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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 30-31, July 22 & July 29 2023

Is genocidal violence in Manipur linked to chronology of Aadhaar Number database, an unending census project? | Gopal Krishna

Saturday 22 July 2023


Can the Aadhaar database pave the way for genocide in Manipur like in Armenia and Nazi Germany?

Now that Indian Parliament, European Parliament, Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister, the Chief Minister of Manipur, National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Women have taken note of the genocidal violence in Manipur and now that the 11 July, 2023 order of P. James Swu, the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Medziphema, Nagaland barring the common service centres (CSC) from updating the Aadhaar details of Kuki people displaced by the ethnic violence in Manipur has been cancelled on 14 July, 20213, there is a logical compulsion to ascertain the possibility of any association between Aadhaar database and the violence.

In the 13th year of the creation of an online database of residents of India through the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of Manipur, Nagaland, and all the other states with Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY), it is relevant to examine the harmful implications of Aadhaar Act in the aftermath of the audit report of Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) of India on the functioning of UIDAI. UIDAI is one of the three statutory organizations under MEITY. The other two are Controller of Certifying Authorities and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). Like natural resources, citizens’s data too is national wealth. These statutory organizations are concerned with India’s wealth.

In such a backdrop, the order of Office of the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Medziphema, Chumoukedima, Nagaland, Government of Nagaland “NO. GEN-26/MISC/MEDZ-20-23/144-147 Dated Medz the 11th July 2023 assumes great relevance. The order reads: “It has come to the notice of the undersigned that some displaced Kukis from Manipur had approached CSC operator for a change of address in their Aadhaar. Therefore, itis directed to all the Aadhaar operators/Common service center operating under Medziphema Sub-Division not to entertain a change of address in the Aadhaar documents as it may lead to future complications. This order is issued for strict compliance.” The order was copied to the Aadhaar operator/CSC operator for information and necessary action. It was copied to the VCC Molvom/Maova/Sirhima/Khaibung/Bungsang/for information. It was also copied to the Chairman, Kuki Community, Medziphema Town for information.

Subsequently, the order of Office of the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Medziphema, Chumoukedima, Nagaland, Government of Nagaland “NO. GEN-26/MISC/MEDZ-20-23/155” was issued on 14th July 2023. It reads: “In supersession of this Office Order No. GEN-26/MISC/MEDZ-20-23, Dated Medz the 11th July 2023 and in compliance with Office of the Commissioner, Nagaland, Kohima, Order No. CN/AADHAAR/MISC/2020/99 Dated Kohima the 12th July 2023, it is pertinent to mention that, all AADHAR Enrolment Agencies/Nodal Officers i/c for verification of AADHAAR/AADHAAR Enrolment centers/Supervisors/Operators are advised to do due diligence and to strictly follow procedures/guidelines as laid down by UIDAI while verifying fresh AADHAAR application/demographic updates. Further, Enrolment centers /Supervisors/Operators are to strictly check the accepted list documents as issued by UDAI and to further authenticate the antecedents (whether issued by the village Authority/Ward Authority etc) and after due scrutiny shall be reflected in the AADHAAR ecosystem through State Government portal of the concerned District /Sub-Division/Circle level. Therefore, this Office Order No. of even dated 11th July, 2023 stands cancelled.” The order of 14th July does not provide the reason for the cancellation of the previous order. It is not a reasoned order. The Order No. mentioned in the order seems to be ridden with inaccuracy.

According to All India Radio (AIR), Kohima, in this new order, the ADC has advised all Aadhaar enrolment agencies and centres, nodal officers in charge of verification of Aadhaar cards, supervisors, and operators “to do due diligence and to strictly follow procedures as laid down by UIDAI while verifying fresh Aadhaar applications, or demographic update.”He has also asked the enrolment centres, supervisors and operators to strictly check the documents issued by UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) and to further authenticate the antecedents. After the scrutiny, it shall be reflected in the Aadhaar ecosystem through the State Government portal of the concerned district, subdivision or circle level.

By now it clear that there is a planning to create an “Integrated Information Hub (IIH) for achieving the objective of 360-degree profiling of persons of interest.” J. Satyanarayana, the IT advisor of Andhra Pradesh, gave a presentation on Direct Benefit Transfers on 22 July 2016. He described the hub as a “single source of truth on people data”. Satyanarayana acted as chairperson of UIDAI between 12 July, 2016-15 April 2019. He was administered oath of secrecy by the minister of Electronics and Information Technology on 8 September 2016. Prior to that, he was Secretary, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY). As Secretary, he had informed the Parliamentary Committee o Information Technology in February 2014 that he has no problem with the indiscriminate and unlimited collection of metadata by US agencies. Notably, he has been involved with the UID/Aadhaar database project at least since 2006. At present he is the chief advisor of Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR), World Economic Forum, which is promoting a universal database of human population based on biometric identification.

The promoters of UID/Aadhaar database seem to be implementing the agenda of IBM, the giant American multinational, which is deeply involved in data mining at the global level. According to IBM, a “Single View of a Citizen” is required because it “provides authorised access to citizen master data as a service.” It “provides analysis and discovery services to resolve identities and discover relationships.”

It is germane to recollect that Edwin Black’s book IBM and the Holocaust reveals IBM’s strategic alliance with Nazi Germany. IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies, “step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s.” Notably, IBM was in the census business. The book reveals that IBM technology was used to organise nearly everything in Germany and then Nazi Europe, from the identification of the Jews in censuses, registrations, and ancestral tracing programs to the running of railroads and organising of concentration camp slave labor. Coincidentally, IBM’s agenda is involved in UID/Aadhaar project as well. Like the German census project, Aadhaar database project is a census project. The difference is that the latter is an unending census project.

Pramod Varma, who seemed to have worked as a ’Volunteer’ Chief Architect at UIDAI, was earlier Chief Technology Architect and Vice President of Research at Sterling Commerce, a software company that was later acquired by IBM. He joined UIDAI in July 2009 and led the overall technology and application architecture and application development within UIDAI Technology Unit. His role “has been pivotal in ensuring (that) an open, scalable, and secure architecture is built to meet the needs of aadhaar project.” If Varma was only a volunteer as per UIDAI Volunteers Guidelines, 2011, as per these guildelines as a volunteer he did not get any remuneration from UIDAI. Did he continue to be with Sterling Commerce, became part of IBM? The related UIDAI’s Guidelines for recruitment of personnel on Sabbatical/Secondment refers to “Conflict of interest from private sector members moving from one category of employment to another”. Given the fact that the presentation of the UIDAI’s Chairman makes it clear that he wants a “360 degree view of Citizens” for a “single source of truth on people data” and IBM also wants to have “Single View of a Citizen”, clearly issues of conflict of interest arise with regards to UIDAI’s Chief Architect.

The initiative of building a People Hub, a State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) with a “Single View of a Citizen” is being pursued through “Organic Seeding of Aadhaar” and “Inorganic Seeding of Aadhaar” (to quote from a People Hub document). In the former method, “the Unique People IDs of the beneficiaries are collected through a door-to-door survey or at point-of-sale. Alternative methods are the collection of Unique People ID through IVRS, SMS or drop boxes. Departments with large databases can also engage third-party service provider”. In the method of inorganic seeding of Aadhaar, “the demographic data of the departmental database is matched with that of SRDH through a computer algorithm, and wherever the degree of matching exceeds a threshold level defined, the Unique People ID of the resident as in SRDH database is included in the departmental database.”

The conflict of interest ridden involvement of IBM in the UID/Aadhaar initiative is aimed at ensuring that every person is being “profiled to the nth extent for all and sundry to know” in the words of the Supreme Court’s verdict on right to privacy using both demographic and biometric information. It emerges that Unique ID for Indians and their enterprises is being pursued to ensure social control through citizens’ personal data. The marriage between biometric Aadhaar database, and natura resource surveillance is breaching the social contract between the State and the citizens, wherein the former is making the latter subordinate to commercial interests of all kinds, while at the same time launching a blitzkrieg of advertisements and misinformation campaigns to mislead the people about Aadhaar number database. It is evident that non-state actors are dispossessing people of their inherent natural rights, and at the same time, is freeing itself from all accountability as regards this injustice towards its citizens in Manipur and in all the other states.

Meanwhile, mining of data through Aadhaar database and minerals through permits, licenses and leases is going on in a routine manner in Manipur. "The processes for the grant of Reconnaissance Permit ( RP), Prospecting License (PL), Mining Lease ( ML ) for the mineral chromite in the ophiolite belt of Manipur by different private firms are under progress. The applications for limestone mining in Manipur have also been received from the private firm.” [1] The secret US cables released by WikiLeaks has revealed that Chromite mines in India are among global "key infrastructures" which could pose a danger to America’s national security. The Aadhaar database is also a national security and inteligence project. Wikileaks states, "The OTS (Office of Technical Services), a branch within the CIA, has a biometric collection system that is provided to liaison services around the world — with the expectation for sharing of the biometric takes collected on the systems. But this ’voluntary sharing’ obviously does not work or is considered insufficient by the CIA, because ExpressLane is a covert information collection tool that is used by the CIA to secretly exfiltrate data collections from such systems provided to liaison services.” Online spying is the larger claim made by WikiLeaks substantiated by documents it has published now on its website. These maintain that CIA uses Express Lane, that is a cyber tool created by Cross Match Technologies to facilitate online spying. Coincidentally, Crossmatch Technologies is a US company that provides biometric solution to the UIDAI. It is possible that the data of every individual citizen of India including those from Manipur are available for mala fide purposes, such as spying, surveillance, and direct misuse to engineer genocides. Notably, Nazi Germany got punch card technology for census from USA’s IBM company which facilitated the genocide of the jews. Prior to that census data was used in Ottoman empire/Turkey to undertake gencocide of Armenian Christians.

The MoU between the UIDAI and the Government of Manipur for the implementation of the UID project was executed on 10 June, 2010. It states that UIDAI shall develop and prescribe standards for recording data fields, data verification and biometric fields and de-duplicate the database of the residents on the basis of the demographic and biometric data and issue UID numbers. It prescribe protocols for record keeping and maintenance of the information collected for the issuance of a UID numbe and also prescribes protocols for transmission of the data collected for de-duplication. The MoU between UIDAI and Government of Manipur prescribe protocols to ensure the confidentiality, privacy and security of data. Similar MoU has been signed by the Government of Nagaland on 30 September 2010. All the other states have signed similar MoUs. These MoUs are caught in a time warp. They have not been revised and updated in the light of Supreme Court’s judgement on fundamental right to privacy. The clauses of these MoUs are enjoying law holiday. Given the fact that it has been admitted that disclosure of address by Aaadhaar number database has made citizens vulnerable compelling them to seek “change of address in the aadhaar documents”which was denied by the 11 July order of Nagaland government. The subsequent cancellation order of 14 July does not address their concern for confidentiality, privacy and security of their data. There is a compelling reason for all the states to unsign the MoUs they signed with UIDAI in the face of unprecedented breaches in the centralised online databases. In the absence of internet, the promoters of these online databases cannot even pretend that they are meant for “financial inclusion”.

In such a backdrop, there is an urgency for the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court to undertake immediate hearing on the constitutionality of the controversial Biometric Aadhaar Act in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the biometric data-based DNA profiling Bill. It is increasingly evident that the ongoing convergence of demographic data, biometric data and meta data is an invitation for genocides.

(Author: Gopal Krishna, is a lawyer and a law and public policy researcher)

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