For Democracy in India: The Constitution is not a charter of servitude
Category: Digital India
Digital India is a Government of India campaign that claims to facilitate the delivery of Government services to citizens online or through other tech approaches. However, the project has been haphazard at best, plagued with security issues, data leaks and a less than responsible approach by the government toward securing the interests of citizens. The only people who are benefited from Digital India projects are big data players, digital banking organizations and those who create applications for the first two. Citizens are denied the right to privacy, government services and even food for the poorest citizens, if they don’t comply with the ambitious projects.
Additionally, many government initiatives, notably the Aadhaar and the demonetisation have resulted in considerable deprivation of citizens, for which there is no accountability. This has resulted in an ongoing and growing dissent by citizens of the country who are technologically literate. However, lacking adequate legal provisions to engage with the system and a government that ignores any information that could hinder their relentless rollout of “modernization”, there are few ways other than protest and in some instances, public interest litigation available to digital activists.
After false Aadhaar benefits claims perjury to deny citizens right to privacy in case, R S Prasad claims govt always saw privacy as a fundamental right after landmark defeat in judgment by 9 judge bench.
R S Prasad makes another Aadhaar and privacy related false claim.
The Supreme Court gave a landmark 9 judge bench judgment upholding privacy as a fundamental right of citizens. The government was among the defendants and had vigorously stated that privacy was not a fundamental right.
Today, after the judgment, R. S. Prasad, Union Minister holding Law and Justice and Ministry of Information Technology portfolio in the Government of India tweeted:
Govt was of the view that #RightToPrivacy should be a fundamental right.
This is complete nonsense, of course. If the government was of the view that privacy was a fundamental right, why was the case in court at all and fought vigorously all through to the top till a 9 judge bench provided a judgment on a matter of crucial importance to the rights of citizens that the government was violating?
Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, who represents the Union Government presented the government's stand in the Supreme Court as privacy was not a fundamental right of Indian citizens and that the Constitution makers would have put it there if they had intended it to be. The government's stand was that privacy is a right, but not a fundamental right (normal rights can be overruled by the government in various circumstances, while fundamental rights cannot).
Constitution makers did not intend to make right to privacy a fundamental right.
~ Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi while representing the Union government in Supreme Court before a 9 judge bench.
The government wants to be able to overrule a citizen's right to privacy in order to force them to enroll for Aadhaar or lose their right to essential services, subsidies, and documents. Aadhaar, imposed by the government on citizens was being challenged in court in this landmark case by citizens against their government. What R S Prasad is claiming is a flat out lie.
The Union Government actually made the ridiculous claim that citizens don't have absolute right over their bodies, sparking massive outrage on social media with hashtags like #MyBodyMyRight #RightToPrivacy starting to trend and remaining popular from then to now.
Advocate General Mukul Rohtagi cited two cases that supported this view. Rohtagi additionally falsely claimed in court that Aadhaar was foolproof and that the court should balance the right of the petitioners against those of the 700 million people it allegedly serves (which was also a false claim, because having an Aadhaar does not entitle you to anything, but in fact a lack of Aadhaar can prevent you from availing rights and services you already had access to). This outrageous falsehood has also been robustly challenged.
So the Attorney General committed perjury to defend the government's obsession with surveillance of citizens and when they got soundly defeated anyway, now R S Prasad is claiming that they supported the peititoners who fought against them? This is so absurd as to make no sense. If the government respects privacy as a fundamental right, why does Aadhaar exist at all? Why are people being forced to get an Aadhaar if they want to use essential services like the subsidies they are entitled to or to pay tax or to hold a bank account or even a phone?
Conclusion: R S Prasad is lying. It is the beginning of the usual jumble of words you see around this government and particularly around Aadhaar cover ups that turns their actual meanings into their opposites.
Was the demonetisation a success or failure? Various government claims and the subsequent lacklustre results leave no doubt that the demonetisation has resulted in no significant utility to the nation and caused considerable damage.
Initial news of massive raids. Political opponents targeted. News of currency seized from various people. Widespread understanding among critics and supporters alike that the objective was to strangle cash flows (legal or otherwise) of political opponents during the upcoming election campaign in Uttar Pradesh.
Widely criticized through various versions of "amputating a leg to lose weight" or "bombing a city to kill criminals in it", this was an irrational goal to begin with, to go through an exercise of this magnitude, expense and cost to economy to flush out a relatively minor number of notes that would at best lose value they didn't have to begin with.
The new notes would have special security features to prevent counterfeiting
Initial reports in media suggested that the new notes would have special features that prevented counterfeiting them. At the very least, having to imitiate a new design would slow the counterfeiters down and reduce the amount of fake currency in circulation.
Various reports in a pliant news media even took claims of special GPS chips embedded in notes and discussed them seriously, creating a perception among the masses that the new notes would be extraordinarily resistant to misuse or imitation.
Tax Collection would increase
Almost 25% increase in tax collection has been unquestioningly gushed over by a pliant media. This increase in tax collection has been attributed to demonetisation.
Having cash in itself is not illegal, unless it is established that the cash would not be accounted for while paying taxes. Seizing it without evidence of wrongdoing probably is, but the government legally created impunity for tax officials, who are no longer required to explain their actions to anyone..
The relentless crowds and high stress environment at banks did not allow for adequate examination of notes deposited and the overall understanding is that a large number of fake notes got deposited and converted into real money in accounts or converted to new currency - in effect robbing the country far worse than them being in circulation.
The new notes had no special features that prevented counterfeiting
The new notes are of poor quality and apparently easier to counterfeit. Various leaders and affiliates of the ruling party have been caught with counterfeited notes and the equipment to make more. The trust in the notes is very low and "even the real notes look fake". Hurried printing has resulted in real notes not having all features they should have.
Among early news of counterfeiting included school children who had photocopied a Rs.2000 note and used it to dupe a sweets shop owner when they purchased treats using it.
There has been no change
Tax collection has been increasing year on year for a long time now, and if you look at the trend over the years, this year's increase in collection fits the curve.
82% of the money demonetised was rapidly returned to the banks about a fortnight before the last date to deposit demonetised notes, and the crowds continued unabated way after the RBI stopped updating figures on money returned. It has been over 7 months now and they still have not given out the final figures related with demonetisation, .
RBI would transfer profits to the government
RBI transferred Rs 30,659 crore as surplus to govt. This is lower than the Rs 65,876 crore last year - less than even half the amount. The budget has assumed Rs 75,000 crore would come from RBI and PSBs.
Not just is the windfall absent, the government has not even been able to reach half the amount of the previous year.
The windfall from demonetisation would fund welfare
In addition to the losses made by the government, the citizens have made losses - from disruption and decimation of livelihoods to time taken off daily wage work and expenses.
There will be no benefit/compensation to them. Likely, a reduction of existing benefits will happen due to the lack of funds this "minor inconvenience" will cause.
Yep, demonetisation has been every bit of the clusterfuck it had been predicted to be, and we are not even close to recovering from the damage done.
Under the Aadhaar system, all Indian citizens are being allotted a unique twelve-digit identity number by the State upon obtaining biometric data including fingerprint and iris scans and upon submission and verification of certain demographic data including the name, date of birth and residential address.
The new identity is different from all previous identity documents issued by the State. While a driving license or a passport were identity ‘documents’ that once issued were in the possession and under the control of the citizen as “original documents”, the Aadhaar number and associated demographic and biometric data is a data entry in a digital database in the possession and under the control of the State and any other entities who might gain access to this database whether with legal authority or otherwise.
Further the nature of the information that the State uses to identify a person under the Aadhaar system is entirely different from that used under earlier systems of identification. Until now the State relied upon photo-identity cards to determine someone’s identity. Under the Aadhaar system, the markers for identity determination include fingerprints and iris scans. For the first time, biological data not visible to the human eye and inaccessible to and non-decipherable by a lay person or a non-expert, is being obtained from citizens and is being stored digitally in a central repository for all 1.3 billion Indians with the ostensible purpose of identifying them.
Yes, the citizen is issued an Aadhar card with a number on it, but that card and the photograph on it and the face of the person presenting that card are no longer sufficient for the State to accept that the person is who he or she says they are. The biometric data must match. If the biometric data match fails, then the State will refuse to accept the identity of that person.
Also, the Aadhaar based identity is ultimately a number in a digital database. That number can be deactivated or even deleted. The database is outside the possession and control of the citizen. If his Aadhaar number in the database ceases to exist, the citizen has no proof of his identity as a citizen. The citizen ceases to exist for the State.
The Aadhaar related debates have focused on the right to privacy and on the apprehension of surveillance by the State and on issues of the security of Aadhaar databases. But there are more deep-seated concerns about the Aadhaar biometric identification system that I discuss here and which are important to understand how great a threat the Aadhaar biometric identification system poses to the privacy, liberty and security of Indian citizens.
There are several scenarios in which this digital biometric identification database can fail, be modified, be stolen, be leaked, be misused or be manipulated by State or non-State interests to the detriment of citizens and their rights. I discuss how the centralized and digital nature of this database as well as its use of biometric markers of identity which by their very nature are not accessible to or verifiable by ordinary individuals, creates many such scenarios where citizens can lose control over their identity and their very person-hood and be left with no recourse in extremely harmful situations. The greatest threat posed by the Aadhaar system is that citizens will lose control over their identity, they will be unable to establish their identity under certain circumstances, and they will also be exposed to an exponentially higher risk of identity theft.
The digital Aadhaar biometric identification system it is argued not only violates the right to privacy, but it creates significant risks that threaten the very right to identity and person-hood of Indian citizens and thus the right to citizenship itself. The Aadhaar system fundamentally alters the social contract underlying the Constitution of India by enabling a potentially malevolent State to deny the very identity of “inconvenient” citizens. A cost-benefit analysis of the Aadhaar system, even accepting its stated advantages, cannot justify such immense risks to citizens.
This post was originally published here by Seema Sapra.
Something strange came to my attention today. An otherwise anonymous Twitter profile, but it had an Aadhaar UID number in the place of the name. The profile said the person was a IITian, a Brajwasi, Swayamsewak, BJPite, Gaurakshak and slave of the Indian state. Oooookay.
After speaking and tweeting and writing critically about the Aadhaar (as well as the Modi government), finding Modi supporters who will go to any extents, however insane to defend whatever he does has sort of started looking like a normal occurrence.
I believed that the Twitter handle was challenging those who claim that Aadhaar to be vulnerable to hack it and prove it. After all, Aadhaar's greatest fake troll profile, run by Sharad Sharma himself had once tossed out a number saying it was an Aadhaar number as a challenge. It wasn't inconceivable that another person would pull a similar stunt.
Okay, so that raised the stakes a bit. Someone's UID was out there. You read "gourakshak" on a profile and given the sort of news making headlines on a daily basis, you want to make sure at the very least that it is their own identity they are compromising and not some hapless other persons. So I decided to find out who he was. It was fairly easy to find his Facebook profile. That gave me his name and surname. Searching for that name and surname along with "Uttar Pradesh" (from the UIDAI website in above screenshot) got me one potential hit on a relatively less known networking site.
I now had an email and phone number. The last three digits of the phone number didn't match those on the UIDAI website - last digit was different. As far as phone numbers go, a non-match is a non-match, but I remember making a note of it. I plugged the number I had into truecaller. That number gave me a domain name as his website.
The .in TLD doesn't offer privacy - I know this as someone who owns .in domains. So the chances were good that the information he provided the registrar while booking, was public. So I checked the whois data of that website, and voila. I had a phone number for him with three digits that matched the UIDAI website, as well as an address. Incidentally, it differed from the first number by only one digit.
Truecaller showed his name for the second number as well. This isn't a careless man. This phone profile hardly had much public information and it was used for what you'd call digital assets - ownership of a site, ownership of digital identity. The other seems to be the one for more casual use. But he'd made a big mistake using it for buying a domain that didn't protect his contact information.
How far can a person go with this information? I don't know. Available information suggests very very far, with some skill and tenacity. But it was about as far as I was willing to go to make a point about an irritation on Social Media. So far everything I had accessed was publicly available information, only collected from various sites and the address and three digits of the phone number matching that gave me the verification of the anonymous profile was publicly available information. The government may not believe citizens have a right to privacy, but I do, so I did not proceed further. I had all this is in less than 15 minutes of idling around on my computer. No major effort needed.
I may have drawn an ethical line, but I wasn't done being irritated with the foolishness and decided that at the very least, a good scare was in order. I would ask him why he had put that number there, and if he issued a Sharad-like challenge to hack it, I'd reply with partial data for his personal information to show how easy it was to know his Aadhaar number and the phone number linked to it and given the straight matches in data, I wouldn't be surprised if the address was correct too.
So I asked him. And I was in for the shock of my life. You may read the Twitter conversation that followed from this tweet on Twitter:
@raghav4india may I ask why you've put an Aadhaar number publicly on your profile?
Suffice it to say, this man is batshit crazy. He is also probably the only Modi supporter I respect. He believes in Modi, but he is alarmed about several of his decisions and is definitely against Aadhaar. He is being forced to link his Aadhaar to everything, so in a protest of extreme compliance, he is attaching his Aadhaar to his identity EVERYWHERE. Twitter included. As you see in the thread, once I realized what he is doing, I was uncharacteristically polite with him. Because damn hell, if this isn't a Gandhian Satyagraha being done by a bhakt no less. Talk of the mind benders Twitter can throw at you. Long story short, I tried and failed to convince him to protect himself. I even told him the information I found out about him and how easily, but he did not relent.
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi
Done ignoring him, laughing at his folly, fighting to convince him, I had to concede he won. So I am now helping make sure his sacrifice does not go in vain. Yep. Let history note this moment, I'm openly supporting the actions of a staunch supporter of Modi - of all people.
Here is his explanation for why he is doing this. I hope the Modi and his cartel realize the kind of faith gullible people invest in them and try to serve citizens honestly instead of this digital colonization being imposed on the country without regard for individual or national safety.
I am an IITian. I studied Computer Science & Engineering for about half a decade at IIT Kharagpur. I thereby am quite initiated into the innate nuances and implications of the universe of computing. However my personal convictions took me to serve my homeland in Braj - the land of Sri Krishna - where I have been fighting relentless battles to protect, preserve and restore the heritage associated with Krishna's pastimes.
I have been chased by mining mafia on gun point for resisting their attempt to decimate the heritage hills of Krishna frequented by millions from across the globe; have been wounded by encroachers in our bid to transform sludge tanks back to their natural splendour; have been extended death threats by the goons of religious organisations for pressing the practice of the precept; have been booked under various malicious sections of the IPC by errand officials of the state who couldn't respond to the intellectual contest thus posed. I have been a fighter who has put my entire self to risk to bring home a point. So I don't fear anything.
I do revere Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have immense respect for his sincere hard work, original thinking and political gravitas, but am getting extensively alarmed with his inordinate push for policies, projects and platforms without mulling over their far reaching implications both internally and internationally. Developing India within a single generation is a laudable vision, but can it be advanced at once by pushing the simpleton citizenry of this country to a precipice, remains a perpetual concern for me as a die-hard nationalist, developmental professional and technical insider.
Aadhar is one such platform which never had had enticed me since inception. I have seen it as an abrogation of personal liberties in consonance with Gandhi's discomfort of carrying a fingerprinted ID paper while being in South Africa. Gandhian protest of those times sufficed with the doctrine of Passive Resistance and mass scale Civil Disobedience. But the dynamics in an ever inter-connected information age call for a different set of techniques to protest the supposed wrong doings on the part of powers of the day where citizens are being robbed off their basic liberties by a host of sinister but smart machinizations. You can only offer a creative resistance to such an oppression which does unfurl itself in ennobling eccentricities and eclectic excuses.
I thereby have chosen to 'purge' this all pervading monster of Aadhar by laying it open in the public domain. I chose this 98th Anniversary of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak's death as it's somewhere the death of the ideal of Swaraj which he propounded and charged up the nation toiling under the clutches of British tyranny. The Aadhar tyranny is not going to be any different, it would be even worse.
If this is the ID, which would ensure my very existence, let it be out in the open. Let I surrender and forfeit my social identity of my name, surname, caste, religion et al and simply graduate to this all powerful ID. If this ID is required to make India a surveillance state, I am all out eager to wear a badge to this effect and to take a gps tracer injected in my blood stream so that the agents of the state can keep track of me in real time - What all I do, how much I do, how much more productive I can be.
I am all out to surrender myself as the Slave of Indian State, a condemned inmate who has got no rights & liberties. Let this Creative Resistance of mine be explicitly known to the mandarins of the state whose fetish for power is incessantly insatiable. Let me persecute & purge my own self dignity which was dearer to me more than my physical life for this incessant striving for a supposed national transformation. I invite the Indian State and all its actors to pounce upon me and squeeze out the minutest strands of self-pride, honor and self-respect left in me. I am after all an inmate of World's largest prison called India. I am all out to celebrate this. Are you game?
With the government making the Aadhaar-PAN linkage mandatory, many people now find themselves in a position where the government has them by their money. Either forfeit the tax deducted at source or get an Aadhaar. Welcome, you prosperous people, to what those climbing trees to get their right to food have been going through for a while now. Give up your biometrics, or give up your hard earned money. Maybe you don't need to do either.
I was forced to get an Aadhaar when my father died because it got too much to handle all the places needing a change of name and wanting an Aadhaar. With disabled kid and mom, I didn't have the resources to get into protracted wars and I caved. I still regret it. But maybe some preventative measures could prevent you from sharing my fate.
Now I find various like minded people who have determinedly refused to get an Aadhaar made being forced to choose between their money and their security by a government hell bent on forcing security risks on citizens.
I don't know if this will work. But it is worth a shot. Even if it doesn't work fully, whichever parts of it work will bring some measure of privacy, if you are in a position to not be able to give up large sums of money due to you and find yourself forced to get an Aadhaar made. And frankly, why should any blackmailer make a monetary profit from their blackmail?
Step 0: Get an Aadhaar with as little non-disposable information as possible
Don't fill in any information that is not mandatory. Use a rented address rather than your permanent one. Or someone else's address - if homeless people can get Aadhaar, surely you can find a place, not yours to call home temporarily. Buy a separate SIM for Aadhaar use. Don't use your real number for it. I'd probably be doing all I could to make sure my fingerprints too appeared different, but I have no practical ideas on how to achieve it. Maybe use sandpaper. Or work on a construction site before going to make an Aadhaar? God knows enough poor labourers have been denied food because of such damage to fingerprints creating a mismatch.
Update: Some people said you can no longer get a SIM without Aadhaar. In this case, get the Aadhaar with your normal SIM and after you get Aadhaar, get a new SIM and update your Aadhaar to use that SIM.
Step 1: Get a bank account using the Aadhaar
Apparently, you don't get a tax refund unless your Aadhaar is linked to your PAN as well as a bank account (you end up providing bank account while filing anyway). So use a disposable bank account for that. Withdraw your refunds from ATMs. Don't transfer to your real accounts. Don't link your other accounts with Aadhaar.
Step 2: Use your Aadhaar wala phone with this bank account
Don't use this SIM for anything other than the bank and Aadhaar.
Step 3: Link this Aadhaar with your PAN
File taxes online as normal, give your Aadhaar number to the spy state and "prove" that your PAN is real. Get a refund into your bogus real account.
Step 4: Keep this toxic circus safe from your real life
Withdraw your refunds from ATMs. Don't transfer to your real accounts. Leave the phone with the SIM at home and don't take it around with you. Better still, someone else's home. Keep your physical Aadhaar card in a locker and forget about it. Do not photocopy, do not submit anywhere.
When Aadhaar inevitably fails, throw that SIM away, close the damn bank account and console all the scammed people.
To worshippers of Aadhaar who will outrage at this subversion - note, none of this is illegal
You can do what you wish with your own body, including work hard on a construction site and wreck your fingerprints. Buying SIM cards is legal, creating bank accounts is legal, renting homes is legal. The government wants to "authenticate" that people filing taxes are "real" people and are pretending entire bank statements don't prove it. Well, unless the government intends to use the information to spy on people, this stripped version of compliance that protects our data to at least some extent, shouldn't be a problem for them.