In the past, Iran has threatened to cancel award of Farsi block but has not carried out those threat as it cannot get any credible international oil company to invest until the western sanctions are eased
In a bid to pressure India to invest in a Persian Gulf gas field, Iran has put Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC)-discovered Farzad-B gas field on a list of fields it plans to auction citing delays by the Indian companies in its development.
ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of state-owned ONGC, had in 2008 discovered the Farzad-B gas field in its Farsi exploration block in the Persian Gulf.
In August and September, 2010, the company submitted a revised master development plan (MDP) for producing 60% of the 21.68 trillion cubic feet of in-place gas reserves. However, ONGC Videsh had not signed the contract because of a threat of being sanctioned by the US, which is against any company investing more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector in any 12-month period.
Iran, in February 2012, issued a one-month ultimatum to the OVL-led consortium over the development of a gas field. For more than two years, it did not carry out the threat of cancelling allocation of the Farsi block to OVL.
Tehran has now put the field on the list of blocks it wants to auction in future, sources with direct knowledge of the development said.
It has however not yet cancelled OVL’s exploration license for the Farsi block which gives it the right to develop the discoveries it has made.
Sources said inclusion of the block in the list of areas Iran wants to auction is an attempt to pressurise New Delhi into investing in the project.
In the past, Iran has threatened to cancel award of Farsi block to OVL over delays in signing of the Farzad-B gas field development contract. But Iran has not carried out those threat because it knows it cannot get any credible international oil company to invest until the western sanctions are eased.
While OVL cannot invest in developing in the gas field because of the US sanctions, it plans to Iran engaged and will make investments once sanctions are eased, they said.
OVL is the operator of the Farsi block that lies north of Qatar. It has 40%interest in the 3,500 sq km block.
State refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC) too has 40%, while the remaining 20% is with Oil India Ltd (OIL) in the Farzad-B field.
The Farzad-B gas field may hold an estimated 21.68 Tcf of in place reserves, of which 12.8 Tcf can be recovered. The reserves in Farzad-B are almost thrice the largest gas field in India.
The Indian consortia would get a fixed rate of return on the $5 billion it will invest on developing the Farzad-B gas field as Iranian law prohibits foreigners owning oil and gas resources. Foreign companies develop the fields through service contracts.
The Supreme Court says Aadhaar is not mandatory for public services. Yet, like the Congress government, Modi too is forcing the biometric ID
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is riding on 12-digit biometric Aadhaar number project, which itself is controversial, legally contested, disapproved by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and found questionable by the judiciary.
There is a categorical order of the Supreme Court reiterated at least two occasions stating that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory.
But the PMJDY brochure reads “Aadhaar number will be seeded to make account ready for (Direct Benefits Transfers) DBT payment”. It is meant to be “the single point for receipt” for all DBT. Isn’t this against the Supreme Court judgement? And what about Modi's own views on Aadhaar? According to a report from Hindustan Times, while addressing an election rally in Bengaluru, Modi had said, “Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had 'failed to convince the Supreme Court' and thus the (Aadhaar) scheme failed.”
Even, Nirmala Sitharaman, the then spokeswoman for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had told the newspaper that “Aadhaar was being pushed by the Union government through an executive order and as the chief minister of Gujarat, he (Modi) was expected to implement the programme in the state. But that does not mean he will not question it and underline what is wrong. If he had not implemented it in Gujarat, he would have been blamed for delaying it."
The Supreme Court has passed an interim order on 23 September 2013 stating that availing of no public services can be mandatorily be linked to Aadhaar. On 24 March 2014, the Court restrained the central government and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) from sharing data with any third party or agency, while dealing with a case filed by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). However, the UIDAI has already shared all the data with foreign and Indian private companies like Accenture, L1 Identities Solution and Sagem Morpho of Safran Group and Ernst & Young among others, who can keep this data for at least seven years.
Meanwhile, the New Indian Express has reported that a petition has been filed by VE Rahul Goutham, a Class-X student of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattam, Thiruvananthapuram before the Kerala High Court against the insistence by the authorities that the Aadhaar card number be included in the application form for the National Talent Search Examination, Stage-I. The petitioner has rightly cited Supreme Court’s order saying, “in the meanwhile, no person should suffer for not getting Aadhaar card, in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory. When a person applies for Aadhaar Card voluntarily, it may be checked whether that person is entitled for it under the law, and the card should not be given to any illegal immigrant” and has submitted that insistence on Aadhaar is a violation of the Court’s order.
In fact, following 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 mandatory has been withdrawn. In its order the bench of Chief Justice AK Sikri and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain dated 19 February 2013 had 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 PIL, the petitioner has challenged the vires of notification issued by Union of India for making it compulsory to have UID Cards."
All the High Courts, which transferred the cases filed against Aadhaar to the Supreme Court did so before its orders of 23 September 2013 and 24 March 2014. Now, it is a question of enforcement of the apex court’s order, which is being violated with impunity setting a very unhealthy precedent.
Arguing in the Supreme Court, Senior advocate Shyam Divan stated that "there is no statute to back the project" and even if there were one, the statute would be violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution as the project enables surveillance of individuals and impinges upon right to human dignity. Maintaining that whenever state seeks to impinge upon fundamental rights, its action must be backed by statute and not mere executive fiat, the senior advocate said, "Here, the action under the impugned project of collecting personal biometric information without statutory backing is ultra vires even where an individual voluntarily agrees to part with biometric information." But the silence of Justice KS Puttaswamy, retired judge of the Karnataka High Court as well as Divan and other petitioners appears intriguing after the new government took charge.
Why are citizens being made to seek Aadhaar, which is admittedly only a residence proof? How does absence of resident proof consequent into denial of citizen's entitlement. The students of law are routinely taught by their law professors that the Supreme Court’s order is the law of the land. Aadhaar matter seems to be demonstrating that it is no more the case.
Is India an island where news from other nations does reach the ear drums of decision makers in India? It is such deafness that contributed to grant of permission for testing of war chemicals in Bhopal.
Given the fact that Supreme Court has not scheduled any specific three judge bench to hear the Aadhaar case filed by Justice Puttaswamy, relying on a letter of Justice Mandagadde Rama Jois, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, currently a Member of Parliament, the Kerala High Court has to rise the occasion and decide whether Supreme Court's order is supreme or an illegitimate order of the government is supreme. Besides Justice Puttaswamy, Major General SG Vombatkere, who retired as Additional Director General, Discipline and Vigilance in Army Headquarters, has also filed a petition against the identifier project branded ‘Aadhaar’.
Relying on the pre-existing orders of the Supreme Court, the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, Kerala High Court has a historic opportunity to restrain the Centre, Planning Commission and the UIDAI from issuing biometric Aadhaar numbers by way of an executive notification of 28 January 2009. The decision can save Indians from the most dangerous transaction being entered into through the unfolding Data Grid.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s is visiting the US. It would be timely to recollect the visit of Barack Obama, President of US with a 200-strong business delegation during 6-9 November 2010 to expanding US exports and increase investments by US companies in India.
Some 20 business deals worth around $10 billion were on the horizon but notably almost $15 billion worth deals were signed as per the official statement from the White House.
Among these deals were “The Unique Identification Project: L-1 Identity Solutions, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, and another US-headquartered company, lead two of the three vendor consortia, which have been pre-qualified by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) for the first phase of an effort to register Indian residents with a 12-digit unique number using biometric identifiers. Unprecedented in scale, seeking to register 1.2 billion Indian residents, the UID program aims to enhance delivery of government services in India.”
Out of these two companies L1 has now been taken over by French conglomerate Safran Group.
The search for the real beneficial owner or controller of L1 can be quite revealing. As to the reference of “another US-headquartered company, lead two of the three vendor consortia” and its identity, the White House statement was silent.
Both Obama and Dr Manmohan Singh, the then Indian Prime Minister agreed that “in an increasingly interconnected world, it is vital to safeguard areas of the sea, air, and space beyond national jurisdiction to ensure the security and prosperity of nations”. Admittedly, the bio-metric Aadhaar database is being stored on a cloud, which is “beyond national jurisdiction”. In fact, it is under the US jurisdiction and beyond India’s jurisdiction.
The new government has seen similar merits in UID. However, questions that merits attention of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the National Security Advisor is: How many countries in West Asia have a biometric ID database like Aadhaar, National Population Register (NPR) and digital identity? What are its ramifications for nations’ sovereignty? Can’t friends become foes of super powers and vice versa? If the preventive steps are not taken before such situation emerges, the biometric database of all future leaders and officials of India can reach countries whose governments are commercial czars in real time. Human history has been testimony to the possibility of the latter becoming inimical to India’s over all interest to safeguard their supreme commercial interests. They say commerce is war by other means.
Remember, the French Government had to abandon biometric profiling of its citizens after the French Constitutional Council found the law proposing the introduction of a new biometric ID for French citizens as unconstitutional. Incidentally, a French conglomerate is facilitating something in India, which has been outlawed in France. In India, it is headquartered New Delhi. Likewise, the Supreme Court of the Philippines struck down a biometric-based national ID system as unconstitutional on grounds of invasion of privacy.
In his 2009-10 Budget Speech, Pranab Mukherjee as Finance Minister had announced, “The UIDAI will set up an online data base with identity and biometric details of Indian residents and provide enrollment and verification services across the country.” Like the previous government, the Modi government too is deluded into believing that “online data base” of residents of India (inclusive of citizens) it will safeguard the sovereignty of the Republic.
The Finance Ministry’s 108-page White Paper on Black Money under the title ‘Strategies for Curbing Generation of Black Money through Illegal or Criminal Activities’ reads: “While efforts such as UID and direct transfer of subsidies will stop leakages in some sectors, in other sectors the problem will have to be addressed differently”. What is not acknowledged is that leakages are not problems of verification of identity but problems of eligibility. The new government has failed to appreciate as well.
Besides this it is yet to be conclusively established as to whether or not biometric, surveillance, identification and security technology companies are involved in amassing Black Money as part of Black Economy-through electoral finance and other unrecorded means.
Under the chapter, ‘Creating an appropriate legislative framework’ the White Paper elaborates on the role of the Unique Identity (UID)-Aadhaar project. The relevant text of the White Paper at page 49 reads: “The Aadhaar platform will facilitate payments under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MG-NREGA); old age, widow and disability pensions; and scholarships to be made directly into beneficiary accounts in selected areas. This initiative will cut down corruption and the generation of black money in India.” It is ironical that Unique Identity (UID)-Aadhaar project is mentioned under the title ‘Creating an appropriate legislative framework’ because Aadhaar and its Centralised Identities Data Register (CIDR) is being prepared outside any ‘appropriate legislative framework’.
The recommendations of the Committee Headed by Chairman, Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Black Money, at page 84 states: “The steps taken in recent years for simplifying and placing the administrative procedures concerning taxation, trade and tariffs and social transfers on UID based electronic interface, free of discretion and bureaucratic delays, are vital building blocks of the approach for tackling corruption and black money in our country.” Such claims manifest short term and long term vested interests in the UID-Aadhaar project aimed at creating ‘solutions architecture’ through linguistic corruption in the form of proposed National Information Utilities (NIUs) by Union Finance Ministry’s Technology Advisory Group on Unique projects. These NIUs are envisaged as private companies with public purpose and with profit making as the motive but not profit maximising. The construction of this sentence betrays the ulterior motives of these interests. It appears that words indeed have meaning, which the masters give to it as Lewis Carroll famously noted in her work Alice in Wonderland, a classic case of nominalism, a tendency of the ruling elite to decide on the meaning of a word.
Eight AEBAS systems provided by UIDAI have been installed at six gates of Venkaiah Naidu headed Urban Development Ministry. Was Naidu misleading the Parliament and the citizens of the country by contending that Aadhaar is “niraadhar” on the floor of the House? BJP was either misleading the country then or its doing so now.
The Planning Commission, whose expiry has been announced by Prime Minister Modi, is in the process of reviewing the state-wise and Union Territory wise progress of Aadhaar after Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) cleared phase-V of the UID scheme to undertake enrollments in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand on 10 September 2014. UIDAI has been given a target of ensuring enrollment of 100 crore Indian residents by the end of 2015 nay “at the earliest”.
In a country, governed by rule of law, when there is no ambiguity about the order of the apex court, how is it that Aadhaar related programs are being made mandatory? Is law still the king or the new kings-the Big Data companies- have usurped the state of affairs in the most non-violent coup imaginable?
You may also want to read…
(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
While quashing allocation of 214 coal blocks allotted since 1993, the apex court granted six months 'breathing time' to companies whose 42 blocks were cancelled, to wind up business
The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed allocation of 214 coal blocks out of 218 allocated since 1993. While announcing the judgement, the apex court granted six months 'breathing time' to companies whose blocks were cancelled, to wind up business. Only four ultra mega power projects (UMPPs), including NTPC and SAIL have been exempted out of the 218 coal blocks.
The Court asked Coal India Ltd to take over such blocks within six months and auction them. As per the apex court order, 36 operational coal blocks have been cancelled and they are ordered to stop production after 1 March 2015. Out of the 214 coal blocks, 168 of the allocations are cancelled with immediate effect while 42 has been given six months' grace time to wind up.
The Supreme Court also directed these 42 block holders to pay a penalty of Rs295 per tonne of coal extracted for making up for the loss highlighted by the CAG in its report.
In a draft report issued in March 2014, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) accused the union government of allocating coal blocks in an inefficient manner during 2004–2009. The CAG Final Report tabled in the Parliament put the figure at Rs1.86 lakh crore ($30 billion). Even the Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Coal and Steel states that all coal blocks distributed between 1993 and 2008 were done in an unauthorized manner and allotment of all mines where production is yet to start should be cancelled.
Last month, the apex court held that all coal block allocations made since 1993 till 2010 before pre-auction era during previous NDA and UPA regimes have been done in an illegal manner by an "ad-hoc and casual" approach "without application of mind".
While passing strictures on the Screening Committee, the Supreme Court, in its ruling on 25th August, had said, "...the entire allocation of coal block as per recommendations made by the Screening Committee from 14 July 1993 in 36 meetings and the allocation through the Government dispensation route suffers from the vice of arbitrariness and legal flaws. The Screening Committee has never been consistent, it has not been transparent, there is no proper application of mind, it has acted on no material in many cases, relevant factors have seldom been its guiding factors, there was no transparency and guidelines have seldom guided it. On many occasions, guidelines have been honoured more in their breach. There was no objective criteria, nay, no criteria for evaluation of comparative merits. The approach had been ad-hoc and casual. There was no fair and transparent procedure, all resulting in unfair distribution of the national wealth. Common good and public interest have, thus, suffered heavily. Hence, the allocation of coal blocks based on the recommendations made in all the 36 meetings of the Screening Committee is illegal."
The Screening Committee had allotted coal blocks to 29 state government public sector undertakings (PSUs) while 72 PSUs were allotted blocks through government dispensation route.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, had said, "The allocation of coal blocks through Government dispensation route, however laudable the object may be, also is illegal since it is impermissible as per the scheme of the CMN Act. No State Government or public sector undertakings of the State Governments are eligible for mining coal for commercial use. Since allocation of coal is permissible only to those categories under Section 3(3) and (4), the joint venture arrangement with ineligible firms is also impermissible."
The apex court mentioned that no challenge was laid before it for the blocks where competitive bidding was held for the lowest tariff for power for UMPPs. Prashant Bhushan, counsel for Common Cause said that since allocation for UMPPs is in accord with the opinion given in Natural Resources Allocation Reference and the benefit of the coal block is passed on to the public, the said allocations may not be cancelled.
He, however, had pointed out that in some cases, the government has allowed diversion of coal from UMPP to other end user for commercial exploitation.
"Having regard to this, it is directed that the coal blocks allocated for UMPP would only be used for UMPP and no diversion of coal for commercial exploitation would be permitted," the Supreme Court had said in its judgement on 25 August 2014.