In a strange case of conflict of interests, Nandan Nilekani, the IT czar, is either heading or part of a committee or group that is turning the 'voluntary' UID number or Aadhaar of residents as mandatory for citizens to access several services and benefits from the government
The Supreme Court has ruled that the unique identification (UID) number or Aadhaar is not mandatory to avail essential services from the government. What is strange is all those ministries and departments that are making Aadhaar ‘mandatory’ are doing so on recommendations from a committee or group associated with Nandan Nilekani, the chief of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). This is pure conflict of interests as the UIDAI itself is maintaining that Aadhaar is 'voluntary' while its chairman is making sure that it is made mandatory to avail a number of services or benefits from the government.
Gopal Krishna, member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), has sent a letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh, defense minister AK Antony who is also the head of the Group of Ministers (GoM) which oversees the issue of resident identity cards under scheme of National Population Register (NPR). Mr Krishna has also sent it to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of Planning Commission as well as special invitee on the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI-related issues and who is also on the GoM on the issue of resident identity cards under NPR scheme, and Dr C Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.
He said, "I submit that the Supreme Court has revealed that although the attached enrolment form of Aadhaar/unique identification (UID) number promises on top of the form that it is free and voluntary, several central ministries and uninformed state governments attempted to make it mandatory, in a manifest case of breach of citizen's trust."
According to Mr Krishna, the Strategy Overview document of the UIDAI says that "enrolment will not be mandated" adding, "This will not, however, preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrolment". "It must be noted that Mr Nilekani headed several committees whose recommendations made Aadhaar mandatory," he said.
Here is the list of Committees and groups compiled by Mr Krishna, which decided to make Aadhaar mandatory and are linked with Mr Nilekani...
1) He is head of Technology Advisory Group on Unique Projects (TAGUP) that proposes "private company with public purpose" and with "profit making as the motive but not profit maximising".
2) He is head of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is functioning without legislative approval either at the centre or in the states and has signed contracts with companies that work with Intelligence agencies.
3) He is head of Committee on Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) technology for use on National Highways that proposes Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
4) He is head of Inter-ministerial task force to streamline the subsidy distribution mechanism
5) He is head of Government of India's IT Task Force for Power Sector
6) He is member of National Knowledge Commission
7) He is member of Review Committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
8) He is member of National Advisory Group on e-Governance
9) He is member of Subcommittee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) that dealt with issues related to insider trading
10) He is member of Reserve Bank of India's Advisory Group on corporate governance
11) He is member of Prime Minister's National Council on Skill Development
12) He is member of Prime Minister headed National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers
13) He is an invitee to the Cabinet Committee on UID related matters
14) He is an invitee to Group of Ministers (GoM) regarding Issue of Resident Identity Cards under NPR Scheme
15) He is a member of the board of governors of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)
16) He is the president of NCAER
17) He is chairman, Empowered Group, IT Infrastructure for Goods and Services Tax (GST)
"The list is not exhaustive. Mr Nilekani has many more identities as a shareholder and as a former head of a corporation," says Mr Krishna.
Further, according to Mr Krishna, the 'rift between Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Planning Commissions’, the UIDAI on UID and NPR was motivated and meant to take legislatures, citizens, states and media for a ride.
Mr Krishna said, "...it was reported on 6 October 2011 that Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi wrote to the prime minister questioning the need for National Population Register (NPR) by Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner. Gujarat then stopped collection of biometric data for creation of the NPR."
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Modi raised objections over both the UIDAI, which is creating UID/Aadhaar number and Registrar General of India, which is creating the NPR, collecting biometric data.
In his letter Mr Modi wrote, “…there is no mention of capturing biometrics in the Citizenship Act or Citizenship Rules, 2009”. In the absence of any provision in the Citizenship Act, 1955, or rules for capturing biometrics, it is difficult to appreciate how the capture of biometrics is a statutory requirement. Photography and biometrics is only mentioned in the Manual of Instructions for filling up the NPR household schedule and even in that there is no mention of capturing the iris”.
After Gujarat stopped collection of biometric data, the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram sent a letter to Mr Modi in August 2011, pointing out that creation of the NPR was a “statutory requirement” under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and “once initialised, (it) has to be necessarily completed”. The MHA had also requested the chief minister to instruct state government officers to cooperate in creation of the NPR. This was when the entire media, citizens and the political class was hoodwinked into believing that there was a rift between Mr Nilekani’s UIDAI under Planning Commission and Dr C Chandramouli’s NPR under MHA when Mr Chidambaram headed it, said Mr Krishna.
Mr Krishna says, "It appears that Mr Modi chose to side with UIDAI in an apparent rebuff to Mr Chidambaram. Mr Modi kicked off UID/Aadhaar project in Gujarat on 1 May 2012 by giving his biometric information and enrolled under the UIDAI project. Strangely, Mr Modi did not object to his biometric identification under UID as he did with regard to NPR. Mr Modi did so despite the fact that Yashwant Sinha (BJP leader) headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that rejected the UID project and the UID Bill in its report to the Parliament on 13 December 2012. However, it may be noted that one sentence of its report appears to endorse biometric NPR. Is it a case of Mr Sinha was trying to side with Mr Chidambaram? It appears that Mr Modi has been taken for ride with regard to the UID/Aadhaar and Mr Sinha with regard to NPR as they failed to see through the strategy. Now Mr Chidambaram is wearing the hat of minister of finance. This is how both Mr Modi and Mr Sinha were outwitted by Mr Chidambaram."
"I submit that Mr Nilekani met the then deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi at Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi in August 2011 to ensure a centralized IT infrastructure for GST across the states through GST Network, a National Information Utility, a private company with public purpose having profit making as the motive but not profit maximising. This is meant to take away the sovereign function of tax collection from the state," Mr Krishna said in his letter.
Here is the letter sent by Mr Krishna (http://www.toxicswatch.org/2013/09/following-following-supreme-courts.html )....
According to HSBC PMI index, during September manufacturing activity in India continued to shrink albeit at a slower pace while order flows, especially export orders remained weak, and employment fell
India’s manufacturing sector activity contracted for the second consecutive month in September as both output and new orders witnessed a decline, says a survey released by HSBC on Tuesday.
The HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the manufacturing industry stood at 49.6 in September, higher from 48.5 in August, but remained below the crucial 50 mark (below which it indicates contraction) for the second consecutive month.
“Manufacturing activity continued to shrink in September, albeit at a slower pace. Order flows remained weak, especially export orders, and employment fell,” HSBC Chief Economist for India and ASEAN Leif Eskesen said.
The overall rate of contraction was, however, marginal and eased since August, when it had slipped sub 50.0 reading (below which it indicates contraction) for the first time since March 2009.
Faced with fewer projects, companies reduced their workforce number for the first time since February 2012.
“Reflective of a further reduction in new order levels, Indian manufacturers cut their staffing levels in September,” HSBC said adding that “the latest fall ended a period of job creation that had lasted for one and-a-half years’’.
Although new orders fell at a slower and marginal pace, the contraction of export business was very significant.
According to HSBC, a depreciation of the rupee versus the US dollar had resulted in higher prices paid for inputs and limited firms’ ability to price “competitively’’.
The findings of the survey come at a time when the country is battling slower growth rate, wider current account deficit and a battered currency.
According to official data, high imports of gold and oil pushed the current account deficit (CAD) to 4.9% of GDP at $21.8 billion in the April-June quarter of the current fiscal.
“Despite the weak growth readings, the build-up in underlying inflation pressures suggests that the RBI has to keep its inflation guards up,” Eskesen said.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its 20th September policy review, had unexpectedly raised the policy rate by 0.25% as it kept its focus on controlling inflation.
Driven by costlier food items, the wholesale price inflation rose to a six-month high of 6.1% in August.
The new director of Financial Technologies has an interesting background
On 17th September, Financial Technologies announced the appointment of TC Nair as an independent director. This was at a time when dozens of independent directors, former Union secretaries, regulators, bank chairmen, industrialists and group senior officials were rushing for the exit door. On the face of it, Mr Nair seems a great catch. Financial Technologies was hunting for former regulators and, while many had turned down the offer, this former whole-time director of SEBI and ex-managing director at Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Ltd was happy to accept. While other directors of the FT-MCX group were probably worried about the onerous new liabilities and punitive provisions of the Companies Act 2013, Mr Nair is probably relying on his hitherto charmed existence. In 2007, TC Nair was at SEBI and in charge of regulating the Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL) which was a quasi-public sector company indulging in a serious scam under a rogue CEO named R Jayaraman Iyer.
During my investigation, I discovered that SHCIL had leased and furnished an apartment belonging to Mr Nair at Palghat (Kerala) for use as a ‘guest house’ even though it had absolutely no business in that town. In fact, the flat was being maintained, with a caretaker, for Mr Nair’s use when he visited. Despite the disclosure, the then SEBI chairman, a close friend of Jayaraman Iyer, made no attempt to investigate or act.
In May 2008, Mr Nair ignored copious evidence about the Zee group’s involvement in the Ketan Parekh scam (manipulation of its shares, funds running into hundreds of crores of rupees borrowed and transferred to Parekh through Global Trust Bank and much more) and let it off with a warning. This at a time the group was negotiating a ‘consent decree’, haggling to ensure that it paid only Rs5 crore. This order was the basis for several other companies involved in the Ketan Parekh scam to get away too.
Mr Nair had similarly closed the case against the Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL), without even a warning, in the infamous IPO scam. With this background, he clearly believes he has nothing to worry about and plenty of perks to enjoy in the Financial Technologies group.