Lifting of ban by the Supreme Court has brought Goa back to life and it may take a few more months for normalcy to return. In the near term, one hopes the rains are not going to spoil the relief that Goan workers have got after eighteen months of wait and agony
After 18 months of lull when all was quiet on the western front, Goa may soon come back to some mining activity, since the Supreme Court has kindly lifted its ban on mining, though with some riders.
Prior to the mining ban, in 2012, Goa used to produce 45 to 47 million tonnes, mostly iron ore fines (62% iron content) and China was the principal buyer, though Japan also consumed some quantity. Chinese imports amounted to over 100 million tonnes.
The highlight of this lifting of ban permits that the mines can extract up to 20 million tonnes but the final cap on mining would depend upon an Expert Panel, presumably to be appointed soon, that would study and recommend, within six months, whether the limitation should be increased beyond 20 million tonnes or not!
Mining leases around one kilometre of national parks and wild life sanctuaries will not be given and it would follow that if there are existing mines within these parameters they may not be allowed to operate. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) needs to identify ecological sensitive areas around national parks within six months.
Thousands of workers in these mines, who have been jobless, can have some relief in that the Supreme Court has also directed that those of the workers on the pay rolls of all mining firms should be paid 50% of their wages during the period for which they were out of work.
Of immediate importance is for the Goa government to ban also has to be lifted and Goa Pollution Board to monitor air and water pollution. Besides these, Goa government must formulate a scheme, within six months, for utilising the funds generated by e-auctions. The Expert panel has also to recommend how the extracted lumps are to be utilised. Chinese steel industry has mastered the art of importing the fine ores from Goa and mixing the same with ores from Australia and Brazil for use.
One of the most crucial matters related to those mines with "deemed leases" which were based on lease taken in 1962 This means that mining leases which were given extensions after 2007, after completing 20 year renewal periods may require further clarification or procedural formalities to be
complied, details of which the miners would welcome.
In any case, this lifting of ban by the Supreme Court has brought Goa back to life and it may take a few more months for normalcy to return. In the near term, one hopes the rains are not going to spoil the relief that Goan workers have got after eighteen months of wait and agony.
(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.)
Is it just a coincidence that Tariq Malik of NADRA and Nandan Nilekani received awards at Milan ID World Congress for their similar work? Is Nilekani simply following the footprints of Malik in creating, enforcing biometric-based ID?
Electronics has become a fundamental political problem.
-Dr Ernesto “Che” Guevara in 1962
tujhe zibah karne kee khushi, mujhe marne ka shauk,
(You are happy to kill, I am fond of dying)
meri bhee marzi wahi hai, jo mere saiyaad ki hai
(My desire is the same as that of my hunter)
-Jail Note Book of Shahid-e-Azam Bhagat Singh, 1929
jin ko tha zaban pe naaz (Those proud of their eloquence)
chup hain wo zaban daraaz (Their tongues are completely silent)
chain hai samaaj me (There is tranquility in society)
bemisaal fark hai (This is an unexampled difference)
kal me aur aaj me (Between yesterday and today)
apne kharch par hain qaid (imprisoned at their own expense)
log kaid tere raaj me (people under your rule)
-Habib Jalib, a revolutionary poet from Pakistan
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has exposed the reluctance of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to share its correspondence including the letter of resignation of Nandan Nilekani from the post of chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) under the Planning Commission. Nilekani is reported to have submitted his resignation to the Prime Minister on 13 March 2014. After the Right to Information (RTI) application in this regard was transferred by the PMO, the Commission in a letter dated 15 April 2014 responded saying that the RTI application "has been inadvertently transferred" to it and marked a copy of its reply to the Planning Commission.
It is apparent that PMO does not wish the resignation letter and the correspondence to be available in the public domain prior to the elections. It deliberately transferred the RTI application to the Election Commission as part of its delaying tactics and perhaps to save the Indian National Congress-led government from possible embarrassment.
For instance, how is engagement with Pakistani Ministry of Interior’s National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) and Election Commission of Pakistan with French corporate conglomerate, Safran Group in India’s national interest? Notably, UIDAI’s awarding of contract to Safran Group links it to Home Ministry’s Registrar General of Citizen Registration, Census and the Election Commission.
The core issue here is the sensitivity of the exchange of letters between key authorities in the sensitive matter of electronic and biometric identification of Indians through Aadhaar, National Population Register (NPR), electoral database and Census database.
In effect, all these databases will be governed by Information Technology (IT) Act.
Notably, in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the Parliament passed eight Bills in 17 minutes without any debate on 23 December 2008. These Bills included the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008. Its absurdity came to light when the misuse of section 66 (A) and section 79 got widely reported. Subsequent amendments and rules have made the IT Act worse, which the new government will have to look into.
If one looks for parallels in regard to emergence of biometric voter ID cards on India’s horizon, one finds that the Indian government is following the path paved by Government of Ghana, which conducted an election using biometric voter verification and registration systems in 2012. The Electoral Commission of Ghana had made a functional biometric verification machine a pre-condition for voting at all the polling stations. With this Ghana joined those countries, which use a biometric voters’ register for its election. These countries include Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Soloman Islands, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Biometric profiling is likely to be introduced in Bhutan too in the next parliamentary elections. It has been reported that biometric finger print scanners were used during the National Council Election in Bhutan’s two polling stations at Dewachen and Samtse High School in 2013.
Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission (NEC) conducted the polls in November 2012 using biometric voter registration with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Not surprisingly, Bangladesh Election Commission upgraded its biometric identification and voter registration system and consolidated over hundreds of different databases into a single database running on Oracle Exadata Database Machine X2-2. Was there a domestic demand for centralisation of the database?
Notably, NADRA developed and delivered Nigerian national identity card system for issuance of Smart ID cards to citizens.
In Nepal, the Election Commission introduced voter registration programme based biometric profiling and conducted its elections in November 2013. UNDP had provided strategic technical and operational assistance to the Election Commission in planning and conducting the election through its Electoral Support Project (ESP). The European Union, UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Denmark and Norway provided financial support to this project.
Coincidentally, the Election Commission of Pakistan is introducing a biometric system for the elections. NADRA has implemented the Multi-Biometric National Identity Card & Multi-Biometric e-Passport solutions for Pakistan, Passport Issuing System for Kenya, Bangladesh High Security Driver’s License, and Civil Registration Management System for Sudan.
Notably, NADRA has won Sri Lanka ID Card project involving data collection of all eligible citizens’ biometric, biographic and digitization and creating a National Persons Registry. It has developed Biometric Refugee Registration System for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Bank’s Poverty Score Card/System.
Besides this “NADRA has taken proactive initiative by developing electronic voting machine (EVM) solution proposed to be placed on all polling stations across the country.”
Do Indian voters need learn to subject themselves to biometric identification by transnational intelligence companies like Pakistan’s 86 million registered voters?
It may recalled that 23 April 2010, the World Bank had launched its eTransform Initiative by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with France and South Korea besides transnational companies like L-1 Identity Solutions, IBM, Gemalto, Pfizer and others. It was launched in the presence of Ministers of Finance and Communications from many developing countries. The World Bank is currently funding 14 projects related to e-government and e-ID around the world. These project are unfolding under the influence of international finance and not because there was a domestic need for it.
Let us ponder over few questions:-
Is it a coincident that the task of Tariq Malik of NADRA, Pakistan and those of Nandan Nilekani, C Chandramouli and VS Sampath appear similar?
Is it also a coincidence that Tariq Malik of NADRA and Nilekani were awarded in Milan, Italy based ID World Congress for their similar work? Nilekani is simply following the footprints of Malik.
Isn’t there a design behind persuading and compelling developing countries to biometrically profile their citizens?
Is it too early to infer that international bankers, UN agencies and western military alliances wish to create profiles in their biometric and electronic database for coercive use of social control measures?
Is it not true that uninformed citizens, parliamentarians and gullible government agencies are too eager to be profiled and tracked through an online database?
Would freedom fighters and framer of constitution of India have approved of mass surveillance by any national or transnational agency?
In the US, the budget for intelligence gathering in 2013 was $52.6 billion. Out of which $10.8 billion went to the National Security Agency (NSA). It is about $167 per person. Do Indians know the budget allocation for their intelligence? Why have they been kept in dark about it?
Aren’t allocations for UIDAI, NPR and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) part of it?
Is it not clear that UN agencies, World Bank Group, transnational intelligence companies and military alliances are working in tandem to create the bio-electronic database of Indians as per their pre-determined design? Is this design structured to safeguard the interest of present and future generation of Indians?
The next government in India has the task of examining these questions and making the budget allocation for intelligence agencies public and open to legislative scrutiny. If they don’t do it, how else would the new regime be deemed different from the old one and it must explain how national security of US, France and their allies is different from that India.
Even after 52 years while India continues to maintain secrecy about its acts of omission and commission in 1962 war with China. But by now it is clear that after the defeat it felt the need of a strong indigenous electronics base for security. The Department of Electronics was set on 26 June 1970 directly under the Prime Minister in the era in which New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) was still being sought to contest one way flow of information by western media that distorted realities facing the world. It is germane to recollect the historical context in which world’s biggest electronic and biometric database of Indians is being created. Having failed in getting NWICO so far, unless the advocates of NWICO politically challenge the creation of one imperial online database in a robust manner, 21st century will unleash a new great game for takeover of national assets.
Meanwhile, it appears to be too much to expect that the lame duck PMO will share its correspondence with Nilekani who was mandated to create world biggest biometric database “as per approved strategy” along with Ministry of Home Affair (MHA)’s NPR before May 2016. PMO’s notoriety in misplacing sensitive files has given birth to understandable apprehensions in this regard. Hopefully, the new government will ensure that the PMO provides these relevant files.
The authoritarianism of electronic and biometric web is emerging as intrusive extensions of transnational powers due to complicity without any political scrutiny in the country.
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
If Bharti Axa customers are defrauded with fake offers, surely that should concern the company and if the company does not care, the regulator should send a message that hits home. Will the IRDA do it?
Bharti AXA Life policies worth Rs3.8 lakh were sold to Vishv Raj Singh, a senior citizen allegedly with the bait of installing a mobile tower of Airtel that would give him monthly rent. This is part of the racket that insurance agents and brokers have been indulging in – selling insurance with the inducement of lucrative deals of different kinds.Bharti AXA Life: Senior citizen sold policy with lure of rent from Airtel tower?
As regular readers of Moneylife will know, HDFC Life, Reliance Life products too were mis-sold, but they gave refunds after finding out the truth. Bharti AXA Life is turning out to be stubbornly on the side of such fraudulent life insurance selling, rejecting complaints of such selling on flimsy reasons.
Apart from the above example that hit the Moneylife Foundation helpline, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) got a complaint of six policies of Rs5 lakh annual premium sold with similar offers. When customers complained, Bharti AXA declined to deal with it, without giving specific reasons.
However, based on the correspondence turned over by IRDA, the regulator has written a couple of letters seeking number of complaints of this nature received, resolved and pending, but it seems that Bharti AXA Life has not bothered to respond even to the IRDA.
We have come to know this through long and persistent efforts. Moneylife Foundation had written to the chairman of IRDA about the first case of cheating on 31 July 2013, but there was no response. Finally, on 23 January 2014, we filed an RTI application to find out what the IRDA has been up to. To our utter disbelief, IRDA’s CPIO responded stating that the information sought is ‘third party information’, which needs a written consent from ‘Raj Pradhan’, who had written letters to the IRDA chairman on behalf of Moneylife Foundation!
Anyway, Moneylife Foundation got the necessary “consent from Raj Pradhan”, its own staff, and filed the first appeal. After this, the IRDA has shared the required information. What comes out is quite startling.
It appears that IRDA did follow up with Bharti AXA Life based on Moneylife Foundation memorandum in July 2013. Bharti AXA responded to IRDA on 27 August 2013 giving flimsy reasons for denying claims of Vishv Raj Singh. It tried to question how his son’s name is Ominder Rana. Bharti argues that the contact number shared by the customer of his son is a registered number of BMA Wealth an insurance broker. Bharti alleged that the customer was instigated by BMA Wealth Insurance broker. Moneylife has never seen an example of insurance broker trying to help customer to recover fraudulently sold policies. In fact, the reverse is true. Insurance brokers today are fraudulently selling policies.
IRDA has found that Bharti AXA had given no reply to the complaint or it was not updated in IRDA’s IGMS (Integrated Grievance Management System). Bharti AXA’s response is – “We were unable to sync the complaint status in time. The server certificate was expired on Bharti AXA gateway server. Due to this IGMS service was not accessible. There was an issue with IGMS URL on one of Bharti AXA internal servers connecting to the gateway.” Clearly, based on the correspondence handed over to us by IRDA, Bharti AXA did not bother to respond to customer complaints until IRDA wrote the letter to it based on Moneylife Foundation memorandum and even then it did not bother to respond to the complaint adequately.
Apart from this individual complaint, IRDA asked Bharti AXA Life to give “The data of total no. of complaints of this nature (mobile tower rent offer) received, resolved and pending as on date.” It appears that Bharti AXA Life has not given the required information. On 1 November (original letter date of 24 October overwritten), IRDA again asked for the same information to Bharti AXA Life, but there is no information in the RTI docket about Bharti AXA ever giving IRDA the required data. In the same letters, IRDA asked about measures taken by the insurer to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future and action taken on intermediaries on such complaints. But, astoundingly, Bharti AXA has ignored this question from IRDA.
There are other examples of mobile tower rent offer to sell life insurance. Ramswaroop Beniwal, Hanumangarh, Rajasthan was sold six policies of Bharti AXA Life of Rs5 lakh annual premium was by offering him installation of Airtel Tower to get a rent of Rs15 lakh in five years and subsequently a bonus. Again, Bharti AXA brushed this complaint too with a mere one line reply in IGMS stating “We are declining client concern and standing on our decision.” IRDA has asked for internal investigation report on the complaint of Ramswaroop Beniwal in its letter to Bharti AXA on 1 November (original letter date of 24 October overwritten). Bharti AXA Life does not seem to have responded to this letter. We have not got a copy of Bharti AXA Life's response in our RTI.
It is time for IRDA to up the pressure and assert its role as a regulator against Bharti AXA Life. If customers are defrauded with a fake mobile tower rent offer, surely that should concern the company and if the company does not care, the regulator should send a message that hits home. Will the IRDA do it?