DFID encroaching Bleeding Odisha


Odisha readies draft of auto component policy Investors may be offered 50% rebate on land cost besides other sops.

Jayajit Dash / Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar Jun 27, 2012,
Odisha, which is looking to diversify its investment basket beyond core metallurgical industries, has readied the draft of its proposed auto component policy to woo investors in the sector.

With such policy already in vogue in peer states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Haryana and Karnataka, the Odisha government does not wish to miss out on the huge potential offered by the buoyant auto component sector.

The draft auto component policy prepared by Omega Tast, a consultant assisted by UK government‘s international donor agency- Department for International Development (DFID), envisages a concession of up 50 per cent on land to be made available to auto component manufacturers. On the power subsidy front, it talks of electricity duty waiver for 10 years.Among the other fiscal incentives delineated in the policy include 100 per cent exemption on entry tax on plant, machinery, raw materials and other inputs. The draft also talks of reimbursement of value added tax (VAT) paid for a period of 20 years, limited to 200 per cent of fixed capital investment.

The draft policy has also proposed a capital grant of up to 25 per cent of fixed capital investment (excluding land cost), subject to a maximum of Rs one crore. Private auto park developers would also be entitled to capital grant of up to 20 per cent of the fixed capital investment (excluding land cost), subject to a limit of Rs two crore, according to the daft policy.

“The draft auto component policy has been prepared meticulously after comparing incentives offered by states that have already formulated such policies. We have now sought the considered views of Investment Promotion & Investment Corporation of Odisha Ltd (Ipicol) on the draft policy”, said an industries department official.

As per the cost-benefit analysis estimates made by Omega Tast, for every fiscal incentive of Rs 7732 to be provided by the state government, one permanent job will be created in the auto component industry. This implies that an incentive of Rs 15 crore offered by the state government will generate approximately 19,400 jobs.

On revenue estimates, the draft policy says if an auto OEM (original equipment manufacturer) invests Rs 2000 crore in the state, it would result in potential tax revenue of Rs 90 crore to the state once the plant is fully operational.

Odisha which has attracted investments worth over Rs 13.66 lakh crore across sectors, mostly from mineral-based industries, has attracted only one major investment in the auto component manufacturing space.

RSB Transmission had entered into an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the state government for setting up an auto component manufacturing plant at Choudwar near Cuttack at an estimated cost of around Rs 400 crore.

The state offers good resources to support automobile component manufacturing units like availability of quality pig iron, pure aluminium ingot, steel flat products and steel rounds.

In addition to this, there is availability of skilled personnel for the sector with manpower drawn from institutes operating in the city like Central Tool Room Training Centre and Central Institute for Plastic Engineering & Technology (CIPET).

The Indian auto component industry has been registering growth of 20 per cent per annum since 2000 and is projected to maintain high growth range of 15-20 per cent till 2015.

The industry which touched $10 billion in 2005-06 is expected to grow four-fold to $40 billion by 2015.

Breaking: Tritium leak in nuclear reactor at Rawatbhata, 38 workers exposed to radiation!


News clip in today’s Rajasthan Patrika

Kumar Sundaram

The front page of today’s Rajasthan Patrika has carried a news about tritium leak in Rajasthan’s Rawatbhata Atomic Power Plant (RAPP) which the national media has conveniently overlooked. According to the news item, the accident happened 5 days back but the plant administration at RAPP kept it under wraps. On Saturday, 38 workers were exposed to tritium leaks while they were working on heavy water and tritium supply channels in the reactor. Vinod Kumar, the Station Director of RAPP Units 5 and 6 has been quoted as saying that 3 workers have been exposed to Tritium doses exceeding normal.

According to some unconfirmed sources, around 150 employees and daily workers were examined and kept under observation. An expert team from Mumbai has arrived there.

Speaking to DiaNuke.org, prominent nuclear physicist Dr. Surendra Gadekar said there is no “safe does” of Tritium. It is a dangerous radionuclide of hydrogen, soluble in water and can reach in every corner of the body once somebody is exposed to it. It leads to disabilities and genetic mutation. Dr. Surendra Gadekar has done extensive health survey around the RAPP in the past and his studies have revealed high occurrence of physical disabilities and cancer, especially in children and women. He also expressed concern over the plight of contractual workers in the nuclear industry in India.

Contrary to the high-decibal official rhetoric, the Indian nuclear industry has a poor track-record on safety. In August last year, radioactive leak took place in India’s Kakrapar nuclear reactor leaving 3 workers severely sick due to radiation exposure, all employed on contractual basis without any health benefits or insurances. The officials in the power plant pressurised the workers for a month until their condition worsened and they complained to the district collector. Embarrassed when this incident was revealed, a senior official from the NPCIL said -  “taking advantage of it, the workers, who were on contract, began demanding regularisation” !

Mr Kailash Chandra Purohit, who has taken over as the new CMD of the NPCIL this week, started his career at the Rawatbhata nuclear reactors. In a media interview today, Mr. Purohit has summed up his lesson from Koodankulam for other nuclear power projects- a massive “outreach program”. Public relation is the best way to ensure nuclear safety !

Trade unionists tortured, jailed in Kazakhstan


Last December we told you about a bloody confrontation between striking oil workers and the government in Kazakhstan.
Six months have passed, and instead of investigating what happened and seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the authorities have cracked down hard.
Many people have been placed on trial and sentenced to prison, there have been allegations of torture, and the government continues to punish people for the “crime” of “calling for social strife”.
It’s time for this to stop, and for the prison sentences to be reconsidered, for the cases of torture to be investigated, and for repressive legislation to be repealed.
The International Trade Union Confederation, together with national labour centres in Russia and Kazakhstan, has launched an online campaign of protest.
We need thousands of trade unionists around the world to take the time — and it’s only a minute — to send of their letters of protest.
And please forward this email to your fellow union members.  Spread the word – build the campaign!

India has UNDECLARED EMERGENCY- People Speak, India Speaks !


 

On June 26,2012 , there was  a successful  PROTEST on the 37th ‘anniversary’ of Emergency at  Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai saw around 30 activists gather to protest the silent emergency that is in force all over the country  with  no democratic space to protest.

In an irony we all expected, we were thrown out of our place of protest twice. First the railway police threw us out of their premises asking us to protest outside their jurisdiction. When we did that, the state police came in and threatened to arrest us! However, we had over an hour  of protest full of sloganeering and we managed to distribute over 4000 leaflets  and reach about 10,000 people , about  the oppression of peoples movements across the country right from the north-east to the nuclear hotbeds of Jaitapur and Koodankulam and torture of the political prisoners. Arun Ferriera  who  was recetly released from nagpur jail also joined us in the protest.

RESIST UNDECLARED EMERGENCY

26th June, 2012. Today it is 37 years since Emergency was imposed in 1975. If we see our present times, it is clear that we are under a state of an undeclared emergency  with life and liberty of the people of India being the biggest casualty. Just as in 1975 and the year after, when the State suppressed any opposition to its policies and abolished civil rights, the State today arrests hundreds  of democratic activists without reason or on false charges, abuses  and tortures   detainees,  imposes media censorship. The State is complicit in the destruction of slums and low income housing areas and is pushing us into insecure jobs by snatching away permanent employment. The situation is worse in the villages and tribal areas where lands and forests are being looted and peasants are being forced to commit suicide. All people’s movements and any kind of dissent is crushed.

Authoritarianism appears as the State’s main characteristic

The nightmare of Emergency was formally over in 1977 when it was ‘lifted’ due to large scale public protest. All those who defended Emergency were discredited. The sigh of relief evoked a hope for a functioning democracy in India. But today, a similar phase of governance prevails without any formal declaration of Emergency. This Silent Emergency has regulated, controlled and restricted all space for democratic public protests against ruling governments. Custodial deaths and encounter killings have become a routine phenomenon. According to the Asian Human Rights’ Commission, in India, over the last 10 years an average of four people have died per day in police or judicial custody. Rape, murder, loot, torture and arrests in Manipur, Nagaland and other north eastern states as well as Kashmir have even crossed the excesses of the Emergency period. Unmarked graves of thousands of Kashmiris were unearthed recently.

The increase is not only on the attack on the life and liberty of ordinary people but also human rights defenders wherein a large number of people find themselves booked on false charges and inside the Jail without bail being granted to them. Those who are opposing the loot of the country and the people are charged with Sedition (desh-droh). Over fifty such draconian laws have been legislated by the Centre and various States  such as UAPA, MCOCA and AFSPA.

Defenders of Human rights of this country and abroad came out on the  streets to campaign for the release of Dr. Binayak Sen in recent times. However, hundreds of innocent adivasis are still suffering in the jails in Chhattisgarh.

While the anti-POSCO movement leader Abhay Sahoo was released on bail recently, he is still being tied up with 51 fabricated cases. The villagers and activists resisting the South Korean multinational giant POSCO  for seven long years are facing over 1,500 false cases and many of them cannot move out of their villages even to go to hospitals for treatment. They are jailed inside their own villages.

While the leaders of the anti-nuclear movement in Koodankulam (Tamil Nadu) are facing over 200 fabricated cases, similar charges have also been instigated against over 6,000 villagers. The anti-nuclear struggle in Jaitapur (Maharashtra) too is facing similar issues. Last year, a peaceful protestor Tavrez Shejkar was killed in police firing.

Writer and secretary of PUCL Uttar Pradesh Seema Azad is also behind bars today facing fabricated charges along with her husband. Journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi, journalist K.K. Shahina, adivasi journalist Lingaram Kodopi,  adivasi teacher Soni Sori, farmers’ movement leader Dr. Sunilam, Maharashtra based activists Arun Ferreira and Sudhir Dhawale, activists protesting against Nonadanga slum evictions in West Bengal, dalit groups in Kerala, Maharashtra based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch, Jharkhand cultural activist Jiten Marandi, and thousands of others have become victims of fabrication by the State in the recent past.

This trend is not acceptable to any citizen who believes in democracy and human rights.

We therefore appeal to all those who believe in democracy and human rights to remember the trauma of this country through a declared Emergency during the 1970’s and express their strong protest against the continuing Undeclared Emergency in India today and support people’s justified struggles!

WE DEMAND:

1. Repeal All Draconian Laws including SEDITION, UAPA and AFSPA !

2. Release All Political Prisoners held under such draconian laws!

3. Restore all democratic rights of the people including the right to organize and protest!

To join contact- icare4justice@gmail.com

Apple, as per UIDAI is resident of India given #aadhar Number #WTFnews


 

Coriander s/o Pulao, Aadhaar No 499118665246

 

 Mr Apple with uid :-)

Published: Thursday, Jun 28, 2012, 9:15 IST
By Manan Kumar | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Coriander and an apple, as per the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), are residents of India as they have been given an Aadhaar number. And this, perhaps, has been the last straw.

Expressing shock at this, not to mention there having been several complaints of impersonation, the Union home ministry has asked UIDAI to get an internal as well as external security audit done by a third party to fix the lacunae in the enrolment system and avoid any more goof-ups.

The ministry had told UIDAI last month. It shot a reminder last week after seeing some more bizarre reports. If UIDAI doesn’t reply, the ministry may have to seek Intelligence Bureau’s (IB) help for the audit, sources told DNA.

According to a report, an Aadhaar card with the number 4991 1866 5246 was issued in the name of Mr Kothimeer (coriander), son of Mr Palavu (pulao), resident of Mamidikaya Vuru (raw mango village) of Jambuladinne in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. The card had the photo of a mobile phone instead of a person.

The ministry is in possession of about a dozen more such astonishing examples where a number has been given to non-entities.

“As the Aadhaar and NPR database are complementary to each other and are being used to enhance security and strategic processes, the ministry has the right to seek a security audit of any of its process,” a ministry official said.

Overruling Chidambaram’s objections on UIDAI’s security, the Union cabinet on January 27 had come out with a compromise formula and given a go-ahead to the UIDAI to expand its project to 600 million people.

It was agreed that both projects will continue simultaneously and each would use the biometric data collected by the other. In case of any discrepancies, the NPR data would prevail as it is collected by government officials who are accountable.

In the same cabinet meeting, Nandan Nilekani had said, “We will review the security concerns in six to eight weeks and begin data collection from April.”

“In spite of all its assurances, the UIDAI is yet to get back to us and apprise us of the changes. We have no clue what are they up to,” said the official.

A tale of errors #UID #AADHAR #Nandan Nilekani


GOVERNANCE

A tale of errors

R. RAMAKUMAR, Volume 29 – Issue 13 :: Jun. 30-Jul. 13, 2012
INDIA’S NATIONAL MAGAZINE, Frontline

Contrary to the claims of the UIDAI, fingerprints are a highly inappropriate tool to uniquely identify individuals.



Nandan Nilekani, UIDAI Chairman. In an interview he said the Biometric Standards Committee had “recommended the inclusion of iris to the biometric modalities”, which is not true.

Case 1: “There are nine checks on visa nationals arriving into the U.K. [United Kingdom]. The fingerprint matching check is the most recent. It is the least reliable. It is the least effective in terms of delivering against our requirements….”

So stated Brodie Clark, the former head of the United Kingdom Border Force, to a stunned Home Affairs Committee on November 15, 2011. Clark was giving oral evidence to the committee on why he had authorised the suspension of fingerprint checks during busy hours at U.K. airports. Pressed further, Clark said, “I knew of it, and I approved it because it was a very sensible thing.”

Case 2: “The FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] apologises to Mr Mayfield and his family for the hardships that this matter has caused.”

The FBI’s apology came in a public statement, dated May 24, 2004. Brandon Mayfield was an attorney in Oregon and a Muslim convert who was held as a material witness in the Madrid bombing of March 11, 2004. The Spanish police had located a latent fingerprint on a bag that contained explosives and sent it to the FBI. The FBI shortlisted potential matches from its fingerprint database. Two fingerprint experts, one internal and another external, concluded that the latent fingerprint belonged to Mayfield; one expert termed the match as “100% identification”. Mayfield was jailed on the basis of the fingerprint match. Two weeks later, the Spanish police informed the FBI that they had independently matched the latent print with Ouhnane Daoud, an Algerian national living in Spain.

The FBI’s fingerprint gaffe on Mayfield was not the first in the U.S. A few years earlier, Stephen Cowans had to serve a jail sentence of more than six years in Boston on the basis of a false fingerprint match. He was exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence.

For years, the infallibility of fingerprints as a mark of uniqueness has been some sort of a fairy tale. But with increasing cases of fingerprint mismatches leading to human rights violations like prison detentions, the confidence is waning. Indeed, it was such loss of confidence that contributed to the shelving of national identity projects in the U.K. and many other countries.

If the confidence is waning globally, in India there appears to be a deeply intriguing faith in the use of fingerprints in establishing unique identity for a population of 120 crore. The Aadhaar project is a classic example. Biometrics – particularly fingerprints – is a central feature of the Aadhaar project. That a Parliamentary Standing Committee had torn apart the robustness of the fingerprint technology – calling it “untested and unreliable” – is dismissed by the government. While time will indeed prove this faith misplaced, some immediate respect for the sceptical voice appears to be long overdue.

The entry of biometrics into Aadhaar is characteristic of how governments evade laws and misrepresent expert opinion to insert untested ideas into policy. In 2009 itself, the Biometric Standards Committee (BSC) of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was circumspect about using fingerprints in Aadhaar. It had stated that “retaining efficacy while scaling the database size… to a billion has not been adequately analysed”. The BSC also stated that “fingerprint quality, the most important variable for determining de-duplication accuracy, has not been studied in depth in the Indian context”. The reason: a large share of the population is dependent on hard manual labour, leading to worn-out fingerprints. This was an early note of caution, which the UIDAI ignored.

Even the BSC had failed to list out the problems of fingerprints comprehensively. For instance, the BSC was silent on the issue of “template ageing”, that is, an increase in “false rejection rates” as people age and sensor characteristics of fingerprint devices change. According to Kevin Bowyer of the University of Notre Dame, physical ageing of fingers results in decreased suppleness of the skin, more wrinkles, lesser flexibility of joints, and accumulated cuts and scars, all of which change the fingerprint itself. This implies the need to re-enrol a large proportion of people almost annually, making the system vulnerable to fraud.

There was another note of caution on fingerprints, which too was ignored. A report from 4G Identity Solutions, a supplier and consultant for the UIDAI, had mentioned in 2009 itself that about 15 per cent of the Indian population may fail to enrol because of unreadable fingerprints. It specifically noted that “people above 60 years and young children below 12 years may have difficulty enrolling in a fingerprinting system”.

On iris scans, the BSC was even more circumspect. It did not even provide error estimates for iris scans owing to the “absence of empirical Indian data”. It suggested the use of iris scans only “if they [UIDAI] feel it is required”. This stance of the BSC did not dissuade the UIDAI from deciding to scan irises too at enrolment. In fact, in a clear case of fudge, UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani stated in an interview to PlanetBiometrics (July 5, 2010) that the BSC had “ recommended the inclusion of iris to the biometric modalities”. This was wrong; the BSC never made such a recommendation.

T. VIJAYA KUMAR

An elderly woman being assisted in getting her fingerprinting done by the staff of the Aadhar biometric enrolment centre at Don Bosco School in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, in February 2011. The elderly constitute a group that will be massively excluded because of the fallibility of the fingerprint technology.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the decision to include biometrics in Aadhaar had no scientific basis and flew in the face of available evidence (see “How Reliable is UID?”, Frontline, November 19, 2011). Recent evidence suggests that the chickens are indeed coming home to roost.

Biometrics appears at two stages in the Aadhaar project. The first stage is “enrolment”, where three sets of biometrics are collected from each resident: a photograph, fingerprints of all 10 fingers and iris scans of both eyes. The fingerprints and iris scans are used to uniquely identify (or “de-duplicate”) each resident and allot a unique Aadhaar number. The second stage is “authentication”; here, a service would be provided to residents only upon confirmation that his/her fingerprint “matches” the fingerprint stored against his/her name in the enrolment database. Iris scans are not used at the stage of authentication.

I shall try to argue here that at both the stages – enrolment and authentication – the quantum of errors associated with biometrics is too large to be ignored.

Errors in enrolment

Let us first take enrolment. Facts emerging from the ground reveal that there have been widespread errors at this stage and that biometrics has been of little help.

First, in Hyderabad, a data entry supervisor by the name of Mohammed Ali – a former employee of the Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) – was shown to have enrolled more than 30,000 residents in a short span of three months. According to reports, all the 30,000 applicants had been issued Aadhaar numbers. There were two interesting aspects with respect to biometrics in this scam.

(a) Out of the 30,000 residents enrolled, about 870 people were enrolled as physically disabled (“biometric exceptions” in the UIDAI parlance). Their biometric information was not recorded. It is unclear as to how many of these 870 were actually disabled because most of their addresses were fake. It is also unclear as to how many thousands of such fake enrolments have already taken place across India.

(b) A large proportion of the 30,000 residents enrolled were not enrolled by Ali (because Ali had left IL&FS in between). Instead, these enrolments were done across 17 enrolment centres by other supervisors who used Ali’s login and password. While logging into the system, along with the login and password, supervisors have to submit their fingerprints. Typically, if the supervisor’s fingerprints were not matched as Ali’s, the system should have rejected access. Yet, all the supervisors could gain access to the system using their fingerprints. Clearly, the system was not able to identify the supplied fingerprints as not Ali’s.

Secondly, in what has been the most hilarious Aadhaar number provision to date, one Aadhaar number (4991-1866-5246) was issued in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh to a person named Mr Kothimeera (that is, coriander), with his father’s name as Mr Palav (biryani) and address as Gongura Tota, Mamidikaya Vooru (Mango village), Jambuladinne, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh – 515731. To top it, the date of birth of Mr Kothimeera was recorded as 1887, and the photograph on the card was that of a mobile phone. It is as yet unclear as to what biometric records were supplied with “Mr Kothimeera’s” demographic details and how it passed the test of biometric de-duplication.

Thirdly, the Department of Posts is on record that across India, as on April 20, 6.46 lakh Aadhaar letters posted were returned because the addresses did not exist. In Andhra Pradesh itself, about 50,000 Aadhaar letters were lying undelivered because the addresses were fake. In Karwar, Ankola, Kumta, Honnavar and Bhatkal taluks of Karnataka, about 7,000 Aadhaar letters were lying undelivered because the addresses were fake. While fake addresses have nothing to do with biometrics per se, they provide corroborative evidence to the widespread fraud that takes place at enrolment.

In sum, biometrics has not been able to prevent large-scale errors at the enrolment stage itself. Available evidence itself is persuasive, and it may be logically suspected that unreported errors are of a far larger magnitude.

Errors in authentication

Interestingly, while three sets of biometrics are collected at the time of enrolment, only one set – fingerprints – is used for authentication. As R.S. Sharma, the Mission Director of the UIDAI, confirmed in an interview to Frontline in 2011, “fingerprint is the basic mode of authentication”. According to Nandan Nilekani, iris scans are not used at authentication because “it’s not a mature technology”. For the moment, we shall postpone asking the reasons for tweaking expert opinion and deciding to use an immature technology at the stage of enrolment.

In his Frontline interview, Sharma admitted that the “quality of fingerprints… poses a challenge for later authentication”. He also stated that “for manual labourers, this authentication will be difficult because only one or two of the 10 fingerprints may be good”. It would appear that Sharma was foretelling what the UIDAI’s Proof of Concept (PoC) studies published in 2012 were to reveal. The PoC studies reveal that fingerprint-based authentication of large populations is largely a non-starter, and point towards enormous risks of exclusion.

The PoC studies were internal studies on small populations conducted by the UIDAI to test the robustness of real-time, fingerprint-based authentication. There was no external review. In Phase 1, a small sample of 14,220 residents was studied in Tumkur district of Karnataka. In Phase 2, about 35,000 Aadhaar holders were covered across four States.

First, the results confirm the fear that most people in rural areas have unreadable fingerprints. There was also significant variation of quality across the fingerprints of each individual. However, the UIDAI does not admit this in as many words. Instead, the PoC report says: “Certain fingers were observed to provide better authentication accuracy due to good fingerprint ridges and hence better image quality.” Further, it says that “providing multiple attempts of the same finger was seen to improve resident’s chances of successful authentication”. Finally, “senior residents (60+) had the highest rejection rates”; age-wise rejection rates, however, are not provided.

Let us paraphrase the above three results: (a) only some fingers of residents showed best authentication accuracy; (b) even when fingerprint quality was good, authentication was not always successful at the first try; and (c) residents above the age of 60 years showed poor authentication accuracy.

Secondly, to bypass the pervasive problem of poor fingerprint quality, the PoC study defines a “best finger”. It is the finger that “provides the highest chance of successful authentication”. The idea of a “best finger” is a cop-out from the real problem of poor fingerprint quality. Only 93.6 per cent of the residents possessed at least one best finger. Thus, for 6.4 per cent of the residents authentication was not possible with a single finger. In absolute terms, when extrapolated to the population of 120 crore, a 6.4 per cent share translates to 7.2 crore persons. While the use of more than one finger improves authentication accuracy, the figure of 93.6 per cent provides an insight into the potential extent of exclusion due to fingerprint authentication.

Thirdly, authentication was possible only in the case of 93.5 per cent of residents with a single finger at the first attempt itself (see figure). In other words, in the case of about 6.5 per cent of residents (translating to 7.8 crore residents, when applied to 120 crore) authentication was not possible at the first attempt with a single finger. Even when three attempts were allowed, only 96.5 per cent of residents were able to be authenticated.

In India, even a small share of exclusion from authentication can imply the actual exclusion of crores of individuals. Further, when applied to larger populations, the share of residents without one best finger is likely to rise sharply. At 120 crore people, it is impossible to forecast what this share would explode into.

Contrary to the claims of the UIDAI, fingerprints will be a highly inappropriate tool to uniquely identify individuals. Given multiple errors during enrolment and the potentially high error rates at authentication, the use of fingerprint authentication is likely to foster a regime of misidentification and exclusion. Worse still, exclusion will be most acute among poor manual labourers. The poor record of fingerprint readers in U.K. airports and frequent fingerprint mismatches in the U.S. were also a result of fallibilities in the fingerprint technology.

The elderly is another group that would be massively excluded. As the PoC reports admit, those above 60 years had the “highest rejection rates” at authentication. Yet, the Mid-Term Review of the Eleventh Plan by the Planning Commission has recommended the use of Aadhaar fingerprints to pay pension to the elderly through the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP). The recommendation is to use “banking correspondents”, who would carry handheld fingerprint devices, to make “payments at the doorstep”. A sure recipe for exclusion, it would appear.

In fact, the only group that appears certain to gain from the Aadhaar project is the global biometric industry. As Nandan Nilekani suggested in an interview, “the Unique Identification Project is creating new opportunities for biometric technology…. Our success can, therefore, determine the course the industry will take, since these technologies will be tested in India on an unprecedented scale.” On the other hand, the losses are likely to be felt mostly by the poor. It would be an irony that a project that is marketed in the name of “including the poor” would end up excluding them massively from whatever meagre provisions they obtain from the state today.

R. Ramakumar is Associate Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Sudan using protests ‘to silence dissenters’, same as India


Rights group report urges Sudan to end the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters and journalists.

Last Modified: 27 Jun 2012 10:09

 

Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, has said the protests against high prices is the work of “a few agitators” [AFP]

Security forces have arrested scores of protesters, opposition members, and journalists, beat people in detention, and used rubber bullets and live ammunition to break up protests that began on June 16, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.

Sudan should end the crackdown on peaceful protesters, release people who have been detained, and allow journalists to report freely on the events, the report added.

“Sudan is using these protests as an excuse to use violence and intimidation to silence dissenters,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Authorities should call off their security forces and vigilantes, end the violence immediately, and respect the right of the people to protest peacefully.”

“Arresting all suspected opponents to stifle dissent is abusive and illegal,” Bekele said.

“Authorities need to charge or release these detainees immediately, allow people to voice their opinions peacefully, and let the media work freely.”

The protests began on June 16 at Khartoum University in response to government austerity measures and price increases, and they had spread to dozens of other locations in Khartoum, and other towns across Sudan, with protesters calling for the end of the current government.

US condemnations

Meanwhile, the US have condemned the crackdown on Sudan protests,”Sudan’s economic crisis cannot be solved by arresting and mistreating protesters,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

“There have been reports of protestors being beaten, imprisoned and severely mistreated while in government custody.

We call for the immediate release of those detained for peaceful protest,” she added in a statement.

The National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS) on Tuesday deported Salma El Wardany, an Egyptian female correspondent of Bloomberg News in Khartoum, and briefly detained prominent Sudanese blogger Maha El Sanousi.

“They ordered me to leave,”  Salma El Wardany, an Egyptian, told AFP by telephone as she awaited a flight from the Khartoum airport.

Sudan has lost billions of dollars in oil receipts since South Sudan gained independence last July, taking with it about 75 per cent of Sudanese crude production. The north has been left struggling for revenue, plagued by inflation, and with a severe shortage of dollars to pay for imports.

The landlocked South depended on the north’s pipeline and port to export its crude, but Khartoum and Juba could not agree on how much South Sudan should pay to use the infrastructure.

Sudan’s already depleted oil revenues shrank by a further 20 per cent after its main Heglig oil field was damaged and shut down in fighting with invading South Sudanese troops in April, international economists have estimated.

Even before the easing of fuel subsidies, the cost of basic consumer goods had doubled over the past year.

Bashir, an army officer who seized power in 1989, called the protests small and not comparable to the “Arab Spring” uprisings against regional strongmen over the past year.

He blamed anti-government protests on the work of “a few agitators” in a speech late Sunday.

But a demonstrator told AFP the current unrest is unprecedented. “Right now, this is first time since 1989 we have these protests in most cities,” he said, asking not to be identified by name.

There have been calls on social networks for a mass nationwide protest on June 29.

 

India- Experiments with Aadhaar #UID #Nandan Nilekani


    Bharat Bhatti

Jean Drèze

    Reetika Khera

The Hindu

Technical glitches in the unique identification method make it unreliable in disbursing wages under the employment guarantee scheme

Within a few weeks of “Aadhaar-enabled” payments of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme wages being initiated in Jharkhand, earlier this year, glowing accounts of this experiment started appearing in the national media. Some of them also gave the impression, intentionally or otherwise, that this successful experiment covered most of Jharkhand. A fairly typical excerpt, which condenses five grand claims in a few lines, is as follows: “As the new system ensures payment of wages within a week, the demand for work under MGNREGS has gone up. Consequently, migration has been checked, families have been reunited and, no less important, some workers have a saving in the bank.”

Enthused by these upbeat reports, we tried to trace the evidence behind them, but quickly reached a dead end. The authorities in Ranchi referred us to the website of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), but we did not find any evaluation of the experiment there or, for that matter, any details of it. There was no alternative, it seemed, than to check the facts for ourselves.

Ratu Block

We headed for the Ratu Block in Ranchi District, the source of most of the reports. It was, at that time (early March), one of the five Blocks where the experiment had been launched. On arrival, we found that only three gram panchayats (GPs) were involved, out of 14 in Ratu Block. The showpiece appeared to be Tigra GP, but it turned out that even there, only one worksite had enjoyed the blessings of Aadhaar-enabled wage payments. In the three GPs together, the system had been implemented at five worksites, employing a total of about 50 workers. We managed to interview 42 of them with the help of a small team of student volunteers.

The main role of Aadhaar in the Jharkhand experiment is to facilitate the implementation of the “business correspondent” (BC) model. Under this model, accredited agents provide doorstep banking services to MGNREGS workers using a micro-ATM. They act as extension counters of the local bank (in this case, Bank of India), disbursing wages close to people’s homes. Biometric authentication is meant to prevent identity fraud, e.g. someone’s wages being withdrawn by someone else. Aadhaar is one possible foundation of biometric identification, though not the only one. In this approach, wages are paid through Aadhaar-enabled accounts that are supposed to be opened at the time of UID enrolment. Authentication requires internet connectivity, so that workers’ fingerprints and Aadhaar numbers can be matched with the UIDAI’s Central Identities Data Repository.

The BC model widens the reach of the banking system in rural areas. This, in turn, helps to bring more MGNREGS workers under the umbrella of the banking system, as opposed to post offices, where corruption (including identify fraud) is a serious problem. Doorstep banking facilities are also a significant convenience for workers in areas where bank offices are distant, overcrowded, or unfriendly.

A little farcical

Coming back to Ratu, some aspects of the experiment were a little farcical. For instance, on one occasion, workers from Tigra were asked to collect their wages 10 kilometres away, so that Aadhaar-enabled payments could be done in front of a visiting Minister. On a more positive note, the system seemed to work, at least under close supervision. Further, most of the workers had a positive view of it. They appreciated being able to collect their wages closer to their homes, without the hassles of queuing in overcrowded banks or of depending on corrupt middlemen to extract their wages from the post office. They did not fully understand the new technology, but nor were they afraid or suspicious of it.

Having said this, there were problems too. Dependence on fingerprint recognition, internet connectivity, and the goodwill of the BC created new vulnerabilities. Fingerprint recognition problems alone affected 12 out of 42 respondents. Some workers did not have a UID number, and some had a UID number but no Aadhaar-enabled account. None of them had received bank passbooks, making it difficult for them to withdraw their wages from the bank when the Aadhaar system failed.

Four respondents were yet to find a way of getting hold of their wages. Otherwise, the payment of wages was reasonably timely, but this had more to do with intensive supervision than with Aadhaar. It is important to understand that Aadhaar, on its own, is of limited help in reducing delays in MGNREGS wage payments. This is because the bulk of the delays occur before the banking system is involved — at the stage of submission of muster rolls, work measurement, preparation of payment advice, and so on. At every step, there is a lot of foot-dragging, and Aadhaar is not the answer.

(According to the MGNREGA Commissioner in Jharkhand, quoted in one of the articles mentioned earlier, “Against one month now, payments will reach workers’ accounts in one week.” This statement is typical of the delusional mindset of the Jharkhand administration. Not only are current delays much longer than one month, the claim that Aadhaar will reduce them to one week has no basis.)

Nightmare

What next? It is easy to envisage a certain way of extending this experiment that would turn it into a nightmare for MGNREGS workers. Three steps would be a potent recipe for chaos: depriving MGNREGS workers of bank passbooks, imposing the system even where there is no internet connectivity, and insisting on a single bank operating in each Block (the odd “one Block, one bank” rule). All this may seem far-fetched, but there are precedents of this sort of irresponsibility. Short of this, if the Aadhaar-based BC model is hastily extended without the system being ready (as happened earlier with the transition from cash to bank and post-office payments of MGNREGS wages), it could easily compound rather than alleviate other sources of delays in wage payments.

It is also possible to see a more constructive roll-out of the BC model across the country. In this constructive approach, the BC model would act as an additional facility for MGNREGS workers, supplementing ordinary bank procedures instead of becoming a compulsory alternative. This would enable labourers to bypass the BC in cases of fingerprint recognition problems, or when the BC is corrupt or unreliable. For this purpose, the first step is to issue bank passbooks to MGNREGS workers — this had not been done in Ratu.

The question remains whether Aadhaar adds value to other versions of the BC model. In the adjacent Block of Itki, the BC model is being implemented without Aadhaar, in partnership with FINO, a private company. Workers’ fingerprints are stored on a smart card, used for authentication and tamper-proof record-keeping. This obviates the need for internet connectivity, an important advantage of the Itki system in areas like rural Jharkhand.

Aadhaar, for its part, has two potential advantages. First, it facilitates multiple biometric applications based on single UID enrolment. Second, Aadhaar facilitates “inter-operability”, that is, linking of different UID-enabled databases. But the same features also have costs. For instance, dependence on a centralised enrolment system (as opposed to local biometrics) makes it much harder to correct or update the database, or to include workers who missed the initial enrolment drive. Similarly, inter-operability raises a host of privacy and civil liberties issues. A brief exploratory visit to Itki did not uncover any obvious reason to prefer the Aadhaar system to local biometrics.

Poor cousin

It is also worth noting that the Jharkhand experiment is a very poor cousin of much earlier and larger efforts to implement the BC model in Andhra Pradesh. Unlike UIDAI, the government of Andhra Pradesh has conducted serious experiments with the BC model and learnt from them. Biometric micro-ATMs are now being installed at local post offices, an important idea for the whole country: micro-ATMs could give post offices a new lease of life as effective payment agencies.

In short, Aadhaar-enabled payments for MGNREGS workers raise many issues that are yet to be properly examined and debated. The Ratu project, for one, looked more like a public relations exercise than a serious experiment. Incidentally, we learnt in June 2012 that Aadhaar-enabled wage payments had been discontinued in Tigra, due to resilient fingerprint recognition problems. That, of course, was not reported in the national media.

Last but not the least, it is not clear why MGNREGS should be used as a testing ground for UID applications when other, more useful options are available. For instance, UID could be used quite easily to monitor office attendance of government employees.

The social benefits are likely to be large, and this is a more natural setting for early UID applications than the jungles of Jharkhand. Any takers?

Proposal to ban SEZ on tribal land, farms


English: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodha...

English: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the ITC Green Centre in Gurgaon, outside of New Delhi. The ITC Green Centre is the world’s largest “Platinum Rated” green office building. Department photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BASANT KUMAR MOHANTY, Telegraph

New Delhi, June 26: A ban has been proposed on the setting up of special economic zones (SEZ) on land in tribal areas and agricultural land.

A meeting today between rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and unofficial members of the National Council of Land Reforms (NCLR) also suggested that homeless rural people should be given homestead land.

These issues will be on the agenda at a full meeting of the NCLR headed by the Prime Minister. The council members include five cabinet ministers, chief ministers of 10 states, including Bengal, and a few unofficial members who are experts on land reforms.

The council, set up in January 2008, has never met in four years. It is supposed to lay down guidelines on land reforms based on the recommendations of the committee on state agrarian relations and unfinished task of land reforms, headed by Ramesh

The committee has studied inequality in availability of land and its impact on the economic condition of people. It submitted its report in September 2009.

The NCLR and the committee were set up after the Ekata Parishad, an organisation working for land reforms, organised a march by landless people in January 2008.

P.V. Rajagopal, the parishad president and an NCLR member, claimed the Centre was not giving desired importance to land reforms.

“The unofficial members of the NCLR had a meeting with the rural development minister today. But it is unclear when the full NCLR meeting will be held. The government is dragging its feet on the issue of land reforms because corporate houses are demanding land,” he claimed.

The meeting finalised a few issues for discussion at the full council meeting, including a proposal to ban SEZs in scheduled areas and areas predominantly inhabited by tribal people, and restriction on transfer of common property and agricultural land in other areas for such zones.

Massive transfers of agricultural and forest land for industrial, mining or infrastructure projects have led to rural unrest and distress migration.

According to the report of the committee on state agrarian relations, about 7,50,000 acres have been transferred for mining and 2,50,000 acres for industrial purposes in the last two decades.

SEZs have mostly focused on prime agricultural land, causing misery to poor peasants, the report said. Large chunks of land have been degraded because of industrial waste and effluents. Unplanned urbanisation has frequently resulted in illegal grabbing of significant chunks of agricultural and common land.

“We have discussed the major issues on land reforms. I have asked the unofficial members to give their feedback by Sunday. Once I get their comments, they would be submitted to the Prime Minister for further discussion in the NCLR meeting,” Ramesh said.

How Monsanto Is Sabotaging Efforts to Label Genetically Modified Food


Lobbyists from the biotech industry are ardently opposing GMO labeling.
June 26, 2012  |

Photo Credit: illuminating9_11

As the 2012 Farm Bill continues to take shape in the halls of the United States Congress, the immense influence of corporate interests is on display.

On June 21 the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly against the Sanders Amendment that would have allowed states to pass legislation that required food and beverage products to label whether or not they contain genetically engineered ingredients.

The amendment, proposed by Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, is particularly relevant as many states prepare to vote on a ballot initiatives that would require such labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods.

Lobbyists from the biotech industry have ardently opposed GMO labelling. These opponents argue that because food labelling has historically been handled by the Food and Drug Association (FDA), it is a federal issue and, therefore, individual states do not have the right to implement such legislation. Indeed, in the case of Vermont, Sanders’ home state, Monsanto successfully intimidated the state legislature from voting on a bill that would have required GMO labelling.

Patty Lovera, the assistant director of Food and Water Watch, explained that states planning to vote on GM labelling in November could face a legal fight to defend their right to enact such laws.

“However, this amendment would have taken this threat away,” Lovera told IPS.

In a move heralded by food advocates, Sanders introduced amendment 2310 on June 14 this year, after his own state legislature backed out of voting on the popular bill, H.722, also known as the Vermont Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.

Vermont lawmakers allowed the bill to stall – and ultimately die – in the Vermont House Agriculture Committee in April, after a representative from biotech giant, Monsanto, threatened to sue the state if the bill passed.
Significantly, the Senate vote, 73-26, did not fall along partisan lines, with 28 Democrats voting against the Sanders Amendment.

Lovera emphasised that the powerful biotech lobby informs how politicians vote. “This doesn’t happen overnight, this is a result of years and years of lobbying and pressure from the biotech industry,” she said.

In a report published in November 2010, Food and Water Watch revealed that the largest food and agricultural biotechnology firms and trade associations spent a total of 572 million dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying over the course of ten years.

Importance of Labelling

The Senate vote comes amidst near global agreement that there is a need for GMO labelling.

Codex Alimentarius, the food safety arm of the United Nations, concluded last year after nearly 18 years of debate, that countries were free to label goods as containing genetically engineered ingredients and that labelling of genetically-modified organisms would indeed help inform consumers’ choices.

“GMO labels are a risk management measure to deal with any scientific uncertainty,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with the Consumers Union, who has been a long-time advocate for mandatory testing and labelling of genetically engineered (GE) foods.

“Labelling is the only way to track unintended effects,” Hansen said. “How can you know what you are allergic to if you do not know you are eating GMO’s?”

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Association’s hands-off approach to regulating genetically engineered foodstuffs runs contrary to international standards. Currently the U.S. is the only developed country that does not require safety testing for GE plants. However, the Codex Alimentarius instructs countries to conduct safety assessments of all GE plants.
According to testimony written by Dr. Hansen, “This means the U.S. cannot meet the global standards for safety assessment of GE foods. Consequently, countries that require food safety assessments for GE foods could block shipment of such GE foods from the U.S.”

Recent polls conducted by MSNBC and Thompson Reuters found that between 93 and 96 percent of the American public believe genetically engineered foods should be labeled as such.

California’s GMO labelling initiative collected close to one million signatures, doubling over the requisite 500,000 signatures to secure a place on the November ballot, and the FDA received over 850,000 letters in support of labelling GE food.

Voting as they did, the U.S. Senate did not in any way reflect the desires of their constituents or reflect the guidance of food experts.

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization