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


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.


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Saturday, March 12, 2016

9478 - Aadhar Bill: Debate rages on - Millenium Post


On February 29, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the use of the biometric identity card, Aadhar, will be provided with statutory backing. Last Thursday, the Centre presented the Aadhar Bill. It is important to note that the Bill was introduced as a money bill in the Lok Sabha. This aspect will be dealt with later in the column. Even though this newspaper has been critical of the government’s Unique Identification System (UID), there is little doubt that if implemented in a robust manner, the Aadhar Bill could become one of the most progressive pieces of socio-economic legislation in the country’s history. Suffice to say, the UID system could play a major role in decreasing political and bureaucratic corruption in the delivery of social schemes through direct income transfers. Much of the excitement surrounding the unique identification card has to do with these intended benefits. Its use a tool against corruption stems from the technology involved. “A unique number linked to an individual’s biometrics means that no one else can pretend to be the person receiving benefits, and, therefore, cannot defraud him or her,” argues Nandan Nilekani, the former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India.  “We have often heard about the truly deserving being defrauded of benefits such as pensions, or food rations when these were stolen or diverted by someone else pretending to be them.” Nilekani goes on to explain that such diversion will be difficult since the intended beneficiary can be verified using their biometric data, such as a fingerprint. “More importantly, what Aadhaar will do, as it has already done for LPG connections, is to provide bank transfers in the name of the woman head of household,” according to Surjit Bhalla, a renowned economist, who extolled the virtues of the Aadhar Bill in a recent column for Indian Express. “In his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stated the government has embarked upon ‘a massive mission to provide LPG connection in the name of women members of poor households’. This can now be used for other welfare payments (food subsidies, NREGA, etc).”  Along these lines, it is easy to understand why the government sought statutory backing for Aadhar. Of course, there are unfinished debates on the robustness of such a system, primarily on the possible exclusion of intended beneficiaries and privacy. 

Even the Centre’s recent Economic Survey has recommended that the government must establish a union of Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and Mobile numbers, in order to ensure the benefits of subsidies reach the intended beneficiaries. The survey points out that by December 2015 the total number of Aadhaar enrolments in the country is expected to exceed 1 billion and that linking an Aadhaar Number to an active bank account will be crucial in implementing direct income transfers to the poor while preventing leakages. But on the question of privacy, technology experts have argued that the government’s assurances that it would protect biometric data from State abuse are not enough. In its defence, the government argued that the biometric information of those enrolled under Aadhar will be protected under relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act. “While the government has said that the biometric information of those enrolled under Aadhaar will be safeguarded as per sections of the Information Technology Act, 2000, technology law experts say the adjudicatory system for disclosure of sensitive personal data under the IT Act has structural flaws and is not functional,” according to a recent article on the news website Scroll. Moreover, the Unique Identification Authority of India’s own “Biometrics Standards Committee” has noted that retaining biometric efficiency for a database which will possibly run into millions “has not been adequately analyzed”. And then there exists the practical reality of taking fingerprint scans from rural labourers, who have enrolled under MNREGA. The fingers of rural workers who work with their hands are prone to cuts and scars while working. Such fingerprints might not match once the finger has healed. This is not to say that linking MNREGA with the Aadhar card is a bad idea. The question is whether the government seeks to deprive its own citizens of a public benefit or service for the want of an Aadhar card. Critics have argued that Bill will do just that. “The Aadhaar project was sold to the public as a voluntary facility,” said developmental economist Jean Drèze, who has long argued against the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for MNREGA workers. “The Supreme Court sensibly ruled that this would preclude making Aadhaar compulsory for any basic services. The government has reappropriated that power under the Aadhaar Bill, ending the pretence that Aadhaar is voluntary.” To the uninitiated, from September 2013 to March 2015, the apex court passed three orders saying that the government cannot make Aadhaar mandatory. No one, it argued, should be deprived of a public benefit or service for not possessing an Aadhaar number. However, late last year, it allowed the voluntary use of Aadhaar in certain schemes, including MNREGA. For the record, the Centre challenged the order. 


In passing the Aadhar Bill as a money bill, critics have argued that the government has circumvented the Supreme Court’s orders and avoided a series of crucial debates on the Bill. According to PRS Legislative Research, “a Bill is said to be a Money Bill if it only contains provisions related to taxation, borrowing of money by the government, expenditure from or receipt to the Consolidated Fund of India. Bills that only contain provisions that are incidental to these matters would also be regarded as Money Bills”. The government has argued for a money bill because of Aadhar’s fundamental role in the delivery of welfare subsidies. On the legislative front, the money bill is only presented in the Lok Sabha and requires no assent from the Rajya Sabha. With the Lok Sabha majority on its side, the NDA government will not be compelled to address some of the key concerns associated with Aadhar. Besides questioning the rationale of presenting the Aadhar Bill as a money bill, Lok Sabha MP Tathagata Satpathy of the Biju Janta Dal has argued that the government is setting “a dangerous precedent” in circumventing the Rajya Sabha. Admittedly, it is the government’s prerogative to present the bill, however, it deems fit. More importantly, the final decision about whether or not Aadhaar is a Money Bill rests with the Lok Sabha Speaker. But in the interest of the people who will be directly affected, the government must hold greater deliberations before it gives Aadhar the necessary statutory backing. As the above column shows, many points of criticism remain unaddressed.