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, March 11, 2016

9473 - Aadhaar Bill Fails to Incorporate Standing Committee’s Suggestions - The Wire



The new Aadhaar Bill does not address many issues raised by the standing committee that reviewed the original bill, including data-collection irregularities, and privacy and security issues.

In December 2010, the UPA government introduced the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill in parliament. The Bill was meant to provide legislative backing to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a central government agency mandated to assign a 12-digit unique identification (UID) number, or Aadhaar, to all Indian residents. 

The Bill was referred to a standing committee on finance, headed by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, which took evidence from the Ministry of Planning and on the UIDAI from the government, and also sought the view of the National Human Rights Commission, the Indian Banks Association and researchers, such as Dr Reetika Khera and Dr. Usha Ramanathan. The committee subsequently deemed the Bill unacceptable and suggested a re-consideration of the scheme as well as the draft legislation.

The Aadhaar programme has been plagued by issues of privacy and security, and has led to a public interest litigation being filed by retired justice of the Karnataka High Court K.S. Puttaswamy in the Supreme Court. Although the BJP had criticised the legislation and the project when it was in opposition, it has, since coming to power, decided to use the Aadhar as the identification technology for its welfare schemes, including Digital India and Jan Dhan Yojna. But the government is restricted by a October 2015 Supreme Court order prohibiting it from making the Aadhaar mandatory for availing services. A big question the government has had to answer is the lack of a legislative mandate for a project of this size. To prevent any further delays, the government withdrew the NIDAI and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced The Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 on March 3. The new Bill appears to be a rehash of the old draft and none of the suggestions made by the standing committee have been taken into account.

Suggestions ignored
The Sinha-led committee had taken great exception to the continued collection of data and issuance of Aadhaar numbers, while the NIDAI Bill was pending in parliament. The report pointed that the implementation of the provisions of the Bill and continuing to incur expenditure from the exchequer was a circumvention of the prerogative powers of the parliament. 

However, the project has continued without abeyance since its inception in 2009. The new Aadhaar Bill ignores many of issues identified by the committee, some of which I have listed below.
One of the primary arguments made by proponents of Aadhaar has been that it would be useful in providing services to the marginalised sections of society who currently do not have identification cards and are thus not able to receive state sponsored services and subsidies. The committee’s report pointed out that the project would be unable to achieve this as no statistical data on these sections of society were being used by the UIDAI to provide coverage to them. The introducer systems that was supposed to provide Aadhaar numbers to those without any form of identification has been used to enroll only 0.03% of the total number of people registered. Further, the Biometrics Standards Committee of the UIDAI has itself acknowledged the issues caused due to a high number of manual labourers in India, which would lead to sub-optimal fingerprint scans. A report by 4G Identity Solutions estimates that while in any population approximately 5% of the people have unreadable fingerprints, in India it could lead to a failure to enroll up to 15% of the population. Thus, the project could actually end up excluding more people.

The report also pointed to a lack of cost-benefit analysis being done before embarking on the scheme. It also made a reference to the report by the London School of Economics on the UK Identity Project that was shelved due to the huge costs involved in the project; the complexity of the exercise and unavailability of reliable, safe and tested technology; the risks to safety and security of registrants; security measures at a scale that would have resulted in substantially higher implementation and operational costs; and the extreme dangers to the rights of registrants and public interest. The standing committee insisted that these global experiences remained relevant to the UID project and needed to be considered. However, the new Aadhaar Bill has not addressed these issues.

The committee also came down heavily on the irregularities in data collection by the UIDAI. It raised doubts about the ability of the registrars to effectively verify the registrants and a lack of any security audit mechanisms that could identify issues in enrollment. Pointing to news reports on irregularities in the process being followed by the registrars appointed by the UIDAI, the committee deemed the memorandums of understanding signed between the UIDAI and the Registrars as toothless. The involvement of private parties has been under question already with a many doubts being raised over the lack of appropriate safeguards in the contracts with these contractors.

Perhaps the most significant observation made by the committee was that any scheme that facilitated the creation of a massive database of the personal information of the country’s citizens and its linkage with other databases should be preceded by a comprehensive data protection law. The committee acknowledged that in the absence of a privacy law that governs the collection, use and storage of personal data, the UID project would lead to data abuse, and the surveillance and profiling of individuals. The current data protection framework in Section 43A under the Information Technology Act, 2000 are woefully inadequate and far too limited in their scope. While there are some protection mechanisms built into Chapter VI of the new Aadhaar Bill, these are nowhere as comprehensive as the ones articulated in the Privacy Bill, which is still in draft stage. Additionally, these protections are also subject to broad exceptions that could significantly dilute their efficacy.

Amber Sinha is a policy researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society.