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.

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

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.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

11053 - With 100 Cr Unverified Aadhaar Numbers, Time for Accountability - Quint

With 100 Cr Unverified Aadhaar Numbers, Time for Accountability
TheQuintOpinion

Rajeev Chandrasekhar
April 13, 2017, 5:26 am

There is no doubt in my mind that most people still do not understand what is Aadhaar. One reason is that there has been little real debate around what Aadhaar is because of a lot of slick PR by those who built it. There is a need to understand it before we criticise it or attempt to repair its failings.

1) Aadhaar Escaped Initial Scrutiny
The UPA government spent thousands of crore on Aadhaar with no debate in or outside Parliament, no legislative backing for it and most importantly, not one word on legal accountability for the authenticity of this biometric database.

As a result, thousands of crore were spent on creating a biometric database, which conducted very poor verification of identities and did not and does not have any details of who was a citizen.

The only time Aaadhar was scrutinised was by the Standing Committee on Finance which concluded very correctly that having poor verification and without having citizenship identification, Aadhaar was simply a collection of fingerprints of people whose identity was unverified. The Standing Committee recommended that Aadhar be merged with the National Population Register.



2) Aadhaar Bill

This government brought the Aadhaar Bill, repositioned it as a subsidy delivery platform and encouraged parliamentary debate.

It has developed a strategy to use Aadhaar and other tools to launch a sharp attack on the vexed and cursed problem of leakages, ghost and fraudulent claimants to public subsidies. It has addressed the issue of lack of verification and fake entries by making UIDAI statutorily responsible for verifying the entries.


3) 100 Crore Unverified Aadhaar Cards

The issue of use of Aadhaar as an ID for purposes goes beyond subsidies, ie to ensuring access to airports, as an ID to open bank accounts, for air tickets. Obviously, this goes beyond the remit of what the Aadhaar bill was supposed to be for.

When there is clear evidence all over of fake Aadhaars, what safeguards has UIDAI taken before Aadhaar is being permitted to be used as an identification card or tool? This needs to be answered.


The issue of rampant fake Aadhaar entries is a real one and it’s a direct consequence of the sloppy way this database was built.
While the Aadhaar Act passed in 2016 makes it the responsibility of the UIDAI to issue Aadhaar numbers only after verification – the government must know that between 2010 and 2014 there were over 60 crore and then 2014 and 2016 over additional 40 crore – totally 100 crore Aadhaar numbers with little or no verification.

Through the entire term of the UPA, Aadhaar numbers were issued with almost non-existent form of verification. This involved numerous small companies becoming enrolment agencies that were paid for each enrolee and who would collect the biometrics and collect documents without any responsibility of authenticity. There are hundreds and thousands of reports of enrolment agencies that took bribes to issue Aadhaar cards.

4) Using Aadhaar as an ID Card

While using Aadhaar to deliver subsidies is an acceptable cost of fakes, to use it as an ID is creating a situation of systemic risk. If this is not resolved and fixed at this stage, you will create a cascading crisis of fake and ghost bank accounts, voters and passport holders that you will find very difficult to unravel later.

There are solutions to this, but to develop that solution, we need to first accept that there are some shortcomings with Aadhaar.


5) Audit of Database

The problems of ghost and fake entries in Aadhaar will need to be addressed through an audit or cleanup or re-verification of the database. This is unavoidable. Ignoring it is unacceptable in the interests of the country.

6) Linking Aadhaar with Subsidy Delivery

There is another question for the Minister to ponder upon. Is it your case that non-citizens are entitled to government subsidies? There is a legal proposition that as a citizen and taxpayer, I can object to or insist that subsidies not be provided to any non-citizen till the needs of all our citizens are met.

If that proposition holds, then doesn’t it imply that citizenship information is essential for any subsidy delivery? This shortcoming of Aadhaar too can be fixed, provided that the government first accepts that this is required.

7) Plugging Leakages in Schemes

Secondly, moving to the main focus of Aadhaar – to better delivery of public subsidies. The issue of mandatory or non-mandatory needs to be discussed. I am also a petitioner in the PIL in the Supreme Court. The Act that Parliament passed is very clear: Aadhaar can be used as well as other IDs to avail benefits and subsidies.

I am of the view that there should be a roadmap to ensure that eventually Aadhaar will be the sole gateway for needy Indians to avail government subsidies and benefits. It is but natural for the government to ensure that money for the poor and needy reach only the poor and needy.

Corruption and leakages harm the poor and needy the most. So, the biggest beneficiary of ensuring that money for poor reach only the poor are the poor.

The government and minister must realise that many government departments are issuing rules making Aadhaar mandatory both for subsidies and most dangerously as primary IDs. More recently, to my question to the HRD ministry, they responded in contradiction to their own notification on this issue. So, confusion exists in many ministries and departments.

(Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)

8) Fixing Accountability with UIDAI

A lot of the problems around Aadhaar can be placed squarely at the doorstep of the UIDAI, its vague and contradictory regulations, and lack of clear guidelines for its use. Proper oversight of UIDAI is lacking and needs to be put into place. For several years during UPA rule it was because there was a celebrity head of the UIDAI who spent considerable time trumpeting the virtues of Aadhaar in the media and so blunted any attempt at proper oversight.

The Aadhaar Act needs amendments on the issue of UIDAI accountability, because as custodians of this very important database, they need to be held to account because the implications in terms of security and other issues are significant.

Also Read: UIDAI Blacklists Centre That Leaked MS Dhoni’s Aadhaar Details

9) Issue of Privacy
The third point is data integrity and the broader issue of privacy. In recent times, as more and more people have become aware of Aadhaar and its design and its expansion into other areas, more and more concerns about its design and operations have surfaced.

Some are legitimate concerns, many are caused by a lack of understanding and lack of communication and transparency by UIDAI. The concerns of a surveillance state are misplaced if certain safety measures are put into place.

Also Read: Aadhaar and Three Other Cases Where Centre Went Against SC Orders


(Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)
(Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)

10) No Grievance Redressal Mechanism

Aadhaar’s architecture of a centralised database is an archaic way of storing sensitive data and therefore represents a serious data security risk.

There could have been far smarter and better ways to store these large databases. But this government inherited what it has and there is no wishing it away without wasting a lot of public money.

Despite mandatory and substantive provisions laying out the requirement of verification, the Aadhaar Act and the regulations made thereunder remain silent on the liability of the UIDAI, or its personnel, in case of non-compliance, contravention, or violation of such provisions. There is no grievance redressal mechanism for those who suffer data breaches or leaks.

Also Read: UIDAI Blacklists Centre That Leaked MS Dhoni’s Aadhaar Details

11) Action Against the Miscreants

In a modern and increasingly digital world that is being created, a set of rights for digital consumers vis a vis the custodian of data is a must. The current section on offences and penalties in the Act is in effect an incentive to lack of accountability of the UIDAI.

The proof is simple – despite all the overwhelming evidence of fake Aadhaars, there is no action by UIDAI on any of the enrolling agencies. Despite widespread evidence of misuse of access, the UIDAI has not taken any action.

12) Gauging Performance of UIDAI

The solution is to make UIDAI accountable. I would suggest regulations that require it to mandatorily disclose performance of its database in terms of errors and frauds and in addition a standing committee to oversee it, preferably a Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Identity Programme.



13) Burden on the User to Get Justice

The broader issue of privacy raises legitimate questions about the role and responsibility of the state or other agencies that are custodians of our digital footprints at a time of rapid digitisation of our lives and economies. The leader of the House conceded that he believes that privacy is a fundamental right even without waiting for the Supreme Court to opine on this.

The current protections to consumers and citizens under both the Aadhaar Act and the IT Act is skewed in favour of those who hold the data and places an extraordinary burden on the individual or user to get justice. I would encourage the government to enter this discussion, because many are concerned about this.

Also Read: Decoding The Aadhaar Debate: Do The Risks Outweigh The Benefits?



(Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)
(Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)



14) Balancing Privacy Rights and National Security Concerns

I understand that our national security concerns are sometimes at odds with the privacy rights of our citizens. But as the world’s largest democracy and soon perhaps the world’s leading digital democracy, we must take an enlightened and global lead in showing how we can balance our citizens’ rights to privacy and our national security considerations. I have heard the minister say there are enough safeguards in the IT and Aadhaar Act. With great respect, he is wrong.

As ‘onlining’ of our lives increases and our digital signature and footprint is increasingly all over, we will be met with scenarios and changes that we didn’t anticipate or were aware of. Constant change is the normal in this world. These kinds of debates will help the government and Parliament keep reviewing and adapting to these changes and challenges.


(The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP. These are excerpts from his speech in Parliament on 10 April 2017. The views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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