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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Saturday, April 22, 2017

11093 - Aadhaar: A widening net - Live Mint

Last Modified: Fri, Apr 21 2017. 01 03 AM IST


As India makes Aadhaar compulsory for a range of services, concerns about potential data breaches remain more than six years after the govt started building the world’s largest biometric identification system


The Aadhaar project, under which a 12-digit identification number is to be allotted to every Indian resident, was originally supposed to be a way of plugging leakages in the delivery of state benefits such as subsidized grains to the poor. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

On 29 March, a storm broke out on social media after private data that former Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni had furnished to get enrolled in India’s unique identity system, known as Aadhaar, were leaked online.

The popular cricketer’s wife, Sakshi, flagged the matter on Twitter, tagging information technology (IT) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. “Is there any privacy left? Information of Aadhaar card, including application, is made public property,” Sakshi fumed on the microblogging site.

The minister replied: “Sharing personal information is illegal. Serious action will be taken against this.”


It turned out to be the fault of an overenthusiastic common services centre in Dhoni’s home town of Ranchi licensed to enrol people in Aadhaar. The centre was promptly blacklisted. “We have ordered further inquiry on the matter and action will be taken against all those involved in the leak,” said Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive officer of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which administers Aadhaar.

The matter blew over soon enough, but it served to illustrate the lingering concerns about potential data breaches and privacy violations surrounding Aadhaar, which has become the world’s largest biometric identification database with 1.13 billion people enrolled in it in the past six years.

The project, under which a 12-digit identification number is to be allotted to every Indian resident, was originally supposed to be a way of plugging leakages in the delivery of state benefits such as subsidized grains to the poor.


It has now become mandatory for everything ranging from opening a bank account and getting a driver’s licence or a mobile phone connection to filing of income tax returns. Even government school students entitled to a free mid-day meal need an Aadhaar number.

The use of Aadhaar has only expanded with the government going on an overdrive to promote cashless transactions and payment systems linked to the biometric ID system after banning old, high-value bank notes in November in a crackdown on unaccounted wealth hidden away from the taxman.
For instance, the Aadhaar-Enabled Payment System (AEPS) empowers a bank customer to use Aadhaar as her identity to access her Aadhaar-enabled bank account and perform basic banking transactions like cash deposit or withdrawal through a bank agent or business correspondent.

The customer can carry out transactions by scanning her fingerprint at any micro ATM or biometric point-of-sale (POS) terminal, and entering the Aadhaar number linked to the bank account. A merchant-led model of AEPS, called Aadhaar Pay, has also been launched.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the BHIM-Aadhaar platform—a merchant interface linking the unique identification number to the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) mobile application. This will enable merchants to receive payments through fingerprint scans of customers.

“Any citizen without access to smartphones, Internet, debit or credit cards will be able to transact digitally through the BHIM-Aadhaar platform,” a government statement said.
Aadhaar’s growing importance in the economy has only served to deepen concerns about potential data breaches. And there are other concerns as well.

For instance, the Aadhaar biometric authentication failure rate in the rural job guarantee scheme, which assures 100 days of work a year to one member of every rural household, is as high as 36% in the southern state of Telangana, according to data released by the state government.

“Aadhaar is supposed to be an enabler and it will happen only when it is made voluntary. Biometric authentications might fail due to poor data connectivity and transactions might not happen even though the Aadhaar number of the person is there; so, what’s the benefit,” asked Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the Centre for Internet and Society, a Bengaluru-based think tank.

Aadhaar was the brainchild of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which lost power in the 2014 general election to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The first 10 Aadhaar numbers were handed over to residents of a small village called Tembhli in Maharashtra on 29 September 2010 in the presence of then prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and Aadhaar’s chief architect Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder of software services giant Infosys Ltd.


After coming to power, the NDA systematically went about making Aadhaar the pivot of government welfare programmes. In March last year, Parliament passed the Aadhaar Bill to make the use of Aadhaar mandatory for availing of government subsidies despite resistance from opposition parties.

Last month, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the 12-digit number would eventually become a single, monolithic proof of identity for every Indian, replacing every other identity card.
To be sure, Aadhaar has helped the government better target beneficiaries of its welfare programmes, cutting out middlemen and corruption. For instance, the government claims to have saved about Rs50,000 crore in cooking gas subsidies by linking the Aadhaar number with bank accounts in which the subsidy is directly transferred.

Yet, Aadhaar has its critics, who have challenged the project on grounds including potential compromise of national security, violation of the right to privacy and exclusion of people from welfare programmes. The Supreme Court has cautioned the government that no citizen can be denied access to welfare programmes for lack of an Aadhaar number.

Before cricketer Dhoni’s data breach made the headlines, in February, UIDAI filed a complaint against Axis Bank Ltd, business correspondent Suvidhaa Infoserve and e-sign provider eMudhra, alleging they had attempted unauthorized authentication and impersonation by illegally storing Aadhaar biometrics. The breach was noticed after one individual performed 397 biometric transactions between 14 July 2016 and 19 February 2017. All three entities have been temporarily barred from offering Aadhaar-related services until UIDAI makes a final decision.


Pranesh Prakash of the Centre for Internet and Society said rules on the use of Aadhaar data are inadequate.
“UIDAI is allowed to share the information of a person from its database on its website, after taking proper consent of that person. However, there is no law which states what should be done if any other party does that with the same individual. Such rules must be in place,” Prakash said.

Four years after the Aadhaar project took off, a retired judge took the government to court. K. Puttaswamy, a former judge of the Karnataka high court, moved the Supreme Court in 2013, arguing that Aadhaar violated his fundamental right to privacy under the constitution. The case opened the gates for legal challenges to Aadhaar. Over the next few years till date, at least a dozen cases had questioned the legality of the project.
Ramon Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy brought a case on behalf of manual workers whose faint finger prints, she said, often go undetected. Currently, only 44 million out of the 101 million beneficiaries of India’s rural job entitlement are paid through Aadhaar.

To be sure, India’s Constitution does not contain a black and white reference to a “fundamental right to privacy”, that the government cannot violate. The list of rights says “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law”—often interpreted by courts as an all-encompassing right including right to live with dignity, right to speedy justice and even a right to clean air.
Nilekani, the man behind Aadhaar, has cautioned that privacy is a broader issue involving how people retain their privacy in day-to-day life. “Privacy is an all-encompassing issue because of the rapid rate of digitization the world is seeing. Your smartphone has sensors, GPS and is generating more and more information about everything; voice-activated devices could also be recording your conversations. There’s a profusion of CCTV cameras at malls, restaurants, ATMs recording your movements,” Nilekani said in a recent interview with The Economic Times.

But this is where a problem arises. Although there is concurrence on the need for a privacy law, there is a great reluctance on the part of the government to come out with one.
“We don’t have a comprehensive privacy law; all our databases are unlinked. The government is trying to link the databases using Aadhaar for all schemes but a separate privacy law must be there for protecting any piece of information, whether or not linked to Aadhaar,” said Rahul Matthan, a partner at law firm Trilegal and a Mint columnist.


Matthan said first a privacy law must be put in place and then there has to be a discussion on what all it must include.
The government on its part pointed out that India’s apex court itself has been indecisive on a right to privacy.

“The larger question on privacy needs to be settled by the court. Till then, one cannot comment on secondary concerns,” attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said in an interview.

In 2015, the Supreme Court decided that a bench of at least seven judges will rule on the privacy issue, while clarifying that the government cannot make Aadhaar a mandatory proof of identity for its welfare schemes. Twenty months after the judicial order, the larger bench is yet to be formed by the apex court. The passing of the Aadhaar Act in Parliament to provide statutory backing to Aadhaar also indicates a departure from the Indian government’s position of not taking a legislative stand while an issue is under the apex court’s consideration.
For example, one of the reasons the Indian government has shown restraint in repealing a colonial law that criminalizes homosexuality is because the apex court is seized of the issue.
In the absence of legislation and pending an authoritative ruling by the top court, whether 1.3 billion Indians are entitled to their privacy remains a grey area. Meanwhile, the government is seemingly in the final stretch of its Aadhaar enrolment drive.