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Economic Times had covered the expose of PayTM by Cobrapost in Operation 136, Part II. Subsequently the story was quietly deleted without any official retraction. AamJanata believes that stories silently vanished tell a story of their own, and therefore is republishing the story here.

A sting operation conducted by Cobrapost called attention to reports that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) may have approached Paytm to get user details of protestors in the Kashmir Valley.

As per the investigation titled 'Operation-136 II', Ajay Shekhar Sharma - who is incidentally senior VP and brother of Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma - is captured on camera claiming that someone from PMO had called to asked for data of users to identify stone-pelters.

The video, however, does not mention whether Paytm complied with the alleged requests or not.

"PayTM=PayToPM"

Following reports, Paytm has released a statement on Twitter rubbishing the claims made by Cobrapost.

"There is absolutely NO TRUTH in the sensational headlines of a video doing rounds on social media. Our users’ data is 100 percent secure and has never been shared with anyone except law enforcement agencies on request. Thank you for your continued support."

However, Congress president Rahul Gandhi calls it " proof that (we) were absolutely correct about demonetisation".

The sting operation

Cobrapost's reporter had posed as an employee for an NGO affiliated to the RSS and is heard telling another top Paytm official that he wanted to promote books like the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayan on the company platform.

The reporter openly says that the campaign is driven by a Hindutva agenda, to which the official responds by admitting to having promoted PM Narendra Modi’s book 'Exam Warriors' by highlighting it on Paytm's homepage.

In the video, Ajay is also heard making his political affiliation to RSS very clear right at the onset of the conversation. He also claims that Union Minister for Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar and MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan know him by name and face.

Originally published at: Economic Times

This post is republished in public interest from the Cobrapost website, which appears to be having trouble.

Cobrapost exposes more than two dozen media houses, including some prima donnas of India’s holy Fourth Estate, where they all show their underbelly in its most visceral form.

New Delhi: In the second part of Operation 136, Cobrapost has exposed owners and high-ranking personnel of more than two dozen media houses, both mainstream and regional, the biggest ones and the smaller ones, the oldest ones and the newer ones. ‘Operation 136: Part II,’ in fact, shows Indian media’s underbelly in its most visceral form, where even the “big daddies” do not mind agreeing to undertake a campaign that has the potential to not only cause communal disharmony among citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party. This they will do if they are paid the right price, and sometimes they have no compunctions to quote a price as high as Rs. 1000 crore, as did the Times Group owner Vineet Jain, while others showed a propensity to indulge in any kind of illegality bordering on criminality.

The media houses agreeing to run the campaign are Times of India, India Today, Hindustan Times, Zee News, Network 18, Star India, ABP News, Dainik Jagaran, Radio One, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, K News, India Voice, The New Indian Express, MVTV and Open magazine.

We have received an exparte stay order from the honourable Delhi High Court on the evening of 24th May, 2018, which debars us from including the Dainik Bhaskar Group in our investigation. The honourable High Court has passed the injunction in favour of Dainik Bhaskar without hearing our side of the case, and we shall consequently be challenging the court order in the interest of truth and justice.

Senior Investigative Journalist Pushp Sharma used the same cover and the same ruse! Wearing the garb of a seasoned Pracharak, Sharma adopted malleable identities which he used according to the situation at hand. He first used his association with an Ujjain-based ashram, claiming himself to have been schooled at Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, to have studied in IIT Delhi and IIM Bangalore, settled in Australia and to have been running his e-gaming company out of Scotland. Sometimes, he claimed to be the head of the Madhya Pradesh unit of Om Prakash Rajbhar’s outfit, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, charged with party affairs in Karnataka, Maharashtra and the Northeast. At times, the journalist used all his assumed identities in a single meeting. As the investigation evolved to take on a pan-India character, he assumed the identity of a representative of a fictitious religious organization, Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Prachar Samiti, purportedly on a mission, a gupt vyavastha (secret arrangement), at the behest of the “Sangathan” to bolster the prospects of the party in power in coming elections.

The journalist approached these media houses with his hideous proposition. As he offered them a fortune in return, Cobrapost saw them all crumble under the weight of a “big business opportunity” that was knocking on their doors without asking. Almost all bent themselves backward to grab this opportunity. However, there were two notable exceptions, Bartaman Patrika and the Dainik Sambad, which refused to play ball. No amount of cajoling or inducements could bring them around.

While meeting the owners and senior-most personnel of these media houses, Sharma asked them to run a media campaign on his behalf. While offering them a big fortune in terms of ad spend, which ranged anything between few crore rupees and Rs. 500 crore, he spread wide before them these essential ingredients of his agenda:

In the initial phase, the first three months, promote Hindutva through customized religious programmes to create a congenial atmosphere.
Then, the campaign will be geared up to polarize the electorate on communal lines by promoting speeches of Hindutva hardliners, the likes of Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Mohan Bhagwat, among others.
As elections approach, the campaign will target opposition leaders, namely, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, caricaturing them using less than dignified language like Pappu, Bua and Babua, respectively, for them, in order to show them in poor light before the electorate.
They will have to run this campaign on all platforms – print, electronic, radio or digital including, e-news portals, web sites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Negotiating hard, in what you can say was a value-for-money deal, the journalist drove home all these points as they all spread a red carpet for him. The interactions that the senior journalist had with all these media houses during the course of Operation: Part II can be summed up as follows:

They agreed to promote Hindutva in the garb of spiritualism and religious discourse.
They agreed to publish content with potential to polarize the electorate along communal lines.
They concurred to besmirch or thrash political rivals of the party in power by posting or publishing defamatory content about them.
Many of them were ready to accept unaccounted cash, in other words, for the job to be assigned to them.
Some of them agreed to route cash through a third-party agency to turn it into white, even suggesting hawala routes such as Angadiyas.
Some of the owners or important functionaries admitted that they were either associated with the RSS or they were pro-Hindutva and would thus be happy to work on the campaign, forgetting the cardinal principle of journalism: neutrality.
Some of them agreed to plant stories in favour of the party in power in their publications, while others were ready to unleash their investigative teams to rake muck on opposition leaders.
Many of them agreed to develop and carry advertorials especially for this purpose.
Many of them agreed to develop content for this invidious campaign by employing their own creative team.
Almost all agreed to run this campaign on their platforms – print, electronic, FM radio or digital in its various avatars such as e-news portal, e-paper or social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Some of them even agreed to run down Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Manoj Sinha, Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi, among others.
Some of them also agreed to run stories against leaders of BJP alliance partners, like Anupriya Patel, Om Prakash Rajbhar and Upendra Kushwaha.
Some of them even agreed to paint agitating farmers as Maoists in their stories.
Many of them agreed to create and promote such content as would aim for the “character assassination” of leaders like Rahul Gandhi.
Many of them are ready to run the content in such manner as would not look like paid for.
Almost all FM radio stations agreed to allow their customer to monopolize their free air time.
Many FM radio stations also agreed to use RJ mentions to promote the agenda: Hindutva and character assassination of rivals.

Operation 136: Part II is unique in the sense that it not only has exposed all these media houses but has also brought to the fore the fact that in a technology-driven age an agenda can find a mobile app a very effective medium to reach out to millions of users. Our expose of Paytm does exactly that. It brings home the point that one does not need an elaborate arrangement of the conventional media such TV channels or newspapers. A simple mobile app can achieve what the conventional platforms cannot: it can deliver the message with a blink of an eye. In fact, our interaction with top Paytm honchos is quite revealing in many respects, for it not only shows the company’s affinity to both the BJP government and its ideological fountainhead RSS, but also shows that users’ data can be compromised.

As India has slipped two paces to 138 from its position of 136, as this investigation was underway, in World Press Freedom Index (https://rsf.org/en/ranking#), Operation 136 has found that most of the media houses are either owned by politicians themselves, particularly the regional ones, or patronized by politicians, and it is natural for them to become their masters’ voice. It was high time we coined a new phrase to define this journalism as crony journalism a la crony capitalism. For instance, ABN Andhra Jyothy, a prominent Telugu TV news channel is patronized by TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu. It is no surprise if we hear its Chief Marketing Manager E.V. Seshidhar say: “We have very good connects with TDP … We have do [sic] lot of what do you call we have main official what do you call for AP government Andhra Pradesh government, we have official event telecaster rights for Andhra Pradesh government.” While this connect goes beyond the TDP, to include the BJP and other outfits, Seshidhar even goes to say that their newspaper Andhra Jyothy holds so much sway that they could influence the outcome of the Karnataka elections.

On the other hand, Lakshmipathy Adimoolam, the owner of the 70-year-old prominent Tamil daily published from Chennai, wears his family allegiance to the Sangh Brotherhood on his sleeve. We are, therefore, least surprised to hear him say that he has imported especially designed software which could help in the promotion of Brand Modi: “You have newsletters … sent to … brochures, leaflets sent to party workers … say there is Modiji’s picture is there, just move your camera over here … it gives audio of Modiji.”

It was not that Cobrapost has exposed only those high ranking-personnel whose business is to negotiate a deal and bring business to the organization they are working for. In the course of this investigation, Cobrapost found some senior journalists, who have now donned the mantle of owners or CEOs, genuflecting before their big-ticket client and happily agreeing to work for his agenda. One such senior journalist was Purushottam Vaishnav who is working for Zee Media as its CEO Regional News Channels. Agreeing to run down political rivals by unleashing their SIT on them, Purushottam said: “Content mein jo aapki taraf se input aayega wo absorb ho jayega … humare taraf se jo content generate hoga investigative journalism humlog karte hain karwa denge jitna hum logon ne kya hai utna kisi ne nahi kiya hoga wo humlog karenge (Whatever input you will send in the form of content that will be absorbed … the content we will generate … we have been doing investigative journalism, we will do it for you. [Compared to Zee] None of the channels has done so many … we will do that).”

In fact, our investigation establishes the fact that the RSS, and as a corollary, Hindutva, has made deep inroads into not only the newsrooms but also the boardrooms of Indian media houses where even owners either blatantly admit their allegiance to the party in power and its parent organization or are eager to have an association with them. For instance, Big FM Sr. Business Partner Amit Choudhary admits to the relationship between the company that owns Big FM and the party in power in no uncertain terms: “Waise bhi Reliance BJP ka supporter hee hai (Anyway, Reliance is always a supporter of the BJP).” Then we have Basab Ghosh, Regional Sales Head of Open magazine, which is owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, who also confesses to their allegiance to the RSS: “Acharyaji shayad aap bhi busy rehte hain aap shayad Open dekhte nahi hain regular. Main aapko ek baat bataata hoon. Open jitna support karte hain sangathan ka shayad hee koi karta hoga. (Acharyaji, perhaps you are a busy man and maybe you don’t read Open regularly. Let me tell you one thing. Nobody supports the Sangathan [RSS] as much as does Open).”

While the journalist had a tough time in convincing Ajay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm that he was there to fulfill the assignment received directly from the Sangathan under a “gupt vyavastha” or secret arrangement, the senior vice president of the mobile-app utility payment company candidly admitted his association with the top brass of both the RSS and the BJP. Taking his prospective client as someone belonging to the Sangh Brotherhood, he made a very shocking revelation. Referring to the stone pelting in Kashmir last year, Ajay Shekhar said: “Jab JK mein band huye the na pathar … toh humari personally PMO se phone aya tha kaha gaya tha ki data de do ho sakta hai ki Paytm user hon (When the stone-pelting stopped there in J&K, I personally got a phone call from the PMO. They told us to give them data saying maybe some of the stone-pelters are Paytm users.)” Paytm users may now be wondering if the company has violated its policy of privacy and data safety!

Another interesting fact that has emerged during the course of ‘Operation 136: Part II’ is that although they might be swearing by their allegiance to the RSS or the BJP, they don’t give a damn to Modi’s public stance against black money for which the Prime Minister did not back away from subjecting the entire citizenry to untold miseries by enforcing demonetization in November 2016. Punching holes in what has been gloried as “surgical strike” against black money, we found Vineet Jain, Managing Director of the Times Group, and his aide Executive President Sanjeev Shah, naming some big corporate houses which could help make black money squeaky clean and even suggesting to employ the services of ‘Angadias’—a Gujarati name for hawaladars or hawala operators of illicit money—to get the job done. While Vineet Jain says, “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge aap unhe cash de do (There are other businessmen who would give us cheque against the cash you may give them), his aide Shah informs us: “Who will take that from him in Delhi suppose if Goenka says I want it in Ahmedabad so that I Angadia will have contact in Ahmedabad where they will exchange in number on a note or whatever.” Hope our Prime Minister and other arms of his government are listening!

Of all interviews that the journalist had with the owners and personnel of all these media houses in the course of this investigation, Manda Mhatre’s stands out in its revelations. While criticizing her own party, and claiming that it was the RSS leadership which ensured she got a ticket to fight election after she switched loyalties from NCP to the BJP, what the BJP legislator from Belapur, Pune, told Cobrapost is quite revealing: “Mere ko Sangh wale bol rahe the ki Muslim masjid todo ye karo. Main boli sorry main ye nahi kar sakti. Masjid sthal sab kachre ke maafiq dekhte hain. Itna log ko hum haay nahi le sakte hain kyonki aadhe log apne se jud gaye hain (The Sangh people were telling me time and again to destroy the masjids of Muslims. I told them ‘Sorry I can’t do that.’ They all look at a masjid something like trash. I cannot afford to earn so much ill-will of all those people [by resorting to such hate] because many Muslims have joined the BJP).”

We know it well that such open confessions of their allegiance to the ideology of the RSS could be brushed aside as personal opinions, but given the position they hold in their respective organizations what they say cannot be taken lightly. The reason is that it is rather the business interests that have an overarching influence on the editorial policy of a media organization, and Operation 136 has once again shown it in ample measure. The first part of Operation 136 had exposed India TV, Dainik Jagaran, Hindi Khabar, SAB TV, DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Amar Ujala, UNI, 9X Tashan, Samachar Plus, HNN Live 24×7, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat, ScoopWhoop, Rediff.com, IndiaWatch, Aj and Sadhna Prime News.

All these on-camera confessions make it clear that the malaise of paid news has set in deep as it is no longer confined to a few individuals who would show no scruples while publishing paid content, camouflaging it as news stories or reports. Over the years, paid news has become institutionalized, as this investigation establishes, for no one in authority in news business would receive an agenda, which is overtly communal and defamatory, with enthusiasm, let alone committing to undertake it, particularly when there are clear-cut guidelines to follow and laws to abide by.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has well laid-down provisions, for instance, to deal with various unlawful acts that these media houses agreed to commit. Section 153(A) makes any attempt to “promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different groups” punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine or both. Section 295(A) of the IPC also provides for the same punishment to be meted out when an individual deliberately, and with malicious intent, hurts the religious feelings of a community. Then, Chapter IXA of the IPC deals comprehensively with offences related to elections. Section 171 of the IPC makes interference with the free exercise of electoral right, in any form, punishable with an imprisonment of one year or fine or both. These provisions of the IPC, thus, ensure that the offence of polarizing a group on the basis of religion, caste or community is punished. The provisions of Chapter IXA of the IPC with regard to free exercise of electoral rights are overarching in their ambit as they are also relevant paid news to influence voters to gain electoral benefits.

In addition, the provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation Act) 1995, along with Cables Rules, and Representation of People’s Act, along with Conduct of Election Rules, make paid news and communal polarization for electoral gains an offence. Both the Cable Act and the Cable Rules prohibit transmission or re-transmission of programmes that do not conform to the advertisement code. While Rule 6 of the Cable Rules prohibits programmes of communal nature or that promote anti-national attitudes, Rule 7 also lays down the advertisement code prohibits publication of advertisements of political or religious nature. Rule 7(10) of the Cable Rules further states that “all advertisements should be clearly distinguishable programmes, viz., use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme”. Then, Section 125 of the RPA makes communal polarization an offence punishable with imprisonment for three years or fine or both, while various provisions of Section 123 declare an act aimed at polarization and the practice of paid news as “corrupt practices” making election of a candidate null and void.

Apart from these and other legal provisions, there are “Norms and Guidelines on Paid News” of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority and “Norms of Journalistic Conduct, 2010” of the Press Council of India, which all media establishments are expected to adhere to. But do they really care for such scrupulous adherence? Our investigation says no.

We would like to make it clear that Operation 136 should in no way be taken as an effort to undermine Indian media or question its sanctity as an institution. Our investigation does not intend to cast any aspersions or pass judgment, either, on the journalists who are working in these media platforms. They have done good journalism in the past and will do so in future. However, if the management indulges in paid news, in all its gray shades, it creates a very difficult atmosphere for the journalists to ply their trade in. This story aims to underline our earnestness to address the malaise that has been dogging Indian media for the past three decades or so and look within to make course correction, so that the faith of India’s citizenry in this vibrant pillar of democracy is not dented.

Not only have massive killings of dalits not bothered the political establishment, foot soldiers of the ruling have been on a quest to discredit Cobrapost. Replying to some of their biggest objections instead of individual and repeated replies.

Cobrapost is a puppet

This is problematic on several levels. The evidence they bring speaks for itself.This objection has not been raised about say.... the likes of , who targets the Congress specifically. Even if it were true, as long as the allegations are correct, they should be investigated, whether it is a BJP puppet or Congress puppet bringing them up. This is consistent with the stand I had taken on AVAM - which targeted and was supported by BJP in doing so. If their allegations were correct, they should be acted on. AVAM only targeting AAP is no excuse to ignore, just like Cobrapost "only targeting BJP" is no excuse to ignore.

However, Cobrapost, as a matter of fact does not only target the BJP. The expose immediately before the Operation Black Rain was about the UPA stealing the thunder of "Golden Quadrilateral"work done by NDA under Vajpayee and "expanding" it at massive cost with bent rules and hasty clearances. Previous exposes too have targeted Congress. BJP supporters attempting to silence exposes of their wrongs with ad hominem accusations remains a logical fallacy.

Cobrapost is attempting to sabotage BJP before Bihar .

Only true if BJP insists on backing the candidates tainted in the expose. BJP could also choose the way of honesty and justice and reopen investigations and solidly nail Nitish Kumar, who was the CM who scuttled the Justice Amir Das Commission of Inquiry that had nailed the culprits on coming to power. If BJP chose, it could use this to destroy Nitish Kumar. Laloo, messiah of the poor too has done precious little to get justice for this and could be confronted. It could even be projected as the transformation of BJP under their new and improved leader, . What BJP supporters are not saying is that they do not WANT justice for the dalits killed by their allies, which is why the expose is a problem. Cobrapost cannot be expected to cater to political desires for cover ups. It has provided the BJP the means to do a very high profile clean up of criminal elements in their party as well as nail their opponents. It cannot be considered Cobrapost's fault if BJP does not WISH to clean up their act and nail their opponent in the process.

The timing of Cobrapost's Operation Black Rain release is suspect.

I don't know why Cobrapost chooses their dates, but personally, I think before the elections is an excellent time to expose crimes and criminals so that people may choose who to vote for with eyes wide open.

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Accusation from Congress supporters.

BJP benefits from riots and Cobrapost exposes before elections help BJP consolidate vote

This may be true, because a Yale study does show BJP males electoral gains with every riot. However, it is unclear whether exposes of a riot from the past would result in electoral gains as well. Regardless, even if people choose brutal killers because of riots, that is their choice in the future they want for themselves. Concealing information to prevent an electoral outcome does not educate the voter - even if we don't agree with their choices.

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Cobrapost Investigates Complicity of Delhi Police in Anti-Sikh Riots in Delhi

The anti-Sikh riots of 1984, resulted in more than 3,000 deaths in the national capital. In a new sting operation titled "Chapter 84", Cobrapost exposes the open secret of police collusion to "stay in on the good side" of the Congress and the methods they used to cover up. The sting shows police officers candidly admitting to their failure as a force. Some of them confess that the top brass of the police force colluded with the government of the day to teach Sikhs “a lesson”.

The police officers covered in the sting are Shoorveer Singh Tyagi, then Station House Officer (SHO) Kalyanpuri; Rohtas Singh, SHO Delhi Cantonment; S. N. Bhaskar, SHO Krishna Nagar; O. P. Yadav, SHO Srinivaspuri; and Jaipal Singh, SHO Mehrauli.

S.C. Tandon, then chief of police, parried all questions and Gautam Kaul, then Additional Commissioner of Police, rejected the idea that he had any first-hand knowledge of rioting. Amrik Singh Bhullar, then the SHO of Patel Nagar – who the Cobrapost reporter also met – had named some local leaders in his affidavit, accusing them of instigating and even leading the frenzied mobs.

Cobrapost Special Correspondent Asit Dixit met these official, retired with a clear name and enjoying perks and benefits that government servants are entitled to. In their interviews with Dixit, disclosures made clearly establish the following:

  • The police force had succumbed to anti-Sikh sentiments, thus abetting rioting and arson, even encouraging rioters
  • Warnings about the simmering communal sentiments against Sikhs went unheard by senior officers
  • While news of arson and rioting bombarded the police control rooms, only two per cent of the messages were recorded
  • Police logbooks were conveniently changed to eliminate evidence of inaction on the part of senior officers
  • Some officers did not act for fear of punishment being transferred
  • Some police officers dumped bodies of victims somewhere else to minimize riot-related crimes
  • The police did not allow the victims of rioting file FIRs or when they filed FIRs, they clubbed many cases of murder and arson that took in disparate places in one FIR
  • Messages were broadcast directing police to not take action against rioters who were shouting slogans of ‘Indira Gandhi zindabad’
  • The government of the day did not allow the police to act while creating an impression that the police were not performing their duty
  • Senior police officers did not allow their subordinates to open fire on rioters
  • Even the Fire Brigade refused to move to areas where cases of arson had been reported by police.

While former Commissioner of Police S. C. Tandon evaded questions posed to him by the Cobrapost Special Correspondent, other officers in the sting independently described S. C. Tandon's role in not providing leadership to the force in addressing the crisis. At least three officers castigated the then police chief without mincing words.

Tyagi criticizes Tandon for acting under the influence of the government of the day:

Toh jaane anjane mein wo government ke influence mein rahe hain ki unhone mismangage kiya shuru mein aur do din jab asal mein baat jab haath se nikal gayi (So, knowingly or unknowingly, he was under the influence of the government. He mismanaged in the beginning and in the first two days the situation went out of control).

Yadav accuses Tandon of not providing leadership to the force, while Bhaskar says that instead of singling out some station house officers, the police chief’s head should have rolled.

The Ranganath Mishra Commission as well as the Kapur–Kusum Mittal Committee abundantly establish that S. C. Tandon at the very least grossly underestimated the gravity of the situation in remaining complacent that promulgation of section 144 would be adequate in maintaining control. The When the Cobrapost reporter met Tandon, the former police chief excused himself saying any comment by him may create a controversy in poll season.

The breakdown of the law and order machinery was complete with messages for reinforcement being ignored by senior officials.

“Main toh apne level se ye keh sakta hoon ki jab maine chaar baje message bheje aapse force mang raha hoon toh aapne mujhe kyon nahi di (I can tell you at my level that when I had messaged them asking for force, then why did not they send it to me?).” ~ S N Bhaskar, then SHO of Krishna Nagar

Then there were senior officers like Hukam Chand Jatav who did not act even when the press informed him about the murder and mayhem all around Delhi.

Hukam Chand Jatav ye yahan ke hi the Karol Bagh ke hi IPS the toh uss time the DIG ab wo Control Room mein baithe huye the aur reporter wahan unko pooch rahe hain aur wo keh rahe hain everything is all right unhone kaha wahan toh bande mar gaye hain aapki itni duniya lut gayi hai ja ke dekho toh sahi nahi nahi main yahan Control Room mein hoon and he knew everything lekin wahan se move hi nahi kiya (Hukam Chand Jatav. Karol Bagh fell under him. He was an IPS and was a DIG at that time. He was sitting in the control room and calling him up press reporters told him of murders and arson taking place all around, asking him to go out there to intervene. He said, ‘everything is all right … no, no, I am here in the Control Room’ … and he knew everything but did not make any move).” ~ Amreek Singh Bhullar, then SHO of Patel Nagar

To make matters worse, officers like then Deputy Commissioner of Police Chandra Prakash did not allow his subordinates to open fire on the rampaging mobs.

“Na unhone [DCP Chandra Prakash] mujhe ye keh diya ki matlab likh ke bhi diya hai ye bhi keh diya yaar wo toh goli chalne se toh Indira Gandhi wala kaand itna bada ban pada hai tum kyon naya kaand khada karte ho (No, he [DCP Chandra Prakash] told me, and gave me in writing, that Indira Gandhi’s murder is big enough an event. Now should you make an even bigger event by opening fire).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

Rohtas Singh alleges that Chandra Prakash had messages that would indict him changed.

“Agar wo record ho gayi hoti toh main kaafi kuch sabit kar sakta tha not even two per cent were recorded control room mein jo log book thi (If those message had been recorded, I could have proved many things but not even two per cent were recorded in the log book of the Control Room).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

“Toh wireless log book ke ki bata raha hoon … usmein kuch aise message the jo usko le baithte … jahan jahan usko suit nahi kar rahi thi wo saba change kara diya (I am telling about wireless log book … there were some such messages in it which could have been damaging for him … he had the logbook changed at places which did not suit him).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

The reason the police personnel behaved in a biased manner was the communal fluke that had infected the rank and file of Delhi Police.

“Ismein mujhe koi sankoch nahi hai kehne mein humare policemen bhi yahin local men the wo bhi communal-minded ho gaye the (I have no hesitation saying that our policemen who were drawn from the local men too had become communal minded).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

Covering up the anti-Sikh riots

After several bouts of murder and mayhem, when the rioting died down upon the intervention of Army after three days, began a cover-up operation by Delhi Police. First, they did not register cases and when they did, they clubbed disparate cases in one FIR.

“Logon ne case register nahi kiye dabane ki koshish ki tere ilake mein hua ke itne lambe chaure riots hue unko koshish ki kum se kum karne ki apni naukri bachane ke liye aur utha ke body wahan fenk di Sultan Puri (The police did not register cases, instead they tried to suppress the cases. They knew there were huge riots in their areas, so they tried to minimize, even picked up corpses and dumped them in Sultan Puri, to save their jobs).” ~ Amreek Singh Bhullar, then SHO of Patel Nagar

While the police have been indicted by several separate inquiries, there has been no real action taken against those whose complacency led to humanitarian disaster, or who actively prevented action against criminals, so this investigation by Cobrapost, in my view is quite relevant and well timed given that people are making choices with regard to who will rule them.
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While there is nothing new about problems emerging with the government pushed Aadhaar Cards, the scheme is dogged by recurring problems. Cobrapost has done a devastating sting that should put Aadhaar in its grave and see several people arrested, if there is accountable governance in this country.

Unraveling the ‘Uniqueness’ of UIDAI

What was supposed to be a unique identification number providing identification and access to a host of government benefits and services to Indian residents, ‘Aadhar’ has almost unvaryingly been extended to immigrants who have illegally crossed into the Indian border. Almost anyone, be it Indian or an illegal immigrant can get an Aadhar Card made without any proof of identity. More importantly, they get an Indian identity. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal agency that issues Aadhar cards however seems oblivious to all this. Cobrapost, exposes the underbelly of Aadhar, which was for long touted as Government of India’s most ambitious programme.

The Inside Story:

Posing as a conduit or an immigrant applicant, our Cobrapost reporter poses as a benefactor of refugees from Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and approached a dozen Aadhar offices. He tells them that these immigrants have no proof of identity or proof of address but need help in getting an Aadhar card. The convenience, with which almost each of the Aadhar enrolment officers gave assurances to not only provide the Aadhar Card but also a proof of Indian identity, wasn’t surprising. Without a prescribed rulebook for the fraud it was up to these officers to make their demands. Most of them were reluctant initially, but gave in when the applicant agreed to the prescribed fees. The negotiations happened and a time was fixed for the applicant to come. Almost in all cases, the Aadhar officers asked for a photograph and address written on a piece of paper for the purpose of making an affidavit, as proof of identity. The affidavit had to be countersigned by the local MLA or a gazetted officer thus making it valid. No one bothered to check the antecedents of our immigrant applicants.

From charges as high as Rs 500 to as low as Rs 2500, the ‘Aadhar officers’ agreed to make Aadhar Cards for applicants without any proof of identification or proof of address. These are the same people who have been entrusted to securely collect and send the biometric and demographic data of an individual to UIDAI’s data collection centre in Bangalore, Karnataka.

In a recently filed RTI query by a former defence scientist and RTI activist, Mathew Thomas, it has been found that UIDAI has not cared to check the antecedents of the companies that have been enlisted to collect biometric data. He alleges that the RTI made it clear that the data is being made accessible to foreign countries as these companies are owned by former CIA and FBI officials. Thus, clearly enough our personal data may just be sold to these companies who may use it in any manner they fancy.

In an interview published on 14th January, 2011 in the Hard News Magazine, Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Chairman UIDAI, on being reminded that biometrics have been known to malfunction when such a large number of people are involved said, “I think it will work despite the problems. Obviously, when you implement a brand new technology, there will be challenges. But, fundamentally, it will work. In a context where many people have no identity and the ways of authenticating identity are not very robust, the fact that we are taking this to 99.99 per cent of the population is in itself a huge improvement. We must look at the programme's progress in terms of where we are and where we are going.”
With no or extremely feeble privacy laws in place, it has become imperative for India to declare ‘Right to Privacy’ as a fundamental right. A draft bill, which was introduced by the then law minister, M. Veerappa Moily in 2011 has still not been passed by the parliament. Indian citizens cannot defend themselves in the wake of a loss of privacy. For now, agencies like the UIDAI, who have vast deposits of the biometric and demographic details of billions of Indians can function without any trepidation. Evidently, the Government of India is not bothered about malfeasance and neither does it care if common citizens like us, who have unknowingly given their personal details, have any right to disclosure.

UIDAI knew India had a population of more than a billion and with a growth rate of almost 1.5% per year, it was bound to increase. Providing a unique identification number is not wrong but the manner in which UIDAI collected biometric data and proof of identity was. With enrolment centers functioning as fly-by-night operators, charging varying amounts of fees for manufacturing Indian identities for non-Indian applicants, capitalizing on their nexus with their local MLAs in generating a parallel line of business, Aadhar has failed on all parameters it was based on. It has yet again proved that populism oriented, government mandated schemes do not work in a country with such humongous demographics. Perhaps, Nandan Nilekani should first accommodate more questions to justify UPA’s most ambitious programme than to blatantly promote his candidature for the Lok Sabha 2014 elections.

We are providing small excerpts from the twelve cases where Cobrapost has exposed the business of making Aadhar cards for illegal immigrants who approach without any proof of identity.

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