We Don’t Trust UID with Our Data: India Inc


16th Jan 2012
Shweta Rao

The government is likely to sort out differences between the home ministry and Planning Commission over data collection for UID cards this week.

The Nandan Nilekani-led UID project has been touted as the world’s largest, most advanced, biometric database of personal identities. And many believe, according to reports, that the UID is meant to be more secure than the US’ Social Security Number (SSN).

In the absence of a coherent privacy law, Indian CISOs aren’t buying that. “Even SSNs have been misused by criminals for years. The flaw of any personal identification project is that when you input data into a database, there must be an assured mechanism in place. Fingerprints have inherent inaccuracies as a proof of identification and retina scans make data storage requirements much higher,” says security and privacy expert Deepak Rout. “If you don’t provide enough security, then chaos is inevitable.”

Though reports suggest that Nilekani has said that use of UID cards will be voluntary, it becoming mandatory cannot be ruled out. When all transactions will get linked to a single number, the same may be used by various state agencies to monitor citizens’ activities. This may interfere with an individual’s right to privacy. “Even if owning an Aadhaar card is made compulsory, I’ll stay out of it as long as I can,” says Rout.

Pawan Kumar Singh, CISO at Tulip Telecom agrees. “I am still insecure with the idea of entrusting my data to the government. Would I go for a UID card? No, thanks. The government may lay down stringent rules but where is the enforcement mechanism? UIDAI’s security policy will remain like our constitution–on paper–if citizen awareness is not brought up.” Singh believes that India isn’t ready to consolidate its entire citizens’ personal data on a single card.

Both Singh and Rout have reason to worry. In October last year, the UID project saw its first victim of privacy breach. A citizen from Maharashtra lodged a complaint stating that his address proof was compromised. The incident raised concerns on the vulnerability of personal data being collected by UIDAI. And that’s just one of the many instances of security breaches.

Even those close to the UID project are raising questions on the loopholes that may exist in the project. Sanjay Deshpande, CEO and CIO at Uniken Technologies–a security firm that was involved in initial talks with the UID project team–says that UID could be vulnerable to insider attacks. “How are they (the government) going to ensure that the systems aren’t vulnerable to insider threat? How trustworthy are the people handling a citizen’s personal identity? Also, are the biometric devices used by the government foolproof? You might have heard of losing your e-mail ids and passwords at an Internet café owing to malicious software in public computers. How is the government ensuring that the data capture device by itself is not malicious?” asks Deshpande.

Application level security is another major concern. “My problem as an Indian citizen–once the UID project starts collecting biometric data everywhere—is how would we prove our disassociation with a wrong UID and a crime we have not committed?” asks Deshpande.

While the cabinet decides the fate of the government’s ambitious UID project, it seems like Indian CISOs have already written its destiny. The question now remains – Do you trust the government with your data?

For any queries, you can contact the author at: shweta_rao@idgindia.com

False Promises- Dr Mohan Rao


A basket weaver at work with her baby at her side, in Tamil Nadu. The infant mortality rate is very high for working women, particularly those in the primary sector, a large proportion of whom are labourers.

The claim that the Unique Identification project will facilitate the delivery of basic health services is dishonest

AMONG the many reasons cited for India to proceed with the Unique Identification (UID) project – that it will facilitate delivery of basic services, that it will plug leakages in public expenditure, that it will speed up achievement of targets in social sector schemes, and so on – the most specious is perhaps the claim that it will help India reach its public health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Despite impressive economic growth in the country, the huge load of preventable and communicable diseases remains substantially unchanged, in addition to starvation deaths. Although life expectancy has increased and infant and child mortality rates have declined, these declines have been relatively modest. Infant and child mortality take an unconscionable toll – 2.2 million children every year. We are yet to achieve the National Health Policy (NHP), 1983, target of reducing the infant mortality rate (IMR) to less than 60 per 1,000 live births in all the States. More serious is the fact that the rate of decline in the IMR has been decelerating, from 27 per cent in the 1980s to only 10 per cent in the 1990s. The same is true for the rate of decline in the mortality rate of children under five from 35 per cent in the 1980s to 15 per cent in the 1990s. It is clear that India will not reach the Millennium Development Goals of reducing IMR, U5MR and the maternal mortality rate (MMR).

India has higher maternal deaths than any other country. The NHP target for 2000 was to reduce the MMR to less than 200 per 100,000 live births. However, in 2000, between 115,000 and 170,000 women died in childbirth, accounting for about one-quarter of all maternal deaths worldwide. Far from declining over the 1990s, maternal and neo-natal morbidity and mortality rates in India have, at best, plateaued. High and unconscionable as these levels of maternal mortality are, it is nevertheless critical to bear in mind that they represent just a fraction of the morbidity and mortality load borne by women in the country. Thus, for instance, deaths caused by anaemia among women who are not pregnant are twice as many as among those who are. Similarly, communicable diseases take a much higher toll than that due to pregnancy and childbirth.

The reasons are complex and stem, above all, from the lack of political and financial commitment to build a public health system that can meet the challenges. As the National Health Policy (NHP) 2002 admitted, this is, at 0.9 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the fifth lowest public expenditure on health in the world. The decline in public investments over the years was matched with growing subsidies to the private sector in health care in a variety of ways. Thus we have the largest, and one of the least regulated, private health care industry in the world. Evidence from across the country indicates that access to health care has declined sharply over the last two decades. As the government admits, the policy of levying user fees has impacted negatively upon access to public health facilities, especially for poor and marginalised communities and women.

High private medical expenditure

It is to be remembered that along with poor public financing, India has one of the highest private medical expenditures in the world: out-of-pocket expenditure accounts for 83 per cent of the total health expenditure in the country. It is thus not surprising that, as the NHP 2002 notes, medical expenditure has emerged as one of the leading causes of indebtedness. At the same time, the proportion of people not availing themselves of any type of medical care for financial reasons increased between 1986-87 and 1995-96 from 10 to 21 per cent in urban areas, and from 15 to 24 per cent in rural areas. It is not just the poor; even the middle classes – the upper echelons of which welcomed globalisation – are finding it increasingly difficult to meet medical care costs.

The short UID Working Paper on Public Health astonishingly sees the UID as helping create “demand” for public health in the country. If people are voting with their feet for the private sector, which they do not and cannot trust, it is precisely because the public sector does not offer them quality care. Nor, indeed, is whatever care offered free of cost. Why then go to a crumbling system that offers little other than immunisation and family planning? Indeed, there is a huge unmet demand. In other words, the critical shortfall in supply of quality comprehensive services. How does the UID help with that? The UID Working Paper on public health sets out what it calls “killer application” to provide citizens an incentive to obtain a UID card in order to meet health needs. This unfortunate language apart, the fact that we have not built a health care system for the population is hardly fortuitous.

The Working Paper highlights the fact that we lack good-quality health data or indeed even vital statistics. It is equally true that this should come from integrated routine health system and not ad hoc surveys. But how is the UID to rectify this? People are avoiding the public health system for a variety of reasons: lack of drugs, lack of doctors, having to pay for services, inconvenient hours, rude personnel, and so on. Unless these issues are attended to, data quality cannot be improved. The UID is no magic bullet.

Thus the UID is not designed to meet the public health challenges in the country and should not pretend to do so. On the contrary, given that many diseases continue to bear a stigma in this country, the UID scheme has the unique potential of increasing stigma by breaching the anonymity of health data collected. It thus violates the heart of the medical encounter, namely confidentiality. By making this information potentially available to employers and insurance companies, the scheme bodes further gross violations of health rights. It is this reason above all that persuaded many countries in Europe not to accept such schemes.

his maternity unit near the primary health centre at Sellamanthadi village near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu is not in use. Evidence over the past two decades shows that access to public health care has dwindled, spawning one of the world's largest private health care industries.

The justification that the launch of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana provides a “killer” opportunity for the UID scheme to free ride is equally moot; an evaluation of the RSBY scheme in Kerala, a State with extremely good health indicators, shows a number of problems, in particular an inability to reach marginal groups (Narayana D., “Review of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana”, Economic and Political Weekly, vol.xlv, No.29, July 17, 2010). Anecdotal evidence from Kerala also indicates a huge increase in costs because of what are politely called “moral hazard” problems. Simply put, doctors in the private sector are subjecting patients to unnecessary tests and treatment now that they are assured of payments. In short, this creates an “effective demand” for the private sector in a segment of the population hitherto not availing itself of this because of poverty. It is for these reasons that the High Level Expert Group of the Planning Commission rejected recently such a model of health care universalisation.

The biometric health insurance cards issued to Delhi slum-dwellers under the State government’s “Mission Convergence” scheme requires card-holders to identify themselves with a fingerprint before they can avail themselves of free hospital treatment. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in the scheme say that they are inundated with complaints about malfunctioning fingerprint readers, which fail to authenticate even after multiple swipes. Since the scheme is tied up with private health providers, users in need of emergency treatment often end up paying inflated fees for services that they could get at a lower cost, if not free, at a government hospital.

One area where the UID card would be extremely beneficial has, of course, to do with clinical trials. As is well known, since 2005, India has opened up as a market for clinical trials of drugs, and that this is a huge industry, with MNCs now rushing in. It is equally a well-known secret that the trials that are being conducted are not good trials that the MNCs want. These good wishes are being vitiated by the trial subjects, the poor guinea pigs. Again, the evidence is of necessity anecdotal, but given the poverty levels, one way of getting quick cash – or indeed cellphones – is to enlist in several trials simultaneously. We all know this is happening and this is one area where the UID would be useful. That is to say, the guinea pigs can be carefully monitored not to enlist on more than one trial. Will it help in identifying side effects? In obtaining compensation for side effects or death? Of course not: the card cannot help here.

While there are systemic problems for low health access and outreach (such as low – and falling – immunisation coverage), to pretend that the UID scheme offers a solution to the problem is dissembling at best, and dishonest at worst. The UID scheme has thus little to offer for improvement in the public health situation in the country. On the other hand, the UIDAI has much to gain from a link-up with the public health system.

As the UIDAI Working Paper on public health puts it, in amazingly bad language: “The demand pull for this needs to be created de novo or fostered on existing platforms by the respective ministries. Helping various ministries visualise key applications that leverage existing government entitlement schemes such as the NREGA and PDS will get their buy-in into the project …. and will also build excitement and material support from the ministries for the UID project even as it gets off the ground.”

Given the significant potential for misuse of data, human rights violations and breach of confidentiality of health information, one hopes that the Ministry of Health will restrain its “excitement” and undertake a rigorous analysis of the costs and risks of the scheme before providing “material support” to the UID project. Or is this expecting too much from a Ministry that routinely betrays people?

Dr Mohan Rao is Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

FRONTLINE- Volume 28 – Issue 24 :: Nov. 19-Dec. 02, 2011

How reliable is UID? – R. Ramachandran


Biometric scanning of fingerprints during the launch of UID enrolment at the General Post Office in Bangalore

Biometric scanning of fingerprints during the launch of UID enrolment at the General Post Office in Bangalore

THE Unique Identification (UID) project, the national project of the Government of India, aims to give a unique 12-digit number – called Aadhaar – to every citizen of the country, a random number that is generated and linked to a person’s demographic and biometric information. The key word is “unique”. Launched in 2009 with the objective of reaching various benefits such as the public distribution system (PDS) to the poor, better targeting of developmental schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and enabling services such as the opening of a bank account, this uses technology based on a biometrics recognition system. Significantly, there will only be a UID number and no UID card as had been proposed earlier by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.

The advocates of the project believe that this will eliminate the multiple bureaucratic layers that the people of the country, particularly the rural poor, are confronted with and the multiplicity of documents that they have to present in order to access their legitimate entitlements, and the channels of corruption that these have bred over the years. But it has been clearly stated that “Aadhaar will only guarantee identity, not rights, benefits or entitlements”. It is only envisaged as a “robust” mechanism to eliminate duplicate and fake identities by uniquely verifying and authenticating genuine beneficiaries and legitimate claimants.

After authentication by a centralised database of biometric and demographic information to which service providers will be linked, this unique identification number alone will enable every individual to access services and entitlements anywhere in the country and at any time. The centralised database, Central ID Repository (CIDR), will be maintained and regulated by the UID Authority of India (UIDAI), which has been set up with the technocrat Nandan Nilekani, former co-chairman of the IT enterprise Infosys, as its chairman.

So will the system do what it claims it will? Socio-political issues and those of ethics and breach of privacy have been raised in this regard in different quarters. But purely at a technical level, the question is whether the technology deployed for identification will return answers that are unambiguous. Can it be that definitive that the authentication and verification made by matching the presented data with the stored data for a given individual in the CIDR will be unique and refer only to that individual? Are there no errors in such biometric systems?

What is biometrics? Biometrics, as defined by the report of the Whither Biometrics Committee (2010) of the National Research Council (NRC) of the United States, “is the automated recognition of individuals based on their behavioural and biological characteristics. It is a tool for establishing confidence that one is dealing with individuals who are already known (or not known) and consequently that they belong to a group with certain rights (or to a group to be denied certain privileges). It relies on the presumption that individuals are physically and behaviourally distinct in a number of ways.” The UID biometric system is a “multi-modal” one and uses data on the ten (single) fingerprints, palm print or slap fingerprint (which combines the features of fingerprints and hand geometry), iris characteristics and facial images of every person.

The NRC study concludes thus: “Human recognition systems are inherently probabilistic and hence inherently fallible. The chance of error can be made small but not eliminated…. The scientific basis of biometrics – from understanding the distribution of biometric traits within given populations to how humans interact with biometric systems – needs strengthening particularly as biometric technologies and systems are deployed in systems of national importance.” A biometric identification system basically involves the matching of measured biometric data against previously collected data, the reference database, for a given individual. Since the sources of uncertainty in a biometric system are many, this can only be approximate. So biometric systems can only provide probabilistic results.

Sources of uncertainty

The sources of uncertainty include variations in biological attributes both within and between persons, sensor characteristics, feature extraction and matching algorithms. Traits captured by biometric systems may change with age, environment, disease, stress, occupational factors, socio-cultural aspects of the situation in which data submission takes place, changes in human interface with the system and, significantly, even intentional alterations. This would be so particularly of the poor engaged in labour-intensive occupations such as farming, where hands are put to rough use causing weathering of finger and hand prints. Recently, it has also been shown that the three “accepted truths” about iris biometrics involving pupil dilation, contact lenses and template aging are not valid. Kevin Bowyer and others from the University of Notre Dame, U.S., have demonstrated that iris biometric performance can be degraded by varying pupil dilation, by wearing non-cosmetic prescription contact lenses, by time lapse between enrolment and verification and by cross-sensor operation and that all these factors significantly alter the matching done to identify an individual uniquely.

According to the NRC report, there are many gaps in our understanding of the nature and distinctiveness and stability of biometric characteristics across individuals and groups. “No biometric characteristic,” it says, “is known to be entirely stable and distinctive across all groups. Biometric traits have fundamental statistical properties, distinctiveness, and differing degrees of stability under natural physiological conditions and environmental challenges, many aspects of which are not well understood, especially at large scales.” (Emphasis added, given its particular relevance to the UID, which has to deal with 1.21 billion registrations in the database.)

Calibration changes and aging of sensors and the sensitivity of sensor performance to variations in the ambient environment (such as light levels) can affect the measurements. Biometric characteristics cannot be directly compared, but their stable and distinctive features are extracted from sensor outputs. Differences in feature extraction algorithms – chiefly pattern recognition algorithms – can affect performance, particularly when they are designed to achieve interoperability among different proprietary systems. However, in the case of UID, customised enrolment and extraction software are supposed to have been used in all systems used by enrolment (registration) agencies across the country. The same will have to be done for systems at the service provider level, where a beneficiary’s data will be captured for authentication. Similar will be the issue with regard to matching algorithms. However, since matching is generally expected to be done at a centralised database at CIDR, only the algorithm’s performance or sensitivity in handling variations in biometric data presented will be important, but this needs to be known and quantified.

Biometric match

A fundamental characteristic of a biometric system is that a biometric match represents “not certain recognition but probability of a correct recognition, while a non-match represents a probability rather than a definitive conclusion that an individual is not known to the system”. Thus, even the best designed biometric systems will be incorrect or indeterminate in a fraction of cases, and both false matches and false non-matches will occur. Recognition errors of biometric systems are stated in terms of false match rate (FMR) – the probability that the matcher recognises an individual as a different enrolled subject – and the false non-match rate (FNMR) – the probability that the matcher does not recognise a previously enrolled subject. (Correspondingly, 1–FNMR means the probability that a trait is correctly recognised and 1–FMR that an incorrect trait is not recognised.)

“Assessing the validity of the match results, even given this inherent uncertainty,” the NRC report points out, “requires knowledge of the population of users who are presenting to the system — specifically, what proportions of those users should and should not match. Even very small probabilities of misrecognitions — the failure to recognise an enrolled individual or the recognition of one individual as another — can become operationally significant when an application is scaled to handle millions of recognition attempts. Thus, well-articulated processes for verification, mitigation of undesired outcomes, and remediation (for misrecognitions) are needed, and presumptions and burdens of proof should be designed conservatively, with due attention to the system’s inevitable uncertainties.”

India’s current population is 1.21 billion and the UID scheme aims to cover all the residents. No country has attempted an identification and verification system on this scale. Though enrolment for the proposed system is stated to be voluntary, it will be on an unprecedented scale because a potential beneficiary can be denied access to a particular scheme or service if the individual does not enrol himself/herself and obtain the Aadhaar number. Indeed, many countries that had launched a biometric identification system have scrapped the idea as there are many unanswered questions about the reliability of a biometric system for the purposes they had considered it. It should be remembered that the objective of the Indian system is developmental, rather than security and related issues that countries of the West have been concerned with, and is aimed at delivering specific benefits and services to the underprivileged and the poor of the country. The envisaged system is also correspondingly different from those proposed elsewhere. To see if the system envisaged by the UIDAI meets these criteria and can deliver unique identification of all, it is important to understand the way the system is supposed to work.

The process

The process of enrolment that is currently on – already about 70 million have enrolled – involves presenting oneself to one of the agencies, termed registrars, identified by the UIDAI for enrolment purposes across the country. This involves the registrar recording the individual’s properly verified basic demographic information – which includes name, address, gender, date of birth, relationship – and capturing biometric information – which includes palm print (slap fingerprint), ten single fingerprints, iris imaging and face imaging – and this is encrypted and transmitted to the UIDAI electronically, including physical transmission using pen-drives for locations that lack any data connectivity. In principle, unknown errors or data corruption could occur at the transmission stage.

Even assuming that the transmission is perfect, data presented during enrolment need to be compared and checked to avoid duplication – “de-duplication” – and thus prevent any fraud. Otherwise one individual may end up with two Aadhaar numbers. So any new set of biometric data – fingerprints and iris prints – need to be compared with those of already enrolled individuals and shown to be different from every other set. This comparison was trivial when the first person, Ranjana Sonawne of Tembhli village in Maharashtra, enrolled because there was no one before that to be compared against. But it is clear that when the nth person goes to enrol, the data will have to be compared against the already enrolled n–1 sets of data. So registrars will send the applicant’s data to the CIDR for de-duplication. The CIDR will perform a search on key demographic fields and on the biometrics for each new enrolment so as to minimise duplication in the database.

Can one totally eliminate duplication? As noted earlier, this will depend on the FNMR which, in a probabilistic system, will be a finite number, however small. So there will be a small but finite probability for duplication to occur. It is easy to see that this matching exercise will involve n(n-1)/2 comparisons, which, as n becomes large, obviously, is a highly computationally intensive exercise requiring large computing power. The number of comparisons will be several orders of magnitude more than the numbers enrolled. So in a population of 1.21 billion, when the (1.21 billion+1)th person comes in to enrol, the CIDR server will have to perform about 700 million billion (7×10 {+1} {+7}) comparisons. This may seem mind-boggling, but a modern-day high-performance computer can do this pretty fast. And since such a de-duplication exercise will be done off-line before issuing the Aadhaar numbers, the time involved in doing the comparisons is not the issue. The key issue is the magnitude of probabilistic error in these comparisons. In case of a false match, for example, the system will reject a genuine applicant. A computer cannot resolve FMR and FNMR cases; it has to be done physically by tracking down individuals and carrying out the re-enrolment-cum-matching exercise.

One way to improve the performance (reducing error rates) of the biometric system is to use the multimodal approach. Data from different modalities – face, palm print, fingerprints and iris in the UID case – are combined. Such systems obviously require different kinds of sensors and software (essentially different algorithms) to capture and process each modality being used for comparison. Already, using 10 single fingerprints provides additional information compared with a single fingerprint and this improves the performance, especially in very large-scale operations. Of course, this will be computationally intensive, particularly when matching is to be done from among millions of references in the database. Multimodality, in addition, will require even greater computational resources.

(Spoofing a single fingerprint has been demonstrated to be possible and such an impostor fingerprint can be used to fool a biometric reader. But this seems nearly impossible to do for all the 10 fingerprints and the palm print without being caught. And, combined with multimodal comparison, chances of such impersonation become extremely low.)

Error rate

The crucial issue, therefore, is the error rate and how many false positive identifications and false negative identification cases can potentially arise? A Proof of Concept (POC) exercise was carried out by the Authority with 40,000 subjects, divided into two sets of 20,000, in rural Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Bihar. This was done to analyse data from rural groups where quality of fingerprints is likely to be uneven.

For POC analyses, only 10 fingerprint data and two iris data were used. The face biometric was not used. According to the report, the study – which clearly was a multimodal one – observed an FNMR – that is a person is identified to be a different individual and re-enrolled resulting in duplication – of 0.0025 per cent.

Similarly, the study observed an FMR – where a new applicant is rejected because of false matching – of 0.01 per cent using irises alone and 0.25 per cent with fingerprints alone. But the concluding claim of the report that “by doing analysis as shown in the examples above on real data captured under typical Indian conditions in rural India, we can be confident that biometric matching can be used on a wider scale to realise the goal of creating unique identities” is clearly misleading as the order of magnitude of such cases of misrecognition in the real situation involving much larger numbers (say hundreds of millions) will be pretty large. The corresponding exercise of resolving these cases would be huge. If not resolved, large numbers would either be denied the benefits due to them or large number of impostors would get benefits that are not legitimately theirs because of inherent errors in the technology.

Also, as the NRC report emphasises, “Although laboratory evaluations of biometric systems are highly useful for development and comparison, their results often do not reliably predict field performance. Operational testing and blind challenges of operational systems tend to give more accurate and usable results than developmental performance evaluations and operational testing in circumscribed and controlled environments.” As against this one-to-many comparisons at the stage of identification of an individual during the enrolment process, the process of authentication or verification when a claimant presents his/her UID number is a case of one-to-one match. The process of Aadhaar authentication, as outlined by the UIDAI, is as follows:

Aadhaar number, along with other attributes (including biometrics), is submitted to the UIDAI’s CIDR for verification. The CIDR verifies whether the data (demographic and/or biometric) submitted match the data available in the CIDR and respond with a “yes/no” answer. No personal identity information is returned as part of the response. And this process can be done online by the service provider linked to the UIDAI. But the authentication is based entirely on the Aadhaar number submitted so that this operation is reduced to a 1:1 match (emphasis added).

This means that the Authority has only to match the presented data with the copy of the individual’s biometrics that was captured earlier and stored in the CIDR corresponding to that UID number. The CIDR will, in turn, say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a particular query on, say, the demographic information of the individual, which can be verified against documents such as Proof of Address (PoA) or Proof of Identity (PoI) by the service provider. This is quite different from the verification required in biometric systems for security purposes, say entry through airports, where every verification procedure may be a one-to-many matching exercise. But authentication, despite being a 1:1 match, could have its own error rates largely arising from inevitable human errors, especially in large-scale implementation – for example, transmitting the wrong Aadhaar number or wrongly keyed-in query – and since the system is designed to answer only in “yes/no”, the service provider, say NREGA, may not be in a position to know that the error has originated at the agency-end itself. While, in principle, the UID number holder should be able to crosscheck what is being transmitted, in the rural Indian context, given the level of illiteracy, this may not always happen.

More pertinently, the verification process could itself become the channel of new ways of corruption. Suppose the service provider deliberately transmits the wrong Aadhaar number during the authentication process and in return obviously gets a ‘no” for an answer to any query pertaining to the claimant of service or benefits that he/she is entitled to. Now this could become the basis of corruption. The service provider could say that the service/benefit can be provided – which the claimant is entitled to legitimately – on payment of ‘x’ amount of money.

This socio-cultural trait of corruption will always find new ways of doing it, especially when such a project is sought to be implemented on such a countrywide scale involving hundreds of million transactions. It is not clear how this manual error – deliberate or otherwise – at the man-machine interface in the UID system can be avoided on a real-time basis during the interaction between a potential beneficiary and the service provider. In addition to probabilistic errors in the biometric identification scheme, perhaps such issues could also become cause of real concern.

FRONTLINE- Volume 28 – Issue 24 :: Nov. 19-Dec. 02, 2011

Adivasi dies in police custody in Chhattisgarh


New Delhi,  Jan 16, 2012-Aman Sethi, The Hindu

On the day that Chief Minister Raman Singh addressed a public gathering to mark the creation of a separate Sukma district distinct from southern Chhattisgarh‘s Maoist affected Dantewada, a custodial death in the Sukma police station has underlined the difficulty in winning over a disaffected tribal populace in the backdrop of a violent counter-insurgency campaign.

Podiyam Mara of Kondre village died in Sukma police station on the night of January 13, just hours after he was presented before a magistrate and remanded to judicial custody. “Mara hanged himself in the police lock up using a bed sheet. Four constables have been suspended,” said a police spokesperson, “He was to be transferred to Dantewada jail, but he was held in the police station overnight as it was too late to travel on the night of the 13th.”

“[Mara] was picked up on January 12 during a CRPF operation and handed over the police in the following morning,” said Inspector General Pankaj Mishra of the Central Reserve Police Force, “If we encounter a suspect during an operation, the CRPF hands him over to the local police.”

However, policemen and party leaders from across the political spectrum say that the CRPF picked up Mr. Mara several days earlier, and brutally tortured before turning him over to the local police. The police and CRPF have denied these allegations.

“The CRPF caught Mara on January 9, just outside Sukma town. He had come to town to cash a cheque for money earned by collecting Tendu leaves,” said Kowasi Lakma, Vice President of the Chhattisgarh Congress Committee and Member of Parliament for the Konta constituency of which Sukma is a part. “I personally called everyone from the thana in-charge upwards to get him released. He was tortured to death… the CRPF electrocuted his genitals and poured petrol up his anus.”

“The police story of suicide is completely false. Mara was brutally assaulted in the CRPF camp in Sukma. There has to be a probe into the incident and the guilty must be brought to book,” said Manish Kunjam of the Communist Party of India, and former MLA from Konta, over the telephone. As per a January 16 report in the Indian Express, the post mortem confirmed that Mr. Mara had “swelling over the penis and lateral part of the anus”. The Express also quoted a policeman who said Mr. Mara’s genitals had been doused with petrol and set on fire.

Sources in the Intelligence agencies confirmed that the CRPF had played a role in Mr. Mara’s death. “He was picked up as it was suspected that he was a Naxalite. He was subjected to harsh interrogation and may have died of an internal hemorrhage, ” said the source, seeking anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source stopped short of commenting on Mr. Mara’s innocence. “The fact that there were no follow-up operations suggests that he did not provide any information of value,” said the source.

In September last year, The Hindu reported a similar instance where Madkam Jogarao, a, died of a brain hemorrhage soon after he was arrested and interrogated by the CRPF and district police.

“The new district of Sukma was created to bring the administration and the justice system closer to adivasis of Bastar. This is only possible when the ordinary citizen feels free and secure” said Nandkumar Sai, a senior tribal leader and BJP Rajya Sabha MP. “The medical report confirms that Mara was tortured. Suspending constables is not enough, a free and fair investigation must affix responsibility and punish the guilty.”

Protest against the Forcible Land Acquisition for Nuclear Power Plant


Bhupinder Singh Hooda,
Chief Minister, Haryana
Chandigarh

Jan 16, 2012

Re: Forced Land Acquisition for Gorakhpur Nuclear Power Plant, Fatehabad

Dear Mr. Chief Minister,

It was with gravest concern and misgivings that I heard of Section 9 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, being issued in Fatehabad, Haryana, to forcibly acquire land for the proposed Gorakhpur Nuclear Power Plant Project. This action by the Harayana State Govt. is completely unacceptable on the following two counts:

Farmers of Gorakhpur and nearby villages have been sitting in continuous opposition to the proposed nuclear power plant from August 2010. They are fighting for their right to life, livelihood and to safeguarding their fertile and irrigated, three-crop land, all of which will be severely threatened if the project were passed. The fact that a community is in such a long drawn and strong opposition to this project, is of crucial concern and cannot be ignored arbitrarily or repressed in democracy.

Further, a new Land Acquisition Bill draft is being considered currently by the standing committee in the Parliament. It would thus be presumptuous and premature of the Haryana State Govt. to push through forceful land acquisition, using the old act, before the parliament has an opportunity to pass the new Act.

I request you to immediately withdraw the land acquisition notice for the project, and as the head of your State, initiate dialogue with the protestors so that you may address their concerns without resorting to a draconian use of an ancient and unreasonable act.

Sincerely,

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