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 20, 2017

11078 - I’m all for a robust privacy law, but don’t make it like Aadhaar is the only reason we need it: Nandan Nilekani - Team Factor Daily

Team FactorDaily April 19, 2017

India’s ambitious unique identification number project is tumbling from one controversy into another.

In March, it sneakily inserted into a fast-tracked budget bill a rule that requires taxpayers to link their income tax number with Aadhaar. This goes against the Supreme Court ruling of August, 2015 that said Aadhaar can’t be made mandatory for any government service.

On top of that, the government has made consistent efforts to link welfare schemes like midday meals to the Aadhaar system. Instances like that of Bhopal gas tragedy victims being asked Aadhar cards for availing benefits have spawn outrage.

Then there are privacy concerns. Recently, Aadhaar data of former cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s was leaked on twitter by a sanctioned enrolment agency.

“I find this disingenuous; it makes me feel there’s some other motive (of those raising the issues)” — Nandan Nilekani,  
However, the man behind Aadhaar and former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Nandan Nilekani, is unfazed by the backlash. Iterating that he’s a big advocate of privacy and security, he says, “I’m all for a very modern and robust data protection and privacy law. But don’t make it as if Aadhaar is the reason for the law. I find this disingenuous; it makes me feel there’s some other motive (of those raising the issues).”

Nilekani adds that the government has ensured privacy and security in the very design of Aadhaar. “The fact that we limited the data collected by the Aadhaar system to only name, address, sex, date of birth and email ID, that was privacy by design. As was the fact that the Aadhaar system would be limited to KOYC and authentication,” he says.

“I have no evidence at all that Aadhaar was made for surveillance, and I’ve been in the government. The law is very clear — it states that your biometrics can’t be shared under any circumstances, not even for national security. It’s a very very tight law” — Nilekani  

What about surveillance concerns?
There are enough checks and balances to ensure Aadhaar is not misused, says Nilekani. “I have no evidence at all that Aadhaar was made for surveillance, and I’ve been in the government. The law is very clear — it states that your biometrics can’t be shared under any circumstances, not even for national security. It’s a very very tight law.”

He says Aadhaar has weathered all the controversies it has triggered because of the “humongous” benefits it offers, primary among them being its “uniqueness”, which has “enabled the elimination of ghosts and duplicates from all kinds of government schemes.”

Tune into the podcast to hear more about the journey of Aadhaar from the man who designed it.

Lead photograph: FactorDaily

Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.