Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bihar Finance Minister ignorant about rejection of UID by Parliamentary Committee on Finance

Note: Bihar Finance Minister has failed to take note of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance which has rejected the idea of UID/Aadhaar in its report that was presented to both the Houses of the Parliament on December 13, 2011. The report is available here:

Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) had appeared before this Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC). CFCL organised a Round Table on Unique Identification (UID)  project & Bihar Govt's role held on January 3, 2011, the National  Seminar on Idea of Unique Identitification (UID) Project  on February 21, 2011 and a Round Table on the PSC Report and its implications for the Unique Identification (UID) project and  for the Union Home Ministry's National Population Register (NPR) and the issuance of Multipurpose National Identity Cards (MNIC) on January 10 , 2012 at AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies (ANISS), Patna. Such meetings have been organised across the country. At the January 2012 meeting a declaration was adopted that called for the stay on UID/Aadhaar/NPR/MNIC project.

Patna Declaration Calls for Stay on UID/Aadhaar/NPR/MNIC Project

At a Round Table on January 10, 2012 at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna, we the citizens of Patna, Bihar join citizens from other parts of India in voicing our protest against UID/Aadhaar Number and demand its scrapping in the aftermath of the explosive report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, since we view it as one of the most intrusive, coercive and anti democratic acts of the Government of India. We believe that the Aadhaar (UID) and National Population Register (NPR) for Multipurpose National Identity Cards (MNIC) heralds the emergence of a surveillance state and goes against the very grain of the largest democracy in the world.

We underline several of the intimidative aspects of the current UID/Aadhaar/NPR/MNIC initiative.

Firstly, Aadhaar was billed as a totally voluntary provision. But it has ceased to be anything but voluntary. Today we confront the fact that whether we want to buy a cooking gas or purchase our PDS grains, Aadhaar becomes the basis for us to access them. If we are to work under the NREGA scheme as wage labour, we have to prove our identity through Aadhaar. All other state provided identity proofs such as our Voter Cards, Ration Cards, Passport, Driving License etc become null and void and Aadhaar becomes the overriding identity proof for all of us. This is an insult to the very state which gave us all these other identities and to the citizens who have been using them.

Secondly Aadhaar is based on biometric and retinal profile procured from people. This is the most repulsive aspect of UID/Aadhaar project. Any biometric profile directly violates the very dignity and privacy of Indian citizens which is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. What is normally used for terrorists and criminals is now sought to be used against the common citizens of this country. Does it mean that the state has lost confidence in its people and wants a criminal profile of all its citizens? Can there be a more shameful aspect of the state intrusion into individual privacy?

We recall here the protest of Mahatma Gandhi against identification based on biometric data in his days of struggle in South Africa as far back as the early part of last century. We also take into cognizance the statement of concern on Unique Identity (UID) Number/ Aadhaar Number project and its inter-linkages with the proposed legislations and institutional machinery expressed by several eminent citizens led by former Supreme Court Justice Shri V R Krishna Iyer. We have taken into consideration the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, World Bank’s Transformational Government Initiative, the Legal Notice issued to Unique Identification Authority of India and the Planning Commission, Supreme Court’s judgement in Ram Jethmalani vs Union of India dated July 4, 2011 upholding Right to Privacy as Right to Life. We have studied of a similar project in countries like the UK and its abandonment be their governments in the face of immense pressure from their citizens. In consonance with all these concerns we join the appeal to the residents and citizens of Bihar to boycott the UID Number project. Our specific objections and demands are listed below:

• Parliamentary Committee on Finance has held that UID project is against all accepted norms of Rule of Law and fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India;
UID Number project is in violation of Right to Life and Personal Liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India;
• The collection of sensitive Biometric and personal data of the citizens of India by a number of private organizations is an assault on civil liberty and must be immediately halted;
• The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Bihar Government with the UID Authority had no prior consultation with the citizens of Bihar and was done in the most non transparent manner. This must be immediately cancelled.
• UIDAI must also cancel the MOUs it has entered with all other government agencies besides the contracts that has been entered into and the appointments of companies, societies, trusts and organizations as Registrars for UID/Aadhaar Number Project.
• We are alarmed that UIDAI has entered into contracts with companies like Accenture and L 1 Identity solutions, companies that are providing similar services to US Department of Defense and Intelligence. This has dangerous possibilities.
• The UID/Aadhaar/NPR/MNIC projects do not have any constitutional, legal or democratic basis. Therefore, we appeal to all citizens of Bihar and India to join civil disobedience movement against the Unique Identification / Aadhaar Number project and protect individual liberty and dignity of the citizens of this country.

Gopal Krishna
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) 

- Deputy CM raises doubts about feasibility of implementing scheme

The fate of the UPA government’s much-vaunted direct cash transfer (DCT) scheme is under a cloud in Bihar.

In a tête-à-tête with The Telegraph sometime earlier, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said the scheme would not roll out in the state within the stipulated time. He didn’t stop there: Modi went a step ahead to state that its implementation itself wasn’t feasible.

“The ongoing process of biometric registration of around 10 crore residents in Bihar under the National Population Register (NPR) for issuance of Aadhaar numbers can take two to three years for entire coverage of the state. Even if the targeted 10 crore people are registered under NPR and an Aadhaar number is allotted to them, then also the reach of banks in the rural areas is not sufficient to open accounts of all the beneficiaries,” Modi said.

Union finance minister P. Chidambaram, in his budget speech, pledged to the nation that the DCT scheme would be rolled out throughout the country during the term of the UPA government. The next general elections are due in the first half of 2014.

Challenging the feasibility of the scheme in Bihar, Modi said: “Even if we consider a situation wherein all residents registered under NPR for Aadhaar number have bank accounts, then also the beneficiaries should be able to operate and withdraw money. The UPA government claims that this would be addressed through the business correspondent model of banking. However, I must inform here that many banks are expressing difficulties in working on this model in Bihar due to lack of accessibility and inability to set up branches at remote places owing to numerous local issues.”

A business correspondent is a person authorised by banks to open no-frills accounts — which do not require the holder to maintain a minimum balance — by visiting villages. He is also supposed to accept deposits of limited value from account holders and make payments against cheques or withdrawal forms to account holders, that too of a limited amount.

The presence of business correspondents would increase the penetration of banking services in rural areas.

Modi said that it was owing to such complexities in the banking-based schemes that the Bihar government had come up with the idea to set up camps in rural areas and directly hand over cash to the beneficiaries. “Such a system is already in place for implementation of schemes, including those for cycle and school uniform, among others,” he said.

The deputy chief minister said he wasn’t against the idea of an Aadhaar-based DCT scheme, but pointed out that it was time-taking and has limited reach in states like Bihar. “Thus, the UPA would not be able to make any electoral gains from this scheme in the upcoming general elections,” he added.

The Aadhaar-based DCT scheme is aimed at making direct transfer of cash to bank accounts of beneficiaries, bypassing middlemen and other bottlenecks.

People in Bihar would get the Aadhaar number — a 12-digit individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India — by getting registered in the NPR. The biometric registration phase for NPR was launched in Bihar on February 20.

The biometric registration is being done by the directorate of census operations, Bihar, in association with the state government. The first phase of registration comprises urban areas in 13 districts — Patna, Arwal, Nalanda, Gopalganj, Rohtas, Vaishali, Sheohar, West Champaran, Darbhanga, Saharsa, Kishanganj, Katihar and Sheikhpura.

“The first phase has to be covered within three months and we have set the target to cover the entire state by December. However, the progress till date has not been satisfactory due to various reasons. It seems doubtful that a complete rollout of NPR would be possible by the end of this year,” said a senior official of the directorate.

The NPR project comprises three steps: collection of demographic data, collection of biometric data and issue of Aadhaar numbers.

The first stage of collection of biometric data started in Bihar with the process of house-listing and enrolment for NPR carried out between May 15 and June 28, 2010. Those enrolled were issued an acknowledgement slip for NPR, which is to be shown by the residents when going for biometric registration.
PIYUSH KUMAR TRIPATHI, April 16, 2013, The Telegraph