Supreme Court exposes complicity of Congress and opposition parties on 12 digits Biometric Aadhaar/UID Number

 States must withdraw from MoUs they signed with UIDAI

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manifestoes of political parties must make their stand clear on
scrapping of Biometric Identification ahead of elections

Negative coalition of bankers and surveillance technology companies
rearing its heads against citizens’ rights

Supreme Court has exposed the ulterior motives
behind ‘voluntary’ 12 digits Biometric Aadhaar/ Unique Identification
(UID) Number for creating a Central Identities Data Registry (CIDR) of
‘usual residents’ of India and for “doing government process
re-engineering” through its order dated September 23, 2013. The
questionable intentions of Planning Commission’s Unique Identification
Authority of India (UIDAI) face yet another legal and constitutional
scrutiny. UIDAI has failed in the earlier examinations. Indian
National Congress, non-Congress parties and the opposition parties
appear complicit in the unconstitutional, illegal and illegitimate
exercise because they failed to demand its scrapping and maintained
silence when in breach of trust Congress ruled states and centre
attempted to make it mandatory.

It may be recollected that Punjab and Haryana High Court bench headed
by Chief Justice A K Sikri passed an order on March 2, 2013 after
hearing a matter challenging a circular making Aadhaar mandatory. The
moment Court raised questions of laws, the circular was withdrawn by
the central government. The decision underlined that UIDAI is legally
assailable and indefensible.

UIDAI and related projects treats every Indian as a subject of
surveillance unlike UK which abandoned a similar project (that used to
be cited by Wipro Ltd in promotion of UID) because it is “untested,
unreliable and unsafe technology” and the” possible risk to the safety
and security of citizens.” It was recorded by Parliamentary Standing
Committee (PSC) on Finance that submitted a report to both the Houses
of Parliament on December 13, 2011 trashing the biometric
identification project and the post facto legislation to legalize
UIDAI and its acts of omission and commission since January 28, 2009
till the passage of The National Identification Authority of India
Bill, 2010. Notably, UK Home Secretary explained that they were
abandoning the project because it would otherwise be ‘intrusive
bullying’ by the state, and that the government intended to be the
‘servant’ of the people, and not their ‘master’.

The silence of Wipro Ltd which had prepared the ‘Strategic Vision on
the UIDAI Project’ document and submitted to the processes committee
of the Planning Commission set up in July 2006 is deafening. This
document too seems to be missing from public domain.

Supreme Court order vindicates the Punjab and Haryana High Court
order, PSC report and the Statement of Concern dated September 28,
2010 issued by 17 eminent citizens including Justice VR Krishna Iyer,
Prof Romila Thapar, SR Sankaran, Justice AP Shah, KG Kannabiran,
Bezwada Wilson, Aruna Roy and Prof Upendra Baxi seeking halting of the
project. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Subordinate
Legislation is also seized with the compliant on “Subordinate
Legislation for Biometric Identity Card NRIC and Aadhhar/UID IS
illegal & illegitimate and Constitutional, Legal, Historical &
Technological Reasons Against UID/Aadhaar Scheme on 18.3.2013.”

State Governments especially those ruled by non-Congress party are so
deaf they do not seem to hear even when the verdict shouts. In the
aftermath of Supreme Court’s order State Governments must withdraw
from the MoU they signed with UIDAI.

All the non-Congress ruled States are opposed to National Counter
Terrorism Centre (NCTC) citing erosion of State’s autonomy but quite
strangely so far they have failed to see the link between CIDR,
National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Counter Terrorism
Centre (NCTC) and Sam Pitroda’s Public Information Infrastructure and
Innovations (PIII) which are part of the same political culture that
leaves intelligence agencies beyond the ambit of legislative scrutiny.

The entire issue is quite grave because the genocidal idea of
biometric identification is linked with the holocaust witnessed in
Germany. Such identification exercises have rightly been abandoned in
UK, Australia, China, USA and France.  Notably, Nandan Nilekani has
admitted, “To answer the question about what is the biggest risk” of
centralized database of biometric identification, he said “in some
sense, you run the risk of creating a single point of failure also” in
his talk at the World Bank in Washington on April 24, 2013. No one
knows who would be held legally liable for such failures. Who is being
held accountable for leakage of data from UIDAI at present?

Notably, World Bank’s President who introduced Nilekani at the lecture
expressed his patronage for the project. It is not surprising given
the fact that essentially it is part of its eTransform Initiative
launched in April 2010 for 14 developing countries in partnership with
transnational companies like L1, IBM and governments of France and
South Korea.

It is the inevitability of such failure that led to the extermination
of a large human population in Germany in the 1940s. In the case of
CIDR and linked initiatives it is not the failure instead convergence
of data, tracking, profiling, tagging and the violation of norms of
privacy is embedded in its design.  Nilekani explained at his lecture
at the Bank, “First of all, this is not an ID card project. There is
no card. There is a number. It’s a virtual number on the cloud, and we
don’t give a physical card. We do send you a physical letter with your
number, which you keep in your pocket, but the real value of this is
the number on the cloud”. The biometric number is an identifier which
is used to “authenticate” and verify whether or not the person is what
the person claims to be. The ridiculous thing about the Congressmen in
general and supporters of the project in particular is that they do
not even know as to what is aadhaar? On January 31, 2013, it came to
light that members of Union Cabinet were unaware as whether it is a
number or a card. Instead of facing the issue upfront, a Group of
Ministers was set up to resolve it but no one knows whether it has
been resolved.

It also reflects how undemocratic Indian National Congress is. The
decision to impose biometric aadhaar number was autocratically and
unilaterally decided without taking consent from even its own party
members who are then expected to defend this indefensible project.
Nilekani has misguided the party in this regard.

Almost five years of advertising and marketing by UIDAI with help of a
negative coalition of bankers, biometric technology companies and a
section of mainstream media that holds rights of citizens in contempt
created an illusion among the uninformed citizenry that what
pre-existing 15 identity proofs could not do, this illegitimate and
illegal biometric identifier will be able to do.

The advocates and supporters of biometric identification who are part
of the negative coalition that unconditionally and blindly supports
linking of fish baits for trapping the poor in the biometric database
are game for turning the all the Indians into guniea pigs for an
experiment that has resulted in incineration of human beings in the
past.  The fact of this experimentation is revealed from what Nandan
Nilekani said in his speech at the Centre for Global Development,
Washington. He said, “Our view was that there was bound to be
opposition. That is a given…we said in any case there is going to be a
coalition of opponents. So is there a way to create a positive
coalition of people who have a stake in its success? So, one of the
big things here is that there is a huge coalition of, you know,
organisations, governments, banks, companies, others who have a stake
now in its future. So, create a positive coalition that has the power
to overpower or deal with anyone who opposes it.” Positive coalition
of progressive political parties, peoples’ movements and informed
citizens must expose the collaborators of undemocratic biometric
technology companies, bankers and NGOs and give a befitting reply to
them. They lost in UK, Australia, China, France and USA; they will
lose in India too.

Nilekani’s method of reasoning is a case study, he says, “We came to
the conclusion that if we take sufficient data, biometric data of an
individual, then that person’s biometric will be unique across a
billion people. Now we have to find that out. We haven’t done it yet.
So we’ll discover it as we go along” on April 23, 2013. At his lecture
at World Bank on April 24, 2013, he said, “nobody has done this
before, so we are going to find out soon whether it will work or not”.
No one can tell as to what is his premise and what is the inference or
how is inference is deduced from the premise he has articulated.

Notably, the Strategy Overview document of the UIDAI said that
“enrolment will not be mandated” but added, “This will not, however,
preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrolment”. It must
be noted that Nandan Nilekani headed several committees whose
recommendations made Aadhaar mandatory.

Tricked by the marketing blitzkrieg, some political parties are wary
of taking a position that would appear to be against pro-poor schemes
not realizing that come what may the real beneficiary of this
biometric identification is UIDAI which wants to meet its target of 60
crores of Indians by 2014.

Amidst leakage of files from the Prime Minister’s office and leakage
of public money in scam after scams in the Indian National Congress
led Government, the claim of attempting to reduce leakage in the
system by using questionable plumbers like Nilekani does not inspire
even an iota of confidence. Nilekani admitted at his lecture the
Centre for Global Development in Washington in April 2013 that UIDAI
has “created huge opportunity for fingerprint scanners, iris readers”.
The purchase of these machines with money is also a leakage that
merits probe. Leakage can be plugged by rigorous implementation of
Right to Information Act and decentralization of decision making
instead of adopting a centralization approach and technological quick

The entire Indian and international media was taken for a ride
regarding a so called turf war between the Ministry of Home Affairs
and UIDAI which media was made to understand that got resolved by
diving the Indian population in two parts of 61 crore and 60 crore for
coverage under National Population Register (NPR) which also generates
Aadhaar number and UIDAI. The fact is the terms of reference of the
UIDAI mandated it “take necessary steps to ensure collation of
National Population Register (NPR) with UID (as per approved
strategy)”, to “identify new partner/user agencies”, to “issue
necessary instructions to agencies that undertake creation of
databases… (to) enable collation and correlation with UID and its
partner databases” and UIDAI “shall own and operate the database”. The
executive notification dated January 28, 2009 that set up UIDAI
mentions this. The entire exercise appears to have been stage managed.

Nilekani has recommended Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for the
“unique identification” of vehicles. If the real motive is not
surveillance then how is that UIDAI Chairman wears several hats like
an intelligence person to undertake unauthorized and illegitimate

On June 29, 2013, Nilekani reportedly revealed that they were in
preliminary discussions with embassies to use the UID number to
“simplify visa application procedures”. Isn’t passport a sovereign
document? Notably, Nilekani refers to Aadhaar as akin to internal
passport. For passport, there is Passport Act, under what Act is this
‘internal passport’ being promoted?

Supreme Court order must be looked at in the light of what of
Government of India’s approach paper on privacy states. It says, “Data
privacy and the need to protect personal information is almost never a
concern when data is stored in a decentralised manner. Data that is
maintained in silos is largely useless outside that silo and
consequently has a low likelihood of causing any damage.  However, all
this is likely to change with the implementation of the UID Project.
One of the inevitable consequences of the UID Project will be that the
UID Number will unify multiple databases. As more and more agencies of
the government sign on to the UID Project, the UID Number will become
the common thread that links all those databases together. Over time,
private enterprise could also adopt the UID Number as an identifier
for the purposes of the delivery of their services or even for
enrolment as a customer. Once this happens, the separation of data
that currently exists between multiple databases will vanish.” On this
ground alone, the project should be abandoned as it concerns not only
the present generation but future generations as well.

It is noteworthy that Attorney General of India had submitted to the
Parliamentary Committee that UIDAI will function only till the passage
of the UID Bill. The Bill was not passed. Now the UIDAI should seize
to exist because it is legally invalid. How can a notification of
Planning Commission be deemed legally valid when even the ordinance
issued by the President of India become invalid if the Bill is not
passed within six months.

Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) has been pursuing a campaign
against the biometric based Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar
Number, National Population Register (NPR), National Intelligence Grid
(NATGRID), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Radio Frequency
Identification (RFID) and Direct Cash Transfer since 2010. It had
appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that
trashed the UID Bill on December 13, 2011 in its report to the
Parliament. It was an applicant before the National Human Rights
Commission (NHRC), which in an order date December 27, 2012 addressed
to Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs communicated human rights
concerns regarding UID and RFID submitted to it by CFCL. CFCL is an
applicant before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Subordinate
Legislation. CFCL is also an applicant before the Press Council of
India on the complicity of some media organizations in the matter of
enrolment for legally questionable biometric identification.

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