Bureaucrat Who Planned Modi Govt's Tracking Database Now Fears A Police State

Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the public rally at Brigade ground on April 3, 2019 in Kolkata, India.

NEW DELHI —  The senior bureaucrat tasked with laying the foundations for the Indian government’s controversial Social Registry warned that a centralised, cross-linked database of this scale could compromise the privacy and security of over a billion Indians, but his warnings were ignored, documents reviewed by HuffPost India establish.

The Social Registry, as HuffPost India has previously reported, is intended to automatically track the social and economic lives of citizens — in a bid to continuously estimate their eligibility for government assistance.

However, as work on the registry progressed, Manoranjan Kumar, then the Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Rural Development, realised that such a system could easily be misused by governments.

Kumar asked for the system to have adequate privacy safeguards in place at a time when “the policing system and bureaucracy that is not hesitating to show crumbling morality”. HuffPost India has written to the Ministry of Rural Development and will update this article if the ministry responds.

On November 27, 2015, Kumar penned a concept note describing a National Social Registry—a transformational new way for the Indian state to transparently deliver benefits to the country’s poorest citizens, and assess the impact of government programmes.

Now, five years later, as the Social Registry he envisaged nears completion, Kumar fears that the system, designed with the best of intentions, could instead curtail the rights and freedoms of India’s 1.2 billion citizens. 

Documents obtained under the Right To Information Act by data and governance researcher Srinivas Kodali have shown that the Social Registry will be a giant, intrusive database-of-databases that uses Aadhaar numbers to track every aspect of the lives of India’s 1.2 billion citizens. 

As HuffPost India has reported: The national social registry will automatically track when a citizen moves between cities, changes jobs, buys new property, when a member...

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