Similarities between Orwellian & Solutions, Innovations Architecture
Gopal Krishna is an environmental and civil rights activist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the eve of the Death Anniversary of George Orwell it is germane to to revisit Orwellian Architecture which was authored in 1949 when digital tyranny is being unleashed in installments through a data grid on a seemingly pleasant lukewarm temperature.
Orwell’s prophesy had outlined the database architecture that is emerging under the leadership of Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations, Capt. Raghu Raman, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) and C. Chandramouli, Registrar General of National Population Register (NPR) and Census Commissioner of India, Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Veeravalli Sundaram Sampath, Chief Election Commissioner of India and Nandan Manohar Nilekani, Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Planning Commission of India. These individuals have emerged as the clones of the all omnipresent and omniscient ‘Big Brother’ of ‘1984’ novel.
On 23rd January, 2013 there will be a lecture on ‘Democratising Information, Justice, Equality and the Rule of Law’ in Delhi University by Professor Michael Sandel and Pitroda. This lecture has been organised by the National Innovation Council that has been constituted by the Prime Minister, under the Chairmanship of Pitroda. The title of the lecture sounds like: war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength which finds mention in Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ . Pitroda and his colleagues will have citizens believe that Centralization of Information is Democratising Information which promotes justice, equality and rule of law.
Pitroda has revealed that the overall plan is “UID will tag every person, GIS will tag every place, and the applications will tag every programme.” Pitroda and his colleagues know the technology to be the answer. The democratic questions do not interest them since they are neither elected nor are accountable to any legislatures. Salesman are not supposed to go beyond selling their technological products answers at any cost. So far the total estimated budget of UID program has not been disclosed.
The Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation (PIII), UID, NPR, NATGRID like National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) pose a grave threat to India’s federated structure. It is out usurp the delicate and democratic balance of power between the states and the centre, between ruling parties and opposition parties and between government departments.
Unsuspecting legislators and citizens have become complicit in the creation of the architecture of repression and violation of civil liberties in the face of marketing blitzkrieg by surveillance and identification technology vendors.
Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) have been protesting against biometric system of attendance among other issues since October 10, 2012. It is sad that Delhi University and Colleges have already started signing biometric attendance. This is expected to become mandatory from January 2013 for everyone. If biometrics is not stopped at Delhi University, every kindergarten, school, college, university will soon have to adopt it. It will reach every sphere of life. Biometric attendance has already been made compulsory for DU non-teaching staff
On January 18, 2013 administration of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi decided to police the readers in its library to know their political orientation using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) amid protest by students union. The readers will soon be profiled on the basis of their book preference.
Is it coincidence that Chandigarh Administration is trying to make it mandatory for everyone to have a UID in order to register a vehicle or get a drivers license and Delhi Government has already made it mandatory.
A Swedish journalist recently revealed that in their country there is debate going on about whether ‘any library has the right to collect data on preference of books of borrowers’. In Sweden, in the name of disease surveillance blood samples of new born is being collected for DNA profiling. Both are facing resistance.
On 28th January, 2013, it will be fours years of unfolding of the Orwellian architecture through the proposed a ‘Solutions Architecture’ of UIDAI across several ministries and State Governments. UID based initiatives are being bulldozed despite having been rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and in spite of the fact it faces legal challenge in the Supreme Court and in the High Courts of Bombay, Madras, Karnataka and Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh.
The claims of Ministries of Plenty, War, Truth and Love described in Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ appear to be similar to the claims of India’s Ministries of Finance, Home, Planning Commission and National Advisory Council.
The unquestioning political acceptance of electronic eye married to bio-metric details like fingerprints, voice prints, iris scan and DNA profile that invades privacy of the present and future generations is quite disturbing.
Despite governmental propaganda one can learn history from institutional architecture of colonial databases like Census and its new incarnations.
Colonial and royal power of eminent domain has assumed a different meaning. It is now making a claim on the biological data of the human body as well.
But quite unlike Orwellian prophesy technology is not in the service of the State. It is the State which is in the service of the technology companies.
The solutions architecture of like National Information Utilities which will admittedly be private companies with public purpose and with profit making as the motive but not profit maximizing folding under the benign and compassionate gaze of Dr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister entails creation of mankind biggest and most architecturally ambitious data empire.
Legislatures and citizens are faced with a complex web of ungovernable technology companies and commercial czars who have proposed private territorial armies facilitated by the State. These developments appear to be moving the direction of Stateless Government since the State itself is withdrawing from Governance. It entails privatization of government itself something Orwell could not foresee.
The initiatives of data mining corporations and financial institutions is impacting the psychic and the physical environment with huge cognitive consequences but without any remedy in sight. It is about time citizens boycotted autocratic and totalitarian database initiatives for their own sake and for the sake of future generations.