14 March 2025
Hi, Iâ€™m Gyanesh Harindra – a 36 year old investigative journalist with The Hindustan Dak. Of late, my efforts at digging for the truth are throwing up a lot of uncomfortable facts and questions. Let me take you through the journey that has left my brain think it is at the wheels of a rudderless boat.
12 January 2025
It was a chilly Sunday morning. I was getting ready to meet the mysterious caller who had called me last night. The caller had sounded very excited and worried at the same time. He had mentioned about some important piece of information he had in his possession. I thought it was odd that he wanted to meet me on the 0710 Chennai Express. In my career so far, this was the first time somebody wanted to meet me while travelling.
I quickly finished my breakfast Soylent and hopped on my bike. It was a good thing, I remembered to plug the bike for charging as the first thing when I woke up that morning. I was just in time to catch the 0645 metro to the railway station.
I was wearing my red pullover that served two purposes – to beat the cold and to identify myself to the mystery man. My next seat was occupied by a meek looking teenager, who was engrossed in watching a kannada movie on his Personal Access Display Device. As the train started to move, a short and stout bespectacled middle-aged man – with a prominent religious mark dotting his forehead and temple making him look very spiritually inclined – came and asked the boy sitting next to me if he could switch seats. The boy though taken aback, silently nodded and just as silently went and sat in the manâ€™s seat a few rows away. My new neighbour made himself comfortable and slowly started searching through his pant pockets.
He took out his mobile phone – the model looked at least a few years old – and proceeded to check his messages. Quite suddenly, he turned to me and asked me if I had a spare memory pin. I understood that this was the mystery man who called me yesterday and had asked me to get a couple of memory pins. I handed him an empty memory pin, I was carrying. He inserted that into his mobile phone and started tapping furiously. He kept the phone in his shirt pocket, turned to me, gave back my pin and said – â€œNamaste, you must be Gyaneshâ€. I replied â€œYesâ€. He followed:
â€œIâ€™m Yethiraj Shodhan. Iâ€™m working at the UIDAI as a Project Specialist for the past six years. I know about your RTI applications seeking information about the recent Guttahalli property disputes.â€œ
My eyes lit up expecting a stash of information about the most famous case in recent times. However he said “I’m sorry I do not have anything specific to the case, but I do however want to tell you something more sinister that is connected to that case. What you do with the information I’m about to reveal is upto you.”
“As you know for the past few years the UID as a platform gained quite a bit of steam and has established itself in an unassailable position. Every government body uses UID to authenticate and authorize, every financial institution tags every transaction with the UID, telecom companies use it to authorize their services, transport companies use it to authenticate online and book seats, toll plazas use it with their pre-paid cards to allow vehicles through their poll booths unattended, entertainment centers like multiplexes, amusement parks use it to verify access. UID is so ubiquitous, that people have long forgotten all the opposition and brouhaha it faced in its initial stages.
â€œUID has proved to be so effective for law enforcement that agencies have forgotten investigation techniques without using UID.”
At this point, I was a bit apprehensive about his credibility. However I asked him “Isn’t UID not supposed to track people? Wasn’t that guarantee provided when this was approved by the parliament way back in 2014?”
“You’ve been asleep at the door, my friend. Four years back parliament approved a one line amendment that allowed tracking of UID transactions, of course, to be closely monitored by an oversight committee. This was followed by the establishment of a new specialized agency called Internal Intelligence Unit. They are eponymously called just In2. Now, In2 owns a data center that has a peering arrangement with the UID data centers. Actually I’m not sure if there is only one or many, though.”
“I act as the liaison for UID and In2, and I know first hand how the UID has become a boon for law enforcement. For instance, the police identified the perpetrators of the bear run on the stock market within minutes and arrested them almost red handed at their own premises. Trailing and IDing suspects has become a no brainer now. The general law and order has improved quite a lot because of the UID, though the government doesn’t credit it publicly.”
“However, I’m not here to advocate for UID. I’m here to do just the opposite. There is a cabal of politicians, intelligence officers, businessmen, bureaucrats who are subverting the whole process and systems for their own benefits. Though there is a parliamentary oversight committee that meets once every month and goes through the summary of the logs prepared for them, they aren’t equipped to cross examine and go deep into the workings of In2.”
“The additional director and quite a few others are fixing these loopholes to their benefit. They have systems in place that ride on top of In2’s systems and obtain comprehensive information about any person who has a UID number. They also cross link the bank account numbers, PAN number, Voter number, Insurance, Licenses, business permits, Professional membership numbers, private clubs memberships, credit/debit card numbers, employee numbers and what not, to create fingerprints of private citizens and businesses. This information is then sold to whoever comes looking for it including political opponents, business competitors, stalkers, celebrity hunters, underworld goons, marketers and even foreign spies.â€
â€œThe way the cabal have stitched these systems, it is very easy for them to monitor the movements of any person entirely remotely without the tracked person coming to know about it in anyway. In fact the case you’re pursuing has the potential to blow the lids of these operations. I actually tried to piece together as to what would have happened on the case. This is my theory.â€
â€œThe Professor who had inherited a large property had no heirs. He wanted to give away the property to some charitable organization. He in fact had registered a will to that effect. But once he died, a new will was found which was linked to the property at the registrar’s office. Of course it was authenticated using his biometrics. This â€˜willâ€™ bequeathed his property to some individual who claims he had served the Professor as his secretary. But this is hotly contested by the charitable organization who says the Professor had indeed reiterated his intent to leave his property for the organization just a few weeks back before his death.â€
â€œThere is no doubt that there is some foul play in the whole story. I recently discovered that the same cabal had hired some underground hackers to create a nano device that grabs signatures from the wire while they are being sent to the UID authentication servers, which they can reuse for various forgery purposes. Theyâ€™re very discrete in using this and I believe theyâ€™re using it only for a limited number of high value frauds like this one.â€
â€œThere is no way these people can get caught as they are always a step ahead of anybody who might want to investigate them. They are constantly monitoring the airwaves and the cables for communication about this facility. Once alerted,they simply throw them off trail or eliminate their threat.”
I was stunned by this deluge of information. I realized that I was not prepared for this at all. I asked him as to how did he expect me to proceed. He said;
â€œThe UID is doing quite a lot of good for a large number of people, while it has the potential to bring upon a great deal of suffering because of the actions of some people. In my opinion stopping UID right now might not be a great idea. It should have been stopped way back when it was being conceived or was in its nascent stages.â€
â€œIâ€™ve transferred whatever I had with me about these activities into that memory pin I gave you. Iâ€™ve been spiritually inclined for the past couple of years and I have quit my job. Iâ€™m taking up Sanyaasa Deeksha. I leave it entirely to your discretion, as to what to do with the information. In some ways, I just shifted my wheel of burden onto your head.â€
â€œMy stop has arrived. Iâ€™ll alight. May you be blessed with the knowledge of righteousness and may you follow that path. Goodbye.â€
As soon as he left, I got a message on my mobile phone – â€œCongratulations! Your data plan has been upgraded to an unlimited plan. Please swipe your index finger across the UID Validatorâ„¢ in the device to accept and activateâ€.