The vision statement of Aadhaar states: “use of UID to speed up certain businesses, especially in the insurance and credit sectors, may eliminate the need for private sector to set-up parallel identification systems leading to improved efficiency in delivery of their services and a reduction in identity-related frauds in the service delivery”
Supreme Court bench of Dr Justice BS Chauhan and Justice SA Bobde heard the case against 12-digit Aadhaar/ unique identification (UID) number for biometric profiling on 26 November 2013. The next date of hearing is on 10 December 2013. Raj Pal Singh, director, Planning Commission has filed the counter affidavit in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 833 of 2013 (Aruna Roy Vs Union of India providing the backdrop of the establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It is evident from the counter affidavit that it is directed towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and attempts to underline in the Court that there is bipartisan support for UID/ Aadhaar number project.
The counter affidavit argues that UIDAI was set up in furtherance of the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Reforming the National Security System were accepted by the BJP-led government besides the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee and the amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 notified on 7 January 2004. GoM under the chairmanship of LK Advani also included the Defence Minister, External Affairs Minister and Finance Minister. The report was submitted to PM on 26 February 2001. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had considered the GOM report on 11 May 2001.
The counter affidavit based on inputs from Census Commissioner-cum-Registrar General of India, National Population Register (NPR), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) underlines that “the need for creation of a credible citizen database having a system secure form of personal identification of individuals has acquired importance due to a variety of reasons which include:
a) changing security scenario in the country, (b) realisation for better targeting of services and benefits under different schemes of government, and c) increasing identity frauds.”
It refers to the ‘provision for a secure “cyber-space” for creation of NPR, handling and transmission of data between the local service centers and national data centers” which was presented to the Committee of Secretaries (COS) in October 2006. The studied silence of the counter affidavit about how “secure cyber-space” has turned out to be a myth in the post Wikileaks and in post-Snowden era is quite stark.
Chronologically, it is revealed that “the concept of a unique identification was first discussed in 2006 when administrative approval for the project – ‘Unique ID for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families” was given on 3 March 2006 by the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.” A Processes Committee under Planning Commission was set up on 3 July 2006 to suggest processes for creation for the “core database”.
The counter affidavit states that COS was “apprised about the Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme of the Department of Information Technology (DIT) for creation of a residents’ database based on the electoral rolls database of Election Commission of India...”. It adds that the rest of the population (was to) be covered during Census 2011 to prepare National Population Register (NPR).
The fourth meeting of EGoM to collate two schemes- National Population Register (NPR/MNC) under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Unique Identification Number (UID) project of the Department of Information Technology (DIT) held on 4 November 2008 at 162, Committee Room, South Block. MNC stands for Multi-purpose National Identity Card based on NPR, which was envisaged during the tenure of BJP-led government. As per the minutes of the meeting, chairman of the EGoM, Pranab Mukherjee, the then Minister of External Affairs concluded that “It also needs to be appreciated that the whole exercise being technology based and system driven, there is immense scope far outsourcing the data collation and validation work and other tasks to expert agencies in the public or private sector through a transparent process while retaining requisite control over sovereign functions.”
In the context, he mentioned the Passport Seva Project where retaining the sovereign functions within government (MEA) rest of the infrastructure, management and software development functions have been outsourced through a transparent process to private sector. Mukherjee stated that the UID project is unique in that the organization (UIDAI) has to work in close collaboration with large number of institutions and agencies both within and outside the government and will take at least five years to stabilize. The government at that time may need to take a fresh view particularly in light of further advancements in technology. This keeps the door open for DNA based identification.
A 14-page long document titled ‘Strategic Vision: Unique Identification of Residents’ prepared by Wipro Ltd and submitted to the Processes Committee has finally emerged. Its vision statement reads: “Creating a unique identification system of all residents in the country for efficient, transparent, reliable and effective delivery of various welfare and private services to the common person.” The cover page of the document mentions National Institute for Smart Government, DIT and Wipro Consulting. The ‘Strategic Vision on the UIDAI Project’ of Wipro Ltd, the consultant for the design phase and program management phase of the pilot UIDAI project. It envisaged the close linkage that the UIDAI would have to the electoral database. On 4 December 2006, the Prime Minister constituted an E-GoM comprising of Shivraj V Patil, Minister of Home Affairs, A Raja, Minister of Communications & Information Technology under the Chairmanship of Pranab Mukherjee, the then Minister of External Affairs. Doesn’t the presence of Raja as a member of EGoM and as the minister-in-charge of DIT which is/ was responsible for UID make the entire exercise tainted and create a rationale for re-visiting DIT’s proposal advanced in 2006 before the COS?
At the first meeting of the EGoM on 7 November 2007, “the need for creating an identity related resident database and identify and establish and institutional mechanism that will “own” the database and will be responsible for its maintenance and updating on an ongoing basis post its creation was recognized.” The proposal of UIDAI was approved on 28 January 2008. Pursuant to a meeting held on 25 January 2012 under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, “UIDAI was allowed to enroll 60 crore number by EFC which was formally approved by the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI in its meeting on 27 January 2012.” The fact remains Prime Minister is yet to reveal whether he and his family members have enrolled for biometric UID/ Aadhaar number.
Earlier, Prime Minister’s Council on UIDAI constituted on 30 July 2009 under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister held its first meeting on 12 August 2009 after Nandan Nilekani assumed charge as the chairperson in the rank and status of a cabinet minister. After that a Cabinet Committee on UIDAI was constituted on 22 October 2009. In a related development, Goolam E Vahanavati, Attorney General for India gave his written opinion on 6 August 2011 stating, “I do not consider the issuance of Aadhaar numbers to be a violation of right to privacy contained in Article 21 of the Constitution.” Wipro Ltd, Consultant of Planning Commission as part of a section titled ‘Implementation challenges’ refers to the issue of Transparency vs. right to privacy. The basic premise for the success of UID is the concept of “one owner, many users”, according to the document. But as of now the fact is that there are multiple owners of the database both inside and outside the government.
Notably, Wipro, the Consultant of Planning Commission states that “It is envisaged that, in the long term, UID would transform into being a de facto identifier for all residents of the country.” Its document states that “Importantly, statutory backing would be required for the adoption of UID by residents, Government departments, its agencies and the private sector in the long term. But as of now UID is conceptualized as de facto identifier and not a de jure identifier. This document has a section “Benefits to private/NGO Sector” wherein it states that “Private sector would be able to leverage the resident identification infrastructure and in turn, contribute to effective development activities, Use UID to speed up certain businesses, especially in the insurance and credit sectors, may eliminate the need for private sector to set-up parallel identification systems leading to improved efficiency in delivery of their services and a reduction in identity-related frauds in the service delivery.” Why this Congress led Government so obsessed with ensuring benefits for private/NGO sector using citizens’ personal sensitive information?
Ravi Shankar Prasad, member of Parliament, (MP), general secretary and chief spokesperson, BJP issued a statement on behalf of the party dated 21 January 2012 on the subject of “UID & National Security”? The question is did he carefully read the report of the Yashwant Sinha headed Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance that was submitted to both the Houses of Parliament in December 2011. It appears that he and his party has not done so. Had it done so it would have realized that “preparation of Unique Identification Number (UID) (Aadhaar) being prepared by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)” itself is legally and constitutionally questionable. BJP maintains a deafening silence over the issue of illegal and illegitimate biometric data collection. This was an issue categorically raised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee and its Prime Ministerial candidate. Arun Jaitely also raised deep concerns about privacy in Aadhaar era in writing.
BJP has asked the Indian National Congress led Government as to ‘What is the “Sanctity and integrity of the data” being collected by the UIDAI?’ Will a solemn reply by the Government stating that the “sanctity and integrity” of data in general and biometric data in particular being collected is being taken care assure and satisfy the principal opposition party? Is it looking for merely an assurance? Why is it choosing to be complicit about the illegality of biometric profiling as has been pointed out by the Parliamentary Committee? Will it continue with the illegality if it wins the 2014 elections? Its silence in this regard is quite glaring.
Why is BJP mixing up the issue of “National Register of Indian Citizens” and the identification of residents of India as proposed by biometric Aadhaar/ UID? The principal opposition party appears convinced about a need for a centralized database of citizens’ sensitive personal for “National Security”.
In its affidavit on UID/ Aadhaar number based biometric identification, the Congress-led Government has trapped the main opposition party in a political trap by paraphrasing what BJP- led government had articulated and undertaken when they were in power. This affidavit is also an attempt to give a political message to the Parliamentary Committee in question that both BJP and Congress essentially have similar position on biometric profiling of Indians and BJP’s opposition is merely a token opposition to justify its role as the principal opposition party. Notably, BJP is yet to take a position that if it wins 2014 elections it will dismantle the Aadhaar project as it suffers from democracy deficit.
Meanwhile, on 26 November 2013, the Supreme Court gave an order that reads: "After hearing the matter at length, we are of the view that all the States and Union Territories have to be impleaded as respondents to give effective directions. In view of these notices to be issued to all the states and union territories through standing counsel. The advocates who have already entered appearance must file their replies within a period of three days from today. Learned standing counsel for the states who were not represented may take instructions from their respective states and file their response within one week."
The Court refused to modify its order its order of 23 September 2013 stating that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory. Its modification was sought by the central government implying that it wanted to make it mandatory. This is contrary to the written opinion of Attorney General for India dated 6 August 2011 wherein he stated, because “…participation in the Scheme is voluntary”, it is not a violation of right to privacy.
Citizens and states must note that it is not a question of Aadhaar number being voluntary or mandatory, which seems to be the focus of the proposed resolution in the West Bengal State Assembly. It is a question of citizens being turned into subjects using illegal and illegitimate biometric Aadhaar number.
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
Fear mongering is the norm. People get sick because of the fear instilled by advertising. This provides fodder for pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs
"They laugh at me because,
I'm different; I laugh at them because,
They're all the same." - Kurt Cobain
John Kenneth Galbraith, if he were alive today, would have changed the definition of advertisements in his famous book, Affluent Society, written in 1958. He had written that advertisements are not to inform the buyer about the product but to make him want to buy that product even when it is not needed. He made a clear distinction between needs and wants, rightly so for an Harvard ace economist! If Mr Galbraith were to see cancer technology advertisements today, with poor patients walking to the scanner in hospital robes, every fifteen minutes, he would have died of fear of cancer! Incidentally, John died at the ripe old age of 97, in 2006. It is as if advertisements are inviting you to be a cancer patient to avail of their wonderful hi-tech facility! The cancer technology television advertisements reminds one that cancer is is due to attack any time soon, creating morbid fear of cancer and death. This happens hundreds of times daily.
Advertising for killer cooking oils, full of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), so called ‘heart healthy oil’, with a picture of a beating heart evokes viewers the alarm reaction of an impending heart attack if one does not use the advertised oil, is another fear mongering tactic. The truth is that PUFA are very bad for the heart. The first New York study in 1957 by Dr Norman Jollife, director of the New York City Health Department, of 1,100 people who were given polyunsaturated fats showed that their blood fat reports all came to accepted NORMALS; however, 26 of those people had died of premature heart attacks in one year while only six had died in the control group. This sordid drama has been repeated in every other study since. Now, it is also known that atherosclerotic plaques are filled with polyunsaturated fats. The ‘heart healthy oil’ advertisements are thus a double edged sword—with one edge inducing fear of heart attacks to kill more people and the other creating advanced atherosclerosis because of polyunsaturated fats in those oils.
There’s one where young children drool at an advertisement of fried chicken with another poisonous free drink by its side as a bonus. These drinks are advertised separately by sports and film stars. In return, they get a few crores! I must congratulate our prime minister for awarding the Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar despite reservations from the home ministry. Sachin Tendulkar, as Bharat Ratna, can no longer advertise those bottled drinks and unhealthy desiccated milk drinks. Thank God, millions of his fans’ health will thus improve. Our prime minister is a brainy hero who had killed two birds with one stone-improving the health of young Indians and boosting his party’s sagging vote bank.
We seem to think that western science is the be all and end all of human wisdom. Those who follow that get funding from the government and are praised to the skies. Let us examine and see what the great western thinkers think about their own science? In his editorial for Science, former President Clinton wrote, "...we must always remember that science is not God. Our deepest truths remain outside the realm of science." Our prime minister, a good friend of Clinton, would take this advice to know what the limits of science are before being lead to allot more and more money for science research in India. To exculpate science’s inability to to answer the ultimate questions in life, Peter Medawar, a Nobel Laureate in his book Limits to Science, tries to do his best to protect scientific endeavour against damage by people and governments. He takes up important matters but admits that science as an enterprise, although the best to date, has its own inherent limits! ‘Science’, he feels, is built to answer certain questions but not all questions and compares science to a railway engine that can only move on a track but cannot be made to fly like an aeroplane. This is a wonderful book that should be read before claiming that science is the best that can happen to mankind.
‘Science’ came up at a time when the earlier enterprise called ‘religion’ was reigning high and mighty causing havoc. Rightly, scientific enterprise has been able to counter the religious monopoly to a great extent. Unfortunately, there has not been an enterprise to keep scientific arrogance under control so far. So, ‘science’, as I shall show, is running unchallenged to date.
Paul Feyerabend, a former colleague of Karl Popper, was the professor of science philosophy at UC Berkeley and later at Federal Institute of Technology at Zurich, wrote a classic Against Method. He takes the reader through a maze of science to show the truth hidden somewhere else. Along with Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discoveries and Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Feyerabend’s Against Method has become a classic in its own right. He writes, “Western science now reigns supreme all over the globe; however, the reason was not the insight in its inherent rationality but power play. The colonising nations imposed their ways of living and their need for weapons. Western science so far has created the most efficient instruments of death.” Western medicine helped temporarily to control some infections, but that does not mean that western science is the only tradition that has good and that other forms of inquiry are without any merit whatsoever “First-world science is one science among many; by claiming to be more it ceases to be an instrument of research and turns into a (political) pressure group.” Feyerabend writes extensively on these points in his classic, Farewell to Reason.
The best critique of science I saw is in a book by two physicists, Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, with an interesting and very apt title, The Golem. They are using Golem as a metaphor for science. It is worth noting that this mediaeval tradition of creature of clay (In India we find it even now on new buildings etc.) was animated by the writing EMETH, meaning truth, inscribed on its forehead. It is the truth that drives it on but it does not mean it understands the truth-far from it! Golem science is not to be blamed for its mistakes (of not going to the moon); they are our mistakes. The Golem cannot be blamed as it is trying to do its best. We must not expect too much from science. A Golem, powerful though it is, is but a creature of our own art and our craft.
Medical science has much more to answer for compared to general sciences. We need to worry that the pharmaceutical industry scandals in recent years, including some criminal convictions, billions of dollars in fines, proof of bias in research and publishing and false marketing claims. Even the Ivy League universities in the United States are not exempt from this fraud of potential financial conflicts by faculty members. The Harvard Medical School said it was unable to provide annual measures of the money flow to its faculty, beyond the $8.6 million that pharmaceutical companies contributed last year for basic-science research and the $3 million for continuing education classes on campus. Most of the money goes to professors at the Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals. The dean’s office does not keep track of the total, but no one disputes that Harvard Medical faculty members receive tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through industry consulting and speaking fees. Under the school’s disclosure rules, about 1,600 of 8,900 professors and lecturers have reported to the dean that they or a family member had a financial interest in a business related to their teaching, research or clinical care. The reports show 149 financial ties with Pfizer and 130 with Merck.
In our present ‘health SCARE system’, we do not want to be left behind in the advertisement field. Come winter and we are out with the flu vaccine-scare mongering advertisements. Scientific studies have shown that flu vaccine is not effective in the first place and it might even increase the risk of catching flu. But every winter season we are frightened and we want to be vaccinated. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) was linked to giant pharma lobby in the Swine Flu saga a couple of years ago, when the former unscientifically permitted the tag of ‘PANDEMIC’ to the disease just to help the vaccine manufacturers to get good business, especially from all the governments all over the world. ‘Disease mongering’ has become a routine in our medical establishment.
When a company found a new chemical molecule that reduced the blood pressure (BP), they wanted to have more hypertensives. In Germany, where most original ideas emanate, there were ‘WELL MAN’ clinics. These were small vans with a mobile clinic inside having BP apparatuses and cute nurses. These vans would be parked in church squares on Sundays and shopping malls on all days. People are invited for a FREE CHECK UP. When the beautiful nurse holds your hand your BP shoots up and you become a ‘hypertensive’. Then you consume ‘hypertensive’ drugs immediately. Same applies to hyperglycaemia.
Morning newspapers carry the ‘scientific’ averments of our sacred thought leaders, especially in our metropolis cities, led from Chennai, now and then are stating that India will be the diabetic capital of the world, thus provoking fear in each of us. In the good old days when we were hunter gatherers, humans were endowed with a wonderful survival mechanism called the autonomic nervous system and the RAAS (Renin angiotensin aldosterone system), to save us from predators in the forest. If one sees a tiger s/he had to run away from the tiger. To run we need energy and better blood supply. The sight of the tiger in the forest makes our blood pressure and heart rate go up and our blood sugar to sharply rise, for energy. This sugar comes from the glycogen stores in the liver meant for such emergencies.
Today we have similar ‘urban tigers’ in form of a bad boss, a nasty subordinate, or the fear mongering in daily advertisements. They all provoke the same fright-flight-fight response, similar to our forest ancestors’ days. Our sugars, cortisol levels, heart rates and our BP go up when we see these so called ‘urban tigers’. We cannot run away from today’s ‘urban tigers’. Mostly we sit and endure the fear. If you go for a health check after such encounters your BP and sugars would have have gone up already. Lo and behold you are ‘labelled’ immediately! That adds up, in the long run, to provoke killer diseases like cancer, heart attacks, blood pressure and diabetes.
George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma needs no longer be insulated for his restraint. Now David Wootton painstakingly argues in his short, but undoubtedly explosive new book, Bad Medicine, that the history of medicine has been nothing less than a failure and doctors have been the culprits. Look at a recent audit of coronary stents from Boston. “Despite their benefit, the stents form scar tissue inside the metal sleeve in approximately 20% of patients, and when this occurs, it requires re-treatment with another angioplasty or with coronary bypass surgery. The recurrence rate with so called ‘in-stent’ restenosis is higher than after the first time stent placement, and may occur in 30-80% of patients, depending on the degree of the scar tissue within the stent. Thus far, we have been unable to lower this recurrence rate with medicine, drilling devices, or additional stents. The impact on the lives of those patients who develop ‘stent’ restenosis is profound to say the least,” writes Jeffrey Popma, director of Interventions at Harvard. Books and journals are good enough in their own way, but they are a poor substitute for life’s experiences.
“Don’t confuse your path with your destination,
Because it’s stormy now doesn’t mean,
That you aren’t headed for sunshine.”
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.)
Elderly population in India is turning into the new customer segment that is large and distinctive with significant purchasing power
Today there is an urgent need to address the wellness of present day Elders, officially designated Senior Citizens, that encompass their physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual needs by looking at them from an entirely new perspective because of their sheer increasing numbers in absolute terms in the demographic divide that now make them an extremely vital segment of the community that require to be reckoned with. One report puts it – “In India, the senior living sector with strength of over 100 million is poised for a significant growth in the years to come.”
Mr. Harish Bhat, MD&CEO of Tata Global Beverages and author of Tata Log: Eight Modern Stories from a Timeless Institutions writing in the Brand Line column of the Hindu Business Line calls upon the marketers to include the Elderly Population of India as the “new customer segment that is large and distinctive with significant purchasing power”. He writes their population increasing, they are also willing to spend reasonable amounts of money on their essential requirements, in many cases their children, who earn good money are also willing to contribute. They have a distinct set of needs – as they may suffer from weak eyesight or infirm hands that are unable to work with small buttons or phone or remote controls with small keys, slippery bar soaps, wrist watches. He suggests easy to use uncomplicated mobiles with large fonts. Also, banks and reality need to develop products to cater to this segment. Besides there is also a significant proportion of this segment who are naturally either obese and of large build or unusually tall or with large waists, wrists and feet who search for ‘jeans that can make them look slimmer’, bathroom slippers that they can easily slip their feet into, cars and airline seats that they can be comfortable in. They even have specific needs of foods and beverages at variance from others.
The FMCG sector too has now come to recognize the fact that the Elders too have truly arrived as a new class of discerning customers:
A recent Research Survey of 1,900 elders from 12 cities in India reveals:
Many reality operators have now zeroed on the seniors to satisfy the growing demand for Senior Care Communities where the lifestyles, socio-economic and healthcare requirements are well taken care of. The developers have jumped into the bandwagon to take a piece of the burgeoning cake of the Assisted Living Community Projects.