Monday, May 7, 2012

India Moving Ahead With Universal Biometric ID Program Despite Growing Concern

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
May 6, 2012

Only three months ago, I wrote an article entitled “Cashless Society: India Implements First Biometric ID Program for all of its 1.2 Billion Residents,” where I discussed the implementation of a relatively new policy in India geared toward the creation of a massive biometric identification database for all 1.2 billion Indian residents.

The system consists of fingerprints, iris scans, and facial photographs - information which will be attached to a Unique Identification Number to be referenced when combined with the traditional methods of identification and included on the chip-enhanced National ID card.

Thankfully, after some time with little or no opposition, the UID program is receiving a bit more attention in the mainstream press as well as from privacy protection organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation which recently produced an excellent article entitled, “Growing Mistrust of India’s Biometric ID Scheme,” which reaffirms everything I had previously written.

Although the program is allegedly voluntary, as I have written on numerous occasions in the past, the mask of being “voluntary” is inevitably removed after the program has been in place for a set amount of time, particularly as more and more people begin to participate or as the government gradually forces more and more to participate for one reason or another. Eventually what was once voluntary always becomes mandatory. In addition, it always carries with it the full force of the State backing the change.

As the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) writes, it appears the only reason the program is “voluntary” at all (even though it is voluntary in name only) is because the original statutory mandate for the UID was defeated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.

Regardless, the UID plan will become universal if for no other reason than the fact that major banks, government offices, and corporations have announced plans to require the UID for access to services. By its very nature, this will force many of the nation’s poor and working citizens to capitulate.

However, as reported in the EFF article, the Indian Government is not to leave the biometric databasing of its people to the natural pace of destruction that would unfortunately take place as a result of the UID. Instead, India is simultaneously implementing yet another biometric ID program which is virtually identical to the UID. It is called the NPR (National Population Register).

The NPR, which has been moving steadily forward since 2004 with relatively little public opposition, began with an amendment to the Citizenship Act which read that “the Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue National Identity Card[s].”

However, Indian journalist Aman Sethi has suggested that the history of the NPR goes back even further than the Citizenship Act. He claims the NPR can be traced as far back as 1992 to a campaign aimed at deported Bangladeshi immigrants.

As Rebecca Bowe of the EFF writes:
The NPR program's stated objectives are to streamline the delivery of government services such as welfare or subsidies, prevent identity fraud, and facilitate economic development, but some critics contend that the plan has its roots in an agenda focused on national security. Indian journalist Aman Sethi argues in a New York Times Op-Ed that the NPR originated with a 1992 government campaign to deport undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants, and that the creation of a comprehensive identity database was intended 'exclusively to assist law enforcement.' And while UID was originally created to target India’s poorest 200 million citizens to facilitate service delivery, it has since been expanded to cover the country’s entire population.
The program most definitely has its roots in the excuse of “national security.” In fact, it has been admitted that the UID program, although supposedly separate from the NPR, will be used by intelligence agencies to monitor, “bank transactions, cellphone purchases and the movements of individuals and groups suspected of fomenting terrorism.”

Note also that when the program began, it was directed solely at illegal immigrants. Gradually, it was expanded to aid law enforcement in specific instances. Eventually, as is always the case, it was extended to include everyone. This is the typical method of gradualism that has never failed to usher in police state measures on an unsuspecting public, regardless of the country. In fact, there are recent indications that this is exactly what is happening in the U.S. under the supposed border control measures implemented by the program Secure Communities.

Considering the open attempts by the United States government to implement biometric National ID cards as well as programs such as IDENT and NGI domestically, such encroachment by stealth, even when across the world, should serve as a dire warning to American citizens. After all, IDENT and NGI themselves have been introduced by using the excuse of aiding law enforcement and Border Patrol in catching and deporting illegal immigrants. How long will it be before the programs are extended outward include everyone else?

Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville here.
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