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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Monday, April 3, 2017

10920 - Force-feeding Aadhaar - EPW



Force-feeding Aadhaar


The lines between the welfare state and the surveillance state are fast blurring.

Placing conditions on access to food entitlements is not a marker of a welfare state. The recent notification by the government mandating the possession of an Aadhaar number for receiving benefits under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme has created a justifiable furore. Such a step is extraordinary given that the havoc caused by the introduction of mandatory Aadhaar authentication in some states for the public distribution system (PDS) has not yet died down. Reports from Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and other states describe the exclusion of genuine beneficiaries because of problems with the Aadhaar records and authentication issues, besides technological and infrastructural failures. This experience ought to have taught the government that the mere adoption of “technology” is not a panacea for corruption and inefficiency in the delivery of services, but is a sure way of excluding those who are socio-economically the most vulnerable.

Yet, in the last few weeks, several ministries have issued notifications that will co-opt over 30 schemes on to the Aadhaar bandwagon, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Employees’ Provident Fund, pension and scholarship schemes, and recently even the compensation provided to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak. The aim is to make Aadhaar mandatory for all 84 schemes covered by the direct benefit transfer programme.

Though the government claims otherwise, these notifications are in contravention of the many Supreme Court orders over the years iterating and reiterating that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for people availing government benefits to which they are entitled. The matter is still sub judice. The government has just side-stepped the issue by stating again in a recent press release that “till Aadhaar number is assigned to any individual, the benefit will continue to be given based on alternate means of identification.” The recent notifications all state that an Aadhaar number is required to access these entitlements, and in the absence of which other specified identification documents would be accepted. However, beneficiaries will also have to provide proof of Aadhaar enrolment. Given this, and the tight deadlines set for providing this proof, it is clear that Aadhaar has effectively been made mandatory.

The government has been and continues to push Aadhaar as a miracle cure that would curb leakages and bring in transparency while excluding fake beneficiaries and saving “huge sums of public money.” What it does not project is that the Aadhaar scheme involves the collection and control of big data, enabling “dataveillance” (the practice of monitoring digital data relating to personal details or online activities). The Aadhaar idea was first conceptualised by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government after the Kargil war as a security and surveillance project. The features of the current-day Aadhaar are no different. Additionally, the state has circumvented constitutional procedures and safeguards by launching the scheme without putting in place a privacy law or a law regulating biometric data, by passing the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 as a money bill, and by continuing to flagrantly defy the Supreme Court’s orders disallowing making Aadhaar mandatory.

For the ordinary citizen, the most worrying aspect of Aadhaar is control, about who can access their biometric data. The Aadhaar enrolment form has a field that vaguely asks for “consent”: “I have no objection to the UIDAI [Unique Identification Authority of India] sharing information provided by me to the UIDAI with agencies engaged in delivery of public services including welfare services.” These terms have not been defined by the UIDAI while personnel at enrolment centres advise people to give their consent for the sake of future convenience. In the propagation of Aadhaar, the government has failed to highlight or explain this consent-taking, as also the fact that there exists a way to lock one’s biometric data (unlocked by default) on the resident portal of the UIDAI website through OTP (one time password) authentication via a registered mobile phone. The latter feature is not highlighted and is also out of reach for those without access to the internet or a mobile phone.

These issues are not even touched upon by the Aadhaar Act, which adds to the imbroglio by way of Clause 57: “Nothing contained in this Act shall prevent the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, whether by the State or any body corporate or person, pursuant to any law, for the time being in force, or any contract to this effect.” Such a clause clearly allows non-state entities to use Aadhaar authentication and gain access to data, which has already happened. The UIDAI recently stopped 24 firms from using its data in an unauthorised manner following public complaints. Adding to the confusion is the definition of “biometric information” in the act that is being kept open to include “other biological attributes” (read DNA) in the future, as well as the Supreme Court’s puzzling order in February 2017—diametrically opposed to its orders about not making Aadhaar mandatory—to make the linking of all SIM (subscriber identity modules in mobile phones) cards with Aadhaar numbers compulsory. All this raises many troubling questions about control and access to such big data; not just demographic, but also biometric data.


Through the promotion of Aadhaar, the Indian state is behaving like a corporate entity that provides services on the condition that it gets access to our information and can potentially keep us under surveillance. Clearly, a state that wants transparency from its people is not trying very hard to be transparent itself.