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09/05/2018 10:57 AM IST | Updated 09/05/2018 11:13 AM IST

Aadhaar-Linking Controversy: RTI Confirms Policemen And Bureaucrats Behind Lokniti Foundation

Ten of the founding members of the organisation are public servants.

An Aadhaar biometric identity card, issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is arranged for a photograph in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
An Aadhaar biometric identity card, issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is arranged for a photograph in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017.

A week after HuffPost broke the news that a group of civil servants was behind Lokniti Foundation, an NGO whose public interest litigation (PIL) had led the Indian government to force millions of Indians to link their mobile SIM cards to their Aadhaar numbers, an RTI filed by Caravan has found that ten of the 17 founding members of the organisation are civil servants.

A response to an RTI (Right To Information) filed by the magazine revealed the names of the public servants: Mahendra Ranga, Rajvir Singh, Shatrujeet Kapur, Rajender Upadhyay, Yogpal Singh, Ravindra Nath Singh, Shalender Singh, Shyam Bhagat Negi, Ishwar Singh, and Dwijendra Nath Singh.

According to the RTI response, seven of the founding members of the organisation who are not listed as public servants — but as businessmen or in other professions — form Lokniti Foundation's governing body. Their president is Lakshmi Narain Yadav, who is listed as a south Delhi-based businessman; while the vice president is Dr Jagdish Solanki, a west Delhi-based doctor. The RTI reveals that the general secretary is a businessman from Faridabad called Raj Kumar; the secretary is Sharad Goel, a businessman in Gurugram; and Baljit SIngh, a Rohini-based businessman is the treasurer. Two others — Deepak Gupta, a Haryana-based businessman, and A.R. Takkar, a Haryana-based advocate — are executive committee members, according to the RTI.

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In an earlier interview with HuffPost India, Lokniti's secretary Sharad Goel had said that there are around 20 members of the NGO, of which most are bureaucrats who can't hold official positions and are "executive members". He had said that the members rarely meet each other, and that their listed office address on Aruna Asaf Ali Road in south Delhi has been closed down due to the recent sealing drive by the municipal authorities.

Goel told HuffPost at the time that the office building belonged to him and no one besides some peons and administrative staff was ever found in the premises. When HuffPost India searched for the address in April, Google Maps identified it as 'Nature International' (a private NGO run by Goel). The nearest set of buildings were in a commercial compound that belonged to an auto dealer. All the buildings had been sealed there, and no one there appeared to have heard of either Lokniti Foundation or Nature International.

One of the public servants associated with Lokniti told Caravan's Aria Thaker — on the condition of anonymity — that the organisation was formed by "friends" from the same batch of civil servants who "trained together". One of these founding members, Rajvir Singh, who is currently the Director General Eastern of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, told Caravan that he had resigned from Lokniti "long back". Others either refused to answer questions or slammed down the phone when Thaker asked them about their work at the NGO.

The president of the organisation, Lakshmi Narain Yadav, is elderly and not very involved with the NGO's work anymore, Goel said in separate interviews to both HuffPost India and Caravan. The Haryana-based advocate A.R. Takkar, who is listed as an executive member of the NGO's governing body, told Caravan that he had never been approached after the NGO was formed in 2008.

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