Dr. Abhshek Singhvi further said two issues I am addressing.
One is perennial, habitual, repetitive ingrained tendency of this Government to act as Big, Big, Big, super big brother and to watch you, to intrude into every aspect of your life, body, every aspect of your privacy. As you know we not only have a comprehensive 9 Judges Bench on Privacy. We have Article 21 – a bull work, we have Article 19 of our Constitution on Human Rights including Privacy. We have IT Act, we have many other laws. You cannot peek into my life except in exceptional cases with specific authorization not below the rank of ACP level officer. We find that a very curious center a tender given to a private agency for which bids are invited at Rs. 42 Crores. This is a worst example of using the taxpayers’ money to snoop on the taxpayers. The tender is for so-called Social Media Communication Hub creation. The portions I have read from the tender make it clear that it is officially stated to try, to get software, to try and create platform which will be deployed in the private data center to not only listen to the standard digital channels which are listed but to consolidate them and convert them. The Standard digital channels listed are all FaceBook, Twitter, You Tube, Google, Instagram etc. I am not naming them all.
This is very strange because in the entire tender of 66 pages which each of you will get on your e-mails also, there is not a single safeguard I have been able to find. Now for example – a simple question – it does not tell you how that you get encrypted data because data has to come in some form – how will it deem be not encrypted or unencrypted. There is a line; there about Meta Data should also be supplied. There is seeking all additional Meta Data but it does not tell you how Meta Data cannot be unencrypted. There is not a single safeguard against such strong and tall rules and law which we have in favour of Privacy. The reason why this is even more serious, there could normally be because the proven track record of this Government of snooping shamelessly, of attempting to shamelessly enter everybody every aspect of your life which include established laws and rules. I have from this podium itself given you many examples earlier. One obvious example is Namo App. Namo App is issued but in the name of App, 22 pieces of information are sought with all kinds with audio, video, contacts of your friends, family, location etc. etc. Nobody till now has explained and we have asked from this podium why a Namo App has to ask so many questions.
Secondly, when 13 lakh NCC cadets were to be addressed by the PM not even physically, every possible data was asked including personal mobile phone, e-mail ids etc. by the PMO. What is this mad obsession with collecting data? When a Chandigarh journalist of your Biradri demonstrated how one Crore Aadhar details could be collected in less than ten minutes for Rs. 100 Rs. 500, instead of plugging leaks, instead of plugging the holes, they filed an FIR against her. You have seen that one of the arguments offered by no less than Attorney General of the Supreme Court that the data is secured in Aadhar because it is behind is a 13 high and 5 foot thick walls. There are many cases of breach and I have not naming them but we know very well how foreign agencies have actively campaigned for BJP, Analytica is an example, campaigned for the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and in several States in Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana.
In the light of all this, Dr. Singhvi said that this Government has Sri Krishna Report. It is expected anytime in the near future. The basis of that report should be the Prevention of Data Collection Act. For this report what is the need and urgency to have very strange kind of Social Media Communication Hub unless you integrate Data Protection Laws. It is not very surreptitious over clever method of intruding in a different form.
Therefore, my questions are –
(1) Why doesn’t Social Media Communication Hub tender does not clarify that the data which the said tool is accessing is at all or per say be encrypted?
(2) PM Modi and his Minister of information & Broadcasting should let us know where are the safeguards in building such a tool?
(3) Why was there no consultation with the stakeholders in the IT and Data Industry before launching such a ‘Social Media Communication Hub’ or publishing such a tender?
(4) Page No. 30 of the Tender states “Conversation Archive” – why is maintaining this Conversation Archive necessary?
(5) Why is the BJP Government spending Rs. 42 Crore of our own taxpayers’ money to snoop us which is merely to convert consolidate and manage social media conversation and the whole object is listening and responding capability. The platform is expected to not only listen to the channels listed below but also enable in the extension to integrate proprietary data sources like Mobile insight Platform. This is very serious because what is the level of these things is still a mystery. Such a big move is taken and no safeguards are apparent. You will give an oral safeguard but that is not enough. What you say or Minister says is not enough. It has to be inbuilt into the process.
We have this great generous recent magnanimous Government giving us one paise a few days ago. Today they have done 5 times better and 6 times better. I congratulate them. There is not 5 paise or 6 paise reduction in petrol and diesel. We are really overwhelmed. We do not know whether to die of happiness or to bend down and prostrate ourselves before this Government. But why are they giving this great bonanza and jackpot with the right left hand. We have LPG – 20 crore customers take LPG cylinders per month in this country in a family of five – Imagine it virtually covers the whole system. Now the subsidized gas cylinder price has been raised yet again by Rs. 2.34 per cylinder – non subsidized has been increased by Rs. 48 per cylinder. In the last three years of this Government, Rs. 81 increase has been in subsidized gas cylinders from Rs. 412 per cylinder in 2014 to Rs. 493 per cylinder today i.e. Rs. 81 increase. In contrast, the UPA Government gave a subsidy of Rs. 449 per cylinder.
During their tenure it is 30% international crude cylinder prices of gas prices are lower. This is the duplicity, the hypocrisy, the utter thick-skinnedness and insensitivity of this ‘Sarkar’ to the necessities of the Aam Aadmi. This is their definition of ‘Achhe Din’.
On the question of privacy, Dr. Singhvi said let me tell you that we reserve all including all our legal rights after all privacy is a constitutional right, privacy is now a Supreme Court asserted comprehensively asserted rights and all those are available. But the first and foremost obligation in a democracy is to bring it to the news in the public domain by you and me but not Journalists but public at large and we are doing that first. And we are asking questions and which reserve answers and we want to know that when you design at least you share a basic object and straightaway point out the palpable once you can touch and feel the safeguard not just a lecture, just a clarification by some Minister that normally everything will be alright. If you point a safeguard, we are here to support you in public interest there is no problem. But you suddenly take out a tender, I do not find a single such thing as Meta Data will also be given. No safeguard is being given, so to answer question first and foremost must know, the country must know about this. You can ask from them. Of course, these are legal rights.
To another question on farmers’ agitation and whether the Government is on back foot, Dr. Singhvi said I do not know the Government is on the back foot. They are thick skinned. They should view the fact but when you are so thick skinned and insensitive, you have ignored farmers’ interest for four years. Three fact standout – 1.9 to 2% agricultural products, fraud and laughable statement of doubling farm income by 2022, the prices of food products as far as our table is concerned is rising, as far as poor farmers’ MSP, no MSP increase. In the fourth year you say there is a dramatic change – one crop less – we will increase MSP. For four years, you forget manifesto at page 44. Now today it is reached a crescendo. Shri Rahul Gandhi is only expressing sympathy and empathy but the pain, the frustration is coming from poor farmers. They are throwing their produce on the road. Your channels are showing I have nothing to do with it. Now which farmer will throw his produce? It is more costly to produce than to throw it. Today there is a ‘Bandh’ proposal for 6th of June. A Bandh is rare. I think very clear and loud message is sent but not to insensitive souls for those who deliver little. We will not bring it to the Mandis. If you want you can come and buy from lour local areas and we are prepared to destroy it better not to sell it. In the foreseeable past, this kind of ‘aakrosh’ is there. Do you think it is political ‘aakrosh’. Do you think, it is artificially created ‘aakrosh’? This is the truth. If you want to live in an ivory tower, all I can ….
On the agitation of farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Dr. Singhvi said there is no one size fits all approaches at all. There is no blanket approach at all. The basic object remains the same whether this is that part or that part of the country. The basic object is that whether you call if farmers’ alliance or you call it strategic seat adjustment, or seat understanding, the object will be everywhere whether by poll or triangular or quadrangular to prevent vote division of the anti-BJP votes. This is what the BJP is terrified about it. This is what you will see every election from UP to Karnataka to any other State shows how the BJP benefits from vote division but how we will do, what we will do in state X, may different from state Y but you can rest assured that it will be achieving that one single object of prevention of vote division.
On another question raised by the Samajwadi Party whether the opposition parties should field one common candidate for the Prime Minister in 2019 against Shri Modi, Dr. Singhvi said early days as yet but I do not see any reason to doubt the principle and the spirit to what he has said. I do not want to go in to details. Rather it is early but you must read the spirit – what you think and I think it is the spirit. I am not talking about the names. I am talking spirit behind it.