, Bezwada Wilson, Safai Karamchari Andolan, Trilochan Sastry, IIMB, and Association for Democratic Reforms, Prof. Jagdish Chhokar, ex- IIMA, and Association for Democratic Rights, Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD, Justice A.P.Shah, Retired Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi and Deep Joshi, Independent Consultant.

This statement has been endorsed by educationists like Prof. Anil Sadgopal as well. The statement expresses great concern especially for those working on issues of food security, NREGA, migration, technology, decentralisation, constitutionalism, civil liberties and human rights. The process of setting up the Authority has resulted in very little, if any, discussion about this project and its effects and fallout. The documents on the UIDAI website, and a recent draft law (the National Identification Authority Bill, which is also on the website) do not provide answers to the many questions that are being raised in the public domain. This project is intended to collect demographic data about all residents in the country. It is said that it will impact on the PDS and NREGA programmes, and plug leakages and save the government large sums of money. It would, however, seem that even basic procedures have not been followed before launching on such a massive project.

Before it goes any further, we consider it imperative that the following be done:
• Do a feasibility study: There are claims made in relation to the project, about what it can do for PDS and NREGA, for instance, which does not reflect any understanding of the situation of the situation on the ground. The project documents do not say what other effects the project may have, including its potential to be intrusive and violative of privacy, who may handle the data (there will be multiple persons involved in entering, maintaining and using the data), who may be able to have access to the data and similar other questions.
• Do a cost: benefit analysis: It is reported that the UIDAI estimates the project will costs Rs 45,000 crores to the exchequer in the next 4 years. This does not seem to include the costs that will be incurred by Registrars, Enrollers, internal systems costs that the PDs system will have to budget if it is to be able to use the UID, the estimated cost to the end user and to the number holder.
• In a system such as this, a mere statement that the UIDAI will deal with the security of the data is obviously insufficient. How does the UIDAI propose to deal with data theft? If this security cannot be reasonably guaranteed, the wisdom of holding such data in a central registry may need to be reviewed.
• The involvement of firms such as Ernst & Young and Accenture raise further questions about who will have access to the data, and what that means to the people of India.
• Constitutionality of this project, including in the matter of privacy, the relationship between the state and the people, security and other fundamental rights.
Questions have been raised which have not been addressed so far, including those about –
• Undemocratic process: UIDAI was set-up via a GoI notification as an attached office of the Planning Commission without any discussion or debate in the Parliament or civil society. In the year and a half of its inception, the Authority has signed MoUs with virtually all states and UTs, LIC, Petroleum Ministry and many banks. In July, the Authority circulated the draft NIA Bill (to achieve statutory status); the window for public feedback was two weeks. Despite widespread feedback and calls for making all feedback public, the Authority has not made feedback available. Further in direct contravention to the process of public feedback, the NIA Bill was listed for introduction in the Lok Sabha 2010 monsoon session
• Privacy (It is only now that the DoPT is said to be working on a draft of a privacy law, but nothing is out for discussion even yet)
• Surveillance: where this technology, and the existence of the UID number, and its working, could result in increasing the potential for surveillance
• Profiling
• Tracking
• Convergence, by which those with access to state power, as well as companies, could collate information about each individual with the help of the UID number.

National IDs have been abandoned in the US, Australia and the newly-elected British government. The reasons have predominantly been: costs and privacy. If it is too expensive for the US with a population of 308 million, and the UK with 61 million people, and Australia with 21 million people, it is being asked why India thinks it can prioritise its spending in this direction. In the UK, the Home Secretary explained that they were abandoning the project because it would otherwise be `intrusive bullying’ by the state, and that the government intended to be the `servant’ of the people, and not their `master’. Is there a lesson in it for us?

In the late nineties, the Supreme Court of Philippines struck down the President’s Executive Order A.O 308 which instituted a biometric based national ID system calling it unconstitutional on two grounds – the overreach of the executive over the legislative powers of the congress and invasion of privacy. The same is applicable in India – UIDAI has been constituted on the basis of a GoI notification and there is a fundamental risk to civil liberties with the convergence of UID, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Population Register, National DNA Database etc.

The UIDAI is still at the stage of conducting pilot studies. The biometric pilot study has reportedly already thrown up problems especially among the poor whose fingerprints are not stable, and whose iris scans suffer from malnourishment related cataract and among whom the incidence of corneal scars is often found. The project is clearly still in its inception. The project should be halted before it goes any further and the prelude to the project be attended to, the public informed and consulted, and the wisdom of the project determined. The Draft Bill too needs to be publicly debated. This is a project that could change the status of the people in this country, with effects on our security and constitutional rights, and a consideration of all aspects of the project should be undertaken with this in mind.

Unmindful of massive opposition by citizens, the Union Cabinet cleared the introduction of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in Parliament on 24th September. This happened in a tearing hurry even as the NAC was examining the UID proposal. This was uncalled for and it provides robust grounds for scrutiny.

Not only that fearing the outcome of the NAC deliberations and its inferences, Nandan Nilekani avoided NAC to escape having to answer the questions about UID on 30th August, 2010. It appears that the chairperson of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has roped in Prime Minister to help him wriggle out by launching UID on 29th September in Maharashtra in order to present a fait accompli of sort to the NAC. In such circumstances, it is indeed a relief to know that the NAC is opposed to UID//Aadhar project.

It is quite sad that both the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI Authority and PM’s Council are in such a great awe of a regressive idea that so far it has failed to examine the reasons of governments of US, Australia and UK to scrap similar projects. So much so that even as the Bill will be introduced in the Indian Parliament, the British Parliament will be scrapping it because the democratic mandate of UK citizens and all the democracies is against such an invasive project.

One Noble Prize winner too has underlined how it raises questions of personal liberty. Other world renowned social scientists have termed it as akin to allotting “prisoner numbers” to citizens. This is quite worrisome that in such a context our political leaders in general are so frozen in their passivity that they are not reaching out to sincerely address and respond to the gnawing concerns about a project that have fascist roots.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) reminds one of what happened from the period preceding Adolf Hitler's arrival to January 1933 when he occupied power, to Second World War and since then and International Business Machines (IBM)’s role with its punch card and card sorting technology. The way UID project is being bulldozed in the name of PDS, Education, Public Health, NREGA and now migrant workers is highly dubious.

Unique Identity (UID) Number is a rare project which has unleashed the concept of massively organised information as means of social control, a weapon of war, and for the victimisation of ethnic groups, minorities and political adversaries. It appears that Nilekani, the co-founder and former chief executive of Infosys Technologies Ltd, India's second largest software company, has misled the key functionaries of Government of India into believing that he is deeply concerned about reaching the poorest of the poor with a 16-digit card (4 numbers are hidden?) to liberate them from poverty.

This proposed UID legislation authorizes the creation of a centralized database of unique identification numbers that will be issued to every resident of India but has failed to provide for provisions that precludes abuse of such a database for invading citizens’ rights to privacy and freedom of choice by national and transnational corporations like Vedanta and IBM. The legislation poses one of gravest threat imaginable as far as citizens’ right is concerned. It will damage citizens’ sovereignty beyond repair and has the potential to cause holocaust like situation in future through profiling of minorities, political opponents and ethnic groups.

UID/Aadhar project gives a sense of déjà vu. It is the same path which IBM (International Business Machines), the world's largest technology company and the second most valuable global brand traversed for targeted asset confiscation, ghettoisation, deportation, and ultimately extermination with its punch card and card sorting system -- a precursor to the computer – that made the automation of human destruction possible. This is a matter of historical fact and not an opinion. Indeed in the words of historian Benedetto Croce, "All history is contemporary history" and the lessons from history present a compelling reason against the UID/Aadhar project.

Therefore, we support the statement of eminent citizens asking that:

• The project be halted

• A feasibility study be done covering all aspects of this issue

• Experts be tasked with studying its constitutionality

• The law on privacy be urgently worked on (this will affect matters way beyond the UID project)
• A cost : benefit analysis be done

• A public, informed debate be conducted before any such major change be brought in.

We urge you to recommend and encourage the government to abandon the UID/Aadhar project like the governments of UK, Australia and US have done to safeguard and honour the non-negotiable rights of citizens.

Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
New Delhi
Mb: 9818089660

Members of the Parliamentary Petitions Committee
1 Shri Anant Gangaram Geete
2 Shri Rajendra Agrawal
3 Shri Khiladi Lal Bairwa
4 Shri E. T. Mohammed Basheer
5 Shri N.S.V.Chitthan
6 Shri Gurudas Dasgupta
7 Shri Dip Gogoi
8 Shri Devendra Nagpal
9 Shri Jagdambika Pal
10 Prof. Ram Shankar
11 Shri Sathyanarayana Sarvey
12 Shri Rakesh Singh
13 Dr. Sanjay Sinh
14 Shri Kabir Suman
15 Shri Joseph Toppo

Shri Basudev Acharya, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha

Shri Satish Chandra Misra,Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Smt Shobhana Bhartia, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

H K Dua, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Shri Jabir Husain, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Smt. Brinda Karat,Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Shri K.E. Ismail, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Shri Lalhming Liana, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Shri O.T. Lepcha, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Dr. Chandan Mitra, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Shri M. Rajasekara Murthy, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Dr. Barun Mukherji, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Mohammad Amin, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Posted by Gopal Krishna at 10:26 PM 


By Robin Hicks | 19 October 2010

Ram Sewak Sharma, Director General of the Unique Identification Authority of India, has said that the biggest identity project ever attempted will see 100 million Indian residents given a unique ID by 2011.

The project, which has been estimated to cost between US$6 billion and US$33 billion, aims to eliminate fraud from subsidies on programmes, make elections fairer, curb illegal immigration, and fight terrorism, by giving all Indian residents aged 18 and above a unique identification number.

Sharma (pictured), talking at the FutureGov Summit in Kota Kinabalu, said that he plans for half of the country’s residents – around 600 million people – to have an ID number by 2014.

The UIDAI has an annual budget of Rp 3000 crore (US$675 million) with which to execute the first phase of the project. But the importance of the initiative means that it would receive political support no matter what the cost, said Sharma.

The main aim of the project is to deliver the right government services to the right people, particularly the disadvantaged, said Sharma. “A big problem is the non-transferability of government benefits, and the safe e-transfer of accounts.”

Around 10 per cent of government subsidies – roughly $50 billion a year - does not reach the intended targets in India. This is ‘a ‘conservative estimate’, Sharma noted.

“India has the largest number of poor and illiterate people in the world,” Sharma told FutureGov. “320 million people in India do not have an official identity, and so are unable to prove who they are. We want to change that.”

Currently, Indian citizens may have up to 20 forms of identity - birth certificates, driving licences and ration cards - all of which can be easily forged.