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Mumbai- People’s Convention Vows to Challenge Undemocratic & Destructive Global Finance


Resolves to Build Political and Economic Alternatives


Mumbai, June 23 : “The international financial institutions like AIIB (Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank) must function in a deeply democratic manner respectful of national sovereignty; or else be shut down for they constitute a threat to the nation’s economic and political security. These financial institutions are harbingers and promoters of the neo-liberal reforms responsible for hijacking of the democracy itself; regressive changes to environmental, labour, land, accountability laws; promoting privatisation and cartelisation; and burdening every citizen with huge debt; and destruction of minimal welfare measures.”

This was unanimously conveyed by over 1000 delegates from 200 organisations who gathered from all over India at the three day Peoples’ Convention on Infrastructure Financing, organised in the backdrop of the forthcoming AIIB Annual General Body meeting hosted by India in Mumbai. The Convention debated, discussed and challenged in 20 parallel workshops, the functioning of the international financial institutions and complicity of the Indian ruling and political class in pushing big and unnecessary hyper inflated infrastructure projects like industrial corridors, bharatmala, sagarmala, bullet trains, smart cities and others.

In the political resolution adopted at the end of the Convention delegates resolved to challenge the undemocratic and economically unsound functioning of IFIs including AIIB, World Bank, IFC and others. The Convention also resolved to push for people-centered alternatives in all sectors of the economy, and to advance an inclusive model of development in which finance and infrastructure support the vulnerable and the poor communities, instead of supporting primitive accumulation of natural resources and maximising the profits of the multinational corporations and global elite further contributing to the increased inequality in the society.

Delegates vowed to return to their communities to build massive resistance to the ongoing destruction of the environment and livelihoods of the poor and the working classes, and to work to create decent jobs, promote sustainable farming, equitable access to public services, advancement of the entrepreneurial skills of artisanal and natural resource dependent communities, and of labour intensive small and medium enterprises. The Convention reasserted its belief in democratic decision-making and the advancement of cooperative federalism as a method of resisting prevailing hegemony of undemocratic and unaccountable financial institutions such as the AIIB.

Speaking to the media, prominent activist and Goldman Environment Awardee Prafulla Samantra said, “The Peoples’ Convention is further strengthening our strategies and vision to oppose and reject international finance which does not confine to the democratic principles and causing immense and irreversible damange to people, depriving of their livelihood and snatching away their resources and causing damage to environment, accelerating climate change”.

The three day convention was attended by different trade unions, networks of hawkers, fishworkers, slum dwellers, adivasis, dalits, farmers organisations and peoples movements. The convention was attended by senior activists, academics and financial analysists including Medha Patkar, economist Prof. Arun Kumar, financial analyst Sucheta Dalal, activists Ulka Mahajan, Com. Roma, Shaktiman Ghosh, Leo Colaco, T Peter, Dr Sunilam, Ram Wangkheirakpam, Leo Saldanha, Rajendra Ravi, Gabriele Dietrich, Surekha Dalvi, Sanjay M G, Ashok Chaudhary, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Bharat Patel, Jesu Rethinam, Seshagiri Rao, Meera Sanghamitra, Maglin Philomin, Soumya Dutta, Awadhesh Kumar, Umesh Nazir, Raju Bhise, Prof H.M. Deserda and many others.

“Financial institutions have declared a war on people, land, water and coasts. Workers rights are sacrificed at the alter of development. We are left with no option than to reject and oppose this onslaught by the financial institutions, both national and internationall” said Jesu Rethinam of National Fishworkers Forum.


Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the two-year-old multilateral bank, is investing in all major sectors, including energy, without robust policies on environmental-social safeguards, transparent public disclosure and an accountability/complaint handling mechanism. Out of the total 24 projects, it has financed, USD 4.4 billion has already been approved. India is the biggest recipient from AIIB with more than 1.2 billion USD supporting about six projects including Transmission lines, Capital City Development at Amravati, rural roads etc. with another 1 billion USD in proposed projects.

About Us:

WGonIFIs, a network of movements, organisations and individuals to critically look at and evaluate the policies, programmes and investments of various International Finance Institutions (IFIs), and joining the celebration of the people and communities across the world in resisting them. A list of the network is available here.

Last year, when the Asian Development Bank completed 50 years, the WGonIFIs observed it by holding actions of protests in over 140 locations spread in over 21 states in India against the investment policies of ADB and other International Financial Institutions.

For further details, please contact:

Working Group on IFIs | [email protected]



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NCRB chief: Give police ‘limited access’ to #Aadhaar data #WTFnews

Aditi Mallick| TNN | U


  • NCRB chief Ish Kumar said nearly 50 lakh cases are registered across the country every year
  • 80-85% of the offenders are first-timers without any police record
  • “Limited access” to Aadhaar data will help police trace first-time offenders and unidentified bodies: NCRB director

HYDERABAD: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) director Ish Kumar on Thursday proposed that police be given “limited access” to Aadhaar data to help them trace first-time offenders + and unidentified bodies.

Kumar’s suggestion comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing a raft of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on the ground that it violates citizens’ right to privacy.

Speaking at the 19th All India Conference of Directors of Fingerprints Bureau here, the NCRB chief said nearly 50 lakh cases are registered across the country every year, adding that 80-85% of the offenders are first-timers without any police record. “Also, more than 40,000 unidentified bodies are found every year,” Kumar said.

SC concerned about misuse of Aadhaar data by private firms

“With access to Aadhaar data, these (bodies) could be identified and handed over to their relatives,” he added.

Junior minister (home) Hansraj Ahir said Kumar’s proposal would be discussed in the ministry along with amendments to the Identification of Prisoners Act.

The NCRB director also stressed on the need to float a scheme to modernise all state fingerprint bureaus, so that experts could at least visit most crime scenes.

“Though 50 lakh cases are registered across the country every year, fingerprint experts are able to visit only around 55,000 crime scenes. The reason is many states don’t have adequate fingerprint cadre strength nor do they have proper equipment and labs. Hence, there is an urgent need for the home ministry to float a scheme for modernisation of all fingerprint bureau from all states,” he said.


M Mahendar Reddy, DGP of Telangana who attended the event, said automation of the fingerprint Identification process is a tool by which criminals can be identified more quickly and efficiently and AFIS has played a key role in investigation, virtually replacing traditional manual methods of fingerprint matching and classification.

“Telangana is the first state to incorporate a palm print-based live scanner system for enrolment of criminal’s Fingerprints electronically and also deployed an Android-based single finger identification system to verify the criminal antecedents of a suspect in-the-field within seconds by the SHO himself without any manual intervention at Police station level,” he added.

Altogether 868 undetected cases were solved since installation of Papillon AFIS, of which 480 cases were old unsolved scene-of-crime cases that were not identified by the older FACTS system.

Minister of State (Home Affairs) Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, said the fingerprints being the scientific evidence, it decreases crime rate and increases conviction rate and its accepted by the court and society. If the conviction rate increases, the offenders and people who intend to do crime will have fear, he added. Later the chief guest also released a book titled “Compendium of Finger Print equipment 2018”.

Another issue that required an early intervention by the Home Ministry was the amendment to the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, so that other modern biometrics such as iris, veins, signature and voice could also be captured. There was also need to do away with the clause of one-year rigorous imprisonment, as very few sections in the IPC have that provision. The NCRB had sent a proposal to the Centre.

Kumar also stressed the urgent need for modernisation of all State fingerprint bureaus.

“At present, fingerprint experts were able to visit only around 55,000 crime scenes, which was just 1 percent of the 50 lakh cases filed annually, and grossly inadequate. This is because, many States neither have adequate fingerprint cadre strength nor proper equipment and labs,” he said, adding that fingerprint experts should also be sent abroad for advance training with the Interpol or the FBI.


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RTI reveals there’s no way you can opt-out of #Aadhaar #WTFnews

RTI on Aadhaar reveals alarming details

Some would say Aadhaar has been pushed into the lives of Indians without limits. People aren’t even being able to get new SIM cardswithout Aadhaar, despite the government explicitly stating they should be able to.

A fresh RTI reveals more alarming details: turns out, once you sign up for Aadhaar, you can’t revoke it under any condition, even if you give up citizenship.

In context: RTI on Aadhaar reveals alarming details


First things first: What is the Aadhaar scheme?

The Aadhaar project began in 2009. Under the initiative, each applicant is assigned a 12-digit unique identification number (UID), which is linked to their demographic as well as biometric details (fingerprints and iris scans).

Though it was initially touted as a voluntary ID, the government has gradually made it mandatory to access a number of schemes, like opening of new bank accounts.


Who is it for, who is it not?

According to the Aadhaar Act, “Every resident shall be entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number by submitting demographic and biometric information.”

A ‘resident’ is one who has resided in India for at least 182 days “in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of application for enrolment.”

So your citizenship status won’t matter as long as you have stayed in India for 182 days.


What does the new RTI reveal?

An anonymous Redditor (u/onlinerti) has now posted what his RTIrevealed. The plea notes that Aadhaar is for Indian ‘residents’ and not just ‘citizens,’ so what’s the procedure for revocation of Aadhaar number from the database if someone foregoes Indian citizenship, it asks.

“As per the present policy of UIDAI and the Aadhaar Act, there’s no provision for revocation of Aadhaar,” the reply states.

OthersThere are laws for de-linking Aadhaar from these services though

Technically, there are ways to de-link Aadhaar from services. According to Point 5 of UIDAI’s Compendium of Regulations, “The Aadhaar number holder may, at any time, revoke consent given to a KUA (e-KYC User Agency) for storing his e-KYC data…and the KUA shall delete the e-KYC data.”

This covers all public and private agencies- banks, telcos, PAN, voter ID, LPG connection, passport and more.


But are laws helping us any?

Since no company has explicitly mentioned the process for de-linking Aadhaar, the first step is to contact customer care and enquire about the method.

However, it might not be easy. TBI reports they tried de-linking Aadhaar from SIM, but when they called up customer-care, the executive insisted there was no way to do it.

Meanwhile, telcos continue to send away new customers without Aadhaar.


Only the common people will bear the brunt

In one case, there are no laws at all, and in the other, no one is ensuring they are being followed.

In all practicality, they are the same thing.

The impact is being felt by the masses, who have reported being harassed for Aadhaar by various agencies.

In Feb 2018 .in yet another case of medical apathy, a 25-year-old pregnant woman in Gurugram was forced to deliver a baby girl outside the Civil Hospital near the parking lot without any medical support as she wasn’t carrying her Aadhaar card.

Though she furnished her Aadhaar number, the woman was denied an ultrasound-test before the delivery as she didn’t have an Aadhaar copy.

Aadhaar can be a strong tool, or it can be highly intrusive. Laws can dictate its direction.

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Mumbai- Peoples’ Convention on Infrastructure Financing Challenges AIIB’s Reckless Lending

Political and social activists, academics and financial analysts included, a large number of people gathered at the inaugural of Peoples’ Convention on Infrastructure Financing in Mumbai, ahead of the Annual Meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), decried investments of AIIB and other international financial institutions (IFIs), causing displacement, dispossession loss of livelihood and propelling inequality and social unrest.

Speaking at the occasion eminent economist Professor Arun Kumar, questioned the development model pushed ahead by IFIs in the pretext of ‘development for all’ as their only aim is profit-oriented growth at any cost.  He raised the pertinent question of ‘development for whom’.
“AIIB has created a super structure, an ecosystem which acts as a complex web of shining terminologies and projects to attract investments, which actually is a smoke screen to hide the fact that there’s no human development happening” senior activist Medha Patkar said in her speech.
Raising concerns at the crackdown of activists by the government, she lamented, “Show us one state where the people opposing the projects have not been jailed to raise their concerns about the environment, and right to life and livelihood. Recently, people were fired upon in Thutthokodi, Tamil Nadu, when they demanded a pollution free environment to live”.
Financial analyst and journalist Sucheta Dalal said that the Indian banking system is at the verge of crisis, reeling under the mounting bad loans, caused by unfettered corporate loans. Referring to government’s announcement in the Parliament that Rs2.4 lakh crore bad loans are written off, she said that “If farm loan waver was proposed the world would have gone on a spin, while the loans of big corporations are written off and there isn’t a whimper.”
The inaugural ceremony of the three-day Convention started with music of resistance by cultural groups. Other speakers included Sreedhar, Environics Trust; Shaktiman Gosh, General Secretary, National Hawkers Federation; Leo Colaco National Fishworkers Forum / World Forum of Fisher-people; Roma, National Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI).
Senior activist Ulka Mahajan asked, “Is land a commodity to sell to forcefully silence farmers by giving them some compensation to build infrastructure project?” She added “the land feeds generation of people by providing food,” while reminding that it will be difficult to bring back the fertility of land. “If raising issues of the marginalised is sedition, then we will continue to do it,” she emphasised.
The Peoples’ Convention on Infrastructure Financing is a 3-day confluence of people’s movements, civil society organiations and concerned citizens to deliberate about international financing and strategise a collective voice to hold these financers accountable for their impacts the lending is causing.

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Sexual harassment roars at IIT-Bombay, no action against senior students

Tweet by IIT-Bombay student of being abused by seniors doing rounds on social media.
IIT, Bombay

 IIT, Bombay

Hyderabad: Sexual abuse in higher educational institutions continues to be a matter of grave concern. A first-year engineering student of IIT, Bombay, confessed to being abused by a senior who would generally target freshers and stated that he had complained about the incident to the Dean. However, there was no response and no action was taken against the senior student.

The confession which was posted online, was retweeted several times, even by alumni members who sought a quick and speedy action. However, the victim further posted that the perpetrator was going to walk away scot-free with no black mark on his record and most importantly, a job offer in hand. The case was especially noted as the complainant speaks about IIT Bombay which is the most preferred IIT by candidates amongst all the 23 IITs, especially by those who want to pursue computer science as a career. Nearly 15 more confessions poured in with regard to the same senior.


While Delhi and Kharagpur is generally assumed to be dangerous places where such incidents could occur, the confession startled many students as it had happened at IIT-Bombay.

Aditya Vignesh (name changed), a PhD scholar in IIT-Bombay, said, “We were shocked when we saw the confession on our Facebook page that even had a screenshot of the mail sent to the Dean. It was saddening to note that this has been happening for long and many juniors could not voice out against it. The incident has also come to the limelight when applications are pouring in for IIT Bombay and we cannot even begin to imagine how parents and students are feeling now.”

The accused senior who is a final year engineering student was part of the Institute Student Mentor Programme and headed the Mood Indigo cultural festival as well. The complainant was called to the senior’s room where the senior allegedly forced himself on him.

The complainant said that he couldn’t speak about it for long due to fear of judgement.

The complainant finally sought the help of the Dean after remembering his speech during the ‘freshers’ event about how he would always be “approachable” to freshers.

The Dean, Mr. Soumya Mukherji stated, “We have a zero tolerance policy against abuse. However, this is the first complaint we have received about a boy molesting a boy. We will conduct a proper inquiry into the matter and that accused student will be punished, if found responsible. He received an offer letter from our campus placements as they were held last year, before this allegation came into light.”

Another second-year student said, “In the victim’s post, he clearly talks about how we are introduced to seniors who we look up to and who are in charge of many events. They perform well academically too so we place them on a pedestal and when we see misbehaviour from them, we are afraid to voice it.”

Without proper redressal mechanisms that ensure quick action, many freshers choose to not complain fearing for their safety and also to ensure that their much coveted admission does not go in vain.

Aarti Nagpal, a 26-year-old psychology student of University of Hyderabad and her friend were recently stalked by two men who were present on campus and followed the girls.

They found out that those men were also students and filed a complaint with the Gender Sensitisation Committee on campus, but no action was taken

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Chattisgarh Police Abducts a ‘ techie’ and presents him as “Maoist Propagandist.” #WTFnews


A 34-year-old ‘techie’ Abhay Devdas Nayak was abducted by the Chattisgarh police on 31 May 2018 from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and presented before the media on 12 June, as a “top Maoist propagandist.” That he could be picked up by the police and kept in illegal custody and then shown as ‘arrested’ after a gap of 12 days, and presented before the media, completely brazenly violating norms and procedures of law is highly condemnable and a matter of great concern. The fact that no noise has been made about this kind of violation is shocking. Accusation against a person of being associated with a banned organisation like CPI (Maoist) is used by the police to violate his rights with impunity, counting on public silence on this.

Abhay Nayak has been booked under Section 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), S 4 and 5 of Explosives Substances Act, and S 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) related to charges of membership of and support for a “terrorist organisation” respectively. The CPI(Maoists)’s proscribed status as a ‘terrorist organization’ under the UAPA, allow the police to target virtually everyone they wish to, as anyone they allege to be a member of a banned organization (without a trial establishing this) can be held guilty of all the crimes attributed to the Maoists. This was confirmed by the Special DG Anti-Naxal Operations D.M. Awasthi, when, speaking about the charges against Nayak, he declared that “When you are involved in Maoism and connected with everyone, you are automatically part of all the crimes”. This kind of sweeping accusation and presumption of guilt is utterly dangerous for the possibility of justice to say the least.

The case against Abhay Nayak is utterly vague and based on numerous presumptions. The police are claiming that he was implicated in a 2013 case, though he has now been shown as arrested in a 2017 case. The 2013 case relates with an IED blast where they found CPI (Maoist) leaflets issued in name of ‘Abhay’ and ‘Vikalp’ – they presume that this refers to Abhay Nayak. Based on the fact that he posts articles and statements related to Naxalism the police have again presumed that Abhay Nayak must be a propagandist for the CPI (Maoist) and accused him of being part of Co-ordination of Maoist Party and Organisation in South Asia and for issuing press statements on behalf of the underground party under the name of ‘Abhay,’‘Vikalp’ and ‘Azad’. Other presumptions being used are that he had visited Bastar twice so he must be in touch with the Maoists, and that his microfinance blog must be a cover for his Maoist activities. These flimsy grounds and the coincidence of bearing a common Indian name are apparently enough for his arrest using UAPA.

When he managed to speak briefly to journalists in presence of the police on 12 June, Abhay Nayak completely denied these charges, stated that he is not the same ‘Abhay’ and said that he is a freelance journalist who ran a website where he would upload news regarding the Maoists.

Nayak’s arrest has many parallels with the five recent arrests of Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale, under UAPA, booked under similar charges of being associated with Maoists. The police are also trying to show that they were connected. In all of these the state, ably abetted by the draconian UAPA, is seeking to create a new bogey of the ‘urban Maoists’ linked in a network across the country. The police are trying to show that Abhay Nayak and some of the above were in touch with each other. Using strange logic, Nayak has been accused of being connected to Maoists because he was in touch with some of the five, though the latters’ culpability has not been proved! The police claim to have created grounds for more arrests by tracking emails etc. and establishing more such ‘connections’.

The UAPA, the use of which is common to all such arrests, allows presumption of guilt, and alleged ‘intention’ to commit crimes to become the basis of arrests, incarceration, and prolonged denial of bail. As in the now revoked TADA and POTA, the UAPA gives the state a tool for long periods of preventive detention of dissenters and opponents. Like its abolished predecessors the UAPA also criminalises any kind of association with arbitrarily banned organsation (under the same law).

What links these recent arrests of so-called ‘urban Maoists’ is the targeting of those who have been legally and democratically raising questions of the rights of political prisoners, adivasis, dalits etc., and critiquing violations of rights by the state.

UAPA is being used by the police, in Nayak’s case as well as the five arrested earlier to silence these voices, and then ‘go fishing’ to ‘gather’ evidence for the new charges being concocted against them continuously. Few will dare to question the authenticity of the evidence since it could be tantamount to ‘association’ with the accused, apparently a crime under the terrifying regime of this law.

It is to prevent this scenario from becoming a reality that PUDR strongly reiterates its demand for the immediate repeal of the UAPA. We condemn the arrest of Abhay Nayak under this law, demand action against those responsible for his abduction illegal detention, and demand his unconditional release.

Secretaries, PUDR

Shashi Saxena

Shahana Bhattacharya

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Andhra Pradesh Tracked You As You Bought Viagra, Then Put Your Name and Phone Number on the Internet for the World to See

Just another day in the data disaster that is our country.

Bengaluru — If you are the gentleman who bought Suhagra 50, a generic version of Viagra, and some Vomiford anti-nausea drops, on June 13 from a government-run Anna Sanjivini store in Anantpur in Rayalseema, your name, phone number and purchases, were listed on an Andhra Pradesh government website — until HuffPost alerted the authorities.

The link has since been taken down (you’re welcome).

An unsecured dashboard on the Anna Sanjivini website allowed anyone with an internet connection to access the names and phone numbers of everyone who has bought medicines from every single such store, HuffPost has learnt.

This interface, discovered by security researcher Srinivas Kodali, contains thousands of pages of daily data and each order shows the Order ID, the Store Operator ID, Customer name, Customer phone number, details of the medicines, and the money paid.

This latest privacy breach, experts say, vividly illustrates how the head-long push to digitise everyday government processes has been accompanied by a blatant disregard for the privacy of citizens.

Andhra Pradesh’s careless indifference to the confidentiality of medical data acquires significance in the context of the draft Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA).

This act will enable the sharing of personal health records between patients, hospitals, and clinics. This means an exponential increase in the quantum of confidential data flowing between government departments, and private parties — raising the repercussions of future privacy breaches in every Indian state.

“Medications indicate the possible conditions a person or someone in their family may have,” said Pam Dixon, founder and executive director of the World Privacy Forum. “This information can be especially sensitive when employers gain access, or even just neighbours who learn of a sensitive condition.”

Medical conditions like AIDS and depression continue to carry a stigma in India; publishing such data, Dixon noted, could cause real harm.

“People who are discovered by employers to have serious medical conditions can be fired, children can be treated unfairly in school due to a past or current medical condition,” Dixon said. “People have quite literally been stalked and harmed as a direct result of inappropriate personal information disclosure.”


Leaky Pradesh

This is not the first time the Andhra Pradesh government has unwittingly exposed its residents by publishing their intimate details online.

In April this year, Huffington Post revealed that it’s possible to geolocate people in Andhra Pradesh by caste or religion down to their doorstep, allowing for the targeting of every minority family, in a state that has witnessed outbreaks of communal violence.

“This is an important issue because it is not the first time that something like this is happening in Andhra Pradesh,” said Kodali, the researcher who first spotted both leaks. “But no one is held accountable for the loss of privacy for citizens.”

Kodali said he wrote to the authorities when he discovered the vulnerabilities, but did not hear back from them.

HuffPost reached out to the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty, the agency responsible for the Anna Sanjivini programme, but they did not respond.

HuffPost also reached out to the Chief Minister’s Office Realtime Executive (CORE), whose dashboard leads to Anna Sanjivini. They locked down access to the site, but did not respond to HuffPost’s questions.

“Governments do collect a lot of data. But it is rare for a government to also expose the data about its citizens in such an open fashion, as there are substantial risks of multiple types of harms associated with this kind of broad, identifiable data release,” said Dixon, from the World Privacy Forum. “There are many risks with collecting the data. But there are far more risks with exposing the data to anyone with an Internet connection.”

Private Interests

While the Indian government drags its feet over drafting a robust data privacy law, private companies are already hoovering up personal information wherever they find it, even if they don’t quite know what to use it for.

For instance, a database of phone numbers, linked to the medicines purchased by the holder of that number — of the sort published by AP — can easily be leveraged by medical insurance companies looking to snoop on their clients before they sell them insurance.

“A couple of years ago, the election commission website had leaked people’s voter ID data,” said a Bengaluru-based start-up entrepreneur speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It was all just there district-wise as open PDF files.

“I wasn’t sure if it would be useful, but I wrote a scraper to download all the voter IDs anyway, in case we could find a use later. I also did a few e-commerce campaigns where we bought people’s data from brokers who had ‘acquired’ the data from IRCTC. I don’t know how they got that, but I’m guessing someone junior somewhere probably put in a USB drive and just copied everything.”


The Human Factor

“Whether it’s a massive cybersecurity incident or small-scale one, about 80 percent of them point to having been caused by human error,” said a representative from Kaspersky Lab, a multinational cybersecurity firm. “Even with the most secure systems, the human element can lead to leaks. So we go back to the people, the employees.”

“Educating the governmental staff on the motivations of security policies, the importance of working safely and how to contribute to the security of their organizations can help mitigate the risk of security incidents and safeguard what is truly important – their data,” the Kaspersky representative said.

KK Mookhey, the founder and CEO of Network Intelligence, a global cybersecurity company, agreed with this perspective.

“No system is fully secured and government systems don’t necessarily have the highest security levels in place always,” Mookhey said. “There’s always a chance that a highly motivated set of attackers can find their way around the best defences in the world.”

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The storm brewing in India’s cotton fields

Bt-cotton occupies 90 per cent of the land under cotton in India – and the pests that this GM variety was meant to safeguard against, are back, virulently and now pesticide-resistant – destroying crops and farmers


The black scars dotting the green bolls of a wilting cotton plant on Ganesh Wadandre’s farm carried a message for scientists working on the ‘white gold’: go find a new antidote.

“Those are the entry points,” said Wadandre, a five-acre farmer who is well regarded in Amgaon (Kh) village of Wardha district. The worm, he added, must have drilled into the boll from these points.

“If we crack it open, you’ll see a pink-worm devouring it from within,” he said, exuding nervousness and anger. As he cracked open the boll, a pink-coloured worm, less than a centimetre long, woke up twirling, as if to say ‘hi’. It had devoured the boll before the cotton’s white lint could form, leaving it worthless.

“A worm,” Wadandre, 42, said when I first met him in November 2017, “lays thousands of eggs and multiplies into millions of worms within days.”

Because the worm is inside the bolls, farmers cannot know of the hidden damage until the bolls burst. This can bring sudden shocks during the harvest and at the market yards, when the bollworm-damaged cotton fetches a much lower price.

Wadandre’s account spoke for cotton growers across Maharashtra, but especially in western Vidarbha’s cotton belt, through the winter of 2017-18, at the peak of the crop’s harvest. In this region, cotton is usually planted between July and August, and harvested from October to March.

Many hectares of cotton fields were devastated by swarming armies of the pink-worm. They caused damage not seen in 30 years. The fields around Wadandre’s farm bore the tell-tale signs of the pink-worm attack: black bolls, wilting and scarred, sprouting into dry blackened lint of poor quality and little worth.

It was this pest that drove the profuse and lethal use of pesticides from July to November 2017 across Maharashtra by farmers desperate to save their cotton crop, though they knew it would not decimate the pink-worm. (See Lethal pests, deadly sprays)

“No pesticide is useful for this,” Wadandre said. “It is that lethal. What’s the use of Bt-cotton now?”

A man in cotton farm


a man showing pest-infested boll of cotton


Ganesh Wadandre of Amgaon (Kh) examines pest-infested bolls on his farm: ‘No pesticide is useful for this. It is that lethal. What’s the use of Bt-cotton now?’ 

On an acre of his cotton field, irrigated from dug-well water, Wadandre could harvest 15 quintals of cotton on an average – this time, his yield was down to five quintals. Wadandre estimates he lost at least Rs. 50,000 per acre – for him, a staggering amount.

On rain-fed farms in the village, which do not have well irrigation, farmers could not harvest even three quintals of cotton this season. The state government has announced some compensation – around Rs. 10,000 a hectare for a maximum of two hectares. If Wadandre qualifies, he might get a bit of relief.

In January 2018, Maharashtra’s Department of Agriculture predicted a dip in cotton production and bales by 40 per cent, implicitly admitting to the large-scale pest-driven destruction. The state produces, annually, an average of 90 lakh bales of cotton (with 172 kilos of lint per bale). A quintal of cotton contains 34 kilos of lint, 65 kilos of cotton-seed (used for extracting oil, as well as de-oiled cake for cattle-feed) and a percentage of dirt or waste. In March 2018, one quintal of cotton was fetching Rs. 4,800-5,000 in Vidarbha’s markets.

India has about 130 lakh hectares under cotton in 2017-18, and reports from the states indicate that the pink-worm menace has been widespread in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. Gujarat, which was tormented by this worm two years ago, has partially addressed the problem by planting early-varieties of cotton so that the bulk of the crop is harvested before winter sets in, when the worm multiplies.

The Ministry of Agriculture of the government of India acknowledges the problem, but has rejected the demand from Maharashtra and other states to de-notify Bt-cotton – a move that will change its status to regular cotton since Bt’s efficacy has gone. (This in turn would impact seed prices, and seed companies’ royalties and profits, and will be covered in another story on PARI.) Instead, in July 2017, the Centre asked all the cotton-producing states to deal with the menace on their own “by involving various stakeholders.”

The return of the pink-worm

The return of the pink-worm first set alarm bells ringing in 2015. That year, the Indian cotton research establishment was deeply worried about the “breakdown” of the genetically modified (GM) Bt-cotton technology. Reports had come in from the field of the return of the pink bollworm on crops in all major cotton-growing states, including Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Though the pink pest had first showed up sporadically on Bt-cotton in 2010, in November 2015 farmers in Gujarat reported a massive bollworm infestation on their cotton crop. The inch-long worm, chewing the boll from inside, looked in the pink of health, signalling the breakdown of this potent and expensive GM cotton – that was meant to combat infestation by that very worm.

In the last week of November 2015, a farmer in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district plucked a few cotton bolls from a plant on her field and cracked them open for a team of visiting cotton experts to see what lay inside. “She was very angry,” recalled Dr. Keshav Kranthi, the principle scientist who led that team, when I interviewed him in February 2016. Dr. Kranthi was then the director of the country’s apex Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, and is currently the director (technical) at the Washington-based International Cotton Advisory Committee.

The farmer’s anger was triggered by her imminent losses: the small but menacing pest had eaten into her cotton yield as well as its quality. But the scientists, aghast to see that the pink coloured worms had devoured the green cotton bolls from inside, were worried for reasons beyond that.

Farmer spraying pesticide in the cotton farm


The worm on the cotton ball


The virulent return of the bollworm sparked lethal spraying of pesticides last year. Right: the worm leaves tell-tale destructive scars on the cotton bolls

Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders), popularly known as the pink bollworm, had made a comeback in India after three decades – and with a vengeance. It was feasting on bollguard-II Bt-cotton bolls, the all-powerful second-generation GM cotton hybrids that were meant to build resistance to the worm. It was also a hint, as Kranthi had feared, that the American bollworm (so named because of its antecedents) might also eventually return (though so far, it hasn’t).

The pink-worm (presumed by the CICR and cotton researchers to be of India-Pakistan origin), and American bollworms were among the most lethal pests that troubled India’s cotton farmers in the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1990s, because of these pests, new pesticides were introduced for high yielding hybrid seeds. In the late 1990s, when Bt-cotton was introduced in India – with the Bt gene in hybrid seeds – it was supposed to be an answer to both types of pests.

But by the 2015-16 season, acres and acres of cotton crop were again affected by the pink bollworm, reducing yields at the time by an estimated 7-8 per cent, the CICR’s field studies showed.

The pink bollworm’s larva feeds only on a few crops such as cotton, okra, hibiscus and jute. It lays eggs on flowers, young bolls, axils, petioles and the undersides of young leaves. The young larvae penetrate the ovaries of flowers or young bolls within two days of hatching. The larvae turn pink in 3-4 days and their shade depends on the food they eat – dark pink results from eating maturing seeds. The affected bolls either open prematurely or they rot. Fibre qualities such as length and strength are lowered. The cotton lint in the infested bolls can get a secondary fungal infection too.

The pest spreads from the seed cotton carried to market yards. The pink bollworm generally arrives with the onset of winter and continues to survive on the crop as long as flowers and bolls are available. Long duration cotton allows the pest to thrive for a longer period in multiple cycles, thereby also affecting the subsequent crop. In the absence of a host crop, this pest is genetically conditioned to hibernate or diapause; this allows it to be dormant for 6-8 months, until the next season.

Anxiety and no alternatives

By May 2016, following CICR reports that bollworms are back in the saddle, the anxiety was evident at two high-level meetings in New Delhi of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and the Indian Council of Scientific Research (ICSR), the country’s main agriculture and science research institutions. Officials discussed if any public sector projects on GM crops were likely to provide alternatives anytime soon.

No other new GM cotton technology – by either the Indian public sector or the private sector – is due for commercial approval after trials until 2020. The public sector so far has no presence in the GM seeds markets, though some of the agriculture institutions are working on GM research on various crops, including maize, soyabeans, brinjal and paddy.

In the ICAR-ICSR meetings, scientists pondered over the options to control the bollworms. “The best long-term strategy for India is to grow short-duration Bt-cotton hybrids or varieties that don’t last beyond January,” Kranthi had told this reporter in 2016. That would negate bollworms, because they attack the cotton mainly in winter. But most Indian seed companies produce Bt-hybrids that perform better in the long-duration.

And that year, the intensity of the assault on the crop was less than it has been in 2017-18.

Rotten cotton on the tree


Wilting cotton plants and frayed bolls during the harvest in the winter of 2017-18, when Wadandre expected a bumper yield but ran into the pink-worm

Bt-cotton breaks down

“The much-touted technology [Bt-cotton or BG-I and its second generation BG-II] has broken down,” Kranthi told me in 2016. “It means farmers would now have to adjust to less-potent BG-I and BG-II technologies [in GM seeds] and go back to using insecticides to control bollworms, other than containing a set of other pests.”

Bt-cotton gets its name from bacillus thuringiensis, a soil-dwelling bacterium. The Bt seed contains cry (crystal) genes derived from the bacterium and inserted into the cotton plant genome (the genetic material of the cell) to provide protection against the bollworm.

Bt-cotton was meant to control the bollworm. But farmers will now find the worms surviving in Bt-cotton fields, Kranthi wrote in a series of essays in industry magazines and on his own CICR blog. Neither the ICAR nor the Union Agriculture Ministry seemed alert to the potential devastation at the time. The state and central government have since been aware of the extent of pink-worm devastation, but have not come up with a solution.

The American seed biotech multinational Monsanto has a virtual monopoly over India’s Bt-cotton seed market. The Indian government approved the release and sale of Bt-cotton in 2002-03. Monsanto, the technology provider, ‘transferred the technology’ to Indian seed companies at about 20 per cent royalty on every seed bag sold. The ostensible aims were to reduce the use of pesticides and increase the productivity of cotton – GM technology was promoted as a panacea for both purposes.

In the first year, a 400 grams bag of Bt-cotton hybrid seeds cost Rs. 1,800. Subsequently, the central and state governments stepped in to control the royalty or trait price and thereby the price of Bt-cotton seeds. Still, in the early years, while the cost of Bt-cotton seeds became roughly Rs. 1,000 for a 400 grams bag, Monsanto’s royalty remained 20 per cent of the retail price, according to seed market observers. The Indian Bt-cotton seed market, Dr. Kranthi wrote in 2016,  is estimated to be worth Rs. 4,800 crores.

The global business of Bt-cotton is spread on 226 lakh hectares, of which only 160 lakh hectares is open to private technology providers. In 2014-15, Bt-cotton in India occupied 115 lakh hectares. In 2006-7, Monsanto released BG-II hybrids, saying the new technology was more potent, more durable. These slowly replaced BG-I. And by now, BG-II hybrids occupy over 90 per cent of the around 130 lakh hectares under cotton in the country, according to government estimates.

The bollguard BG-II technology, which involves introducing Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab genes from the bacillus thuringiensis into cotton plants, is claimed to build resistance against three pests: American bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), pink bollworm and spotted bollworm (Earias vittella). The first generation hybrids, or Bt-cotton, contained only one Cry1Ac gene in the seeds.

All along, Dr. Kranthi wrote in another essay, there has been no roadmap for the sustainable use of Bt technology in India, in consonance with ecology and environment. At least six different Bt-events were approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Ministry of Environment, without any event-specific plans devised for their sustainability.

A gene in the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produces a protein that acts as a bollworm-resistant toxin. Scientists develop gene constructs that can be transferred to cotton seeds so the plants can resist bollworms. This is GM cotton. When such a gene construct takes its position on a chromosome of the plant genome, it is called an ‘event’.

But the warnings were never taken seriously, even when resistance issues were pointed out, Kranthi wrote. Resistance is an evolutionary process. In agriculture, insect resistance is said to have developed when previously effective techniques are no longer controlling the target pest. Instead, more than a thousand hybrid Bt-cotton variations by private companies in India – crossing Bt events with their own seeds – were approved within just four to five years, he wrote, creating chaos for agronomy and pest management. As a result, the Indian cotton farmer’s inability to manage pests will keep growing.

Women working in cotton farm


A man with cotton in hand


Labourers on Wadandre’s forlon cotton field said the pink-worm infestation made plucking lint from the bolls very difficult, and the quality was also poor

In 2017, India saw a massive planting of herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton seeds. HT-cotton is Monsanto’s new cotton seed. It’s not yet cleared by the government for commercial sale, but seed companies and unregistered firms have already sold these seeds to farmers. However, HT-cotton seeds are not an antidote to the bollworm or other pests. The cotton plant that grows out of such seeds is supposed to resist chemicals used to kill weeds and wild herbs, without affecting the cotton plants.

Now, in 2018, Dr. Kranthi’s warnings have come true. When the first reports of pink bollworm infestation surfaced in Gujarat in 2010, it was in a very small area and on BG-I cotton. Between 2012 and 2014, it spread to a large area on BG-II.

In the 2015-16 season, surveys conducted by CICR showed that the survival of the pink bollworm larvae on BG-II was significantly higher across Gujarat and the pest had developed resistance to Cry1Ac, Cry2Ab, and Cry1Ac+Cry2Ab (three different variants), particularly in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.

Farmers were already using insecticides to contain the pink bollworm in addition to other insects, mainly sucking pests. The damage, according to the CICR’s extensive field surveys in December 2015, was more in the green bolls for second and third pickings – white cotton is picked by farmers from bolls as they come to flowering in stages spanning four, sometimes, five months, October through March.

The CICR’s studies came up with several factors for the resurgence of pink bollworm and failure of BG-II. Among others: cultivation of long duration hybrids that serve as continuous hosts of the pink bollworm.

Dr. Kranthi says Bt-cotton in India should have been released in open pollinated varieties (or straight-line desi cotton), not in hybrids. India is the only country to have permitted Bt genes to be impregnated in the hybrid varieties instead of straight-line – the farmers need not buy seeds from the market again if they plant straight-line varieties, but with hybrids, they have to buy the seeds every year.

“BG-II should not have been approved in long duration hybrids,” he said. “We did exactly the opposite.”

The return of the pink bollworm and the damage it caused to the farmers in the last three years has pitched Indian cotton-seed companies, around 50 of them, against Monsanto, from whom they had sourced the BG-I and BG-II cotton technology. At least 46 companies refused to pay royalty to Monsanto in 2016-17 – but that is a different story.

There is no new GM technology in sight now or in the near future that promises to replace BG-II. Neither is any technology available for more effective insecticides. India is in deep trouble on its fields of cotton, a crop that occupies vast stretches of land and creates millions of workdays in rural India.


Wadandre abandoned his initially promising cotton crop in January 2018. ‘… this year is devastating’, he said

‘I might flatten my farm soon’

In Amgaon (Kh) village, Wadandre – the beleaguered cotton farmer – abandoned his crop in January 2018. The plucking costs, he told me, would overrun the money he might have got by selling the battered cotton. “You see these plants – it looks as if these would give me a bumper yield. But this year is devastating,” he said, walking through rows of tall and robust plants that needed to be supported by bamboo sticks to hold them straight.

Many of cotton farmers in Maharashtra, after another disastrous season, flattened their plants when much of the cotton remained un-harvested. Some in Yavatmal district ran bulldozers on the standing crop, others just abandoned the cotton in distress and disgust as the worms swarmed over large swathes of the snowy white fields.

The harvesting period came not long after many accidentally inhaled pesticides in western Vidarbha: about 50 farmers died, about a thousand took seriously ill, some of them lost their eyes in July-November 2017.

As the winter peaked in January – a time the pink-worm relishes – the cotton peasantry stood shattered by the impending losses.

When I met Wadandre in January, he said, “I might flatten my farm soon,” showing us the bolls tormented by the tiny but lethal pest. I had met him twice before, but this time around, the bolls looked more completely devastated by the pink-worm than on the previous occasions. No amount of pesticides will help tame the worm, since it bores into the bolls and protects itself from chemical sprays, and multiplies really fast, he said.

Wadandre’s worries speak of a storm brewing in India’s cotton fields.

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Australia -Biometrics project scrapped after massive delays and budget blowouts

Image: getty

A project to introduce fingerprint and facial recognition technology across the country has been scrapped, after massive cost blowouts and delays.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) inked a $46 million deal with tech company NEC Australia in 2016 to expand the nation’s fingerprint database to include other biometric information, such as facial recognition and footprints.

But the project has been hampered by missed deadlines and overspends of millions of dollars.

“The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has decided to discontinue the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) project,” ACIC chief executive Mike Phelan said in a statement.

“This decision was taken in light of project delays.”

Mr Phelan also confirmed the commission had asked the National Audit Office to investigate the management of the project.

“The ACIC is committed to delivering projects that enhance capability for our law enforcement partners,” Mr Phelan said.

“As part of this approach we regularly review the scope, expected benefits and ongoing feasibility of our projects.”

NEC Australia said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision to dump the project, and launched a spirited defence of its work.

“NEC has worked closely with the ACIC to deliver the BIS project and have clearly demonstrated to the ACIC that we already have a high quality solution that will meet their needs,” the company said in a statement.

“It is important to note that the ACIC terminated the contract under the ‘termination for convenience’ clause, and not because NEC had been in breach of its obligations.

“The termination for convenience clause allows government departments and agencies to terminate a contract, regardless of whether or not the contractor has committed a default or breach of that contract.”

NEC said it had a strong reputation around the world for its work in biometrics.

The Federal Government has continually spruiked its aim to become a world leader in digital transformation, but the Opposition has pointed to this project as being just one example among many of serious failures in administration.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has just announced its decision to discontinue the Biometric Identifiaction Services (BIS) project, citing delays as the cause.

This announcement comes after the project was suspended earlier this month and NEC Australia staff were escorted out of the building by security on Monday June 4.

Here is the full statement from Michael Phelan, the Chief Executive Officer of the ACIC:

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has decided to discontinue the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) project. This decision was taken in light of project delays.

The contract with NEC Australia to deliver the BIS project has today been terminated. The project was suspended by mutual agreement on 4 June 2018 while commercial negotiations were ongoing. NEC Australia was contracted to deliver the capability in April 2016.

The Australian National Audit Office is conducting an audit into the project as requested by the ACIC in February 2018. The ACIC is committed to delivering projects that enhance capability for our law enforcement partners. As part of this approach we regularly review the scope, expected benefits and ongoing feasibility of our projects.

The ACIC is committed to providing national criminal information and intelligence services, including fingerprint data, to more than 70,000 police officers and other accredited users on a daily basis, to keep them and the Australian community safe.

ACIC contracted the NEC for the $52 million Biometric Identification Services project with the view of replacing the fingerprint identification system that is currently in place. The aim of the project, which was supposed to run until 2021, was to include palm print, foot prints and facial recognition to aid in police investigations.

The Australian government stated that it wanted to provide Australians with a single digital identity by 2025. However Innovation Aus reported that the project is said to have been roughly $40 million over budget and returning a large amount of false positives.

At this time it’s unclear if the project will be revisited in another form in the future, or if its termination will impact on the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) biometric projectwhich received over $90 million in this year’s federal budget announcement.

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India – Fake News Websites Active During Karnataka Polls Vanish

Fake news websites that came up overnight during the months of March to May have now gone offline. One of them now hosts a paying guest accommodation site

The slew of websites that cropped up during the Karnataka election have either gone offline or changed course to show non-political content. These websites that peddled political propaganda had come into existence around March 2018, posting inflammatory content, with most of them mocking Congress party and Rahul Gandhi.


One of these websites, Bengaluru times which earlier looked like this – is now a website listing paying guest accomodations in the city called MIA Rooms and looks like this  –



We called the contact number given for Mia Rooms and spoke to Rajesh Reddy, one of the partners in the firm. Reddy said that his partner Nagaraj G bought the domain from GoDaddy about a week ago and they are unaware of the earlier existence of the website.


Several other websites like Bengaluru Mirror (, Express Bangalore ( and Voice of Bengaluru ( now have dead urls. The website names lifted from names of leading newspapers in the city to mislead readers, focused on posting stories in favour of the BJP.


BOOM had investigated one of these websites Bangalore Herald on May 2, 2018 and found it to be a fake news website. The website had published a survey favouring the BJP using the name of a fictitious agency C-Force that sounded similar to a genuine Gurugram-based polling agency called C-Fore.


When we had looked at the website, it became clear that the site had been created recently. We looked on and found that the site was created in the month of March with a fake US phone number. The site earlier existed as a one-page site with no menu bar or an ‘About Us’ section. The stories on the page were redirected to popular news websites like The Times of India, Economic Times, with the selection of stories clearly showing the ruling Congress establishment in poor light. The site is now dead and cannot be reached.


Fake News Websites

Bangalore Herald website before and after Karnataka polls


The day BOOM reported the story on May 2, search results for  were being re-directed to Bharat Positive continues to exist and publishes pro-BJP stories in Hindi and have paid special attention on the Gandhi family through articles and videos. When we searched for this site on, it had an India cellphone number which showed up on Truecaller as one Mukul Jindal. We had called Jindal who denied any link with the website. He claimed that while he is a software engineer by profession and works for a fin-tech company, he had never heard of the website Bharat Positive and was not aware why his contact number had been given on the website.


These news websites were also connected to a Facebook page called Karnataka Election Updates. BOOM had exposed this page for running a series of fake stories claiming that a poll agency titled CDS – LOKNITI had conducted a survey in each assembly constituency of Karnataka and the results declared a whopping win to the Bharatiya Janata Party. On our last search, we found that the page had stopped updating post May 11, with the urls to the fake websites mentioned above leading to dead links.


Karnataka Elections

Screenshot of Karnataka Election Updates page on Facebook



A search of the domain registration details of these websites show that all of them came into existence in the month of March 2018 and some of them were created on the same date too. They further show that the registration listed country is United States and the details were made private. Soon after the election results brought the Congress-JDS alliance to power despite BJP emerging as the single largest party, the websites stopped posting content and went offline.  


A senior police officer who has been credited for making Bangalore city police active on Twitter said that these kind of websites are formed with the sole purpose of distributing news before elections. “Just like some channels and cable news channels are formed and do only one sided news and mysteriously are never heard from after elections – these websites function the same way. In this day and age it is very important for every police department’s IT cell to keep an eye out for such websites and ensure that they are taken down if not verified by the relevant authorities,” the police officer said.


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