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.


Monday, March 7, 2016

9400 - Economic Survey highlights challenges to Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile, BAPU may be a solution - First Post



by Seetha  Feb 27, 2016 15:34 IST

For some pre-1991 generations, the memory will still be stark. Everyone – even Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani - needed a ration card. While for many middle class people and the poor, queuing up for rations at the fair price shop was par for the course, many well-off people did not (the ration cards were merely compulsory identity and address proofs).

They would let their servants/ drivers use their ration cards to buy their rations. Many did not even do that, so fair price shop owners would show these card holders as having lifted their monthly rations and divert the rice and wheat to the black market.

Then came the targeted public distribution system and the categorisation of above poverty line (APL) and below poverty line (BPL) and that saw many people giving up their ration cards. In the debate on food subsidy, this misuse of ration cards has often been cited to argue against the universal provision of subsidised food grains (which food activists press for) and for targeted subsidy.

The loophole in the earlier system was that it allowed anyone to use a person’s ration card. The Economic Survey 2015-16 has strongly pitched for a system being implemented in quite a few states (in some on an experimental basis) – making it mandatory for card holders to physically go to ration shops and authenticate their identity through biometrics-based point of sale (POS) machines. Andhra Pradesh has been very successful in this. Madhya Pradesh has been trying several pilots and the Rajasthan government has been pushing for this aggressively.

The Economic Survey calls this BAPU (biometrically authenticated physical uptake). If X is not interested in picking up subsidised food grains and is allowing his card to be used by someone else, he will hardly be willing to do so if it involves him making a trip to the ration shop, proving his identity, taking the supplies and then giving it to someone else. 

In the earlier system, there was no cost involved; BAPU will involve costs, making diversion less attractive. The Survey pitches for BAPU for delivering food and kerosene subsidy and partly for fertiliser subsidy.

Incidentally, the union food and public distribution ministry is already pushing POS in a big way, incentivising state governments to shift to this, given the many problems in rolling out direct benefit transfer (DBT). Figures put out by the ministry in January show that over 61,000 fair price shops have installed POS machines; it planned to increase this number to 2 lakh by March end.

Some of these problems have been frankly acknowledged in the Survey and, apart from economic growth, it also strikes a sober note on the JAM trilogy (an acronym coined in last year’s Economic Survey), which has been touted as the silver bullet for addressing the problem of subsidies and leakages.

This year’s Survey admits that JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhar and mobile) may have made significant progress but still faces significant challenges. It elaborates on first-mile, middle-mile and last-mile issues that will need to be addressed if the successful DBT experiment in cooking gas is to be replicated in other areas.

In all the discourse about DBT and JAM until now, the focus was almost entirely on Aadhaar – the biometric identification of beneficiaries/ individuals. But Aadhaar is only an identity authenticating system; it is not an eligibility authenticating system. So, it will prove that a person availing of a subsidised good or service is that person; it cannot validate if that person is entitled to that subsidy. So it does not address the problem of, say, the well-off cornering Rs 5,500 crore worth of kerosene subsidies, as the Survey has pointed out.

Fortunately, the Survey acknowledges beneficiary eligibility and identification as a first mile challenge. It points to the need for beneficiary databases and the fact that the “accuracy and legitimacy of beneficiary databases have been hampered by the administrative and political discretion involved in grating identity proofs”. Indeed, the reason why the rollout of the National Food Security Act was extremely delayed was the fact that many state governments were reluctant to clean up and digitise their beneficiary databases.

The middle-mile challenge relates to coordination within the government – the lesser number of departments involved in administering a particular subsidy, the easier it is to roll out DBT. In the case of domestic fuel, for example, DBT was easier in the case of LPG because only the union petroleum ministry and the oil marketing companies (and their distributor networks) are involved. In the case of food and kerosene subsidy, the shift to DBT is complicated by the role of the central government, Food Corporation of India (in the case of food) and oil marketing companies (in the case of kerosene), state civil supplies departments (which administer the fair price shops/ kerosene depots).

The last-mile challenge is a significant one, which both supporters and critics of DBT have often flagged – the problem of banking infrastructure in rural areas and the failure of the banking correspondent model to take off. The Survey admits that “despite Jan Dhan Yojana’s record breaking feats, basic savings account penetration in most states is still relatively low” (46 per cent on average) and that mobile payments has not quite taken off in the rural areas.

In two graphs on JAM preparedness index, the Survey shows that only six states and an urban preparedness index of above 60 per cent (Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Haryana). In the case of the rural preparedness index, the performance of all states was abysmal – only Andhra Pradesh and Haryana notched more than 4 percent followed by Karnataka with 3.5 percent. But the BAPU preparedness index shows an interesting picture. Even states which did not do well on the urban and rural JAM preparedness index performed better on this score.

Obviously, then, BAPU could be a better option. Even though the union food and public distribution ministry has notified the Cash Transfer of Food Subsidy Rules 2015 under the NFSA, enabling states to switch to cash transfers if they want, there is a provision for shifting to DBT. The food ministry has initiated pilot projects on this. However, realising the problems involved, it is not pushing states too aggressively on shifting to DBT. It has given them the choice of opting for DBT or reducing leakage and diversion through POS.

The shift to BAPU will not be easy. Fair price shop owners stand to lose out from the reduced avenues for diversion and strongly resist this system. Rajasthan had to face a strike in 2014. State governments have to provide adequate incentives which allow shop owners to make up for the loss in revenue from diversion. Rajasthan tried this by branding ration shops as Annapurna Bhandars, in collaboration with Future Retail, allowing them to sell identified non-PDS items.

Aadhaar will still be important – that will validate the beneficiary’s identity. Sadly, the Survey did not flag the issue of the lack of legal status for Aadhaar (a major concern with both supporters and detractors on grounds of privacy) and pitch for early passage of a law on this.

But if the government is serious about reforming the subsidy regime, it must read the relevant chapter in the Economic Survey closely and act on it.