Indians visiting Taj Mahal could be capped at 40,000 a day

Cut-price ticket deal available to domestic tourists could be restricted in effort to protect 17th-century monument

India is considering imposing a daily limit of 40,000 on the number of domestic tourists permitted to visit the Taj Mahal, to protect the 17th-century monument from wear and tear.

Visitors may also be restricted to three hours within the Mughal-era complex under proposals by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) being examined by the Indian tourism ministry.

The cap of 40,000 tickets per day would apply to the 40-rupee (46p) passes available to Indian visitors, but no such limits would be placed on foreigners, who are charged 1,000 rupees. Indians would be allowed to get around the limits by paying for the pricier ticket.

A senior ASI official confirmed the proposals had been sent to the tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, who was yet to make an official announcement. Sharma told the Indian Express on Tuesday: We have no option but to go by these measures.

The ASI has long sought to impose restrictions on tourism at the monument, but reportedly renewed its efforts after a stampede at the entry gates last week left five people injured.

Indian tourism numbers are relatively low and visits to the country make up about 1% of global travel. Other ticketed sites around the world receive greater numbers of visitors than the 8 million who come to the Taj Mahal yearly: the Forbidden City in Beijing, for instance, attracts about 15 million visitors per year, and Disneyland nearly 18 million.

A
Monkeys have been blamed for some of the wear and tear. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images

But as it nears 400 years old, the famed tribute to Mumtaz Mahal, the deceased wife of Emperor Shah Jahan, is beginning to suffer the ravages of time, popularity and the air and water pollution that besets much of north India.

Visitor numbers have been bolstered in recent decades by the growing ability and willingness of Indians to sightsee. Daily numbers reach 70,000 on weekends or holidays.

Air pollution is turning the Taj Mahals marble facade yellow, leading to parts of the monument being obscured by scaffolding and a clay treatment intended to restore its sheen. Monkeys have been blamed for weakening the minarets.

Insects that breed on the heavily contaminated Yamuna river, on the banks of which the Taj Mahal sits, have left green splotches on its surface, while activists are concerned the falling water table in Agra may be weakening the wooden foundations of the tomb.

According to the tourism ministry, about 1.2m was spent in the three years to 2016 on conserving the world heritage-listed monument, which generated about 8.8m from ticket sales and tours in that period.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/03/indians-visiting-taj-mahal-cap-day

LinkedIn Lite launches as an Android app in India, coming to 60+ countries soon

LinkedIn, the social network for the working world with more than 500 million members that is now owned by Microsoft, is today taking its next step in its bid to court more users in emerging markets. The company has released an Android app for LinkedIn Lite, a pared-down version of its original LinkedIn mobile app that is developed for users in markets where data networks are slower and relatively more expensive for consumers, and phones are slower.

The app is live now in India, and LinkedIn says the plan will be to expand it to more than 60 more markets in the coming weeks and months.

LinkedIn says the app takes up only 1 MB of space on a device, reducing the data usage required to run LinkedIn by 80 percent; and it loads a page in less than five seconds, even on a 2G network. It features the LinkedIn basics, like its news feed, jobs, profile, access to your LinkedIn network, messaging, notifications, and search but without heavy graphics and other features that might slow down page loads and eat up more of a users data allowance.

LinkedIn Lite was first launched as a mobile web site in September last year as part of a suite of new services tailored specifically for India, one of LinkedIns biggest emerging markets, where it currently has 42 million users.

A spokesperson confirms there are no plans currently to create an iOS app for LinkedIn Lite, which is not that surprising: Android long ago overtook iPhone when it comes to smartphone usage in developing markets. (In India, Android accounts for 97 percent of all smartphones in use.) For those who do use iPhones in those regions, there is LinkedIn Lite for the mobile web.

LinkedIns focus on emerging markets is a long-term effort to boost the companys growth by tapping into new opportunities.

While LinkedIn has slowly, as part of Microsoft, been building out new tools to sharpen its focus on professionals in developed markets, it also has been building tools to increase usage of its service in emerging markets. This is part of the companys mission to build a global economic graph (LinkedIns version of Facebooks social graph) that links people with professions and all of the data points in-between.

Now that the social platform is a part of Microsoft, it discloses significantly less information about the progress of its business. We know that in the last quarter it contributed $975 million in revenue but no longer have visibility about monthly and daily active users and how they are growing (thats one thing to look out for today, when Microsoft reports its Q4 earnings). Nevertheless, the trend that we were seeing at the company for some time before its sale was that growth was sluggish and at some points flat or even declining.

In that regard, focusing on newer markets specifically the developing world and later-adopters among the global class of white-collar workers makes a lot of sense.

In fact, its a pattern that other social networks have taken before to drive more growth, with the results having a direct impact on revenues.

At one point last year, Facebook Lite was Facebooks fastest-growing app, and this year it hit 200 million users. In April, Facebooks rest of world revenues (outside of North America and Europe) were up 52 percent to $839 million compared to a year ago; you can draw a line between the growth of the Lite app and the growth of Facebooks business abroad.

Facebook is now hoping for a repeat performance with the newer Messenger Lite, an Android app that is now live in more than 100 countries, offering those of Messengers 1.2 billion users who either have older phones, or slower networks, or perhaps both, an easier way of connecting.

India is a key part of the strategy for LinkedIn. Thats not just because it is one of the fastest-growing, tech-savvy countries, but also because it is one of the biggest number two after China in terms of population.

When LinkedIn Lite for mobile web made its debut last year (again, first in India), the company also launched an online test to help people find job placements, and a new set of business tools to help people build better profiles for themselves and their businesses. Providing a Lite mobile app completes that loop.

Besides providing a fast, data-light solution for professionals in slow network areas, we hope theLinkedInLite app will democratize access to economic opportunity, saidAkshay Kothari,LinkedIns country manager for India, in a statement. Kothari originally joined the company in Silicon Valley when it acquired his news-reading app Pulse. Regardless of their device or location, we hope to level the playing field for allLinkedInmembers so they can get closer to their dream jobs, grow their networks and become more successful.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/19/linkedin-lite-launches-as-an-android-app-in-india-coming-to-60-countries-soon/

Global arms trade reaches highest point since cold war era

Middle East almost doubles weapons imports, as US and Europe remain the main suppliers and China joins top-tier exporters

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/20/global-arms-weapons-trade-highest-point-since-cold-war-era

India’s Aadhaar with biometric details of its billion citizens is making experts uncomfortable

Image: Ongrid

“Indians in general have yet to understand the meaning and essence of privacy,” says Member of Parliament, Tathagata Satpathy.

But on Feb. 3, privacy was the hot topic of debate among many in India, thanks to a tweet that showed random people being identified on the street via Aadhaar, India’s ubiquitous database that has biometric information of more than a billion Indians.

That’s how India Stack, the infrastructure built by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), welcomed OnGrid, a privately owned company that is going to tap on the world’s largest biometrics system, conjuring images of Minority Report style surveillance.

But how did India get here?

Aadhaar’s foundation

Not long ago, there were more people in India without a birth or school certificate than those with one (PDF). They had no means to prove their identity. This also contributed to what is more popularly known as leakage in the government subsidy fundings. The funds werent reaching the right people, in some instances, and much of it was being siphoned off by middlemen.

Nearly a decade ago, the government began scrambling for ways to tackle these issues. Could technology come to the rescue? The government dialled techies, people like Nandan Nilekani, a founder of India’s mammoth IT firm Infosys, for help.

In 2008, they formulated Aadhaar, an audacious project “destined” to change the prospects of Indians. It was similar to Social Security number that US residents are assigned, but its implications were further reaching.

Image: Adhikary/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

At the time, the government said it will primarily use this optional program to help the poor who are in need of services such as grocery and other household items at subsidized rates.

Eight years later, Aadhar, which stores identity information such as a photo, name, address, fingerprints and iris scans of its citizens and also assigns them with a unique 12-digit number, has become the world’s largest biometrics based identity system.

According to the Indian government, over 1.11 billion people of the country’s roughly 1.3 billion citizens have enrolled themselves in the biometrics system. About 99 percent of all adults in India have an Aadhaar card, it said last month.

Today, the significance of Aadhaar, which on paper remains an optional program, is undeniable in the country. The government says Aadhaar has already saved it as much as $5 billion.

But that’s not it.

Image: SCREENGRAB VIA FACEBOOK

There’s a bit of Aadhaar in everyone’s life

Aadhaar (Hindi for foundation) has long moved beyond helping the poor. The UPI (Unified Payment Interface), another project by the Indian government that uses Aadhaar, is helping the country’s much unbanked population to avail financial services for the first time. Nilekani calls it a “WhatsApp moment” in the Indian financial sector.

In December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched BHIM, a UPI-based payments app that aims to get millions of Indians to do online money transactions for the first time, irrespective of which bank they had their accounts with. With BHIM, transferring money is as simple as sending a text message. People can also scan QR codes and pay merchants for their purchases.

“This app is destined to replace all cash transactions,” Modi said at the launch event. “BHIM app will revolutionize India and force people worldwide to take notice,” he added.

The next phase, called Aadhaar Enabled Payments System will do away with smartphones. People will be able to make payments by swiping their finger on special terminals equipped with fingerprint sensors rather than swiping cards.

Last year, the government said people could store their driver license documents in an app called DigiLocker, should they want to be relieved from the burden of carrying paper documents. DigiLocker is a digital cloud service that any citizen in India can avail using their Aadhaar information.

The government also plans to hand out “health cards” to senior citizens, mapped to their Aadhaar number, which will store their medical records, which doctors will be able to access.

Aadhaar is an instrument for good governance. Aadhaar is the mode to reach the poor without the middlemen, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Indias IT minister said in a press conference last year.

But despite all the ways Aadhaar is making meaningful impact in millions of lives, some people are very skeptical about it. And for them, the scale at which Aadhaar operates now is only making things worse.

A security nightmare

There have been multiple reports suggesting bogus and fake entries in Aadhaar database. Instances of animals such as dogs and cows having their own Aadhaar identification numbers have been widely reported. In one instance, even Hindu god Hanuman was found to have an Aadhaar card.

The problem, it appears, is Aadhaar database has never been verified or audited, according to multiple security experts, privacy advocates, lawyers, and politicians who spoke to Mashable India this month.

Image: scroll

There are two fundamental flaws in Aadhaar: it is poorly designed, and it is being poorly verified, Member of Parliament and privacy advocate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar told Mashable India. Aadhaar isnt foolproof, and this has resulted in fake data get into the system. This in turn opens new gateways for money launderers, he added.

Another issue with Aadhaar is, Chandrasekhar explains, there is no firm legislation to safeguard the privacy and rights of the billion people who have enrolled into the system. Theres little a person whose Aadhaar data has been compromised could do. Citizens who have voluntarily given their data to Aadhaar authority, as of result of this, are at risk, he added.

Rahul Narayan, a lawyer who is counselling several petitioners challenging the Aadhaar project, echoed similar sentiments. Theres no concrete regulation in place, he told Mashable India. The scope for abuses in Aadhaar is very vast, he added.

But regulation or its lack thereof is only one of the many challenges, experts say. Sunil Abraham, the executive director of Bangalore-based research organisation the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), says the security concerns around Aadhaar are alarming.

Aadhaar is remote, covert, and non-consensual, he told Mashable India, adding the existence of a central database of any kind, but especially in the context of the Aadhaar, and at the scale it is working is appalling.

Abraham said fingerprint and iris data of a person can be stolen with little effort a gummy bear which sells for a few cents, can store ones fingerprint, while a high resolution camera can capture ones iris data.

Aadhaar doesnt use basic principles of cryptography, and much of its security is not known.

Aadhaar is also irrevocable, which strands a person, whose data has been compromised, with no choice but to get on with life, Abraham said, adding that these vulnerabilities could have been averted had the government chosen smart cards instead of biometrics.

On top of this, he added, that Aadhaar doesnt use basic principles of cryptography, and much of the security defences it uses are not known.

Had the government open sourced Aadhaar code to the public (a common practice in the tech community), security analysts could have evaluated the strengths of Aadhaar. But this too isnt happening.

At CIS, Sunil and his colleagues have written over half-a-dozen open letters to the UIDAI (the authority that governs Aadhaar project) raising questions and pointing holes in the system. But much of their feedback has not returned any response, Abraham told Mashable India.

India Stack: A goldmine for everyone

As part of its push to make Aadhaar more useful, the UIDAI created what is called India Stack, an infrastructure through which government bodies as well as private entities could leverage Aadhaar’s database of individual identities. This is what sparked the initial debate about privacy when India Stack tweeted the controversial photo.

Speaking to Mashable India, Piyush Peshwani, a founder of OnGrid, however dismissed the concerns, clarifying that the picture was for representation purposes only. He said OnGrid is building a trust platform, through which it aims to make it easier for recruiters to do background check on their potential employees after getting their consent.

India Stack and OnGrid have since taken down the picture from their Twitter accounts. “OnGrid, much like other 200 companies working with UIDAI, can only retrieve information of users after receiving their prior consent,” he said.

The lack of information from the UIDAI and India Stack is becoming a real challenge for citizens, many feel. There also appears to be a conflict of interest between the privately held companies and those who helped design the framework of Aadhaar.

As Rohin Dharmakumar, a Bangalore-based journalist pointed out, Peshwani was part of the core team member of Aadhaar project. A lawyer, who requested to be not identified, told Mashable India that there is a chance that these people could be familiar with Aadhaars roadmap and use the information for business advantage, to say the least.

Most people Mashable India spoke to are questioning the way these third-party companies are handling Aadhaar data. There is no regulation in place to prevent these companies from storing peoples data or even creating a parallel database of their own a view echoed by Abraham, Narayan, and Chandrasekhar.

Not mandatory only on paper

Image: Nv/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

But for many, the biggest concern with Aadhaar remains just how aggressively it is being implemented into various systems. For instance, in the past one month alone, students in most Indians states who want to apply for NEET, a national level medical entrance test, were told by the education board CBSE that they will have to provide their Aadhaar number.

A few months ago, Aadhaar was also made mandatory for students who wanted to appear in JEE, an all India common engineering entrance examination conducted for admission to various engineering colleges in the country.

The apex Supreme Court of India recently asked the central government to register the phone number of all mobile subscribers in India (there are about one billion of those in India) to their respective Aadhaar cards. Telecom carriers are already enabling new connections to get activated by verifying users with Aadhaar database.

A prominent journalist who focuses on privacy and laws in India questioned the motive. When they kickstarted UIDAI, people were told that this an optional biometrics system. But since then the government has been rather tight-lipped on why it is aggressively pushing Aadhaar into so many areas, he told Mashable India, requesting not to be identified.

“It is especially difficult to explain why privacy is necessary for a society to advance when taken in the context of Aadhaar.”

It is especially difficult to explain why privacy is necessary for a society to advance when taken in the context of Aadhaar. The Aadhaar card is being offered to people in need, especially the poor, by making them believe that services and subsidies provided by the government will be held back from them unless they register, Satpathy told Mashable India.

The central government said last week Aadhaar number would be mandatory for availing food grains through the Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act. In October last year, the government made Aadhaar mandatory for those who wanted to avail cooking gas at subsidized prices.

No matter how many laws are made about not making Aadhaar mandatory, ultimately it depends on the last mile person who is offering any service to inform citizens about their rights, Satpathy added.

These last-mile service providers are companies who would benefit from collecting and bartering big data for profit. They would be least interested to inform citizens about their rights and about the not mandatory status of Aadhaar.

As Aadhaar percolates more and is used by more government and private services, the citizen will start assuming it’s a part of their life. This card is already being misunderstood as if it is essential like a passport, he added.

My worry is that this data will be used by government for mass surveillance, ethnic cleansing and other insidious purposes, Satpathy said. Once you have information about every citizen, the powerful will not refrain from misusing it and for retention of power. The use of big data for psycho-profiling is not unknown to the world anymore.

Mashable India reached out to UIDAI on Feb. 8 for comment on the privacy and security concerns made in this report. At the time of publication, the authority hadn’t responded to our queries.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/02/14/india-aadhaar-uidai-privacy-security-debate/

India’s Aadhaar with biometric details of its billion citizens is making experts uncomfortable

Image: Ongrid

“Indians in general have yet to understand the meaning and essence of privacy,” says Member of Parliament, Tathagata Satpathy.

But on Feb. 3, privacy was the hot topic of debate among many in India, thanks to a tweet that showed random people being identified on the street via Aadhaar, India’s ubiquitous database that has biometric information of more than a billion Indians.

That’s how India Stack, the infrastructure built by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), welcomed OnGrid, a privately owned company that is going to tap on the world’s largest biometrics system, conjuring images of Minority Report style surveillance.

But how did India get here?

Aadhaar’s foundation

Not long ago, there were more people in India without a birth or school certificate than those with one (PDF). They had no means to prove their identity. This also contributed to what is more popularly known as leakage in the government subsidy fundings. The funds werent reaching the right people, in some instances, and much of it was being siphoned off by middlemen.

Nearly a decade ago, the government began scrambling for ways to tackle these issues. Could technology come to the rescue? The government dialled techies, people like Nandan Nilekani, a founder of India’s mammoth IT firm Infosys, for help.

In 2008, they formulated Aadhaar, an audacious project “destined” to change the prospects of Indians. It was similar to Social Security number that US residents are assigned, but its implications were further reaching.

Image: Adhikary/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

At the time, the government said it will primarily use this optional program to help the poor who are in need of services such as grocery and other household items at subsidized rates.

Eight years later, Aadhar, which stores identity information such as a photo, name, address, fingerprints and iris scans of its citizens and also assigns them with a unique 12-digit number, has become the world’s largest biometrics based identity system.

According to the Indian government, over 1.11 billion people of the country’s roughly 1.3 billion citizens have enrolled themselves in the biometrics system. About 99 percent of all adults in India have an Aadhaar card, it said last month.

Today, the significance of Aadhaar, which on paper remains an optional program, is undeniable in the country. The government says Aadhaar has already saved it as much as $5 billion.

But that’s not it.

Image: SCREENGRAB VIA FACEBOOK

There’s a bit of Aadhaar in everyone’s life

Aadhaar (Hindi for foundation) has long moved beyond helping the poor. The UPI (Unified Payment Interface), another project by the Indian government that uses Aadhaar, is helping the country’s much unbanked population to avail financial services for the first time. Nilekani calls it a “WhatsApp moment” in the Indian financial sector.

In December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched BHIM, a UPI-based payments app that aims to get millions of Indians to do online money transactions for the first time, irrespective of which bank they had their accounts with. With BHIM, transferring money is as simple as sending a text message. People can also scan QR codes and pay merchants for their purchases.

“This app is destined to replace all cash transactions,” Modi said at the launch event. “BHIM app will revolutionize India and force people worldwide to take notice,” he added.

The next phase, called Aadhaar Enabled Payments System will do away with smartphones. People will be able to make payments by swiping their finger on special terminals equipped with fingerprint sensors rather than swiping cards.

Last year, the government said people could store their driver license documents in an app called DigiLocker, should they want to be relieved from the burden of carrying paper documents. DigiLocker is a digital cloud service that any citizen in India can avail using their Aadhaar information.

The government also plans to hand out “health cards” to senior citizens, mapped to their Aadhaar number, which will store their medical records, which doctors will be able to access.

Aadhaar is an instrument for good governance. Aadhaar is the mode to reach the poor without the middlemen, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Indias IT minister said in a press conference last year.

But despite all the ways Aadhaar is making meaningful impact in millions of lives, some people are very skeptical about it. And for them, the scale at which Aadhaar operates now is only making things worse.

A security nightmare

There have been multiple reports suggesting bogus and fake entries in Aadhaar database. Instances of animals such as dogs and cows having their own Aadhaar identification numbers have been widely reported. In one instance, even Hindu god Hanuman was found to have an Aadhaar card.

The problem, it appears, is Aadhaar database has never been verified or audited, according to multiple security experts, privacy advocates, lawyers, and politicians who spoke to Mashable India this month.

Image: scroll

There are two fundamental flaws in Aadhaar: it is poorly designed, and it is being poorly verified, Member of Parliament and privacy advocate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar told Mashable India. Aadhaar isnt foolproof, and this has resulted in fake data get into the system. This in turn opens new gateways for money launderers, he added.

Another issue with Aadhaar is, Chandrasekhar explains, there is no firm legislation to safeguard the privacy and rights of the billion people who have enrolled into the system. Theres little a person whose Aadhaar data has been compromised could do. Citizens who have voluntarily given their data to Aadhaar authority, as of result of this, are at risk, he added.

Rahul Narayan, a lawyer who is counselling several petitioners challenging the Aadhaar project, echoed similar sentiments. Theres no concrete regulation in place, he told Mashable India. The scope for abuses in Aadhaar is very vast, he added.

But regulation or its lack thereof is only one of the many challenges, experts say. Sunil Abraham, the executive director of Bangalore-based research organisation the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), says the security concerns around Aadhaar are alarming.

Aadhaar is remote, covert, and non-consensual, he told Mashable India, adding the existence of a central database of any kind, but especially in the context of the Aadhaar, and at the scale it is working is appalling.

Abraham said fingerprint and iris data of a person can be stolen with little effort a gummy bear which sells for a few cents, can store ones fingerprint, while a high resolution camera can capture ones iris data.

Aadhaar doesnt use basic principles of cryptography, and much of its security is not known.

Aadhaar is also irrevocable, which strands a person, whose data has been compromised, with no choice but to get on with life, Abraham said, adding that these vulnerabilities could have been averted had the government chosen smart cards instead of biometrics.

On top of this, he added, that Aadhaar doesnt use basic principles of cryptography, and much of the security defences it uses are not known.

Had the government open sourced Aadhaar code to the public (a common practice in the tech community), security analysts could have evaluated the strengths of Aadhaar. But this too isnt happening.

At CIS, Sunil and his colleagues have written over half-a-dozen open letters to the UIDAI (the authority that governs Aadhaar project) raising questions and pointing holes in the system. But much of their feedback has not returned any response, Abraham told Mashable India.

India Stack: A goldmine for everyone

As part of its push to make Aadhaar more useful, the UIDAI created what is called India Stack, an infrastructure through which government bodies as well as private entities could leverage Aadhaar’s database of individual identities. This is what sparked the initial debate about privacy when India Stack tweeted the controversial photo.

Speaking to Mashable India, Piyush Peshwani, a founder of OnGrid, however dismissed the concerns, clarifying that the picture was for representation purposes only. He said OnGrid is building a trust platform, through which it aims to make it easier for recruiters to do background check on their potential employees after getting their consent.

India Stack and OnGrid have since taken down the picture from their Twitter accounts. “OnGrid, much like other 200 companies working with UIDAI, can only retrieve information of users after receiving their prior consent,” he said.

The lack of information from the UIDAI and India Stack is becoming a real challenge for citizens, many feel. There also appears to be a conflict of interest between the privately held companies and those who helped design the framework of Aadhaar.

As Rohin Dharmakumar, a Bangalore-based journalist pointed out, Peshwani was part of the core team member of Aadhaar project. A lawyer, who requested to be not identified, told Mashable India that there is a chance that these people could be familiar with Aadhaars roadmap and use the information for business advantage, to say the least.

Most people Mashable India spoke to are questioning the way these third-party companies are handling Aadhaar data. There is no regulation in place to prevent these companies from storing peoples data or even creating a parallel database of their own a view echoed by Abraham, Narayan, and Chandrasekhar.

Not mandatory only on paper

Image: Nv/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

But for many, the biggest concern with Aadhaar remains just how aggressively it is being implemented into various systems. For instance, in the past one month alone, students in most Indians states who want to apply for NEET, a national level medical entrance test, were told by the education board CBSE that they will have to provide their Aadhaar number.

A few months ago, Aadhaar was also made mandatory for students who wanted to appear in JEE, an all India common engineering entrance examination conducted for admission to various engineering colleges in the country.

The apex Supreme Court of India recently asked the central government to register the phone number of all mobile subscribers in India (there are about one billion of those in India) to their respective Aadhaar cards. Telecom carriers are already enabling new connections to get activated by verifying users with Aadhaar database.

A prominent journalist who focuses on privacy and laws in India questioned the motive. When they kickstarted UIDAI, people were told that this an optional biometrics system. But since then the government has been rather tight-lipped on why it is aggressively pushing Aadhaar into so many areas, he told Mashable India, requesting not to be identified.

“It is especially difficult to explain why privacy is necessary for a society to advance when taken in the context of Aadhaar.”

It is especially difficult to explain why privacy is necessary for a society to advance when taken in the context of Aadhaar. The Aadhaar card is being offered to people in need, especially the poor, by making them believe that services and subsidies provided by the government will be held back from them unless they register, Satpathy told Mashable India.

The central government said last week Aadhaar number would be mandatory for availing food grains through the Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act. In October last year, the government made Aadhaar mandatory for those who wanted to avail cooking gas at subsidized prices.

No matter how many laws are made about not making Aadhaar mandatory, ultimately it depends on the last mile person who is offering any service to inform citizens about their rights, Satpathy added.

These last-mile service providers are companies who would benefit from collecting and bartering big data for profit. They would be least interested to inform citizens about their rights and about the not mandatory status of Aadhaar.

As Aadhaar percolates more and is used by more government and private services, the citizen will start assuming it’s a part of their life. This card is already being misunderstood as if it is essential like a passport, he added.

My worry is that this data will be used by government for mass surveillance, ethnic cleansing and other insidious purposes, Satpathy said. Once you have information about every citizen, the powerful will not refrain from misusing it and for retention of power. The use of big data for psycho-profiling is not unknown to the world anymore.

Mashable India reached out to UIDAI on Feb. 8 for comment on the privacy and security concerns made in this report. At the time of publication, the authority hadn’t responded to our queries.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/02/14/india-aadhaar-uidai-privacy-security-debate/

India continues to experiment with how it wants national anthem to be played in theaters

India continues to scramble for ways to use the national anthem to instil a “sense of committed patriotism and nationalism” in its citizens.

In November, the Supreme Court of India ordered movie theaters to play the national anthem before each screening. People are also required to stand up when the national anthem is being played.

As one would expect, the ruling wasnt received with open arms by many Indians. The move came after Narayan Chouksey, 78, filed a petition, saying that watching people not respect the national anthem hurt him “very badly”.

But what about the national anthem that are part of a movie or documentary? Aamir Khan-starrer blockbuster Dangal, the highest grossing movie in India, for instance, plays the national anthem towards the end of the movie.

According to the Indias Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday, people are not obliged to stand up when the national anthem is part of the movie.

Movie theatres have been one of the test markets for nationalism in India for a long time. In 2003, the Maharashtra state government had mandated playing the national anthem in theatres. The move was soon followed by the Karnataka state government.

Interestingly, in December, the Supreme Court rejected a petition that proposed making national anthem mandatory in courtrooms.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/02/14/india-national-anthem-movie-theaters/

Indian tailor confesses to sexually assaulting hundreds of schoolgirls

Sunil Rastogi, 38-year-old with five children, arrested in investigation of sexual assault of three girls aged nine and 10

A tailor in India has confessed to abducting, molesting and raping hundreds of schoolgirls over the last decade, said Delhi police, uncovering what may be one of the biggest serial paedophile cases in the country in recent times.

Sunil Rastogi, a 38-year-old married man with five children, was arrested on Saturday by police investigating the sexual assault of three girls aged nine and 10 in the east of the Indian capital.

This criminal, Sunil Rastogi, is from Rudrapur in Uttar Pradesh, and is a tailor by profession, Omvir Singh Bishoi, East Delhis deputy commissioner of police, told a news conference. During interrogation he told us that at least once a week he would come from Rudrapur and, in order to satisfy his paedophile lust, he would target girls between the ages of seven and ten years old.

Rastogi was charged with rape, aggravated penetrative sexual assault of a minor, and criminal intimidation, in the three cases, said police, and is also being investigated for related paedophile crimes.

Police said Rastogi could not remember the exact number of girls he had sexually assaulted since 2004, but said it could be hundreds.

Wearing a red, white and green striped sweater and a red balaclava covering his face, Rastogi was paraded in front of the media. I used to take them (the girls) to a secluded area, he said as he stood handcuffed to a policeman. I dont know why I did it. I liked it.

Child sex abuse is widespread in India, but is largely considered taboo in its conservative society and ignored within families, say activists, who say victims are often afraid to come forward for fear of being blamed for the abuse.

There were more than 94,000 crimes committed against children in 2015, says the National Crime Records Bureau, with almost 40% of cases being sex offences such as rape, molestation and sexual harassment.

Police said they began investigating Rastogi in December after receiving a complaint of a 10-year-old girl who had escaped attempted rape in Delhis New Ashok Nagar area. Two similar complaints from other girls in the same area were received on 10 January, said police, and after scouring through hours of CCTV footage of the area, and using sketches and photographs to identify him, Rastogi was arrested.

He has been sent to judicial custody for two weeks, said police, and an investigation team will look into other sexual assault cases in Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Activists and politicians questioned how Rastogi managed to abuse so many girls and evade arrest for over 10 years, despite having served jail time for a previous sexual offence in 2006.

Swati Maliwal, Head of Delhis National Commission for Women, said the case was horrifying. This serial rapist shud get death 4 raping 500 little girls over 13 years. His case shud be heard urgently in fast track mode, tweeted Maliwal.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/17/indian-tailor-confesses-to-sexually-assaulting-hundreds-of-schoolgirls