Paritosh Tyagi (PT), former Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board interviews Gopal Krishna (GK), Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) on Nandan Manohar Nilekani, CIA, & NADRA, Pakistan and related issues.
Gopal Krishna (GK): Sir, Let me attempt a logical analysis of the harmful ramifications of the Unique Identity (UID) Number project on the points you have raised.
Paritosh Tyagi (PT): 1. Let us concentrate on the Scheme, rather than the person.
GK: When the Prime Minister of India who in also chairs Council of UIDAI Authority of India that was set up on 30 July 2009 met the five “chosen” editors on June 29, 2011 to discuss Black Money etc, he said “If the project Nandan Nilankani has promised to design, if the UIDAI can give unique ID numbers to all our residents we would have discovered a new pathway to eliminate the scope for corruption…”.
The text is available on PMO’s website. Isn’t he focusing on both the person and the project?
If the Prime Minister finds Nilekani fit be part of the following committees as its chairman:
1)Technology Advisory Group on Unqiue Projects (TAGUP)
2) Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
3) Committee on Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) technology for use on National Highways
4) Inter-ministerial task force to streamline the subsidy distribution mechanism
5) Government of India’s IT Task Force for Power Sector
is it irrational to focus on the person?
If Nilekani is part of the following committees as its its member:
1) National Knowledge Commission
2) Review Committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
3) National Advisory Group on e-Governance
4) Subcommittee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) that dealt with issues related to insider trading
5) Reserve Bank of India’s Advisory Group on corporate governance
is it irrelevant to focus on him as a person?
If the Union Budget of 2009, 2010 and 2011 refers to him, why should we be wary of naming names.
PT: 2. Regarding the Scheme, the important part is how it may affect the life of Indian citizens, rather than its origin, resemblance with any other scheme, etc.
GK: I disagree. A “Strategic Vision on the UIDAI Project” was prepared and submitted to Processes Committee of the Planning Commission (set up in July 2006) by M/S Wipro Ltd (Consultant for the design phase and program management phase of the Pilot UIDAI project). This Vision document is missing. Another 15 page document of WIPRO’s titled “Does India need a Unique Identity Number?” cited example of UK’s Identity Cards Act, 2006 on page 6 to advance the argument of UID Number in India. NOW UK’s new Government has abandoned its National Identity Cards Scheme. UK’s new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in his speech in British House of Commons: “This government will end the culture of spying on its citizens. It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop. So there will be no ID card scheme. No national identity register, a halt to second generation biometric passports. We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so. Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question. Schools will not take children’s fingerprints without even asking their parent’s consent. This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.” Full text available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8691753.stm
Is it the case that when UK implements National Identity Cards Scheme, it should be cited as an example when it abandons the programme, it becomes irrelevant and illogical? Why is WIPRO and UIDAI silent about their UK example?
Is it not conflict of interest that after submitting the “Strategic Vision on the UIDAI Project” (which is missing now), WIPRO has been getting contracts from UIDAI for “Deployment of 7 Project Managers, Supply, Installation, Commissioning for Hardware & Software for Data Centre at Bengaluru & NCR, Deployment of 32 Resource Personnel and Monitoring Tools and Hiring of Data Centre Space (2000 sqft) & Facilities for UIDAI at Delhi/NCR.” From December 2010 till May 2011, it has got four contracts amidst reports of irregularities.
PT: 3. Are the claims regarding the Scheme justified (eg is biometrics so important to establish identity and is a photograph, signature and thumb impression not enough)
GK: It is not justified. 17 eminent citizens led by Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India issued a Statement of Concerns saying, “The biometric pilot study has reportedly already thrown up problems especially among the poor whose fingerprints are not stable, and whose iris scans suffer from malnourishment related cataract and among whom the incidence of corneal scars is often found. The project is clearly still in its inception. The project should be halted before it goes any further and the prelude to the project be attended to, the public informed and consulted, and the wisdom of the project determined.” The statement is available at http://www.petitiononline.com/NO2UID/petition.html for endorsement.
In fact, Mahatma Gandhi had opposed a law similar to UID as a Black Act in South Africa from 1906 to 1914.
He said, “…I have never known legislation of this nature being directed against free men in any part of the world. I know that indentured Indians in Natal are subject to a drastic system of passes, but these poor fellows can hardly be classed as free men” and “…giving of finger prints, required by the Ordinance, was quite a novelty in South Africa.
With a view to seeing some literature on the subject, I read a volume on finger impressions by Mr Henry, a police officer, from which I gathered that finger prints were required by law only from criminals.” So there is a history to attempt by the state to number human beings by the imperialist powers as well.
PT: 4. Is the Scheme necessary? Can the records of election card be digitised and serve the same or nearly the same purpose?
GK: It is not necessary. It is very important to differentiate between different kinds of documentations done within India. I would respond to the question you have raised. As of now, the UID is supposed to be the 16th identity proof for the residents in India. As for the Voters ID card, the Election Commission itself says that besides the Voters’ ID cards, other documents like driving license are also valid for identification. One is what was the compelling reason to have the 16th identity number as a proof of your being Indian when you already have 15 others that provides legitimacy to the democratically-elected government. On the basis of these 15 documents the citizens of India become entitled to vote and make a democratic government legitimate. The Discussion paper Draft Privacy Bill states, “There is no data protection statute in the country” in such a context why should there be an electronic register of information about Indian residents, whose leakage is inevitable.
PT: 5. Is the Scheme genuine? Is the Scheme likely to be used in any other manner by the authorities?
GK: It is a surveillance scheme. UID Number project is linked to Draft Land Titling Bill, 2010, Draft DNA Profiling Act, 2007 and Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations besides this National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) is also linked that is meant to integrate existing 21 databases with Central and state government agencies and other organisations, and National Population Register (which is quite different from Census but both are headed by the same person) will end up undertaking surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting of Indian residents. Census Act makes citizens data confidential but its link with National Population Register has violated the provision of confidentiality enshrined in the law. UID Number scheme must be boycotted.
PT: 6. Is the Scheme risk-free? Can the data be hacked by unauthorised persons (given the lack of perfect security in any scheme) and are there factors that can be of interest to such unauthorised persons, local or foreign?
GK: Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR), the database of UID Number will be handed over as per contracts given to US biometric technology companies, L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company and Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd for de-duplication. Both these companies admittedly work with US intelligence agencies and US Homeland Security respectively as privatized gatekeepers of national security. The details are available on their websites.
A very famous Italian historian said that “all history is contemporary history.” When the social security number project started in the US, it was also replicated in Germany. The social security numbers (SSN) were tattooed on US citizens before (first SSNs were issued in 1935) tattoos were used in Germany under the Nazi Party. The US numbering programme was known as the “social security” programme, or SS programme. The Unique Identity Number (UID) project in India is being promoted under the e-governance programme. The German Nazi Party’s tattoo programme was operated by the social security (SS) division, which had learnt it from US. In fact, the infamous Auschwitz tattoo began as a number provided by IBM (International Business machines), a US multinational computer company. IBM now claims that it had no control over its subsidiaries in Germany after the Nazis took control of them.
What if a similar situation emerged in India, which is not unlikely after UID database is ready? The UID project is going to do almost exactly the same thing, which the predecessors of Hitler did, else how is it that Germany always had the lists of Jewish names even prior to the arrival of the Nazis?
This UID Number project seems to be oblivious of the history of numbering human beings. Numbering human beings is like dehumanising them.
PT: 7. Can there be a cost:benefit analysis of this Scheme?
GK: Yes, Neither Nilekani nor his Boss, Dr Manmohan Singh has disclosed the budget of the UID Number scheme. For the cost-benefit analysis to happen the cost must be known. Does anyone know it except some international financial institution like World Bank which has launched its eTransform Initiative (ETI) of which UID project is a component? Bank’s ETI was officially co-launched on 23rd April 2010 in Washington wherein France and South Korea as well as Gemalto, IBM, L-1 Identity Solutions, Intel, Microsoft and Pfizer formally joined the World Bank’s eTransform Initiative (ETI) in the name of promoting good governance and transparent procurement processes. Bank’s ETI’s UID Number like scheme is unfolding in 14 developing countries with ulterior motives.
Please do read the Documents I have cited. It will reveal most of the things I have left unsaid in my reply.