Dispelling the haze of #Aadhaar #UID #biometrics #mustread


 

AADHAAR PROJECT

USHA RAMANATHAN

 

 

That the lawmakers of the country have found themselves in a haze of incomprehension about the UID project, which is being promoted as a “game changer”, is deeply unsettling.

VIJAY VERMA/PTI 

United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi presents an Aadhaar ATM card to a beneficiary at the launch of the Delhi Annashree Yojna in New Delhi on December 15, 2012. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (left) and UIDAI Chairperson Nandan Nilekani are also seen. 

MANY Union Cabinet Ministers are confused about the government’s Unique Identity (UID), or Aadhaar, project. At a Cabinet meeting held on January 31, there was confusion regarding this issue, with some of them reportedly wanting to know whether the UID was a card or a number. This is an attempt to clarify some basic issues about the UID project.

Is the UID a card or a number?

The UID is a 12-digit number. It is not a card. What is sometimes mistaken for a “card” is only the intimation that the issuing authority, the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), sends to a person who has been allotted a number.

The enrolling agency collects a person’s demographic information —name, address, gender, age, and for children, details of parents/guardian—and captures the biometric information—prints of all 10 fingers, scans of both irises and the photograph of the face.

The UIDAI then has the data “de-duplicated” by cross-verifying them against its database to check whether the person is already enrolled and has been issued a number. Since a person could enrol multiple times with a changed name or address, the accuracy and usefulness of the system depend on biometrics.

The UID is, therefore, a number that is linked to a person’s fingerprints and iris scans on a database.

Do we know for sure that fingerprints and iris are unique and reliable metrics?

The truth is we do not. And this is an area of concern, especially as the UID project seeks to make these the key metrics of a person’s identity.

In February 2010, the UIDAI issued a “notice inviting applications for hiring a biometric consultant”, which contained this candid admission: “While NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology, the United States agency that studies biometrics technology in the context of its application to public policy] documents the fact that the accuracy of biometric matching is extremely dependent on demographics and environmental conditions, there is a lack of a sound study that documents the accuracy achievable on Indian demographics (i.e., larger percentage of rural population) and in Indian environmental conditions (i.e., extremely hot and humid climates and facilities without air-conditioning). In fact we do not find any credible study assessing the achievable accuracy in any of the developing countries” 1(emphasis added throughout).

Then, between March and June 2010, the UIDAI did a proof of concept (PoC) study of biometric enrolment. The report, uploaded in February 2011, concluded that it had “validated one hypothesis regarding biometric enrolment”—that iris enrolment was “not particularly difficult” and “dramatically improved” accuracy levels and the “accuracy levels necessary for the de-duplication of all residents of India are achievable”. But what sticks out is a paragraph in the report: “The goal of the PoC was to collect data representative of India and not necessarily to find difficult-to-use biometrics. Therefore, extremely remote rural areas, often with populations specialising in certain types of work (tea plantation workers, areca nut growers, etc.) were not chosen. This ensured that degradation of biometrics characteristics of such narrow groups was not over-represented in the sample data collected.” 2

In July 2010, it was reported that a 2005 paper by researchers at the Rajendra Prasad Ophthalmic Institute in Delhi estimated that there were six to eight million people in India with corneal blindness. It further identified the issue of cataract, which resulted from nutritional deficiencies and prolonged exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays, and corneal scars caused by injury or infection of the cornea.3These are clearly problems essentially pertaining to the labouring masses, the aged and the disabled.

In March 2012, the UIDAI readied its report, “Role of Biometric Technology in Aadhaar Authentication”. Authentication is the process by which a person’s biometric detail is used to establish or verify his or her identity.

The report dislodges the common assumption that the print of the thumb and the index finger can be used to identify a person. It appears that for 55 per cent of those tested, these fingers did not work as their “best finger”. The report recommends a “Best Finger Detection” process. “The best finger to be used for authentication depends on the intrinsic qualities of the finger (for example, ridge formation, how worn out they are, cracked, etc.) as well as the quality of images captured during enrolment process and the authentication transaction,” it says. The fingers are, therefore, to be labelled green, yellow or red, depending on their suitability for single-finger authentication. In addition, some residents could be determined to be “not suitable for reliable fingerprint authentication”. Those younger than 15 and, more especially, persons above 60 years of age had the highest rates of rejection. This is the shaky foundation on which authentication rests.

The report does not tell us how “biometric exemptions”—that is, people who do not have reliable fingerprints or irises that can be used in enrolment—will be treated. Nor does it spell out an alternative to help secure their identity. Nor, indeed, does it speak of spoofing.

On September 30, 2011, J.T. D’Souza, managing director of SPARC Systems Limited, who works with biometrics equipment and has been following the UID project closely and critically, demonstrated to officials in the Planning Commission how, using some Fevicol and candle wax, he could spoof a fingerprint and use it to authenticate someone else. Officials of the UIDAI said they would look into it, but there is no information on what steps they have taken. 4

What about authentication using iris as a biometric? The “Iris Authentication Accuracy Report” was published in September 2012. It starts with the assumption that “the iris does not get worn out with age, or with use. In addition, iris authentication is not impacted by change in the weather.” The report attributes these assumptions to “iris technology literature”. The part of the claim that requires validation is that there is a part of the human body that neither ages nor withers nor wears out. The fact is that this is a new field of inquiry and there is very little literature on the subject.

Perhaps, the first longitudinal study of the ageing iris as a biometric is found in a Notre Dame University study conducted by two professors, Samuel Fenker and Kevin Bowyer. They state: “Using a large data set of iris images acquired over a three-year period, we have analysed cohorts of irises with images acquired over one, two and three years. We find clear and conclusive evidence that template ageing does occur in iris biometric matching. Specifically, the experimental evidence indicates that the false non-match rate increases with increasing time between acquisition of enrolment image and the image to be recognised. In our results, the false non-match rate increases by greater than 50 per cent with two years of time lapse.” The remedy, they suggest, is to have regular “re-enrolment”. At the time of writing, the implications of re-enrolment are not known.

In the process of the UID project roll-out, it has been reported from Jharkhand that authentication failed in four out of every 10 persons. This is the evidence emerging from the field.

Is UID voluntary?

While marketing the idea, the UID was projected as voluntary and was sold as providing an identity to those who have no other. Since, unlike the ration card or the voter ID, the UID does not have any intrinsic value or purpose, there was little enthusiasm for enrolling for it. This led to a change in tactics. Persons without UID are now facing the threat of denial of services. The UIDAI has been involved in the process of making UID mandatory. There is a push to make UID essential for getting rations, accessing banking services and getting gas connections and refills; for school admissions in the economically weaker section (EWS) category, registration of marriages and property transactions; and for getting caste certificates. And, if the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra were to have his way, even making an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act would need the UID. This aggressive push seems to be based not on the usefulness of the UID to the system, but rather to drive the enrolment process.

The fact that the UID has such a low penetration even in the districts that have been selected for the roll-out of UID-linked cash transfers (in lieu of direct subsidies) must be understood in this context.

Is there a law that governs the UID project?

No. However, there is an executive order for the establishment of the UIDAI within the Planning Commission. On December 3, 2010, over two months after the project had begun to collect and process personal data, the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, was introduced in Parliament and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF). The SCF gave its report in December 2011. SCF members, cutting across party lines, found the Bill severely inadequate and recommended that the UID project be taken back to the drawing board.

The SCF found it “unethical and violative of Parliament’s privileges” to proceed with the project when lawmaking was still under way. It commented adversely on the conflation of the “resident” and the “citizen”. The UID scheme, it said, had “been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose… leaving many things to be sorted out during the course of its implementation” and “is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion”. The “collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information of individuals” without amending the Citizenship Act and Rules “appears beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament”.

It was scathing about the project, which “continues to be implemented in an overbearing manner without regard to legalities and other social consequences”. On voluntariness, it said: “Although the scheme claims that obtaining Aadhaar number is voluntary, an apprehension is found to have developed in the minds of people that in future, services/benefits, including food entitlements, would be denied in case they do not have Aadhaar number.”

It cited the United Kingdom’s experience with the National ID project regarding the huge cost; the complexity; the untested, unreliable and unsafe technology; and the possibilities of risk to the safety and security of citizens.

The SCF recognised that the UID project “facilitates the UIDAI and the registrars to create database of information of people of the country. Considering the huge database size and possibility of misuse of information”, it said, “…and in the absence of data protection legislation, it would be difficult to deal with the issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information, etc”.

On September 28, 2010, seventeen eminent persons, including Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Romila Thapar, Justice A.P. Shah, S.R. Sankaran, Aruna Roy, K.G. Kannabiran and Bezwada Wilson, issued a statement in which they said that before the UIDAI went any further, it was imperative to do a feasibility study and a cost benefit analysis, engage experts to study its constitutionality, put a law of privacy in place, and have an informed public debate before any major changes are introduced. In the meantime, they said, the project should be halted. The SCF echoed these concerns.

The SCF found the UID project to be “full of uncertainty in technology as the complex scheme is built upon untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions. Further, despite adverse observations by the UIDAI Biometrics Standards Committee on error rates of biometrics, the UIDAI is collecting the biometric information.”

Relying on registrars to ensure that only genuine residents are enrolled, the SCF said, “may have far-reaching consequences for national security”.

There is still no law, and the UIDAI continues to function in a legal vacuum.

What is the link between the National Population Register (NPR) and the UID?

The NPR is under the Citizenship Act and is a prelude to creating a National Citizen’s Register. The Registrar General of India is responsible for carrying out this task. It is an attempt to establish who is a citizen and who is not and to control infiltration and the entry of illegal immigrants.

The 2003 Rules authorise the collection of only 15 fields of data, and fingerprinting and scanning of irises are not among them. This means that what has been done so far in the NPR process is in violation of the law. The NPR has not itself studied biometrics but has merely gone along with the UID.

The notification that set up the UIDAI within the Planning Commission gave it the mandate to “generate and assign UID” to “residents”, to maintain the database and to work on ways in which user/implementing agencies may use the UID, for instance, for the delivery of various services. It was also to “take necessary steps to ensure collation of NPR with UID (as per approved strategy)”. The expansion of its mandate happened at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on the UID, which was constituted after Nandan Nilekani, former chief executive officer of Infosys, was appointed the UIDAI Chairperson. Nilekani was extended permission initially to enrol 10 crore people, which was later increased to 20 crore. It was increased further to 50 per cent of the population after the Home Ministry in January 2012 agreed on an information-sharing agreement with the UIDAI.

The duplication in what the NPR and the UIDAI are doing is one of the unresolved areas.

UID and outsourcing.

The UID project relies on a large number of enrollers who, in turn, are dependent on “introducers” and “verifiers” to help enrol those without IDs. And these have proved to be severely compromised. The issuance of a UID number to “Kothimeer [coriander], s/o Palav, Gongura tota, Mamidikaya vuru [raw mango village, in Telugu]” with the photograph of a mobile phone was only an extreme manifestation of the deficiencies that have shown up. 5

One criticism has been that every time a problem crops up with the technology, or despite it, it is sought to be overlaid with another layer of technology, adding to the costs and introducing one more experiment to the project. So, for instance, when fingerprints seemed an inadequate metric, iris scan was added as an additional metric; a Global Positioning System (GPS) was attached to enrolment equipment after an episode in Hyderabad revealed large-scale enrolment of non-existent people. The investigations in the case are still on.

S. GOPAKUMAR 

Scanning for Biometric Information for the Aadhaar project in progress at the Christ Nagar Senior Secondary School in Thiruvallam, Kerala, on February 16, 2012. 

The NPR uses the method followed by the Census, where the enumerators have a responsibility to locate and reach persons to be enrolled.

The potential for exclusion is inherent in both processes.

Who holds the data collected?

The 2009 notification says that the UIDAI “shall own and operate UID database”. The standing committee cited the National Information Centre’s (NIC) concern that the “issues relating to privacy and security of UID data could be better handled by storing [them] in a government data centre”, indicating that it is not currently with the government but “owned” by the UIDAI.

In its Strategic Overview document (2010), the UIDAI had set out a revenue model by which it could become self-sufficient and begin to earn a reasonable profit through selling its authentication services, after which it would not be dependent on government resources. The report of the Technology Advisory Group on Unique Projects (TAG-UP, July 2011), chaired by Nilekani, promotes the idea of National Information Utilities (NIU). These will be “private companies” acting in the “public interest” and will be “profit-making” but not “profit maximising”. Data held by the government is to be handed over to these private companies, which will then use them for profit-making. The 2012-13 Budget adopted the NIU model of data management in relation to the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The UIDAI, too, seems to be moving in that direction, where it will acquire the character of an NIU.

This is deeply disturbing, for it will mean that our data will become the property of a company, which may then do data mining and use data as an asset to make money.

Why have there been concerns about the companies involved in the project?

Since the early days of the project, alarm bells have been rung about the involvement of companies such as L-1 Identity Solutions and Accenture. These companies have a close relationship with the intelligence establishment in the United States. L-1 Identity Solutions has been doing a lot of work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It has even had George Tenet, an ex-CIA chief, on its board. Accenture has been partnering the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. in its Smart Borders Project. L-1 Identity Solutions has recently been bought by Safran, a French company in which the French government is a large shareholder.

In reply to an RTI query about these companies, the UIDAI said: “There are no means to verify whether the said companies/organisations are of U.S. origin or not. As per our contractual terms and conditions, only the companies/organisations who are registered can bid” (reproduced in an appendix to Mathew Thomas (ed.), UID is not yours, 2012).

These leave unanswered disturbing questions about the security and confidentiality of a population-wide database.

Has any other country got a project such as this?

No. In fact, the UIDAI prides itself that nowhere in the world is there such a project, on such a scale and on the basis of a biometric database. This, alongside the experimental stage in which biometric enrolment, de-duplication and authentication are at this point, has given rise to concerns that this is a massive experiment on the population of India.

None of the countries in the developed world has accepted biometric identity even as developing countries are encouraged to adopt it.

The George W. Bush administration considered a biometric database when it enacted the Real ID Act in 2005. But it realised the impracticalities of the project, especially in depending upon biometric stability and accuracy across the swathe of population, and across time, and so shelved it.

In Australia, an Access Card for health and welfare benefits was abandoned in 2007, two years after it was started, after protests that raised concerns about privacy, identity theft and disclosure of information.

In the U.K., when the David Cameron government jettisoned the biometric ID project, the Home Secretary explained that this was done because the government was the servant of the people and not their master, and that the project would constitute “intrusive bullying”.

What are the costs of the project?

The direct costs are expected to reach Rs.15,000 crore in this phase of the project. This does not include the cost to the enrollers, the registrars, the time and resources spent by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), administrators and the people enrolling, or the costs of authentication equipment. There is also the cost that is generated in shifting to the UID system, and the cost of failure, both to the individual and to the system. The savings are hypothetical and so far unsubstantiated.

Vijay Unni, former Registrar General of India, has asked why, when the complete Census exercise is carried out at a cost of about Rs.2,000 crore, the UID project cost, at many times that amount, is being borne without question.

Will the UID help in reducing leakage and reduce subsidies?

If de-duplication works, perhaps it will help eliminate duplicates and ghost entries in various databases. If there is a linking of databases and profiling of persons, those not entitled to subsidy may get identified.

But, as academics and activists advocating right to food have argued, given the rates of hunger and child malnourishment in India the country needs to worry about under-inclusion.

The only attempt at calculating the savings that the UID may effect can be found in a document produced for the Planning Commission by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP). 6 The study, funded by the UIDAI, relies on patchy data since “the present state of knowledge does not permit precise quantification of the gains”. And “many of the gains from Aadhaar are difficult to quantify as they are intangible”.

In effect, we do not know the effect UID will have on subsidies and leakages.

What are the other anxieties that dog this project?

The convergence of databases and profiling of individuals is a serious concern, and the “seeding” of the UID number in various databases accentuates the problem.

A recent report says that Apollo Hospitals is spearheading an initiative to link the health records of patients with the Aadhaar identification system, raising questions about confidentiality of health data. Linking up the Socio-Economic and Caste Census and the voter ID to the UID will breach the protection that anonymity provides.

The rush into UID-linked cash transfer has given rise to the belief that this is only to help the UID quicken its pace of enrolment which, the UID website reveals, had slumped. And, the cost of failure has not even been considered.

That the lawmakers of the country have found themselves in a haze of incomprehension about a project that is being promoted as a “game changer” is deeply unsettling.

Usha Ramanathan works on the jurisprudence of law, poverty and rights.

END NOTES

http://uidai.gov.in/UID_PDF/Archives/Tenders/Hiring_of_experienced_individual_Biometric_consultant_for_PoC_study.pdf

http://uidai.gov.in/images/FrontPageUpdates/uid_enrolment_poc_report.pdf

http://m.economictimes.com/tech/ites/missing-biometrics-create-unique-problems-for-uid-project/articleshow/msid-6178480,curpg-2.cms

4 D’Souza’s demonstration at the Press Club Mumbai can be viewed at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a96L_SphR4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILauTJEDCb4

http://planningcommission.nic.in/reports/genrep/rep_uid_cba_paper.pdf

 

Hugo Chávez: Death of a socialist


6 March 2013 , By Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, The Hindu

In this October 9, 2012 photo, backdropped by a portrait of
independence hero Simon Bolivar, Venezuela‘s President Hugo Chavez
talks during a press conference at the Miraflores palace in Caracas.
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, President of Venezuela, who died on March 5,
2013 at the age of 58, was a defining figure in Latin American
politics for fifteen years, becoming almost synonymous with the
popular tide that has elected and reelected left and centre-left
governments across the continent in that time.
Mr. Chávez combined courage with immense conviction. Born to
schoolteacher parents in Sabaneta in 1954, he qualified in military
arts and sciences at the National Military Academy, became an officer
in a paratrooper unit, and started his political career in the early
1980s by founding a secret organisation, the Revolutionary Bolivarian
Movement, which took its name from the Latin American independence
leader Simón Bolivar. His first big move was an attempted military
coup in 1992, for which he was imprisoned for two years before being
pardoned.
Yet ordinary people’s suffering under austerity measures led Mr.
Chávez’s fellow officers to try again, in November 1992; they failed.
Mr. Chávez, however, renamed his group the Movement of the Fifth
Republic, which later merged with other groups to form the United
Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and won the 1998 presidential
election on a socialist manifesto, promising millions relief from a
system which had put oil wealth into luxurious lives for the rich and
profits for the oil corporations.
Mr. Chávez removed corrupt military officers and started a national
reform programme. Venezuela, according to the United States Department
of Energy and a former CIA oil expert, has the world’s largest oil
reserves at 1.36 trillion barrels, and the new president promptly
nationalised the main oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA),
putting the profits into very effective social programmes. Carles
Mutaner, Joan Benach, and Maria Paez Victor note in CounterPunch that
between 2000 and 2010 social spending increased by 61 per cent or $772
billion; the country has the region’s lowest level of inequality, with
a reduction in its Gini coefficient of 54 per cent. Poverty is down
from 71 per cent in 1996 to 21 now, and extreme poverty is down from
40 per cent to 7.3. The programmes, or Misiones, have reached 20
million people, and 2.1 million have received senior citizens’
pensions, a sevenfold increase under Mr. Chávez.
The country has also cut food imports from 90 per cent to 30 per cent
of its consumption, and has reduced child malnutrition from 7.7 per
cent in 1990 to 5 today; infant mortality has declined from 25/1000 to
13 in the same period, and the country now has 58 doctors per 10,000
people (as against 18 in 1996). As many as 96 per cent of the
population now have access to clean water, and with school attendance
at 85 per cent, one in three Venezuelans is enrolled in free education
up to and including university.
Oil royalties help. A 2001 law cut foreign companies’ share of the
sale price from 84 to 70 per cent, and they now pay royalties of 16.6
per cent on Orinoco basin heavy crude; they used to pay 1 per cent.
Exxon and Conoco Philips rejected these terms, as Deepak Bhojwani says
in the Economic and Political Weekly (December 22, 2012), and were
expelled, but Chevron stayed.
Mr. Chávez of course infuriated the mainly white elites, some of whom
talked of him in racist terms, as well as the United States government
and press, both of which have consistently vilified him in language
bordering on the delusional. The State Department greeted the 2002
coup against Mr. Chávez by expressing solidarity with the Venezuelan
people and looking forward to “working with all democratic forces in
Venezuela.” The statement also said Mr. Chávez had dismissed the
Vice—President and Cabinet. In fact it was the coup figurehead, Pedro
Carmona Estanga, who, according to the Notable Names Database NNDB,
dissolved the national assembly, disbanded the supreme court, closed
the attorney—general’s and comptroller’s offices, and repealed 48
redistributive laws meant to help the poor.
Yet huge public support for Mr. Chávez meant the regime collapsed
within days. The President was reinstated, but the then U.S. National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice hectored him to “respect the
constitution”, and Greg Palast points out in The Progressive that in
2006 the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy called him a
demagogue out to undermine democracy and destabilise Venezuela.
The U.S. press dutifully played its part. In September 2012, the
WorldNet columnist Drew Zahn called Mr. Chávez a “socialist dictator”,
when the President was about to win a fourth successive election. All
those elections were of far greater probity than the respective U.S.
presidential elections of 2000 and 2004; this time Mr. Chávez won by
11 percentage points on a turnout of 80 per cent. Other U.S. media
bodies have spread partial truths about the Caracas government, saying
it bloats the public sector and lets the budget deficit spiral. In
fact, as Mark Weisbrot notes in the Guardian, 18.4 per cent of
Venezuela’s work force is in the public sector, in contrast to
Norway’s 29 per cent, and its 2012 budget deficit, projected at 51.3
per cent of GDP, is lower than the European Union average of 82.5 per
cent; inflation has declined too, from 27 per cent in 2010 to 19 per
cent now. Weisbrot also points out that the New York Times — which
welcomed the coup — has taken 14 years, longer even than other
American media outfits, to publish any arguments for Mr. Chávez.
Carles Mutaner and colleagues comment that U.S. analysts ask what
Venezuela will do when the oil runs out, but do not ask that about
other oil exporters like Saudi Arabia and Canada; neither do critics
note that the country’s interest payments are only about 3 per cent of
export earnings.
One of Washington’s problems is that, as Greg Palast recognises, Mr.
Chávez kept oil revenues within Latin America; unlike Saudi Arabia,
which buys U.S. treasury bills and other assets, Venezuela at one
point withdrew $20 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve, and since
2007 has aided other Latin American countries with $36 billion, most
of which has been repaid back. In effect, this supplants the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and possibly also its neoliberal
fellow—crusader the World Bank. Even more unpalatably for Washington,
Chávismo is now a clear political programme towards a Bolivarian
Revolution, which Palast calls a close replica of Franklin Roosevelt’s
New Deal, with progressive income tax, public works, social security,
and cheap electricity. For Bolivarians, such things are rights; they
are even reminiscent of T.H. Marshall’s view that they are integral to
substantive citizenship. Worst of all for U.S. regional hegemony, Mr.
Chávez himself said Venezuela is no longer an oil colony, that it has
regained its oil sovereignty, and that he wanted to replace the IMF
with an International Humanitarian Bank based on cooperation; Uruguay
already pays for Venezuelan oil with cows. Mr. Chávez wished the IMF
and the World Bank would “disappear”, and his passionate concern for
Latin American countries’ sovereignty made him a decisive figure in
the 2011 creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean
States (Celac).
Mr. Chávez could be ruthless; in 2010 a military court sentenced his
former key ally Raúl Isaias Baduel to just under eight years for
embezzlement after a long—delayed trial, and Baduel is now banned from
future political office, almost certainly because he criticised
constitutional reforms which would allow a president more than two
terms. Mr. Chávez was, however, no doctrinaire leader. Although a
Christian, he criticised clerical collusion with the ancien régime,
and did not accept the Church’s authority in politics. He also thought
seriously about political economy. Bhojwani notes that he favoured a
form of 21st century socialism partly derived from the work of Heinz
Dieterich Steffan. For Mr. Chávez, ethics, morality, cooperativism,
and associationism make for strong public economic activity and in
turn protects the equality which is essential to liberty; it even
includes a respect for private property.
The Venezuelan electorate have repeatedly endorsed this; in the
December 2012 gubernatorial elections — the first ones in 14 years in
which Mr. Chávez himself did not campaign — Mr. Chávez allies won 20
out of 23 states. After the President’s win in October, Argentina’s
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had sent him a message
saying, “Your victory is also ours.” Billions, and not only poor
people, around the world would agree: Tu victoria es también la
nuestra.

Truth About Narendra Modi


March 5, 2013 by 

 

Teesta SetalvadTeesta Setalvad

Guest Writer- Teesta Setalvad

Narendra Modi, the controversial chief minister of Gujarat was invited to be the keynote speaker at Wharton at its 17th Economic Forum on March 23, 2013. The Civil Rights groups across the world and especially in India were shocked and dismayed at such reports given the fact that the US administration had firmly stated weeks ago there was no question of any reversal of its decision to grant a visa to a man against whom serious charges of criminal conspiracy, subversion of justice, mass murder and destruction of evidence are still pending judgemnent (see report attached at the end of this report)

From March 18, 2005 onwards, the United States State Department refused a diplomatic visa to a politician, who, as chief minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated reprisal killings that targeted Muslims in Gujarat. The most conservative estimates are that over a thousand people, mostly Muslims, died in the premedidated violence while actual figures peg those dead and missing at 2,500. Over a hundred thousands were rendered displaced in their own homeland of which close to 18,000 still live in sub human conditions. Over 10,000 small and large businesses were systematically targeted causing a loss of Rs 4,000 crore and 297 places of worship of the minority (Mosques and Durgahs) were specifically targeted and destroyed. In the 11-year old struggle for justice, the state of Gujarat through its police have systematically tried to attack and even jail human rights defenders assisting the Survivors in their struggle for justice. In 2002, Human Rights Watch (among other international and Indian bodies) showed that politicians and the police in the state abetted the slaughter and displacement of Muslim Gujaratis:http://www.hrw.org/news/2002/04/29/india-gujarat-officials-took-part-anti-muslim-violence.

Apart from the allegations of criminal conspiracy to commit mass murder, destroy records, subvert justice that the chief minister faces (moves to frame charges will be filed in a Court by April 15 2014), the unrepentant chief minister has doggedly fought efforts by minority groups to get the 297 shrines that were destroyed, restored. The High Court of Gujarat and the Supreme Court of India http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-31/india/32960235_1_religious-structures-tushar-mehta-kandhamal-riots)

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/sc-seeks-details-of-religious-sites-damaged-in-2002-gujarat-riots/972413 (SC seeks details of religious sites damaged in 2002 Gujarat riots ). Modi is not simply about what happened eleven years ago but represents a discriminatory mindset that is medieval and anti-Constitutional.

Since 2002, the Supreme Court of India has repeatedly faulted the Gujarat government led by Modi for failing to prosecute those guilty of the crimes in 2002 and instead prosecuting whistle-blowers and activists who had tried to bring the guilty to justice. In February 2012, the Supreme Court again criticized the Modi government for harassing activists fighting for justice with trumped up charges. What this sordid record proves is Narendra Modi’s callous disregard for the life of Indian citizens and for upholding the Indian constitution.

In taking cognizance of Modi’s culpability, the State Department also revoked his “existing tourist/business visa under section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” As David C. Mulford, U.S. Ambassador to India, explained then, “Section 212 (a) (2) (g) makes any foreign government official who ‘was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ ineligible for a visa to the United States.” Ambassador Mulford went on to say that the State Department’s decision was “based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, [Modi] was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time. The State Department’s detailed views on this matter are included in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both reports document the violence in Gujarat from February 2002 to May 2002 and cite the Indian National Human Rights Commission report, which states there was “a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state”

(http://2001-2009.state.gov/p/sca/rls/rm/2005/43701.htm).

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-04-27/news/31424552_1_visa-issue-narendra-modi-nationality-act

The US state department had indicated it will continue to deny Narendra Modi a visa even as European Union recently ended its decade-long boycott of Narendra Modi. http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Still-no-visa-for-Narendra-Modi-US/Article1-1013974.aspx(US assistant secretary of state Robert Blake told CNN-IBN on Tuesday: “Our policy has not changed. Anyone can apply for a visa anytime, but we never prejudge the outcome of the decision… a lot of this will depend on some of the decisions that are made in the Indian courts and many of those decisions are still outstanding.” In December, American lawmakers had urged the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to continue denying visa to Modi on the ground that his government had not adequately pursued justice for 2002 Gujarat riot victims.)

It became incomprehensible to us that Modi was the man who the Wharton India Economic Forum wished to celebrate as an exemplar of economic and social development. It was astonishing for us that any academic and student body at the University of Pennsylvania can endorse ideas about economic development that are based on the systematic oppression of minority populations, whether in India or elsewhere. Their role as scholars and students—and indeed as would-be entrepreneurs and business managers—must be to develop conscientious and efficacious modes of economic organization, not to piggy-back onto the inhuman policies of politicians who not only lack a commitment to human rights and to ideals of social justice, but whose political success is based on the suppression of substantial sections of their own citizens. Modi still does not have a US visa to enter the US, but Wharton had plans to present him on Skype to the audience. Recently there have been efforts to whitewash Modi’s grim record and to grant him respectability. Wharton’s invitation had lent itself to doing just that.

We are relieved the Wharton India Economic Forum has revoked their invitation to Narendra Modi. If it had not done so, we had pledged to protest his presence—virtual as it might have been, given that he remains ineligible for a US visa—in a variety of ways, including at the meeting of the Forum.

We urge educational institutions and entrepreneurs of tomorrow to understand the incalculable and continuing harm done by Modi’s brand of politics to India’s constitutional secularism.”

 

#India- Anti-rape law: Government to reduce age of consent from 18 to 16 #Vaw


Reported by Sunil Prabhu, Edited by Shamik Ghosh | Updated: March 05, 2013 , NDTV

New Delhi The Home Ministry has moved a note proposing tough new rape laws for the approval of the Cabinet, which is expected to take it up on Thursday. It has inputs from a parliamentary committee which had studied the new rape laws that the government cleared as an Ordinance last month. Once the Cabinet clears these proposals, they will be put before Parliament.

Here are 10 developments:
  1. There are some amendments that the Home Ministry note proposes, among them that the age of consent has been lowered from 18 to 16 years. Under the existing laws, sexual intercourse under the age of consent is considered statutory rape.  (Watch)
  2. The ministry has reintroduced the word “rape” instead of sexual assault, which the Verma Commission, set up to draft new laws on crime against women, had recommended using as one with much wider definition.
  3. The government’s decision to reject marital rape as a criminal offense has been accepted. The Verma Commission had suggested that marital rape be included as a criminal offence, but the government argued that doing so would weaken traditional family values in India, and that marriage presumes consent. Women activists have fiercely opposed the government’s stand.
  4. The ministry has also rejected the Verma Commission’s suggestion that those in the armed forces accused of rape be brought under the ambit of criminal law; the government says this needs wider consultations.
  5. It has endorsed the government’s decision to introduce the death penalty for the most extreme rape cases. The Verma Commission had suggested that life imprisonment be used for cases where women die as a result of sexual assault.
  6. The Home Ministry adds to the present law the recommendation that hospitals and nursing homes, whether private or public, will have to provide treatment to victims of rape and failure to do so will be punishable.
  7. The government had promulgated the new ordinance on February 3.  President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent, and the provisions became the law pending approval from Parliament. The government had defended promulgating the ordinance saying there was a strong case to amend the law to check crime against women.
  8. The changed laws were based largely on the recommendations of the three-member Verma commission, headed by Justice JS Verma, which was set up after public outrage over the brutal gang-rape of a medical student in a moving bus in Delhi in December last.
  9. The provisions of the Ordinance were moved to a standing committee of Parliament made up of members of all parties to recommend changes if any. The Home Minister also held consultations with the Prime Minister before the Cabinet note was drafted.
  10. Once the Cabinet clears the new proposals, the ordinance will be repealed and a new criminal law amendment bill 2013 will be introduced. But any person booked under this present ordinance will be continued to be prosecuted under its provisions.

 

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