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Archives for : September2017

Generous Sum of Rs. 10 handed over to UP farmer by the Yogi Government #achhedin

 

Loan Waiver for farmers of Uttar Pradesh was one of the biggest promises made during the state elections campaign early this year. ‘Krishi Rin Mochan Yojna’ (farm loan waiver scheme) launched by The Yogi Adityanath Government last month had announced a maximum of Rs 1 lakh per farmer as waiver.

Yogi Government

The scheme was planned to benefit 87 lakh farmers in the state which would cost the exchequer whopping Rs. 36,000 croreHowever, to the shock for farmers, the loan waiver certificates have come as a rude shock who had been anticipating a waiver on loans up to Rs. 1 lakh. and questioned the parameters the government had set.I. Shanti Devi of Umri village has received a loan waiver of a paltry sum of Rs. 10.37 against a loan of Rs. 1.55 lakhII.

Also Read:  GST rates fixed. Read how prices of items will change from 1 July

Munni Lal of Maudaha village was handed over a loan waiver certificate of Rs. 215 against his loan of Rs. 40,000

A bigger mockery experienced by the farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur, was when they were allegedly given loan waiver certificates of Rs. 10 and Rs. 215 at a function held with much fanfare, presided by state’s labour and employment exchanges minister Mannu Kori.

Also Read:  Malegaon case: High Court grants bail to Sadhvi Pragya, rejects Purohit’s plea

There were several other farmers who were utterly disappointed such as, Shivpal, who had taken a loan of Rs. 93,000 from a bank, expressed his displeasure with the government who had waived off merely Rs. 20,271, much below his expectations.Since the number of complainants became more vocal, Minister Mannu Kori, who had given away the certificates, termed it as a printing mistake. He quoted, “The loan waivers have been given as per rules.

If there are discrepancies, we will get it inquired into and act against those responsible.”A Loan waiver of this triviality for the UP farmers received huge flak on Twitter through the day. We shall follow the story if there is any further clarification as committed by Minister Kori.

Source janta ka reporter

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In Bengaluru, thousands turn up in solidarity to protest journalist’s murder #IAmGauri

 Up to 15,000 people including writers, journalists and academics have turned out in Bangalore to condemn the murder of Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh.
The message, “I am Gauri,” was everywhere – from arm bands and head bands to the slogans that those gathered were chanting.

Solidarity, anger and a strong call for justice: These were the emotions that marked the Rally for Resistance in Bengaluru on Tuesday, where students, journalists, writers, activists, rationalists and progressive and secular minds came together to protest the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

The message, “I am Gauri”, was everywhere – from arm bands and head bands to the slogans that those gathered were chanting.

The rally was organised by the Forum Against The Assassination of Gauri Lankesh, and saw the participation of thousands of people, including members of over 150 progressive and secular organisations.

The rally began from Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station and Reached Central College grounds around 12.30pm. It was not just people from Karnataka, but Gauri’s supporters from across the country raised their voices against “the rule of oppression.”

Renowned personalities like directors Rakesh Sharma and Anand Patwardhan, veteran rural reporter P Sainath, senior journalist Sagarika Ghose, rationalist Narendra Nayak, writers Girish Karnad, Chandrashekhar Patil and Kum Veerabhadra, and 99-year-old freedom fighter HS Doreswamy gave evocative speeches condemning the cold-blooded murder of Gauri Lankesh.

One of the most evocative speeches was given by Narmadha Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar.

“The governments in this country are trying to quell pluralism, religious tolerance and are trying to snatch the rights of the minorities. Gauri Lankesh was not just evocative in her writings, she was also a voice for Dalits, Adivasis, the downtrodden. She spoke against those who are against secular ideals,” she said.

“Some people are against those who are speaking out against their cowardice. Gauri was one of them. They killed her. Even now, when Ramachandra Guha spoke out, they sent him a legal notice. Let them send 1.2 billion legal notices then. We are all with Gauri,” Medha said.

Recalling her memories of a “headstrong friend” senior journalist Teesta Setalvad held back tears.

“She was not just her father’s daughter, she also supported students’ movements because she believed that the youth is the future of our country. She stood for rational outlook and questioned those who were against pluralism. No fascist bullets can take that away. We can’t afford to be sectarian. We have to rise as a cohesive resistance,” she added.

There was also a strong anti establishment sentiment among those gathered.

Devanur Mahadev, a Dalit rights activist, said, “The governments in our country are moving backwards and towards capitalism. Under Narendra Modi, pluralism is under threat. Pluralism is india. The fight for pluralism is why people like Gauri are getting killed. We must speak up so we can be worthy of her.”

Medha Patkar also said that the Hindutva agenda of the ruling government is putting India’s plurality under threat. “The country is speaking up, questioning the establishment’s hatred. Where is Narendra Modi, why hasn’t he spoken?” she questioned.

P Sainath, a veteran journalist, said that in the midst of such a demoralising period, the presence of thousands of supporters was a mark of the fight against a culture of intolerance and hatred.

“This is the largest machine of hate since the partition and it has spread across various states. Senior leaders gloat over the murder of someone. This culture of intolerance is at the highest level of government. They have a thought out plan, a coherent strategy,” he said.

“The nature of Gauri Lankesh’s murder was a message to all of us – yes it is us, we will do whatever we want,” he added.

He also said that the Gauri’s killing was only the beginning. He urged the people to not give in to provocation by the ruling government.

“There will be days of anger. When they call you names, it will anger you. Keep your dignity and honesty, but do not give in to your anger. Our fight is much bigger, it is for the freedom of expression,” Sainath said.

Furthering the anti-establishment voice, Kannada actor Chetan called for “unity in rising up against those threatening the right of free speech.”

“Gauri Lankesh represented the voice of dissent. The voice against the culture of hatred being propagated in Karnataka. She did not bow down to the threats by the cowardly lot. She stood strong. They were scared of her bravery and hence, they killed her,” he said.

“The Siddaramaiah government is not doing anything to protect law and order in our state. The BJP is pouncing on to her death to make political gains and a few are also rejoicing her death. We must stand for Gauri’s ideologies. We must show the cowards that they cannot silence thoughts and our freedom to express ourselves,” he added.

Reporting by Theja Ram, Geetika Mantri and Kannaki Deka.

http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/i-am-gauri-bengaluru-thousands-turn-solidarity-protest-journalists-murder-68298

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India – Coercion, Consent and our Constitution : The #Aadhaar Enigma

Mr Shyam Divan spoke on “Coercion, Consent and our Constitution: The Aadhar Enigma” as a part of the NALSAR Lecture Series on Constitutionalism

 

Divan believes that citizens of this country should be given a choice as to what they want to disclose to the government, without compromising one’s right to dignity and privacy.

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Kolkata – Students Brutally Assaulted While Trying To Save A Slum #WTFnews

NUJS IDIA volunteers assaulted in bid to stop slum demolition

NUJS

In an act of heavy-handedness, six students of National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata were assaulted on Sunday.

The students, who were volunteers with Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), were attacked in their attempts to prevent the demolition of a slum in Kolkata’s Subash Sarovar area.

Last month, an IDIA team had successfully obtained a stay on the proposed demolition of the slum in a petition they helped file in the Calcutta High Court. However, despite the High Court’s stay order, the authorities decided to proceed with demolition on Sunday.

When news of the same reached the NUJS students, they arrived at the scene in a bid to stop the demolition, only to be assaulted by policemen. According to Prof Shamnad Basheer, five of them sustained injuries as a result, and were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Bloody beasts! Attacking @IDIALaw volunteers from NUJS! 5 of them injured.But this will not silence our bravehearts! http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/nujs-students-assaulted-at-subhas-sarovar/articleshow/60452018.cms 

It now remains to be seen what the concerned authorities will do to make up for the act of violence. The Calcutta High Court may well weigh in, given the fact that the demolition took place in direct violation of its stay order.

The Students Juridical Association (SJA) of NUJS has condemned the assault on the students. A statement reads,

“…female students were groped by multiple goons and the male students were grievously assaulted till they were unconscious. All their phones were smashed and completely destroyed by the goons. When the students tried to escape, the gates of the area (Subhas Sarovar- where the slum is located is a fenced enclosure) were shut and the goons continued to beat up them up.”

The SJA statement further reads,

“As law students, this sequence of events has completely shaken our faith in all the institutions in place in our beloved country. Suddenly all those case studies from classes on the State’s failure where everyone has an impulse to take a stand – be it left, right or center seemed completely irrelevant. All those lofty ideals of social justice which we seek to learn and further through our education at our prestigious law schools were swiftly torn to bits along with the interim injunction.

This incident is a deep affront on our collective conscience. We firmly believe that we, as the law school fraternity, must stand together against this complete obliteration of the rule of law that we seek to defend and practice. We sincerely hope that in this hour of need, our collective conscience will inspire us to participate in defending and echoing the common ideals of liberty and rule of law that bind us together.

We also take this opportunity to express our gratefulness to the Student Bar Association, NLSIU and the various student bodies who have reached out to us showing solidarity.”

 

Update: According to the SJA website, the High Court has directed the immediate rehabilitation of the slum dwellers and has issued a contempt notice against the authorities.

https://barandbench.com/

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Land grab in Amazon jungle threatens dispossession, violence and murder

The Wayapi people face disaster after the protected status of their land was removed.

President Temer is courting the mining companies and their political backers by breaking into pristine rainforest

On 23 August it emerged that the president of Brazil, Michel Temer, had issued a decree abolishing the protected status of an immense area of the Amazon forest. The area is in the north of the country, beyond the Amazon river, going up to the frontiers with French Guiana and Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana). The estimated size is 4.5 million hectares, the size of Denmark or Switzerland.

The decree was shocking, but not entirely unexpected. Temer is in political difficulties, facing corruption charges and needing political allies. There are more than 30 registered political parties in Brazil, and to get anything done in Congress they form bancadas (“benches” or coalitions). One of the most powerful is the bancada ruralista, consisting of powerful, wealthy agribusiness interests (mostly cattle and soya) together with those who represent mining and other extractive industries. And, making things gloomier, the evangelicals attach themselves to this bancada.

For years now the ruralistas have loudly condemned environmental laws that protect the Amazon forest. The national parks protect biodiversity and the “áreas indígenas” (Indian reservations) protect the indigenous peoples. The ruralistaswant rid of the lot. Specifically, they want to abolish Funai (the Indian Protection Service, a government department) and get rid of, as they put it, “NGOs and anthropologists”. Temer needs the support of this bancada and is seeing to their desires.

Temer made his move at the end of August, centring on Amapá and the Jarí river. Although it is on the Atlantic coast, the state of Amapá is to many Brazilians as remote as you can get. There is no access by road, except one to the north into French Guiana, still not wholly paved. A mining enterprise called Icomi (Indústria e Comércio de Minérios), a subsidiary of the US company Bethlehem Steel, began extracting manganese in a remote mine from the late 1940s onwards. Icomi pretty well owned Amapá. In 1973 geologists from Icomi exploring westwards came across uncontacted Indians. They alerted Funai and a team arrived to establish what was known as an “attraction front”, finding out who these people were and getting them under some sort of control.

They had found the Wayapí people, occupying territory that went westwards across a watershed into affluents of the Jarí river. It was a kind of resurrection, as their presence in that area had been recorded historically. Their language is of the Tupi-Guaraní family. They are excellent gardeners, hunters and fishers. When contact was made they were hunting with bows and arrows. Many shotguns were handed out as part of the “attraction” process. Today they are wholly dependent on guns and ammunition. Fishing with canoes is more important in the west, where waters flowing into the Jarí are much richer in fish than the eastern waters that flow into the Atlantic. They practise “slash-and-burn agriculture”, felling trees and burning out the garden area. Bitter manioc is the staple crop along with a range of potato-like tubers. Bananas, pineapples, and various other fruits are grown. They wear scarlet loincloths and use two kinds of body paint – urucú (arnotto), a red, sticky paste, and genipa, a black dye which is applied carefully and dries into patterns which can’t be washed off. Women make manioc beer, called caxiri, and the social high point is the regular caxiri spree, sometimes accompanied by rather wonderful dances, sometimes just leading to what one might call the usual high spirits.

There was an urgency about this contact because the military dictatorship that took over Brazil (from 1964 to 1985) had embarked on a large programme of road building in the Amazon, the most famous being the “Transamazônica” running through the centre of the country. The Wayapí were in the way of a planned road called the “Northern Perimetral”, which was to run along the Guiana frontier and all the way to Venezuela. The 1973 oil crisis wrecked the Brazilian economy and grandiose schemes had to be abandoned.

The Wayapí had made sporadic contacts with outsiders before this. Some had wandered north and found a small Brazilian air force base near the Jarí river. Those returning from there to their villages brought back devastating diseases – dysentery and measles. Their land had also been invaded on occasions by gold prospectors both from the east side and from the west via the Jarí. These contacts always resulted in epidemics, respiratory complaints being particularly serious. What might be a slight cold or a cough to us can be fatal to those with no immunity. When Funai began its operation in 1973 the situation was already precarious.

Funai’s record in its dealings with Brazil’s indigenous people is not good. Chronically underfunded, often poorly staffed, often failing in elementary procedures, careless, offhand, the organisation certainly deserves the criticisms it gets. But like so much else in Brazil, muddling through in some way or another does eventually get some sort of result. In this case it’s clear that had Funai not intervened, the Wayapí would have faced extinction. There were 152 souls in the area in 1974. Now there are more than 1,000. Everyone has muddled through and they’ve made it. And although health programmes may not be particularly good, they are significantly better than the healthcare available to poor Brazilians.

Protecting the health of the Indians goes along with the other priority – protecting their land. During the 1970s and 80s gold prospectors continued to enter Wayapí territory. Confrontations sometimes became violent. There was an urgent need to get the land demarcated and recognised with legal protection. Largely through the relentless and indefatigable efforts of an NGO based in São Paulo, the Wayapí reserve was legally secured by 1996. The estimated area is about 600,000 hectares.

Muita terra, pouco índio (“much land, few Indians”) is the grumble you hear on the streets of local towns from frustrated prospectors. But it’s not just Indian land that’s involved in the crisis. For a number of years organisations at all levels, municipal, state, and national, have shown remarkable initiative in creating (with legal protection, it should be emphasised) a network of “conservation units” under various headings: national parks, areas of ambiental protection, biological reserves, sustainable development reserves, and so on. These now form a continuous block from the Guiana frontier southwards, enveloping the reservations of the Wayapí and the Wayana-Apalai further to the west, giving these two reserves extra protection.

But Temer discovered Renca. This is the “Reserva Nacional de Cobre e Associados” (National Copper Reserve), established in 1984 by the military dictatorship, not to protect the environment, but to secure possession of minerals in the area and make sure that the government could control their extraction. This is the targeted area that Temer wants to open. It includes eight “conservation units” and the two Indian reserves (Wayapí and Wayana-Apalai).

A federal judge, Rolando Valcir Spanholo, has blocked Temer’s decision pending consultation by Congress. This cannot be more than a holding move.

The Wayapi were facing extinction until a state agency intervened.
 The Wayapi were facing extinction until a state agency intervened. Photograph: Alan Tormaid Campbell

Why destroy the Amazon forest? Why remove protection from Indian lands? The motive is simply opportunistic greed: “Enrichissez-vous.” Dressing up the project in economic terms comes close to lying. When the BBC World Service broke the Renca story on 24 August the commentator went “over to our business reporter in Hong Kong”. The wisdom from Hong Kong (about the fate of Amapá) was that “the government needs the money” and that the initiative will “create jobs”, and “raise revenue from taxes and royalties”. The stupidity of this response should make comment unnecessary. Given that the levels and layers of corruption in Brazilian political life are stupefying, where will the taxes and royalties go? Temer claims that “only a third” of the area is to be opened for mining. Only? The disruption will be colossal. Frontier violence will spread. Land-grabbing will be rife. And once the process is begun it is very difficult to stop or control. The damage is permanent.

It is also claimed that the indigenous reserves will be protected. How, precisely? The grimmest aspect of Brazilian expansion into the interior of the country concerns the dispossession of Indian lands, so often by violence and murder. There are particular struggles going on now in a number of places where the various authorities appear incapable of defending those who are attacked. It was ever thus. On top of that, being “Indian” in Brazil means that you will frequently collide with intense habits of prejudice and racism.

It’s more protection that’s required, not less – protection for the land and protection for the people – the obvious point being that everyone benefits. All the reservations, natural and indigenous, are enormous assets to the country. All Brazilians deserve better than to have these assets trashed by this surge of corrupt greed.

Alan Tormaid Campbell first stayed with the Wayapí from 1974 to 1976. He returns regularly. His best-known book on the Wayapí is Getting to Know Waiwai

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/09/amazon-rainforest-michel-temer-indigenous

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Sikh volunteers reach Bangladesh-Myanmar border to provide langar to  Rohingya refugees

Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Amarpreet Singh, managing director, Khalsa Aid, India who has reached Teknaf, a border town in Bangladesh where the refugees are living in the camps, said that condition at the border was “miserable to say the least”.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |

Volunteers of Sikh organisation Khalsa aid helping Rohingya refugees at Teknaf, a border town in Bangladesh (Express Photo)

A team of volunteers from Sikh organisation Khalsa Aid reached Bangladesh-Myanmar border Sunday night to provide relief to the lakhs of Rohingya Muslim families fleeing Myanmar. Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Amarpreet Singh, managing director, Khalsa Aid, India who has reached Teknaf, a border town in Bangladesh where the refugees are living in the camps, said that condition at the border was “miserable to say the least”.

“It was our first day here today and we did a pre-assessment before launching a major relief operation. We had come prepared for providing relief to some 50,000 people, but there are more than three lakh refugees here. They are living without water, food, clothes and shelter. They are sitting wherever they can find a corner. It is raining, but people do not have anywhere to go. It is miserable to say the least. We will be providing them langar food (community kitchen) and shelter. We are arranging tarpaulins but since the number of refugees have overwhelmingly exceeded our preparations, it can some time to make arrangements,” he said.

He added that there were huge camps at Teknaf and each one was crowded beyond its capacity. “A camp can accommodate at least 50,000 people but in most of them there are more than one lakh refugees. But we are committed to run langar here (community here) till the crisis is not over. The priority is to not let anyone sleep without food. Children are roaming without clothes and begging for food. Those who do not get space in camps are sitting along roads in hope of getting food from someone,” he added.

 

Rohingya crisis, sikh Rohingya crisis, rohingya langar, langar, rohingya muslims, Bangladesh myanmar border, sikh volunteer rohingya, indian express, india newsAnother team of Khalsa Aid volunteers is expected to reach the border town Teknaf in coming days to assist in the relief operations, said Amarpreet.Khalsa Aid team is now serving langar and water to the refugees. “Teknaf is almost 10 hours ride from the capital Dhaka from where we are ferrying all the material needed to prepare langar. Connectivity issues and rain are creating hindrances but we are trying our best to provide food to the maximum people at the earliest. The langar will continue here till crisis is not over and refugees continue to reach the border,” he added.

Another team of Khalsa Aid volunteers is expected to reach the border town Teknaf in coming days to assist in the relief operations, said Amarpreet.

Jeevanjyot Singh, a Khalsa Aid volunteer from Jammu & Kashmir who is also in Teknaf, said that refugees started from Myanmar by foot almost ten days back and then reached Teknaf through boats. “They are in an extremely bad state as of now. They have nowhere to go.

We have spoken to some families and they have told us that after crossing thick jungles on foot in Myanmar, they crossed border through boats and then resumed journey on foot. Most of them have traveled for more than ten days. Since then, children had no food or water. They are in dire need of food and water,” he said.

Myanmar led by its state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been rapped by the United Nations for gross human rights violation against the tribe of Rohingya Muslims and as per UN estimates, 2.70 lakh Rohingya Muslims have already fled to Bangladesh and even more are trapped at the border.http://indianexpress.com/article/india/rohingya-crisis-sikh-volunteers-reach-bangladesh-myanmar-border-to-provide-langar-to-refugees-4839349/

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UN sees ‘textbook example’ of ethnic cleansing, deplores India’s move to deport Rohingyas

United Nations Human Rights Council official Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that Myanmar’s “brutal security operation” against Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine state seemed a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

 

Picture for representational purpose only.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Zeid decries “brutal security operation” against Rohingyas.
  • The UN human rights official said it amounted to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
  • UN rights boss deplores moves by India to deport Rohingyas.

The top U.N. human rights official on Monday denounced Myanmar’s “brutal security operation” against Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine state, saying it was disproportionate to insurgent attacks carried out last month.

Communal tensions appeared to be rising across Myanmar on Monday after two weeks of violence in Rakhine state that have triggered an exodus of about 300,000 Rohingya Muslims, prompting the government to tighten security at Buddhist pagodas.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, said that more than 270,000 people had fled to Bangladesh, with more trapped on the border, amid reports of the burning of villages and extrajudicial killings.

“We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” Zeid told the Geneva forum.

He cited reports that Myanmar authorities had begun to lay landmines along the border with Bangladesh and would require returnees to provide “proof of citizenship”.

ROHINGYAS STRIPPED OF CIVIL, POLITICAL RIGHTS

Rohingyas have been stripped of civil and political rights, including citizenship rights for decades, he added.

“I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population”, Zeid said.

“The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Last year, Zeid’s office issued a report, based on interviews with Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh after a previous military assault, which he said on Monday had “suggested a widespread or systematic attack against the community, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity”.

“I deplore the current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country”, Zeid said, noting that some 40,000 Rohingyas had settled in India, including 16,000 who had received refugee documentation.

Noting India’s obligations under the international law, he said, “India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violations.

The UN chief’s warning comes a day after Bangladesh’s foreign minister said “a genocide” is being waged in the country’s violence-hit Rakhine state.

“The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide,” AH Mahmood Ali told reporters after briefing diplomats in Dhaka on Sunday.

Ali described actions following the attacks on security forces on August 25 as “revenge” by Myanmar troops.

“Should all people be killed? Should all villages be burnt? It is not acceptable,” he said, adding Dhaka was seeking a peaceful solution, not a “war” against Myanmar.

“We did not create the problem. Since the problem started in Myanmar, that’s why they should resolve. We have said we’ll help them,” he said, adding that the problem took a “new turn” after the August 25 attacks.

The minister’s comments come as the chair of Bangladesh’s National Commission for Human Rights said leading figures in Myanmar could face trial for “genocide” at an international tribunal.

“The way the genocide has been carried out in Myanmar, the way the people were killed in arson attacks, we are thinking about pressing for a trial against Myanmar, and against the Myanmar army, at an international tribunal,” Kazi Reazul Hoque said on Sunday while visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, near the border with Myanmar.

“We will come to a decision after assessing what are the steps that should be taken to that end. And at the same time we urge the international community to come forward with their help,” Hoque said.

agencies

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India’s Biometric database – #Aadhaar is a Dystopian Nightmare

Seven years ago nearly 400 million people in India did not exist in the eyes of the government. They were “ghosts” who had no identity and no way of getting one, says Sahil Kini, one of the architects of India’s controversial Aadhaar database. In a country trying to modernize on the fly and take its place among the world’s superpowers, this massive yet unknown population presented a huge problem.

So the Indian government set out on an ambitious course to build Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric database, which would not only allow these people to participate more fully in society but also become a shining beacon of technological achievement for the rest of the world.

“What’s forgotten is that before Aadhaar was built there were 400 million people in India that did not have any form of identity; they were ghosts in the system,” Kini told VICE News. “So if you had to give them any kind of subsidy, you couldn’t, because they didn’t exist on paper.”

But as the database grew to include almost all of India’s 1.3 billion citizens, cracks began to appear, and in recent months those cracks have become chasms. Now more and more Indians say they worry that what the government actually created in Aadhaar is an all-seeing surveillance apparatus that has serious holes in its security and can be used to monitor all aspects of their lives.

India’s Supreme Court seems to agree, and its landmark ruling in August could derail the country’s crowning technological achievement. The court’s declaration that all citizens have a fundamental right to privacy presents a serious problem for India’s  government, which has pushed aggressively to make enrollment in Aadhaar mandatory for most everyday services — including filing tax returns, buying a phone, and obtaining a passport.

 

A villager goes through the process of a fingerprint scanner during Unique Identification (UID) database system in the Pathancheru village, in Medak district of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh April 27, 2010. ps the biggest challenge is smudged fingerprints.REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

“What is emerging is that [Aadhaar] is being used to create a panopticon, a centralized database that’s linked to every aspect of our lives — finances, travel, birth, deaths, marriage, education, employment, health, etc.,” Reetika Khera, an Indian economist and social scientist, told VICE News.

Security concerns have plagued the system for years, but in recent weeks criticism has grown deafeningly loud. Earlier this month, as part of the Supreme Court case on privacy, an activist’s freedom of information request suggested that foreign firms were being given “full access” to the classified data — including fingerprints and iris scans.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that administers the system, strongly denied these claims, as it has done routinely in the face of criticism.

“UIDAI, once and for all, wants to reassure that Aadhaar data is fully safe and secure and UIDAI data center has robust uncompromised security 24x7x365,” a UIDAI spokesman told the Times of India Wednesday.

When contacted by VICE News, the UIDAI said its CEO, Dr. Ajay Bhushan Pandey, was too busy to answer any further questions about the security issues, and they didn’t respond to emailed questions.

“What is emerging is that [Aadhaar] is being used to create a panopticon.”

The rise in public angst can be directly tied to Aadhaar’s expanded presence in the upper classes of Indian society. Far from its humble beginnings helping India’s vulnerable access badly needed government benefits, Aadhaar now touches nearly all aspect of society — applying for a passport, voting, opening a bank account, purchasing a car. The system now also registers your death.

“The reason why Aadhaar is now becoming an issue in the national media — and internationally, too — is because the problems with it are now affecting urban, educated, middle- and upper-class Indians,” Khera said.

“A TURBOCHARGED SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER”

Launched in 2009, Aadhaar is a unique 12-digit number issued to each Indian citizen. Its creator, Nandan Nilekani, an Indian billionaire and former CEO of IT services giant Infosys, describes it as a “turbocharged version of the Social Security number.”

The number is linked to a citizen’s most personal information: name, address, date of birth, gender, as well as biometric information like fingerprints and iris scans. When signing up for a new bank account, for example, citizens typically now scan their fingerprint in order to verify their identity rather than showing an ID card or passport.

The government continues to claim that enrolling in the system is not mandatory, but increasingly, if you want do anything in India, you need to be registered with Aadhaar.

Villagers crowd inside an enrolment centre for the Unique Identification (UID) database system at Merta district in the desert Indian state of Rajasthan February 21, 2013.

“Aadhaar today is the hallmark of a confluence of interests of the state and the private sector which take away control from individuals and erode their liberty to make choices,” Apar Gupta, founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation, told VICE News. “It is building a massive surveillance apparatus in India that cuts against the grain of its democratic moorings.”

The latest new development has been the government’s willingness to grant private companies greater access to the system. Microsoft, for example, already taps into the database to confirm the identity of people using a version of Skype designed specifically for the Indian market. And Airbnb confirmed to VICE News that it is looking into Aadhaar as a potential option for verifying hosts. For now the company said it is testing the system with “a limited universe of hosts.” Uber also has been linked to the system, though when reached for comment, the company declined to provide any insights one way or the other.

Critics say this new phase of the system will allow the government an even greater ability to spy on its citizens and let private companies profit off valuable personal information. The government denies it has any access to the information held by these private companies, but the deals signed between the two parties have not been made public.

THE DATABASE WILL BE HACKED

The Indian government has been slow to alleviate the concerns of activists and security experts who claim the system is vulnerable to cyberattacks. It has not allowed an independent audit of the security systems to be conducted, citing national security concerns. For one security expert, this lack of transparency is a major concern.

“We are told that the database is securely encrypted, but in the absence of a public security audit, nobody knows for sure,” an Indian security expert who works for a major U.S. technology company told VICE News. He asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized by his employer to speak on the record.

“When this database is hacked — and it will be — it will be because someone breaches the computer security that protects the computers actually using the data.”

“That’s not helpful because the Indian government does not have a good track record with cybersecurity, as evidencedby the numerous daily breaches and leaks,” he said. “Indian government servers are consistently hacked.”

The government insists Aadhaar’s data center is “robust and uncompromised,” but by putting an entire country’s information in one place, they’ve made one massive target for hackers. Even if the security at the data center is as robust as the government claims, that may not be enough, given how many services are now accessing the data.

“When this database is hacked — and it will be — it will be because someone breaches the computer security that protects the computers actually using the data,” renowned cryptographer Bruce Schneier recently told Buzzfeed.

Even if the government did submit to an independent audit of how the data is collected, transmitted and stored, it would still run into one undeniable roadblock: It has no one to do it.

“The problem is that India simply has no laws or regulations governing how personal data is collected, data such as the metadata collected by mobile operators, financial data collected by banks, medical records collected by hospitals,” Kini said.

Because India does not have a privacy law, there’s no legal framework in place to create an independent authority who could legitimately conduct such an audit.

NO LEGAL BASIS FOR AADHAAR

Efforts to enact a Personal Data Protection Bill have been in the works since 2006, and as far back as 2010 Aadhaar’s founder said he’d support a law that protects the data collected through the Aadhaar system. But nothing has materialized.

Further, a 2012 Supreme Court ruling determined that the government was implementing Aadhaar without any legislative backing. Unconcerned, the UIDAI continued to enroll citizens anyway, doing so with scarce legal precedent and no legislative backing. (Only in 2016 did Aadhaar finally receive legislative backing from India’s Parliament, by which time nearly 1 billion people had already been enrolled.)

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government has grown even more aggressive when it comes to pushing Aadhaar forward, making it mandatory on 22 massive government schemes in the first 60 days of 2017.

The government has said it’s willing to advance Aadhaar beside a privacy law, but given that it recently argued before the Supreme Court against the fundamental right to privacy, many critics doubt its true intentions.

“It is really about ugly ambition, and a deep disrespect for people.”

And the issue isn’t going away. Privacy breaches are already happening on a daily basis. Leaks have become commonplace as the number of services demanding Aadhaar, and the number of new enrollees, grows. The public’s concern turned to outrage in March when a government-authorized Aadhaar enrollment center published the personal details of former Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni — one of the most famous people in the country.

UIDAI’s leadership appears unconcerned with the breaches, insisting a leak like Dhoni’s wasn’t a major problem because it’s just a number. “Aadhaar is not a secret number like your password or PIN that can materially affect your life tomorrow if it is leaked without your knowledge,” Dr. Pandey said in July while revealing that 4,700 Aadhaar operators had been fined for enrollment violations — such as attempting to charge for enrollment or failing to adequately protect the data — in the past seven months.

Pandey’s argument doesn’t hold water, critics say. Just look at the U.S., where criminals have used Social Security numbers to commit fraud for decades. But critics say Pandey’s argument is especially dubious when it comes to India’s most vulnerable population, those Aadhaar was originally created to help.

For India’s illiterate, who account for nearly a fifth of the population, systems like Aadhaar become less a development tool and more a potential source of frustration and abuse. “In such a society, to impose an infrastructure that requires technical, digital, and legal literacy is an unfair demand and also an invitation to fraud on the most vulnerable people,” Khera said.

Usha Ramanathan, an expert on law and poverty, said the relentless push to universalize Aadhaar despite its many technical and ethical problems came down to two things: “It is really about ugly ambition, and a deep disrespect for people.”

https://news.vice.com/

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Probe finds clues that point to link between Gauri Lankesh, M M Kalburgi killing

 

More than one official familiar with the probe into Lankesh’s killing said that although the investigation remained open in terms of tracking down the killers — and formal forensics and ballistics reports are awaited — there has been a “significant finding” that suggests a link between the killings of Kalburgi and Lankesh.

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Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |

Gauri Lankesh, M M Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh murder, M M Kalburgi murder, Journalist murder, lankesh murder probe,

Scholar and rationalist Kalburgi was shot dead at his home at 8.40 am by two unidentified persons who drove up on a motorcycle. )Investigations have revealed that the “mechanics of the crime’’ in the September 5 killing of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, 55, by an unidentified gunman is identical to that of the August 30, 2015 murder of Kannada literary scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwad in north Karnataka.More than one official familiar with the probe into Lankesh’s killing said that although the investigation remained open in terms of tracking down the killers — and formal forensics and ballistics reports are awaited — there has been a “significant finding” that suggests a link between the killings of Kalburgi and Lankesh.

While an official declined to give details, he said that this finding goes beyond just the speculation so far that both the deaths involved a similar type of weapon.

In fact, Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy had said on Saturday that the SIT set up to probe the murder had obtained important clues. Senior police sources have, over the last couple of days, said that they are “very sure” that the killings in Karnataka are linked to each other along with two murders in Maharashtra.

Scholar and rationalist Kalburgi was shot dead at his home at 8.40 am by two unidentified persons who drove up on a motorcycle. The assailants knocked on the door of the home of the 77-year-old Sahitya Akademi Award winner and shot him on the doorstep with two bullets from a 7.65 mm countrymade pistol.

Lankesh was shot dead in the front yard of her home at 8 pm on September 5 by one of two persons who came on a motorcycle and fired four bullets from a 7.65 mm countrymade pistol while she was opening the gates to her home.

Investigations in the Kalburgi murder case by the Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department had revealed that the 7.65 mm pistol used to kill the rationalist was the same one that was used to murder 81-year-old Maharashtra rationalist and Leftist thinker Govind Pansare in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015 by two unidentified men.

The forensic analysis had also revealed that one of the two guns used to shoot down Pansare in 2015 had also been used to kill Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, in Pune on August 20, 2013 by a pair of unidentified men.

One part of the investigation in the murder of Gauri Lankesh over the past week has focused on the crime scene evidence and the mechanics of the crime like the bullets and gun used. Investigations by the CBI into the Dabholkar case and a Maharashtra SIT probe into the murder of Pansare found links to a radical right wing outfit called the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), affiliated to the Sanatan Sanstha, but the actual shooters have remained at large.

The findings from the Kalburgi and the two Maharashtra cases suggested that the killers were in possession of two guns they used to carry out the assassinations.

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India’s “robust” biometric database let millions get fake IDs #Aadhaar

Criminals managed to circumvent the “robust” security of India’s biometric database to issue over 8 million fake identity cards — which Indian citizens use for everything from opening bank accounts to getting married.

Police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh Sunday arrested 10 men as part of a crackdown on a sophisticated fraud scam which involved cloning fingerprints and cracking the security features of the Aadhaar enrollment system — which was described in August as “robust and uncompromised” by the authority charged with protecting it.

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Indian police said they could not rule out the existence of a wider network of similar gangs operating in other regions of the country, and said they were still actively searching for the kingpin behind the operation.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency charged with operating Aadhaar, uses a network of private enrollment centers around the country to register citizens on the system and issue identity cards.

The gang were able to fool the system into thinking they were operating as authorized enrollment centers by using fake fingerprints and a specially designed piece of software which bypassed the security systems UIDAI had in place.

“UIDAI has a security protocol authorizing third party vendors to access the main server for making Aadhaar cards,” Amitabh Yash from Uttar Pradesh’s special task force told reporters Sunday. “But the arrested men were doing so by bypassing the 3-layer security protocol involving biometric finger impression, retina scan and GPS system.”

UIDAI said it had initially flagged the suspicious activity to the police, and insisted the details stored in the central database were never compromised. According to a Times of India report on the arrests, the UIDAI recently cancelled 8 million Aadhaar cards — giving some indication of the scale of the problem.

The gang members used their own fingerprints and retina scans for the fake Aadhaar cards, and police said they recovered a range of devices used as part of the scheme, including fingerprint scanners, iris scanners, chemically prepared artificial fingerprints, rubber stamps, GPS devices, and printing material.

Aadhaar is the world’s biggest biometric database with almost 1.2 billionregistered users, which sees each citizen issued with a unique 12-digit number linked to their fingerprints, iris scans and other personal details like name, address, date of birth, and gender. The system was initially designed to make the benefits system more streamlined, but in recent years the Indian government has sought to greatly expand its use.

This has led to strong criticism from activists who see the system today as a giant surveillance apparatus that could be used to monitor all aspects of their lives. As the number of people enrolled in Aadhaar nears 100 percent of the population, the government recently announced it is considering opening official registration centers and revoking the licenses of the private operators.

Usha Ramanathan, an expert on law and poverty in India, said the dependence on private registrars for enrollment has been a major concern for a long time. “The rampant outsourcing of enrollment has produced this mess – just as was anticipated,” Usha told VICE News. “But ruthless databasing of people could not accommodate such concerns. Now that the government says they are close to 100 percent enrollment, they are thinking about making it more secure. Really?”

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