Voter Data Exploitation in Andhra Pradesh. Should You Be Worried?
Hyderabad-based IT Grids (India) Pvt Ltd, which provides information technology (IT) services to Andhra Pradesh's ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP), is facing allegations of having stolen data of 37 million voters from the state government database through an app. According to a complaint filed in this case, the data was being misused for voter profiling and deleting names of non-TDP voters to further the prospects of the Party in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections. This not only is a serious matter but also raises questions on impending dangers of allowing profiling of citizens through demographic data obtained from Aadhaar. This has also led to deletion of name of voters, who are not favourably inclined towards the political party's agenda, from the voter's list.
 
Last week, the Cyberabad police had registered a case against the company on a petition by whistleblower T Lokeshwar Reddy, who alleged the TDP had been provided data of Andhra Pradesh voters, including their Aadhaar details, colour photographs and mobile numbers.
 
Mr Reddy alleged that IT Grids integrated this voter data with reports of surveys done by the Party and uploaded it on Sevamitra, an app for TDP cadres. He claimed the data was being misused for voter profiling and deleting names of non-TDP voters to further the prospects of the Party in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
 
Preliminary investigations revealed that IT Grids got access to personal information and sensitive data related to Aadhaar, electoral rolls and beneficiaries of government schemes. The company was using this data for Sevamitra, an application developed by it for the TDP.
 
"Through this application, they have constituency wise voters' data and affiliations of each voter party wise i.e. TDA, YSRCP, Janasena and neutral. They also have an option to identify the preferences of a voter for a particular party. The application also has the information of voter ID details, caste details and address of the voter. IT Grid also has got the access to the beneficiaries data of the government related to Andhra Pradesh. The information is being used to create profiles of voters and use them for political purposes," a statement from Cyberabad Police said.
 
Srinivas Kodali, who calls himself a public interest technologist (@digitaldutta), also pointed out how the JaiTDP app was collecting a lot of information using Aadhaar data from the state government sites. 
 
 
Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar said police served notices on four employees of the company and in their presence conducted search and seizure at the company's office in Madhapur on Saturday and Sunday. Several electronic gadgets, hard discs, cellphones, documents and other materials were seized.
 
The police also suspect a link between the misuse of data and deletion of voters' names in Andhra Pradesh. Mr Sajjanar said the police in the neighbouring state have registered 50 cases against people who have lodged online complaints seeking removal of names of eligible voters from the electoral rolls.
 
Mr Sajjanar said the police have issued a notice to Amazon Web Services for the production of a database relating to application and other data. "We are also writing to the UIDAI and the Election Commission for more details," he said.
 
The searches conducted by Cyberabad police at IT Grid's office had also sparked a row between the ruling parties of two neighbouring states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
 
Mr Kodali has been pointing out misuse of citizen's personal by the Andhra Pradesh government and how all such data, including Aadhaar numbers of residents were being leaked all over the internet. In August 2018, he said, the state government had carried out Aadhaar based survey and geotagged every resident and the family details by doing an electronic know-your-customer (eKYC).
 
 
Mr Kodali also alleged that in Andhra Pradesh, data such as every resident's property tax, water bills, advertisement tax details along with Aadhaar numbers, mobile number, GPS details, residential details and electoral ward is stored with a non-government organisation (NGO) started by Nandan Nilekani, who is behind the Aadhaar project, and also headed UIDAI before returing to Infosys as its chief. 
 
 
Calling Andhra Pradesh as "true digital nightmare, all thanks to Aadhaar", Mr Kodali says, the state government publishes Aadhaar everywhere from electricity bills to even in auto-rickshaws. 
 
 
This expose raises several serious and important questions on linking Aadhaar with everything under the sun by government. Important to note, when the Supreme Court in its order last year discarded Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act that allowed use of the UID by private entities, the union government brought out an ordinance to allow such usage. 
 
This means, citizens need to be on vigil and protect personal data that is vulnerable through linking of Aadhaar with everything, either legally or illegally.
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COMMENTS

B. Yerram Raju

1 week ago

Present UIDAI chief is former Technology Adviser to Govt of Andhra Pradesh.

Ashok S

2 weeks ago

It is very unfortunate the officials are misusing the data .Tomorrow they will redirect the money transferred by state /Center to the accounts of near and dear ones

Mahesh S Bhatt

2 weeks ago

Giving all information to Political Monkeys is to give them AK56 & MiG Bison Mahesh Bhatt

Raja Nagendra Kumar

2 weeks ago

That is stupidity, why induce fear of Digital with people of Andhra. Can you share how the delete of Voter data possible... How long media keeps fooling and creating fake stories..

REPLY

Rohith Raju

In Reply to Raja Nagendra Kumar 2 weeks ago

Through Form -7

Srinivasulu Malepati

2 weeks ago

All lies.. AP Govt and EC clarified no data theft occurred. Moneylife beware to check facts before publishing such reports.

REPLY

Sandeep Khurana

In Reply to Srinivasulu Malepati 2 weeks ago

All evidence has been shared by the security researcher and provided in article above. Police has registered a case. AP Govt and EC are vested parties (accused ) in the case and have motive to lie. So, point out precise flaw in the report, or else please do not make unsubstantiated claims.

Meenal Mamdani

2 weeks ago

Now we can see how pinpoint identification of a person can result in political disenfranchisement.
Not only that a person is knocked off the electoral roles but in future, he may even be eliminated by the goons of a political party.
Govt of India bears responsibility for this state of affairs.

An Indian tourist adrift in India
Having travelled much of the world variously as seafarer, media person, techie and more, I have, over the last few years, opted to be a tourist exclusively within India, and that too, as much as possible, by surface transport - rail, road and water.
 
There are, certainly, vast improvements in infrastructure and service delivery, especially from the private sector. There are also huge regional imbalances in the quality of products and services, with south India and north-east India way ahead of the rest of India in terms of true and real hospitality as well as basics.
 
But it is where governments, both state and Central, come into the picture that the realities are often totally at odds with the stated goals and objectives. As a matter of simple fact, it is very often these very so-called facilitating bodies, both Central and state, and the people therein, who work at cross purposes, usually behaving more as danda-wielding "sarkari sanstha" types, than as tourism facilitators.
 
This also varies from region to region and this short essay is about the ground realities in the Bundelkhand region, which is divided between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, two of our largest states in terms of size and population as well as tourism potential, and the role of the Indian railways therein.
 
This is not to detract from the huge success of the Kumbh at PrayagRaj in eastern Uttar Pradesh - that has been and shall remain a Superstar to remind us of all that is possible and more when we as Indians set out to put in a remarkable performance.
 
For practical reasons, access to the Jhansi and Orchha belt of the Bundelkhand region is best via Delhi but rail access from the rest of India is also feasible. There is minimal or almost nil civilian air access to the Bundelkhand region, for multiple reasons. So, travel to Bundelkhand is perforce by rail or by road, and therein lies the glitch.
 
 
The first solid point off the bat - in all my travels all over India, I have seldom come across more hospitable and honest ordinary people, than in the Bundelkhand areas.
 
Their pride, self-respect and understanding of service as different from servitude is to be saluted. From the poorest of daily wagers to the owners of massive properties, my experience with all of them has been heartening, and their history bears this out. For this reason alone I would strongly recommend a tourist visit to Bundelkhand by Indians, as is borne out also by the simple fact that about 66% to 75% of white collar tourists to this area appear to be mainly non Anglo Saxon foreigners, because this is one part of India that gave the British colonial masters the tough time that they rarely encountered in other parts of the country. 
 
A huge group of tourists from China explained it to me thus - "We want to visit parts of India which are not just about Mughal and British era." 
 
In Bundelkhand, women on two-wheelers and in other activities of the tourism support services like guides, shop-keepers, restaurant and stall operators, are commonplace all over, showing that gender parity is well established. Also, none of the perils of modern tourism are visible as yet - no paedophilia, hard drugs and flesh trade. In three days of roaming around in this part of Bundelkhand, I did not see a single syringe in a gutter, was not solicited for sex even once, and did not spot a single massage parlour of  that looked suspicious. What you see in Bundelkhand is rock solid upper end tourists, apart from the regular Indian pilgrim traffic to the oldest temples seen in this part of India.
 
 
And honesty across the board. As well as an interesting attitude towards the Brits.
 
If you are British and you come to Bundelkhand, you will be reminded by every monument, museum and memory on how your ancestors were continuously on the trot here. If you are Indian, you will be reminded of how the Mughals and the British colonials were kept on the run by the intransigent people of Bundelkhand for centuries: which is also why this is one part of north India where ancient Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monuments have survived - and that is important to understand as well as to observe. It is another matter that the Jhansi Museum, maintained by the government of Uttar Pradesh, and the Jhansi fort, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Central government, still refer to 1857 as "mutiny", sadly.
 
Roads in and around Bundelkhand are not of the best quality, but they are totally safe for tourists, especially women, and it can take anything between 8 and 12 hours to and from Delhi to Jhansi/Orchha for example. In addition, the highways meander in and out of UP and MP multiple times, with added excursions into Rajasthan and Haryana, so moving around in yellow plate commercial vehicles is full of inter-state complications of the which have only become more complex with time.
 
That leaves us with the Indian Railways. Access to Bundelkhand is good via Jhansi junction, an important railway as well as old garrison town, but therein also lies another small technicality - most of the fast trains from Delhi operate via Agra and Gwalior, which swallow up most of the seats available, and so huge waiting lists for Jhansi from Delhi are legendary. It is another matter that this route also appears to block a lot of seats and berths for the so-called VVIPs. The Gatimaan Express, now India's second fastest train, is the preferred option on this route - if you can get tickets to and from Jhansi, that is. 
 
In addition, as happens with Indian Railways, the executive lounge for 1st AC and the executive class paying passengers at the Jhansi railway station, announced with much fanfare by the ministry of railways, has been cordoned off for visiting VVIPs of the indeterminate sort. The rest of the railway station is a royal mess of the feudal sort too: the less said of it the better: and certainly not befitting that of a tourist hotspot. At the Jhansi railway station, the colonials never really left, they were just replaced by the neo-colonials and their cohorts as well as gibbering servants hiding their name tags.
 
Next, Jhansi is in Uttar Pradesh while Orchha is in Madhya Pradesh, and they are just about 10-15 kilometres apart. In addition, Jhansi is far away from Lucknow, Orchha is equally far away from Bhopal. The quality of services provided by state government officials on both sides, as explained to me variously, is not of the best.
 
Lucknow and Bhopal are both viewed as neo-colonial feudal entities which had a history of bowing to the Mughals and the British - which is not a popular theme in Bundelkhand. Delhi, incidentally, is viewed as the super slave city which bowed and cringed to the Mughals and the British.
 
The Bundelkhand ethos to tourism starts from there. As long as you can negotiate the perils placed in your path by the triumvirate of Central, MP and UP governments, it is a pleasant vacation for tourists. Do be prepared to be tripped up, however, at every step by babudom. 
 
 
For example, to see unpaid monuments in Orchha like the magnificient chhatries and the old Chatarbhuj temple, you are expected to go to far-away Raja Mahal and buy your tickets there for the paid monument which is the Orchha Fort. In person. Why in person? "Security". Of course, the same tickets are available at a premium everywhere or you can just tip the ever present "sarkari". The numbers add up if you are foreigner, because the tickets cost 250/- rupees. In addition, random entities have started charging for tickets even at other non-ticketed monuments in both Orchha and Jhansi, such as the existing temples. However, if challenged, they do withdraw.
 
The best hotels in Orchha are in the Rs4000 per couple per night, including breakfast, range. We stayed at the Bundelkhand Riverside, a sprawling property along the Betwa River, and enjoyed a decent quality of air, services and peace as well as met pleasant people across the range of tourism support services, which makes us want to go back to Orchha again. Hopefully the Indian Railways will do their part, and improve tourist facilities at Jhansi too.
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COMMENTS

Meenal Mamdani

2 weeks ago

Realistic and loving description of the archeology and merciless description of the babudom that makes any visit to India a nightmare.
One can expect no less from a RTI activist.

MANDAR MUKUND DIWAKAR

2 weeks ago

i have been to Orchha and it is a wonderful place for every Indian to visit. I would say must visit. the place is serene and full of history and grandeur.

REPLY

Veeresh Malik

In Reply to MANDAR MUKUND DIWAKAR 2 weeks ago

There is a lot of ancient science and technology waiting to be discovered here of the non-Mughal and non-British sort.

tanay

2 weeks ago

Very heartening to see a travel article describing the unexplored region of Jhansi Orchha Bundelkhand.

REPLY

Veeresh Malik

In Reply to tanay 2 weeks ago

The big thing is seeing how India becomes cleaner as you go past Delhi, NCR and then Agra. The more the mis-Governance, the more the dirt - the most dirty parts of Orchha were in and around the Government offices near the Fort. It kept getting cleaner as you went further away from the local Government offices.

tanay

In Reply to Veeresh Malik 2 weeks ago

I have planned an orchha trip inspired from your blog

Mumbai Port Trust – Multiple Issues, No Easy Solutions
No discussion about Mumbai’s notoriously land-starved real estate market is complete without mentioning the massive tracts of land held by various government and non-government agencies and bodies. Arguably, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) is currently one of the largest landowners in the country’s otherwise land-scarce financial capital.
 
MbPT owns nearly 1,900 acres of commercially useable prime land in south and south-central Mumbai along the sea-facing eastern coast. If put to good use, this large tract of land can help considerably in solving the city’s immense housing shortage.
 
Initially either oblivious or indifferent to its real worth, the port authorities have now realised that they sit on a veritable goldmine that can fetch massive capital. However, it is definitely not as easy as it may appear since many are now trying to capitalise on this precious land.
 
Some existing lessees are refusing to vacate the leased premises—even post expiry of their lease period of 100 years—or even allow the rentals to be hiked to match the current market rates. Others are engaged in long-drawn court cases commissioned by either party.
 
Either way, it is a fact that prime land in the heart of the city is lying unused to its best potential, despite the industry constantly harping on the housing shortage in the city’s heartland.
 
Issues - More Complex than Ever
 
The land of MbPT, a Central government facility under the Union ministry of shipping, is increasingly appearing on the radar of the state government or the BMC for affordable housing. After all, this are prime land parcels. How far the state’s plans will actually be implemented even if they do get a share of the land is another big question.
 
 
Nevertheless, seeing the commercial viability of the land, the port trust in 2018 refused to relinquish a portion of its precious land on the eastern waterfront to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC). Instead, it planned to turn the land into a commercial development with sea terminal, water tourism, central business and finance districts, hotels, and business offices—leaving a mere 10%-11% of land for affordable housing.
 
Paradoxically, if we consider the rejuvenation or development of port cities in developed countries like the US and UK, a major emphasis has been given to affordable housing.
 
The authorities’ refusal last year to give away land for affordable housing also flies in the face of their assurances to the BMC during the formulation of the Mumbai Development Plan 2034. The result is that, just like the earlier mill lands being converted into prime residential and commercial hubs for the limited few, the port land will also see similar fate—if the various issues surrounding it are resolved at all.
 
To compound the issue, MbPT as of now does not even have any concrete plan to execute its development propaganda. Moreover, that implementation itself would pose to be a major challenge for them in the future.
 
Besides, the issue is far more complex than is immediately evident. Despite having ownership of this land, MbPT is unable to get their property vacated by several tenants whose lease periods (ranging from 1 month to 100 years) has long since expired. Quite correctly, the MbPT or the government do not offer them an alternate rehabilitation plan.
 
Both parties are embroiled in innumerable court cases that will take years to be sorted out. As an added ‘inconvenience’, the Indian Tenancy Act is largely skewed in favour of tenants. 
 
Even if the Port wins most of the cases in its favour, the real challenge for implementation of its development will be funding. As it is, the prevailing funding crisis in the sector has left builders and other real estate stakeholders in dire straits. 
 
If we take the case of Dharavi, it is evident that despite all good intentions, the current cash crunch with developers has prevented even the ‘big boys’ from stepping forward and take up the challenge of building this mega project—which obviously requires massive funds. 
 
No Solutions in Sight
 
It would be difficult to suggest any single ‘concrete’ solution to the tremendous challenge that the MbPT faces. The blame-game between all concerned parties will only ruin the realty prospects of land, which could have otherwise been utilised to rejuvenate a city that needs serious affordable housing infusion.
 
The recent relaxation in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2018 that permits real estate activities up to 50 meters of the high tide line provides a respite to the MbPT. This essentially means that a lot of their land which falls within the coastal regulatory zone and where no real estate activity was permitted, has opened up.
 
On one hand, there are tenants irked by the port authorities, and on the other authorities that claim they are being deprived of their right to land ownership. However, taking a few steps back, one can only say that for Mumbai to reap the real benefits, there has to be an all-inclusive plan wherein all concerned real estate stakeholders get to some share of the benefits.
 
(Anuj Puri is chairman of ANAROCK Property Consultants Pvt Ltd)
 
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