On the 1st September 2015 the then Minister of Technology, Communication & Innovation, Mr. Roshi Bhadain in a press conference said that officers who participated in the exercise involving the deletion of the biometric data of citizens will swear an affidavit. Time passed by and everybody forgot the affidavits. If the minister required the officers to swore affidavits to gain the trust of citizens then why haven’t the successive ministers of technology shown the affidavits and the content therein? Are we not allowed to know more or are we expected to take the word of a minister as the ultimate truth?

Ministry of TCI currently on mute

On the 10th April 2017 I wrote to the Chief Technical Officer of the Minister of TCI asking about the names of officers having attended the “deletion ceremony” and the affidavits made. I received no reply, so on the 14th April I re-iterated my question. I then received a reply on the same day that my queries have been forwarded to the concerned officers. I was not given the names and contact details of the “concerned officers” nor was I copied in the forwarded email. Perhaps the “concerned officers” should not really be of my concern. I’m a mere citizen asking a question after all. Do I have any value?

Nevertheless, I thanked the officer for his prompt reply to that particular message.

On the 25th April 2017 as I still did not receive an answer from the “concerned officers” I again wrote to the Chief Technical Officer informing him that I haven’t receive the information I seek. I shared my concern about trusting someone on data security if that person hesitates to take the responsibility.

Consequences, the minister says?

In a press conference on the 17th March 2017 the current Minister of Technology, (Hon) Yogida Sawmynaden, stated that there won’t be any arrests after the deadline of 31st March 2017. The deadline for the validity of the old identity card was extended till the 30th April 2017.

While replying a journalist’s question on the 28th April 2017, two days before the dealine, (Hon) Yogida Sawmynaden said that those who do not have the biometric identity card will have to bear the consequences.

How do we trust a minister?

(Hon) Yogida Sawmynaden said on Top FM on the 21st March 2017 the legislation (i.e ICT Act) will be amended as parliament resumes, in order to remove the punitive measures of not having a biometric identity card. We had five sittings of the parliament since the minister talked about amending the ICT Act. Nothing happened.

I know quite a number of people who laid their hopes on this government to remove the requirement of biometric data for the purpose of an identity card or at least make it optional. They were duped. The current government though do not consider their stand on the biometric identity card a failure. They even brag it as a success for having “destroyed” the biometric database. Well, they just forgot to invite people who questioned the requirement of this database during their famous “deletion ceremony”. Neither anywhere the deletion is verifiable.

Why take fingerprints when you do not use them?

I listened to the (Hon) Yogida Sawmynaden on Top TV on the 27th March 2017 when he tried to convince citizens on the « benefit » of the biometric identity card, citing the e-health project. At the same time he re-assured that no health related data is stored in the card and that at the hospital counter only the barcode printed on the card is read to allow a quick search against the hospital’s registry. The barcode in fact replaces the manual “typing” of the identity card number which is considered as “time consuming” or prone to errors. The e-health project does not make use of of the fingerprint minutiae in the card, it only requires the barcode therein. The minister did not cite one use of the fingerprint minutiae for the purpose of identification that actually improves the citizen’s life. Earlier claims of the biometric identity card becoming a single-document for identity and proof of address when effecting bank transactions is now being rejected as the minister assures people that card readers have not been issued to any organization.

I have been vocal on my concerns about the biometric identity card since 2013, like many others did. The successive ministers of technology have not felt it any necessary to call upon all these people to discuss and address the situation.

Politicians addressing this situation was nothing more than a promise that gained them votes, then they applied some dysfunctional patch after listening to the same advisors and officers who actually proposed the setting up of the initial system.

Those who fought since 2013/14, their struggle continues. Long live democracy!