PRESS RELEASE- #Justiceverma recommendations in context of assaults against women with disabilities #delhigangrape


National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled

4, Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110 001

 

 

January 24, 2013

 

 

Press Statement

 

The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) welcomes the report and recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee concerning sexual violence against women.

The NPRD puts on record its appreciation of the seriousness with which the Committee has considered the specific issues concerning women with disabilities and the sexual assaults they face. Representatives of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) met the Committee on three occasions, and made its submissions.

The Committee has, amongst others, made the following recommendations, in the context of assaults against women with disabilities:

Duty of the State: The Committee has affirmed the duty of the State as the guarantor of the Fundamental Rights of disabled women and has stated that the involvement of private actors in providing services to the disabled, does not absolve the State of its Constitutional duty towards them.

The Committee has also invoked the idea of parens patriae (the State has the same rights over its citizens that the parent has over his ward) to describe the role of the State.

However, experience shows that protection by the State is like a double-edged sword. When the State takes over the role of the parent, it often overrides the opinion of the ward; the State then decides what is good for the ward and what is not. This could at times go against the interests of the disabled. This issue also needs to be addressed.

 

Making the Legal System Accessible: In its submissions to the Committee, the NPRD had highlighted the difficulties encountered by disabled women at each stage of the criminal-legal process, right from filing an FIR, to testifying in court during the trial. The Committee has responded to the submissions by recommending the following:

·        When a physically or mentally disabled woman lodges a complaint of rape (Section 376 Indian Penal Code) or outraging of modesty (Section 354 IPC), such complaint shall be recorded by a woman police officer at the residence of such woman, or wherever she is comfortable. The complaint shall be recorded in the presence of a special educator or interpreter, depending on the need of the complainant. The entire process of recording of the complaint should also be videographed. (Section 154 Code of Criminal Procedure)

·        A physically or mentally disabled woman cannot be asked to go to the police station. Her complaint must be recorded at her residence or wherever she is comfortable. (Section 160 CrPC)

·        During the process of Test Identification Parade, if the person identifying the arrestee is physically or mentally disabled, then the identification process must be videographed. (Section 54A CrPC)

·        While recording the statement of a physically or mentally disabled woman in court, the Magistrate must take the assistance of a special educator or interpreter, depending on the needs of the complainant. Additionally, the recording of testimony of the woman should be videographed. (Section 164(5)(a) CrPC)

·        Additionally, the statement made in the above manner shall be treated as a statement for the purpose of cross examination during the trial and the physically or mentally disabled woman would not have to re-state the same. (Section 164(5)(b) CrPC)

·        Section 119 of the Indian Evidence Act, provides for the recording of testimony of ‘dumb witnesses’. The Committee has recommended that this derogatory phrase be replaced with ‘persons who are unable to communicate verbally’.

One of the major reasons why most cases involving rape of disabled women fail to convict the wrongdoer is because the testimony of the victim is not given due importance by the police or the court. The above recommendations, if incorporated in the law would go a long way in addressing this problem.

However, the definition of ‘special educator’ and ‘interpreter’ require further clarity when these recommendations are incorporated into the law. In our deliberations with the Committee we had stated that a special educator may not know sign language and an interpreter may know only a few signs, and therefore may not be always equipped to provide the required assistance in bridging the communication barrier between the victim and the legal system.

Medico-Legal Examination: Medical examination of the victim is of utmost relevance in cases of rape, both from the point of view of providing medical aid and from the point of gathering evidence for the trial. The Committee has recommended the setting up of Sexual Assault Crisis Centres at government and private hospitals to carry out this task. The Committee has recommended that the Counsellors present in these Centres should be professionally qualified to address the needs of disabled victims of sexual assault. In addition, the report of the counsellor regarding disability of the victim should be part of the medico-legal evidence that is submitted to the court.

Safety of Women and Abuse within Institutions: The Committee has affirmed that every citizen has a right to protection against violence and it is the duty of the State to provide safe spaces to all women, including disabled women. The Committee has recommended that such safe spaces should be accessible to the disabled in terms of architectural design, management and provision of services.  To address abuse of disabled children within institutions, the Committee has suggested that all such institutions and homes must be registered with the concerned High Court with the court acting as the guardian of such children.

The Committee has recommended that the concerned High Court should act as an oversight mechanism to all the institutions in the state and there should be weekly reports submitted to the High Court. The suggestion to professionalize the recruitment of care takers and superintendents, in terms of having mandatory qualifications etc. is a welcome suggestion and would improve the conditions of these institutions and the way they are currently managed.

Power Asymmetry and Socialization in Schools: The Committee has observed that it must be the task of educational institutions to recognise discriminatory attitudes among children on the basis of gender, disability, caste and so on and rectify the same.

Sex Education: The Committee has recognized that sex education must also be provided to disabled children and young people by professionally trained teachers and care givers, to ensure their safety and holistic development.

Aggravated Sexual Assault: The Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012, which is at present before the Parliament provides that sexual assault against physically or mentally disabled women, is classified as an ‘aggravated sexual assault’ and has a minimum punishment of ten years imprisonment. While the Committee has endorsed most of the provisions in the Bill, it is unfortunate that this clause is absent from the Committee’s recommendations.

In the light of these recommendations made by the Committee, it is of utmost importance that the government act immediately. The NPRD demands that the recommendations made by the committee with regard to changes in laws should be passed in the Budget session of parliament. It also demands that necessary budgetary allocations for requisite infrastructure and providing personnel and their training should be made for implementing the other recommendations made by the Committee.

(Muralidharan)

Assistant Convener

National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

9868768543

 

 

#India- #Delhigangrape case: 10 main points from #JusticeVerma report #Vaw


RAPE

23 Jan, 2013

Text: PTI

NEW DELHI: The Justice Verma Committee on Wednesday recommended enhancing punishment of upto 20 years imprisonment for rape and murder and life for gang rape but refrained from suggesting death penalty.

The three-member Committee headed by former Chief Justice J S Verma submitted its 630-page report to the government suggesting amendment of criminal laws to provide for higher punishment to rapists, including those belonging to police and public servants.

New offences have been created and stiffer punishment has been suggested those committing it like leaving the victim in a vegetative state.

Created new offences

The new offences include disrobing a woman, voyeurism, stalking and trafficking. The present law provides for punishment for rapists of imprisonment ranging from seven years to life.

The panel, which was constituted in the wake national outrage over the December 16 gangrape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi in which one of the accused six is said to be a juvenile, however, is of the opinion that the age of the juvenile under the Juvenile Justice Act need not be lowered from the present 18.

There has been strong demand that the age of a juvenile should be brought down to 16 in view of the fact that the minor accused in the Delhi gangrape allegedly behaved in the most brutal way.

 

No death penalty for rapist

Releasing the report, Justice Verma told a news conference that the Committee has not suggested death penalty for rapist because there was overwhelming suggestions from the women organisations against it, a point that was received with thunderous applause from activists at the media interaction.

The Committee did not recommend death penalty for rape because it was a “regressive step” and it “may not have a deterrent effect”.

“We have not recommended death penalty as we had overwhelming suggestions against it. The women groups unanimously were against death penalty and that is why we thought that is a strong reason to respect that view particularly in view of the modern trend also,” Justice Verma said.

Replacement of Section 375 defining rape

Among the amendments proposed is a change in Section 100 of the IPC dealing with right of private defence which extends to causing death. Taking note of the brutality committed in the Delhi gang rape incident, the Committee suggested replacement of Section 375 defining rape by defining specific unnatural acts.

Intentional touching will constitute the offence of sexual assault for which punishment will be a maximum of five years rigorous imprisonment or fine or both.

Use of words, gestures which create an unwelcome threat of sexual nature or advance would invite a maximum punishment of one year imprisonment or fine or both.

Failure of many public functionaries

Justice Verma came down heavily on Union Home Secretary R K Singh for praising Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar in the wake of the gang rape incident instead of coming out with an apology.

The Committee said the Delhi gang rape incident has disclosed the failure of many public functionaries responsible for traffic regulation, maintenance of law and order and more importantly, their low and skewed priority of dealing with complaints of sexual assault.

 

Clear jurisdiction of the police over crime scene area

Disputes relating to the jurisdiction of the police over the area of the crime are often a cause of delay in initiating the process of taking cognisance of the crime and providing medical aid to the victim.

The panel said the peculiarity of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi not having any control over the police force, which control vests only in the Ministry of Home Affairs is the reason given publicly by the Delhi Chief Minister for the absence of responsibility of her government.

Apathy of civil society

“This ambiguity must be removed forthwith so that there is no divided responsibility in Delhi in respect of maintenance of law and order. Such a step is also essential to maintain accountability,” it said.

The Committee also took note of the apathy of civil society and mentioned about the inaction of passers-by and bystanders, who failed in their citizenship duty of rendering help to the Delhi gang rape victim and her companion who were lying badly injured and disrobed on the roadside for a considerable amount of time.

 

Change in behaviour of the citizenry

“Misbehaviour of the police towards any samaritan is often the cause for such apathy. Bust this must not deter citizens from doing their duty. A change in the behaviour of the citizenry will also improve the conduct of the police. This effort must be promoted,” it said.

The Panel said the brutalities of the armed forces faced by residents in the border areas have led to a deep disenchantment and the lack of mainstreaming of such persons into civil society.

“Serious allegations of persistent sexual assault on the women in such areas and conflict areas are causing more alienation,” it said.

Appropriate machinery for supervision of juvenile homes

Committee member Gopal Subramanium said the Juvenile Justice Act has been a total failure and condition of the juvenile homes were pathetic.

“When you read our report you will find we have extracted from the reports of the National Commission for Protection of Children and you will be shocked to see the unimaginable things juveniles have to do there…,” he said.

The panel suggested that the Chief Justice of the High Court of every state should device appropriate machinery for administration and supervision of these juvenile homes in consultation with experts in the field.

 

Medical examination of rape victims by global experts

The Committee also said all marriages in the country irrespective of the personal laws under which such marriages are solemnised should mandatorily be registered in the presence of a magistrate and the magistrate will ensure that the marriage has been solemnised without any demand for dowry having been made and that the marriage has taken place with the full and free consent of both partners.

The panel suggested medical examination of victims of sexual assault which were prepared on the basis of the best practices advised by global experts in the field of gynaecology and psychology.

 

 

#India -2- child norm to Maternity Care, Nutritional Security Of Children #WTFnews #Coercion #illegal #health


Cap benefits, limit families, suggests panel

Call To Dilute Govt Commitments To Maternity Care, Nutritional Security Of Children Draws Fire

Nitin Sethi TNN , Jan 24, 2012

New Delhi: Should maternity benefits and nutritional support to children under government schemes be restricted to only the first two children to “encourage stabilization of population”? Raising a storm among activists, the parliamentary standing committee has recommended so while assessing the National Food Security Bill. The recommendation has been objected to by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights also (NCPCR).

The other recommendations of the standing committee diluting the existing commitments of the government to provide nutritional security to children, flowing out from various Supreme Court orders, has also drawn criticism from the civil society and the commission. In its report, the standing committee said: “The committee recommends that the maternity benefit of Rs 1,000 shall be admissible up to the birth of second child only to encourage stabilization of population.” It also recommended that pregnant women should be eligible for the maternity benefit of Rs 1,000 per month after three months into pregnancy and not for six months as is norm now.
Reacting strongly to the proposals, NCPCR said, “The commission is stunned to see that its submissions to the standing committee on critical issues of children’s food and nutritional security have not found place in the report.” It said, “The universal and unconditional maternal entitlements enabling exclusive breast-feeding to babies for the first six months of life that was provided for in the NFSB is now withdrawn. On the contrary, the committee imposed the two-child norm denying entitlements to the third born and higher order of babies to encourage stabilization of population.”
The standing committee report notes that the recommendation to use regulation of nutritional support for population stabilization was made by Congress MP Naveen Jindal.
The commission has criticized the recommendations, saying, “The committee has ignored the importance of exclusive breast-feeding of babies for the first six months of life which is the vital and indispensable factor for survival and growth of children. In would only perpetuate child mortality and malnutrition in the country. This is unjust and violates the fundamental right to equality.”
The Right to Food campaign, too, has criticized the recommendation denying the nutritional support to children, “It is now widely recognised that such disincentives do not contribute to population stabilisation and only violate the rights of women and children. India’s fertility rate has been steadily declining and anyway approaching the level of population stabilisation.” The campaign added, “It is shocking to learn that the committee obliterated legal guarantees to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and anganwadis on grounds of programmatic and operational gaps in the scheme. This undermines the Supreme Court orders and the advise of hundreds of experts and campaigns that wrote to the Committee on the importance of universalising the ICDS services.”
Oddly, it was on the advice of the Union ministry for women and child development that the standing committee decided to keep ICDS out of the list of legal entitlements under the bill. The ministry told the committee, “The scheme is confronted with programmatic and operational gaps which would need to be addressed first.”

 

 

Standing committee on home affairs invites suggestions on criminal alw (amendment) bill 2012


PRESS RELEASE

 

STANDING COMMITTEE ON HOME AFFAIRS INVITES SUGGESTIONS ON THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2012

 

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012  as  introduced in   the  Lok  Sabha   on  4 December 2012  and  pending  therein,  has  been  referred  to  Department-related  Parliamentary  Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, M.P. Rajya Sabha for examination and report. The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to review laws related to rape/sexual offences.

2.         The Committee has decided to invite suggestions in the form of written memoranda from the public/associations/women organizations/civil societies, etc, on the provisions of the Bill.

3.         Those desirous of submitting written memoranda to the Committee, may send the same   to Shri D. K. Mishra, Joint Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 142, First Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-110001 {Tele: 23035410 (O) and 23012007 (fax)} latest by 28thJanuary, 2013.

4.         The memorandum which might be submitted to the Committee, would form part of its records and treated as confidential and, therefore, should not be printed, circulated or publicized by anyone, as such an act would constitute a breach of privilege of the Committee.

5.         Individuals/stakeholders may obtain, on written request, a copy of the Bill, from Shri Bhupendra Bhaskar, Assistant Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Cabin ‘A’, Basement, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi-110001 (Telephone No. 011-23034034). The electronic text of the Bill can also be down loaded from the Rajya Sabha Website www.rajyasabha.nic.in.® Bills with C

 

Gujarat- Open letter to all political parties 38 demands to end #VAW


·
Open letter to  BJP, Congress, GPP, CPI, CPI (M), SUCI (C), SP, BSP, Janta Dal (United), Sadbhavana Manch, etc. re:  38 demands to end ‘Violence Against Women’ by Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)
·      Looking for serious debate not the rhetoric. – Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)
Date: 28 November 2012

To,
The President, Working Committee Members and Office bearers

Sub: With reference to 2012 State Assembly Election in Gujarat, declare/announce clarification and organise public discussion about the programme of your party on the Women’s Rights to live in a society free from violence

Madam/Sir,

This letter comes to you, all the candidates and other political parties who are in fray for the 2012 Gujarat State Assembly Election.

The fortnight starting from November 25 to December 10 is International Fortnight observance on ‘Violence Against Women’.

In a women’s meeting held as part of campaign against violence at Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) on the issue of Gujarat State 2012 election, a detailed discussion followed on issues of public accountability required in the present political discourse as Gujarat goes to polls shortly which we will take it up with all the political parties and candidates as well.

Right now, we are sending you the charter of our demands to stop violence against women in Gujarat. We seek a public debate as well as public disclosure about all the measures taken by your party and affiliated organisations to ensure that the violence on women that manifests in various ways is curbed.

The last decade has witnessed increasing violence against women in Gujarat in various forms – sex selection, rape incidents especially of minor girls, domestic violence, harassment at work place, sexual discrimination and harassment. Lack of adequate political discourse and government’s inaction on these incidents only points to the apathy by political organisations which otherwise make tall claims of development in ‘Swarnim Gujarat’.

The statistics below raises questions on the issues of status of women:

1.      According to 2011 Census, there are 4,54,396 girls fewer as compared to boys in the population age group of 0 to 6 years.

2.      According to the Gujarat State Police department figures from 2001 to 2008, 1,05,166 cases were registered for violence against women.

3.      In 2008, a total of 359 rape cases, i.e. a rape case every day was registered in Gujarat according to police records.

4.      Cases of mental and physical harassment doubled, from 3191 to 6093, from 2001 to 2008, indicating that on an average 17 women each day had to go to police with this complaint.

5.      If the numbers of women who do not officially record their complaint is to be accounted, it paints a very grim situation. Various studies and surveys point out that 40-60% of women suffer domestic violence in their own homes.

Under these circumstances, women in Gujarat demand to know what concrete steps are being taken by your party to address this situation.
We are tired of the rhetoric of promises and assurances. We demand details of what concrete steps will be initiated in matters of policy, amending existing laws, new regulations as well as requisite budget allocations to address the low status of women in Gujarat.

We demand that all parties make public the provisions in the constitution of your party and allied organisations to initiate disciplinary action against your party members/office bearers if they were to found practising violence against women in any form. In case no such provision exists, provide clarification for their absence, and if the provisions exist, make public the actions taken in past or details of violations within your rank and file.

Following is the list of our demands to check violence against women in the state:

(1) A toll free, 24-hour help-line (like 108) with a common number should be set up in the State so that any woman facing violence or fearing the incidence of violence could call this help-line to gain necessary and immediate support.

Demands for preventing sex selection and declining sex ratio in Gujarat

(2) The government should focus on effective implementation of the PCPNDT Act and not just rhetoric of ‘save the girl child’.

(3)  In order to book the offenders and collect adequate evidence against them special teams trained should be developed under the Crime Branch.

(4)  Create a system for the district level committee to make them accountable to people’s groups.

(5)  Specific targets of action taken should be set for the District and State committees.

(6)  Functioning of the District and State committees should be reviewed every six months.

For Prevention of Sexual Harassment at work place and Educational Institution, we demand

In order that women and girls avail their right to work and education freely without fear and threat, implement the Supreme Court Guide lines in the WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NOS. 666-70 OF 1992, VISHAKHA & ORS. Vs. STATE OF RAJASTHAN & ORS.

(7)   The State Government should set up Committees for dealing with sexual harassment of women at all work places and educational institutions as per the Supreme Court guidelines provided in the Vishakha Judgment.

(8)   Do you have a committee against sexual harassment in your party and the allied organisations to stop the sexual harassment of the women activist of your party? If ‘no’, explain why and if ‘yes’, declare their names and addresses.

(9)   Declare name and addresses of all the members of the committees.

(10)     The Committee should be formed in all institutions of local government including the Gram Panchayats and publicised widely. The phone numbers and addresses of the committee members should be publicly available.

(11)     Protocols for the functioning of prevention of sexual harassment committee should be formed, including a stipulated time period for completing the inquiry and resources allocated for their effective implementation.

(12)     In all Government offices and grant in-aid institutions, a minimum of Rs. 5,000 per year be allocated to each Committee to enable awareness, education and investigation in to complaints and for holding regular meetings of the committee members.

(13)     Organise training for the members of the committee and administrators of the educational institutions.

For Effective Enquiry in Cases of Rape for the safety and justice for the victim, we demand

(14) Inquiry into cases of rape be carried out by an Officer at the level of a Deputy Superintendent of Police. A district level monitoring mechanism to review cases of violence against women should be established.

(15) The victim should have the right to have a female companion or representative of women’s organisation of her choice to accompany her right from the time of recording of the initial statements to the Court proceedings.

(16) In each District government hospital, a separate room be allocated for medical check ups of victims of sexual violence. Female staff trained in such cases should carry out the medical check-ups.

(17) The victim should be allowed to stay in a place of her choice and necessary police protection be provided to the victim.

(18) The victim should be provided trauma counselling and healing support by trained counsellors. A panel of such experts should be created and names be circulated to all police stations.

(19) To enable the victims to continue her fight for justice and be able to leave a life of dignity, rehabilitation packages including monetary compensation should be declared. Victim compensation boards should be activated.

(20)  Ensure that cases of rape are settled as quickly as possible, at the most within one year.

(21) In cases of rape of tribal and Dalit women and girls, Clause (1) (12) of the Prevention of Atrocities on SC & ST Act – 1989 be applied compulsorily as well.

(22) Cases of rape and sexual violence which are recorded by the Nationally and Internationally known Human Rights organisations but are not registered in the Police station. In all such cases, complaint must be registered and judicial procedure must begin even the case of death of the victim.

 For Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Non-allocation of adequate resources for implementation of the Act and lack of the infrastructure required to be put in place under PWDVA-2005 are the most critical issues coming in the way of its effective implementation.

We demand

(23)   A minimum of Rs. 5 crore be allocated on an annual basis for effective and efficient implementation of the PWDVA.

(24)   Appointment of a full time Protection Officer (PO) at the level of each judicial Magistrate First Class or Metropolitan Court.

(25)   Infrastructure support and assistance to the PO for performing her / his duties. Also linking all Multi purpose Women’s Centers with Protection Officers.

(26)   Provision for a minimum of two shelter homes in each district.

(27)   Capacity building of key stakeholders at all levels, specially the Judiciary and the police.

(28)   Appointment of Service provider organisations and counsellors.

(29)   Take policy measures to create awareness about the law to enable its utilization.

(30)   A special Cell to oversee the entire implementation machinery and mechanisms of the PWDVA and to facilitate inter departmental and inter ministerial coordination should be set up under the Chairpersonship of Secretary, DWCD at the State and the Collector at the district level.

For Prevent all forms of Violence against Women, we demand

(31)   A toll free, 24-hour help-line (Like 108) with a common number should be set up in the State so that any woman facing violence or fearing the incidence of violence could call this help-line to gain necessary and immediate support.

(32)   A Committee should be set up to review the incidence of violence against women and victim servicing by the State. The Committee should conduct a review every three months and make its findings and recommendations public.

(33)   Institute Special, Fast Track Courts to deal with the cases of Violence against women.

(34)   Women victims should be able to nominate lawyers of their choice under Free Legal Aid.

(35)   Police, Medical staff, shelter homes should be sensitised on the issue of VAW and their behaviour with women.

(36)   In case of negligence of duty or destruction of evidence by Police and other Government officials’, judicial action should be initiated against them along with Departmental action.

(37)   50% of the officials and employees in the department to look after law and order should be women.

(38)   Improve the quality of Free Legal Aid services and allocate adequate resources for effective availability of these to victims.

We expect your immediate response for the above-mentioned demands. We will send further important demands on other issues in future.

Trupti Shah
Rita Choksi
Deepali Ghelani
Sunanda Tayde
Reshma Vohra
Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)

_________________________________________________________________
         Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)
         (O) G-3 , Shivanjali Flats, Near Navjeevan, Ajawa Road, Vadodara – 390 019.
        (R) 37, Patrakar Colony, Tandalja Road, Post-Akota, Vadodara – 390 020.
    GUJARAT, INDIA
        Phone NoSahiyar (Stree Sangathan) (O) + 91-265-2513482 / (R) 2320399
        Email No:  sahiyar@gmail.com
        (Personal) trupti.vadodara@gmail.com

UID – #Aadhaar Number Linked Cash Transfer A Surreptitious Plan To Buy Votes


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

By Gopal Krishna

 

19 October, 2012
Countercurrents.org

 

New Delhi: Biometric data based 12 digit Unique Identification (UID)-Aadhaar Number linked welfare schemes is being bulldozed with 2014 elections in mind with the ulterior motive of altering voting behavior of the citizens by creating a ‘universal identity infrastructure’ linked to ‘unified payment infrastructure’.

 

Ahead of next parliamentary elections, with the launch of 21st crore UID-Aadhaar Number and Aadhaar Enabled Service Delivery (AESD) on October 20, 2012 contemptuously ignores Parliament, Parliamentary Committee, National Advisory Council and eminent citizens and the lessons from the belated report from Planning Commission’s Group of Experts on Privacy dated October 16, 2012. What is evident is that there is an open war declared on sensitive personal information like biometric data which includes finger prints, iris scans, voice prints, DNA samples etc. The fact is a centralized electronic database of citizens and privacy, both are conceptually contradictory.

 

The launch exercise of October 20, 2012 stands exposed because it is officially admitting that UID-Aadhaar is mandatory contrary to what was claimed at its launch in Maharashtra on September 29, 2010. The creeping of voluntariness into compulsion through threat of discontinuance of services has been roundly castigated by Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.

 

A revealing Policy Research Working Paper titled ‘Conditional Cash Transfers, Political Participation, and Voting Behavior’ brought out by World Bank in October 2012 “provides empirical evidence to support the notion that political participation and political views are responsive to targeted transfers.” It notes that in Colombia, “During the 2010 presidential election voters covered by FA (large scale conditional cash transfer) not only voted more often, but also expressed a stronger preference (around 2 percentage points) for the official party that implemented and expanded the program… Another possible explanation is that FA (large scale conditional ash transfer) was strategically targeted and motivated by clientelism and vote buying.” The paper can be downloaded here (PDF)

 

On its website Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) continues to claim that UID-Aadhhar is ‘voluntary’ and not ‘mandatory’. The million dollar question which Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Nandan Monohar Nilekani need to answer is: how can Aadhaar be deemed ‘voluntary’ if service delivery is being made dependent on it. This is a grave breach of public trust. This is a deliberate exercise in deception. The proposed ‘electronic transfers of benefits and entitlements’ through ‘Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of the beneficiaries’ is crafted to make it mandatory. The claim “Each Aadhaar number will be unique to an individual and will remain valid for life. Aadhaar number will help you provide access to services like banking, mobile phone connections and other Govt and Non-Govt services in due course” is fraught with creating a platform for convergence of government and corporate sector as is aimed by the ‘Transformational Government’ project of World Bank’s eTransform Initiative launched in partnership with Governments of South Korea and France and six transnational corporations like Gemalto, IBM, Intel, L-1 Identity Solutions (now part of Safran Group), Microsoft and Pfizer.

 

This scheme is unfolding despite the fact that Parliament has not passed the National Identification Authority of India Bill (NIAI), 2010 proposed by the Indian National Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. It is noteworthy that Sinha headed Parliamentary Committee in its report to the Parliament has rejected UID and biometric data collection terming it as an illegal and an unethical project.

 

Corroborating citizens’ concerns, the Parliamentary Committee has noted that the government has “admitted that (a) no committee has been constituted to study the financial implications of the UID scheme; and (b) comparative costs of the aadhaar number and various existing ID documents are also not available.” The Committee expressed its anxiety that, the way the project had been run, “the scheme may end up being dependent on private agencies, despite contractual agreement made by the UIDAI with several private vendors.”

 

The parliamentary rejection of this scheme came in the aftermath of the Statement of Concern issued in the matter of world’s biggest data management project, Unique Identification (UID) /Aadhaar Number scheme and related proposals like National Intelligence Grid by 17 eminent citizens led by Justice V R Krishna Iyer. The NIAI Bill, 2010 which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 3, 2010 after the constitution of the UIDAI and appointment of Nilekani as its Chairman in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister without oath of secrecy. The Bill sought to provide statutory status to the UIDAI which has been functioning without backing of law since January 2009. At present UIDAI is functioning without any legislative mandate.

 

One day ahead of the launch of UID in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra on September 29, 2010, the statement of eminent citizens had asked for the project to be put on hold till a feasibility study was done, a cost: benefit analysis undertaken, a law of privacy put in place and the various concerns of surveillance, tracking, profiling, tagging and convergence of data be addressed. None of this has happened till today. The Parliamentary Committee endorsed these concerns and recognised that the project cannot carry on till this is set right. Many countries UK, China, USA, Australia and the Philippines have abandoned such identity schemes.

 

Nilekani, as a member or chairperson of multiple committees of several ministries, has been trying to push for the adoption of the UID, and for the re-engineering of current systems to fit the does not meet the requirements of the UID. There have been attempts to withdraw services such as LPG and other essential commodities if a person has not enrolled for a UID. The state governments and citizens have been kept in dark about the harmful ramifications of the world’s biggest data management project and how it linked with hitherto undisclosed other proposed legislations and initiatives. The UID number and related proposals pose a threat to both civil liberties as well as our natural resources like land as is evident from Land Titling Bill and Nilekani’s book that aims to create a common land market to reduce poverty.

 

Nilekani’s promotion of Hernando de Sotto’s book ‘The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else‘ through his own book Imagining India arguing that national ID system would be a big step for land markets to facilitate right to property and undoing of abolition of right to property in 1978 in order to bring down poverty! Nilekani and the UPA government should be asked as to explain the inexplicability of such assumptions.

 

Notably, such UIDs have been abandoned in the US, Australia and UK. The reasons have predominantly been: costs and privacy. In the UK, the Home Secretary explained that they were abandoning the project because it would otherwise be `intrusive bullying’ by the state, and that the government intended to be the `servant’ of the people, and not their `master’. The Supreme Court of Philippines struck down a biometric based national ID system as unconstitutional on two grounds – the overreach of the executive over the legislative powers of the congress and invasion of privacy. The same is applicable in India.

 

Not surprisingly, the Parliamentary Committee observes, “The clearance of the Ministry of Law & Justice for issuing aadhaar numbers, pending passing the Bill by Parliament, on the ground that powers of the Executive are co-extensive with the legislative power of the Government and that the Government is not debarred from exercising its Executive power in the areas which are not regulated by the legislation does not satisfy the Committee. The Committee are constrained to point out that in the instant case, since the law making is underway with the bill being pending, any executive action is as unethical and violative of Parliament‟s prerogatives.” The committee also observed that a National Data Protection Law is “a pre-requisite for any law that deals with large scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases. It would be difficult to deal with the issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of data bases and securing confidentiality of information etc.“

 

In a significant development following rigorous deliberations, an Indian development support organization founded in 1960, Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS) disassociated itself from UID Number project which was being undertaken under Mission Convergence in Delhi. Withdrawal of IGSSS that works in 21 states of the country merits the attention of all the states and civil society organisations especially those who are unwittingly involved in the UID Number enrollment process. In its withdrawal letter IGSSS said, “we will not be able to continue to do UID enrolment…” It added, it is taking step because ‘it’s hosted under the rubric of UNDP’s “Innovation Support for Social Protection: Institutionalizing Conditional Cash Transfers” [Award ID: 00049804, Project: 00061073; Confer: Output 1, Target 1.2 (a) & Output 3 (a), (b)]. In fact we had no clue of this until recently when we searched the web and got this information.’

 

It is clear that both Mission Convergence and UIDAI have been hiding these crucial facts with ulterior motives. The letter reads, “IGSSS like many other leading civil society groups and individuals are opposed to conditional cash transfers and the UID will be used to dictate it.”

 

The Parliamentary Standing Committee considered the NIAI Bill, 2010 presented its report to the Parliament on December 13, 2011. The reported rejects biometric data based identification of Indians. The report is a severe indictment of the hasty and `directionless’ project which has been “conceptualised with no clarity of purpose”. Even the functional basis of the Unique Identification Authority of India UIDAI is unclear and yet the project has been rolled out. The Standing Committee found the biometric technology `uncertain’ and ‘untested’. As early as December 2009, the Biometric Data Committee had found that the error rate using fingerprints was inordinately high. In a recent interview to the press, the Director General and Mission Director of the UIDAI had admitted that fingerprints are likely not to work for authentication. The error rate could end up excluding up to 15% of the population. It has also come to light that even iris scan keeps changing and is unreliable. Yet, the UIDAI has gone on with the exercise. Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) had appeared before the Parliamentary Committee to give its testimony on the UID BIll.

 

“I would have liked to make an additional point about the perspective Adhaar reflects vis-a-vis governance of our country and the conduct of our society. The only inference one can reasonably draw is that the votaries of this idea expect the Indian state to perpetually or for a long time remain in the ‘mai-baap’ role, personally taking care of each of its needy children. Why else would we want to spend so much money on a device only meant to enable the ‘mai-baap’ to correctly identify its children?” said Deep Joshi, member, National Advisory Council (NAC) in a message. Other NAC members like Aruna Roy has also been vociferously opposed to centralization of governance through schemes like UID. Clearly, the views of these members too have been ignored.

 

Besides influencing the voter preference, once the Planning Commission’s Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of 600 million citizens is ready by 2014 and the related National Population Register (NPR) of the remaining 600 citizens is ready it will emerge as a potential threat to minority communities of all sorts by some regime which finds them unsuitable for their political projects.

 

So far the entire political class has remained insensitive to the decision of the European Court of Human Rights about violation of the right to privacy and citizens’ rights. The case was heard publicly on February 27, 2008, and the unanimous decision of 17 judges was delivered on December 4, 2008. The court found that the “blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the power of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples, and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offenses, failed to strike a fair balance between competing public and private interests and ruled that the United Kingdom had “overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation” in this regard. The decision is nonappealable.

 

Unmindful of this, in India, National databank of biometric data is unfolding which is proposed to be linked to electoral database amidst the political myopia of political parties in the face of the onslaught of the foreign biometric and surveillance technology companies. The only saving grace has been Parliamentary Standing Committee that has taken on board studies done in the UK on the identity scheme that was begun and later withdrawn in May 2010, where the problems were identified to include “(a) huge cost involved and possible cost overruns; (b) too complex;(c) untested, unreliable and unsafe technology; (d) possibility of risk to the safety and security of citizens; and (e) requirement of high standard security measures, which would result in escalating the estimated operational costs.”

 

It may be recalled that S.Y. Quraishi, the previous Chief Election Commissioner had sent a dangerous proposal to Union Ministry of Home Affairs asking it “to merge the Election ID cards with UID”. Such an exercise would mean rewriting and engineering the electoral ecosystem with the unconstitutional and illegal use of biometric technology in a context where electoral finance has become source of corruption and black money in the country. This would lead to linking of UID, Election ID and Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which is not as innocent and as politically neutral as it has been made out to be. It is noteworthy that all EVMs have a UID as well. In the meanwhile, it is reliably learnt that voter registration in Manipur is happening using biometric data. This makes a mockery of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on UID which notes that “The collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information of individuals without amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 as well as the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament”.

 

Opposition parties at the centre and in the States appear to be feigning ignorance about these attempts at re-plumbing the electoral ecosystem and a complicit section of civil society seems guilty of practicing ‘the economics of innocent fraud’.

 

The results of the October 2012 World Bank paper find that “voters respond to targeted transfers and that these transfers can foster support for incumbents”. The UID-Aadhaar and unified payment infrastructure proposed is an act in designing political mechanisms to capture pre-existing schemes for political patronage in spite of the absence of ‘legislative mechanisms’. It is apparent that non-UPA parties have been caught unawares into implementing the program which is designed to their political disadvantage.

 

Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 9818089660, Phone: +91-11-2651781, Fax:+91-11-26517814,E-mail:krishna1715@gmail.com

 

 

Truth vs Hype: Who is afraid of Unique ID?


 

Nandan Nilekani

Image via Wikipedia


The Nandan Nilekani led- Unique ID project has enrolled more than 100 million Indians. They say this will give them not just an identity, but take India closer to a social revolution. And for a while, largely because of immense goodwill that Nandan Nilekani enjoyed, people ignored the voices of civil society groups that say UID violates privacy, or that it’s going to replace subsidies with cash. But now, those voices have grown louder. More worryingly for Nilekani, the home ministry says the UID data is flawed. And a standing committee of Parliament says it’s a project without direction. This week, on Truth vs Hype, an on the ground investigation: is Aadhaar a nuisance or an opportunity? And more to the point – does it have a future?

 

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