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Does the BJP's prime ministerial candidate know that neither Congress's prime minister nor its undeclared prime ministerial candidate have been biometrically profiled so far? It appears that Narendra Modi was taken for a ride but he must explain as to why he subjected himself to the ignominy of being biometrically profiled
Is it a coincidence that Lyon, France based INTERPOL, world’s largest police organisation too has called for global electronic identity (e-ID) card system? Does this not constitute “illegitimate advances of the state” because the state is complicit in it?
Increasingly biometrics and e-Identity co-exist. Capt P Raghu Raman, chief executive of National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), Union Ministry of Home Affairs, says, "the NATGRID is not an organisation, but a tool". It simply routes “information from 21 data sources to 10 user agencies ... it is like a Google of such data sources." NATGRID will function as a central facilitation centre, to "data sources" such as banks and airlines, they are the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI). These agencies will get access to information from NATGRID. Security agencies can seek the details from NATGRID database. Data from companies like airline and telecom would be uploaded to NATGRID database. All the security agencies will have an access to NATGRID. The fact is Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar number and UID number generator National Population Register (NPR), Union Ministry of Home Affairs is a subset of NATGRID.
When asked about the qualification of CEO of NATGRID, the process for appointment of CEO, names and headquarters of the companies and government entities from which the data would be uploaded in the NATGRID and the names of the various government agencies that would have an access with NATGRID database under RTI Act, the Home Ministry on 30 June 2011 replied, “NATGRID/MHA is out of purview of RTI Act, 2005 under Gazette Notification No. 306 dated 9 June 2011”. The first RTI application was filed on the 11 May 2011. Clearly, NATGRID was removed from the ambit of RTI Act after the application was filed. How can information be denied based on a notification which was an afterthought with retrospective effect?
Notably, when asked whether Council of Union Ministers’ have got themselves enrolled for UID number, UIDAI denied the information under RTI application stating that it is third party information. There is nothing on record to show that the promoters of biometric identification like Pranab Mukherjee, LK Advani, Nandan Nilekani, P Chidambaram Sushil Kumar Shinde, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or Jairam Ramesh have got themselves biometrically profiled. In fact, Jairam Ramesh reportedly is on record for his refusal for the same. Senior leadership of no political party except Narendra Modi has got themselves enrolled for such an exercise.
In a panel discussion on Rajya Sabha TV, in the matter of biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar number and National Population Register (NPR), this author was a fellow panelist of Dr M Vijayanunni, former Census Commissioner & Registrar General of India, Union Ministry of Home of Affairs. What Dr Vijayanunni said needs to reproduced ad verbatim. He said, “National Population Register is something that was tried in 1951 after the first census of independent India. It was a big disaster. National Population Register NPR never took off. It was given a very silent burial. It was never heard of again till now that is in the 21st century. Suddenly, the idea has been revived. Now having a National Population Register covering the entire citizenry of the country, it is not something new. It has been tried elsewhere in the world. China has a comparable population. They had attempted and they had given up after spending lots of money. They have found that in a country of such dimensions both geographically and as well population wise it is just impossible. It will never have a satisfactory population register for the whole country. Remember, it is not a onetime exercise. It has to be a continuing exercise forever. It is just impossible for a country of that size. We have the recent example of the United Kingdom. There also this was tried and they had to give up.”
Responding to the direction issued to the Union of India and Union Territory of Chandigarh by Punjab and Haryana High Court in the matter of Civil Writ Petition 569 of 2013 filed in the High Court against Union of India and others, the Executive Order for making Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar has been withdrawn. In its order the bench of Chief Justice AK Sikri, and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain dated 19 February 2013 had not noted that the petition “raises a pure question of law.” Since the Executive Order was withdrawn, the case too was disposed of 2 March 2013 with a two page order.
The Order observes, “In this writ petition filed as public interest litigation (PIL), the petitioner has challenged the vires of notification issued by Union of India for making it compulsory to have UID cards. Admittedly, this issue is pending before the Supreme Court and therefore, on the last date of hearing i.e. on 19 February 2013, we did not observe anything on this issue.” It further observed that “Second issue raised in this petition is that vide order dated 5 December 2012, respondent No3 i.e. Deputy Commissioner, U.T., Chandigarh has given directions to the Branch In charge Registration-cum-Accountant, office of Registering & Licensing Authority, Chandigarh not to accept any application for registration of vehicle and grant of learner/ regular driving license without UID card.”
It is quite bizarre that Union Territory of Chandigarh remains ignorant of the fact that UID is not a card, it is a 12-digit number. The entire government machinery is hiding the fact that fundamentally UID is not a proof of identity, it is an identifier contained in the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of UID numbers. Union Territory of Chandigarh failed to inform the Court the UID is not a card but an identification number based on biometric data without any legal mandate.
The petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court had made the following prayers:
i) Issue a writ in the nature of certiorari to quash Executive order dated 5 December 2012 passed by respondent no.3 passed in violation of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 vide which UID has been mandatory for the registration of vehicles and grant of learner/ regular driving license.
ii) a writ in the nature of mandamus directing Union of India to accept other proofs of Identity and address i.e. Voter I-Card issued by Election Commission of India, the Constitutional body and Passport issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Govt of India and other proofs of address, age prescribed under Rule 4 of Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 for issuance of learning/ regular driving license and for registration of vehicle;
iii) Further it sought direction for Union Territory of Chandigarh and Union of India not to make mandatory UID for essential public utility services and accept other documents as proof of Identity and address as per the Rules;
iv) a writ in the nature of certiorari quashing notification dated 28 January 2009 being illegal and further issuance of a appropriate writ declaring the Unique Identification Authority of India constituted vide Notification dated 28 January 2009 unconstitutional as the same has no legal sanctity as the UIDAI been constituted and functioning illegally.
The writ petition had emphasised that during the pendency of the petition, Executive order dated 5 December 2012 and other similar executive orders vide which Aadhaar have been made compulsory for essential public utility services may kindly be stayed.
In its concluding paragraph the 2 March 2013 order of the High Court reads, “Today, short affidavit of Mr M Shayin, IAS, deputy commissioner, UT, Chandigarh is filed stating that the aforesaid instructions have been reviewed and now the insistence of UID card is no longer treated as mandatory. No further orders are required to be passed in this petition, which is accordingly disposed of.”
It is noteworthy that Indian National Congress led Government’s budget speech of 2013 announced that “We are redoubling our efforts to ensure that the digitized beneficiary lists are available; that a bank account is opened for each beneficiary; and that the bank account is seeded with Aadhaar in due course.” In the light of the Punjab & Haryana High Court’s order, the implementation of opening of bank accounts seeded with UID/Aadhaar is legally and constitutionally questionable.
By it is somewhat well known that UID number and UID number generating NPR is based on biometric and retinal profile procured from Indians. This is the most repulsive aspect of the project. Any biometric profile directly violates the very dignity and privacy of Indians which is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
What is normally used for terrorists and criminals is now sought to be used against the common citizens of this country. Does it mean that the state has lost confidence in its people and wants a criminal profile of all its citizens? Can there be a more shameful aspect of the state intrusion into individual privacy? Supreme Court’s judgement dated 4 July 2011 upheld Right to Privacy as Right to Life.
Disregarding this, the government seems to be acting under the influence of surveillance technology companies and biometric technology companies.
Take the case of RS Sharma, who in his role as director general of Government of India’s UIDAI (who is currently the chief secretary of Jharkhand) is rare person because he biometrically profiled Bhartiya Janata Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate. On 1 May 2012, Sharma “took the biometric fingerprints of Mr Modi for his identity card and registered him under the project” as per the website of Narendra Modi. (Source: http://www.narendramodi.in/cm-kicks-off-uid-project-in-gujarat/ ). As chief secretary of Jharkhand, he has committed a manifest act of contempt of Supreme Court by letting his principal secretary, Department of Human Resource Development to issue an appeal in the Patna edition of The Times of India asking all the schools including those which are non-governmental and unrecognized to mandatorily submit “Aadhaar card” to the school. While this is in violation Court’s order of 23 September 2013, it is noteworthy that Sharma allowed his subordinate official to refer to biometric Aadhaar number as “Aadhaar card” despite his involvement with UIDAI. Hopefully, the Court will take him to task for his temerity. Does the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate know that neither Congress’s prime minister nor its undeclared prime ministerial candidate have been biometrically profiled so far? It appears that he was taken for a ride but he must explain as to why he subjected himself to the ignominy of being biometrically profiled.
The statement of concern on UID number issued on 28 September 2010 a day ahead of the launch of the UID number Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister by the eminent citizens including former judges, jurists, educationists aptly stated, “there is a fundamental risk to civil liberties” and sought the halting of the project. Now who else is required to convince Indians in general and non-Congress parties in particular that there is no excuse to postpone call for boycott and civil disobedience movement against biometric identification in any form.
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
The government needs to re-establish that it truly wants international organisations to come into the country and work, hassle-free, in the oil and gas sector
In the last few weeks, there have been important developments relating to the oil industry. The tug-of-war between Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and the Petroleum Ministry has been going on for sometime now and the government imposed a penalty of $1.7 billion. But the debate on the application of revised (higher) rate for gas from April 2014 continued along with the uncertainty on the unsupplied portion of the gas and whether the contractees will get any compensation for non-delivery.
Reliance has taken a stand on the non-availability due to "geographical surprises", or putting it mildly: "force maejure conditions" and have demanded that some internationally reputed reservoir consultants be called for to investigate the veracity of their claim. For whatever reasons, Reliance did not take the commercial responsibility to drill other wells in the areas, where they have had even the tiniest inkling of gas presence! But the net result has been that country has suffered and has been forced to import the requirements at tremendous cost!
Quietly, Reliance turned around and offered to relinquish some of the areas in KG-6 block. The Ministry of Petroleum, however, did not fully accept what Reliance offered; instead, they have asked Reliance to relinquish 5,367 sq kms more i.e. a total of 6,198.88 sq kms! This means the Ministry wants to take back five discoveries viz. D-4, D-7, D-8, D-16 and D-23, totalling 814 sq kms, which are estimated to hold 0.805 tcf (trillion cubic feet) of gas, which, at the current international price would be about $10 billion!
The Ministry's claim is supported by the issues raised by the director general of hydro-carbons (DGH), which has stated that Reliance, "missed deadlines for submission of investment plans".
This may be legally right, but it is a very flimsy ground to pitch in a claim by the ministry! Such moves are not conducive to investors' confidence and trust. Apparently, there are some divergent views between DGH and Reliance. What were the authorities concerned doing when the contractor, Reliance, did not take adequate steps to drill the new areas to prospect? Are they not supposed to submit advance plans of action for extended periods of time? Were they not submitting periodic reports on the geological scene? What was the follow up action that the DGH or the Ministry took when it did not receive any intimation on this inactivity? Does the DGH take the initiative to do its own home work?
Both the Ministry and the DGH are equally responsible for the lack of diligent follow-up. There has been mutual lack of coordination.
Such accusations are being hurled at each other and it will not ensure that gas or oil will start gushing from somewhere? All the involved parties need to discuss the issues and plan their actions to focus and achieve the desired production!
It may look to be a mere coincidence, but the fact remains that BHP Billiton relinquished six blocks, which it had won in the 7th round of the NELP (New Exploration Licensing Policy). It owned a 26% stake and 3 fully owned blocks awarded to it under the 8th round of auction. It was unable to explore these blocks "due to regulatory issues". BHP Billiton has interest in the 9th block auction too.
It appears that there was an objection initially from the Ministry of Defence. After some exchange of letters and clarifications, the ministry did provide approvals with certain conditions. The authorities are also concerned with hassle-free requirements and are now keen to discuss the issues with BHP. This is to ensure that the work becomes trouble-free, as far as possible. It now remains to be seen how the Ministry of Petroleum, DGH and the Ministry of Defence will be able resolve the issues faced by a large investor like BHP Billiton. The government needs to re-establish that they truly want international organisations to come into the country and work, hassle-free.
Meantime, it not only needs to settle issues relating to Reliance, but must also clarify as to what it intends to do, once it reacquires the "relinquished" blocks from Reliance (including the wells discovered in them)? It is unlikely that after having done so much spade work, Reliance will walk away without its pound of flesh!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)