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No beating about the bush.
Wikileaks revealed that Pakistan handed over citizens' database to US agencies. In case of India, there will be no need for a database handing over ceremony because it is being given to global security agencies through their proxies who in turn are subservient to legislative will of legislatures in the US, France and UK unlike India
In view of the instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which is in the process of compiling National Database of Armed License (NDAL) in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre (NIC), an advertisement was published in Prabhat Khabar, on 7 December 2013. It informs that for the preparation of a “NIC database” of arms license holders a Unique Number is to be allotted to them prior to 1 October 2015.
It is relevant to recall the origin of the NIC. During the internal emergency imposed on the citizens by Indira Gandhi, she had setup NIC to weave the entire country into one single communication entity. The erstwhile Electronics Commission and the Department of Electronics (now Department of Electronics and Information Technology-DEITY) had submitted a proposal to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for assistance to set up a National Computer Centre in Delhi for building up national databases and “for macro-economic adjustment programme of the Government” and the World Bank Group. The UNDP agreed to fund the National Informatics Centre (NIC). NIC was set up with a mandate to “act as a focal point for maintaining inventories of primary data and computer based systems for data collection and dissemination.” The long-term objective of NIC was approved by Indira Gandhi-led Planning Commission, Ministry of Finance and the erstwhile Electronics Commission. An Advisory Council set up for the NIC in 1976-1977.
An Indian development support organization founded in 1960, Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS) disassociated itself from undertaking enrolment for UID number project which was being undertaken under Mission Convergence in Delhi. Withdrawal of IGSSS that works in 21 states of the country across four core areas India: Sustainable Livelihood, Youth Development, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Urban Poverty merit the attention of all the states and civil society organisations especially those who are unwittingly endorsing the UID number related processes.
In its withdrawal letter IGSSS said, “We will not be able to continue to do UID enrolment, as we discussed in the meeting of 10 May 2011.” It added, it is taking step because “it’s hosted under the rubric of UNDP’s ‘Innovation Support for Social Protection: Institutionalizing Conditional Cash Transfers’ [Award ID: 00049804, Project: 00061073; Confer: Output 1, Target 1.2 (a) & Output 3 (a), (b)]. In fact we had no clue of this until recently when we searched the web and got this information.”
A case was filed against the UID/Aadhaar project in Delhi High Court, which is now transferred to the Supreme Court. The next date of hearing is on 28 January 2014.
Whoever forms the next government in Delhi must scrap UID/Aadhaar related legacy of Indian National Congress-led regime. The democratic mandate in Delhi is against UID/Aadhaar which was made compulsory and caused hardship to residents of Delhi.
After the war with China in 1962, the Government felt the need of a strong indigenous electronics base for security. Department of Electronics was set on 26 June 1970 directly under the prime minister. NIC started functioning in 1977. In the aftermath of Kargil conflict, the need for UID/Aadhaar/NPR number appears to have been engineered. Like Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), NIC signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state governments/union territory administrations. Later, NIC services were extended to states and districts.
Notably, the NIC had raised concerns over privacy and security of proposed database of UIDAI as early as 6 November 2009. NIC wrote, "It has been proposed to hire the data centre services for PoC (proof-of-concept) and prototype on rental basis. It is presumed that the data related to UID will be hosted in a government Data Centre. If not, the issues related to privacy and security with respect to UID data may require to be taken into consideration."
In an unconvincing response, UIDAI replied that hosting the data on a private network "does not necessarily lead to violation of privacy and security." UIDAI argued, "There will be appropriate SLAs (Service Legal Agreements -- both legal and technological) to ensure that the data is protected. It is to be mentioned that a number of sensitive database (Income Tax and PFRDA, to name two of them,) which ensure security and privacy, though they are not necessarily housed in 'government' Data Centres." The letter was disclosed by Press Trust of India (PTI).
On 8 May 2013, Rajiv Shukla, the Minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning informed Lok Sabha that Dr BK Gairola, Director General, NIC who chaired the Biometric Standards Committee of UIDAI, which was created on 29 September 2009, submitted its report on 30 December 2009 incurring a total expenditure of approximately Rs66,000. It appears that NIC was silenced into a state of unquestioned obedience after its initial objections. But NIC’s concerns assume great significance in the light of disclosures about the involvement of foreign intelligence agencies eyeing the centralized databases like CIDR database of UID/Aadhaar numbers, NPR and NDAL. It is inexplicable as to why the NIC, which does not have any previous experience of dealing with biometric data, was asked to chair a committee meant to recommend biometric standards for biometric profiling? Or is it the case that NIC was always involved in electronic profiling since its inception during internal emergency given the fact that biometric data is ultimately stored as electronic data?
In the meantime, the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2013 is all set to be introduced to provide legal basis to UIDAI in the current session of the Parliament without incorporating several recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance including those concerning national security and illegal collection of biometric data. The Bill of 2013 has almost the same text which was introduced in 2010 and was rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in December 2011. There is nothing new in it except addition and substitution of few words.
The NDAL is being created with the help from NIC amidst huge demand for arms by private security agencies. Among other ramifications such a proposition appears to be a precursor of ‘private territorial armies’ proposed by Captain Raghu Raman, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MHA’s National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) in his earlier incarnation as CEO of a multinational security company, Mahindra Special Security Services Group, a subsidiary of the Mahindra Group. He argued that corporate must step in because government cannot ensure internal security of the country. In his attached (see below) ‘Confidential’ Advisory Paper titled “A NATION OF NUMB PEOPLE”, Capt Raghu Raman argues, “enterprises would need to raise their own protection units. The idea may sound outlandish but in fact most of urban citizens do pay for private security for their homes and colonies. So do corporates. The idea is to take it to the next level and have private protection units that can work in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies. Think of it as a private territorial army.” Associations of companies like FICCI and ASSOCHAM have already underlined the link between NATGRID and UID number.
Capt Raghu Raman concludes his paper stating, “If the commercial czars don’t begin protecting their empires now, they may find the lines of control cutting across those very empires.”
This was the considered view of Capt Raghu Raman as a servant of a commercial empire. Can it be ascertained as to whether or not he has changed his view in his new role as a contract employee of MHA and as a servant of citizens of India?
According to Oxford Dictionary, meaning of the word “NUMB” mentioned in the title of the paper is “unable to think, feel, or respond normally.”
Unless Indians are indeed “numb people”, they will feel a logical compulsion to resist countless assaults on democratic rights in the name of national security. While national security must be robust enough to deal with external and internal threats of “commercial czars” who engineer internal strife and profiteer from war mongering but if citizens’ rights are mortgaged in the hands of these czars nothing worthwhile remains for defending. Security forces and agencies who get nurtured by the taxes of citizens have relevance only if they protect their rights, they lose relevance for citizens if they become available on rent to private forces.
The advertisement issued on instruction from MHA states that arms licenses will not be valid without the unique number after this date. The arms license holders have to fill up the attached form in this regard. This advertisement has been published by Government of Bihar. A specific order from District Magistrate (DM) of Patna is significant because similar orders are likely to be issued by all the 600 DMs in compliance with the order of MHA. The order dated 4 December 2013 is attached. It was reported as recently as August 2013 that the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were opposed to such a move. This advertisement reveals that government of Bihar has chosen to fall in line and change its position. It is not clear as to what made it alter its previously held position
It may be recalled that ahead of the launch of MHA’s first National Population Register (NPR) (along with 15th Census 2011) on 1 April 2010 by Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, on 23 February 2010, Mullappally Ramachandran, Minister of State in the MHA had informed that that the government is planning a national database of arms license holders in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. He had informed that the government will review various provisions of the Arms Act, 1959 and Arms Rules, 1962 with regard to grant of arms licenses for possession of arms and ammunition by individuals and manufacture of fire-arms in the country. The amendments will include a provision under the arms rules, under which the licensing authorities will be required to maintain a database and to share the data with the central government which shall maintain a national database. This came after the announcement about the setting up a National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), the CIDR of UID/Aadhaar number and NPR. There was a proposal to bring amendments in the Arms Act to oblige the licensing authority to maintain a database with the help of NIC. It is not clear whether the proposed amendments were made. Meanwhile, as of August 2013, data from 97 districts from southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu have already been compiled in the database for NDAL.
As per the Arms and Ammunition Policy for Individuals of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) includes a provision that obliges “the licensing authority to maintain a database as may be specified and to share the data with the Central government which shall maintain a national database. Accordingly, a provision for database will be made by amending the Arms Rules. National database including data on PB weapons may be maintained centrally by MHA. State Governments are being requested to instruct all DMs to maintain a comprehensive and complete data base of all licenses issued by them, which may be shared with the Central Government.” It is not clear whether the Arms Rules created as an act of subordinate legislation have been amended through yet another act of subordinate legislation. Notably, Arms and Ammunition Policy for Individuals available on the website of MHA does not mention any date or year.
It is noteworthy that the manifesto titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” was brought out by Norwegian gunman and neo-crusader, Anders Behring Breivik who carried out the heinous attacks on his fellow citizens. This 1500 page manifesto refers to the word “identity” over 100 times, “unique” over 40 times and “identification” over 10 times. There is reference to “state-issued identity cards”, “converts’ identity cards”, “identification card”, “fingerprints”, “DNA” etc. The words in this manifesto give a sense of deja vu.
In a related development, National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Ministry of Interior, Pakistan is also undertaking a similar exercise. Is it a coincidence that both the countries are undertaking the exercise at the same time? Will it prevent drone attacks and the ignominy of mouthing verbal opposition to such assaults on its sovereignty? The core question is: what has improved in Pakistan due to NADRA’s citizens’ database except facilitating precision targets by drones?
Even before Planning Commission’s UIDAI and MHA’s NPR conceptualized their biometric and demographic database, Pakistan’s NADRA claimed that it had successfully profiled all its citizens. Wikileaks revealed that the citizens’ database was handed over to US agencies. In case of India, there will be no need for a database handing over ceremony because the database is given to the security agencies through their proxies who in turn are subservient to legislative will of legislatures in US, France and UK unlike India.
Big data companies are looking for databases of diverse kinds. The question is at what price will NDAL’s data be available? UIDAI had replied that hosting the data on a private network "does not necessarily lead to violation of privacy and security," what if the private network happens to be a big data companies like MongoDB, In-Q-Tel, L1, Safran and Accenture? If Government’s reply is still the same, it should come out with a White Paper explaining in what circumstances security and privacy is violated and what aspect of its breach is acceptable and tolerable and what aspects are non-negotiable and constitute acts of treason. If storage and mining of biometric data by these companies is legal and legitimate, the question is why does Government consider this data to be “national assets”?
Curiously, the first NPR that was launched with 15th Census seems to be making all the Indians April fools of sort but not for a day but forever. Isn’t this unique number of arms license holders linked to the creation of the NATGRID which can easily undertake the role envisaged for National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) that faced opposition from all the non-Congress State Governments and the biometric unique identification (UID)/Aadhaar/NPR number?
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
The Centre's overarching agenda to make Aadhaar a success by forcing people to withdraw money from ATMs under a diktat from RBI is being opposed by bankers due to huge cost involved. Several consumer activists and NGO, including Moneylife Foundation also sent a memorandum to RBI governor on the same issue
Leading banks are set to oppose the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) diktat that all new automated teller machines (ATMs) and point of sale (POS) machines should be tailored to accept Aadhaar — one of the widely publicised ventures aimed at winning votes and changing the lives of millions, reports Economic Times (ET).
Even several activists, consumer and non-government organisations (NGOs) as well as Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an independent member of the Rajya Sabha also had opposed the RBI move over Aadhaar-enabled ATMs and PoS citing the huge cost involved.
According to the ET report, last week, senior bankers went into a huddle to list out the pitfalls of the central bank's directive, which they think is being rushed through without understanding the implications for banks.
"Why should we spend hundreds of crores in changing the network when the same thing can be achieved with existing technology?" a senior banker was quoted as saying in the report. On 3rd December, the payments committee under the banking lobby, Indian Banks' Association, met to discuss the matter which will soon be taken up with the regulator, the report says.
The ET, quoting a panel member, said, "While RBI has said that banks may issue cards without the Aadhaar feature, the POS machines and ATMs have to be mandatorily Aadhaar-enabled. Now, if banks don't issue credit or debit cards that are enabled for Aadhaar acceptance, why should we procure new types of ATMs and POS for a handful of customers who prefer biometric readers for transactions?"
Some of the bankers and service providers ET spoke to say their entire network has to be overhauled for the purpose. "Data on the magnetic strip of a credit/ debit card is transmitted through telephone lines. Biometric data will need high-speed connections and the bandwidth and capability has to be raised. Besides, in biometric mode, response time and rejects may be higher and transactions could take longer," a service provider told the financial daily.
These were the points that came up when Moneylife Foundation hosted a round table in September 2013 with leading organisations such as All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), All India Bank Depositors Association (AIBDA), Council for Fair Business Practices (CFBP), V Citizens Action Network (V-CAN), Consumer Education and Research Centre, Ahmedabad 9CERC), India Against Corruption (IAC), Forum for Fast Justice (FFJ), Forum of Free Enterprise (FFE), Nagrik Chetana Manch (NCM), All India Business Council (AIBC) and Women Graduates Union, Mumbai (WGU), as well as concerned citizens to discuss the issue.
The group drafted a memorandum that has been sent to the RBI governor Dr Raghuram Rajan
The key issue was: Who will bear the huge technology cost that would be involved. The activists feared that the banking system was being used by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) to create nationwide infrastructure of biometric readers and scanners at the cost of bank consumers. Further, UIDAI plans to charge a fee for each Aadhaar authentication, which would also have to be borne by consumers.
Among the issues raised at the discussion was the fact that biometric-enabled ATMs had been launched with much fanfare between 2004 and 2007 but were an unmitigated disaster. Most participants felt that there ought to be a pilot project to justify the technology, safety as well as the bandwidth required for the UIDAI authentication, before such a big cost burden was imposed on the banking system.
Media reports say that banks plan to add over 200,000 point of sale (POS) machines and around 20,000 ATM machines in the near future. In addition, the vast existing ATM network will also have to be made Aadhaar-enabled. This entails huge cost and, according to some experts, will force banks to divert resources from other projects. Banks are being lured to invest in the technology on the promise that direct benefits and subsidies will be routed through the banking system. But it is unclear whether the distribution of subsidies will earn any revenue for banks or only burden them with costs, which will be transferred to other customers.
The memorandum said, “Public policy towards financial inclusion has to be devised diligently, keeping the stakes of the customers in mind and not coerce customers into accepting an unnecessary identification tool like the biometric system. It should ensure safe and secure transactions and aim at lowering banking costs. Consumers expect the RBI to follow the principles of good governance, transparency and accountability to the consumers.” An interesting aspect of the round table discussion was that consumer groups had the support of the largest bank employee unions, which also plans to oppose the huge expenditure plans from the inside.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, had requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to relook at the RBI's proposal on Aadhaar authenticated biometric ATMs. In the letter sent to the PM, finance minister P Chidambaram and chairman of Standing Committee on Finance, Mr Chandrasekhar wrote, "Public policy towards financial inclusion should be devised intelligently with objective of lower banking costs and increased access for consumers and not using ill-conceived, brute force methods involving significant additional spending and increase in costs to consumers and please make no mistake, these costs will be passed on by banks to consumers."
Moneylife has been pointing out that this new directive (from RBI) will involve additional expenses, which bank depositors will end up bearing under the guise of technology costs. So far, Aadhaar has made no mention of who will bear the cost of biometric POS readers (according to a senior banker, they will cost Rs8,000 each) and biometric ATMs (Rs4 lakh for the machine plus installation, maintenance, electricity, etc).
Last month, the RBI advised banks to choose either EMV chip and PIN or Aadhaar’s biometric validation as additional factor for authentication and securing the card present payment infrastructure. However, several mainstream media reported that RBI has asked banks to adopt Aadhaar authentication only.
However, the RBI has advised banks to keep their new card present infrastructure enabled to use both EMV chip and PIN and Aadhaar (biometric validation) acceptance. It may be noted that EMV cards are 'smart' cards that have an embedded chip while PIN authentication involves the card-holder to punch in a secret code on the card-swiping machine, for each transaction.
Interestingly, about 90% of the existing POS terminals in the country, managed by 21 acquirers (among them Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank), can accept EMV chip cards and PIN. However, following RBI directive banks will have to scrap the whole infrastructure and buy new one with biometric readers, which costs a bomb.