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 9, 2015

8879 - Why SC’s move to limit Aadhaar usage is a super-retrograde step - First Post


by Dinesh Unnikrishnan  Oct 8, 2015 11:38 IST

The question whether Aadhaar should be made available for voluntary use of citizens to access all government schemes and financial services is well on its way to becoming the next big controversial issue. The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, refused to modify its 11 August order restricting the use of Aadhaar card for distribution of foodgrain under PDS, supply of kerosene oil and LPG.
The SC bench refused to hear the pleas by regulators, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Securities and exchange board of India (Sebi), on the status of Aadhaar usage in financial services, saying the matter has now been moved to a larger bench.

Reuters

A lot is at stake with Aadhaar — a key reform step initiated by the UPA regime and followed by the NDA — given its critical importance of as a unique identification tool necessary to manage rollout of various government schemes and financial innovation in a huge country of 120 crore population. It’s unfortunate that the SC gets into executive decisions of the government.

So far, about 92 crore Aadhhar cards have been issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India. Aadhaar is already in use for imparting various government subsidies, the Modi government's financial inclusion scheme Jan Dhan Yojana and the social welfare scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, among others.

Besides, as the next step, Aadhaar is being considered for use by the Election Commission of India, Pension Fund Regulatory Authority and Employees’ Provident Fund Organization to use Aadhaar number to identify the beneficiaries and develop biometric tools for them.

The prevailing confusion over the use of Aadhaar after the 11 August SC judgment has prompted all these bodies to put their plans on hold, until further clarity emerges.

If the voluntary use of Aadhaar is not permitted in the banking system for financial inclusion, the first casualty of this will be Modi’s pet scheme, Jan Dhan Yojana, whose only chance for success depends on the Aadhaar usage.

Under the scheme, some 18 crore accounts have been already opened and banks have begun to offer overdraft facilities and insurance, pension products linked to these accounts on the condition that the beneficiary accounts are seeded to Aadhaar.
If the banking services are excluded from the voluntary use of Aadhaar, this scheme cannot work due to serious duplication issues, i.e. the same customer can go to different banks and avail the benefits presenting different documents such as driving licence or ration card.

Banks are well aware of this problem. Indian Banks Association (IBA), the industry lobby of Indian banks is too planning to move the Supreme Court to make a case for voluntary use of Aadhaar in banking transactions, said a senior IBA official to this writer on condition of anonymity.

“If Aadhaar is dismantled, the entire Jan Dhan programme is under risk,” said the official. Following the SC verdict, the finance ministry has told banks to wait before using Aadhaar in banking activities, the official said.

Moreover, this is a time when the Indian banking sector is witnessing a flood of reforms with the entry of new set of banks such as small finance banks and payments banks. Aadhaar will be key for the rollout of these entities for KYC purpose and, for the same reason, restricting can play spoilsport.

In a recent column in The Indian Express, Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of UIDAI has strongly questioned the SC’s interim order on two grounds:

First, the freedom of individual choice. Enrolment in Aadhaar is voluntary and individuals granting permission for the UIDAI system to share their name and address in a secure way with another system for their own convenience and benefit hardly qualifies as a violation of their right to privacy.

Second,
“On what basis did the court choose the use of Aadhaar for gas cylinders over other subsidies? Why allow ration shops to use Aadhaar for authentication and eKYC to “open” a ration account, but stay silent on Aadhaar’s eKYC to getting a bank account or a SIM card? Why be silent on the use of Aadhaar authentication and eKYC for other social and economic interventions like biometric attendance, the Jan Dhan Yojana, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, eSign (digital signatures) and new payments banks?”

As Nilekani argues, there is hardly any logic in permitting the use of Aadhaar for some government subsidies and deny for others. In any case, if the banks are permitted to use Aadhaar for the rollout of direct benefit transfer to give gas and food subsidies, why not permit the same for the opening of bank accounts itself? This logic is hard to understand.

Even now, the banks are not insisting Aadhaar for opening an account. The customer can use any other identity proofs for that. Aadhaar becomes mandatory only when it comes to rollout of benefits such as loan facilities through Jan Dhan accounts.

This is something the banks have insisted for long since the use of multiple documents can result in duplication. This is something RBI governor Raghuram Rajan too has highlighted recently after the SC’s interim ruling, saying Aadhaar usage can help a deserving person get credit, avoid over-borrowing by individuals and plug leakages. Rajan also pointed out the experience of the US with respect to the use of social security number, where there is no privacy concerns have come up so far.

Already, a substantial chunk of investments has gone into Aadhaar and its use to connect India’s six lakh villages to various social security schemes.

The argument that a citizen’s private information is under risk to expose when he enrolls for Aadhaar shouldn’t be a reason for restricting this since UIDAI has repeated that private information is safe with it. More critically, the Supreme Court’s intervention in executive decisions could create a lot of confusion to the institutions involved.

Certainly, it is logical to have concerns on privacy when the government data base will have the biometric data of its citizens (thumb and iris impressions). If something goes wrong with the safety promised by UIDAI with respect to the secrecy of this data, this information can be potentially misused.

But, the point here is it is the government's job to put these concerns at rest backed by legislation on privacy. This is where the Modi government should act smartly by bringing in strong laws to allay concerns on Aadhaar roll out. Aadhaar is is a reform Indian cannot afford to risk.

It is unfair if the SC comes in the way of Aadhaar since this tool is the corner stone for many critical reforms India desperately needs to prevent subsidy theft and push financial inclusion, among other things.

Denying Aadhaar’s voluntary use would be a critical mistake by the apex court.