Has 'the right to identity' aka Aadhaar, as claimed by Rahul Gandhi, been bestowed on all the members of Congress Working Committee and AICC? It has been almost five years. When will these people claim their manufactured 'right to identity'?
Deliberations and speeches on 17 January 2014 at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting revealed that leaders of Indian National Congress (Congress) and their donors are admittedly afraid of Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). Congress leader and prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh confessed that infrastructure projects are held up because CAG and CVC have raised questions. Notably, these projects include public information infrastructure which is the universal set of which unique identification (UID) and Aadhaar is a subset. In her speech at the AICC meeting, Sonia Gandhi, Congress president said, “The Aadhaar initiative, “Aap ka paisa, Aap ke haath”, has been launched in many districts. When fully operational, it will ensure the elimination of the corruption that people experience in their daily lives, especially in the delivery of subsidies, pensions, wages and other government benefits.”
This Seventy Seventh Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance reveals that there is reason for the promoters of Aadhaar to be afraid of CAG and CVC. The deals with the action taken by the government on the recommendations contained in the Sixty Ninth Report of the Committee (Fifteenth Lok Sabha) that was presented to Lok Sabha and laid in Rajya Sabha on 22 April 2013. The PSC report disapproves of the grievance redressal mechanism of the UIDAI. “The Committee is dissatisfied to note that the action taken reply is elusive on the number and nature of complaints received regarding issue of Aadhaar cards.”
Irregularities committed by the illegal UIDAI has been dealt with from page numbered 11 to 14 of this Report of the 31 member Parliamentary Committee on action taken by government on the recommendations contained in the Sixty Ninth Report of the Committee (Fifteenth Lok Sabha) on Demands for Grants (2013-14) of the Ministry of Planning.
The PSC notes that “out of 60 crore residents to be enrolled by UIDAI by March 2014...While the details regarding number of Aadhaar cards generated has been furnished, the reply (of the government) is silent as regard to the number of cards issued.” The report notes that replies indicating action taken on all the recommendations contained in the report were furnished by the government on 22 July 2013.
The PSC report observes, “the total budgetary allocations made for UIDAI since its inception up to Budget Estimates (BE) 2013-14 is Rs5,440.30 crore, out of which Rs2,820.30 crore has been utilised up to 31 March 2013 and the remaining amount of Rs2,620 crore has been allocated in BE 2013-14. The Ministry has informed that the average cost per card is estimated to range from Rs100 to Rs157. Taking the average cost per card to be Rs130, the total expenditure for issue of 60 crore cards is estimated to about Rs7,800 crore. Thus, the expected requirement of funds during 2013-14 is Rs4,979.70 crore, whereas only Rs2,620 crore has been kept for BE 2013-14, which is thus grossly inadequate. Given the tardy progress in enrollment/ generation of Aadhaar cards, being done without legislative approval, it is doubtful that UIDAI could achieve the targets envisaged during 2013-14. The committee is constrained to observe a disturbing approach in the budgetary exercise of the Ministry by fixing inflated targets without commensurate budgetary allocations. The committee would, therefore, expect the government to review enrolment progress/funds requirement and project realistic requirement of the funds after legislative approval.”
In his speech at the AICC meeting, Rahul Gandhi, Congress vice president claimed that “We have also created the right to identity so that your money reaches you directly. It is the largest anti-corruption platform that anyone has ever built. It will enable people to get their benefits and entitlements without paying bribe.”
The claim about creating “the right to identity” to Indians alluding to biometric identification is astoundingly bizarre. Disregarding public resistance to national ID cards for creating an inventory of citizens world over, Rahul Gandhi’s advocacy for it reveals his identity as a threat to civil and political rights. Will he explain as to why Great Britain has scrapped its ID card program and National Identification Registry? Why it has been abandoned in the US, Canada, China, France and Japan?
The factual inaccuracy of the proposition for the creation of “the right to identity can easily be understood if one examines as to whether or not Sonia Gandhi has been bestowed “the right to identity” or not? It may be recalled that although the attached electoral rolls (see the image below) revealed that Sonia Gandhi's name featured the electoral rolls of 1980, the fact was/is that she was not a citizen of India at least till 1983. She gained the identity of an Indian citizen quite later by naturalisation as provided for under Section 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 when Section 5 (c) was inserted in the Citizenship Act, 1955, through an amendment. The inserted section enabled her, as a foreign spouse marrying an Indian citizen to acquire Indian citizenship by registration, if he or she has resided in India for five years at the time of applying.
Section 5 of The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for citizenship by registration which reads “Subject to the provisions of this section and such conditions and restrictions as may be prescribed, the prescribed authority may, on application made in this behalf, register as a citizen of India any person who is not already such citizen by virtue of the constitution or by virtue of any of the other provisions of this Act” and belongs to any of the categories like [persons who are, or have been, married to citizens of India and are ordinarily resident in India and have been so resident for five years immediately before making an application for registration]. Section 6 of The Citizenship Act provides for citizenship by naturalisation, which reads, “Where an application is made in the prescribed manner by any person of full age and capacity who is not a citizen of a country specified in the First Schedule for the grant of a certificate of naturalisation to him, the central government may, if satisfied that the applicant is qualified for naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule, grant to him a certificate of naturalisation—provided that, if in the opinion of the central government, the applicant is a person who has rendered distinguished service to the cause of science, philosophy, art, literature, world peace or human progress generally, it may waive all or any of the conditions specified in the Third Schedule” of the Act.
The fact is that “right to identity” in India is conferred on Sonia Gandhi due to Section 5 of the Act that provides for citizenship by registration which was inserted in July 1987. It is reported that she became citizen of India on 30 April 1983 at the age of 37. She was born on 9 December 1946 in Lusiana, Veneto, Italy and was most likely an Italian citizen till then. Rahul Gandhi was born on 19 June 1970. The right to identity is conferred by Citizenship Act and not by Congress party as is being claimed.
The resolution adopted at the AICC meeting reads, “The Indian National Congress also believes that fighting corruption requires a fundamental transformation in our service delivery structures. The ‘Aapka Paisa, Aapke Haath' initiative of the UPA government, backed by the unique identity number Aadhaar, which will ensure that benefits of government schemes reach the people directly, on time and at their doorstep, eliminating corruption and leakages, is a major step in this direction. The Congress is deeply committed to ensuring the full rollout and effective implementation of this programme across the country, while ensuring that no one is excluded in the transition and no hardship is caused in the initiate stage.”
Has “the right to identity” been bestowed on all the members of Congress Working Committee and AICC? It has been almost five years. When will these people claim their manufactured “right to identity”?
In the book Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance, by David Lyon of Queen's University, Ontario, Canada points out the role of cartels of identity card promoters in its proliferation.
The resolution states, “The Congress Party has, since the time of Pandit Nehru, championed the role of science and technology in India's development. Rajivji (Rajiv Gandhi) conceptualised and brought in the IT and telecom revolution to India. In the 21st century, the importance of knowledge and innovation in India's development is critical, and the Congress party is committed to making India the world's foremost knowledge economy of this century. The National Knowledge Network that connects all major universities and colleges in India with high-speed internet, the National Optical Fibre Network that is in the process of connecting all 250,000 Panchayats with broadband internet connectivity, the Aadhaar initiative, and several e-governance initiatives started by the Congress-led UPA government have set the foundations for this. We remain committed to accelerating the implementation of these initiatives to transform the lives of all Indians.”
It is good that the resolution remembered Nehru. In her book ‘The Pivot of Civilization’, Margaret Sanger, who visited and influenced Nehru, advocated coercion to prevent the "undeniably feeble-minded" from procreating. A Nehru headed sub-committee of the Congress resolved in 1938: "The State should follow a eugenic programme to make the race physically and mentally healthy.” (Eugenic (from Greek eu, meaning ‘good/well’, and -genÄ“s, meaning ‘born’) is the belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population.)
Opponents of eugenics like Abraham Myerso, neurologist and psychiatrist argued that “There are fine people springing from the most unlikely parents, and the finest parents may bring forth the wildest and most inadequate progeny." They rightly argued that is/eugenics was a pseudoscience fraught with racist agendas. Now Eugenics and its genetic determinism of identity stands discredited. Rahul Gandhi’s advocacy for “Right to Identity based on biometric data” is as regressive as the eugenic programmes.
In an official statement on 5 November 2013, All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) said, “What is shocking to citizens is that merely a month ago on 23 September 2013, the Supreme Court of India passed a verdict in response to a PIL seeking a stay on the implementation of the UID/Aadhaar Scheme, stating that enrollment under the Aadhaar scheme is completely voluntary and not necessary to avail essential government services. The UIDAI along with the oil PSUs and the government have filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on 15 October 2013 BUT the SC has NOT reviewed its earlier verdict yet. Hence, the current notification by the Petroleum Ministry is completely illegal and in total violation of the SC’s verdict.”
Trinamool Congress states, “It is necessary to review the history of the Aadhaar programme in the context of the card not having a mandate for universal coverage in India. Aadhaar/UID was set up in July 2009, but by late 2011 the Home Ministry expressed serious reservations that the enrolment process was not as foolproof as the National Population Registry (NPR), a mandatory register under the Home ministry, which enrolled citizens using a strict house-to-house canvassing method involving community verification. In December 2011, a 31-member Parliamentary Committee categorically rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, the proposed law under which UIDAI and Aadhaar were to function…In a country like ours where illiteracy is rampant and the average citizen is already burdened with different cards for different purposes- voter ID card, PAN card, BPL card – another card only serves to burden the common citizen.”
Lambasting Dr Manmohan Singh government, Trinamool Congress said, “This government is cracking joke after joke at the expense of the poor…The All India Trinamool Congress demands that the government fully complies with the verdict of the Supreme Court immediately and withdraws this notification.”
But under the influence of likes of Sam Pitroda who seems to have fathered the entire identification and tagging exercise even Trinamool Congress is steering clear demanding abandonment of the scheme in totality as has been done in several countries to safeguard civil rights.
It is reliably learnt that after West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution against biometric Aadhaar number, people are getting notices from the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner (ORG&CC), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India through municipalities asking them to mandatorily enroll for biometric National Population Register (NPR) for Aadhaar number.
This exposes the deceptiveness involved in the entire exercise because as per ORG&CCI only 17 states and two Union Territories of India are to be covered under NPR and West Bengal is not included. The rest of the states and union territories are being covered under biometric Aadhaar. The fact is both the Centralised ID Repository (CIDR) of biometric Aadhaar number and NPR which also generates Aadhaar number is essentially the same because both the databases are being converged as per design.
The reply of Rajeev Shukla, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning in the Parliament in this regard is misleading. On 14 August 2013, he informed, “The purposes of UIDAI and NPR are different.”
Shukla added that steps have been taken with a view to eliminating overlap. These setups included enrolment by UIDAI has been limited to 60 crore residents in the States/UTs listed for the time being, when a person while enrolling for NPR indicates he/she is already enrolled for Aadhaar by UIDAI, the biometric data is not to be captured by NPR. Instead the Aadhaar number/enrolment number is recorded by NPR and the biometric data can be sourced from the UIDAI, Aadhaar numbers are generated for all residents who enroll with NPR thus obviating the need for such residents to re-enroll with the UIDAI and an inter-ministerial coordination committee has been constituted to ensure smooth implementation of enrolment by NPR and UIDAI. The reply given in response to questions by members of Parliament (MPs), Sajjan Singh Verma and Syed Shahnawaz Hussain is actually a confirmation of the inbuilt convergence and overlapping.
The States covered under NPR include:
(1) Arunachal Pradesh;
(6) Himachal Pradesh;
(7) Jammu & Kashmir;
(9) Madhya Pradesh;
(16) Uttar Pradesh;
The Union Territories covered under it include Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh.
In the meanwhile, it has been reported that the Congress Core Committee at the AICC meeting has recommended that Aadhaar should not be made mandatory for LPG subsidy. Is it acting compliance with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee “particularly in the light of recent judgement of the Supreme Court mentioning that no person should suffer for not possessing the Aadhaar card”? The government must in the meantime issue instructions to state governments and to all other authorities that it should not be made mandatory for any purpose. The fact is that Congress and most political parties who are avoiding to take a clear political position demanding scrapping of the biometric identification exercise are speaking with forked tongue. Hasn’t such stance been engineered under influence of donations to the tune of 7.5 % of annual profit of the companies under the new Companies Act, 2013?
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(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
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