Strange as it may sound, but the PMO transferred an RTI application seeking correspondence about Nandan Nilekani’s resignation as chairman of UIDAI, to the Election Commission! The EC doesn’t even have a locus standi in the matter
“A commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred millions. Tell this to a man free from superstition and he will fail to grasp what these words mean. What does it mean that thirty thousand people, not athletes, but rather weak and ordinary people, have enslaved two hundred millions of vigorous, clever, capable, freedom-loving people? Do not the figures make it clear that not the English, but the Indians, have enslaved themselves?
- Leo Tolstoy in his letter to Gandhi, reproduced by latter on 19 November 1909
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on 25 March 2014 was asked through an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to share the following documents:
1. Copy of Mr Nandan Nilekani’s appointment letter to UIDAI
2. Copy of Mr Nandan Nilekani’s resignation letter from UIDAI
3. Copy of acceptance of this resignation from the Prime Minister
4. Copies of all file documents and correspondence relating to Mr Nilekani right up to his resignation
The RTI applicant is not seeking any election related correspondence or any classified document but in its reply dated 1 April 2014, the PMO has send a document titled Office Memorandum (No. RTI/1883/2014-PMR) signed by SE Rizvi, Deputy Secretary and Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), stating that the RTI application was received On 28 March 2014 but the same has been “transferred under section 6 (3) (ii) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, for action as appropriate.” This Office Memorandum is addressed to Secretary, Election Commission of India! Addressing the RTI applicant, it states, “You are advised to approach the above public authority for further information regarding the matter. Response in respect of this office, if any, will be provided in due course.”
It is intriguing as to why is PMO is transferring the RTI application regarding correspondence Nilekani, chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on the issue of biometric unique identity (UID)/ Aadhaar program and the PMO to the Election Commission, which has no locus standi in the matter?
In another reply dated 17 May 2013 to an RTI application wherein details of the process of de-duplication that has been put in place by National Population Register (NPR) in relation to UIDAI, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is implementing the biometric data based NPR, the Office of Registrar General, NPR Division, MHA replied, “The NPR data is being sent to UIDAI for de-duplication and generation of Aadhaar number. Since the processes are being done by UIDAI, it is therefore transferred to UIDAI.”
When information was sought about the legal provisions and rules, which allows collection of 10 fingerprints and two IRIS scan of citizens, the MHA replied, “The Citizenship Act, 1955 empowers the Government to prescribe the procedures to be followed in compulsory registration of the citizens of India. As per this provision, the Government has decided to create National Population Register –a Register of usual Residents as the first step towards the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens. Section 18 of the said Act empowers Central Government to make Rules to carry out the purposes of the Act and to issue guidelines to the State Governments. Under this provision, the Government has issued Guidelines to the States laying down the process to be followed for creating the NPR. The process includes collection of data by house-to-house enumeration, collection of biometrics (10 fingerprint, 2 Iris prints and photograph); de-duplication of the data by UIDAI; publication and invitation of claims and objections; vetting by Gram Sabha/ Ward Committees; vetting by local officials and police and then finalizing the NPR database.”
To a question as to whether NPR will issue identity cards or number to those who are registered, the MHA replied, “A proposal for issuance of Resident Identity Cards (RIC) to all usual residents of age 18 years and above under the scheme of National Population Register (NPR) in the country is under consideration of the Government.”
In response to the question on RIC on whether the RIC card, will bear the number of NPR or UIDAI, MHA replied, “The proposed RIC would bear the Aadhaar number.” When MHA was asked to state the detailed process by which NPR differentiates between citizens and non-citizens at the time of registration and generation of number, it replied “NPR is a register of usual residents, which would contain citizens as well as non-citizens.” The RTI applications were filed by Qaneez-e-Fatemah Sukhrani.
It is evident from these replies that Aadhaar is seeded into the NPR and the proposed RIC cards but those who went to enroll for UID/ Aadhaar were not informed about it. Even the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill for UID/ Aadhaar, which was introduced in the Parliament and which was trashed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, did not reveal it. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance either erred or remained in dark about how biometric database based Aadhaar is the backbone of the proposed RIC cards based on biometric NPR database. The biometric database based NPR has rightly been opposed by BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi in his letter to Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister.
In his letter Mr Modi wrote, “…there is no mention of capturing biometrics in the Citizenship Act or Citizenship Rules, 2009”. In the absence of any provision in the Citizenship Act, 1955, or rules for capturing biometrics, it is difficult to appreciate how the capture of biometrics is a statutory requirement. Photography and biometrics is only mentioned in the Manual of Instructions for filling up the NPR household schedule and even in that there is no mention of capturing the iris”.
After Gujarat stopped collection of biometric data, the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram sent a letter to Mr Modi in August 2011, pointing out that creation of the NPR was a “statutory requirement” under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and “once initialised, (it) has to be necessarily completed”. The MHA had also requested the chief minister to instruct state government officers to cooperate in creation of the NPR. This was when the entire media, citizens and the political class was hoodwinked into believing that there was a rift between Mr Nilekani’s UIDAI under Planning Commission and Dr C Chandramouli’s NPR under MHA when Mr Chidambaram headed it.
The replies from the PMO and MHA need to be read together. RK Singh, former Home Secretary who is contesting on BJP’s ticket from Arrah in Bihar should enlighten his own party’s leadership and the citizens of the country about the ulterior motives of Aadhaar and NPR and whether or not he agrees with Modi’s views against them. There is a compelling reason for the opposition parties to raise the issue of non-disclosure by PMO of the correspondence between him and Nilekani on the issue of biometric database.
Supreme Court orders of 23 September 2013 and 24 March 2014 besides Punjab & Haryana High Court’s order on biometric Aadhaar number that is linked to Aadhaar number generating NPR vindicates the statement of concern seeking stoppage of biometric profiling of Indians
issued by 17 eminent citizens like Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Justice AP Shah, Aruna Roy, Prof Upendra Baxi, Bezwada Wilson, Prof Uma Chakravarty and others in September 2010.
It is noteworthy that Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, and Belgium agreed as per Prüm Convention, 2005 that to provide each other mutual online access to their database of police fingerprint and DNAs. Every country can match fingerprints and DNA data with the other countries databases and see whether information on that person is available there. The mere fact of a person being registered in such a database has seeds of troubles. The Wikileaked US embassy cables revealed that as early as 2006 the US government began discussions with Germany on what parts of the Prüm Convention “might be fruitful for the US to pursue with Germany as a prelude to an agreement with the Prüm group of EU countries.”
Such databases can unleash rampant extrajudicial killings. The creation of similar databases in India by Planning Commission and MHA is fraught with genocidal ramifications of minorities of all ilk like migrants, political opponents, ethnic minorities and religious minorities.
It may be recalled that Press Information Bureau (PIB), Government of India had issued a statement of Planning Commission dated 23 July, 2009 on Nandan Nilekani taking over as Chairman of UIDAI.
The PIB release had stated, “Replying to queries of the media persons, Shri Nilekani said that data base of residents from various sources will be used for biometric identification. Authority will include best available technical experts from private and Government sector both.” It is still not clear as to which law authorized him to use data base of residents from various sources for biometric identification. Does UIDAI have the legal mandate to source such information from pre-existing database of Indian residents?
The release read, “Shri Nilekani said Unique Identification Number will ensure multifarious benefits by enabling different applications. Unique number will include personal and demographic detail of the residents.”
Beyond mere enrolment of unwitting Indians and non-Indians, there is nothing on record to show that the “multifarious benefits” has been ensured by UID/ Aadhaar number.
While Planning Commission issued a release when Nilekani took over as chief of UIDAI, information available in public does not indicate that PIB issued any statement of the Commission on his resignation.
UIDAI chairman, Nilekani submitted his resignation letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, three days after formally joining Indian National Congress to contest Lok Sabha polls. Nilekani joined Congress, a day after the party named him as its candidate from Bangalore South. "Yes, I have resigned today," Nilekani told PTI on 13 March 2014. Nilekani is contesting against five-time BJP MP Ananth Kumar, who is also the chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs and a former union minister. In violation of Model Code of Conduct that is in force during the elections, Nilekani advertised himself at the cost of public money.
In October 2012, in an interview with McKinsey & Company, Nilekani said, “Our goal, our vision, is by 2014 to have at least half a billion people on the system, which will make it one of the world’s largest online ID infrastructures. So that’s one metric of success. The second is we’d like to see two or three major applications that use this ID infrastructure. One of them is electronic benefit transfer, where governments will pay pensions, scholarships, or whatever entitlements by cash. And the third is [that] the mobile industry will use [the ID infrastructure] for verification”.
“In the US, to me, the two big examples are the Internet, which was originally conceived as a defense project, and GPS. Again, it was a defense project. Both these things, though they began as [part of] a government defense infrastructure, today are the basis for huge innovation,” he added.
Notably, Nilekani is aware that the substratum of the “world’s largest online ID infrastructures” is Internet which is in total control of US Government and US companies. Shouldn’t Nilekani be asked whether or Internet remains a defense project that is deeply allied with National Security Agency (NSA)? Did anyone hear Nilekani express his views on NSA’s surveillance on India and world leaders?
In such a backdrop, it does seem strange that PMO is withholding the correspondence it had with Nilekani. But it does seem quite a bizarre spectacle that a theatre personality like Girish Karnad and literary figure like Dr UR Ananthamurthy are campaigning for Nilekani who is creating architecture of Database based surveillance state through biometric mapping.
Nilekani holds the view that “even before we have property rights, you need identity rights” for “formal capitalism”. He has disclosed that he is in the process of building a coalition of the willing to outwit the coalition of those who are unwilling. His election campaign and the studied silence of political parties on the issue reveals who all are part of his coalition.
A commercial company enslaved a nation comprising two hundred millions only because Her Majesty’s company had mapped India and Indians in an unprecedented mapping exercise. This was attempted by imperial companies of Portuguese and French origin but it was the imperial company with British royal charter that triumphed for good.
Hasn’t Nilekani, his acolytes and his political and corporate patrons been undertaking similar exercises for commercial companies based in US and France, a country of Five Eyes Alliance?
Or will PMO and Nilekani have us believe that US and French companies are working to safeguard the defense interests of India because their interests have historically remained same as India’s and NSA’s surveillance on Indian leaders and officials is a benign act of their benediction?
You may also want to read…
Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I
Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part II
Biometric profiling, including DNA, is dehumanising -Part III
Marketing and advertising blitzkrieg of biometric techies and supporters -Part IV
History of technologies reveals it is their owners who are true beneficiaries -Part V
UID's promise of service delivery to poor hides IT, biometrics industry profits –Part VI
Technologies and technology companies are beyond regulation? -Part VII
Surveillance through biometrics-based Aadhaar –Part VIII
Narendra Modi biometrically profiled. What about Congress leaders?-Part IX
Aadhaar: Why opposition ruled states are playing partner for biometric UID? -Part X
Is Nandan Nilekani acting as an agent of non-state actors? –Part XI
Aadhaar and UPA govt's obsession for private sector benefits–Part XII
CIA-funded MongoDB partners with UIDAI to handle Aadhaar data –Part XIII
Are Indians being used as guinea pigs of biometric technology companies? -Part XIV
Aadhaar: Is the biometric data of human body immortal and ageless? Part XV
Aadhaar: The propaganda of transnational vested interests –Part XVI
Aadhaar: Pakistan handed over, India giving database on a platter– Part XVII
Engineered row in US-India relations, an attention diversion tactics of big brothers?—Part XVIII
Aadhaar: UIDAI and the ‘fifth column’ of Napoleon—Part XIX
Aadhaar: Turning citizens into subjects through social control technology companies –PartXX
Why Kejriwal govt in Delhi should abandon biometric Aadhaar?—Part XXI
Aadhaar for LPG: Oil companies, Ministry of Petroleum & UIDAI disobeying Supreme Court order–Part XXII
Why Vasundhara Raje should immediately withdraw circulars making Aadhaar mandatory -Part XXIII
How Congress has been proven wrong on biometric Aadhaar and NPR -Part XXIV
Aadhaar, NPR, UN resolution and deafening silence of political parties –Part XXV
Is Congress converging UID numbers of EVMs and Indian voters? –Part XXVI
Is our political class trapped by economic hit men from database empires? -Part XXVII
Aadhaar & database risks: Will India evaporate to become nobody in our life time? –Part XXIX
How BJP’s Yashwant Sinha is wrong about ‘biometric’ National Population Register –Part XXX
Aadhaar: The lies of Nilekani and Congress over biometric profiling –Part XXXI
(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)