BBC News – Aadhaar: ‘Leak’ in world’s biggest database worries Indians

Indian officials in charge of a controversial biometric identity scheme have filed a police complaint after a report that citizens’ personal details were being sold for as little as 500 rupees ($7.8;£5.8) online.

New Delhi-India, 5 January 2018. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) wants a probe into “unauthorised access” to its database.

But it said biometric data was safe.

The Tribune newspaper claimed that it bought user details via an “agent” advertising his services on WhatsApp.

The report is the latest revelation against the UIDAI biometric system known as Aadhaar, which means foundation.

It said that once it paid the “agent”, its reporters were given a username and password that allowed them to enter any Aadhaar number into the UIDAI website and get access to user information including name, address, photo, phone number and email address.

The report added that payment of a further 300 rupees provided “software” that allowed them to print out any Aadhaar card for which they had the number.

The UIDAI says the breach seems to be a misuse of a grievance redressal scheme that allowed Aadhaar agents to rectify issues like a change in address and wrong spelling of a person’s name.

However, it added that the scheme did not grant access to people’s biometric details.

The revelations in the report made headlines in India, with many on social media expressing concern over the security of their personal data.

Aadhaar started out as a voluntary programme to help tackle benefit fraud, but recently it has been made mandatory for access to welfare schemes.

Critics have repeatedly warned that the scheme puts personal information at risk” and have criticised government efforts to compulsorily link it to bank accounts and mobile phone numbers.

The government has always insisted that the biometric data is “safe and secure in encrypted form”, and anybody found guilty of leaking data can be jailed and fined.

A case challenging its mandatory linking to schemes and bank accounts is pending before the country’s Supreme Court.


The Tribune – More protests against FIR, UIDAI officials under fire

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 8 January 2018. Upping the ante against the Centre for the FIR against The Tribune over the Aadhaar data breach story, the media fraternity, farmer unions and political parties today demanded that action should be taken against the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) officials who had failed to protect private data.

Leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Khaira said this act of the Narendra Modi government had reminded him of the Emergency, when every voice of dissent was muzzled.

Calling the registration of a cheating case against The Tribune, its Jalandhar-based reporter Rachna Khaira and others as an attack on the freedom of the Press, members of the Chandigarh Press Club and others from the media fraternity held a protest here.

Kuljit Bains, The Tribune’s Chief of Bureau (Panjab), told the gathering how the investigation was carried out responsibly in public interest by the newspaper. He said there had been several attempts to intimidate The Tribune in the past, but the organisation had a long history of fighting back.

“This (FIR) is an attempt to browbeat a journalist who has done a report in great public interest,” said Chandigarh Press Club president Jaswant Rana. Later, a memorandum was submitted to Governor V P Singh Badnore, seeking the withdrawal of the FIR.

In a press release, the Chandigarh unit of the CPI-ML (Liberation) said The Tribune had done a great service to society by telling the common man that the information being given to government agencies was not secure.

The Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) said government agencies had failed to protect sensitive information. It said the UIDAI, on the directions of the Union Government, had tried to make The Tribune the scapegoat in this undemocratic action.

Calling it an eye-opening investigative story, The Tribune Trust Employees’ Union, Chandigarh, stated that instead of appreciating a genuine effort by a fearless and truth-seeking journalist, the Centre was trying to suppress such efforts.

After a meeting of its executive committee, The Tribune Employees’ Union announced to hold a protest in Sector 17 here tomorrow.

The Press Clubs of Rupnagar, Phagwara, Goraya and Phillaur, too, condemned the registration of the FIR. Journalists staged a protest at Rajiv Gandhi Chowk in Nangal town. With their mouths “gagged” by black strips of cloth, they demanded immediate cancellation of the criminal case against the journalist.

Journalists of Nakodar, Nurmahal and Bilga staged a dharna in front of the SDM’s office at Nakodar. Later, they submitted a memorandum to SDM Amrit Singh.

Vinod Kohli, president of the Chandigarh Punjab Union of Journalists, gave a call for a united struggle by various media organisations.

Scribes’ memorandum to PM

Jalandhar: Journalists took out a march from the Punjab Press Club to the Deputy Commissioner’s office, where they submitted a memorandum addressed to PM Narendra Modi. They demanded the immediate quashing of the FIR against the journalist and initiation of action against UIDAI officials responsible for the data breach.

Punjab Press Club president Lakhvinder Singh Johal demanded an independent inquiry by the Centre against the erring officials. Standing by her report, Rachna Khaira said she would extend cooperation to the government in the investigation on the matter. TNS

Gent Tarbotstraat – Gent-Sint-Pieters

Hand in Hand
1 December 2017

Packaging the ‘speculaaspoppen’

Hard at work in a very nice atmosphere

Selling speculaaspoppen is a way to raise funds for the Hand in Hand charity

2 December 2017

Track 12 IC to Blankenberge and Knokke

Track 11 IC to Brussel Airport via Brussel Zuid/Centraal/Noord

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Indian Express – 16 more gurdwaras in Canada, 96 in USA ban entry of Indian officials

American Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee claims nod from 96 gurdwaras in US, says number could rise.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 9 January 2018. Days after 14 gurdwaras in Canada’s Ontario province banned the entry of Indian government representatives, more gurdwara management committees in Canada and the US followed suit and barred Indian officials, RSS and Shiv Sena members from entering gurdwaras under their control.

An announcement in this regard was made on Sunday at New York’s Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society right after a religious congregation organised to observe death anniversary of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, who were given death penalty killing former PM Indira Gandhi.

Sikh Coordinator East Coast and American Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee representative, Himmat Singh, said, “Total 116 gurdwara management committees had participated in teleconference on Saturday night and 96 of these gurdwaras had confirmed agreement to proposal to bar entry of Indian officials in the gurdwaras, along with representatives of RSS and Shiv Sena.”

He claimed that some gurdwaras couldn’t confirm due to technical glitches in teleconferencing. “We have been getting emails of many gurdwaras and numbers will increase further,” claimed Himmat Singh. Surjit Singh, US president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), headed by Simranjit Singh Mann, also supported the resolution to ban entry of Indian officials.

Himmat Singh added,”Following Ontario gurdwara committees, we have been making it official that Indian officials will not be allowed for any intervention in management of gurdwaras in US. There will be no ban if someone visit Gurdwaras in personal capacity as devotee”. Similarly, 16 gurdwaras in British Columbia and Alberta provinces of Canada passed a similar resolution on 4 January.

A statement released by these gurdwaras read, “This initiative was moved forward in western Canada by Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar (Surrey, BC) and Gurdwara Dasmesh Culture Centre (Calgary, AB) and a total of 16 Gurdwaras in BC & Alberta agree and support that sewadars of Gurdwara Sahibs reserve the right to bar access to the stage and entry to officials of the Indian government.

This would include, but not be limited to, Indian elected officials, Indian Consular officials, and members of organisations like RSS and Shiv Sena”. It said, “To be clear, no individual is being banned from Gurdwara Sahibs, but Indian representatives in official capacity will not be permitted to address the sangat”.

The statement added: “Although this policy of restriction exists informally, it is due time for a formal declaration.

This step is being taken not to restrict access to the Guru, but rather to ensure that the Gurdwara Sahib remains independent from the interference of corrupt officials who represent a government that for the last four decades has committed genocide against the Sikh community and has never had positive intentions in dealing with Sikhs as a separate nation of people”.

16 more gurdwaras in Canada, 96 in US ban entry of Indian officials

The Hindu – Supreme Court refers plea to decriminalise homosexuality under Section 377 to larger Bench

“Societal morality changes with time,” says the court

Krishnadas Rajagopal

New Delhi-India, 9 January 2018. The Supreme Court on Monday referred to a larger Bench a writ petition filed by five petitioners to quash Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality.

On Monday, the apex court said a section of people cannot live in fear of the law which atrophies their right to choice and natural sexual inclinations. It said societal morality changes with time and law should walk and change pace with life.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra decided to revisit its December 2013 verdict in Suresh Kumar Kaushal vs. Naz Foundation which dismissed the LGBT community as a negligible part of the population while virtually denying them the right of choice and sexual orientation.

While the court noted that Section 377 punishes carnal intercourse against order of nature, it added that “the determination of order of nature is not a common phenomenon. Individual autonomy and individual natural inclination cannot be atrophied unless the restrictions are determined as reasonable.”

The court observed that what is natural for one may not be natural for the other, but the confines of law cannot trample or curtail the inherent rights embedded with an individual under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

The court said the concept of consensual sex may require more protection. The court noted the arguments of senior advocate Arvind Datar, who appeared for the petitioners, that Section 377 IPC is not a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to choice.

Its judgments emphasising the transgender identity in the NALSA case and the observations made by a nine-judge Bench in the right to privacy case upholding the right to sexual orientation and choice of sexual partners warrant a relook into its dismissive verdict in the Naz case, said the court.

Initially the Bench seemed reluctant, saying a five judge Bench is already considering a curative petition by Naz against 2013 verdict.

Mr Datar, however prevailed, saying while Naz is an NGO, he is representing petitioners whose fundamental rights are directly affected by Section 377.

“Right to choose my partner is part of my fundamental right to privacy,” Mr. Datar submitted.

“But the privacy judgment says sexual partner means a natural partner,” Chief Justice Misra countered.

“Who my ‘natural’ partner should be is my choice,” Mr. Datar responded.

Chief Justice Misra then said Section 377 also criminalises beastiality. “What about carnal intercourse with animals?” the CJI asked.

“We are not on that part. Our petition is only about criminalising consensual sex between adults of the same sex,” Mr. Datar replied.

The court at one point observed that a provision cannot become unconstitutional purely because it is abused. The senior advocate argued that Section 377 has the potential to destroy individual choice and sexual orientation.

The petitioners include Navtej Singh Johar, a Sangeet Natak Akademi Award-winning Bharatnatyam dancer; Sunil Mehra who is a senior journalist; Ritu Dalmia who is a restaurateur and Aman Nath, an expert on Indian art, culture and the founder of the Neemrana chain of hotels.

“The petitioners are not seeking protection only as sexual minorities but recognition of characteristics that inhere to all human beings. A right to sexuality, sexual autonomy and freedom to choose a sexual partner forms the cornerstone of human dignity which is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the petition said.

The nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had in August 2017 ripped apart its 2013 judgment upholding Section 377.

The majority privacy judgment had observed that the chilling effect of Section 377 “poses a grave danger to the unhindered fulfilment of one’s sexual orientation, as an element of privacy and dignity”.

In separate judgments, the Constitution Bench had concluded that the 2013 verdict by a two-judge Bench of the apex court pandered to a “majoritarian” view to turn down the LGBT community their inherent fundamental rights of life, personal liberty, equality and gender discrimination.

The 2013 judgment’s view that “a miniscule fraction of the country’s population constitutes lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders” was not a sustainable basis to deny the right to privacy, Justice D Y Chandrachud had observed in his majority judgment.

“The test of popular acceptance does not furnish a valid basis to disregard rights which are conferred with the sanctity of constitutional protection. Discrete and insular minorities face grave dangers of discrimination for the simple reason that their views, beliefs or way of life does not accord with the ‘mainstream’.

Yet in a democratic Constitution founded on the rule of law, their rights are as sacred as those conferred on other citizens to protect their freedoms and liberties,” Justice Chandrachud had observed.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, in his separate judgment, seconded Justice Chandrachud, while observing that the “majoritarian concept” does not apply to constitutional rights.

“Courts are often called up on to take what may be categorised as a non-majoritarian view… One’s sexual orientation is undoubtedly an attribute of privacy,” Justice Kaul added.

Justice Chandrachud observed that the Supreme Court, without any constitutional basis, had set aside the historic Delhi High Court judgment of then Chief Justice A P Shah.

The High Court had in 2010 found that Section 377 was a statutory provision targeting homosexuals as a class and amounted to a hostile discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

The Review Bench of the Supreme Court, in January 2014, had agreed with its original appeal judgment on December 11, 2013, setting aside the historic and globally accepted verdict of the Delhi High Court.

The pending curative petitions are the last stand in a decade-old fight by the LGBT community.