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 20, 2017

11609 - The demonisation of Aadhaar - Indian Express


It is unfortunate that many sincere social workers, activists, and economists are not able to see through it

Written by Ajay Bhushan Pandey | Updated: July 12, 2017 4:17 am

The article by Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey (‘Excluded by Aadhaar,’ IE, June 5) and a few other recent pieces in The Indian Express have criticised Aadhaar on the ground that it is leading to large-scale exclusion of the needy and deserving from the benefits of several schemes. With due respect to the critics of Aadhaar, their claim is neither based on legal positions nor on the facts on ground. They need to be reminded that, not so long ago, huge sums of money in welfare schemes meant for poor were being siphoned away through ghost entities and duplicates and as a result, genuine beneficiaries suffered.

Fake PAN and ghost bank accounts and shell companies helped in large-scale tax evasion, money laundering and the generation of black money. Efforts of the government to weed out these ghost entities had only a limited and transient impact. These entities were resilient and would soon reappear in much larger numbers. Aadhaar was conceptualised to address this malaise and was given a statutory basis in 2016 through the enactment of the Aadhaar Act, which enables the government to make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes and services.

The critics claim that the government’s notifications mandating Aadhaar in schemes like the PDS, MGNREGA and mid-day meals have led to denial of benefits to the vulnerable sections of society. They have cited a few instances of elderly people being denied food rations because they did not have Aadhaar or their fingerprints could not be authenticated since their fingers had worn with age. An impression is sought to be created that Aadhaar is responsible for the exclusion of such beneficiaries and therefore is anti-poor and should be discarded. It is a classic case of barking up the wrong tree. Aadhaar has been given to more than 115 crore people. More than 99 per cent adults in the country are covered under it. Notwithstanding such high coverage, the Aadhaar Act mandates that not even one person be denied benefits because of the lack of Aadhaar. Regulation 12 of the Aadhaar (Enrollment and Update) Regulations enjoins the agency requiring Aadhaar to enroll its beneficiary and provide him benefits till he has Aadhaar. The Aadhaar Act also provides statutory protection to those who are unable to authenticate fingerprints because their fingers have worn with age or other reasons such as technical faults and connectivity failures. Section Seven of the Aadhaar Act mandates “delivery of benefits through Aadhaar authentication or furnishing proof of possession of Aadhaar number”.

It is, therefore, absolutely clear that in case a person has difficulty in getting his fingerprints authenticated on a machine, he can provide a copy of his Aadhaar card and receive the benefits till the system is rectified. The field agencies have been instructed accordingly through notifications issued by the government. In spite of this, if a person is denied because he does not have Aadhaar or he is unable to biometrically authenticate the information, it is a violation of the government’s instructions. Such violators have to be punished. 

But to claim that Aadhaar is responsible for the denial of benefits is akin to blaming the Reserve Bank of India’s currency system when a few merchants refuse to accept the new Rs 500 notes from customers. Needless to say, such offences have to be dealt with by the local law enforcement agencies.

Some critics of Aadhaar demand that benefits be not denied to those who are unwilling to enroll for Aadhaar. This plea is certainly not tenable under the Aadhaar Act, which stipulates that Aadhaar enrollment can be made mandatory for the grant of benefits. Therefore, if one does not want to enroll for Aadhaar, he has to make a conscious choice of foregoing the benefits. The plea of the critics is akin to a case where someone, on the basis of the fundamental right to freedom of movement under the Constitution, insists on driving a motor vehicle without applying for a driver’s licence. 

Isn’t the state, which is spending lakhs of crores of taxpayers’ money on welfare schemes, entitled to use a credible identification system like Aadhaar to ensure that the benefits go only to genuine beneficiaries? Have we not heard stories about how people would often be turned away from ration shops on the pretext that the stock had finished? Since now, benefits will be distributed through Aadhaar authentication, it will be much harder to fudge records and deny genuine beneficiaries. Under the Aadhaar regime, everyone involved in the delivery system is subject to a greater accountability. The citizen is also empowered because it is harder for anyone to impersonate him and deny his rights.

Aadhaar has saved the government more than Rs 56,000 crore during the last three years by removing fakes and duplicates. Critics who dispute these figures may refer to the World Bank’s Digital Dividend Report 2016 which has estimated that Aadhaar could annually save the central government US $11 billion if used in all welfare programmes. The efficacy of Aadhaar has also been questioned on the ground that it has not been able to curb quantity and quality frauds and check corruption by the service providers — for example, some fair price shop dealers continue to give poor quality foodgrains or give less quantities to the beneficiaries even after Aadhaar authentication. One needs to understand that Aadhaar is not a magic bullet or cure for all the ills of our society. It cannot be challenged on the ground that it is not able to solve a problem fully. In fact, the Supreme Court in its recent PAN-Aadhaar judgment held that the introduction of Aadhaar in the tax regime cannot be denounced just because the deep-rooted menace of tax evasion needs to be tackled by multiple actions — each individual action considered in isolation may not be sufficient. Similarly, Aadhaar only authenticates the beneficiary’s identity; other abuses and transgressions have to be addressed by the appropriate agencies of the state.

We also need to be aware that the beneficiaries of the erstwhile leaky system would do everything possible to demonise Aadhaar. They would try to deny benefits to the deserving and put the entire blame on Aadhaar. There are stories — and videos — in social media about Aadhaar leading to large-scale denial, about old and poor people being deprived of their rations and pensions, a ration shop dealer being made to climb up a tree to make his biometric authentication machine work. It is unfortunate that many sincere social workers, activists, and even economists are not able to discern the sinister designs of such people. It would have served the country and the poor better if the conscientious objectors of Aadhaar had seen through this pernicious design and directed their objections to the violators of Aadhaar rather than Aadhaar. They need to understand that Aadhaar is an instrument of empowerment and not a tool of exclusion.

The writer is the Chief Executive Officer of Unique Identification Authority of India