The UIDAI has taken two successive governments in India and the entire world for a ride. It identifies nothing. It is not unique. The entire UID data has never been verified and audited. The UID cannot be used for governance, financial databases or anything. It’s use is the biggest threat to national security since independence. – Anupam Saraph 2018

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 scholarUsha Ramanathandescribes 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

In the Supreme Court, Meenakshi Arora, one of the senior counsel in the case, compared it to living under a general, perpetual, nation-wide criminal warrant.

Had never thought of it that way, but living in the Aadhaar universe is like living in a prison. All of us are treated like criminals with barely any rights or recourse and gatekeepers have absolute power on you and your life.

Announcing the launch of the#BreakAadhaarChainscampaign, culminating with events in multiple cities on 12th Jan. This is the last opportunity to make your voice heard before the Supreme Court hearings start on 17th Jan 2018. In collaboration with @no2uidand@rozi_roti.

UIDAI's security seems to be founded on four time tested pillars of security idiocy

1) Denial

2) Issue fiats and point finger

3) Shoot messenger

4) Bury head in sand.

God Save India

Sunday, November 29, 2015

9093 - JAM in Jharkhand: 'Apply lemon juice, flour, Boroplus on fingers and pass biometrics test' - Scroll.In

The absence of regular power and internet connectivity has made it difficult to implement the direct benefits transfer programme in many places, severely disrupting services to some of India's poorest people.

Anumeha Yadav  · Nov 23, 2015 · 09:15 am

Photo Credit: Anumeha Yadav

Jyoti Srivastav, head bent over the screen of her laptop, tried yet again to connect to the internet. Behind her, dozens waited at the Pragya Kendra in Cheeru village in Latehar, Jharkhand.

The Airtel phone tower in Balumath, the block headquarters, had caught fire three months before, said Srivastav, manager of the sub-kiosk. “Since then, we’ve had these problems.”

The kendra, of which there is one in every panchayat in Jharkhand, functions as a delivery centre for services; it is where villagers can apply for caste, income, birth and death certificates, and also get private sector services such as mobile recharges.

The kendras are envisioned as the last-mile delivery points in the National Democratic Alliance government's ambitious “JAM” – the bundling together of Jan Dhan bank accounts, Aadhaar identity numbers and Mobile networks, as the cornerstone of its welfare policy.

As planned, all social stipends will be routed through Jan Dhan, the bank accounts to be opened for every citizen. Cash transfers to these accounts will replace benefits in kind, such as subsidised foodgrains. The stated goal is that the poor can access benefits at their doorstep, or in their village, by using their Aadhaar, biometrics-based identity numbers.

Between vision and realisation lies a problem – inadequate infrastructure. Even when the internet connection works, Srivastav said, she runs into other problems. She pointed to a small black device emitting a blue light, that was connected to the laptop. It was, she explained, used to verify biometrics data to carry out banking transactions.“If the person has even a small cut on the finger – pathera log, those who work with stones and bricks, often have such cuts – the machine does not recognise the fingerprint," she said. “What can I do? I tell them to apply lemon juice, atta, and Boroplus at home, come back when the cut is healed and try again.”

In August, when the biometrics scanner stopped working, staff had to go to Palamu, and then the capital Ranchi  to get it replaced.

The cup and the lip

The farmers welcomed the idea of having banking services available right there in the village – when the machine works. But when it doesn’t, it leads to months of disruption in payments to the poorest beneficiaries.

Cheeru has been chosen as a pilot panchayat to try out the scheme. Since the village sits on an elevation, district officials had hoped the internet connection would be stable. This isn't the case. Throughout that day, bank kiosk staff worked to try and restore the connection while a line of old-age pensioners waited in hope.

Harif Miyan was one such person. The elderly farmer from a neighbouring village of Rohan said it was his fourth trip. For the past ten years, he received his pension – Rs 600 per month – through the village post office with minimum fuss, on producing his passbook. Under the new scheme, he needed a Jan Dhan bank account to get the money.

“It was more convenient to get the pension at the village post-office,” agreed Shakiran Miyan, a 70-year old farmer from Cheeru who was waiting in line along with Harif Miyan and others. He hadn’t received his pension for two months, and now his anxiety was escalating.

Latehar district, to which Cheeru village belongs, has just 37 bank branches for a population of 7.26 lakh. Most branches are staffed by just one person each, District Collector Balmukund Jha said. Given the shortage of staff, the local administration has partnered with Vikalp Media, a private company, to provide services to the over two lakh new beneficiaries for whom accounts have been opened.

Harif Miyan has not been able to get a bank account opened to get his pensions after three attempts.

Vikalp, in turn, has hired agents, called banking correspondents – village-level entrepreneurs who act as extension counters for the major banks. Their job is to provide doorstep banking facilities such as cash withdrawal and disbursal of wages for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme with the help of hand-held devices, like mini-ATMs. In return, the government pays Vikalp and the banking correspondent a fee of 0.25% of every transaction. (In other districts, authorities have partnered with similar agencies such as FINO, United Telecom Limited). Of this 0.25%, 80% goes to the banking correspondent directly and 20% to the company.

Large areas of Latehar have neither electricity, nor a functioning internet connection. The administration relies on solar panels for power and Very Small Aperture Terminal satellite ground stations for connectivity. When the weather turned bad, said the manager of State Bank of India’s Bhainsadon branch, I Hembrom, both systems collapse.

Connectivity is one problem. Staff at Pragya Kendras in other parts of the district list many more. Banking correspondents are required to carry large amounts of cash for disbursal, and that creates a problem of security.

Other problems

At the Pragya Kendra in Navagarh panchayat, some 80 kilometers from Cheeru, a large crowd had gathered by 11 am one recent day to get bank accounts opened and to enquire about delays in payments of pensions and scholarships.

Navagarh panchayat, hemmed in by a dense sal forest, lies in a Maoist stronghold. In August, robbers cleaned out the local Kendra, housed within the panchayat bhavan. “They took everything – a printer, scanner, two desktops, a computer camera, and even the caste certificates that were stored here,” said area banking correspondent Sarwar Alam.

Not only did it take weeks to get everything replaced, Alam had a hard time even getting a police complaint recorded. “The police asked, 'why did you not take everything home with you before leaving the office?',” Alam said. “I had to explain that desktops, printer, scanner, these are heavy objects, I could not possibly carry them.”

Several of those who had queued up in front of Alam's desk were worried that they had not got their Aadhaar cards despite having enrolled twice, and in some cases even five times, and ascribed it to delays in the post.

Mungeshwar Baitha, a Dalit farmer with a daughter and a son in class VII in the local government middle school, was particularly worried. His son had received a scholarship of Rs 1,000, but his daughter had not. “The Masterji said only my son will get the scholarship in cash this time,” said Baitha. “For my daughter Shobha, I have to get a new account opened. But I do not understand – when both of them have their names in the scholarship list, how come only one gets the payment?”

Confusion confounded

During Supreme Court hearings on whether the government could proceed with the Aadhaar scheme despite the absence of a law to ensure privacy of the data collected under the initiative, the Centre said it was already using the biometrics programme to disburse most social stipends. The scheme, it said, had become indispensable and any restriction on Aadhaar would disrupt payments to the beneficiaries.

But the situation on the ground differs from the picture painted by the government. Though Aadhaar has been made mandatory in some schemes, it is not being used in several others.

Anjan Kumar Moitra, the head of Jharkhand's state-level bankers' committee, a forum coordinating development measures, said that many people did not have Aadhaar cards at the time of the opening of their Jan Dhan accounts. To overcome this, banks had taken prints of their first three fingers of each hand and stored them in local servers. In villages like Navagarh, these are being used to authenticate transactions, especially for scholarships for children.“Most children have not got Aadhaar," he said. "We scan and match the biometrics in the bank's database and complete the transactions."

The use of these multiple systems has created confusion. Villagers in Cheeru and Navagarh said there was insufficient information on the method of identification required to get different types of payments.

Sarwar Alam, the banking correspondent in Navagarh.

In Navagarh that day, only a few transactions were successful. Ishrat Parveen, a student of class IX, was able to verify her biometrics, and was told to collect her Rs 1500 scholarship from the centre the next day. But Class VIII student Mazboon Khatoon, who had come with her uncle Rajab Ansari to access her scholarship, failed, despite repeatedly placing her index finger, then her thumb, on the scanner.

The internet has stopped working again, said Alam as he left the centre to try and identify the problem. Meanwhile, the queue snaked around the block, and continued to grow.

Sarwar bhaag gaya hai, aur server bhi down hai,” exclaimed Mubeen Ansari, one of those waiting in line. Sarwar – the first name of the banking correspondent – has run away, and the server is out of action.

The others laughed at the wry observation. But their laughter had an undercurrent of resignation.

This is part one of a two-part series on Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile. Read the second part here. 

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