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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Friday, April 21, 2017

11087 - It’s Time to Disentangle the Complex Aadhaar Debate - The Wire

It’s Time to Disentangle the Complex Aadhaar Debate


So far, erratic and anecdotal research has informed the Aadhaar debate. As a result, a number of concerns have remained insufficiently analysed.

A villager goes through the process of eye scanning for Unique Identification (UID) database system at an enrolment centre in Rajasthan. Credit:Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters/Files

The Aadhaar debate has more often than not resulted in inflexible binary positions without adequate analysis, making it rather difficult for an impartial, lay observer to understand the full implications. The issues have ranged widely from limiting the scope of Aadhaar, to its role in social welfare, to privacy and its threat to democracy. There have been several conspiracy theories and debates on whether Aadhaar has helped welfare or welfare has helped Aadhaar. Many of the above issues have often been conflated in arguments, and, amazingly, the past and the present governments seem to have completely swapped their earlier strident positions on Aadhaar. Given the situation, one does not envy the honourable judges of the Supreme Court who are being urged to expeditiously decide on the pending issues.

The scope of Aadhaar
Aadhaar is perhaps the most ambitious digital identity project in history. The hurriedly passed Aadhaar Bill has restricted its uses only to an efficient and targeted delivery of services and subsidies, the expenditure for which is incurred from the country’s consolidated fund. Yet the government wants to use it not only to enforce better tax compliance, but also to disburse scholarships, to facilitate hassle-free train and air travel, for payment gateways and even for downloading of survey maps! 

The possibilities of Aadhaar are so enormous that it is inconceivable that its usage can remain limited to preventing leakages in welfare schemes – either the project has to be abandoned altogether or its usage must ultimately grow significantly beyond what is specified in the Aadhaar Act of 2016 or in the court restrictions. Whatever may be the final decision, one can only hope that it will be the outcome of an informed and high quality debate and not be based on strident dogmatic positions.

If we set aside the crucial privacy concerns for the moment, the following appear to be the main issues in deciding on the scope of Aadhaar usage.

First, the government clearly wants to use the unique identification of Aadhaar to enforce compliance in a variety of schemes by avoiding duplicates. As such, making Aadhaar based identity verification mandatory appears to be a strict requirement, and the opponent’s insistence on making Aadhaar optional undermines this very purpose. It does appear that an optional Aadhaar will be severely limited, if not almost useless, in scope. A lot has been written about the requirement of consent in Aadhaar usage. But should individual consent be necessary for every public policy instrument, especially for those whose main purpose is to enforce compliance, provided due processes are followed to make the usage legitimate?

For example, can one refuse to give consent if it is democratically decided that for the greater good, strict identity verification is necessary for employment or for tax compliance or for property registration? Notwithstanding the fact that it will be absolutely correct to argue that getting Aadhaar passed for limited purposes as a money Bill – without adequate debate and then recklessly extending its scope, thereby violating the Supreme Court’s directives – is not exactly what can be called following due processes. The consent and the opt out aspects of the debate appear to have been somewhat trivialised. 

What is perhaps required, at the earliest, is a detailed analysis of who all may have a right to verify the identity of a resident, to what extent, for what purposes and under what circumstances.

Second, why should Aadhaar be restricted to welfare schemes where the cultural capital required for high frequency digital transactions may be lacking? Admittedly there are substantial leakages in these schemes, but surely the need for de-duplication and strict record keeping and audits are as much, if not more, in the domains of tax compliance, real estate transactions and property records and election funding? Why is it that these do not make for more compelling usage possibilities for Aadhaar? Surely, we need some analysis on the relative merits of insisting on unique identification in such domains as well?

Third, detecting duplicates is possibly just one aspect of an instrument like Aadhaar. Its scope can possibly be tremendously enhanced to facilitate linking of local IDs in currently isolated verticals like census, education, health-care and immunisation records, birth and death records, land records, property registration, income tax, banking, loans and defaults, police verification and law enforcement, disaster management, security and intelligence and such others.

Thus, Aadhaar may not only enable efficient design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of services in each domain individually, but may also offer the possibility of using modern data analytics and machine learning techniques for finding large scale correlations in user data. This, in turn, may facilitate an improved design of social policy strategies, including targeting, and early detection and warning systems for anomalies. For example, it may be tremendously insightful to be able to correlate education levels, family incomes and nutrition across the entire population; or disease spread with income and education. More generally, it may enable macro level analysis from high frequency micro level data, econometric analysis, epidemiological studies, automatic discovery of latent topics and finding both predictive and causal relationships across multiple domains of the economy. There has been very little analysis of such possibilities, either from the government or from independent researchers.