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.

August 24, 2017: The nine-judge Constitution Bench rules that right to privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the World; indeed it's the only thing that ever has"

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” - Edward Snowden


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


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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

10971 - Seminal year for move towards cashless payments: Nandan Nilekani - Live Mint

Mon, Apr 03 2017. 10 03 AM IST

Nandan Nilekani on what to expect in payments and electronic transactions space, challenges, and more

Vivina Vishanathan

                             Hemant Mishra/Mint

After demonetization, digital payments and electronic transactions have got the much-needed government push. The banking industry has been working on it for the past 2-3 years. The National Payments Corporation of India has worked towards using technology to enable online transactions. Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and co-founder of Infosys, spoke to Mint on what to expected in the next 12 months in the payments and electronic transactions, data connectivity and cyber security landscapes in the country.

The government and the overall payments industry have been looking at digital payments. What do you expect in the next 12 months?

This year, we should be closing at 8-9 billion digital transactions. The goal for next year, as the finance minister said in his Budget speech, is 25 billion transactions. If you have to go from 9 billion to 25 billion transactions, you require many things. Obviously, the government should encourage the use of digital and cashless payments. Similarly, it should make cashless payments to people—which is what Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) does. DBT directly credits money into someone’s bank account. Today, we have 400 million Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. Both government-to-person and person-to-government should become cashless. But equally important, we should make person-to-person and person-to-merchant cashless. That is why Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is so important. One of the positive impacts of the cashless strategy is that UPI works on any phone. Earlier, UPI worked only on smartphones. Now that it has been extended on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), anyone of the 600 million phone users in India can do a UPI transaction as soon as she links her bank account.

The next big thing that will happen in the next few months is that more and more merchants will accept UPI. I see merchant acceptance becoming a big driver. With Aadhaar Pay coming in, even those who don’t have a phone can pay with Aadhaar number.

There are other big systems coming up. Bharat Bill Payment System will digitize bills and Fast Tag electronic toll system will digitize toll collection. I see this year as a seminal year in the move towards cashless and digital payments.

How will the government solve last mile issues, such as concerns about awareness?

We will need more market participants to enrol merchants to accept UPI and Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) payments. I see that happening with the new payment banks and lot of non-bank operators coming in. There will be pure-play merchant acquisition networks, which will ride on top of UPI, BHIM and so on.

This model is fundamentally different from the debit card model, where a bank has to go to the merchant, and it is a long process—the merchant has to open a current account, pass some credit risk requirements and there is a fee also of 1%. With UPI, I expect it to be far cheaper and any merchant can self-sign-up in some sense. But the whole nature of the sign-up and transaction costs in the UPI world will be fundamentally different from a debit card world.

It is a perfect positive storm. One, there are new entities in the game—they are the challengers who are challenging the incumbents. Large entities like Paytm, Airtel, Reliance and Vodafone, and lot of small banks are coming on the competition side. On the technology side, you have the rise of UPI, BHIM and Aadhaar Pay. Equally important is the big change in the political front, which is that digital strategy for digital or cashless payments has become the front and centre of the government’s strategy and demonetization. You have political energy behind this, you have market energy behind this and you have technology in place. Consumers, I think, will embrace it if they find it convenient, safe and cheap.

To use electronic payments, one needs bandwidth, and data connectivity is still low. What is the government, and the other stakeholders, doing about this?
On the mobility side, people like Jio have come in and shaken up the whole data business and they have ramped up 100 million customers in 6 months. Clearly, the incumbents have responded by offering attractive deals. This is going to drive the mobile side. The government itself is accelerating the Bharat Broadband Network and NOFN (National Optical Fibre Network). So that should help on the rural side. Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) announced how it is going to create a public Wi-Fi interoperable approach—small entrepreneurs can set it up and make it easy to operate. So I think multiple initiatives—mobile operators providing data, the government pushing fibre as well as Trai proposing Wi-Fi and internet on the cable network—will help.

One thing we should realize is that the data requirements for financial transactions is very low. I don’t know why we are worried about broadband. You need broadband to watch Netflix. Digital financial transactions need a few bytes. What you need is reliable connectivity.

When it comes to digital transactions, security is a big concern. Recently, there were reports of data security breach in Aadhaar. How difficult it is to handle cyber security?
The whole issue of Aadhaar is a mis-information campaign. What happened was some business correspondents stored biometric and played it, which is illegal under the Aadhaar Act. It was not a breach of the Aadhaar system; it was not a hack; it was not data theft. It is just a biometric replay done illegally by somebody. That person has been caught thanks to the advanced analytics at the Aadhaar system and I am sure that due action will be taken. It is a very secure system—far more secure than debit cards. If you look at what happened on debit cards, that thing (the security breach) was going on for months before it was caught. Here it was caught within a matter of 24 hours. The point is that it is a far more secure system. In 7 years nobody has said that my biometric has been stolen. So I don’t know why people are making such a fuss about it.
In fact, for the past one-and-a-half years, UIDAI has been working on something called registered devices, so that every device has a unique signature. I am convinced that it is far more secure than any other system. It is important that we go to new platforms such as UPI and so on, which are far more secure. They do device-level encryption, they use the latest standards of encryption and every packet on the network is digitally signed. Lot of the latest thinking on security has gone into the design of both Aadhaar and UPI.

How will India Stack help adoption of digital payment and for financial services?
Aadhaar authentication is being used in so many places, including Aadhaar Pay. I can do Aadhaar authentication to remove money from a micro ATM. I can do Aadhaar authentication to do a cashless transaction at a merchant. That is one part of India Stack.

Second, eKYC is very popular. In fact, the Jio story of enrolling 1 million customers a day was enabled because they could do eKYC in 2-3 minutes. Similarly, the new payments banks—Airtel Payments Bank and Paytm are all using eKYC. This is fundamental for customer onboarding. It reduces time and cost. That has a fundamental and strategic impact on the market. With eSign—which is digital signature—I can now sign a large number of documents and send them. For example, if I make an online application for a loan, I can sign the loan agreement using my Aadhaar and send it to the bank—that makes the loan application paperless. The UPI enables it to be cashless.
Then the digital locker system, which is now getting widely rolled out, enables storage of all my financial records. And of course, electronic consent architecture allows me to share my data to get a loan or a better premium.

The point is that this paperless, cashless, presence-less infrastructure which is unique in the world is fundamental to the rapid adoption in financial services because it reduces cost, time and improves accessibility. While we are seeing it in banking, it is just a matter of time before the same thing applies to mutual funds, insurance policies, pension and so on. If you look at all the financial services, they will all use India Stack, and to make sure a billion people have cheaper, better, faster access to financial services.

Clearly there are benefits of using electronic platforms. But what are the challenges and pitfalls?
We have to make it convenient with one click. Cash is so convenient—I can just remove cash from my pocket, give it to the merchant and walk away. You have to make it as convenient as that. You have to make it as cheap as possible. When I give a Rs100 note to a merchant, he knows it is worth Rs100. But if I make a Rs100 payment to a merchant, and if he has to give Re1 to someone to process it, he would rather take cash. You have to make it cheap and, of course, secure. That is one of the impediments in rapid adoption, apart from, of course, the evangelization of the whole thing. But equally important is showing people the benefits; showing them that data is secure and private; and showing people that having a digital footprint enables them to use the data to get a benefit. Nobody has understood this fundamental benefit. In Western countries, the data is accumulated by a few companies who make money by selling you ads. In India, every individual has access to his own data for his own future.

Empowering a billion people with their own data—this is a fundamental inversion of how data is used. None of them have understood this. If I am a merchant and I start taking digital payments, I can share my digital payment history with a lender and he can give me a loan, a small business loan. Data becomes valuable as a way for me to get a cheaper loan.