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Aadhaar & NPR: a corrupt surveillance tool

Rebuttal of Nilekani’s blog of March 24, 2014
Reacting to the order of the Supreme Court against biometric aadhaar number and National Population Register (NPR), Nandan Nilekani, former unelected head of aadhaar related projects and committees attempted to mislead Indian voters in general and Bangalore South voters in particular in a write-up dated March 24, 2014.
Nilekani, a Congress candidate wrongly claimed, “the Supreme Court has upheld the UIDAI’s view. We have always stated that the data collected from residents would remain private, and not be shared with other agencies.”
The documents accessed through RTI reply dated October 25, 2013 reveal that this is an impudent misrepresentation of facts. In the contract agreement between the President of India for UIDAI, as purchaser and L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company, and Accenture Services Pvt Ltd accessed through RTI at clause 15.1 it is stated, “By virtue of this Contract, M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd/Team of M/s Accenture Services Pvt Ltd may have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India, any other person covered within the ambit of any legislation as may be applicable.” The purchaser is President of India through UIDAI. The clause 15.3 of the agreements reads, “The Data shall be retained by Accenture Services Pvt Ltd not more than a period of 7 years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future.” This clearly implies that all the biometric data of Indians which has been collected so far is now available to US Government and French Government because of Patriot Act and French government’s stake in the company in question.Copies of the contract agreement are available with Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL).
This Congress candidate states, “In its very first strategy document and in subsequent conversations, the UIDAI had clarified that while other government agencies have the option to make the number mandatory, the UIDAI itself will not make the Aadhaar number mandatory. Over the past year, some government agencies made the Aadhaar number mandatory for specific services and benefits.”

Sophistry manifests itself in myriad ways. The fact is all these government agencies made biometric aadhaar number mandatory based on the recommendations of Committees headed by Nilekani.
This was/is an act of breach of trust and betrayal by Nilekani. UIDAI itself was/is maintaining that Aadhaar is ‘voluntary’ while its chairman, the Congressman made sure that it was made mandatory to avail a number of services or benefits from the government.
The Strategy Overview document of the UIDAI says that “enrolment will not be mandated” adding, “This will not, however, preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrolment” but the stark fact is Nilekani himself headed several committees whose recommendations made Aadhaar mandatory.”
Given below is the list of Committees and groups that decided to make aadhaar mandatory with which Nilekani was associated: –
1) Nilekani headed Technology Advisory Group on Unique Projects (TAGUP) that proposes “private company with public purpose” and with “profit making as the motive but not profit maximising” called National Information Utilities (NIUs). GST Network is a NIU which is unfolding to take over the sovereign function of tax collection from the government. Nilekani was chairman, Empowered Group, IT Infrastructure for Goods and Services Tax (GST)
2) Nilekani headed Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is functioning without legislative approval either at the centre or in the states and has signed contracts with companies that work with foreign Intelligence agencies
3) Nilekani headed Committee on Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) technology for use on National Highways that proposes Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
4) Nilekani headed Inter-ministerial task force to streamline the subsidy distribution mechanism
5) Nilekani headed Government of India’s IT Task Force for Power Sector
6) He was member of National Knowledge Commission
7) He was member of Review Committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban RenewalMission
8) He was member of National Advisory Group on e-Governance
9) He was member of Subcommittee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) that dealt with issues related to insider trading
10) He was member of Reserve Bank of India’s Advisory Group on corporate governance
11) He was member of Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development
12) He was member of Prime Minister headed National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers
13) He was an invitee to the Cabinet Committee on UID related matters
14) He was an invitee to Group of Ministers (GoM) regarding Issue of Resident Identity Cards under NPR Scheme
15) He is a member of the board of governors of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)
16) He is the president of NCAER
This list is not exhaustive. Nilekani has many more identities as a shareholder and as a former head of a corporation. Notably, Nilekani met the then deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi at Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi in August 2011 to ensure a centralized IT infrastructure for GST across the states through GST Network to take away the sovereign function of tax collection from the state.
In his statement dated March 24, 2014, the Congressman claimed, “The argument was that making Aadhaar mandatory enables agencies to weed out fakes and duplicates in their systems, thus reducing corruption.” This was the argument of the Government in which he was a cabinet minister ranked official and he was himself recommending it. Nilekani is indulging in verbal gymnastics and is trying to hide behind a veil of language.

This Congressman will have us believe that “The fundamental goals of the Aadhaar number are inclusion and anti-corruption. The goals of reducing corruption should not be met at the expense of valid beneficiaries being refused their benefits.”

The fact is the fundamental goal of biometric Aadhaar number is tracking, profiling and targeting of minorities of all shades using the most sensitive personal biometric information.

Nilekani claims: “The power of Aadhaar as an anti-corruption tool stems from its uniqueness. A unique number linked to an individual’s biometrics means that no one else can pretend to be the person receiving benefits, and therefore cannot defraud him or her.”

The fact is that he has himself revealed in USA that biometric Aadhaar is a tool for surveillance. Not surprisingly, lower court of Goa and Central Bureau of Investigation sensed it.

Delivering a lecture at Center for Global Development, Washington on April 22, 2013 Nilekani admitted, “Now, biometrics has a big history in the world. Biometrics was first used in India in the 1870s when the British used it for land titling, and they also used people’s fingerprints to record the registration of documents. Historically, and up until a few years ago, the use of biometrics was essentially in forensics. It was about using biometrics for crime investigation and crime protection. You had all these Perry Mason novels where you took the fingerprint off the glass and identified the killer and all that. So, fundamentally, biometrics was used for forensic purposes. But, after 9/11, biometrics has increasingly been used for the purpose of surveillance, or security, or for immigration control.”

Has Nilekani or Congress party ever informed fellow congressmen or compatriots that its biometric Aadhaar is going to be used for surveillance and security etc.

Is Congress Party ignorant of the fact that on August 16, 1908, a public meeting was protest under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi certificates based on biometric data like fingerprints were burnt.? On August 22, 1906 the Transvaal Government had published a new ordinance that Indians, Arabs and Turks aged eight years or above in held on the grounds of Hamidia Mosque in Johannesburg and in that landmark Transvaal Republic (later province) of South Africa must register their names with the Registrar of Asiatics. The registration involved finger and thumb impressions. Any Indian failing to comply would be fined with £ 100 or imprisoned for three months and even deported.

Given the fact that Congress party has betrayed the freedom struggle and the cause espoused by Gandhi, opposition parties should give a call for the burning of biometric Aadhaar paper and destruction of its database lying with the Planning Commission’s UIDAI and Home Ministry’s Registrar General of India for National Population Register (NPR).

Nilekani states, “We have often heard about the truly deserving being defrauded of benefits such as pensions, or food rations when these were stolen or diverted by someone else pretending to be them.” How can world’s biggest database of Indian’s biometric data be launched without legal mandate based on hear say. Congress Party should disclose studies and reports if any, which found that deserving were being defrauded.

Nilekani claims, “With Aadhaar, such diversion is difficult to do, since the beneficiary can be verified using their biometric data, such as a fingerprint. The incentive for a legitimate beneficiary to use Aadhaar to withdraw their benefits – and stop theft of their own benefits is high. In such a scenario, it is increasingly the people most interested in diversion and continuing corruption, who will be most resistant to using Aadhaar for services.”

This is factually incorrect and the inaccuracy of this claim is revealed by the contract agreement which UIDAI itself has signed. In a RTI reply dated October 25, 2013, UIDAI shared its contract agreement with Ernst & Young states in a most startling disclosure from the contract agreement is its admission that “biometric systems are not 100 % accurate”. It admits that “uniqueness of the biometrics is still a postulate.” In an admission that pulverizes the very edifice on which UID/Aadhaar and the NPR rests, it writes, “The loss in information due to limitations of the capture setup or physical conditions of the body, and due (to) the feature representation, there is a non-zero probability that two finger prints or IRIS prints coming from different individuals can be called a match.” This is underlined in bold letters in the contract agreement. In simple words, “non-zero probability that two finger prints or IRIS prints” turning out to be a match means that there is a probability that biometric data of two different individuals can be identical.

Thus, it has been admitted that biometric data is unreliable and is not unique.

A report “Biometrics: The Difference Engine: Dubious security” published by The Economist in its 1 October 2010 issue observed “Biometric identification can even invite violence. A motorist in Germany had a finger chopped off by thieves seeking to steal his exotic car, which used a fingerprint reader instead of a conventional door lock.” This reveals the frightening ramifications of using biometrics as a basis for identification.
Another report “Biometric Recognition: Challenges and Opportunities” concluded that the current state of biometrics is ‘inherently fallible’. That is one of the findings of a five-year study was jointly commissioned by the CIA, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

As to Nilekani’s contention that “it is increasingly the people most interested in diversion and continuing corruption, who will be most resistant to using Aadhaar for services.” Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) challenges the claim of this Congressman by asking it to release the names of Congress MPs, MLAs and ministers who are promoters of Adhaar to reveal in writing as to who all among them have enrolled for Aadhaar and subjected themselves to biometric profiling. It is the Congress party’s MP’s, MLAs and ministers “who are the people most interested in diversion and continuing corruption.”

The claim that “Aadhaar is the first identity for a lot of Indians across the country” is factually incorrect. Indians have 16 pre-existing identity proofs endorsed by the Election Commission of India including voter ID cards.

Echoing his patron Rahul Gandhi, Nilekani’s claims, “For the first time, people have an identity that is not dependent on a card they are holding – they have an identity they can confirm by just providing their fingerprint or iris. And for the first time, their right to identity is implicit and easily established, wherever they are in the country.” This is untrue.

Congress as a party which got 89.11% of its money from unaccounted sources and unnamed sources will have us believe unlike Election Commission of India that all the parliamentary elections and those who were elected were voted without Indians having any identity.

In his speech at the conference of All India Congress Committee, Rahul Gandhi boasted that he has given right to identity through Aadhaar.

Aarthi Ramachandran, in her book Decoding Rahul Gandhi underlines, “Rahul’s approach to change through his backing of for measures such as the UIDAI scheme reveals an unwillingness to engage with the existing system. It is an attempt to superimpose new systems over existing structures. This approach is bound to meet the fate of his experiments in the IYC and the NSUI…” She observes, “Also in the name of better targeting of the poor for state sponsored schemes, the UID programme pays little attention to privacy issues” and notes that Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance “was scathing in its rejection of the scheme…”

Nilekani’s claims and Rahul’s pretensions have already been exposed. Wherever direct cash transfer scheme based on Aadhaar was launched in the states that went for elections, Congress lost. Promises based on biometric Aadhaar are rooted in a make believe world to which Indian voters are allergic to, is shown by the recent assembly elections.

It is noteworthy that in the four states where assembly elections took place, the biometric Aadhaar based direct benefits transfer (DBT) was being implemented. In 154 assembly seats of Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Indian National Congress, the champion of DBT could win only 17 seats. In Delhi where DBT scheme was taken up in 63 assembly constituencies with Rs. 103 crore in cash transfers, the party won only eight seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 31 seats and the Aam Admi Party (AAP) got 28 seats. The verdict is starkly against Aadhaar-based DBT. A report from DNA dated 16 December 2013 has underlined this. Instead of biometric Aadhaar-based DBT being a game changer for the Congress it has emerged as a regime changer.

The electoral verdict is evidence against the diagnosis and remedy of World Bank Group and its Indian votaries. The verdict indicates that political parties that support Aadhaar are bound to pay heavy electoral cost for their involvement and complicity in putting citizens to inconvenience through tried, tested and failed identification technologies of transnational companies.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 9818089660, E-mail:[email protected]

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