uid

When I opposed Aadhaar in 2010 , I was called a BJP stooge. In 2016 I am still opposing Aadhaar for the same reasons and I am told I am a Congress die hard. No one wants to see why I oppose Aadhaar as it is too difficult. Plus Aadhaar is FREE so why not get one ? Ram Krishnaswamy

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mahatma Gandhi

In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. Mahatma Gandhi

“The invasion of privacy is of no consequence because privacy is not a fundamental right and has no meaning under Article 21. The right to privacy is not a guaranteed under the constitution, because privacy is not a fundamental right.” Article 21 of the Indian constitution refers to the right to life and liberty -Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

“There is merit in the complaints. You are unwittingly allowing snooping, harassment and commercial exploitation. The information about an individual obtained by the UIDAI while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a court for the purpose of criminal investigation.” -A three judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar said in an interim order.

Legal scholar Usha Ramanathan describes UID as an inverse of sunshine laws like the Right to Information. While the RTI makes the state transparent to the citizen, the UID does the inverse: it makes the citizen transparent to the state, she says.

Good idea gone bad
I have written earlier that UID/Aadhaar was a poorly designed, unreliable and expensive solution to the really good idea of providing national identification for over a billion Indians. My petition contends that UID in its current form violates the right to privacy of a citizen, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. This is because sensitive biometric and demographic information of citizens are with enrolment agencies, registrars and sub-registrars who have no legal liability for any misuse of this data. This petition has opened up the larger discussion on privacy rights for Indians. The current Article 21 interpretation by the Supreme Court was done decades ago, before the advent of internet and today’s technology and all the new privacy challenges that have arisen as a consequence.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP Rajya Sabha

“What is Aadhaar? There is enormous confusion. That Aadhaar will identify people who are entitled for subsidy. No. Aadhaar doesn’t determine who is eligible and who isn’t,” Jairam Ramesh

But Aadhaar has been mythologised during the previous government by its creators into some technology super force that will transform governance in a miraculous manner. I even read an article recently that compared Aadhaar to some revolution and quoted a 1930s historian, Will Durant. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP

“I know you will say that it is not mandatory. But, it is compulsorily mandatorily voluntary,” Jairam Ramesh, Rajya Saba April 2017.

August 24, 2017: The nine-judge Constitution Bench rules that right to privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the World; indeed it's the only thing that ever has"

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” - Edward Snowden

Special

Here is what the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance, which examined the draft N I A Bill said.

1. There is no feasibility study of the project]

2. The project was approved in haste

3. The system has far-reaching consequences for national security

4. The project is directionless with no clarity of purpose

5. It is built on unreliable and untested technology

6. The exercise becomes futile in case the project does not continue beyond the present number of 200 million enrolments

7. There is lack of coordination and difference of views between various departments and ministries of government on the project

Quotes

What was said before the elections:

NPR & UID aiding Aliens – Narendra Modi

"I don't agree to Nandan Nilekeni and his madcap (UID) scheme which he is trying to promote," Senior BJP Leader Yashwant Sinha, Sept 2012

"All we have to show for the hundreds of thousands of crore spent on Aadhar is a Congress ticket for Nilekani" Yashwant Sinha.(27/02/2014)

TV Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer and head of human resources, tweeted: "selling his soul for power; made his money in the company wedded to meritocracy." Money Life Article

Nilekani’s reporting structure is unprecedented in history; he reports directly to the Prime Minister, thus bypassing all checks and balances in government - Home Minister Chidambaram

To refer to Aadhaar as an anti corruption tool despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is mystifying. That it is now officially a Rs.50,000 Crores solution searching for an explanation is also without any doubt. -- Statement by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP & Member, Standing Committee on Finance

Finance minister P Chidambaram’s statement, in an exit interview to this newspaper, that Aadhaar needs to be re-thought completely is probably the last nail in its coffin. :-) Financial Express

The Rural Development Ministry headed by Jairam Ramesh created a road Block and refused to make Aadhaar mandatory for making wage payment to people enrolled under the world’s largest social security scheme NRGA unless all residents are covered.


Friday, October 2, 2015

8789 - Scripting clean polls, via Aadhaar - The Hindu

October 1, 2015


Having photos printed on the electoral rolls was a step towards making identification easier at the polling station. Photo: V. Raju

Free and fair elections form the bedrock of a democracy and clean electoral rolls are a vital part of it. The use of Aadhaar numbers to identify voters will not just make the enrolment process simpler, it will also help avoid the duplication of voter names across constituencies. Having photos printed on the electoral rolls was a step towards making identification easier at the polling station. But even photo ID card is no answer to the problem of duplicate registrations The election law is clear that a person can be registered as a voter in a place where he is ordinarily resident. However, thanks to various factors like seasonal migration and relentless urbanisation, people end up being on the electoral rolls of more than one polling booth

The Election Commission (EC) starts its annual revision of electoral rolls throughout the country in September ever year. The exercise becomes more significant for the States going to the polls the following year. Elections are due in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry in the first half of the next year.

Except in the States where polls are scheduled, the political parties and the voters are generally apathetic to the roll-revision work. In the poll-bound States, however, the political parties can be hyperactive, as happened in Tamil Nadu prior to the 2006 Assembly elections when party leaders were given targets for registration of voters, leading to allegations of malpractices and, as a result, filing of cases by the EC against some party functionaries.

Multiple enrolments by voters

The EC’s efforts to have a clean electoral roll with full enrolment often falters due to a variety of reasons. Relentless urbanisation and inter-and intra-city movements pose a challenge to having an updated and accurate electoral roll in urban areas. A study carried out in Bengaluru prior to the 2008 Assembly elections in Karnataka revealed that the year-on-year change varied from 6 to 8 per cent.

N. Gopalaswami

Since, in the non-election years, there is little incentive for either the voters or the political parties to track such movements or, for that matter, for the staff to effectively capture the changes, there is a huge pile-up of distortions, which peak in the pre-election year.

In the rural areas, though the Booth Level officer (BLO) system works better in tracking changes, the problems there are of a different kind. The election law is clear that a person can be registered as a voter in a place where he is ordinarily resident. However, thanks to various ‘collateral’ issues, persons who are not ‘ordinarily resident’ at a place continue to be on the electoral rolls. For instance, come election time, there is an exodus from Chennai to the southern districts of Tamil Nadu as people from these areas who have settled in Chennai flock to their respective native places to exercise their franchise.
The duplication due to their enrolment in electoral rolls of both their respective native places and Chennai is an invitation to bogus voting.

In the run up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2007, an intensive checking of rolls revealed many cases of people who had migrated to Mumbai decades earlier but continued to be on the electoral rolls in their native place as, for them, having their names on the electoral rolls was an additional proof for claims on family property.

Prior to the Gujarat elections of 2008, a Member of Parliament from Mumbai had brought to the EC’s notice names of voters found on the electoral rolls both in Mumbai and in a constituency in north Gujarat. The Chief Election Officer (CEO) of Gujarat issued a warning that being listed in more than one place was an offence and his vigilant efforts to prevent any large-scale duplication proved to be a sufficient disincentive, except for a dozen or so voters.

Seasonal migration of labour from Bihar, eastern UP, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh is a well-known phenomenon; some may even stay back much longer as is the case in Jalandhar where, after getting jobs in the textile industry there, migrant agricultural labourers from Bihar have continued their stay. According to a recent report, in Tamil Nadu alone, there is a labour force comprising nearly 10 lakh people hailing from northern states. They constitute a potential bogus voter pool in their native places.

Duplication of names on electoral rolls is prevalent in places like an urban area and its neighbouring villages as well as in villages on either side of State borders. Recently, a voter proudly told me that he has two Voter Identity Cards, one with the address of his rural home near Chennai and the other with his city address.

Prior to the 2006 Assembly elections in Kerala, the then CEO found an abnormal increase in the voter population in two constituencies, one in the Palakkad district and the other in the Kasargod district. He traced it to a duplication in registration — the voters had been on the rolls of both the districts and the adjoining areas of Coimbatore and Mangalore. In the Manjeshwar constituency of the Kasargod district, the names of nearly five thousand such bogus voters were struck down, which, incidentally, had been the margin of victory in the previous elections.

For the 2008 Assembly elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Election Commission, fearing a similar occurrence in the border villages, scheduled the polls on the same date in all adjoining constituencies .

Aware of the large-scale migration of labour for Surat’s diamond industry from districts in Saurashtra, the CEO of Gujarat did a name comparison of voters in the Varachha constituency of Surat district — largely inhabited by migrants from Saurashtra — and a couple of constituencies in the districts of their origin, and found out 50,000 potential cases of duplication. An advertisement for voluntary declaration led to only 2,000 disclosures. Appreciating the impossibility of physically verifying the rest of the 48,000 entries, the EC opted to schedule polls in Surat and in the selected districts of Saurashtra on the same day, though they were not contiguous areas.

It was the redoubtable T.N. Seshan, former CEC, who conceived the idea of an Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) issued by the Election Commission to contain bogus voting. His diktat of ‘No ID card, No polls’ was opposed by politicians in several poll-bound States, citing a lack of funds. Ultimately peace was brokered under the Supreme Court’s directions and, ever since, photo ID cards have come to be the mainstay in establishing a voter’s identity. However, from time to time, innovative excuses are proffered to prevent their use. In the run-up to the 2007 Punjab Assembly elections, the then Chief Minister sought exemption from production of photo IDs by voters, alleging that the Opposition party was purchasing cards to prevent voting by a section of the population.

Reference point to avoid duplication
Having photos printed on the electoral rolls was a step towards making identification easier at the polling station. But even photo ID card is no answer to the problem of duplicate registrations. The photo ID card was designed to have a unique number but there was no way to prevent a second card from being issued to the same person if he/she did not voluntarily disclose information as there was no reliable reference point against which checking could be done. A matching of photos was the only option but it is enormously time-consuming and needs physical verification before coming to a final conclusion. It is here that Aadhaar provides a clean and easy solution.
Since Aadhaar has a reliable backing by way of fingerprint and iris scan for identification, the scope for duplication is next to nil. Further, and more importantly, to verify for duplication, election officials will require nothing more than an Aadhaar number — not even the fingerprint or iris scan — and, where necessary, will have to query the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) website for just a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer for the authenticity of the number.

The question of a breach of privacy is a complete non-starter in this arrangement. As the role of Aadhaar goes up, the system of an Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) can be phased out, saving cost. With Aadhaar, it is possible to enrol a person in a polling station/constituency and simultaneously remove his name from a different polling station/constituency, thus avoiding duplication and also making voter enrolment simpler.
The use of Aadhar will have another important advantage. Since, unlike EPICs, Aadhaar cards can be issued to even minors, their incorporation into the electoral roll once they turn 18 will be seamless. This is significant since it is the 18-25 age group that is woefully under-enumerated. If the introduction of EPIC by the EC was a significant step towards preventing impersonation at the polling booth, incorporating Aadhaar will help prevent bogus enrolment and duplication while, at the same time, making updating of electoral rolls easier and far more accurate. The bonus is that Aadhaar has the potential to facilitate e-voting as and when it is embarked upon.
However, a recent Supreme Court order embargoed the use of Aadhaar, except in the cases of Public Distribution System (PDS) and kerosene and cooking gas subsidies.

Periodic elections, conducted in a free and fair manner are the very backbone of an effective democracy and clean electoral rolls form the very foundation for such an exercise. The EC owes it to itself and to the electors to move the Supreme Court to allow an incorporation of Aadhaar numbers into the electoral rolls, considering the tremendous advantages of such a move.
(N. Gopalaswami is a former Chief Election Commissioner of India.)

Keywords: AadhaarVotePollElectionElection CommissionN. Gopalaswami