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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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

10966 - Aadhaar paradox: Instead of making government's workings transparent, it lays bare citizens' lives - Scroll.In

Reflections on architecture and India's unique identity number scheme.

Published Mar 30, 2017.  

Reading the Supreme Court’s tacit approval of a law making Aadhaar linkage mandatory in banking and tax returns, I was reminded of Chand Mahal Ibrahim. In the late 1990s, he was Minister of Civil Aviation in the short-lived Deve Gowda government. The most important proposal before him when he took over was for a joint venture proposed by the Tata group and Singapore airlines.

Twenty years ago, on April 2, 1997, Ibrahim denied permission for the partnership, allegedly to protect Jet Airways. The aviation policy he announced allowed foreign investment up to 40% in Indian airlines, provided it didn’t come from a foreign airline.

In other words, investment was welcome so long as the source understood little about the sector and would do nothing to help Indian systems match international standards. An American realtor or a European electronics firm could invest in Indian aviation but Singapore Airlines was shut out, leaving Tata’s aviation plans in limbo for the next fifteen years.

A similar illogic appears to inform the Supreme Court’s recent comments regarding Aadhaar. As its name suggests, the 12-digit unique identity number linked with biometric data was established primarily to contain leakages in government welfare programmes. In September 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that benefits could not be denied to people who hadn’t got an Aadhaar number and card for themselves.

Logically, one would imagine that if the government is not allowed to force Aadhaar on people who want to receive benefits delivered by the state, it should certainly not be allowed to force it on people who only want to go about their own business without any state subsidies involved. What the Supreme Court has said is the equivalent of permitting the government to make helmets compulsory for car drivers after forbidding it from making them mandatory for motorcycle riders.

The counter-argument is that resistance to Aadhar is mere fear-mongering by a tiny minority. Shekhar Gupta encapsulated this viewpoint in a tweet:


Crores of rural & urban poor see Aadhar as tool of empowerment. They don't even know elite anti-Aadhar echo chambers exist & they don't care

What Gupta failed to understand is that more than one attitude to Aadhaar can be simultaneously valid. For a poor villager, Aadhar offers the possibility that services and subsidies will be delivered more efficiently. The potential benefits of the scheme are so obvious that few in the elite echo chamber Gupta disparages are suggesting it should be done away with altogether. For Indians lucky enough not to require direct aid, however, potential risks to security and privacy outweigh benefits bigly. It’s unreasonable to dismiss these concerns merely because they affect a minority of Indians. Enter “Aadhaar number name filetype:xls” into Google without the inverted commas and you will see how much information that shouldn’t be in the public domain is already out there. 

Supporters of making Aadhaar compulsory might now suggest that those worried about privacy have something to hide. Well, the fact is that all of us have plenty to hide even when we aren’t infringing laws.

In the early twentieth century, a number of left-wing thinkers began to consider the idea of privacy reactionary. The German Marxist Walter Benjamin wrote, “To live in a glass house is a revolutionary virtue par excellence. It is also an intoxication, a moral exhibitionism, that we badly need. Discretion concerning one’s own existence, once an aristocratic virtue, has become more and more an affair of petty-bourgeois parvenus.” Between the world wars, utopian architects designed glass buildings that eroded the line between public and private. Toned-down versions of these were built in a number of European cities until the 1970s before falling out of favour.

There was an older tradition of architectural design which also undermined privacy but to very different ends. Its champion was the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham who, in the late 18th century, designed buildings in which students, workers or prisoners could be surveilled at all times without ever being able to see those watching them. Bentham argued such a structure would save governments and factory owners money because inmates and workers would not know when they were being watched, reducing the number of guards required to run the place. He called his dream structure a Panopticon, and was commissioned to construct a prison based on his ideas, but didn’t receive sufficient funding. No Panopticon was ever built, and over time the idea came to be used as a dystopian metaphor.
The structure that would serve our needs best is neither a constructivist glass house where privacy is voluntarily ceded, nor a utilitarian Panopticon that allows the powerful to pry into our lives, but something that precisely reverses Bentham’s vision, making the working of government and state transparent and visible to all, while strictly protecting the privacy of individual citizens.

Unfortunately, what we have today is a mushrooming of glass houses and Panopticons. Glass houses result from us allowing companies to use microphones, cameras, contacts lists and GPS on the data devices we carry everywhere. Panopticons come from mission creep of programmes like Aadhaar, which is opaque to us but will collect information on an ever-widening range of activities.

What scares me most is the potential merging of glass house and Panopticon. The visual metaphor breaks down at this point, but let me explain what I mean in practical terms. Governments across the world are putting in place harsher laws allowing great powers of surveillance to the state, powers enhanced by technological advances. Late last year, the United Kingdom passed the Investigatory Powers Act, giving security agencies extraordinary latitude in monitoring British citizens. Shocking as the easy passage as the law was, one understood the complacence of the citizenry somewhat because the British system offers some checks and balances, and a modicum of transparency. Furthermore, British companies and foreign firms working in Britain have an interest in privacy protection. They risk damaging their brand irretrievably if they are found to have handed over material to security agencies outside of set protocols.

In countries like India, those protocols exist only on paper, when they exist at all. Which means there’s a good chance that government agencies will enhance Aadhaar-connected data with information gleaned from apps and private service providers and, conversely, that government-collected data will leak into private hands.

If we cannot prevent glass houses and Panopticons from being built, let us at least prevent a mutant combination of the two from emerging in India.

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