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, December 24, 2016

10631 - Don’t waste the crisis; leverage Aadhaar for cashless inclusion - New Indian Express

By Shankkar Aiyar  |   Published: 27th November 2016 04:00 AM  | 


Don’t_Waste
The debate on demonetisation, aka delegalisation of high-value currency notes, and the ensuing impact on the economy will continue for some time now—between definitions of near term, medium term and long term and between what constitutes pain and what is recognised as gain. What is undeniable is the opportunity the cash crisis offers for the establishment to reboot its thinking and strategy.

Last week, this column (Cash Crisis: Who to Blame Can Wait, What Must be Done Cannot! http://bit.ly/2grllTH) presented a few thoughts on what must be done—PDS quota to the poor on credit, allowing farmers to use old notes, roping in retailers as outlets for cash disbursal—and there has been movement on this front. Much more needs to be done to mitigate disruption and to reboot growth.

India’s transformation and many revolutions have arrived in the wake of crises. This is one crisis that must not be wasted. The biggest threat to transformation is incrementalism and the creation of committees. The first consequence of any crisis is conversations of a binary nature within the administration. Typically, it is stranded between “oh it has not worked” and “oh this just cannot be done”.  The inescapable fact is that India fares poorly on financial inclusion—and this is most visible in the disruption in the economy. From farms to factories to families cash, is the reigning currency of the economy.

To appreciate the curvature of the political economy, consider the data points. India’s population of 1,311 million is served by 1.34 lakh bank branches. Two thirds of India lives in 5.9 lakh villages, which are served by 50,000 branches. Take the largest states. Uttar Pradesh with 150 million persons in 97,942 villages has 7,370 “rural” branches. Bihar, with over 90 million persons in 39,015 villages, has 3,037 “rural” branches. Considering that over 800 million people live in rural India, the ratio denies, or at least delays, access to the financial inclusion.

India is poised at the gateway of a revolution in financial inclusion. There have been two silent revolutions since the creation of UIDAI under Nandan Nilekani—the registration of residents under Aadhaar and the installation of payment gateways that afford India the opportunity to leapfrog over historic handicaps and spur financial inclusion.

To appreciate the opportunity, consider this. India has a billion persons registered under the unique identification of Aadhaar. India has a billion persons with mobile phones.

The country is ready with a dynamic financial transaction architecture in the Unified Payments Interface—an interoperable mobile first payment system, a uniquely Indian achievement under the National Payments Corporation Limited. The need is to work out a plan to bring the three pieces—Aadhaar registrations, mobile users and network and the payment gateways—into play.

Ideally, Aadhaar should be rendered a bank in the Cloud. Very simply, the 12-digit identity number can be converted into an account number vested in Aadhaar Bank in the Cloud. Here is how it could work. Using the Aadhaar number, a person should be able to deposit cash at a bank or a post office or a retailer to deposit his cash, and the credit gets recorded in his account in Aadhaar Bank in the Cloud. Similarly, outflows or payments get reflected in the Aadhaar account. The simplest analogy is the roaming arrangement enjoyed by one SIM card across telecom networks. The creation of Aadhaar Bank in the Cloud demands political will and could be subjected to questions on technology and regulatory issues.

Progress on digitisation of inclusion need not be detained by navigation of regulatory wrangles. Aadhaar is not just an identity number; it can be a financial address of a person and can propel conversion of the cash economy to a less-cash economy. The supply-demand mismatch in cash affords a window of opportunity. For starters, the government could promote the use of Aadhaar-based digital transactions—via Aadhaar-linked accounts and creation of new instruments like Aadhaar-linked pre-paid RuPay cards.

The existing architecture allows for both Internet-based and non-Internet-based transactions via the unstructured supplementary data service (USSD) using GSM channels. The system can be developed in tiers. It is estimated that there are over 350 million smartphone users. These persons can use Internet-based apps to access UPI. The 300 million users of feature phones can transact using the USSD services.
Using Aadhaar, the person should also be able to access cash from the account from any disbursal point—whether bank ATMs, payment banks, post offices’ hand-held systems or retailers like grocery shops, petrol pumps, seed/fertiliser outlets. The architecture of UPI is built for person to person, person to merchant and person to government transfers. Indeed, Aadhaar is already on the inter-operable payments gateway—Aadhaar-Enabled-Payment System (AEPS).

AEPS allows balance enquiry, cash withdrawal, cash deposit, Aadhaar to Aadhaar funds transfer. The Aadhaar bridge systems allow direct cash transfers of LPG subsidies, pensions, MGNREGA payments, scholarships, state government welfare schemes and can be leveraged to be ready even for, say, transfers like universal basic income.  

There will be the usual rant about the poor and their ability to use technology, but remember over eight of 10 persons use prepaid recharge coupons, migrants working abroad leave parents with pre-paid cash cards and agri labourers in Himachal and Punjab send home money via mobile transfers.
The creation of Aadhaar Bank will enable those hitherto excluded from the system into the fold and bring the value of public savings into the real economy. The imperative is to learn from history to make India future ready.

A quarter of a century ago, Indians waited years for a telephone connection, thanks to poor policy, costs and last-mile connectivity issues. In the 90s, India opened up the sector; technology brought with it the facility to skip the landline cycle and young entrepreneurs created the infrastructure.

The mobile revolution, though, had to await political will—Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s quest to connect India with Bharat.In 2016, India is poised at a similar intersection. By bringing Aadhaar, mobiles and the payment gateways into play, India can leapfrog into the future.
 

shankkar.aiyar@gmail.com