Thursday, December 26, 2013

Under NSA’s surveillance Manmohan Singh Govt promotes aadhaar although “uniqueness of the biometrics is still a postulate”

Contract agreement with Ernst & Young is for 113.9 crore people, but the Planning Commission’s UIDAI has mandate only for 60 crore people

Uniqueness of biometric data is ‘fallible’ and unreliable as it keeps changing with age & climatic conditions

Isn’t National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), UIDAI & NPR emerging as India’s NSA?

December 29, 2013: Planning Commission’s contract agreement with the consortium consisting of M/s Ernst & Young Private Limited and M/s Netmagic Solutions Pvt Ltd received through RTI reveals that “biometric systems are not 100 % accurate” and “uniqueness of the biometrics is still a postulate.” This startling admission pulverizes the very edifice on which UID/aadhaar and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)’s National Population Register (NPR) rests. This has come to light from the attached relevant pages of the RTI reply dated December 5, 2013.

This establishes beyond reasonable doubt that the ongoing creation of world’s biggest biometric database in the history of mankind is based not only on legally questionable foundation but also on questionable
technological assumptions of immortal and immutable nature of biometric data. This assumption stands scientifically debunked even as it faces robust legal challenge in the Supreme Court and in the Parliamentary Committee on Finance.

The contract agreement admits, “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.”  The contract agreement
underlines it in bold letters. There appears to be an attempt at verbal gymnastics to hide the key message here. 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.

With this admission which is rooted in scientific evidence articulated earlier as part of this series, there emerges a compelling logic to abandon the exercise of creating database of biometric data for
identification in favour of pre-existing 15 identity proofs on which Election Commission of India relies for elections and which has been giving legality and legitimacy to the Parliament and the Government of

The description of approach and methodology given the Appendix A: Part C dealing with Contract –UID CIDR Consultant contract agreement with Ernst & Young, a company based in UK, one of the five alliance members of the English-speaking countries (USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) for the purpose of sharing intelligence.

Notably, the contract agreement begins with the talisman of Mahatma Gandhi about pondering over how the poorest can get “control over his life and destiny” restored and will have us believe that this is its inspiration to participate in this initiative.

The contract agreement with Ernst & Young states that “the Unique ID will be a random 12-digit number with the basis for establishing uniqueness of identity being biometrics”. It announces that “we will
provide a Unique Identity to over 113.9 crore people.” This is evidently a fraudulent announcement because UIDAI with which the agreement has been signed has mandate to provide Unique Identity to only 60 crore residents of India and not to 113.9 crore people. The agreement states that it proposes to adopt Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal and Environment (PESTLE) framework to cover all key dimensions of the UID program. This framework merits attention for it tantamount to rewriting the political geography of the country with hitherto unknown consequences for political rights. In an earlier RTI reply dated October 25, 2013, Planning Commission’s UIDAI shared that Ernst & Young order date was February 26, 2010 wherein the value of the contract was mentioned as Rs 7.05 crore.

In a related development United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) which has subjected Manmohan Singh Government to surveillance has been deemed unconstitutional by a US District Court.

The disclosures of classified information made by Edward Snowden, a former contractor at USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) underlines that the ongoing information warfare is directed against countries
like India. Under the agreement among the 5 countries interception, collection, acquisition, analysis, and decryption is conducted by each of them for an automatic sharing of intelligence. The contract
agreement of Planning Commission with companies like Ernst & Young, Safran Group, Accenture, In-Q-Tel and MongoDB who are from the countries which form part of five eyes alliance are also involved in a
similar exercise. The alliance comprises of the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA), the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Canada’s Communications Security
Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). The intelligence partnership was formed in the aftermath of the Second World War ahead of transfer of power to India by UK. The conception of converging “the entire country into one single communication entity” introduced in 1975 and initiated in 1977 with the help of a UN agency whose complicity with these “five eyes” stands exposed needs to be revisited and put on hold.

Besides the Five Eyes with the addition of Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway, it becomes a 9 Eyes alliance for conducting espionage.

The Devyani Khobragade row  appear to be a motivated act ahead of the verdict of the US District Court for the District of Columbia pointing out the unconstitutionality o NSA program of indiscriminately
collecting electronic data to take the public attention away from this verdict. It has been revealed that our Prime Minister, President and almost all the ministers have all been under the surveillance of NSA.

The verdict was passed on December 16, 2013. The verdict attempts to safeguard the interests of citizens of USA. This is not applicable to non-US citizens because US laws do not recognize the rights of privacy
of non-US citizens to be sacrosanct.  This implies that rights of privacy of Indian citizens do not have protection either under the Indian laws, US laws or any international law at present.

In the verdict, Judge Richard Leon, U.S. District Court rules, “I cannot imagine a more "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary invasion" than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on "that degree of privacy" that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware of "the
abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power," would be aghast.” Madison, the fourth President of USA is considered the father of US Constitution. The 68 page verdict is attached.

This verdict is readily applicable to the “indiscriminate” biometric and demographic databases being created in India by the Planning Commission’s UIDAI and by MHA’s Registrar General & Census Commissioner for NPR besides National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), the Indian incarnation of NSA. Framers of Constitution of India too would be “aghast” at such “systematic and high-tech collection and retention
of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.” Indeed these initiatives along with the bitterly opposed proposal of National
Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and Goods and Services Tax (GST) Network constitutes “abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power” in our country. Political
parties and citizens need to examine whether or not NATGRID, UIDAI & NPR emerging as Indian incarnation of NSA.

Notably, both the alliance and the transnational enterprises like Ernst & Young, Sagem Morpho and L1 of Safran Group, Accenture, In-Q-Tel and MongoDB have the capability to directly access internet
companies’ data, tapping international fibre optic cables, sabotaging encryption standards and standards bodies, hacking the routers, switches and firewalls that connect the internet together. The facts
about their tentacles being present in these countries have been brought to light after the disclosures by Snowden.

The verdict of U.S. District Court against NSA and the disclosures about fallibility of biometric data under RTI and the Snowden’s revelations about the intelligence alliance merits the attention of Supreme Court of India when it hears the case against biometric identification based UID/aadhaar on January 28, 2014.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 09818089660,


Aadhaar: UIDAI and the ‘fifth column’ of Napoleon—Part XIX

It is said that once on a military campaign Napoleon Bonaparte, a military and political leader of France, stood outside his tent in the battlefield facing the most fortified castle of an European city and said, “Once this city is taken, nothing will stop my campaign, and I'll soon be Emperor of France" with my 5 army columns. Everybody knew about his four columns of army but not the fifth. When asked about his 5th column, Napoleon replied, "My fifth column is within the city itself. Soon the gate keepers of the castle were clubbed to death, the huge gates swung open, and Napoleon's soldiers marched through. The "fifth columnists" told him about the barracks full of soldiers kept to defend the city. Napoleon woke them and asked them to join him or die. The city fell in no time and Napoleon did indeed go on to become Emperor of France with the help of the fifth columnists.

There is an unacknowledged relationship between the biometric Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar project and the US based National Defense Industrial Association that was set up in1919 to scale up the war effort during World War I since then it has been “promoting national security” of United States of America (USA) and 'institutionalizing' Biometrics Enabled Identification based on Automatic Identification Technologies (AIT).. The same National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored Unique Identification (UID) Industry Leadership Advisory Group (ILAG) that was organized “in March 2005 at the suggestion of the DoD (US Department of Defence) UID Program Manager to serve as a defense industry focal point for government-industry collaboration and coordination in developing UID implementation policy and procedures.”[1]

Notably, Defence Procurement and acquisition policy office in the US Department of Defense (DoD) has a Unique Identification” (UID) section forin tracking and reporting the value of items the Government owns”, “ Item Unique Identification (IUID) Standards for Tangible Personal Property”[2] and “Unique Identification (UID) Standards for a Net-Centric Department of Defense” that cites “Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (CIO) Memorandum, “DoD Net-Centric Data Strategy”” dated May 9, 2003.[3]
It is stated that IUID requirement does not apply to “Software, manuals, etc.” and “Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) items” but it applies to “Not-for-profit contracts such as research contracts with universities”, “Classified items”, “Foreign Military Sales”, “Small businesses”, “Government Furnished Property”, “Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) requests” “Models, prototypes, or development items delivered to DoD”.[4] 

US Department of Defence uses both Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Item Unique Identification (IUID). “Within IUID, the unique item identifier (UII) is a piece of data associated with an item that uniquely identifies it throughout its life. RFID is a vehicle for holding and sharing data. IUID of tangible items deals with physical markings applied directly (or indirectly via label, data plate, etc.) on items. IUID also requires data to be captured about the item and submitted electronically to a registry database. It is thought of as creating a birth certificate for the item. On a superficial level IUID and RFID employ different technologies. IUID utilizes a optically scannable 2-dimensional data matrix barcode to carry information whereas RFID utilizes some form of integrated circuitry to encode information and produce radio waves which can be received and interpreted at a greater distance with a radio antenna and receiver. 

Notably, RFID has been recommended in India for installation vehicles and libraries. A briefing paper of Government of India observed that “Information or an opinion about an individual” is personal sensitive information.  

Functionally, IUID’s purpose within the (US) DoD is to uniquely identify individual items. The purpose of RFID within the (US) DoD is to identify cases, pallets, or packages which contain items.” UID Policy Office of US DoD has a number of working groups to support the development and implementation of the UID policy. These include Working Groups on: Logistics IUID Task Force, Industry Leadership Advisory Group (ILAG), Wide Area Work Flow (WAWF)/UID/RFID Users Group, Property Management, Joint Aeronautical Commanders, Government Furnished Property Industry, Federal Acquisition Regulation, Business Rules, Standards, Implementation, Technical Interface and IUID Quality Assurance.

Biometrics technology companies like Raytheon Company who were awarded by National Defense Industrial Association in 2009 participated in the ILAG. They have created an artificial need to sale their surveillance products in India unmindful of its dehumanizing ramifications. It is these entities which are behind the biometric UID/aadhaar project and the Bill to sell their products.

The preamble of The National Identification Authority (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 which was rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance reveals that it is meant “for the purpose of issuing identification numbers to individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals”. There are two parts to the phrase “individuals residing in India and to certain other classes of individuals”. The first part refers to “resident” as an individual usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area in India.” 

This motivated definition of the term resident in the Section 2 (q) of the NIAI Bill accords wide scope to the Bill. It leaves the definition vague about the Indians who are residing abroad temporarily, non-resident Indians, persons of Indian origin and refugees. By now Indians know that there are NRIs and PIOs of all ilk and shades whose role merits rigorous attention. The second part of the phrase is “certain other classes of individuals”. The first part is defined but the second part has not been defined.

The National Identification Authority (NIDAI) Bill, 2013 which was re-approved by the Union Cabinet on October 8, 2013 was listed for introduction in the winter session of the Parliament during December 5- December 18, 2013 but could not be introduced. In the new version, “certain other classes of individuals” have been substituted with “certain other categories of individuals to enable establishing the identity.”

In the NIDAI Bill 2010, Section 4 (3) reads, “An aadhaar number shall, subject to authentication, be accepted as proof of identity of the aadhaar number holder.”

In the NIDAI Bill, 2013, Section 4 (3) reads, “An aadhaar number in physical or electronic form, subject to authentication and other conditions as may be specified by regulations, shall be accepted as proof of identity and proof of address.” Along with it is added an “Explanation-For the purposes of this sub-section, the expression “electronic form” shall have the same meaning as assigned to it in cause (r) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.”       

Section 9 of the Bill reads: “The Authority shall not require any individual to give information pertaining to his race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health.” The issue here is once someone has been biometrically profiled and identified ‘Prohibition on requiring certain information’ becomes irrelevant. But the question is how biometric information is less sensitive than information regarding race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health whose collection is prohibited?

Section 10 of the Bill reads: The Authority shall take special measures to issue aadhaar number to women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability, migrant unskilled and unorganised workers, nomadic tribes or to such other persons who do not have any permanent dwelling house and such other categories of individuals as may be specified by regulations.” It does not reveal or define the “special measures” being deployed to trap these categories of people in the database.

The Bill makes a specific distinction between the “identity information” in respect of an individual means biometric information, demographic information and aadhaar number of such individuals” and “demographic information” that includes information relating to the name, age, gender and address of an individual (other than race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, income or health), and such other information as may be specified in the regulations for the purpose of issuing an aadhaar number. It refers to “biometric information” as “a set of such biological attributes of an individual as may be specified by regulations.” It is important to note that although Planning Commission or Ministry of Home Affairs do not have the legal mandate to collect biometric data instead of seeking that mandate under the NIDAI Bill, there is once again an effort being made to do it through subordinate legislation.

The Bill defines “Central Identities Data Repository” (CIDR) as “a centralised database in one or more locations containing all aadhaar numbers issued to aadhaar number holders along with the corresponding demographic information and biometric information of such individuals and other information related thereto.” It is not made clear as to why CIDR will be at “one or more locations.”

Now if one looks at the definition of “authentication” in the Bill which is defined as “the process wherein, aadhaar number along with other attributes (including biometrics) are submitted to the Central Identities Data Repository for its verification and such Repository verifies the correctness thereof on the basis of information or data or documents available with it,” it implies that authentication using CIDR of an “aadhaar number holder”, an individual who has been issued an aadhaar number, will be done at “one or more locations.”

It is quite apparent that these locations can be private companies. In effect, a private company of Indian or/and foreign origin will authenticate whether a resident of India is definitely the same person as he/she claims to be. As an implication identity of an Indian citizen is going to be decided by a company, which can be a National Information Utility (NIU), a private company with a public purpose with a profit making as the motive but not maximizing profit.     

Most of those who are in public life are in the fifth column because of either their naivety or their seemingly apolitical tunnel vision which makes them act treacherously in a historical vacuum. It is evident that in India, knowingly or unknowingly many institutions and individuals are acting like this column, a party that is acting with the foreign and corporate entities to subvert the very idea of India and Indian civilization under the influence of their supervisors.
Do Indians need to ponder over- who all are in the fifth column, which institutions are acting like this column and isn’t there a need to know the identity of those in the column in question?

Gopal Krishna
Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
CFCL is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010


Monday, December 23, 2013

"anti-politics is anti-democracy":Yogendra Yadav, AAP Leader

Note:On February 22, 2013, there was a seminar on "Sansadiya Rajniti ewam Vaampanth" in Patna where leaders from most communist parties were present. A senior leader said that as of now there are some 112-113 communist parties in India although the prominent ones are about half a dozen. Although the element of rigor was missing from the deliberations, the genuine pro-people motivations of the speakers were in stark contrast to what is witnessed among the leaders of non-left parties. It was underlined that the seminar was focused on the left path and not on left parties. 

Although there was a demand from a section of the participants that the post mortem of what went wrong in West Bengal during the regime of the left parties, there seemed to be a studied silence about it. The episodes of the United Front Government in West Bengal during 1967 and the emergence of naxal movement was  recalled. 

It was argued that all the left parties including CPI (Maoist) both in India and Nepal have been participating in parliamentary elections directly or indirectly. The latter participates in India through their proxies or through tactical support to pre-existing ruling parties. 

In Nepal, Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) emerged as the largest party in the election with 220 out of 575 elected seats in the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008. It was followed by the Nepali Congress with 110 seats and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) with 103 seats. But in the Constituent Assembly elections held in Nepal on 19 November 2013 Nepali Congress emerged as the largest party, followed by Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Out of the 240 seats under the direct voting system already announced, the Nepali Congress has bagged 105 seats followed by CPN-UML, which got 91 seats. UCPN-Maoist got third position with 26 seats and the remaining 18 seats went to Madhesi and other parties. Proportionate voting will elect 335 members and the remaining 26 will be nominated by the government. The counting of votes will lead to the formation of a 601-member Constituent Assembly, including 240 elected through direct voting. Under proportionate representation system, the entire country is considered as one election constituency and seats are allocated in proportion to the vote secured by respective political party. A party needs a total of 301 seats to get an absolute majority. The Rastriya Prajatantrra Party, a pro-monarchist group, got 6,24,281 votes in the proportionate system to emerge as the fourth largest party. It could not win a single seat under the direct voting. 

The leaders at the seminar felt that there was a need to learn from the unification of Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist). 

The seminar deliberated on the ways of the capitalist class in manufacturing the consent of the oppressed and the way imperial/colonial bureaucracy remains anti-people. It noted that corporate media boycotted the trade unions' successful program of December 12. It was announced that on December 26, there will another round of deliberations on "Sansadiya Rajniti ewam Vaampanthi Dal" will dwell the possibility of creating a front of left parties ahead of 2014 elections. There seemed to be an unanimity that left parties need to use their legacy of struggle for justice for the poor and the marginalized to re-invent themselves. AAP's experiment is also a lesson for the left parties. All the issues which left ignored were used by AAP to mobilize public opinion. But AAP has to also learn from the legacy of the political struggle an failures of the left parties. It remains to be seen as to AAP shapes itself in Bihar amidst a deeply political context. If AAP can succeed in Bihar or join hands with progressive forces in Bihar, it will turn the Modi vs Rahul/Nanan Nilekani into a Modi & Congress vs progressive forces in the 2014 elections.         

Gopal Krishna  

In this interview with The Hindu, AAP leader Yogendra Yadav says that in his dream script, his party will be the natural political hope for the transformative energies he sees in public life
Well-known psephologist, social scientist and former university lecturer in political science, Yogendra Yadav, 50, surprised everyone when he joined the Aam Aadmi Party. In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, he spoke about AAP’s plans for Lok Sabha elections and the likely emerging political scenario. Excerpts:
You have been assigned the task of drawing a road map for the Aam Aadmi Party for the Lok Sabha elections. What is the plan?
It is early to say. We have received an amazing, tremendous response. In Tamil Nadu, which is as far as you can travel from north-Indian politics, our people have had to open a special helpline to simply take the calls from people offering to become volunteers or members. In Karnataka they have registered 30,000 members. In Gujarat, in a couple of places, there were queues outside our office to become members.
Do you plan to put up candidates for all Lok Sabha seats?
The fact is that going by traditional political arithmetic, we were not much of a force even in Delhi. We could not compete with the political establishment. At some stage in the Delhi campaign, it ceased to be the campaign of the AAP. It became the campaign of the aam aadmi of Delhi.
So it is not the party organisation that won; we became an instrument for people realising their own aspirations. That logic applies to Lok Sabha as well. If you go by a strict calculus of organisational strength, recognisable faces and established leadership, even post-Delhi we are nowhere. But if there is that energy that you saw in 1977 waiting for a vehicle, then we can become that vehicle.
What was the mood in the party on government-formation in Delhi?
Speaking for myself, there are moments when what you decide is less important than how you decide. What matters is that for the first time a major political party is saying that for a vital decision we need to turn to people. The idea that once you have won an election then the people’s voice resides in your pocket, and that you can move it any which way you like, is what stifles people in representative democracy. If you read the first line of our constitution, it says the reason why our party came into existence is to restore power to people.
The Lokpal Bill has been passed by Parliament with a deafening silence from political parties on the role of Arvind Kejriwal and others in the anti-corruption movement. Does it look like a concerted effort to stymie the AAP after its debut in Delhi polls?
Of course, for political parties who think that by passing the Lokpal Bill they have regained the legitimacy that they lost two years ago, all I can say is that they would discover it [that they were mistaken] on the polling day. Timing is everything in politics. If the ruling establishment had given in to the Jan Lokpal movement during the Ramlila Ground agitation, it would have had a different effect. Giving in now, after the AAP victory in Delhi… people are not fools [not to understand that].
What do you make of Anna Hazare lauding Congress and BJP leaders?
Anna’s parting of ways with the AAP happened one year and two months ago, then why is this being released by media in some 24 instalments? From our part there was no attempt to use his name. I think there were other forces that were keen that Anna should become a factor — that his name should be dragged and he must be made to say a few things about Delhi [election]. That happened. To my mind the big picture doesn’t change. Yes, he parted ways with us. It led to severe disappointment and cost us some support there and then.
Does the AAP’s arrival signal space for alternative politics?
The last two decades have witnessed the expansion of the third space in Indian politics in the sense that new energies, new social groups, and new issues have entered politics which are beyond the Congress Parivar and the Sangh Parivar. The United Progressive Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance failed to capture that, so that third space has expanded in politics. At the same time, this third space has no political hope. The Third Front has shrunk and fragmented. The Aam Aadmi Party stepped into this political vacuum where the third space has expanded but the third force has shrunk and fragmented. In the last three decades the most creative energy in our public life has not come from within politics proper but from outside politics — from people’s movements on issues such as displacement, Dalits, farmers, women, right to food, right to information and above all, jal, jungle, zameen (water, forests, land). The difficulty is that this energy did not have a political expression, hope, and a political vehicle. In my dream script, the AAP is the natural political hope for these energies.
This most transformative energy of the last 30 years does not have a front-door entry in the political establishment. It has the backdoor entry, hence the irony of the last 10 years of the UPA regime is that the National Advisory Council says things that politicians should say and the ministers are saying things that bureaucrats should say. This tremendous transformative energy needs a political vehicle of its own. That energy must not end in Sonia Gandhi’s durbar. It deserves much better. It must reshape the nature of political power of this country.
Do you think in the forthcoming general election, there is a possibility of a Third Front with the involvement of the Left parties?
I don’t see much of that happening. I think the days of the Third Front experiment of the kind that we witnessed in 1996 are over. First, because there is no single axis around which the Third Front can be formed. Secondly, these parties which looked like an alternative in the 1990s look like the political establishment right now. They are as much an establishment as the Congress and the BJP are. They cannot be the carrier of the transformative energy that we think about.
Do you believe that in the recent Assembly elections, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had any impact?
He may have played a marginal role. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP was to win anyway. In Rajasthan, the Congress was going to lose anyway. Mr. Modi may have contributed marginally to the technical victory of the BJP in Chhattisgarh. I am not sure if he was much of a factor in Delhi. What is clear is that the BJP did not put his reputation at stake.
Will he be a factor in the Lok Sabha elections?
Look, he is a factor. Sometimes, the secular establishment closes its eyes to the strongest challenge it has. I think the one force that should be credited with his rise is not Mr. Modi himself but the UPA.
How do you look at Rahul Gandhi in this context?
More than once he has said the right kind of thing but very often mistimed it completely. And as yet, he hasn’t shown either the capacity or the skills to be able to take on Mr. Modi. I personally feel that if the election becomes Modi versus Rahul Gandhi it will be a tragedy for the country.
Is there a possibility of the 2014 general election becoming a Mr. Modi versus Mr. Kejriwal?
It is too early to say that.
What brought you to the AAP?
Only one slice of my life (as psephologist) has been visible for quite some time. From the early 1980’s I have been part of Samata Sangathan and the Samajwadi Jan Parishad. I have been associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements including campaigns for RTI and with the two failed attempts in 2004 and 2009 of creating alternative political fora which involved Justice Rajinder Sachchar, Kuldip Nayyer, Medha Patkar, Anna Hazare. In a sense, what I am doing today is what I wanted to do all along. I quit my job 20 years ago from the university because I wanted to go to my village [in Rewari district].
Do you intend to contest elections?
In principle, yes, I would like to, as an AAP candidate. I cannot advise everyone to do it and then not take the risk myself. The only question is which [place] and when and whether for the Lok Sabha or for Vidhan Sabha. That is not decided yet.
When the anti-corruption movement split why did you choose Arvind Kejriwal over Anna Hazare?
I have said from Day One that the logical culmination of a movement is politics. In fact, the anti-politics strain of the [Anna-Kejriwal anti-corruption] movement worried me enormously. I wrote [somewhere] that anti-politics is anti-democracy and that was wrong. The day they announced it [formation of a party], I thought I had no legitimate reason to stay out.
Gargi Parsai

"Engineered row in US-India relations, an attention diversion tactics of big brothers?—Part XVIII"

 The Devyani Khobragade row appears to be a motivated act ahead of a verdict of the US District Court pointing out the unconstitutionality of NSA program of indiscriminately collecting electronic data

In the context of the current row between governments of the US and India, did our President and the Prime Minister wonder as to how US companies like Accenture which have been awarded contract for so called de-duplication ‘big data’ of Indians by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) can use the data to the disadvantage of Indians? It is reliably learnt that Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had raised concerns against biometric UID project as well.

Responding to a question on what should a journalist choose when there is a conflict between truth and national interest, without pausing even for a moment one Professor of journalism from a university in US who visited Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in 1999-2000 said, journalists should choose national interest. Clearly, truth is a casualty not only in war but also in journalism.

One has repeatedly heard it said that most of US media in general are an extension of the foreign policy of government of US as they consistently indulge in jingoistic reporting. One is witnessing the same in the current row in US-India relations. Indian media is doing the same.

What media in US, India and elsewhere in general seems to be failing to see through is that it is an engineered rift to create a miasma wherein the new disclosures about the 5-Eyes alliance of five English-speaking countries (US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) for the purpose of sharing intelligence does not occupy centre stage.

You can check the full text by clicking on the link:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Will Parliament take action against the 11 MPs exposed in Cobrapost investigation?

Note: Will Parliament take action against the 11 MPs who accepted the bribe from Cobrapost investigation team who pretended to be representing a non-existent Australian oil exploration company as part of Operation Falcon. These MPs are:
1.      Khiladi Lal Bairwa, Congress
2.      Vikrambhai Arjanbhai, Congress
3.      Lalu Bhai Patel, BJP
4.      Ravindra Kumar Pandey, BJP
5.      Hari Manjhi, BJP;
6.      K Sugumar, AIADMK
7.      C Rajendran, AIADMK
8.      Vishwa Mohan Kumar, JD-U
9.      Maheshwar Hazari, JD-U
10.  Bhudeo Chaudhary, JD-U
11.  Kaiser Jahan of the BSP
Four of these MPs are from Bihar. Three are from JD-U and one is from BJP.  Bhudeo Chaudhary from Jamui, Vishwa Mohan Kumar from Supaul and Maheshwar Hazari from Samastipur are from JDU. The fourth one is Hari Manjhi from Gaya is from BJP.

Earlier, in another sting operation code named Operation Duryodhana in 2005, Cobrapost captured 11MPsaccepting money to raise questions in Parliament. All the members were expelled from the Parliament. Ten of them belonged to Lok Sabha and one was from Rajya Sabha. The eleven members involved in the previous operation were:
1.         Narendra Kushwaha (BSP) - Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh
2.         Annasaheb M. K. Patil (BJP) - Erandol, Maharashtra
3.         Chhatrapal Singh Lodha (BJP) - Odisha (Rajya Sabha)
4.         Y. G. Mahajan (BJP) - Jalgaon, Maharashtra
5.         Manoj Kumar (Rashtriya Janata Dal) - Palamau, Jharkand
6.         Suresh Chandel (BJP) - Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh
7.         Raja Ram Pal (BSP) - Bilhaur, Uttar Pradesh
8.         Lal Chandra Kol (BJP) - Robertsganj, Uttar Pradesh
9.         Pradeep Gandhi (BJP) - Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh
10.       Chandra Pratap Singh (BJP) - Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh
11.       Ramsevak Singh (Congress) - Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

Gopal Krishna
The Dirty Eleven
The investigation, panning over a year, exposes 11 MPs from within the Congress, BJP, BSP, JDU and AIADMK willing to issue letters of recommendation to promote a fictitious Australian oil exploration company in exchange for fees ranging between Rs 50,000 to Rs 50 lakh. Six of these MPs even wrote the letters for a fee.
By K Ashish
For several months, I posed as a representative of an oil firm that does not exist—Mediterranean Oil Inc, apparently based in Queensland, Australia, with interests in oil, diamonds, metals and mineral exploration. The Cobrapost investigation team created a website and produced brochures, and I tapped a few middlemen to approach the staff of Members of Parliament from the BJP, Congress, JD-U, AIADMK and BSP. Introducing myself as a consultant with Mediterranean Oil Inc, I requested the MPs to write letters of recommendation to India’s Petroleum Ministry for my company, saying it was planning to bid for oil exploration rights in the Northeast. The proposed project was pegged at Rs 1,000 crore.

Eleven MPs agreed to write the letters for a fee. Of these, six promptly issued recommendation letters. For proffering these letters, they settled on prices between Rs 50,000 and several lakh; Khiladi Lal Bairwa of the Congress put his price at Rs 50 lakh.

Apart from Lal Bairwa, the MPs are Vikrambhai Arjanbhai, also of the Congress; Lalu Bhai Patel, Ravindra Kumar Pandey and Hari Manjhi of the BJP; K Sugumar and C Rajendran of the AIADMK; Vishwa Mohan Kumar, Maheshwar Hazari and Bhudeo Chaudhary of the JD-U, and Kaiser Jahan of the BSP.

None of the parliamentarians bothered to check the antecedents of Mediterranean Oil Inc. The JD-U’s MP from Samastipur, Bihar, Maheshwar Hazari helpfully offered to bring along a bunch of five MPs to lobby effectively with the Ministry. The price: Rs 5 lakh for each MP.

MPs like to keep deals as discreet as they can. They tend not to get into direct negotiations or talk money. A network of touts, personal staff, and occasionally relatives, works alongside these MPs; they control access to lawmakers, organise meetings, talk money and iron out the terms of negotiation. However, Vikrambhai Arjanbhai of the Congress asked me to forward the money through an angadia (a hawala channel). I came across plenty of such touts on South Avenue, North Avenue and Baba Kharak Singh Marg in Lutyen’s Delhi, where parliamentarians are housed. One tout, Avnish Singh, negotiated deals with two MPs but got suspicious when my recording instrument started beeping intermittently as the battery ran low. “Kuchh gadbad toh nahin hai na bhai sahib…yeh aajkal ka samay theek nahin hai na (Hope there is no problem… these are bad times).” Thereafter, we couldn’t get in touch with him.

Maheshwar Hazari, the MP who offered to gather other MPs for the task of lobbying, is a prominent JD-U leader. Hazari is a lawmaker from Samastipur, Bihar. It does not take much to inspire him to write a recommendation for the fictional oil company. “Suno na, aapko kahin jaane ki zaroorat nahin padegi (Listen, you don’t have to go anywhere else),” assures Hazari.“Chitthi ki copy de dijiyega… sansad aur sabse hum chitthi likhwa denge (Give me the copy of the letter… I will get more parliamentarians to write letters for you).” In fact, Hazari is confident that he can see the deal through; “Aur abhi itna hi nahin, chitthiyan hi nahin denge ladkar kar kara denge poora (It is not only that we will issue you the letters but would also fight it out to see your job done).”

He leaves the price to us. “You tell me something… after all, we have to fight elections that are so expensive.” This is the argument I hear from almost every MP: elections are expensive. One of the touts says: “Our leaders would not have become corrupt if the elections had not become so expensive nowadays.”
I offer Hazari Rs 1 lakh for every letter of recommendation. “What use is Rs 1 lakh?” Hazari snaps. “Shell out at least Rs 5 lakh for each letter. We will sit there to see the work is done… all five will go there personally.”

Remember the din the JD-U created in the Lok Sabha over FDI in retail? The party’s own MPs, however, do not hesitate before writing a letter of recommendation for an Australian company. Or offering to lobby for it.

JD-U MP Vishwa Mohan Kumar, who represents Bihar’s Supaul in the Lok Sabha, also agrees readily to endorse Mediterranean Oil Inc. In our meeting with Kumar at his North Avenue residence, he negotiates terms. Reacting to a low fishing offer, “Give at least 50,000, sir,” says Kumar. “All people come and pay 50–50… nothing can be done in less than this.”

I tell him that there are MPs who have written us recommendation letters without taking a penny. Kumar says he could oblige us similarly, but he has a rally to organise: “I also write for free… but there is a burden of this rally on [the 15th] on my head.” Eventually I pay Kumar Rs 50,000 for the recommendation.

The tout, Dharmendra, leads me to more MPs of more parties than I had bargained for. I am at the door of another JD-U MP, Bhudeo Choudhary, from Jamui, Bihar. Dharmendra has briefed the Lok Sabha MP about me; once I am ushered into the meeting, Choudhary suggests with gestures that he can provide the letter. I agree to a price of Rs 50,000, but am able to procure the recommendation after paying his staff only half the sum, promising to cough up the rest soon.

I meet Lalu Bhai Patel, the BJP MP from Daman and Diu, at his residence in South Avenue with the help of a revolver-brandishing tout, Jaiswal, who says he can take me straight to Union Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily for my work. “I will also come along… wherever you want we will follow it up… all officials in the Petroleum Ministry are my friends... I have a very good rapport with Veerappa Moily.”

Patel sits through our meeting silently, occasionally uttering ‘haan’ or making gestures. Jaiswal does all the talking, and makes various assurances on Patel’s behalf. I strike a deal for Rs 50,000 for a recommendation letter. Jaiswal says such letters are no big deal; “Ask for some big favour, then the MPs will work … what will they do sitting idle?” At this point, Patel says, “Haan (yes).”

Jaiswal boasts of Patel’s influence in the Government, irrespective of which party is in power: “If we wish we can ask any ministry to come here… the Government is ours… but MP sahib has good relations with the Government… his work will be done on priority.”

I have been advised against talking money with Patel by his PA and Jaiswal; I try nevertheless. The BJP MP, however, feigns ignorance when I tell him that I will pay his PA Rs 50,000: “What for?”

After I collect the recommendation letter from Patel, I sneak a chance to speak to him, saying that I have left my phone behind. Jaiswal waits outside. I repeat to Patel that I have paid Rs 50,000 to his staff for the letter. “Mujhe nahin bolo..mujhe kyon bola aapne?” (don’t tell me this thing..why did you tell me this), retorts Lalu Bhai.

Jaiswal speaks of a previous Cobrapost expose: “There was this scandal… there was this scandal… four MPs were suspended for [accepting a bribe of] Rs 25,000–50,000.” This was Operation Duryodhan, an undercover investigation by Cobrapost in 2005 that caught MPs from both Houses accepting money to ask questions. It led to the dismissal of all those MPs from Parliament who were exposed in the investigation.
Patel seems to be rather close to the tout Jaiswal, who claims he is a liquor don from Chhattisgarh with “20 arms licences”.

Jaiswal does not part with the recommendation letter until I pay him his cut—Rs 25,000. Jaiswal claims that he is close to Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, and has political aspirations himself. He claimed to have secured the support of a builders’ lobby in his area to fund his campaign for the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Like the JD-U, the BJP had opposed the Congress policy on FDI in retail. Indeed, these protests were underway at the time of this undercover investigation. Yet, BJP lawmakers don’t mind writing recommendations for foreign oil firms seeking licences to operate in India.

I am introduced to Ravindra Kumar Pandey, the BJP MP from Giridih in Jharkhand, by the tout Dharmendra. Pandey is rather obliging when I request a letter, implying he could secure more such letters to endorse the firm which might secure the company the licences it needs. “It would serve your purpose if some others also write letters [for you]?” he asks.

It would certainly serve our purpose if we got more letters, I say. The asking price is Rs 2 lakh. We haggle, but Dharmendra is unyielding: “This is the fifth term of our MP… he enjoys such a stature that no matter where he stands from, the party rallies behind him.” I manage to speak to Pandey again: “Sir, Rs 2 lakh is a bit high. We can pay Rs 1 lakh upfront for the letter.” Pandey says, “No.”

Dharmendra introduces me to BJP MP Hari Manjhi from Gaya, Bihar, at his North Avenue residence. Here, I also meet Manjhi’s cousin Kamlesh. I have been told in advance that I will have to shell out Rs 1.5 lakh for a recommendation letter. I ask Manhji to help my company lobby with the Ministry as well. The MP is reassuring: “Will go… will come along. Lineup karna padega (It will have to be lined up).” He adds, “Will have to meet the minister—meaning, I will have to speak to him.”

When I ask to speak with Manjhi ‘separately’ to discuss money, he directs me to his henchmen instead: “Yes, you can talk to them.” He reassures me: “There is nothing to worry… you can talk with him… you can talk anything with him.”

The price fixed with Manjhi’s men for the letter and lobbying job is Rs 1.5 lakh. I try to negotiate, and secure my recommendation letter for Rs 35,000, promising to pay the rest when my company releases funds.
Several MPs are not comfortable discussing money directly. Take the MP from South Chennai, C Rajendran of the AIADMK, an influential politician who is believed to enjoy Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s confidence. When I mention money, he leaves the room displeased. Middleman Nair reprimands me: “He’s angry… You can hand [it] over [to us]. He never interferes in this.”

My request for a letter of recommendation, however, is met with an “Okay.” I say, “This guy told me that… on behalf of [sic] recommendation letter you need some money, sir.” Rajendran says, “You give him,” referring to his personal secretary, Martin.

Martin is paid the money at Rajendran’s office-cum-residence on North Avenue. The cost of the letter of recommendation: Rs 50,000.

Rajendran’s party colleague K Sugumar has no qualms talking about money. I meet the MP from Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, at his North Avenue residence after briefing a middleman on my purpose. Sugumar asks a few questions about the company and is satisfied with my answers. Asked if he would write a “recommendation letter”, Sugumar nods, “Okay.” Although the price has already been settled with the middleman, I broach the issue of money. “Okay, you can talk,” says Sugumar. We settle on Rs 50,000 for a recommendation written on his “letterhead.”

I meet Khiladi Lal Bairwa, the Congress MP from Karauli-Dholpur, Rajasthan, at his South Avenue residence. He flatly refuses to play ball: “Hum kaise chitthi likh denge, bhai (Why should I write the letter)?”
So far, none of the MPs I met have refused. I persist, asking if he could suggest some other way of doing this. “Kitne ka consulting hua hai (How big is this consulting gig)?” Bairwa asks. I say the project is placed at Rs 1,000 crore, and I have a budget of Rs 1 crore to obtain five recommendation letters for the company. “Then, how much is a letter worth?” Bairwa asks. I raise the stakes, “Rs 20 lakh”. He scrutinises every document I show him, and after asking several questions, says: “Gadbad mamla… yeh coal jaisa mamla hai...recommendation ki thi na coal ki? (There is something fishy… this is like the Coal[gate] affair..had recommended coal).”

The MP invites me to his home in Jaipur: “Day after tomorrow, around 10–11.” I ask Bairwa if this is for another meeting, but he says he wants me to deliver the ‘material’ home: “Nahin … toh le ayein ye material (No… bring this material).” By material, Bairwa means money. But he says that my offer price, Rs 20 lakh, is too little. “You are paying less… it won’t be possible to do it,” Bairwa says. His price? “Pachaas (50 lakh).” Too high, I say. “Because this job involves risk,” he says, “I write a letter… then someone else writes, there are many things.”

Congress MP Vikrambhai Arjanbhai’s PA said that I have to route the money through Aangadia, a colloquial term for illegitimate courier of money. Arjanbhai’s personal secretary Ramsi Maru assures me that the letter of recommendation “will be done”.

Maru is powerful in Arjanbhai’s scheme of things. I ask him to offer his terms, including his commission for the deal. Maru promises that he will arrange it at a price lower than what the MP demands: “If he says, ‘Give me Rs 15 lakh’, I will tell him ‘Okay, leave it, do it for Rs 10 lakh’… so you benefit,” says the politician’s personal secretary.

At the meeting with Arjanbhai in the MP’s Jamnagar residence, Maru does most of the talking with the Congress MP. I am told to discuss money matters only with Maru. “Gujarat ka kisi ka letter hai aapke paas (Have you secured a letter from any Gujarat MP)?” Arjanbhai asks. No, I tell him, but I will get a letter from an Orissa MP. I tell Arjanbhai that since he is on a committee of the Petroleum Ministry, a recommendation letter from him will help considerably.

I also offer to help Arjanbhai with funds for the forthcoming polls. Maru seizes this moment to say that the price we’d fixed was before there was any talk of helping with election funds: “Woh toh election se pehle jo boli thi aapne (That thing you had told me before the thing about polls).” I say it was about paying Rs 5 lakh for the election fund. But Maru corrects me: “Abhi ki baat hai (This is about the present deal).”

When I ask for the letter first, MP Vikrambhai Arjanbhai says, “letter pehle thode milta hai? Pehle letter koi aapko de dega?” (you will not get the letter beforehand, has anyone given you the letter beforehand?). When I ask for the price, the MP impatiently replies, “inse baat karo jo bhi hai” (Talk to him, whatever it is).

After much discussion, Maru sets a price of Rs 6 lakh excluding his cut. They ask that the money be sent via an angadia [hawala channel]. Maru says his sahib, Arjanbhai, has instructed him how the money is to be paid: “Aap wahan baat kar lo paisa kaise ayega… sahib ne bola paisa baad mein doosre kisi aur ka naam mein … theek hai (You tell them how the money has to be paid… sahib says money has to be sent in someone else’s name, okay)?” When I bring up money with Arjanbhai, he is told to speak with Maru.
I finally pay Maru Rs 75,000 without securing the letter from Arjanbhai. I felt compelled to pay up, despite not getting the letter, because I felt I was at risk.

I am, nevertheless, confident that the Congress MP would have issued the letter if I had paid Rs 6 lakh via hawala.

I meet Kaiser Jahan, the BSP lawmaker from Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, at her South Avenue residence in Delhi. It is her husband, Jasmir Ansari, an MLA from Lahurpur, who does much of the talking. “How can it be done without our knowing you,” Ansari says. Kaiser advises us to speak to her personal secretary Ainul Hatim.
When Hatim learns the project is pegged at Rs 1,000 crore, he wastes no time: “He [Ansari] has asked to enquire who it is, what it is,” he says. “If they want us to write a letter only… or want to get the job done… if the job has to be done then how big is the project… what will be our share?”

Ansari is ready to go to Sonia Gandhi to see the project through. But he must meet my bosses, he says. “We will see your project through… by talking to Sonia or somebody else… Then whom should we talk to [in your company]?” He promises three letters in place of the one I’d asked for. I offer Rs 5 lakh. He agrees, but says, “I never do this kind of job… I am talking to you for the first time in my life and I am talking to you only because elections are due… I have to see all that.”

Later, Ansari says, “We don’t do any work for such a petty amount… give us some big job… will do that.”
K Ashish is Associate Editor with