Parliamentary Committee’s deadline for Planning Commission’s reply on questionable UID/aadhaar and related projects

To

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Chairman
Planning Commission
Government of India
Yojana Bhavan
Sansad Marg
New Delhi -110 001

Subject- Parliamentary Committee’s deadline for Planning Commission’s reply on questionable UID/aadhaar and related projects

Sir,

I wish to draw your attention towards two news reports ‘House panel raps Planning Comm for breach of trust on new UID law’ (The Pioneer, 30 MARCH 2012, SEEMA SINDHU) and ‘Rein in the bureaucracy if you want us to deliver, perform: private sector stars in govt let PM know’ (Indian Express, March 30 2012, P. Vaidyanathan Iyer).

I submit that the Planning Commission has breached the trust by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance. The Parliamentary Committee has raised grave concerns on the proposal of the Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar and collection of biometric data of the citizens without legal mandate in its report National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 that has been presented to both the houses of Parliament in December 2011. The Commission has ignored its recommendations in utter contempt toward the Parliament and towards the Parliamentary Committee and has got more fund allocated for the UID/Aadhhar project.

I submit that in a meeting on March 28, 2012, PSC Chairman, Yashwant Sinha told Planning Commission’s Member Secretary that it was “bypassing parliamentary procedure and inviting serious problems by not having re-introduced the Bill and simultaneously making further fund allocations for the project”. This has been brought to light.

I submit that the joint letter of Shri Sam Pitroda, adviser to the PM on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, Nandan Nilekani, chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India, S Ramadorai, adviser to the PM in the National Skill Development Council, Planning Commission member Arun Maira, and National Intelligence Grid CEO P Raghu Raman was given to you. Their letter has sought your intervention to streamline the institutional framework in which they work, so that they have more autonomy. It reveals that they are troubled by democractic processes and safeguards. Prior to this letter a memorandum opposing Aadhaar and other anti-people policies was submitted to you along with a big truck load of signatures numbering 3.57 crore on March 14, 2012 by Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist). One has learnt that the joint letter has been referred to your Principal Secretary, Shri Pulok Chatterjee to study the suggestions and take necessary action. I wish to know what is your response to the memorandum that was submitted to you with 3.57 crore signatures.

I submit that in utter disregard to the recommendations of the PSC Union Finance Minister has allocated Rs 1,758 crore more for the project in the Budget 2012-13. The PSCS has contended that it is in violation of parliamentary procedure the Government had also extended the mandate of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) created through a notification of Planning Commission to enrol 40 crore people more. It had been mandated to register 20 crore people by March 2012.

I submit that the PSC has sought a reply from the Commission by April 7, 2012. Union Budget made a allocation for Aadhar-UID demonstrates a contempt of Parliament. The Budget Speech did not even mention PSC on Finance ‘s recommendations on UID/Aadhaar although other PSCs were mentioned. PSC on Finance has questioned the legality of collection of biometric data for Aadhaar and National Population Register (NPR) without legislative mandate.

I submit that while presenting the Union Budget 2009-10, Union Finance Minister had announced the setting up of the UIDAI by the Government to “establish an online data base with identity and biometric details of Indian residence and provide enrolment and verification services across the country.” He had allocated Rs. 120 crore for this project as “a major step in improving governance with regard to delivery of public services.”

I submit that the Union Minister did not inform the Parliament that UIDAI “was created during 2009-10 and a modest start with an expenditure of Rs 30.92 crore was made.” It is evident that Parliament has been kept in dark about how Unique Identification (UID) /Aadhaar Numbers to every resident in India started unfolding without sharing “the linkages of various welfare schemes steered by different Ministries/departments of Government of India”.

I submit that Government has ensured that the legislative wing remains unaware about how UIDAI selected the “Managed Service Provider” for the Central Identity Data Repository (CIDR) of Aadhaar Numbers. For this a budget of Rs 1900 crores was allocated in the Union Budget 2010-11 by the Union Finance Minister. It is admitted that “CIDR will be handed over to the Managed Service Provider (MSP) on a long term contract basis.” The UIDA was given Rs 3,000 crore for fiscal 2011-2012. Its details are missing from the public domain. The shifting national identities of MSP and their relationship with external and internal intelligence agencies merit a parliamentary probe.

I submit that the revealing report of PSC on Finance specifically raises questions about the legality of the collection of biometrics while creating a citizen / resident data base. The Report reads (in the section on ‘Observations/ Recommendations): “The collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information without amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 as well as the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament.” This reveals that the allocation in the Union Budget was illegitimate and beyond its legislative mandate. I submit that creation of residents/citizens identity database in the name of better utilisation and implementation of the benefits and services under government schemes, for improving planning and security is illegal and immoral.

I submit that in the Union Budget speech 2012-13 under the heading Growth, Fiscal Consolidation and Subsidies reads: “23. The recommendations of the task force headed by Shri Nandan Nilekani on IT strategy for direct transfer of subsidy have been accepted…This step will benefit 12 crore farmer families, while reducing expenditure on subsidies by curtailing misuse of fertilisers.” Such claims of benefits from direct transfer of subsidy has been debunked in the past but government remains adamant to pursue this path under the influence of vested interests.

I submit that the Economic Survey 2011-12 reveals, “The Aadhaar project is set to become the largest biometric capture and identification project in the world” but it does not acknowledge that such projects have been abandoned in several countries, a fact which has been recorded in the report of PSC on Finance.

It is admitted by UIDAI that there are “ownership risks (Ownership of the project by stakeholders), Technology risks (nowhere in the world a project of this size has been implemented) and privacy concerns (there may be groups raising privacy issues – many ID Projects in western countries have been stalled due to the opposition of privacy groups).” The UIDAI claims that it is “putting into place the risk mitigation strategies to minimize some of these risks” but this has never been shared with the Parliament and the citizens.

I submit that while all this has happened, the PSC report on Finance has concluded that Aadhaar platform has been “conceptualised with no clarity of purpose” and is “directionless” in its implementation, leading to “a lot of confusion”. Under the exiting legal framework biometric data is collected only under Identification of Prisoner Act that too for a temporary period. In the case of Aadhaar and NPR biometric data is being collected for permanent safe keeping without any constitutional or legal approval.

I submit that these actions of the Planning Commission’s UIDAI and Union Home Ministry are “beyond the scope of subordinate legislation” but the latter has issued guidelines for collection of biometric data under the Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship Rules. May I ask under what legal authority is UIDAI collecting biometric data. In the absence of any legislative mandate for such far reaching efforts, Home Ministry cites to a recommendation of Group of Ministers (GoM) on the National Security system for Multipurpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) in 2001 for all citizens but UIDAI does not have even that excuse because it is collecting the data residents, not citizens without any legal mandate.

Taking cognizance of the above mentioned facts, I wish to inform you that all freedom loving Indians are opposed to Aadhaar and related initiatives of Home Ministry like NPR and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) and National Counter Terrorism Centre and the approval of Union Surface Transport Ministry for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) due to following reasons:

1. Threat to privacy, civil liberties, federalism, national security, sovereignty and constitution
2. Without democratic, parliamentary, legal and constitutional sanction
3. Emergence of a Database, Surveillance State and Property based Democracy
4. Anti-poor and anti-citizen as it dismantles Public Distribution System and other existing social service entitlements
5. Promotes outsourcing of governance
6. Fraught with dangers of genocide and communal crisis
7. Guided by undemocratic international financial institutions and defence policies of other nuclear weapon holding countries
8. Adverse consequences of participation by foreign companies and biometric technology providers and collection of biometric data is an act violation of human rights that turns citizens into subjects and treats them worse than prisoners. The personal and biometric data being outsourced to third parties (including foreign companies) represents an unacceptable security risk for the people in this country, and for the nation itself
9. Compromises citizens’ rights of present and future generations
10. It is a boondoggle, an unnecessary and wasteful project for citizens as it transfers public money to private parties

In view of the above, it is clear that UID/Aadhaar and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) is anti-citizen. In the aftermath of PSC report and UP lections which rejected these schemes, the illegality and illegitimacy of the entire surveillance project has come out in open.

In order to brief you about the above concerns with relevant documents and papers, I wish to meet you with a delegation as per your convenience.

Thanking you in anticipation

Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
New Delhi
Phone: +91-11-2651781, Fax: +91-11-26517814
Mb: 9818089660

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