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, April 2, 2016

9715 - Aadhaar versus public goods - Live Mint

Last Modified: Fri, Apr 01 2016. 04 27 AM IST



Aadhaar is exactly the kind of shiny new toy that further distracts attention from the core duty of government

Indira Rajaraman

Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Aadhaar, as a device for ensuring leak-proof delivery of subsidies to selected beneficiaries, diverts attention from the core function of government, which is to deliver public goods to all citizens.

Not being a historian of the use of biometric markers for identity, I do not know where or when the idea originated of covering all residents in a country, as distinct from just visitors. Perhaps Brazil. What is certain is that while Aadhaar may be the biggest and most successful such exercise, it is not the first. But I will leave the documentation of that to those better equipped than I.

The whole idea of biometric identity is that you could lose your card and forget your number and have a reader restore the number to you. We are told that inexpensive iris readers will soon be as ubiquitous as hand-held bar-code readers in grocery stores, but that day is yet to dawn. When it does, Aadhaar will become an incontrovertible identity proof that can move geographically with the holder.

But to what purpose? The idea of Aadhaar has been sold, and the expenditure on it (at least Rs.10,000 crore) justified, on the grounds that proof of identity will enable accurate targeting of entitlement. But subsidized entitlements today for the most part are configured to a household, not to an individual. Even if/when subsidized food or fertilizer or cooking gas or kerosene is linked to an Aadhaar number, there will have to be some locational constraints on receipt, in the sense of the bank branch where the subsidy payment will be sent, or the outlet where the food is to be collected, since the authorized Aadhaar number receives the benefit on behalf of a household.

Such a locationally constrained number, with national validity but without a biometric marker, was available at no additional cost as a by-product of the 2011 population Census for all citizens. There was a National Population Register (NPR) number issued as a follow-up to the Census, but that process was stopped at some point because Aadhaar took over. The NPR, verifiable with a Census server, would not have been subject to the duplication problems that bedevil other pre-Aadhaar numbers like PAN. And it would have served perfectly well for the Jan Dhan scheme.

The rural employment guarantee is also a household entitlement, with days of employment recorded on a household job card. If benefits are paid directly into an Aadhaar-based bank account, even if it is the account of a female member, it still has to be locationally constrained. In fact, it would have been far better to convert the household job card into a smart card, and to have cash collection points with smart card readers (as is already the case in some states), since what the poor need is cash in hand, not in a bank account.

Then there is the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana health insurance scheme, where the household gets a smart card. Even if the scheme is operable with Aadhaar numbers of entitled household members, those numbers will have to be linked to the smart card in order for the scheme to function.

Yes, pension beneficiaries are individuals. And yes, linking the pension account to an Aadhaar number does weed out ghosts. But ghosts could also have been weeded out through an NPR number. Every pension requires existence certification, whereby the recipient has to show up in person at specified intervals. This requirement certainly does not go away with Aadhaar, since the number does not prove that the holder exists beyond the time at which it was last displayed by the beneficiary. We also have the Integrated Child Development Scheme, where the beneficiaries are children for the most part—but they do not have Aadhaar numbers. Their mothers do, however, and that is the only potential use for an identity that moves with the beneficiary—but it still calls for those iris readers.

Why not just be good humoured about it all, and treat Aadhaar as an ornament, with some potential uses? What I have against it is that it encrusts the functioning and duties of government as a provider of individually appropriable benefits, instead of the generalized provision of public goods and services that is the core function of government.

Sanitation and water are surely crucially important in that list of public goods. Sanitation, in the sense of networks for treatment of sewage and waste water, is classically a public good whose presence benefits all within the network, and whose absence harms all. Water is somewhat different in that private solutions can be bought, and even collective provision can in principle be charged to users in proportion to their usage.

Public health and sanitation are in the State List of the Constitution (item 6), and drainage is grouped with water supply systems in item 14. These are further listed in the Eleventh and Twelfth Schedules for transfer to local government.

By the 2011 population Census, households with potentially treatable sewage arrangements, including pit latrines unconnected to any network but covered and therefore treatable, stood at 44.06%. As for non-sewage waste water, households connected to drainage networks, either closed or open but potentially collectable and treatable, were 51.14% of the total. If half of these potentially treatable connections are assumed to be actually treated, we get 78% of sewage, and 74% of waste water released untreated into our rivers and water bodies, or into the soil.

What about drinking water? If we take the sum of treated tap water, handpumps, borewells and covered wells, we get 75% of households with access to what might generously be termed protected drinking water (ignoring groundwater contamination from poor sewerage and waste water treatment).

Unlike access to sanitation, which could reasonably be expected to have an upward trajectory over time, access to water might not go monotonically upwards over time. Even 2011 is too far back in time. We need more current data on access. Data from round four of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS-4), conducted in 2015-16 is being dribbled out, available so far only for 15 states. NFHS defines “protected” drinking water to include even untreated tap water, and unlike the Census, the aggregate is not broken down by constituents. If untreated tap water is included within the rubric of protected water, the 2011 Census figure would ramp up from 75% to 87%.

But it remains possible to compare the NFHS estimates for 2015-16 with those from the previous round conducted in 2004-05 (NFHS-3), for 13 of the 15 states (because of the Andhra-Telengana problem). The average across these shows improvement from 82% to 86.5% over the 10 years from 2005 to 2015. These estimates are broadly in the same ball-park as the Census figures, enough to give us some measure of confidence in the NFHS sample.

The improvement in aggregate for the 13 states is promising, but four of the states actually saw a decline in household access. In two of the four, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, the decline was small. But in Manipur (10%) and Haryana (4%), the decline is too large to ignore.

The roiling water dispute between Haryana and Punjab over the Sutlej-Yamuna canal link is a political dispute, but plays out against the background of the decline in water access in Haryana. We don’t know whether there was a similar decline in Punjab, which is not among the 13 states for which NFHS-4 figures are available. Both Punjab and Haryana are at the high end of the ranking by Census 2011 figures of water access, but what precipitates water warfare is decline in access over time. On 19 March, an assurance was given by Haryana that water supplies to Delhi would not be choked off, but the Sutlej-Yamuna dispute will surely have knock-on effects on Delhi. The water crisis in Delhi, precipitated by the Jat agitation, brought into focus the larger issue of urban water supplies, and the extent to which these are dependent on the surrounding hinterland.

Water in India is overwhelmingly directed towards agricultural use, and of all the water-intensive crops paddy claims the largest share. What the Minimum Support Price policy for wheat and paddy has done in Punjab and Haryana is too well-known to be repeated. These were not traditionally paddy cultivating states. There are new paddy cultivation techniques that can reduce water use in paddy by half. The NITI Aayog needs to move these issues to the top of its very long list for the transformation of India.

Political discourse has been so effectively hijacked by the idea of apportionment of government benefits to designated beneficiaries, that the more fundamental Constitutional obligation to provide sanitation and drinking water to all stands egregiously neglected. Aadhaar is exactly the kind of shiny new toy that further distracts attention from the core duty of government, which does not need beneficiary identification to enable it.

Indira Rajaraman is an economist.