Sunday, 21 July 2013

Native Americans in USA - American Indian Wars

Till 1918.

American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America . The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonists who continuously sought to expand their territory, pushing the indigenous populations westwards. The wars were spurred by ideologies such as Manifest Destiny, which held that the United States was destined to expand from coast to coast on the American continent, and which resulted in the policy of Indian removal, by which indigenous peoples were removed from the areas where Europeans were settling, either forcefully or by means of voluntary exchange of territory through treaties.

The Native Americans suffered high fatalities from the contact with infectious Eurasian diseases. Epidemics after European contact caused the greatest loss of life for indigenous populations.

In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the government to relocate Native Americans from their homelands within established states to lands west of the Mississippi River, accommodating European-American expansion.

Ideology of manifest destiny:
In the United States in the 19th century, Manifest destiny was the widely held belief that American settlers were destined to expand across the continent. The belief has been described as follows: 3 basic themes
1. The special virtues of the American people and their institutions;
2. America's mission to redeem and remake the world in the image of America;
3. A divine destiny under God's direction to accomplish this wonderful task.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

What we (don’t) know about the companies in aadhaar project - Usha Ramanathan

Usha Ramanathan

In July 2010, UIDAI announced names of the companies that had been selected to implement the core biometric identification system. These companies would design, supply, install, commission, maintain and support the "multi-modal Automatic Biometric Identification System and multimodal Software Development Kit for client enrolment station, verification server, manual adjudication and monitoring function of the UID application". These would create the ability to de-duplicate on the basis of biometric information collected during enrolment.

The companies were: Mahindra Satyam (as it then was) partnering with Morpho, HP with L-1 Identity Solutions and a recently set up Indian company 4G Identity, and Accenture with MindTree and Daon. L-1 Identity Solutions was also present and participating in the PoC on enrolment.

These are companies with interesting profiles. A promotional document found on the web around the time that L-1 Identity Solutions was selected to partner with the UIDAI speaks of a close connection between the company and the security and intelligence establishment of the US government. "L-1 provides highly specialised government consulting services that address the most important challenges facing US defence and global security", it announces. "More than 1000 specialists, most holding top security clearances", it advertises, giving a more specific figure of "93 per cent holding high-level government security clearances".

In 2007, Tim Shorrock, an investigative journalist based in Washington, took a close look at the connection between L-1 and the CIA in an article he did on the former CIA chief, George Tenet, titled Cashing in on Iraq. Shorrock wrote: "Tenet sits on the board of L-1 Identity Solutions, a major supplier of biometric identification software used by the US to monitor terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company with the closest ties with the CIA - and the biggest potential financial payoff for Tenet - is L-1 Identity Solutions, the nation's biggest player in biometric identification. L-1's software which can store millions of ID records based on fingerprints and eye and facial characteristics, helps the Pentagon and US intelligence in the fight against terrorism by providing technology for insurgent registration (and) combatant identification, the company says. L-1 technology is also employed by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security" When L-1 acquired Spec Tal, it got 300 employees with security clearances getting them several agencies with whom Spec Tal had contracts, "including the CIA, the NSA and the Defence Intelligence Agency." "We're in the security business, right? So he's a tremendous asset," Shorrock quotes an executive vice president of L-1 as saying about George Tenet.
Sagem Morpho which is among the participating companies is the Indian subsidiary of Morpho; which is part of the Safran group. Safran is a French defence company in which the French government holds 30.5 per cent shares.

In August 2011, Safran completed its acquisition of L-1 Identity Solutions. It was a $ 1 billion acquisition. With this, L-1 joins Safran's security business which was until then operating as Morpho, and which together with L-1 was renamed Morpho Trust.
Morpho and L-1 have, with this acquisition, merged. So, when Mr. Nilakeni says that UIDAI has created a competitive environment, that is not quite accurate.

This deal was held back for about a year between September 2010 and August 2011 till the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US approved the acquisition. Since US contracts make up about 80 per cent of L-1's business, and to protect US national interests, Safran was to establish "a three-person proxy board" to handle sensitive US contracts a common feature when security companies are acquired by foreign companies. It was contemporaneously reported that the proxy board was expected to include Barbara McNamara, deputy director of the National Security Agency and William Schneider Jr. former Under Secretary of state under Ronald Reagan.

Accenture is known widely as a consultancy corporation. What is less known is its place in the world of surveillance technologies. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre, writing about Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in their book, 'Spychips: How major corporations and governments plan to track your every purchase and watch your every move' (2006), introduced us to the patents and practices of Accenture in the RFID arena. It is interesting that Accenture describes itself as a "US based business the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company"; no word on surveillance. Yet, in 2004, Accenture was selected by US Department of Homeland Security to design and implement the Smart Borders Project which would be deployed at the land, sea and air ports of entry. In November 2012, Accenture was awarded a bio-surveillance contract by the Department of Homeland Security.

This proximity and interdependence between foreign governments, including their intelligence agencies, and corporate ventures in surveillance technology is no secret. Yet, the UIDAI claims that it is unaware of the countries from where these companies originate.

A question that has been raised time and again in various fora relates to the security of the data. What effect does handing over data to companies that are close to foreign intelligence agencies, or allowing them to handle it, have on security of the person, and on national security? Laws such as the PATRIOT Act in the US, especially provisions such as section 215, bring all agencies in the country within the control of agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. As for Morpho and L-1, the French government is part-owner of these entities. Despite the concerns this should have raised in the UIDAI and within government, there has been a silence which provides no answers.
The UIDAI's response to an RTI query is more disturbing still.

In March 2011, Mr Veeresh Malik filed a request with the UIDAI for information, specifically asking for the "full name, address, websites of the foreign companies which are of US and non-US origin or control". In an appellate order of 21 July 2011, the Deputy Director at the UIDAI who is the Appellate Authority for purposes of the RTI, gave the names of three Biometric Service Providers to the UIDAI. These were, (i) Satyam Computer Services/ Sagem Morpho (ii) L-1 Identity Solutions (iii) Accenture Services. In a startling statement, the authority explained that "there are no means to verify whether the said companies/organisations are of US origin or not. As per our contractual terms and conditions, only the companies/organisations who are registered in India can bid. Any further information in this regard can be obtained from the UIDAI public domainĂ¯¿½" There is nothing more to be got from the UIDAI website.

Col. Mathew Thomas' RTI query asking for copies of the contracts entered into with the companies was refused by the UIDAI citing section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act 2005 which speaks of information including "commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property" disclosing which would "harm the competitive position of a third party" to the request. The exception to this provision is if the "larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information". At a hearing on 24 June 2013, the Central Information Commissioner has said she will hear and decide this matter. Snowden, and PRISM, have blown the lid, yet again, on surveillance by the USA.

Creating a database and handing the data over to companies, and with no discernible protection, should worry a government concerned about the safety of the people and national security, it would seem.

(The writer is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Corporate houses in agri sector will create crisis for ryots: Sainath

Corporate houses in agri sector will create crisis for ryots: Sainath

The governments’ anti-agrarian policies and the impending entry of corporate houses in the agriculture sector will create a crisis for farmers in near future, according to P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu . A sustained struggle alone would change this situation, he said.

He was addressing the All India Kissan Sabha’s special seminar here on Sunday to motivate farmers to participate in the 33rd all India conference to be held in Cuddalore between July 24 and 27 to discuss ‘Farming, poverty and growth’.

“Farmers’ struggle in the 60’s and 70’s compelled the government to enforce land reforms. The same can be repeated only if the farmers start an intense battle afresh,” he said.

Mr. Sainath predicted that the Union Government’s decision to upwardly revise the gas price to benefit Mukhesh Ambani’s company would double electricity tariff and fertilizer prices also in near future and hence the already dwindling population of farmers would decline further, which would help the ruling class to take farming from the farmers’ hands to the corporate houses.

“The adverse situations prevailing in the country’s farming sector drive 2,000 farmers every day out of their profession to become agricultural labourer and India is witnessing unprecedented migrations of these labourers from rural areas to the urban areas in search of livelihood that would lead to the creation of ‘census towns’ where there will be no basic infrastructure,” Mr. Sainath said.

The noted journalist, who has studied extensively the plight of farmers’ suicides in the country, said that the cotton farmers, who could buy one kilogram of local seed for just Rs.9 just a decade ago, had to buy the BT cotton seed for Rs.4,000 a kilogram in 2012.
The farmer, who had to spend just Rs.2,500 for growing cotton on an acre in a rain-fed area 10 years ago, had to shell out anywhere between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 now.

Even as the domestic price for cotton was crashing, the government, in a bid to help the local mill owners, banned cotton export even though cotton price at the international market was so high. Similarly, the multinational companies that encouraged the Kerala farmers to go in for vanilla cultivation and gave attractive procurement price for just two seasons let them down after they started receiving the cash crop from other countries. Subsequently, it led to thousands of vanilla farmers landing in debt trap, he noted.

“An MBA graduate from corporate companies will form farmers’ groups, teach ragi, chilli, cumin cultivation to our agriculturists, who have already got rich experience in cultivating a range of crops even in adverse conditions. This entry by the MNCs is an attempt to gobble farm subsidies to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees,” Mr. Sainath warned.

He also came down heavily on the governments and the banks which were giving farm loans to the rich while letting down the farmers, the real beneficiaries.