#India- Clarion Call by Maruti Suzuki Workers Union “Chalo Manesar” on July 18 #mustshare


Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

Maruti Suzuki Workers Union came out with a spirited and determined press releasetoday [dated June 23rd]. The press release addressing all democratic and pro worker sections of society wished to convey the decision taken by a general body meeting of MSWU of observing July 18th as a “Chalo Manesar” [March to Manesar!] day. Why July 18 you may ask.

As the press release elaborates, July 18 would mark a year of not only spirited protests against mass arrests of workers demanding their legitimate rights, but also one of tremendous censorship and blatant fascistic suppression of basic worker rights, even by the labor laws of the land – like prohibiting holding of dharnas , distribution of leaflets and pamphlets etc.

Since 2011, workers of Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant, in Gurgaon, have become the leading flagbearers of the struggle against capitalism and its newest avatar, neo liberalism, in India. The essence of their demands can be echoed by workers, laborers across the country and indeed the whole world, since they are so fundamental to the nature of exploitation under the tyranny of capital. From struggling to form an independent worker’s union that truly represents their interests instead of the class collaborationist, compromising ones, to aggressively batting for the rights of the contractual workers who are the most exploited because of lack of any kind of job or social security, the warring comrades of MSWU have shown what it takes to carry forward a struggle against all adversities. Struggling workers in Kalinganagar, VedantaTata ASAL and elsewhere should only take heart and sharpen their own weapons of revolutionary zeal and determination.

The press release gave a call not only for joining an indefinite dharna from 18th July onwards, but also for organizing solidarity protests across the country. Efforts such as the following and in much greater numbers should sprout everywhere to take this movement to the next level and annex it to the revolutionary struggle of the workers in the entire country.

 

Inquilab Zindabad!      Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad!

says the

Provisional Working Committee

Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

 

 

 

Australia- Visa rorts leave foreign workers in debt bondage #Migrantrights


EXCLUSIVE

-Victim: Bhawna Verma with her partner Harvinder Mehta and their son Kiyan Mahta. Photo: David Thorpe

Hundreds of foreign workers and students are being forced into debt bondage after paying up to $40,000 for a skilled worker visa, with some signing contracts stating they’ll be sacked if they engage in “trade union activities”.

A Fairfax Media investigation can reveal the most extensive rorting of the 457 and 187 visa schemes ever to be exposed, with up to 200 cases across Australia including:

It was very upsetting. I thought how will my baby and I survive?

29 Filipino workers who have complained to their embassy after some had to direct part of their salary to repay loans organised by recruitment and migration agents that have interest rates of up to 50 per cent.

foreign workers promised long-term work or permanent residency if they paid between $5000 and $40,000 to middlemen across the nation only to be given temporary work or, in a small number of cases, little or no pay.

80 Indian workers duped into paying $4000 for a cleaning course in Melbourne worth only $1300 after being misled that it would enable them to get a work visa.

Some of those Indian workers were directed by their recruitment agent to work as unskilled labourers in abattoirs in an arrangement one of the abattoir owners, JBS Australia, said involved the agent misleading it and the workers.

The rorting of the visas schemes and exploitation of foreign workers has been labelled “a national shame” by ACTU secretary Dave Oliver and involved numerous companies operating across Australia and often under the noses of authorities.

“There needs to be further investigation to see what is happening with this system where workers are becoming bonded labour,” Mr Oliver said. “This is a racket involving migration agents, middlemen, exploitation of workers and loan sharks.”

One of the most blatant examples involves Clinica Internationale, a company owned by Melbourne man Radovan Laski, which has been able to continue operating, despite numerous complaints to the Immigration Department.

Mr Laski convinced up to 100 Indians to hand over up to $40,000 after promising to help them get a 187 visa, which allows a skilled worker to get permanent residency if they are sponsored by a regional employer.

But Mr Laski failed to find many of the workers the promised jobs and sponsorship, instead sending some of them to work as unskilled labourers in abattoirs. One of Mr Laski’s victims, temporary residential visa holder Bhawna Verma, 27, from India, was pregnant and desperate to stay in Australia when Mr Laski promised in writing in 2012 to find her employment and sponsorship if she paid an initial $5000 fee. After paying the money, Ms Verma was sent to work for an associate of Mr Laski in Ocean Grove, Victoria, where for two months she received no wage and did only odd jobs.

“It was very upsetting. I thought how will my baby and I survive?” Ms Verma said.

Fairfax Media has uncovered a separate network of companies based in Geelong, the Gold Coast and the Philippines that are targeting Filipino workers seeking 457 temporary skilled worker visas.

Twenty-nine workers recently complained to the Philippines embassy, detailing the ”excessive” fees they had to pay agents and demanding an investigation.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal that some of the Filipinos signed contracts that stated they could be fired for ”trade union activities” or falling sick.

The documents show Filipino workers paying up to $14,000 to agencies and some paying interest rates of more than 45 per cent.

Other documents show Filipino workers directing as much as a third of their $50,000 annual income to pay off high-interest loans.

While the schemes involving the Indian and Filipino workers are run by separate companies, they both involve excessive fees and workers often scared to speak out for fear of being deported.

Mr Laski – named in federal Parliament as conman – warned a worker in an email that “I will be down on you like a ton of bricks” if they complained to authorities.

Emails show that Mr Laski and his business associate, George Stamatakos, were charging dozens of Indian workers $3950 to do a $1300 cleaning course at Melbourne’s Complex Training Centre.

When Mr Stamatakos was asked why they charged the Indian workers three times the fee charged by the training centre, he said: “If I could charge $6000, I would do it.”

He said he charged “between 60 to 70″ Indian workers the $3950 fee but referred questions to Mr Laski, who did not respond to calls.

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor told Fairfax Media the Gillard government would introduce sweeping reforms, enabling 300 Fair Work inspectors to investigate visa rorts.

”The government has had serious concerns about rorts of the 457 system for some time and the Department’s limited powers to monitor and enforce compliance of the scheme,” Mr O’Connor said.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/visa-rorts-leave-foreign-workers-in-debt-bondage-20130605-2nqnm.html#ixzz2VLPH6ZDd

 

ICLR- Workers in Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant – Justice Delayed is Justice Denied #ILO


Preliminary report of the findings of the INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON LABOUR RIGHTSreleased on 31 May 2013, New Delhi

The International Commission for Labor Rights (ICLR) constituted a team of lawyers and trade unionists from France, Japan, South Africa, the USA and India to investigate the incidents that led to the summary dismissal of over 500 permanent workers and over 1800 contract workers at the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) in August 2012. The team was constituted to bring international law and policy perspectives to bear on a situation that has festered for almost a year, with – at a minimum – 147 workers in jail over that period. The Commission reminds the Government of India that, under well-recognised international and domestic principles, “justice delayed is justice denied.”

The group also brings important comparative perspectives on the current or proposed role of this company in the global economy. MSIL has a parent company in Japan, substantial exports to Africa and Europe, a proposed assembly plant in South Africa, and an investor base in the United States – understanding the company’s practices in India is an imperative for those committed to corporate accountability and sustainable development jurisdictions outside India.

From May 25 to 31, the team has been in India studying the situation at the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki. The work of the Commission has included

– meetings with members of the Provisional Committee of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) and other terminated workers of the Manesar plant as well as their families

– visit with the individuals currently in jail in Kaithal

– discussions with the leadership of national trade union centres AITUC, CITU and HMS, and plant-level unions in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera industrial areas, and with the representative of the global union federation, IndustriALL

– consultations with MSWU’s advocates and legal counsels

– interviews with the administration of the state of Haryana, including Director General of Police, the Commissioner of Police (Gurgaon) and the Joint Labour Commissioner

– meeting with the Haryana State Human Rights Commission

– attended court hearings

– meeting with representatives of the CII and ASSOCHAM, particularly since the management of Maruti-Suzuki India Limited refused to meet the delegation in spite of an extensive exchange of faxes and emails.

– perusal of documents, tripartite agreements, court records and police reports of the dispute between MSIL and the workers at its Manesar plant.

Maruti-Suzuki began operations in Manesar in 2006, employing trainees for up to three years and contract workers who performed the same tasks as permanent workers in core areas of manufacturing activity. Media reports that remain unchallenged by management and the testimonies we received from workers of the Manesar plant record an experience of extremely high work intensity, with unpaid forced overtime work, wage deductions even for planned leave and overbearing and abusive supervision and invasive surveillance.

The key findings of the team are:

1. The management of Maruti Suzuki India Limited at its Manesar plant:

1.1 Since sometime in 2011 but certainly from early June 2011, coerced workers to join the Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union, an organization that management had been instrumental in constituting in the Company’s Gurgaon plant, in violation of ILO Convention 87 which stipulates that employers refrain from interference in workers’ trade union activity. The management further violated this principle by interfering with workers’ right to forming and joining a union of their own choice, over the course of many months.

1.2 Following the registration of the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) on 1 March 2012, and the submission of the Charter of Demands by the union on 18 April 2012, Maruti Suzuki management violated core principles of bargaining in good faith, as set forth in ILO Convention 98. Of particular concern is the allegation that Maruti Suzuki refused to negotiate on a core issue related to terms and conditions of work – the use and treatment of contract workers. This further vitiated industrial peace, and created an industrial dispute.

1.3 On 18 July 2011, it is alleged that a supervisor addressed a worker with a caste slur. Maruti Suzuki’s failure to address this promptly, through an impartial internal inquiry, is a violation of other Conventions of the ILO, particularly those relating to workplace discrimination. This has a bearing not only on the rights of individual workers, but on the possibility of enduring industrial peace.

1.4 If indeed the management was effectively managing the Manesar plant under the rules it had created for itself, including the Employment Standing Orders, it is difficult to understand how workers could have been responsible for the alleged acts of violence and arson of 18 July 2012, since workers were required to be thoroughly frisked every day before they entered the plant.

1.5 In August 2012, the management summarily and without following due process of law dismissed 546 permanent workers, and terminated the services of over 1800 contract workers. The termination of these workers, who were known to be leaders, members or sympathizers of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union, constitutes impermissible retaliation against those exercising their right to form and join a union of their choice.

2. Role of Labour Department

2.1 The dispute at the Manesar plant arose since the Registrar of Trade Unions refused to register the trade union of the workers’ choice in June 2011, in violation of the principle, in ILO Convention 87, that the state may not require “previous authorization” of a union. Under the Convention, registration must remain a formality, with no role for the authorities to exercise inappropriate discretion.

2.2 Following the events of June 2011, the Labour Department failed to act to protect the workers’ right to association.

2.3 The Labour department failed to serve as an appropriate administrative and adjudicative body of labour matters, especially those connected to industrial relations, as required by ILO Conventions. In particular, on multiple occasions, it did not act on available information that a significant industrial dispute was underway, and to ensure effective conciliation proceedings. Most importantly, it utterly abdicated its responsibility to address the dispute regarding the summary dismissal of 547 permanent workmen in August 2012.

3. Role of the Police:

3.1 The involvement of police including the admitted use of police intelligence branch in maintenance of industrial peace amounted to inappropriate interference by the state with workers’ rights of assembly and association. ILO Convention 87 recognizes the centrality of civil liberties to the free exercise of trade union rights.

3.2 The police deployed a large detachment at the factory gate and inside the plant based on complaints and calls from the management of Maruti Suzuki without adequate cause of action or enquiry or investigation, thereby serving as coercive pressure on peaceful worker protest,

3.3 The police failed to act to protect citizens, including their right to life, and remained a silent observer to the events of 18 July, admittedly at the request of the Maruti Suzuki management, at the Manesar factory gate on 18 July,

3.4 Workers were arbitrarily arrested after the 18 July incident based on one FIR lodged by the Security Manager of the Company, again in violation of the guarantees of Convention 87. Families were harassed and illegally detained to coerce workers to surrender in gross violation of their human rights.

3.5 The workers were arrested and kept in police custody for several days and subjected to severe torture. Independent medical examination sought by the workers’ counsel and directed by court order was delayed by a month and even then it revealed deep injuries.

3.6 The police opposed bail of workers not even named in the Maruti Suzuki FIR of 18 July despite the inability of police investigation to produce proof of involvement.

3.7 The Government of Haryana constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the incidence of violence at the Manesar plant. The entire Report of the SIT has not been made available to the workers’ counsel to protect the identity of unnamed witnesses in the Report. This is in violation of International Standards of witness protection and collaboration with justice.

3.8 Subsequently police have launched a consistent attack on the workers right to democratic dissent by refusing to allow peaceful protests both in Gurgaon and in Kaithal. The arbitrary arrest of one member of the Provisional committee not named in the FIR or by any eye witness before a press meet and the enforcement of IPC Section 144 in Kaithal and the arrest of 95 workers from their sit-in protest site the night before their planned protest on 19 May 2013 and the subsequent lathi charge on the peaceful sit in on 19 May and the arrests thereafter only creates an atmosphere of terror. Again, this has taken place in violation of the understanding promoted by ILO Convention 87 that the right of association and the right of peaceful assembly and protest are closely interlinked.

Based on these key findings the ICLR notes that (1) the management of Maruti Suzuki has engaged in significant violations of law with respect to the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to equal pay for equal work, (2) the Labour Department has been ineffective in ensuring the rule of law and (3) the Police has transgressed its powers amounting to interference in industrial disputes and yet failed to act when it should have.

In view of foregoing the ICLR team recommends:

1. Grant of bail to the 147 workers of the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki in Bhondsi Jail since 19 July 2012 and for 11 workers at the Kaithal Jail arrested on 19 May 2013 and refrain from the threat of arbitrary arrests to terrorise workers and their families,

2. Immediate constitution of independent impartial inquiry to investigate the circumstances from 4 June 2011 that led up to the incident of 18 July 2012, including into the custodial torture of the workers.

3. The immediate reinstatement of all workers on the rolls of Maruti Suzuki as on 17 July 2012,

4. The Labour Department must ensure through the tripartite machinery that the management of Maruti Suzuki negotiates with the union of the workers choice in good faith,

Furthermore, the ICLR team urges Government to:

5. Create an industrial relations machinery that enables an adequate firewall between the state’s labour department and its police force

6. Seek technical assistance from the ILO to bring its labour administration and adjudication processes into compliance with international standards, in terms of a) the framework for union registration, recognition, and collective bargaining and b) protections for workers’ right to form and join a union of their choice that are in consonance with ILO conventions 87 and 98.

Contact:

Ashwini Sukthankar +91 94 82 79 05 87

N Vasudevan +91 98 21 53 66 76

The final ICLR report on Maruti Suzuki will be released on 13 June 2013.

 

The ICLR team members are:

1. Ashwini Sukthankar, International Commission for Labour Rights

2. Masuo Kato, National Confederation of Trade Unions – Zenroren, Japan

3. Yasuhisa Ota, National Confederation of Trade Unions – Zenroren, Japan

4. Suzanne Adely, United Autoworkers, USA

5. Immanuel Ness, City University, New York, USA

6. Franceline Lepany, Labour Lawyer, France

7. Cherie Monaisa, COSATU, South Africa

8. N Vasudevan, New Trade Union Initiative, India

The International Commission for Labour Rights is a global network of labour lawyers and labour experts, providing critical assistance to workers and trade unions around the world. We have conducted fact-findings in Mexico, Colombia, the United States, and many other countries where workers have complained about violations.

 

ILO, UNHRC to take up labour issues at Maruti Suzuki


By Harpreet Bajwa – CHANDIGARH

New Indian Express online, 31st May 2013 

The alleged violence and human rights violation of workers at the Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki will be taken up at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva next week by the International Commission for Labour Rights (ICLR).

The special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association,  an independent expert appointed by the [UN] Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country a specific human rights theme, will also look into the matter.

A seven-member ICLR team met the Haryana DGP and other state government officials on Thursday. However, it could not meet Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Maruti-Suzuki management with the latter refusing to meet them.

International human rights lawyer and team member Suzanne Adely said: “We will take this issue of repressing rights of Maruti workers and the state police booking them in different cases with the special rapporteur next week. We will also take up this case with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).” “This company is also planning to set up a plant in South Africa. The labour organisations there will oppose it as our team there was a member from the labour organisations of that country. If Maruti interfered with the workers’ rights to form union of their choice and terminated union members, there are serious violations of international labour norms,”  said Ashwini Sukthankar, an international labour lawyer and ICLR member.

Another team member Kato, a retired International Secretary of the National Confederation of Trade Union of Japan, said: “ We shall build awareness on this incident at the Manesar plant among Japanese workers so we can build solidarity for the Indian workers in Japan and develop a sustained campaign for protection of dignity and labour rights of Indian workers.”

“We will take up the issue of Maruti workers with senators in the US and also advise the industry there not to invest in Haryana,” said Immanuel Ness, professor of political science at City University, New York.

New Trade Union Initiative national secretary N Vasudevan said that the basic issue in the dispute is not allowing the formation of an independent workers’ union.

PRESS RELEASE- 147 workers of Maruti Suzuki Union in Kaithal Arrested


MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION
Reg. No. 1923
IMT Manesar
PRESS RELEASE: 20th May 2013
We are facing one of the most brutal repression by the government on our movement. While we have adopted the democratic and peaceful means available to demand the release of arrested 147 workers, withdrawal of and reinstatement of terminated 546 permanent and 1800 contract workers, the government has only responded with force and malice and in collusion with the Maruti Suzuki company management.
Our peaceful dharna has been going on since 24th March, which included hunger strike, deputations, rallies, which are all in the ambit of our democratic right guaranteed in the Constitution. This was forcibly broken on 18th May by the huge police force of thousands of personnel in riot gear, tear gas etc. They came in before curfew under Sec.144 was declared on the entire town of Kaithal at 5pm with effect till midnight of 19th May to prevent our call for a protest demonstration on 19th May in front of the residence of Haryana Industries and Commerce Minister, Randip Singh Surjewala. Thousands of people from across Haryana and other pro-worker people from across the country were to come to express solidarity.
At 11.30pm on 18th May those on the site of the dharna, 96 workers and activists were arrested and sent to Kaithal Jail under Sections 188, 341, 506, 511. This includes a member of the Provisional Working Committee, MSWU, Yogesh Gawande, and two Trade Union activists who have been coming in support, Shyamveer who is a correspondent of the workers newspaper, Nagrik and an activist with Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, and Amit and who is a workers’ movement activist and current Phd student in Economics dept, CESP, JNU, New Delhi. On the morning of 19th May, 4 more workers were arrested from their homes in the villages nearby.
On 19th May 2013, we decided to go ahead with our pre-declared program, and around 1500 people started coming in solidarity from across Haryana in the morning. These included primarily workers and our family members and relatives, and people from village Panchayats, democratic and mass organizations and individuals. A huge police force and CID Haryana personnel were all over the Bus Station, Railway Station and all points in the town to follow and stop anyone who was coming for support. We gathered near Pyoda village 2km from the city limits, and started to peacefully march to register our protest, that all those arrested on 18th May night be released immediately so that talks can happen. Barricades and a huge police contingent of over 2000 personnel with water cannons and tear gas vehicles, stopped us on the road next to Surjewala’s residence.
At 6.30pm, without any warning, the stationed police force started a brutal lathi-charge and tear gas and water cannons were unleashed mercilessly on the protestors, which included in large majority, women, children and old men. Hundreds were seriously injured and admitted to the hospital. The police came with a second round of lathi-charge when people were still in a state of shock. The government has acted with malicious intention, and with a view to crush the struggle while all wanted to do was register our peaceful protest in front of our elected representatives, and yesterday’s actions and arrests shows this.
Eleven workers and activists were arrested on completely fabricated charges of serious nature. These are:
 Ramniwas of Provisional Working Committee, Maruti Suzuki Workers Union
 Deepak Bakshi who is advisor to the MSWU and General Secretary of Hindustan Motors-Sangrami Shramik Karamchari Union, Kolkata
 Somnath who is a correspondent of the workers newspaper, Shramik Shakti
 Suresh Koth, who is panchayat leader from Koth village, Hissar dist, Haryana
 Nitish
 Mangtu
 Premchand
 and three more people, whose names are still unclear.
They have been charged under non-bailable Sections 148, 149, 188, 283, 332, 353, 186, 341, 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC, 3 of P/D, TPDA, 8NH for blocking the highway and 25 (54 and 59) of the Arms Act. They have been
produced in the Kaithal Court today 20th May 2013 and sent to 14days of Judicial Custody.
This is a serious pre-meditated assault on especially those of the active workers and activists who have stood in solidarity with us and to show us again as criminals only because we continue to protest against the wrongs that have been done to us for the last two years since 4th June 2011, and especially since 18th July 2012 when it became apparent that the government is openly siding with the company against workers and activists. This is the reward the government has again given us workers for asking for our rights which are guaranteed in the Constitution.
We appeal to all workers, trade unions and workers organizations, democratic rights and civil rights organizations and mass organizations and democratic minded individuals and to come out in protest in this hour when we need all forms of solidarity. We reiterate our just demands of releasing all the arrested workers and activists and reinstatement of terminated workers.
Provisional Working Committee
Maruti Suzuki Workers Unio n

 

ATTN DELHI -Protest Demonstration against Killing of Gangaram Koal, Tea Community Workers’ Leader in Assam by Congress Goons


JOIN PROTEST AGAINST

HEINOUS MURDER OF CPI(ML)’S TEA WORKERS’ LEADER GANGARAM KOAL

BY CONGRESS-BACKED GOONS AND TEA-GARDEN MAFIA

12 APRIL (FRIDAY)

11 AM, JANTAR MANTAR

AICCTU 

 

On 25 March, Comrade Gangaram Koal was hacked to death.

Congress-backed goons and the local Congress MLA have been named in the FIR – but are yet to be arrested. On 12 April, protests will be held in Assam as well as nationally, demanding immediate arrest of the accused. Do join the protest in Delhi, after which a memorandum will be submitted via the Resident Commissioner at Assam Bhawan to the Assam Governor.

Contact nos: 9968125770, 7838497013, 9560756628

 

On the night of 25th March, Comrade Gangaram Koal, General Secretary of Asom Sangrami Chah Shramik Sangh and member of Assam State Committee of CPI(ML), was brutally assassinated near his home at the Gutibari tea garden in Tinsukia districtComrade Gangaram was a militant and popular leader of the tea community in the Dibrugarh-Tinsukia region, and he had been at the forefront of protests against large-scale corruption in gram panchayat schemes and in the public distribution system.Undoubtedly, he was killed at the behest of the corrupt nexus of panchayat representatives, government officials, and politicians, in particular the Congress MLA from Chabua Raju Sahu whose interests were threatened by his relentless activism.   

Comrade Gangaram Koal’s home adjoins a tea estate in Gutibari in Tinsukia district. He had been returning home at around 8 pm on is motorbike when he was attacked by assailants with an iron rod and hacked to death with machetes. His body was discovered by a tea garden worker soon after.

Comrade Gangaram Koal had led a successful struggle last year to get the licence of a corrupt ration agent cancelled. The raton agent, known to be close to the MLA Raju Sahu, ran a ‘fair price’ shop in which 60% of the consumers proved to be bogus, and the remaining 40% genuine consumers had not got even a fraction of their due rations. Only recently, leaders of the ACMS (the tea garden union affiliated with INTUC) were heard publicly declaring that Comrade Gangaram, who challenged their role as agents of the Congress and the tea industry, should be killed.

The ACMS acts to keep the tea garden workers as a captive vote-bank, and any emerging popular and independent leader from this community is ruthlessly eliminated or terrorized by the tea garden mafia. In 2000, Daniel Topno, a popular student leader from the tea community who contested as an independent MLA candidate and got substantial votes, was killed. In Sonitpur, Lakhikant Kurmi and Narayan Pondel, tea garden activists, survived a life-threatening assault. Not long ago, a close comrade of Gangaram Koal, CPI(ML) activist Shubhrajyoti Bardhan, was attacked twice – once at the Deputy Commissioner’s office where he had gone to raise question of irregularities in PDS, and once more in a village.     

Comrade Gangaram had been the CPI(ML)’s candidate in the Lok Sabha polls from Dibrugarh in 2009, and had twice been CPI(ML)’s MLA candidate from Chabua in 2006 and 2011. His heinous political assassination has sparked off a massive state-wide protest in Assam. It should be noted that CPI(ML) activists have been assaulted just a few months back by goons when they went to the food and civil supplies department to register a complaint against irregularities in the PDS.

The Tarun Gogoi Government of Assam initially ordered a CID enquiry and was adamant against ordering a CBI enquiry as demanded by the powerful mass movement that emerged to demand justice for Gangaram Koal. On March 29th, Assam observed a successful 12-hour Bandh at the call of the CPI(ML), demanding a CBI enquiry into the assassination. Subsequently, the Government has had to concede the demand for a CBI enquiry. However, it is important for the CBI enquiry to be time-bound. Justice delayed is often justice denied, and we can recall that the CBI enquiry into Daniel Topno’s murder is yet to submit its report even after 13 years.

Assassination has been a notorious stock-in-trade for the mafia of industrialists and politicians threatened by trade union movements. Trade Union leaders such as Shankar Guha Niyogi and Darasram Sahu in Chhattisgarh, Datta Samant in Mumbai, Gurudas Chatterjee and Jagdev Sharma in Jharkhand are some of the popular workers’ leaders who were martyred at the behest of the powerful vested interests. Comrade Gangaram’s courageous struggle will be continued by his comrades – because murder never can and never will silence workers’ struggles for their rights and their dreams of an egalitarian world.    

#Chhattisgarh – Brief report of events in the JK Laxmi Cement Factory : accident, arson and arrests


Official seal of Chhattisgarh

Official seal of Chhattisgarh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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April 7, 2013,

Note received from Sudha Bharadwaj

In the past year there had been several agitations by farmers of various villages in the Nandini-Ahiwara area of district Durg, affected by the under-construction JK Laxmi Cement Plant, against serious illegalities committed by the company including the fact that an irrigation canal and traditional easements had been obstructed, that farmers had been defrauded of their lands and were paid paltry compensation, and that the public hearing for environmental clearance had been held quietly in an obscure tehsil head quarters unknown to the affected villagers. Most of these movements petered out due to the adamant attitude of the administration and the company.

However the farmers of Malpuri village had, since 14th February 2013, been picketing lakhs worth of heavy machinery and materials stocked by the company in the open next to the company compound. Hundreds of villagers – women and men – had been taking turns day and night and were eating and sleeping on the site of the agitation. Their demand was of permanent jobs to the villagers and those whose lands had been lost to the plant. Only recently, on 25th March 2013, on an invitation of these villagers, some of the workers and peasants associated with Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee) had travelled 35 km to participate in their observation of Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day. At that time we were surprised to note that no attention whatsoever was being given to this more than a month-long and obviously determined agitation and no efforts had been made either by the administration or the company to resolve the issues.

On 1st April 2013 a serious accident transpired in the JK Laxmi Cement Plant. Three newly employed and inexperienced contractual employees were made to work in a deep pit in which they slipped and two were seriously injured. The contractors and management’s people in a state of panic simply got the pit filled in, burying the third dead worker – a dalit youth Tarun Banjare, and absconded. It was only when the picketing villagers came to the spot and raised a hue and cry that the local administration dug out the body of the dead worker.

The company and police claim that, two days later, on 4th April 2013 the agitating villagers entered the factory premises in hundreds and set fire to vehicles and materials. Crores of losses have been claimed. However, what exactly transpired requires to be properly and independently investigated. Immediately following the incident of arson, the entire area was cordoned off by heavy deployment of police and a large number of fire brigades from the Bhilai Steel Plant were immediately pressed into service to control the fire.

After the incident, in the intervening night of 4th and 5th April, the police had brutally rounded up and arrested almost all the males in village Malpuri Khurd, as well as 3 women who had been leading the month long agitation. It was the spirited demonstration of the women of the village, who came with babies in arms and squatted the whole of the next day before the Police Station Nandini, that led to 50 of the 97 villagers originally rounded up being released.

The young dalit leader of the more than month long picketing agitation – Virendra Kurre, an ex employee of the Bhilai Steel Plant who was terminated for union activities, was picked up at about 3 am on the night of the incident. He has been produced before a Magistrate and remanded to police custody for 8 days. As per the reports of journalists he appears to have been severely beaten.

The clout of the cement companies in Chhattisgarh is not a new thing, and in this particular area apart from the JK Laxmi Cement Plant, a base for the Indian Air Force is also being planned. Hence it is not surprising that the police and administration have decided to ruthlessly suppress the villagers’ agitation.

A team of the Sanyukt Trade Union Manch – a joint front of various trade unions including the CMM, TUCI and AICCTU – which had also investigated the accident of 1st April – is trying to help the villagers get proper legal aid.

 

#RIP – Comrade V. B. Cherian, President of the NTUI Kerala State Council


Comrade V B Cherian Lal Salaam!

Workers Unity Zindabad!

Inquilab Zindabad!

Comrade V. B. Cherian, Vice President of the NTUI and President of the
NTUI Kerala State Council passed away after a long fight with
ill-health in Kochi yesterday evening. He was 68 and is survived by
his wife, a daughter and a son and several thousand comrades in Kerala
and throughout the country.

VBC, like most of his generation, was active in the student movement
as the undivided Communist Party was coming apart. Trained as an
electrical engineer he joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist),
CPIM under the leadership of Com. EMS Namboodiripad.

He was a long standing fighter for trade union democracy and a
champion of the working class movement as the core of the communist
party. Even as the trade union was being divided up by the two
principal communist parties and the Centre for Indian Trade Union
(CITU) had just been formed, in the early 1970s he led the organising
of the Cochin Shipyard Employees Union as a union independent of both
the CPIM and the CITU. The understanding he brought to the
working-class movement was that when the left parties were divided,
the trade union had to be autonomous of the parties, since every
section of the working-class consists of multiple political tendencies
and therefore cannot be tied to the politics of any one party. He was
elected the first General Secretary of the Cochin Shipyard and
remained its President until his end. The union is an upstanding
example of militancy and democracy within the autonomous trade union
movement.

At one time considered a young-turk within the CPIM he was Political
Secretary to the Home Minister from 1980-81 when the position was
considered the key link between the party and the Left Front
Government. When the party went into opposition, VBC returned to trade
union work, organising unions in the Kalmassery-Kochi industrial belt.
In 1995 he was elected a National Secretary of the CITU.

He diverged strongly with the CPIM leadership on the question of
autonomy of the trade union from the party. He pressed hard on the
need for trade union democracy as the key to the building of a strong
and militant working class movement. He strongly argued that the trade
union had to occupy the opposition space in a capitalist society if
the rights of the working class has to be defended and advanced. For
this, he was charged with indulging in anti-party activity. He refused
to deny his association with the ‘Save CPIM Forum’ in the second-half
of the 1990s. He said ‘I cannot deny that I stand for democracy in the
organisation’. He was expelled from the party in 1998. The expulsion
dragged on until the Party Congress in 2003 and was in violation of
the party’s own rules. Following this he formed the ‘EMS-AKG People’s
Forum’ with over 2000 comrades and several unions that followed him
out of the CPIM. The forum sought to bring together like minded
members and former members of the CPIM. However this effort was less
successful since others were more interested in electoral politics
rather than the issue of lack of democracy in the party and trade
union they had all built together.  In 2007 the forum merged with the
Marxist Communist Party of India to form the Marxist Communist Party
of India United (MCPIU) of which VBC became a member of its politburo.
In the MCPIU, VBC successfully led the debate on the need for autonomy
of the trade union. The MCPIU, acknowledging the position, took a
decision to respect the democratic right of trade unions to decide on
their affiliation.

In 2006, soon after the formation of the NTUI, the unions under the
leadership of VBC joined the NTUI and rapidly guided the process of
forming the NTUI Kerala State Council in January 2007 which was the
first NTUI state council to be formed. For VBC the NTUI represented
the crystallisation of a trade union organisation that brought
together the militant, democratic and united spirit of the working
class. For him the principle of ensuring the co-existence of multiple
political tendencies and trade unions occupying the opposition space
were central to ensuring democracy in the working class movement. As
VBC guided and shaped the growth of the NTUI in Kerala he was guided
by the understanding that unless both regular and irregular workers
were united in struggle, the movement would always remain divided. In
this he laid an enormous emphasis on bringing migrant workers into the
union fold. The NTUI Kerala State Council was the participant in Asia
One – the Asia to Gaza Caravan – of 2010. For him these were struggles
not just about solidarity but important for building, within the
working class, the capacity to fight regionalism, nationalism,
discrimination and religious and other forms of bigotry within society
all of which capital uses to divide the working class. For these
values, even in the advance of the just concluded General Strike, he
continued his struggle not just to bring other autonomous unions in to
the NTUI but strived to build unity with other unions including the
AITUC and CITU.

For VBC everything was a fight against imperialism. He took his fight
against ill-health with the same energy that he brought to the
working-class movement. He sought seeking indigenous therapy over
patented multinational medicines. For him this was as much a product
of the scientificity of dilectical materialism.

His passing away is a loss to us in the NTUI as also to the working
class movement and the communist and other progressive movements in
the country.


New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)
B-137, First Floor, Dayanand Colony,
Lajpat Nagar IV,
New Delhi 110024
Telephone: +91 11 26214538
Telephone/ Fax: +91 11 26486931
Email: secretariat@ntui.org.in
Website: http://ntui.org.in

Right to Strike-Putting the agenda of the workers at the forefront.


Vol – XLVIII No. 09, March 02, 2013

India witnessed one of the largest mobilisations of its industrial and service sector workers in recent times when millions went on a two-day strike on 20 and 21 February to oppose the government’s economic policies and demand better working conditions. From reports in the mainstream press and from the trade unions and striking workers, it does appear that the strike saw a greater reach than before and made enough of an impact to make “the deaf hear”. This is amply evident in the manner in which striking workers were attacked in different parts of the country. It is also evident in the shrillness with which the mainstream press attacked the strike and high­lighted a few sporadic instances of violence by workers. There has been less discussion about the demands of the workers and more about the loss to the “country”. The business press, in a touching expression of concern, editorialised on the ­welfare of workers and advised them on how to better-meet their interests.

The demands of the strike include a minimum wage of Rs 10,000 a month, pension and social security for workers irrespective of whether they are in the organised or unorganised sector, the universalisation of the public distribution system to cushion against rampaging food inflation, equal wages and rights for contract and regular workers, the abolition of contract labour, the right to form unions and collective bargaining, an end to inflation, and enforcement of labour laws. It will be evident that each of these demands is a matter of life and death for workers today. This journal itself has carried, with tragic monotony, detailed reports and research on how working and living conditions have, at best, stagnated and, in most cases, declined, while the country’s gross domestic product has multiplied many times over and the living conditions of those at the top of the pyramid have improved visibly. Working hours have been steadily increased without any improvement in working conditions or wages. In their race to invite private capital, governments are doing their very best to keep labour costs depressed and labour relations “peaceful”. In reality, this only means that workers are being exploited more and have fewer platforms for redress.

This is not merely an unsustainable trajectory it also goes against the very fundamental rights of citizenship which are granted by our Constitution. It is therefore only right that workers are standing up to demand what is theirs and which has been denied to them repeatedly. A dispassionate appraisal of the workers’ demands indicates that, if granted, they would just about suffice for basic survival in present conditions. These cannot be begrudged by silly talk of “loss”; from precisely those very sections that are the most pampered with exemptions, subsidies and bailouts.

It is telling that the government has largely ignored this strike. It is a reminder of our political context that a few thousand people gathered to demand a Jan Lokpal Bill or gender justice can move the government and the mainstream media to hyperactivity, but many millions of workers demanding basic living conditions are ignored thus! This is not to deny the importance of the fight against corruption or for gender justice, but an acknowledgement of the fact that our freedoms and our politics are still very much defined by class relations. It was the repeated refusal of the government to accede to the demands of the workers that forced them to exercise their right to strike.

While the fundamental right to strike is necessary in such conditions, the larger failure of the strike despite its very success brings us to question the strategy of the trade unions and ask whether it was right to call for strike. It is increasingly evident that strike as a weapon in one factory, one sector or even one industrial cluster is often successful in providing workers ­immediate relief. However, this weapon seems to be losing its effect when deployed not in a targeted manner but over a ­larger geography of the country or state. Is it wise to expose the ultimate weapon of the working class to such corrosive contexts? Further, an overwhelming majority of India’s working people are either informal labour or self-employed, often both. Many of them work in conditions that render them substantively unfree as they remain indebted to their credit supplier. Does the strike call of the organised sector workers in such conditions help unite the working class or does it ­provide its enemies with a ready-made divisive tool? This is not an argument against the right to strike, rather a plea to think of new and innovative methods of class action by working people.

There has been a clear rightward shift in the mainstream political arena with the ruling Congress trying hard to ­appropriate many aspects of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda. In such conditions, growing working class activism is not ­only welcome but crucial to the survival of a democratic republic. The demands of the industrial strike of 20 and 21 February 2013 are just and should have been met without workers having to go on strike. However, this government, hitched as it is to the sentiments of private capital, is highly unlikely to accede to these demands. It is necessary therefore for industrial workers to build alliances with the struggles for livelihoods in all parts of the country.

#India -Republic based on illegal UID / NPR database will be totalitarian #Aadhaar


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Republic based on illegal UID/NPR database will be totalitarian

 

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Position Paper
January 2013
Unions join Parliamentary Committee & civil liberties groups to oppose UID/Aadhaar
 
Republic based on illegal UID/NPR database will be totalitarian
 
Apprehensions of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance Proven Right
 
Merger of electoral database with UID/NPR database, an invitation to despotism
 Trade Unions have joined the civil liberties groups and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that rejected the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 for giving post dated legal mandate to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to oppose Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number based on illegal and illegitimate collection of biometric data.
The opposition of Trade Unions against the retirement fund body Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO)’s autocratic decision to make submission of UID/Aadhaar mandatory for its over 50 million existing subscribers and new members has robust legal, legislative and citizens support. EPFO has issued an order to its field staff to mandatorily ask for UID/Aadhaar numbers from new members joining the scheme from March 1, 2013 and existing members by June 30, 2013.
EPFO trustees Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh General Secretary Baij Nath Rai and All India Trade Union Congress Secretary D L Sachdev  have expressed their opposed it questioning EPFO’s use of UID/Aadhaar number as unique account number of its members. Hind Mazdoor Sabha Secretary A D Nagpal has also expressed his reservations.
Initiatives based on UID/Aadhaar number and the UID/Aadhaar number has been rejected by the multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance comprising of Yashwant Sinha, Shivkumar Udasi Chanabasappa, Jayant Chaudhary, Harishchandra Deoram Chavan, Bhakta Charan Das, Gurudas Dasgupta, Nishikant Dubey, Chandrakant Khaire, Bhartruhari Mahtab, Anjan Kumar Yadav M, Prem Das Rai, Dr. Kavuru Sambasiva Rao, Rayapati S. Rao, Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy, Sarvey Sathyanarayana, G.M. Siddeswara, N. Dharam Singh, Yashvir Singh, Manicka Tagore, R. Thamaraiselvan, Dr. M. Thambidurai, S.S. Ahluwalia 24.  Vijay Jawaharlal Darda, Piyush Goyal, Raashid Alvi, Moinul Hassan, Satish Chandra Misra, Mahendra Mohan, Dr. Mahendra Prasad, Dr. K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao and Yogendra P. Trivedi.
In its report the PSC said, “The Committee have carefully examined the written information furnished to them and heard the views for and against the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill from various quarters such as  the  Ministry of Planning, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and experts.  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 as promulgation of an ordinance while one of the Houses of Parliament being in session.”
It observed in its recommendations, “The Committee observe that prima facie the issue of unique identification number, which has been referred to as “aadhaar number” to individuals residing in India and other classes of individuals under the Unique Identification (UID) Scheme is riddled with serious lacunae and concern areas which have been identified as follows:-
a)      The UID scheme has been conceptualized with no clarity of purpose and 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 scheme which was initially meant for BPL families has been extended for all residents in India and to certain other persons.  The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), constituted for the purpose of collating the two schemes namely, the UID and National Population Register (NPR), and to look into the methodology and specifying target for effective completion of the UID scheme, failed to take concrete decision on important issues such as (a) identifying the focused purpose of the resident identity database; (b) methodology of collection of data; (c) removing the overlapping between the UID scheme and NPR; (d) conferring of statutory authority to the UIDAI since its inception; (e) structure and functioning of the UIDAI; (f) entrusting the collection of data and issue of unique identification number and national identification number to a single authority instead of the present UIDAI and its reconciliation with National Registration Authority;
b)      The need for conferring of statutory authority to the UIDAI felt by the Government way back in November, 2008, but was deferred for more than two years for no reason.   In this regard,  the Ministry of Planning have informed the Committee that till the time Parliament passes the NIDAI Bill, crucial matters impinging on security and confidentiality of information will be covered by the relevant laws.  The Committee are at a loss to understand as to how the UIDAI, without statutory power, could address key
issues concerning their basic functioning and initiate proceedings against the defaulters and penalize them;
c)      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;
d)     Continuance of various existing forms of identity and the requirement of furnishing „other documents‟ for proof of address, even after issue of aadhaar number, would render the claim made by the Ministry that aadhaar number is to be used as a general proof of identity and proof of address meaningless;
e)      In addition to aadhaar numbers being issued by the UIDAI, the issuance of smart cards containing information of the individuals by the registrars is not only a duplication but also leads to ID fraud as prevalent in some countries; and
f)       The full or near full coverage of marginalized sections for issuing aadhaar numbers could not be achieved mainly owing to two reasons viz. (i) the UIDAI doesn‟t have the statistical data relating to them; and (ii) estimated failure of biometrics is expected to be as high as 15% due to a large chunk of population being dependent on manual labour.
The PSC report observed, “The Committee are also unhappy to observe that the UID scheme lacks clarity on many issues such as even the basic purpose of issuing “aadhaar” number.  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 is also not clear as to whether possession of aadhaar number would be made mandatory in future for availing of benefits and services.   Even if the aadhaar number links entitlements to targeted beneficiaries, it may not ensure that beneficiaries have been correctly identified.  Thus, the present problem of proper identification would persist.”
It also observed, “Though there are significant differences between the identity system of other countries and the UID scheme, yet there are lessons from the global experience to be learnt  before proceeding with the implementation of the UID scheme, which the Ministry of Planning have ignored completely.  For instance, the United Kingdom shelved its Identity Cards Project for a number of reasons, which included:- (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.  In this context, the Report of the London School of Economics‟ Report on UK‟s Identity Project inter-alia states that “…..identity systems may create a range of new and unforeseen problems……the risk of failure in the current proposals is therefore magnified to the point where the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal rights of individuals”.  As these findings are very much relevant and applicable to the UID scheme, they should have been seriously considered.”
“The Committee note that the Ministry of Planning have 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 also note that Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the UID Scheme has been done much later in April, 2011.  The Committee thus strongly disapprove of the hasty manner in which the UID scheme has been approved.  Unlike many other schemes / projects, no comprehensive feasibility study, which ought to have been done before approving such an expensive scheme, has been done involving all aspects of the UID scheme including cost-benefit analysis, comparative costs of aadhaar number and various forms of existing identity, financial implications and prevention of identity theft, for example, using hologram enabled ration card to eliminate fake and duplicate beneficiaries.
“The Committee are afraid that the scheme may end up being dependent on private agencies, despite contractual agreement made by the UIDAI with several private vendors.  As a result, the beneficiaries may be forced to pay over and above the charges to be prescribed by the UIDAI for availing of benefits and services, which are now available free of cost.”
“The Committee find that the scheme is full of uncertainty in technology as the complex scheme is built up on untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions.  Further, despite adverse observations by the UIDAI‟s Biometrics Standards Committee on error rates of biometrics, the UIDAI is collecting the biometric information.   It is also not known as to whether the proof of concept studies and assessment studies undertaken by the UIDAI  have explored the possibilities of maintaining accuracy to a large level of enrolment of 1.2 billion people.  Therefore, considering the possible limitations in applications of technology available now or in the near future, the Committee would believe that it is unlikely that the proposed objectives of the UID scheme could be achieved.”
“The Committee feel that entrusting the responsibility of verification of information of individuals to the registrars to ensure that only genuine residents get enrolled into the system may have far reaching consequences for national security.  Given the limitation of any mechanism such as a security audit by an appropriate agency that would be setup for verifying the information etc., it is not sure as to whether complete verification of information of all aadhaar number holders is practically feasible; and whether it would deliver the intended results without compromising national security.”
The PSC report which has been submitted to the Parliament is available at
In a related development it was reported on October 6, 2011 that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wrote to the Prime Minister questioning the need for National Population Register (NPR) by Registrar General of India & Census Commissioner, Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Gujarat stopped collection of biometric data for creation of the NPR.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Modi raised objections over both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is creating Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number and Registrar General of India, which is creating the NPR, collecting biometric data.
In his letter to Manmohan Singh, Modi wrote, “there is no mention of capturing biometrics in the Citizenship Act or Citizenship Rules 2009”. He added, “In the absence of any provision in the Citizenship Act, 1955, or rules for capturing biometrics, it is difficult to appreciate how the capture of biometrics is a statutory requirement. Photography and biometrics is only mentioned in the Manual of Instructions for filling up the NPR household schedule and even in that there is no mention of capturing the Iris”.
After Gujarat stopped collection of biometric data, the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram sent a letter to Modi in August 2011 pointing out that creation of the NPR was a “statutory requirement” under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and “once initialized, has to be necessarily completed”. The Union Minister of Home Affairs had also requested the CM to instruct state government officers to cooperate in creation of the NPR.
This was when the entire media, the citizens and the political class was hoodwinked into believing that there was a rift between Nandan Manohar Nilekani’s UIDAI under Planning Commission and Dr C Chandramouli’s NPR under Union Minsitry of Home Affairs.
It appears that in order to reveal Modi chose to side with UIDAI in an apparent rebuff to Chidambaram. Modi kicked off UID/Adhaar project in Gujarat on May 1, 2012 by giving his biometric information for his UID number and enrolled under the UIDAI project. Strangely, Modi did not object to his biometric identification under UID as he did with regard to NPR. Modi did so despite the fact that Yashwant Sinha headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance has rejected the UID project and the UID Bill in its report to the Parliament on December 13, 2012. However, it may be noted that one sentence of its report appears to endorse biometric NPR. Is it a case of Sinha trying to side with Chidambaram? It appears that Modi has been taken for ride with regard to the UID/Aadhaar and Sinha with regard to NPR as they failed to see through the strategy.
Now it is clear that the staged rift that was created between Home Ministry and Planning Commission’ UIDAI on UID and NPR was motivated and was meant to take legislatures, citizens, States and media for a ride.
The Terms of Reference No. 8 of Planning Commission’s notification dated January 28, 2009 that created Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in pursuance of the 4th meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers, states, “Take necessary steps to ensure collation of NPR and UID (as per approved strategy)”.
The rift that led to division of work between UIDAI and Home Ministry’s Registrar General of India & Census Commissioner and the movement of P Chidambaram from Home Ministry to Finance Ministry appears to be as per the approved strategy. The strategy document prepared by WIPRO Ltd is missing.
As per the communication from UIDAI dated July 2, 2010 which states that “The decision for appointment of Chairman was conveyed by the Cabinet Secretariat” The Planning Commission’s notification (which was to be published in the Gazette of India) dated July 2, 2009 reveals that “the competent authority has approved the appointment of Nandan Nilekani, Co-Chairman, INFOSYS as Chairperson, Unique Identification Authority of India, in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister. Nilekani will hold appointment for an initial tenure of five years”. The notification shows that a copy was marked to Nilekani, CEO, President & MD, Infosys Technologies Ltd., Corporate Headquarters besides the Secretary Generals of Secretariats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. This was before the UID Bill (The National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010) was introduced in the Parliament and rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in its report to the Parliament in December 13, 2011.
It is noteworthy that National Population Register (NPR) for Multi-purpose Identity Card (MNIC), Unique Identification /Aadhaar Number, UID/Aadhaar-Enabled E-payment system, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), DNA Profiling, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Information Utility, Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, Electronic Services Delivery Law, amendments in Information Technology Act, Land Titling Bill, unified E payment infrastructure etc are related and are in line with the policy of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and World Bank’s eTransform Initiative. None of the above programmes and subordinate legislations have legislative mandate.
Given a choice between leakage or theft of citizens database of sensitive personal information and leakage of public distribution system and delivery social welfare services what would be be chosen and which can be plugged more easily. Recently, database of Greece has been stolen as per Reuters and the database of Pakistan and Egypt has been handed over to US as per the diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks.
In UID/Aadhaar Enrolment Form, Column 9 reads: “I have no objection to the UIDAI sharing information provided by me to the UIDAI with agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services”. In front of this column, there is a “Yes” and “No” option. Irrespective of what option residents of India exercise (which is being ticked automatically by the enroler in any case as of now), the fact is this information being collected for creating Centralized Identity Data Register (CIDR) and NPR (column 7) will be handed over to biometric technology companies like Satyam Computer Services/Sagem Morpho, L1 Identities Solutions and Accenture Services of all shades who have already been awarded contracts.
A letter written to Election Commission of India and Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance that has rejected the UID Bill underlined the ILLEGALITY OF MERGER OF UID-AADHAAR-NPR LINKED CONTRACTS, VOTER ID, EVM, CASH TRANSFER ETC was shared with the media persons. But the way BJP has reacted to UID based cash transfer in a very procedural manner instead of engage with it in a substantive way appears to signal witting or unwitting collusion between both BJP and Congress with regard to UID and NPR otherwise how is it that all the NDA and UPA ruled States are implementing UID and NPR quite obediently. The non-NDA and non-UPA parties have failed to apply their legal minds to it the way they did in the case of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). So far they have failed to appreciate that UID, NPR, NCTC and National Intelligence Grid is linked and is being linked with Census and Voters’ database.
Unmindful of threat to federalism most States including Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal  have signed a MoU with UIDAI. Surprisingly, the States which were quite vocal about threats to federal structure from Union Home Ministry‘s National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) that integrates 21 sets of databases have been caught unawares by the creation of UID’s Centralized Identities Data Register (CIDR) disregarding the fact that Planning Commission’s CIDR and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) is going to be converged.
It is indeed unfortunate that the State Governments and Central Government has chosen to listen to consultants who are more interested in making a quick sale of their biometric, identification and surveillance technology products. The ways in which compromised biometrics can be of inordinate danger to the person whose biometrics have been stolen due to mishandling or improper understanding of the ways in which digital systems can be misused and abused has been visualized in an article authored by a pioneer in biometric identity systems merits attention. The same has been published in The New York Times on November 10, 2012.
UID- Aadhaar based cash transfer scheme anti poor. The claim that Central Government’s UID -Aadhaar will result in the savings is suspect unless Prime Minister’s Office and Planning Commission study revealed the total budget UID-Aadhaar project. The Prime Minister’s Office must declare its total budget Aadhaar project before disbursing cash transfer through UIDAI platform for all major government schemes.
UID-Aadhaar based cash transfer is being started off when bank accounts still don’t exist for everyone, especially those who the government claims to want to target; when the institution of banking correspondents has been tried and has admittedly failed; when the proof of concepts on biometrics has demonstrated that it is still an under-tested technology; when even the projected coverage of the aadhaar is half the population (600 million) by 2014. The government is impatient to shift to cash transfer as is being recommended by intergovernmental banking agencies such as the World Bank; and the evidence of probable failure is not to be heeded in this haste. The Bank’s paper dated October 2012 reveals that cash transfer and vote purchase is linked.
A “Strategic Vision on the UIDAI Project” was prepared and submitted to this Committee by M/S Wipro Ltd (Consultant for the design phase and program management phase of the Pilot UIDAI project). It envisaged the close linkage that the UIDAI would have to the electoral database. The Committee also appreciated the need of a UIDAI Authority to be created by an executive order under the aegis of the Planning Commission to ensure a pan-departmental and neutral identity for the authority and at the same time enable a focused approach to attaining the goals set for the XI Plan. The Seventh Meeting of the Process Committee on 30 August 2007 decided to furnish to the Planning commission a detailed proposal based on the resource model for seeking its “in principle” approval.  At the same time, the Registrar General of India was engaged in the creation of the National Population Register and issuance of Multi-purpose National Identity Cards to citizens of India. Reference: http://uidai.gov.in/about-uidai.html
It is noteworthy that Election Commission’s website carries a power point presentation that concludes by stating ‘Makes us UID ready’. It has come to light that Union Home Ministry has sought a proposal from the Election Commission of India and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), will ensure that UID-Aadhaar does not duplicate the data that is collected and used by the Election Commission. Dr S Y Quraishi as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) revealed to a newspaper that, “With the UID project already completing the biometric process under its umbrella, by scanning fingerprints and retina scan, we have approached the Centre to merge the Election ID cards with UID.” He added, “We will have the unique identification numbers provided by the UID printed on the election IDs…With over 750 million people registered with the EC, we have the largest data base to help the UID project.” It may be noted that the Nilekani had approached the Election Commission for accessing their data base and voters list for preparing the UID database.
It is quite disturbing that the Parliament has not been informed so far about the ongoing merger of UID, NPR and electoral database when it examined the UID Bill.  This constitutes commission of a series of illegalities and acts of unwarranted subordinate legislation.
It has come to light that head of UIDAI was given ID Limelight Award at the ID WORLD International Congress in Italy. This year the 10th edition of the ID WORLD International Congress is planned in Milan, Italy during November 2-4. The key sponsors of Congress include Morpho (Safran group), a French multinational corporation specializing in ID credentials solutions incorporating biometrics application in passports, visas, ID documents, health and social benefits, elections, etc. Its subsidiary, Sagem Morpho Security Pvt. Ltd has been awarded contract for the purchase of Biometric Authentication Devices on February 2, 2011 by the UIDAI.
Earlier, on July 30, 2010, in a joint press release, it was announced that “the Mahindra Satyam and Morpho led consortium has been selected as one of the key partners to implement and deliver the Aadhaar program by UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India).” This means that at least two contracts have been awarded to the French conglomerate led consortium.  Is it a coincidence that Morpho (Safran group) sponsored the award to Chairman, UIDAI and the former got a contract from the latter?
Incidentally, Nilekani was given the award at the ID WORLD International Congress in 2010 held in Milan from November 16 to 18, 2010. One of the two Platinum Sponsors was Morpho (Safran group), a French high-technology company with three core businesses: Aerospace, Defense and Security.  Coincidentally, this Global Summit on Automatic Identification in 2009 had awarded Tariq Malik, Deputy Chairman of Islamabad based National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) too for implementing UID project in Pakistan.
Nilekani was given the award “For being the force behind a transformational project ID project in India…and “to provide identification cards for each resident across the country and would be used primarily as the basis for efficient delivery of welfare services. It would also act as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the Government.”  Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) contends that there is a conflict of interest and it appears to be an act done in lieu of the contract.
It may been noted that UIDAI awarded contracts to three companies namely, Satyam Computer Services Ltd. (Mahindra Satyam), as part of a “Morpho led consortium”, L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company and Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd of USA for the “Implementation of Biometric Solution for UIDAI” on July 30, 2010.
It is alarming to note that Davinder Kumar, Deputy Director General, UIDAI will have residents/ citizens of India believe that the three transnational biometric technology companies working with foreign intelligence agencies namely:1) Mahindra Satyam Computer Services/Sagem Morpho, 2) L1 Identities Solutions and 3) Accenture Services who have been awarded contracts by UIDAI that “There are no  means to verify whether the said companies are of US origin or not” in a reply to Right to Information (RTI) application dated 21st July, 2011. This is quite a stark act of omission and commission that is likely to put residents of India under surveillance using delivery of public services as fish bait forever. The RTI reply is attached. Didn’t Nilekani know the country of origin of the award and their sponsors who were awarded contract by UIDAI prior to taking the award?
UIDAI officials like Nilekani and Davinder Kumar the “means to verify” the country of the origin of three companies in questions.  The first company Morpho’s website is
http://www.morpho.com/qui-sommes-nous/implantations-internationales/morpho-en-inde/?lang=en

It Press Release at http://www.morpho.com/evenements-et-actualites-348/presse/mahindra-satyam-and-morpho-selected-to-deliver-india-s-next-generation-unique-identification-number-program?lang=en reveal its partnership with Mahindra Satyam. Its parent company’s website is www.safran-group.com

The second company, L1 Identities Solutions is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, U.S website and its press releases at http://ir.l1id.com/releases.cfm?header=news reveal that the company received $24.5 Million in Purchase Orders in the Initial Phase of India’s Unique Identification Number Program for Certified Agile TP(TM) Fingerprint Slap Devices and Mobile-Eyes(TM) Iris Cameras. http://ir.l1id.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=509971). Robert V. LaPenta, Chairman, President and CEO of L-1 Identity Solutions said, “We are encouraged by the strong demand we have seen in the first phase of this program for our state-of-the-art fingerprint and iris products. Our devices are receiving high marks from our customers and we believe a large number of L-1 live scans and iris cameras will continue to be ordered throughout the enrollment phase.” This was on September 22, 2010.

On July 19, 2011, L-1 Identity Solutions and Safran, Paris announced that in connection with the pending acquisition of L-1 by Safran, the parties have reached a final agreement on the terms of a definitive mitigation agreement with the United States government. L-1 and Safran were notified by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on July 19, 2011 that the investigation of the merger transaction is complete and that there are no unresolved national security concerns with respect to the transaction. With CFIUS approval for the merger, and having satisfied all other conditions required prior to closing, the parties intend to complete the merger transaction within the next five business days. Robert V. LaPenta, Chairman, President and CEO of L-1 Identity Solutions said, “The combination of L-1 and Safran Morpho with our complementary technologies, markets and promising synergies will result in the leading worldwide-wide provider of identity solutions today and into the future.”
As a consequence of Safran’s purchase of L-1 Identity Solutions, the de-duplication contracts of UIDAI’s CIDR and Home Ministry’s NPR which was given to two companies on July 30, 2010, both contracts are with one company now.
It seems to be a surveillance movement based on global ID card. Commenting on the merger of the two biometric technology companies, Mark Lerner, the author of the book “Your Body is Your ID” says, “Safran is a French company, 30% owned by the French government”. Safran has a 40 year partnership with China in the aerospace and the security sectors too.
The third company, Accenture, a US company headquartered in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. It won US Department of Homeland Security’s contract for five years to design and implement the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program based on biometric technology for checking identities of foreigners visiting USA.  The contract includes five base years plus five option years mandated by U.S. Congress for Smart Border Alliance project.  It is one of the main privatized gatekeepers of US borders.
Now will UIDAI and Home Ministry explain whether or not they blundered in giving contracts to these above mentioned companies? Feigning ignorance about their country of origin is not a pardonable act for sure.
At a lecture on November 23, 2012 UIDAI Chairperson talked about a gigantic naming ceremony underway-mankind’s biggest biometric database ever and ominously stated that if you do not have the Aadhaar card you will not get the right to rights. UID is like a financial address for the people. The question is if Aadhaar card is only an identifier of residents of India how does it accord to itself an inherent right to approve or disapprove rights of citizens to have rights? He mentioned the October 2012 report of the Report of the Justice A P Shah headed Group of Experts on Privacy but ignored the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and Statement of Concern on UID that Justice Shah had co-signed. When UIDAI Chairperson acknowledged that privacy is larger than Aadhaar and says that legal framework will even out the design risks, he took the audience for ride because while the legal framework for both the UID and Privacy is absent the implementation of UID and NPR is unfolding illegally and illegitimately.
It has been noted that the name Aadhaar is linked to the NGO of Nilekani that worked in the matter of Bangalore Agenda Task Force from 1999 to 2004.
It is clear that the Prime Minister is putting the cart before the horse, how does Privacy Bill make sense when privacy of citizens is already violated through UID related tracking and profiling system being implemented.
Parliament and citizens have not been informed so far about the ongoing merger of UID, NPR and electoral database when it examined the UID Bill.  This constitutes commission of a series of illegalities and acts of unwarranted subordinate legislation.
Planning Commission’s claim of Rs 1, 10, 000 crore of savings from unique identification (UID)-Aadhaar and the Parliamentary Committee’s Report on UID/Aadhaar Bill submitted to the Parliament which found the UID-Aadhaar scheme questionable on several counts including the fact that it is irrational to claim savings without disclosing the total budget of the UID and UID related projects. The budgetary allocation for UIDAI is acting like a sink for public money. All claims of benefits are suspect as long as total cost is presented to the Parliament and citizens.
In the face of such assault on Parliament’s prerogative, State’s autonomy, citizens’ rights and the emergence of a regime that is making legislatures subservient to database and data mining companies, the urgent intervention of the PSC, Parliament, States, political parties and citizens cannot be postponed anymore.
In a significant development, the Writ Petition (Civil) of Justice K S Puttaswamy, former judge of the Karnataka High Court was heard on November 30, 2012 before Hon’ble Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar echoing some of the concerns raised by seventeen eminent citizens like Justice V R Krishna, Justice A P Shah, Prof. Upendra Baxi and the findings of the Parliamentary Standing on Finance in the matter of the implementation of world biggest ever biometric data based identification exercise. The bench issued an order in the case of Justice Puttaswamy (retd) VERSUS Union of India saying, “Issue notice on the writ petition as also on the prayer for interim relief. Leave is given to the petitioners to add additional grounds.”
The petition refers to a letter of a member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Justice M. Rama Jois, addressed a letter to the Prime Minister in this regard on 19.01.2011 pointing out to the constitutional impropriety of issuing Aadhar Numbers even when the Bill aforesaid was pending before the parliament. But surprisingly, to the said letter, he received a reply dated January 29, 2011 simply stating that the Prime Minister has received his letter without replying to the points raised in his letter.
 Justice Puttaswamy is a former Judge of the Karnataka High Court since 1977 and after retirement he was Vice Chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal, Bangalore Bench, Bangalore. He was Chairman of Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal, Hyderabad and also Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Backward Class Commission. The petitioner wants that the executive and legislature must function within the frame work of the Constitutional provisions so that Government “does not circumvent the legislature to avoid discussion, debate and voting in the Parliament and thereby render the legislature redundant or purposeless.”
The writ petition submitted, “the petitioner states that collecting Biometric information as a condition precedent for the issue of Aadhar number is an invasion of the right to privacy of citizens and therefore this can be done only by the law enacted by the Parliament and beyond the executive power.”
Taking note of the fact that “Aadhar number is issued under Section 3 of the (UID) Bill to a non citizen on the ground that he is residing in this Country, he becomes entitled to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution as fundamental rights under Article 14 and 21 are available to all persons in India and consequently also right to a remedy under Article 32 of the constitution of India”, the petition submits, “it is a matter of great security concern for the nation also. When such is the magnitude of the provisions of the Bill, still it is sought to be implemented by the exercise of executive power without any discussion, debate and the approval by both the Houses of the Parliament.”
The petition asks the Supreme Court, “what is the contours of the executive powers of the Central Government under Article 73 and whether the executive power vested in the Union can be exercised so as to adversely affect the fundamental right to privacy and in a manner so as to bye-pass the legislative power of the Parliament? And render the Bill Purposeless. “The petitioners are constrained to state that the subject matter involved in the Bill is of serious consequences to the right to privacy of the citizens of the Country and also right to secrecy of their personal matter and involves colossal expenditure to the Union.”
It asks “whether the executive power could be used in a manner so as to make the legislative power redundant or in other words, whether by the exercise of executive power, the executive can circumvent the Parliament? However, having regard to the far reaching importance of the matter which is highly controversial and involves colossal expenditure, which is sure to become a waste if and when the Parliament rejects the Bill, or for any reason the scheme becomes impracticable rendering the enormous money spent till then a National Waste.”
The petition prays Hon’ble Supreme Court for issuance of “a writ in the nature of mandamus restraining the respondents from issuing Aadhaar Numbers by way of implementing its executive order dated 28.01.2009 which tantamount to implementing the provisions of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 pending before the Parliament until and unless the said Bill is considered and passed by the parliament and becomes an Act of parliament.” On the grounds that “The scheme formulated by the Central Government in its notification dated 28.01.2009 constituting Unique Identification Authority of India [UIDAI] and authorizing it to issue aadhaar numbers which adversely affect the fundamental right to privacy flowing from Article 21 of the constitution, cannot be implemented unless it becomes a law enacted by the Parliament.”
On the ground that “When the Government has introduced the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in the Rajya Sabha for the same purpose for which the executive order dated 28.01.2009 was issued, and the same has been rejected by the Standing Committee, Finance, to which it was referred, can still implement its executive order without bringing the Bill for consideration before the Parliament for purpose of discussion, debate and passing by it and before it became an Act of parliament.”
It may be noted that three UID related petitions are pending in the High Courts in Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra as well.
Given the fact that convergence of citizens’ personal sensitive information is being converged and is making right to have citizens’ rights dependent on State’s whims and fancies at the behest of ungovernable technology companies, States must un-sign the MoUs they have signed with the UIDAI whose legality is questionable to protect the rights of the citizens of their respective States. Although belated legislative assemblies, councils, panchayati raj institutions, Gram Sabhas, universities etc must examine the illegality and illegitimacy of biometric data based identifications of citizens and put a stay on the implementation of UID and NPR related projects.
Political parties, citizens groups and media houses concerned about public interest ought to consider deploying legal minds to examine the questionable nature of world’s biggest biometric database (UID-NPR initiatives) to protect the democratic rights of the present and future generations.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), New Delhi, Mb:  9818089660, E-mail: krishna1715@gmail.com
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) has been campaigning against unregulated biometric, surveillance and identification technology companies since 2010 and had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Finance in this regard. CFCL has consistently underlined that the silence of the States which are quite vocal about threats to federal structure from Union Home Ministry‘s National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) that integrates 21 sets of databases in the matter of the creation of UID’s Centralized Identities Data Register (CIDR) disregarding the fact that Planning Commission’s CIDR and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) is inexplicable.

 

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