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.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

11574 - Aadhaar and multiple identity disorder - Business Standard

What is primarily required is political and administrative will for effective delivery of services
July 1, 2017 Last Updated at 20:57 IST

Agantuk (The Stranger) was Satyajit Ray’s last film. The film revolves around the return of an old man, Manomohan Mitra, to India after 35 years. Manmohan had spent all his life with Adivasis from across the world and has a take on civilisation and progress that is at odds with the popular urban narrative of it. He claims to be the uncle of Anila and wants to spend a few days at her house in Kolkata. Anila’s husband Sudheendra is highly suspicious of this stranger’s identity. Manomohan sees through Sudheendra’s suspicion and gives his passport to Sudheendra to verify his “identity”. Sudheendra heaves a sigh of relief as he matches the name, the photograph, and the distinguishing mark. Manomohan, on the contrary, debunks Sudheendra’s conviction by saying “the passport proves nothing” about “identity”.

India is going through a curious phase where these questions are being codified and mapped through a 12-digit numeric equivalent called Aadhaar. Let us look at what these mean from the lens of an Adivasi man called Xavier Ahir Minj in his forties.



Xavier is a resident of Mahuatoli village in Champa panchayat of Mahudand block in Latehar district of Jharkhand. That’s his residential identity. He cannot stand straight and uses a sturdy stick as support. He is visibly disabled and has a certificate issued in 2009 with his passport photograph stuck on it that “proves” that he is more than 50 per cent disabled. He is thus eligible to get disability pension from the state. Despite numerous visits to the block office, an 18-km walk, he has still not started receiving his disability pension.

Identity as an NREGA worker: Xavier is listed as “Jebiyar” Ahir in the NREGA Management Information System (MIS). His job card, bank passbook, and his Aadhaar number have been taken away by a local contractor. According to the MIS, he and his wife have collectively earned Rs 24,096 from the beginning of the last financial year. However, they don't even know their job card number and neither has worked a single day. They were angry upon learning that so much money has been siphoned off in their names. On paper though, they are model NREGA workers because they’ve purportedly done close to 100 days of work in a year.

Identity in the Public Distribution System: Xavier has also been struggling to get rations under the PDS because he doesn’t have his “original” ration card and the dealer refuses to acknowledge the photocopy. Xavier’s wife, Indo Devi, was shouted at by the ration dealer for not producing the original, and they have stopped getting rations ever since — although the Jharkhand PDS website indicates otherwise.

An Aadhaar enrolment camp was conducted in his village a few years ago. Since then Xavier owns an Aadhaar card. Unaware of privacy concerns, he had given his Aadhaar number to a contractor, among others, perhaps paving the way for wages taken out in his name. While he was asked to sign the consent form during enrolment, there has been no education or training on the uses, abuses, and privacy of this biometric authenticated number.

Not so long ago, Nandan Nilekani, the architect of the Aadhaar project, came up with a taxonomy of the people opposed to Aadhaar, two of the categories being “rights-of-the-poor” advocates and “luddites” (those who are opposed to technological change). Xavier doesn’t belong to either of the camps. He got an Aadhaar because he was told that once he gets his Aadhaar, all his problems would be solved. However, all that has happened is Xavier resides in multiple databases with Aadhaar acting as the compass among his many so-called identities.

Mr Nilekani’s taxonomy may appear clever but it indicates he is ill-informed about ground realities, and points to his techno-utopianism. What is primarily required is political and administrative will for effective delivery of services and not merely a randomly generated unique 12-digit number to tag people. Enrolment in Aadhaar itself is a shining example of the government’s reach when there is political willingness. The sheer numbers in the Aadhaar database is testimony to that. In Xavier’s context, it is more important to have responsive and accountable field staff as opposed to more camps to get people into a database. Is it better to have a fancy algorithm that solves a wrong problem or some sub-optimal technology that attempts to solve more relevant problems? What is at stake is not efficiency but democracy at large.

The proponents of the UIDAI project may dismiss Xavier’s situation as anecdotal. They may desire an assessment of the scale of such travesties. But how many anecdotes are required to make the government pause and reflect? The velocity of Aadhaar imposition has left no time for rigorous studies or debate in evaluating the costs and benefits of this coercive project. Aadhaar was supposed to be a panacea against corruption and leakage and a magic wand for financial inclusion. But, Xavier stands tall, paradoxically so, as a counter-example to the claims made by Aadhaar — he is yet to get his disability pension, his PDS entitlements are in peril, and cash is being withdrawn by somebody else in his name. Xavier exists as rows and columns in databases and is yet invisible to the state. Much like Manomohan’s passport, Xavier’s Aadhaar seems to prove nothing. How has Aadhaar helped Xavier?

Manomohan Mitra in Agantuk astutely remarks, “I understand your dilemma. I know you but you don’t know me.” In the same vein, Xavier remains an agantuk — a stranger to the state. He knows the state, but he has fallen through the cracks and continues to live in the blind spot of our democracy. 


The writer is on the faculty of Azim Premji University