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.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

9582 - Baseless Aadhaar The bill doesn't provide recourse in case of denial of service.


Pratap Vikram Singh | March 17, 2016

It was no less than a roller-coaster ride for Aadhaar, a programme formulated by the UPA government to assign a 12-digit unique number to every Indian resident. From the time it came into being in 2009, Aadhaar drew a volley of criticism, thanks to the misgivings and apprehensions that various critics and civil society organisations had. It was criticised for lack of a clear purpose, degree of effectiveness and absence of a privacy law and was virtually thrown into the bin by a parliamentary panel headed by BJP’s Yashwant Sinha in December 2011.

When the finance minister Arun Jaitley, in his budget speech, announced that the government would introduce the Aadhaar bill during the budget session, expectations were already set high. The bill, giving statutory backing to the unique identification authority of India (UIDAI), the implementing authority, was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 11. While the privacy and voluntary versus mandatory provisions are under the consideration of the supreme court, the bill makes way for linking Aadhaar with all government subsidies, benefits and services. The law on Aadhaar, former UIIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani wrote in the Indian Express, will help the government in going paperless, presence-less and cashless. The legislation, however, fails to deliver on several counts.

However, prior to evaluating the bill (yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha at the time of this writing though it is a money bill), let us take a look at its major aspects. For those, who always wondered whether Aadhaar is mandatory or voluntary, the bill 2016 makes it mandatory to avail subsidy, benefit or a service from the government.

The bill has provisions related to information security and confidentiality (section 28) which not only extend to employees of the UIDAI but also consultants and external agencies working with the authority.

The proposed law restricts information sharing. It bars UIDAI from sharing core biometric information – the bill defines it as fingerprints and iris scan – with “anyone for any reason whatsoever” or “used for any purpose other than generation of Aadhaar numbers and authentication under this Act”. The section 32 of the bill entitles Aadhaar number holders to access her or his authentication record. It also bars the authority from collecting, keeping or maintaining information about the purpose of authentication.

Odd drives the bill
While the intent is clear and is aimed at streamlining welfare schemes to ensure it reaches the bottom of the pyramid, cutting through the long chain of pilferage and subversion, the bill, however, has several shortcomings. To begin with, the government should not have taken the money bill route to pass the legislation – tactfully avoiding any conclusive discussion and debate in the Rajya Sabha, where it is in minority.
The bill assumes that the technology and the biometric system used by the UIDAI are flawless and it doesn’t provide any recourse in case of denial of a service. “If your fingerprint is not matching and you lose out on service, then what is the alternative mechanism you have,” asks Sumandro Chattapadhyay, research director, centre for internet and society (CIS). The bill doesn’t provide for recourse. “What if the scanning machine fails? What if the identifiers of two people match?”

Based on experiments conducted in the initial days of the Aadhaar programme, Hans Verghese Mathews, another CIS researcher, did a study on the probability of matching of identifiers of two persons. “For the current population of 1.2 billion the expected proportion of duplicands (users whose identifiers match) is 1/121, a ratio which is far too high,” Mathews wrote in the Economic and Political Weekly in February.
“It is like putting the technology in a black box – which can’t be reviewed,” says Chattapadhyay. The bill doesn’t talk about setting up an independent body to review the logs and keep an eye on wrong and duplicate matches.

Who defines national security? 
According to public policy experts, it is an attempt to seek “minimal legitimacy” from parliament and further adds to the unbridled power of the executive. 
Although the bill restricts information sharing in section 29, sections 33 and 48 provide exemption in cases of national security and public emergency, respectively. The legislation, nevertheless, doesn’t elaborate on what constitutes national security and public emergency, leaving it to the executives. The section 33 reads: “Nothing contained in… shall apply in respect of any disclosure of information, including identity information or authentication records, made in the interest of national security….”

Similarly, section 48 states that if, at any time, the central government is of the opinion that a public emergency exists, “the central government may, by notification, supersede the Authority for such period, not exceeding six months, as may be specified in the notification and appoint a person or persons as the president may direct to exercise powers and discharge functions under this Act”.

Says Jayati Ghosh, professor, centre for economic studies and planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, “National security is a very opaque term. Who decides what national security is? Today, the whole JNU is being projected as a threat to national security.”
Swagato Sarkar, associate professor and executive director, Jindal school of government and public policy, OP Jindal Global University, says, “The bill has provisions for oversight on the use of Aadhaar, but then it suspends those provisions in case of emergency in the later sections, giving the state the power to use biometric information for whatever it deems fit.”

Sarkar adds, “It seems the bill is simply an instrument for seeking minimum legitimacy from parliament. The bill tries to address the concern of privacy minimally and it hardly serves any purpose.”
He believes that there is a need to define the broader contours of democratic control of the state and reassess the changing state-citizen relationship, instead of rejecting the whole idea on the basis of surveillance and privacy. In other words, there is a need for strong parliamentary oversight, and that the Aadhaar related matters shouldn’t be completely delegated to the executive.

In its recommendations on formulating Privacy Act, the justice AP Shah committee in 2012 provided for establishing the office of privacy commissioner at the regional and central levels, defining the role of self-regulating organisations and co-regulation, and creating a system of complaints and redressal for aggrieved individuals.
Since the country still doesn’t have any legislation on privacy, people are left on their own in case of an infringement or violation of privacy. Moreover, section 47 states, “No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act, save on a complaint made by the Authority or any officer or person authorised by it.”

In its report, the parliamentary committee headed by Yashwant Sinha notes that “enactment of national data protection law… is a prerequisite for any law that deals with large scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases”. The committee notes that in absence of data protection legislation, it would be difficult to deal with issues of access, misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information.

Subsidy-Aadhaar linkage
The Sinha committee also takes a cautious view of the role of Aadhaar in curbing leakages in subsidy distribution, as beneficiary identification is done by states. It notes, “Even if the Aadhaar number links entitlements to targeted beneficiaries, it may not even ensure that beneficiaries have been correctly identified. Thus, the present problem of proper identification would persist.”

According to Ghosh, the biggest danger in using Aadhaar for social welfare programmes is that the fingerprints of the rural working class is not always in good shape and hence Aadhaar will not be the best way of identification. “If I am misidentified, I can go to so many places for recourse. But what if a labourer in a remote Jharkhand village is misidentified? Where and whether he would go?” the economist asks.
Besides, the bill doesn’t limit the use of Aadhaar and defines areas where it can be used. Section 57 says that the law will not prevent the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, “whether by the state or anybody corporate or person, pursuant to any law, for the time being in force or any contract to this effect.”

According to a PRS Legislative review, since the bill also allows private persons to use Aadhaar as a proof of identity for any purpose, the provision will open a floodgate and enable private entities such as airlines, telecom, insurance and real estate companies to mandate Aadhaar as a proof of identity for availing their services.

Since the bill doesn’t restrict its application, people will not have a choice to identify themselves other than using Aadhaar when corporate organisations make it mandatory, says Chattapadhyay of the CIS. Adds Sarkar, “The bill should clearly mention sectors or services where Aadhaar will be potentially used (or made mandatory). Every time a new sector or service is added to the list, it is done after parliamentary approval.”
So far, 98 crore people have been assigned Aadhaar number. So far the project has costed Rs 8,000 crore.
The article was published in March 16-31, 2016 issue. The story was written before the Aadhaar bill was passed in LS.