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India: Business Tycoon supports illegal biometric aadhaar unmindful of Supreme Court Order and Parliamentary Committee’s report | Gopal Krishna

11 December 2013

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Supreme Court’s order against biometric aadhaar endorsed by Parliamentary Committee on Finance

Mukesh Ambani supports illegal and illegitimate biometric aadhaar

Parliamentary Committee’s recommendation precedes West Bengal Assembly resolution against aadhaar number

December 11, 2013: Endorsing Supreme Court’s order, Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance in its most recent report has asked Government of India to issue instructions to State Governments and to all other authorities that 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar number should not be made mandatory for any purpose. Meanwhile, Mukesh Ambani, the tycoon has come out in support of biometric identification providing explicit signal to all those political organizations, media, voluntary and academic organizations who are directly or indirectly dependent on him for donations.

The Seventy Seventh Report of the 31 member Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance reads, “Considering that in the absence of legislation, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is functioning without any legal basis, the Committee insisted the Government to address the various shortcomings/issues pointed out in their earlier report on ’National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010’ and bring forth a fresh legislation.” It was presented to the Speaker on 18 October, 2013 upon authorization by the PSC by Yashwant Sinha, the Chairman of the PSC.

PSC report’s categorical recommendation reads, “The Committee would like to be apprised of the details in this regard 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.”

This was ahead of the resolution passed by West Bengal Assembly on December 2, 2013 against aadhaar related program. Legislators in the Assembly referred to the PSC report of January 2011 trashing aadhaar. More and more state assemblies are expected to do the same. Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh High Court has listed a case against aadhaar on January 15, 2014 for hearing. In a related development the case against illegal 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar number is now scheduled to be heard on January 7, 2014 in the Supreme Court. High Courts of Punjab & Haryana and Andhra Pradesh have already raised questions about its legality. Most opposition parties other than new ones like Aam Aadmi Party have taken a position on this issue regarding mankind’s biggest biometric database. The Bengali and English text of the resolution passed by West Bengal Assembly is attached.

This Seventy Seventh Report of PCS deals with the action taken by 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 concludes, “Committee have time and again insisted the Government to address the various shortcomings/issues pointed out in their earlier Reports and bring forth a fresh legislation on UIDAI.” Notably, ’National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2013 is listed for introduction after generating “more than 44 Crore Aadhaar.”

PSC report disapproves of the grievance redressal mechanism of the UIDAI. “The Committee are 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 no. 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 upto (Budget Estimates) BE 2013-14 is Rs 5440.30 crore, out of which Rs. 2820.30 crore has been utilized upto 31.03.2013 and the remaining amount of Rs. 2620 has been allocated in BE 2013-14. The Ministry have informed that the average cost per card is estimated to range from Rs 100 to Rs 157. Taking the average cost per card to be Rs. 130, the total expenditure for issue of 60 crore cards is estimated to about Rs 7800 crore. Thus, the expected requirement of funds during 2013-14 is Rs. 4979.70 crores, whereas only Rs. 2620 crore has been kept for BE 2013-14, which is thus grossly inadequate. Given the tardy progress in enrollment/ generation of aadhar cards, being done without legislative approval, it is doubtful that UIDAI could achieve the targets envisaged during 2013-14. The Committee are 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 an interesting development, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries has expressed his support for biometric identification saying, “Aadhaar, an initiative of Unique Identification Authority of India, will soon support the world’s largest online platform to deliver government welfare services directly to the poor.” He has written this in a chapter titled ‘Making the next leap’ endorsing biometric profiling based identification in the book ‘Reimagining India’ edited by McKinsey & Company published by Simon & Schuster in November 2013. This appears to be an explicit signal to the political parties and media houses who receive direct and indirect corporate donations from companies as their clients in myriad disguises.

Coincidentally, the cover story of Forbes India magazine features “Rohini & Nandan Nilekani: The Conscious Givers” (Seema Singh, Dec. 13, 2013 issue) for having own Outstanding Philanthropist award 2013. They won the award for “having given nearly Rs 350 crore, especially to ideas which CSR doesn’t fund. Rohini has committed to giving Rs 20 crore every year; Nandan has spent five years at UIDAI as part of the ‘giving back to society’ process.”It says, Nandan has a mission to invest “in institutions that pay off over years.” The story notes “For Nandan, giving years to public causes is more expensive than writing cheques for ‘a few hundred crores’.” It reveals that Nandan is taking lessons in Kannada from a teacher to improve his Kannada ahead of announcement of the candidates by the political parties because certain ideas need “political energy” to get implemented. Notably, Rohini Nilekani funds both right-wing Takshashila Institution and left-leaning Economic and Political Weekly besides Association for Democratic Reforms, PRS Legislative Research and IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative and The Hoot besides running her own Arghyam Foundation, a NGO.

It is germane to recall the strategies employed by the Stratfor precursor Pagan International to defuse the mobilization of grassroots movements for his corporate clients. It used it to divide the main actors into four groups: Radicals, Idealists, Realists and Opportunists. The Opportunists are in it for themselves and can be pulled away for their own self-interest. The Realists can be convinced that drastic change is not possible and we must settle for what is possible. Idealists can be convinced they have the facts wrong and pulled to the realist camp. This categorization is true about political, media and voluntary organizations as well. A noticeable section of these organizations have been co-opted to promote biometric aadhaar. The biometric technology vendors have admittedly built their positive coalition to outwit the negative coalition of progressive movements as part of their divide and succeed strategy wherein organisations of both left and right hues have been persuaded to act like their mouth pieces or maintain studied silence or address the issue at stake in a piecemeal manner.

Incidentally, another cover story titled “The Network Effect” (Caravan, Rahul Bhatia, December 1, 2013) has dwelt on how the big businesses like Reliance have come to control both the message and the medium like TV18, which was part of the Network18 group that includes CNBC-TV18, the IBN channels, Forbes India magazine besides other channels, publications and websites. Not surprisingly, media houses in general appear quite supportive of the biometric aadhaar disregarding its illegality and illegitimacy due to umbilical relationship or due to their dependence on advertisement revenues from agencies and enterprises that advocate biometric identification.

Now the question is will state legislatures and State Governments support the recommendations of the parliamentary committee, Supreme Court, High Courts and the resolution of West Bengal Assembly guided by public interest or will they get influenced by the propaganda of transnational vested interests?

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 09818089660, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715 at gmail.com

West Bengal Govt res­olution against aadh­aar passed in State Assembly on Dec 2 20­13