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, December 23, 2016

10612 - How the demonetisation debate is similar to that over Aadhaar - Scroll.In

As the government expects greater transparency from citizens, it gets more and more opaque.

Published Nov 18, 2016 · 08:00 am.   


Lalita works as a house help in Gurugram, Haryana, washing dishes and clothes to support her large family. Her husband left for their village in Nalanda, Bihar, on November 7, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the government was withdrawing high-denomination currency notes from circulation effective midnight of that day. Lalita spent six hours at a bank on Sunday to exchange her meagre cash savings, while her husband is now stranded in the village because he does not have the cash he needs for his journey back.

The reasons for the demonetisation are unknown to Lalita. She has not heard that the stated targets of the drastic move was to cripple the parallel black money economy and to counter the security threat from Pakistan as well as Maoists. While Pakistan is known to print fake Indian currency notes to finance its activities against India, Maoist insurgents are known to hold their cash reserves in their hideouts in high-value denominations such as Rs 500 and 1,000 notes. The surprise demonetisation has rendered their stash worthless.

However, given that the new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes have no new security features, it is just a matter of time before Pakistan’s fake currency presses are hard at work again. 

Similarly, senior security officials suggest that demonetisation would not really paralyse Maoist funds since extortion and ransom, the key source of their funds, could also move over to the new currency regime once the supply of the new notes stabilises.
“They [Maoists] also have an army of over ground workers in the rural and urban centres who can launder significant portions of their money,” a senior security official told Scroll.in. “We believe this will be exercised to an extent, till December 30.”
Experts have also pointed out to problems with the assumption inherent in the demonetisation exercise that black money only comprises cash.

Professor R Ramakumar, the dean of the School of Development Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, said in an article on Saturday: “…demonetisation is wrongly premised on the assumption that black money is hoarded in cash”.

Ramakumar also pointed out that both the cash component of black money as well as fake Indian currency notes in circulation were too minimal to justify sucking out an estimated 86% of India’s total currency overnight.

Disempowered citizens
Even if the real reasons for the surprise move seem unclear now, what is clear is that the overnight invalidation of high-value currency notes reinforces the fact that the power structure between the citizen and the State continues to be skewed in favour of the State, which takes major decisions and imposes them on the people without even a semblance of participation by the masses.

But then the Modi government is not the first to do this. This top-down attitude towards decisions that will have far-reaching ramifications on people was starkly visible even during the previous United Progressive Alliance government, when it unfolded the Unique Identity Project, or Aadhaar, in 2009.

The project began as a means to provide a unique number to each citizen, ostensibly to ensure that people received the government subsidies intended for them without any leakages.

Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time, and he opposed its implementation vehemently on grounds of security. But in March, his government at the Centre controversially passed the Aadhaar law as a money bill to ensure that the Opposition, which dominates the Upper House, could not block or delay it.

The debate over Aadhaar is similar to the demonetisation debate: a major decision was taken and implemented without any input from the people in whose name the project was started.

The fallout of the Aadhaar scheme is now beginning to unfold in many ways. For instance, people who had access to legal entitlements had to procure a new identity card to access these. Second, it puts more of their data at the mercy of the government. Third, they have no or little say in the inferences that are being drawn from the data sets that the Aadhaar project is generating.

“Earlier they [the poor] had a ration card, then they were asked to show a Pan card then they introduced the election card,” said Shankar Singh of the Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Sangathan in Delhi on Monday. “Now they are using an Aadhar card. How many identities will they be forced to carry?”
Singh spoke at a conference on the impact of growing digitisation in governance in India.

Said Usha Ramanathan, an independent legal researcher and a long-term opponent of the Aadhar project, “The move to be cashless, paperless and presence-less is the new promise of technology in a country where paper is often the only means to establish an identity.”

That fact that the United Progressive Alliance government continued with the project despite adverse observations by a Parliamentary committee, as has the current Modi government, underscores what little say citizens have in decisions that will have an impact on them and their rights fundamentally.

At the same time, there is a sharp contradiction in the government’s expectation of greater transparency from citizens and its own stand on funding of political parties. Though a Delhi High Court judgment in 2014 said that political parties violated provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act by accepting foreign funding, no action has been initiated against any party. Worse, earlier this year the Act was amended with retrospective effect, making it legal for political parties to accept foreign funding. How was this move consistent with the government’s declared goals of wiping out corruption? If this was not enough, the move to weaken the Prevention of Corruption Act will deal another death blow to the ability of investigating agencies to prosecute government servants acccused of corruption.

The big data conundrum
Big data, a term that describes large volumes of data that may be mined and analysed to reveal trends, is the natural fallout of the Aadhaar project and will be a major component of demonetisation too. The government has spoken of its intention to use the data generated by the demonetisation exercise to take further action.

As the government’s Digital India campaign takes off, the promise of using big data to take critical decisions seems like a great idea. But the same paradigm threatens to make invisible millions of Indians who do not generate any data, or do not want to do so.

No big data-driven decision making will work unless everyone is part of the big data map, and has control over what it takes away from them. In the absence of either, not only will it severely imbalance decision-making, it will also pose a significant threat to democracy and fundamental rights as people lose control over their data.

One of the biggest databases in India is that of the Aadhaar project, which holds the biometrics details of citizens. It started as a welfare project, but the Aadhaar Act has a clause stating that any data held by it can now be accessed by the government and its agencies for what is described as “national security” purposes. However, it fails to define what exactly constitutes national security. This makes citizens vulnerable to the state, which can access their data easily. This is a huge cause for concern especially as India still does not have a law in place to protect the fundamental right to privacy of its citizens.

As in the case of Aadhaar, the citizen has remained a bystander in the decision to demonetise high-value notes too.

This leads to a more fundamental issue. While the data of citizens is becoming more accessible to the government and those who are close to it, the data about the government, and those who work for it, is increasingly difficult to access. This ensures that any big data flow will mostly be in the direction of the government, marginalising the disadvantaged sections of citizens even further.

As the sudden demonetisation drive has now established, momentous decisions can be taken the name of the welfare of the people, ironically, without them getting an opportunity to articulate their views on it.

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