In our country, it is rarely noticed as to when the concept of massively organised information quietly emerges to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and for the victimisation of ethnic groups. Aadhaar is trying hard to make us believe that the UIDAI would fulfil the constitutional promise of economic equality
"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking” said George Patton, US General during World War II.
Indeed, “unfair share of highly educated people” in certain mega business enterprises, countries and automatic identification technologies based on digitalization of human biology is having a disruptive impact on human civilization and democratic rights.
After the adoption of National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by AK Antony, defence minister, is deliberating on the issue of resident identity cards to all usual residents of the country of age 18 years and above under the scheme of National Population Register (NPR). As per the terms of reference given to the GoM, it is supposed to “examine all aspects relating to the proposal for issuing resident identity cards to the usual residents of the country keeping in view all relevant issues and finalize its recommendations at an early date.” There is no news about what this GoM has done since its creation January 2013. It seems they are waiting for the judgement of the Supreme Court given the fact that Aadhaar/Unique Identification (UID) Number and NPR are one and the same as per the documents on record.
The creation of this GoM must be seen along with a letter of Ajit Seth, cabinet secretary, Government of India dated 18 July 2012, which was sent to all secretaries stating that “There is an urgent need to bring rich data assets into the public domain for the use by civil society for scientific, economic and developmental purposes.”
In an interview, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks informed Imran Khan about the grave act of omission and commission. Assange said, “…we discovered a cable in 2009 from the Islamabad Embassy. Prime minister Gilani and interior minister Malik went into the (US) embassy and offered to share National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) – and NADRA is the national data and registration agency database. The system is currently connected through passport data but the government of Pakistan is adding voice and facial recognition capability and has installed a pilot biometric system as the Chennai border crossing, where 30,000 to 35,000 people cross each day. This NADRA system is the voting record system for all voters in Pakistan. A front company was set up in the United Kingdom – International Identity Services, which was hired as the consultants for NADRA to squirrel out the NADRA data for all of Pakistan. What do you think about that? Is that a…? It seems to me that that is a theft of some national treasure of Pakistan, the entire Pakistani database registry of its people.” The interview is available here.
It must be noted that NPR is being prepared by C Chandramouli, census commissioner & registrar general of India, is meant to create resident identity cards is exactly like Pakistan’s version of biometric exercise for citizens’ identity card which was completed by NADRA, ministry of interior, Government of Pakistan and their database has been handed over to US Government.
Was NADRA made accountable for this theft of national treasure of Pakistan? Will census commissioner & registrar general of India be made accountable if “rich data assets” are stolen or sold? Has anyone been made accountable till date?
In an interview James Manyika, a director in McKinsey’s San Francisco office, and Eric Schmidt, Google executive chairman explored the phenomenon of technological disruption, which is likely to have the greatest impact on economies, business models, and people. This interview was conducted in February 2013.
Eric corroborates what has been apprehended all along that “There are now firms and foundations building databases of DNA to use, to move to a model of individual diagnosis of disease, where you literally just press a button, the sequences occur, and it tells you what’s wrong. So the use of analytical tools in a historically analog world is a very big change.”
He prophetically states that we are entering into a situation where the computer knows, “Well, we kind of know what you care about.”
Eric Schmidt says, “We’re going, in a single lifetime, from a small elite having access to information to essentially everyone in the world having access to all of the world’s information. That has huge implications for privacy, communications, security, the way people behave, the way information is spread, censorship, how governments behave, and so forth.”
Eric underlines the existing situation of “a small elite having access to information”. He is making a prophesy that we are amidst a technological era, which is going to create a situation wherein “essentially everyone in the world having access to all of the world’s information.” This prophesy hides an essential pre-condition to the possible access to “all of the world’s information”. The pre-condition is purchasing capacity.
To reveal the true colours of such sophistry, paraphrasing George Orwell’s contention from his book, Animal Farm, in this context would not be inappropriate. All men did not have access to all the information in the past. But all men will soon have access to all the information if they can afford it. Essentially, all men are equal in the digital world if they can afford equality.
In the second part of his statement, the Google official is telling the official from McKinsey that when all the people in the world will have all the information then it have “implications for privacy, communications, security, the way people behave, the way information is spread, censorship, how governments behave, and so forth”.
Even if one takes this part of his statement on its face value, the core issue is that whenever either “a small elite” has access to information or all the people who can afford to have access to information there are implications for privacy, communications, security, human behaviour, information dissemination, censorship and governments.
Eric will have us believe that when the analog world of biology—how genes work, how diseases work is put in a digital framework, calculate for a while, do some machine learning on how things happen, these seemingly disruptive technologies will be able to make one become a better human being and predict what’s going to happen to human beings in terms of health etc.
While States and citizens are concerned about their rights and are resisting efforts to turn them into subjects of centralised powers through their opposition to National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the emergence of a regressive convergence economy based on databases and unregulated surveillance, biometric and electoral technologies remains largely unnoticed and unchallenged. Political clout of technology based companies seems to be creating a property based rights regime through financial surveillance making national boundaries redundant. But surprisingly, non Congress governments in states and at the centre are acting like unthinking obedient boys.
If one takes cognizance of the claim that “UID system is a civilian application of biometrics”1 and compares it with current practices, one finds that such a claim is quite misplaced. In the report there is reference to a Study commissioned by the US Department of Homeland Security to International Biometrics Group.2 Is it too difficult to comprehend the implications of the “civilian application” of a military tool?
In our country, it is rarely noticed as to when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and for the victimisation of ethnic groups.
It has emerged that it all started rolling in the aftermath of a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers on 4 November 2008 and a meeting of the prime minister's council of the UID Authority on 12 August 2009, wherein it was decided that there was a “need for a legislative framework.” The legislative framework is unlikely to take birth but the citizens have been framed and biometrically profiled awaiting post dated endorsement from the legislatures.
The 13th Finance Commission has made a provision for an incentive of Rs100 per person (Rs400-Rs500 per family) to bribe citizens below the poverty line to register for the UID/Aadhaar and recommended a grant of Rs2,989.10 crore to be given to the state governments for the same. The deafening silence of the state governments appears to be influenced by this financial allocation.
As per an office memorandum dated 29 September 2009, “The main objective is to improve benefits service delivery, especially to the poor and the marginalized sections of the society. To deliver its mandate, the UID Authority proposes to create a platform to first collect the identity details and then to perform authentication that can be used by several government and private service providers.”3
The reference to “private service providers” is inexplicable for the work is meant to be an exercise for public purpose and for the poor and the marginalized. The promise of service delivery to the poor and the marginalised hides how it will enable access to profit for the IT industry and the biometrics industry. Such claims are quite insincere, misleading and factually incorrect. It reminds one of the pledges in the preamble of the Constitution of India; it will have us believe that UID Authority would fulfil the constitutional promise of economic equality. Such objectives are bad sophistry at best.
“Biometrics data are national assets and must be preserved in their original quality.”4 It is noteworthy that the cabinet secretary refers to “rich data assets” and government’s committee on Biometrics refers to database of citizens’ biometric data as “national assets.”
1 Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 9, Version 1.0, December 2009
2 Study titled “Independent Testing of Iris Recognition Technology, Final Report, May 2005” referred in the report of the Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 56, Version 1.0, December 2009
3 Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 25, Version 1.0, December 2009
4 Biometrics Design Standards For UID Applications, Planning Commission, prepared by: Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Committee on Biometrics, p. 5, Version 1.0, December 2009
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
The unified license would allow the Reliance group company to offer all telecom services including voice telephony under a single license
Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL), a unit of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), said it received unified license for all 22 service areas (circles) across the country. RJIL is the first telecom operator in the country to get pan India unified license, the company said. However, there is still no word on the launching of services from the Reliance group.
In a released, RJIL said it signed an agreement for the unified licence with Department of Telecommunication (DoT)'s access service division on 21 October 2013 after submitting required documents and paying requisite entry fee.
"With grant of unified license, RJIL has migrated its existing ISP license along with broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum to the unified license with authorisation for all services, except global mobile personal communication by satellite service (GMPCS) under unified license in all service areas," the release said.
At 11.55am, RIL was trading marginally up at Rs884.7 on the BSE, while the 30-share benchmark was marginally down at 20,687.
In an interview, Sukhbir Singh Badal, the deputy chief minister of Punjab as well as president of Shiromani Akali Dal says he wants the state to become an attractive investment destination for all kinds of industries, especially IT, food processing and education sectors
Punjab's deputy chief minister (DyCM) Sukhbir Singh Badal is on a 'red carpet' mission to invite industries into the state. During his second consecutive term as DyCM, Badal is on a whirlwind tour and met several top notch industrialists, like Mukesh Ambani, Cyrus Mistry of Tata group, Anand Mahindra, Adi Godrej and Ashok Hinduja over the past three days.
Punjab is already facing a threat from industries shifting to neighbouring states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir, as there are more sops available. In order to alleviate these threats, Mr Badal claims to provide 24x7 power—on demand—to industries from December, besides extending all sops to industries. Here are excerpts from an interview of Mr Badal with Moneylife…
Yogesh Sapkale (ML): You have been moving ahead with a single point agenda of 'inclusive development' for Punjab. What are the main areas that you are focusing on?
Sukhbir Singh Badal (SSB): Basically, we are moving ahead in a very focused manner. Our first area is IT sector. As you may be aware, we are the ones who can provide best alternatives (for IT industries) across north India. In fact, across central India, the best location for IT is now Mohali.
At present, the IT sector is concentrated at Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Tamil Nadu and maybe Pune. At Mohali, we are coming up with an international airport. We have earmarked about 1,000 acres of land for IT industries near the airport. Hopefully, over next two-three months, all the space available will be taken up by IT companies, as per the response we are receiving.
Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry had finalised a project to establish a Skill Training Institute and Training Centre at Ropar. We will attach five industrial training institutions (ITIs) with the Centre. A formal memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard will be signed during the Investment Summit being held in Mohali on 9-10 December.
We are also looking at food processing industries. Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) has shown interest in processing of fruits and sweet potatoes. Several other companies have also shown interest in food processing business in Punjab.
We are looking at textiles as well.
In addition, we are focussing on providing quality education in Punjab. We are encouraging setting up private universities and institutions. Over the next two-three months, many private, branded and national and international institutions setting up bases in the state. Anand Mahindra is setting up Mahindra University in New Chandigarh, an umbrella institution for five engineering colleges being established by the Mahindra group in different parts of the country, in technical collaboration with Ecole Centrale Paris of France.
Hinduja group Executive chairman Ashok P Hinduja agreed to sign an MoU during the Investment Summit in December for establishment of a Driver's Training Institute in Punjab.
We are also focussing on healthcare. Several top hospital chains have shown interest in setting up hospitals in Punjab.
Adlabs chairman Manmohan Shetty has too evinced interest in setting up a theme based tourist entertainment hub near Ludhiana along River Satluj.
ML: You are talking about making Punjab a power surplus state by next year. However, last year due to non-supply of coal from Panen Mines (Jharkhand) there was a situation for possible power crisis. How do you plan to tackle such situations in future and what are your plans to make sure that all power plants continue to receive fuel uninterrupted?
SSB: That particular coal supply situation emerged due to the worker's strike at Panen Mines. Anyway, we had adequate stock even at that time. At present all power plants are maintaining a coal stock of 30 days.
Talking about surplus power, we do have shortage in the past. On an average, there is a shortage of about 2,364MW. By end 2014, it would go to 2,974MW considering the increasing consumption. However, there are three plants, the 1,980MW Vedanta plant at Talwandi Sabo, 540MW GVK plant at Goindwal Sahib and 1,400MW L&T plant at Rajpura becoming operational from next month. These plants would become fully operation by early next year giving us additional power of 3,920MW.
In addition, through several other new projects we are planning to generate additional 9,800MW of power. This would make sure that there is 24x7 electricity across Punjab for everyone.
ML: You are also providing free electricity to farmers. Don't you think that this would imbalance the power scenario and affect the health of state electricity board?
SSB: Electricity board receives its dues as the state government makes the payment (instead of farmers) through check. So electricity board is not in a loss. At the same time farmers continue to receive power.
ML: Industries from Punjab are shifting to Himachal, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, as there are more sops available. What are your plans to restrain industries from shifting?
SSB: One thing we must understand is all these states, the specific period of sops is about to end. At the same time we are now starting to provide various sops for industries.
Another thing, for example, the industries in Himachal are located near Punjab's border. So, everything like raw material and manpower is being provided by our state.
ML: What kind of sops you would provide for industries?
SSB: We are willing to provide incentives on value added tax (VAT) and central sales tax (CST) front whereby companies investing in Punjab could retain as much as 80% of both taxes for 10 years.
You see, the government's job is not to make money but to create environment which would result in money creation. We are dispensing old archaic rules and posts including that of boiler and vehicle inspectors and introducing a new system of self certification.
Punjab is on the threshold of becoming a power surplus state. We have more than 20,000 acres of ready land available for allocation to entrepreneurs. We have created a single window system to hand hold investors coming into the state.
We not only assure 24-hour power to the IT industry but would also offer to pay for the cost of any disruption.
ML: You are talking about surplus power. But, what about the electricity tariff? Will it be competitive enough or at par with other states?
SSB: Today, we are equivalent or cheaper than most of the states. All our power plant calculations are made on the basis to total cost of production, much is quite low. This includes power from new plants that would be operational by the end of this year. We are getting power from them at Rs2 to Rs3 per unit while all other states are paying around Rs6 or Rs7. If you consider increasing costs of raw materials over next few years, electricity in other states would even cost as much high as Rs8 to Rs12 per unit. At the same time, electricity tariff in Punjab can even go down further.
ML: Although Punjab's new industrial policy was announced in June there still is no notification. When do you expect to issue the notification for this? Why it is delayed?
SSB: I agree we announced our new industrial policy in June. However, this is such a drastic policy, it has to go through certain legal processes. Anyway, we will issue the notification over next one-two weeks. In any case, before our Investor Summit, it would definitely be notified.
ML: Talking about politics and elections that are around the corner, more and more people are demanding better governance and good administration. What are your views on this?
SSB: In Punjab, our basic thrust is on governance and reforms. We are changing all obsolete and old laws. We are moving to make all services available online for citizens so that they can access it at ease from home or file complaints. For example, we started Saanjh Kendras that provides most of the services of a police station, except handling heinous crimes. There are over 100 such Kendras, which have a corporate style look that people can approach without any hesitation.
Over the next few years, we want to connect each village in Punjab through a broad band network. Reliance Industries' chief Mukesh Ambani has shown keen interest in providing the broadband connectivity to all schools and hospitals in Punjab at nominal cost.
Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) has shown a willingness to take all citizen services to the doorsteps of the people through a unique "Punjab Online" programme, which will cover each and every village panchayat in the State. The services offered will include birth and death certificates, school admission forms, examination results, vehicle registration, passport verification, marriage certificate, utility services and provision of land records.
ML: You were a minister at Central level. Are you happy at your current position?
SSB: Being a regional party, we can contribute to more welfare of people at the state level. However, with the new government coming (at centre) we will send some of representative as ministers there.
ML: What are the chances of a new NDA government at Centre?
SSB: 100%. There should be no dispute on this!