World Bank Group bulldozing India's Aadhaar Surveillance project

World Bank Group have succeeded in their dataveillance projects to mine national data wealth for surveillance capitalists and their governments in myriad disguises.

According to Concise Oxford dictionary, surveillance means 'close observation, especially of a suspected person'. Wittingly or unwittingly the ruling parties in India are facilitating surveillance of the nation, citizens and the national assets by transnational actors—with impunity. Out of colossal ignorance, opposition parties are increasingly complicit in it.

If World Bank Group is not the master of language being used in the world economy then who else is? Is it the “financial Interpol” as well? The body which undertakes financial surveillance is a “financial Interpol” for sure. Now it is increasingly apparent that it aims to undertake "electoral surveillance" as well.

An official publication of World Bank Group’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) reveals, “Surveillance, a central pillar of IMF activities and responsibilities in the modern era, is not an easy concept to grasp.”

Jacob A Frenkel, an official of IMF is quoted as arguing that this word ‘surveillance’ should be made to sound benign. It “should give way to concepts of cooperation, partnership, and consultation; of bringing on board the rest of the world’s considerations.”

By 2013, at least citizens of 35 countries and their heads know exactly what ‘surveillance’ means. It does sound terrible. Both National Security Agency (NSA) of the US and World Bank Group have a different and benevolent sounding meaning in mind.

It may be recalled that Pranab Mukherjee was deeply engaged with the World Bank in various roles from 1982 to 1985. Notably, it was Mukherjee who formed Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and announced its setting up during the 2009-10 budget speech. He was the Finance Minister from 24 January 2009 to 26 June 2012. In fact, it is remarkable that within four days of taking over as Finance Minister, he got the UIDAI notified on 28 January 2009 by the Planning Commission. In all likelihood, he was part of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) too, which took a decision about the formation of UIDAI on 4 November 2008.

It may recalled that while presenting the Union Budget in 2011-12, Mukherjee, the then Union Finance Minister informed the Lok Sabha that Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP) headed by Nandan Nilekani, chairman, UIDAI has submitted its report dated 31 January 2011 and its recommendations have been accepted in principle. As a consequence the sovereign function of tax collection is all set to be handed over to an entity called National Information Utility (NIU), which will be a private company with a public purpose and with profit making as the motive but not profit maximizing. This is yet another lesson either in language or in linguistic corruption.

Earlier, it must be recalled that on 11 January 2011, Business Standard reported that “India has sought an assessment under the Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. “India did a self-assessment (by the Committee on Financial Sector Assessment, or CFSA) of its financial sector in 2009. This has given us the confidence to get our financial sector evaluated by international financial institutions like IMF and the World Bank. We have voluntarily sought a full-fledged Financial Sector Assessment Programme,” the then finance minister Mukherjee said at the second International Finance Conference at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta. This is an admission of the fact that India has subjected itself to the surveillance principles and procedures of IMF. By now Indians know how tricky the use of word ‘voluntary’ is when the Bank is involved in any way.

Mukherjee's presidential speech used to link welfare services to biometric Aadhaar/UID disregarding its illegitimacy and unconstitutionality.

Under the influence of World Bank Group, the Government of India has been pushing for PAN-Aadhaar linkage in the name of saving the country from the embarrassment of incorrect reporting as part of the nation’s Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and Common Reporting Standard obligations. Now it has come to light that that PAN-Aadhaar linkage destroys tax history and makes benami taxpayers indistinguishable from those who have been paying taxes for decades before 2014. A research paper reveals that UID/Aadhaar requirement to issue PAN violates the Income Tax Act that requires the PAN be issued by the Income Tax Officer. It creates a compelling logic for deleting Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act and all acts and rules that have notified the use of UID/Aadhaar. Supreme Court's verdicts Aadhaar Act is yet to be decided further by a yet to be set up 7-Judge Bench because admittedly some gnawing constitutional questions have remained unanswered so far.

Although it has been over 11 years since the UID/Aadhaar project was formally launched and three years have passed since the verdict on the right to privacy was delivered, the promised law to safeguard citizen's right to privacy and data protection has not been enacted as yet.

The estimated total budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project has not been disclosed despite demand for it while seeking cost: benefit analysis. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed?

It is evident that anonymous donors and international financial institutions like the World Bank Group have succeeded in their dataveillance projects to mine national data wealth for surveillance capitalists and their governments in myriad disguises.

Do opposition parties have the political courage to make it an electoral issue in national interest or do they agree that SURVEILLANCE means “cooperation, partnership, and consultation”?

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