In response to The Quint’s investigation, which found that electoral bonds have hidden alphanumeric sequences printed on them to track the link between donors and political parties, a top-level officer at the State Bank of India said that the numbers are merely a “security feature”.
We don’t believe this code is a tracking mechanism. This was put in those papers as a security feature only.
The official has thus confirmed the presence of unique alphanumeric sequences on electoral bonds. This contradicts what Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said in the past about political donations via electoral bonds being “completely anonymous”.
He had assured the country that “how much each donor has distributed to a political party would be known only to the donor.”
Besides, if the numbers are not being used for “tracking”, why are they unique to each bond?
The SBI official’s statement raises yet another important question.
If the existence of these unique hidden numbers is for “security” purposes only, then why aren’t the existing common watermarks on the electoral bonds enough? They too are meant to provide security for those who have made donations.
As The Quint found out through forensic tests, these hidden serial numbers are visible only under UV light at the top-right corner of the original document. The unique number and its hidden nature suggests the possibility that the government is directly monitoring the political preferences of India's masses.
The Quint had earlier purchased two electoral bonds of Rs 1,000 each, at State Bank of India branches designated to issue electoral bonds.
After running them through forensics, the results showed that both the bonds contained the unique numbers OT 015101 and OT 015102 respectively, discoverable only in fluorescence when examined under UV light.