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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Friday, March 18, 2016

9553 - Aadhaar Bill passed in LS: How Narendra Modi just saved the fate of Jan Dhan and subsidy reforms


by Dinesh Unnikrishnan  Mar 17, 2016 13:00 IST

Finally, the Aadhaar Bill is a reality. The Bill — Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 — was passed in Lok Sabha on Wednesday evening, rejecting the amendments proposed in the Rajya Sabha. In the first place, no one, not even the most hardcore supporters of the Congress and Left parties, dispute the crucial importance of making a legally-backed Aadhaar available for 1.25 billion Indian citizens.

The whole process of subsidy reforms, kicked off during the UPA days and now pushed aggressively by the NDA government, is built on the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) channel, based on the unique identity number, or Aadhaar awarded to each citizen. It holds particular importance for the Narendra Modi government, and the success of its financial inclusion push under the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile) trinity.

Leakage in subsidy has been a grave concern for India's exchequer for years. Hence, linking bank accounts to a unique social identity number will help plug the spillage. Despite the opposition from the Congress and Left parties, the passage of the Aadhaar (Target Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 is a done deal now since it was introduced in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday as a money bill.

There are three major objections raised by the opposition parties in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday-the last day of the first half of budget session:
1) Is Aadhaar mandatory for citizens to avail subsidies and government benefits?
2) Will the bio-metric data shared with the government as part of Aadhaar generation put his/her privacy at risk?
3) Can foreign citizens in the country obtain the number and thus become legitimate Indian citizens and use Aadhaar to gain access to subsidies?
These objections are political in nature and do not stand strong against the Aadhaar Bill on account of the following reasons:
One, 99.21 crore Aadhaar cards have already been issued to almost 97 percent of the country's adult population, so the question of whether the scheme is voluntary or not doesn't really matter in the practical sense. And though the NDA government has clarified that Aadhaar will not be mandatory, banks are likely to insist on the number to implement DBT to skirt problems arising out of duplication. Even now, if one approaches a bank to open a Jan Dhan account, the institution will accept any document (driving licence, PAN card, ration card etc.) but to link it as DBT account, it will insist on an Aadhaar number.

Two, the NDA government's modifications to the UPA's bill has taken care of the privacy concerns of citizens; it lets the government access private information only for issues concerning ‘National Security'. The UIDAI too have repeated that the information will be safe with it as reiterated by former chairman of UIDAI, Nandan Nilekani, in this article in The Indian Express.

Three, the argument that foreign nationals can obtain an Aadhaar number and thus become legitimate citizens of the country is based on a weak premise. Even if someone (say a Bangladeshi migrant) manages to get hold of a number, it doesn't give him or her proof of citizenship but only proof of individual identity.

A legally-backed Aadhaar scheme is crucial for taking ahead the subsidy reforms in the country. 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 as a unique identification tool necessary to manage rollout of various government schemes and financial innovation in a country of 120 crore population.

The fate of Jan Dhan Yojna, Modi government's flagship financial inclusion programme is closely linked to the success of the project. Already, some 21.21 crore accounts have been opened under the Jan Dhan Yojana, under which Rs 34,260 crore deposits have been mobilised. Given the primary purpose of Aadhaar is subsidy roll out through bank accounts, legal backing is critical.

It is very unlikely that sharing biometric data with government for Aadhaar will result in serious privacy issues for anyone. The point one must note here again is that Aadhaar is primarily meant to facilitate targeted deliveries of government benefits and subsidies as the Bill itself suggests. In the last year, the Supreme Court had observed that Aadhaar usage should be restricted to the rollout of certain subsidies. But now that the Aadhaar law is enacted, Supreme Court might consider enhancing its scope

The bottomline is this: A legally-backed Aadhaar is a revolutionary step for Indians that can change the way government transfers benefits to the intended beneficiaries in a large verity of schemes plugging the leakages. Ever since the DBT has been used to channelise LPG subsidies, the government has saved Rs 15,000 crore in the last fiscal year.
With Aadhaar gets legal backing, the government can streamline more subsidies and benefits to the intended beneficiaries. It's a win-win situation for both the government and the citizens. The benefits of a legally-backed Aadhaar far outweigh the currently highlighted concerns by Congress and Left parties.

Kishor Kadam contributed to this story