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 26, 2016

9645 -Debate: Five Aadhaar Myths that Don’t Stand Up to Scrutiny BY REETIKA KHERA - The Wire


We need to reboot the Aadhaar debate, starting on the right terms: why do we want to create a centralised biometric database of Indian residents?


Stand up and get your fingerprints analysed! Credit: julian correa, CC BY 2.0/Flickr

A recent article, ‘Identification simplified, myths busted’, by Piyush Peshwani and Bhuwan Joshi (hereafter, Peshwani & Joshi) makes some questionable claims about the UID project. Peshwani & Joshi’s strategy appears to be to ignore those questions to which they do not have an answer (e.g., that Aadhaar is mostly redundant as far as NREGA, PDS, etc., are concerned). For others, they cherry-pick ‘facts’ without acknowledging the debates surrounding those facts. Here is a selection.

#1: To get Aadhaar, you need a Proof of ID (PoID) and Proof of address (PoA)
Peshwani & Joshi: “For many, Aadhaar is perhaps the first document of their existence – a robust proof of their identity and address that can be verified online. No more closed doors for them!”
Peshwani & Joshi: “The Demographic Data Standards and Verification Procedures committee prescribes a list of valid 18 proof of identity and 33 valid proof of address documents for getting an Aadhaar.”

Fact: In fact, 99.97% of those who have Aadhaar, used PoID and PoA to get it. For those who have neither, there is an “introducer system”, but according to a reply to an RTI request, only 0.03% of those who have the Aadhaar number used this route.
As far as closed doors are concerned, Aadhaar does not guarantee any benefits: work through NREGA, widow or old-age pensions or PDS rations. There are separate eligibility conditions for those programmes which continue to apply.

#2 On costs
Peshwani & Joshi: “Does it justify the cost? Yes, absolutely, according to the World Bank, which said the initiative is estimated to be saving the Indian government about $1 billion annually by thwarting corruption, even as it underlined that digital technologies promote inclusion, efficiency and innovation.”
Fact: Savings due to the use of Aadhaar have been disputed. The government has claimed it has saved Rs. 14,672 crore on LPG subsidies due to Aadhaar while they are likely lower – by a factor of 100 (see Business Standard or Wall Street Journal).
Peshwani & Joshi: “Even before the World Bank’s endorsement of Aadhaar, the Delhi-based National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) conducted adetailed cost-analysis study on Aadhaar in 2012… the study found that the Aadhaar project would yield an internal rate of return in real terms of 52.85% to the government.”
Fact: The NIPFP cost-benefit was based on unrealistic assumptions – e.g., estimates of leakages that Aadhaar could plug were available for only two out of seven schemes; for the rest, they assumed leakage rates which are termed ‘conservative’, but are actually not.
In their response, the NIPFP team admitted that “a full-fledged cost benefit analysis of Aadhaar is difficult” because “many gains from Aadhaar are difficult to quantify because they are intangible” and, “even if in specific schemes there may be tangible benefits, the information available on those schemes does not permit a precise quantification of those benefits.”
They went on to say that “The study has steered away from relying exclusively on analyses of isolated and small sample sets”. What evidence did the NIPFP study rely on? “For ASHAs, Janani Suraksha Yojana and scholarships, no analysis, large or small has been used. For the Indira Awaas Yojana, the three analyses relied on exclusively are a Times of India news report, a press release based on a discussion in Parliament and a “Scheme Brief” by the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR). Interestingly, the corruption estimate in the IFMR brief cross-refers to the Times of India article (apart from a CAG report)!” (Khera, 2013)

#3 De-duplication
Peshwani & Joshi: “Aadhaar means no fake, ghost or duplicate beneficiaries. Double-dipping will become more and more difficult with Aadhaar, a number that is well de-duplicated with the use of biometrics.”
Fact: De-duplication is one possible contribution of Aadhaar – but that needs biometrics, not a centralised biometric database. Local biometrics (used extensively in Andhra Pradesh before UID) mean that biometric data is stored by the concerned government department or on the local e-POS machine’s memory chip. It has the advantage that connectivity is not required (you are authenticated by the machine), errors and corrections can be correctly locally, making it more practical. The distinction between a local and centralised database is important (see #5 below).
Further, no one has a reliable estimate of the duplication problem. Two government estimates of duplicates exist: the Dhande committee for LPG (2%) and in NREGA job cards from the Government of Andhra Pradesh (also 2%).

#4 Exclusion
Peshwani & Joshi: “As far as exclusion in delivery of other services due to biometric authentication accuracy is concerned, it is important to go beyond scratching the surface.”
Fact: When the PDS was integrated with Aadhaar: “The Andhra Pradesh Food and Civil Supplies Corporation found that…nearly one-fifth ration card holders did not buy their ration.” Further, “When the government delved deeper in the issue, it was found that out of the 790 cases interviewed for the study, 400 reported exclusion. Out of the excluded cases, 290 were due to fingerprint mismatch and 93 were because of Aadhaar card mismatch. The remaining 17 cases were due to failure of E-PoS.” More here.
Moreover, Peshwani & Joshi pick one definition of ‘exclusion’ (due to biometric failure) when in fact, exclusion has a broader meaning. For instance, “InChitradurga (Karnataka), Rs.100-150 million in wages from 2014-15 were held up for a year. When payments were being processed, their job cards could not be traced in NREGAsoft. Upon enquiry, the district administration learnt field staff had deleted them to achieve ‘100% Aadhaar-seeding’.”

#5 Profiling and privacy violations
Peshwani & Joshi: “A prominent criticism of Aadhaar is that it ‘profiles’ people.” …“Most of us have one or more identity/address documents, such as a passport, ration card, PAN card, driving licence, vehicle registration documents or a voter ID card. The government departments managing these already have our data. Aadhaar is no different. We give our data to banks, to insurance companies and to telecom companies for accounts, policies and mobile connections.”
Fact: That’s like saying BJP can be more corrupt because the Congress was corrupt. Instead we need to engage more seriously with the work of Sunil AbrahamAmber Sinha and others at the Centre of Internet and Society. There are crucial differences between Aadhaar and Social Security Number in the US, see thisMalavika Jayaram listed the UID project among a slew of “big brother” projects facilitating mass surveillance in India.

Conclusion
The debate on UID tends to begin with the premise that Aadhaar is necessary for ‘good governance’. Those claims of the UIDAI have long been demolished. In a nutshell, Aadhaar cannot help identify the poor, its possession does not guarantee inclusion into government social welfare (go to #1).  It cannot reduce PDS or NREGA corruption as claimed in their early documents. Thankfully,PDSNREGA corruption has been on the decline without Aadhaar – more needs to be done. (More details? Try this and this.)


Bihar shows how much corruption in the PDS can be reduced without Aadhaar. Credit: Reetika Khera
Aadhaar is not required for portability of benefits or for cash transfers. Cash transfers need bank accounts. To get a bank account, you need a proof of ID and a proof of address (go to #1). Aadhaar can help de-duplicate, but so can local biometrics (go to #3).  We need to “reboot” the Aadhaar debate, starting on the right terms – why exactly do we need to create a centralised biometric database of Indian residents?

Reetika Khera teaches at IIT Delhi.