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No beating about the bush.
MongoDB will take data from UIDAI to undertake analysis. UIDAI is tight-lipped about CIA's role in it. It is yet to become clear whether MongoDB will be in a vendor relationship directly or will operate through some pre-existing entity that is already working with UIDAI as system integrator
‘Reimagining India’, a book edited by McKinsey & Company, published by Simon & Schuster in November 2013, Mukesh Ambani has written a chapter titled ‘Making the Next Leap’ endorsing biometric profiling based identification. Ambani writes, “Aadhaar, an initiative of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), will soon support the world’s largest online platform to deliver government welfare services directly to the poor.” It appears to be a book of the millionaires and billionaires, by the millionaires and billionaires and for the millionaires and billionaires.
This reminds one of the lyrics of a song titled ‘If I were a rich man’, which is from the famous musical ‘Fiddler on the roof’ of the 1970s, which noted “When you're rich, they think you really know!” The song goes like:
If I were a biddy biddy rich, Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.
The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
And it won't make one bit of difference if i answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!
In his chapter Ambani adds, “The most exciting prospect of all is the impetus that could come from tapping the surging aspirations of the seven to eight hundred million Indians who remain excluded from India’s success story. If we manage to bring this segment of the population into the economic mainstream, the result will be enormous enhancement in India’s economic and non-economic power, as we generate equality in access despite inequality in income.” According to Forbes magazine, Ambani is listed as the 22nd richest person in the world with a personal wealth of $21.5 billion. He has retained his position as the India's richest person for the sixth year in a row.
Ambani says, “When I reflect on India’s phenomenal success over the past two decades and consider what will be required for similar advances in decades to come, I often think back on what India was like in 1980, when I returned to Mumbai from Stanford University”.
The book introduces Ambani as the “Chairman and CEO of Reliance Industries, India’s largest private sector company. He is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry, a member of the board of governors of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, and chairman of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Ambani has a degree in chemical engineering from the Mumbai University Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and an MBA from Stanford University.” The book commits a mistake in stating that Ambani has a MBA degree from Stanford University because he admittedly dropped out and did not complete his MBA course.
The book has a chapter on India by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google and co-author of “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Futures of People, Nations and Business” wherein he says, “The government’s Unique Identification project, led by my friend Nandan Nilekani, is creating enormous new possibilities for e-commerce.” What he leaves unsaid is that Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar project entails marriage of digital technologies with unaccountable and ungovernable biometric and surveillance technologies which is illegitimate and illegal.
Nilekani also has a chapter titled “A technology solution for India’s identity crisis” in the book wherein he says, “The Indian government spends about $60 billion a year on subsidy programs involving products such as food, fertiliser, and petroleum...But studies show that these programs often have leakages, thus leading to anomalies in benefits reaching the intended beneficiaries. India’s own Planning Commission found in 2008 that more than one-third of subsidised grain supposedly destined for the poor went to better-off households instead, due in large part to fraud and corruption. Errors in delivery and identification resulted in even greater losses of subsidised grain…Aadhaar can this revolutionalise the way public services are delivered as well as dramatically enhance the inclusiveness of Indian society.” He is more concerned about leakage of food grains than leakage of financial and mineral resources which has led to accumulation of black money in foreign countries. His silence on this issue exposes him. He is ignorant about the fact that leakage is not an identification problem but a problem of eligibility wherein those who are ineligible access subsidies. Such pilferage can be dealt with without subjugating Indians to social control technology companies.
Nilekani concludes saying, identification “Technology can be a great leveler of Indian society”. He seems to echo what Ambani says about generating “equality in access despite inequality in income” by claiming technology to be class neutral and income neutral because structurally it is supposed to be a ‘leveler’. Is inequality in income a natural phenomenon? The authors of this book imply it to be so.
Meanwhile, according to a report from Economic Times and Navbharat Times, Max Schireson, CEO of MongoDB (formerly called 10gen), a technology company from US which is co-funded by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was in New Delhi two weeks back to enter into a contract with UIDAI. This company is a Palo Alto and Manhattan-based database software provider in the $30 billion relational database market. Relational databases commenced in the 1970s when computers were moving away from punch cards (that facilitated holocaust in Germany using census data) to terminals. It is taking away customers from Oracle and IBM. This contract has not been disclosed so far. MongoDB will take data from UIDAI to undertake its analysis. UIDAI is tight-lipped about CIA’s role in it. This company’s database software is already being used to verify the speed of registration. It is yet to become clear whether this company will be in a vendor relationship directly, or it will operate through some pre-existing entity which is already working with UIDAI as system integrator.
10gen is the company behind MongoDB, a popular open-source, document-oriented database. It forms a part of a new generation of NoSQL -- Not Only SQL -- database products developed as an alternative to conventional relational databases from Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. Elsewhere, Schireson explained, “We deliver enterprises a 10 to 1 improvement — we charge tens of thousands of dollars to complete projects in a few months that they charge millions of dollars to finish in years” to deal with large volume and diverse variety of big data.
According to the report, one of the investors of MongoDB is In-Q-Tel (IQT), a not-for-profit organisation based in Virginia, USA created to bridge the gap between the technology needs of the US Intelligence Community and emerging commercial innovation. It identifies and invests in venture-backed startups developing technologies that provide “ready-soon innovation” (within 36 months) which is vital for the mission of the intelligence community. IQT was launched in 1999. Its core purpose is to keep CIA and other intelligence agencies equipped with the latest in information technology to support intelligence capability. Edward Snowden had revealed that US intelligence agencies are targeting communications in Asian countries. It was founded by Norman Ralph Augustine.
In his book ‘At The Center Of The Storm: My Years at the CIA”, former CIA director George Tenet says, “We (the CIA) decided to use our limited dollars to leverage technology developed elsewhere. In 1999 we chartered ... In-Q-Tel. ... While we pay the bills, In-Q-Tel is independent of CIA. CIA identifies pressing problems, and In-Q-Tel provides the technology to address them. The In-Q-Tel alliance has put the Agency back at the leading edge of technology ... This ... collaboration ... enabled CIA to take advantage of the technology that Las Vegas uses to identify corrupt card players and apply it to link analysis for terrorists [cf. the parallel data-mining effort by the SOCOM-DIA operation Able Danger], and to adapt the technology that online booksellers use and convert it to scour millions of pages of documents looking for unexpected results.”
In-Q-Tel sold 5,636 shares of Google, worth over $2.2 million, on 15 November 2005. The stocks were a result of Google’s acquisition of Keyhole, the CIA funded satellite mapping software now known as Google Earth. On 15 August 2005, Washington Post reported that In-Q-Tel was funded with about $37 million a year from the CIA. "In my view the organisation has been far more successful than I dreamed it would be," said Norman R Augustine, who was recruited in 1998 by Krongard and George J Tenet, who then was director of central intelligence (DCI) to CIA, to help set up In-Q-Tel. Augustine, former chief executive of defense giant Lockheed Martin, is an In-Q-Tel trustee.
Notably, former CIA chief, Tenet, was on the board of L-1 Identity Solutions, a major supplier of biometric identification software, which was a US company when UIDAI signed a contract agreement with it. A truncated copy of the contract agreement accessed through RTI is available with the author. This company has now been bought over by Safran group, a French defence company. The subsidiary of this French company in which French government has 30.5% shares, Sagem Morpho has also signed a contract agreement with UIDAI. In August 2011, Safran acquired L-1 Identity Solutions.
In the backdrop of these disclosures, how credible are the poor-centric claims of Mukesh Ambani, Nilekeni and Eric Schmidt who are taking Indian legislators, officials, citizens and the Indian intelligence community for a royal ride. Clearly, aadhaar creates a platform for social control and surveillance technologies to have a field day and undermines nations’ sovereignty, security and citizens’ democratic rights. Nilekeni wrote ‘Imagining India’, McKinsey & Company edited ‘Reimagining India,’ it is evident that their idea of India is contrary to idea of India that emerged from the freedom struggle since 1857 and the constitution of India.
Freedom struggle witnessed both traitors who sided with companies and foreign governments and loyalists who were ready to suffer any consequence to safeguard the interest of Indians. Can citizens of India trust Goolam E Vahanavati, Attorney General for India and Prime Minister of India when they submit their defence of indefensible aadhhar/UID in the Supreme Court, where it faces a legal challenge to take a step back and withdraw the project the way they withdrew their circular making aadhaar/UID mandatory in Chandigarh before the Punjab & Haryana High Court to save Indians from falling into a sophisticated intelligence trap?
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
The vision statement of Aadhaar states: “use of UID to speed up certain businesses, especially in the insurance and credit sectors, may eliminate the need for private sector to set-up parallel identification systems leading to improved efficiency in delivery of their services and a reduction in identity-related frauds in the service delivery”
Supreme Court bench of Dr Justice BS Chauhan and Justice SA Bobde heard the case against 12-digit Aadhaar/ unique identification (UID) number for biometric profiling on 26 November 2013. The next date of hearing is on 10 December 2013. Raj Pal Singh, director, Planning Commission has filed the counter affidavit in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 833 of 2013 (Aruna Roy Vs Union of India providing the backdrop of the establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It is evident from the counter affidavit that it is directed towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and attempts to underline in the Court that there is bipartisan support for UID/ Aadhaar number project.
The counter affidavit argues that UIDAI was set up in furtherance of the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Reforming the National Security System were accepted by the BJP-led government besides the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee and the amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 notified on 7 January 2004. GoM under the chairmanship of LK Advani also included the Defence Minister, External Affairs Minister and Finance Minister. The report was submitted to PM on 26 February 2001. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had considered the GOM report on 11 May 2001.
The counter affidavit based on inputs from Census Commissioner-cum-Registrar General of India, National Population Register (NPR), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) underlines that “the need for creation of a credible citizen database having a system secure form of personal identification of individuals has acquired importance due to a variety of reasons which include:
a) changing security scenario in the country, (b) realisation for better targeting of services and benefits under different schemes of government, and c) increasing identity frauds.”
It refers to the ‘provision for a secure “cyber-space” for creation of NPR, handling and transmission of data between the local service centers and national data centers” which was presented to the Committee of Secretaries (COS) in October 2006. The studied silence of the counter affidavit about how “secure cyber-space” has turned out to be a myth in the post Wikileaks and in post-Snowden era is quite stark.
Chronologically, it is revealed that “the concept of a unique identification was first discussed in 2006 when administrative approval for the project – ‘Unique ID for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families” was given on 3 March 2006 by the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.” A Processes Committee under Planning Commission was set up on 3 July 2006 to suggest processes for creation for the “core database”.
The counter affidavit states that COS was “apprised about the Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme of the Department of Information Technology (DIT) for creation of a residents’ database based on the electoral rolls database of Election Commission of India...”. It adds that the rest of the population (was to) be covered during Census 2011 to prepare National Population Register (NPR).
The fourth meeting of EGoM to collate two schemes- National Population Register (NPR/MNC) under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Unique Identification Number (UID) project of the Department of Information Technology (DIT) held on 4 November 2008 at 162, Committee Room, South Block. MNC stands for Multi-purpose National Identity Card based on NPR, which was envisaged during the tenure of BJP-led government. As per the minutes of the meeting, chairman of the EGoM, Pranab Mukherjee, the then Minister of External Affairs concluded that “It also needs to be appreciated that the whole exercise being technology based and system driven, there is immense scope far outsourcing the data collation and validation work and other tasks to expert agencies in the public or private sector through a transparent process while retaining requisite control over sovereign functions.”
In the context, he mentioned the Passport Seva Project where retaining the sovereign functions within government (MEA) rest of the infrastructure, management and software development functions have been outsourced through a transparent process to private sector. Mukherjee stated that the UID project is unique in that the organization (UIDAI) has to work in close collaboration with large number of institutions and agencies both within and outside the government and will take at least five years to stabilize. The government at that time may need to take a fresh view particularly in light of further advancements in technology. This keeps the door open for DNA based identification.
A 14-page long document titled ‘Strategic Vision: Unique Identification of Residents’ prepared by Wipro Ltd and submitted to the Processes Committee has finally emerged. Its vision statement reads: “Creating a unique identification system of all residents in the country for efficient, transparent, reliable and effective delivery of various welfare and private services to the common person.” The cover page of the document mentions National Institute for Smart Government, DIT and Wipro Consulting. The ‘Strategic Vision on the UIDAI Project’ of Wipro Ltd, the consultant for the design phase and program management phase of the pilot UIDAI project. It envisaged the close linkage that the UIDAI would have to the electoral database. On 4 December 2006, the Prime Minister constituted an E-GoM comprising of Shivraj V Patil, Minister of Home Affairs, A Raja, Minister of Communications & Information Technology under the Chairmanship of Pranab Mukherjee, the then Minister of External Affairs. Doesn’t the presence of Raja as a member of EGoM and as the minister-in-charge of DIT which is/ was responsible for UID make the entire exercise tainted and create a rationale for re-visiting DIT’s proposal advanced in 2006 before the COS?
At the first meeting of the EGoM on 7 November 2007, “the need for creating an identity related resident database and identify and establish and institutional mechanism that will “own” the database and will be responsible for its maintenance and updating on an ongoing basis post its creation was recognized.” The proposal of UIDAI was approved on 28 January 2008. Pursuant to a meeting held on 25 January 2012 under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, “UIDAI was allowed to enroll 60 crore number by EFC which was formally approved by the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI in its meeting on 27 January 2012.” The fact remains Prime Minister is yet to reveal whether he and his family members have enrolled for biometric UID/ Aadhaar number.
Earlier, Prime Minister’s Council on UIDAI constituted on 30 July 2009 under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister held its first meeting on 12 August 2009 after Nandan Nilekani assumed charge as the chairperson in the rank and status of a cabinet minister. After that a Cabinet Committee on UIDAI was constituted on 22 October 2009. In a related development, Goolam E Vahanavati, Attorney General for India gave his written opinion on 6 August 2011 stating, “I do not consider the issuance of Aadhaar numbers to be a violation of right to privacy contained in Article 21 of the Constitution.” Wipro Ltd, Consultant of Planning Commission as part of a section titled ‘Implementation challenges’ refers to the issue of Transparency vs. right to privacy. The basic premise for the success of UID is the concept of “one owner, many users”, according to the document. But as of now the fact is that there are multiple owners of the database both inside and outside the government.
Notably, Wipro, the Consultant of Planning Commission states that “It is envisaged that, in the long term, UID would transform into being a de facto identifier for all residents of the country.” Its document states that “Importantly, statutory backing would be required for the adoption of UID by residents, Government departments, its agencies and the private sector in the long term. But as of now UID is conceptualized as de facto identifier and not a de jure identifier. This document has a section “Benefits to private/NGO Sector” wherein it states that “Private sector would be able to leverage the resident identification infrastructure and in turn, contribute to effective development activities, Use UID to speed up certain businesses, especially in the insurance and credit sectors, may eliminate the need for private sector to set-up parallel identification systems leading to improved efficiency in delivery of their services and a reduction in identity-related frauds in the service delivery.” Why this Congress led Government so obsessed with ensuring benefits for private/NGO sector using citizens’ personal sensitive information?
Ravi Shankar Prasad, member of Parliament, (MP), general secretary and chief spokesperson, BJP issued a statement on behalf of the party dated 21 January 2012 on the subject of “UID & National Security”? The question is did he carefully read the report of the Yashwant Sinha headed Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance that was submitted to both the Houses of Parliament in December 2011. It appears that he and his party has not done so. Had it done so it would have realized that “preparation of Unique Identification Number (UID) (Aadhaar) being prepared by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)” itself is legally and constitutionally questionable. BJP maintains a deafening silence over the issue of illegal and illegitimate biometric data collection. This was an issue categorically raised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee and its Prime Ministerial candidate. Arun Jaitely also raised deep concerns about privacy in Aadhaar era in writing.
BJP has asked the Indian National Congress led Government as to ‘What is the “Sanctity and integrity of the data” being collected by the UIDAI?’ Will a solemn reply by the Government stating that the “sanctity and integrity” of data in general and biometric data in particular being collected is being taken care assure and satisfy the principal opposition party? Is it looking for merely an assurance? Why is it choosing to be complicit about the illegality of biometric profiling as has been pointed out by the Parliamentary Committee? Will it continue with the illegality if it wins the 2014 elections? Its silence in this regard is quite glaring.
Why is BJP mixing up the issue of “National Register of Indian Citizens” and the identification of residents of India as proposed by biometric Aadhaar/ UID? The principal opposition party appears convinced about a need for a centralized database of citizens’ sensitive personal for “National Security”.
In its affidavit on UID/ Aadhaar number based biometric identification, the Congress-led Government has trapped the main opposition party in a political trap by paraphrasing what BJP- led government had articulated and undertaken when they were in power. This affidavit is also an attempt to give a political message to the Parliamentary Committee in question that both BJP and Congress essentially have similar position on biometric profiling of Indians and BJP’s opposition is merely a token opposition to justify its role as the principal opposition party. Notably, BJP is yet to take a position that if it wins 2014 elections it will dismantle the Aadhaar project as it suffers from democracy deficit.
Meanwhile, on 26 November 2013, the Supreme Court gave an order that reads: "After hearing the matter at length, we are of the view that all the States and Union Territories have to be impleaded as respondents to give effective directions. In view of these notices to be issued to all the states and union territories through standing counsel. The advocates who have already entered appearance must file their replies within a period of three days from today. Learned standing counsel for the states who were not represented may take instructions from their respective states and file their response within one week."
The Court refused to modify its order its order of 23 September 2013 stating that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory. Its modification was sought by the central government implying that it wanted to make it mandatory. This is contrary to the written opinion of Attorney General for India dated 6 August 2011 wherein he stated, because “…participation in the Scheme is voluntary”, it is not a violation of right to privacy.
Citizens and states must note that it is not a question of Aadhaar number being voluntary or mandatory, which seems to be the focus of the proposed resolution in the West Bengal State Assembly. It is a question of citizens being turned into subjects using illegal and illegitimate biometric Aadhaar number.
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
CPI (M) said the decision of oil companies to make Aadhaar-linked bank account compulsory for LPG subsidy is unacceptable as only 25% of the country's population had so far obtained the UID
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) has asked the Indian government to withdraw its decision to make unique identification (UID) number or Aadhaar compulsory for providing various benefits like cooking gas subsidy to citizens.
The Kerala state plenum of CPI (M) adopted a resolution in its meeting at Palakkad on Thursday. The resolution alleged that Aadhaar had been made compulsory by the Centre without having the backing of any parliamentary legislation and in disregard to the repeated rulings of the Supreme Court on the issue.
"The government has been pressurising the people to open bank accounts and link them to Aadhaar. Instead of allowing the people to open zero-balance accounts, many banks are insisting they should deposit Rs500 to Rs1,000 to open accounts," CPI(M) said.
Though a bill was introduced in Parliament on the matter, the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to which it was referred, had negated the salient provisions of the bill, the resolution said.
It said, "The decision of oil companies to make Aadhaar-linked bank account compulsory for cooking gas subsidy is unacceptable as only 25% of the country's population had so far obtained the Aadhaar. This means that the vast majority of the people are anxious whether they would continue to receive the benefits for which they are entitled."
CPI (M) alleged that it is part of the government's neo-liberal policy of phasing out subsidies and welfare payments.
"The Government's decision to set a time-frame for linking the benefits with Aadhaar has caused serious concern among the beneficiaries of various welfare schemes," the resolution added.