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									INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                        Grace Zhou

                                                                                        Grace Zhou
                                                                                         ENGL 100

                 Censored: 1.2 Billion People in India to be Given Biometric ID Cards

       A couple days ago, Ms. Feinblum gave us a website, Project Censored, which is about the

twenty-five most censored stories of each year, and she asked us to select one article from the

censored stories of 2011 as a topic for this research paper. Some of the censored stories talk about

politics around the whole world while the other stories are news of the United States. When Ms.

Feinblum showed us the website and let us take a look at those censored stories in classroom, one of

my classmates, J J, said to me with excitement: “Look, the twenty-second topic, I have known about

this project two years ago.” After I heard what she said, I took a look at the title of the

twenty-second article—“1.2 Billion People in India to be Given Biometric ID Cards”. I said to

myself: “J J said that this project has been planed two years ago. Why I did not know anything

about it?” I asked her, “What is it about?” She said, “I think the Indian government is going to put a

chip as a biometric ID in every Indian citizen’s body, and this project seems to treat the Indian

people like dogs.” “Wow, this is terrible. I cannot imagine how the Indian government put a chip in

people’s body. That is literally depriving human rights,” I said. After the short conversation which is

INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                         Grace Zhou

between J J and me, many questions came to my mind. What is biometric ID card? Is it a chip

which is put in people’s bodies like what J J said? Why does the Indian government issue these

cards to its citizens? What is the benefit to popularize the biometric ID cards in India? Does this

project do harm to the Indian citizens? What is the plan to use the biometric ID cards? In order to

find out the answers to all these questions, I decided to work on this topic.

       Danielle Caruso, a student in Sonoma State University, is the researcher of this censored

article, “1.2 Billion People in India to be Given Biometric ID Cards”. Basically, this core article

talks about at least six hundred million Indian citizens are going to be issued biometric

identification cards by 2014 in the first phase of the project, and these cards will hold people’s

biometric information. According to the definition of biometric in Wikipedia, biometric is the

information about a specific person’s body, such as intrinsic physical or behavioral traits. Intrinsic

physical includes fingerprints, face recognition, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), palm print, hand

geometry, iris recognition, retina, and odour. Behavioral traits include typing rhythm, gait, and

voice (“Biometrics”). Nandan Nilekani, one of the India’s best-known software tycoons and a

cofounder of one of the India’s biggest technology companies, Infosys, is the head of the

government’s Unique Identification Authority, and he will implement the project (Caruso). Even

though the Indian government asserts that the purpose of the biometric ID project is to help the

Indian poor people, many people are against this project of biometric identification (ID) card

because its true purpose is not to help poor people in India, but to monitor the Indian citizens.

         In 2009, the Indian government planned to perform the biometric ID project in the next

INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                        Grace Zhou

five years, so the Indian citizens will be managed under e-governance. According to my research, a

biometric ID card is not a chip which will be put in people’s bodies, but a card that has sixteen-digit

identity number. The card will hold not only a person’s biometric information, such as name, age,

birth date, fingerprints, and iris scans, but also criminal records and credit histories (Blakely), and

all these information will be stored on a microchip on the card or on a magnetic strip. The

government will build a giant computer to hold the personal details of at least six hundred million

citizens, and the database will be the biggest non commercial datacenter in the world (Caruso). Also,

the biometric identity number will be entered whenever people access services from the government

departments, driver's license offices, and hospitals, as well as insurance, credit card, telecom and

banking companies (Lakshmi). Then, all these places will provide the information as ID databases

to the government, so that authorities can access online to check citizens’ personal information

whenever the authorities need. Also, the Indian government may use the databases to monitor bank

transactions, cell phone purchases, and the movements of individuals or groups suspected of

fomenting terrorism (Lakshmi).

        Nilekani emphasizes that the purpose of this project is to help the Indian poor people.

According to Aristotle, everything in nature has its own purpose or end goal, so the main purpose of

the biometric ID project is to empower the vast numbers of excluded Indians since the Indian poor

people have no identities, no birth certificates, degree certificates, driver's licenses, passports or

even addresses. First, the Indian authorities claim that poor people will no longer have a problem

identifying themselves if the government issues biometric ID cards to the Indian citizens. In India,

people lacking of identity verification is a major problem (Caruso). Chaurasia, a thirty-two years

INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                        Grace Zhou

old migrant worker, could not open his first bank account or apply for a government food-subsidy

card in New Delhi because he only had a driver's license for identification. He said, “Everywhere I

go, they ask me for proof of residence and income tax that I do not have. We are migrant workers.

We go where the job takes us. Where do we find identity papers?” He also said that he had never

voted or paid taxes in New Delhi (Lakshmi). According to Blakely, only about seventy-five million

people or less than seven percent of population in India are registered to pay income tax. It is not

only because people do not have a piece of paper to prove themselves, but also because the

government does not have a complete system to manage its citizens since the government has yet to

implement the biometric ID project. Additionally, Karl Flinders, a Computer Weekly's services

editor, did an interview with Anjan Lahiri from Indian IT firm MindTree. Anjan Lahiri said, “[Since

Indian] poor women were almost known by their son's name, [people can] imagine how hard it is

going to a bank and opening an account.” He also estimated that one billion of India's one point

three billion people do not have bank accounts because they lack of identity (Flinders).

        Second, the authorities also claim that the biometric ID project will end corruption and

help poor people to get their subsidy in India. Many Indian citizens complain that many corrupt

officials take government welfare with fake names and steal money meant for the poor (Lakshmi).

Also, the Indian government has to spend four billion dollars a year in preventing the theft of public

funds since the government does not have a specific ID system to supervise its citizens (Lakshmi).

Moreover, if the Indian poor people move from one state to another, their benefits will be

withdrawn because they do not have the proof of residence (Ramesh). Bibek Debroy, an economist

at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said, “[Since] the current identity databases are not

INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                          Grace Zhou

clean and have many fake names[,] addresses[,] and duplication[,] [the biometric ID project] has the

potential to plug the hole in the leaking bucket that delivers government services and benefits to the

poor” (Lakshmi).

         Third, the authorities emphasize that biometric ID card can be used universally and replace

dozens of types of identity verification. In India, people have birth certificates, driving licenses, and

ration cards, but none is accepted universally. Forty-two percent of India’s population is below the

poverty line, and the citizens frequently move in search of jobs, but they are not able to get a job

and are treated as temporary migrants because they lack identity verification as their ID cards are

not accepted universally. However, if the Indian citizens have the biometric ID cards, the

government believes that the ID system will make a huge difference in poor people’s lives (Caruso).

Even though the Indian poor people move to another state, they still can enjoy dozens of

government programs, which offer cheaper food, jobs, and other benefits for poor people.

Furthermore, since India’s red tape is legendary, the government issues at least 20 proofs of identity

to rich people in India, and it is inconvenient for those people to carry all those cards every day.

Nandan Nilekani told The Times that if the total number of cards, which the Indian people had right

now, were piled on the top of each other, they would be 1,200 kilometers high. The height is 150

times as high as Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain above sea level at 8,848 metres. He

also said, “[Even though] it is a humongous, mind-boggling challenge, we have the opportunity to

give every Indian citizen, for the first time, a unique identity. We can transform the country”


INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                       Grace Zhou

       The Indian government claims that the purpose for the Indian government issuing the

biometric ID cards is to help the Indian poor people; however, I think the true purpose is not to help

the Indian poor people, but to monitor the Indian citizens. Most people are against the biometric ID

project because the project violates people’s privacy. I think the biometric ID card is different than

the other ID cards since the Indian government can access online and monitor its citizens’ every

action. For example, if the Indian government implements the biometric ID project, and if David,

one of the Indian citizens, goes to a bank, the government will know exactly what David did

through the system since everyone will enter their biometric identity number whenever they access

services in India, and those departments will provide the information to the Indian government.

Thus, the government will know that David withdraws five hundred dollars in Citibank at ten

o’clock in the morning through the monitor. Moreover, this project will encourage a bad social habit,

which is the potential for the Indian authorities abusing the new technology. The authorities may

check people’s personal information without permission, knowledge, or clearly defined reasons.

Critics said, “The project will turn India into an Orwellian police state that will spy on citizens’

private lives” (Lakshmi). In 1984, the society that Orwell described, everyone was under complete

surveillance by the authorities, and people felt like the “Big Brother is watching [them]” (“Big

Brother”). Also, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, wrote in the coalition’s

letter to oppose the project: “[Biometric ID project] would not only violate privacy by helping to

consolidate data and facilitate tracking of individuals, it would [also] bring government into the

very center of our lives by serving as a government permission slip needed by everyone in order to

work” (“Broad Coalition”).

INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                           Grace Zhou

         Furthermore, some people may raise issues about the security of their personal databases,

the possibility of hackers getting at databases, and the cost of this project. Since the Indian

government will build a giant computer to hold the citizens’ personal details, and the database will

be one of the world’s largest stores of personal information, it will prove an irresistible target for

identity thieves. The lawless persons may pass on information to commercial outfits, intelligence

agencies, and criminal gangs. “People will have no idea how their information is interpreted and

used,” said Usha Ramanathan, a lawyer who has written and lobbied against the project (Lakshmi).

Also, because the project will cost an estimated four billion dollars, a group of prominent civil

society organizations asserted that the biometric ID project is a “deeply undemocratic and

expensive exercise”, and it is “fraught with unforeseen consequences” (Devraj). The Indian

government not only has to cost a large amount of money to implement the project, but also has to

spend money developing a new electronics manufacturing base to supply information-storing

servers and to buy card readers if the Indian citizens start to use the biometric ID cards.

         At last, people who live constantly under surveillance by authorities cannot live a good life,

and their freedom and human rights are deprived by the authorities. For example, in 2007, the

governments of Australia and Bahrain tried to monitor their citizens through a filtering system on

the Internet. Under the guise of fighting child pornography, both of the governments block the

websites that targets political and religious content, such as opposition sites, sites deemed

anti-Islamic, discussion forums on taboo subjects, and news sites, which these websites are

considered as obscene content by the governments. Also, the citizens in these two countries are

prohibited to use anonymity in an electoral context. These people have no freedom of speech and

INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                           Grace Zhou

cannot fight against their government, but to compromise with their government. However,

according to Aristotle, “Politics is not compromise, posturing, special interests, or corruption…. It

is not a way to make the world a better place…. [Politics] is about learning how to live a good life”

(Sandel P. 195). If the India or any other countries’ governments, which monitor their citizens by

this or that method, want their citizens to live a good life, those governments have to correct their

purpose first, which is not to spy on citizens’ private lives, but to promote a good life for citizens, to

show respect to their people, and to help citizens learning how to live a good life. Otherwise, the

governments will lead their countries to just the opposite, that people will be hurt by their

governments, so they will not trust their governments anymore, and the governments cannot

manage these people very well thereafter.

INTERNET RESEARCH--PROJECT CENSORED                                                                  Grace Zhou

                                             Work Cited
“Big Brother (Nineteen Eighty-Four).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 19 Oct. 2010. Web. 27 Oct. 2010.
      < (Nineteen_Eighty-Four)>.

“Biometrics.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Oct. 2010. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.

Blakely, Rhys. “India to Issue All 1.2 Billion Citizens with Biometric ID Cards.” Times and Sunday Times 15 July
       2009: n. page. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.

“Broad Coalition Urges President Obama and Congress to Oppose Biometric National ID.” ACLU. N.p., 13 Apr.
      2010. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. < immigrants-rights-technology-and-liberty/

Caruso, Danielle. “22. 1.2 Billion People in India to be Given Biometric ID Cards.” Project Censored. N.p., n.d.
     Web. 2 Nov. 2010.

Devraj, Ranjit. “India: Fears of Privacy Loss Pursue Ambitious ID Project.” Innovya Traceless Biometrics
     Technology. N.p., 6 Sept. 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2010. < news/>.

Flinders, Karl. “Indian ID Project Will Work because it is about Alleviating Poverty and Not Privacy.” Computer
      Weekly. N.p., 9 July 2010. Web.5 Nov. 2010.

Lakshmi, Rama. “Biometric Identity Project in India Aims to Provide for Poor, End Corruption.” Washington
     Post. N.p., 28 Mar. 2010. Web. 3 Nov.2010.

Pasricha, Anjana. “India Begins Project to Issue Biometric Identity Cards to All Citizens.” Voice of America News.
      N.p., 24 Sept. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.

Ramesh, Randeep. “1.2 Billion People in India to be Given Biometric ID Cards.” Guardian. N.p., 16 Sept. 2009.
    Web. 3 Nov. 2010. <>.

Sandel, Michael J. Justice. New York: D&M Publishers, Inc., 2009. Print.


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