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.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

11640 - The intrusive Aadhaar card, paperwork run-ins with govt, and a wart on a salamander's tongue - First Post


Jul, 25 2017 10:38:27 IST

Do I hate the government? The jury is out on that one, but the sentence is long passed on my hatred of the government’s undue process. My ongoing battle with Aadhaar has rekindled a vicious dislike for paperwork tigers who wish to order and reorder our lives and livelihood.

It leaves me little choice to offer up a curse, first employed several decades ago, during my first major paperwork confrontation with a government employee. May you be reborn as a wart on a salamander’s tongue!

Representational image. Getty Images

The pompous Indian Administrative Service officer was quite offended, and that was the point. I couldn’t write a negative assessment of him to ruin his career; I couldn’t fire him; or vote to have him kicked out of a position earned with an opponent’s congenital weakness, and backed by a vicious and often vacuous army of lying trolls. There was reason for my dislike and it had nothing to do with him personally, but the government.

You see, the government got me married before the fact, and then wouldn’t let me get married as I had already been married.
At the time my partner and I lived in an apartment in South Delhi. Those were the early years of what is today called 'Voter ID'. A middle-aged gentleman came by one weekend to enroll us for the process. For me provenance was quite simple. At 'S/o', he wrote my father’s name. When it came to my partner and her insistence (and mine) for ‘D/o’, he switched off. He simply wouldn’t write her father’s name. He moved erringly to ‘W/o', and wrote my name. Every effort to subsequently have the error corrected failed. The government would not accept that this lady wished to have ‘W/o’ correctly changed to ‘D/o’. Moreover, we were told by various government officials that in their error lay our legitimisation.

Some years later we went to marry, after having duly filed an application with the court at Tis Hazari, using our Voter IDs as ID.

I received a summons from the ranking IAS officer 'in-charge' of marriages. He berated me for wasting the government’s time. I told him why. He then berated me for trying to deceive the government. How would India ever progress if educated people like us lied to the government?

I told him of my fervent wish that he be reborn as a wart on a salamander’s tongue.

Honest citizens, my partner and I approached a temple in Jangpura Extension. We weren’t religious people, but she and I figured the only way to deal with the government was to employ God. It worked. We were finally, legally, correctly married. The government was happy too as everything was neatly reconciled. My partner and I had finally caught up with our early paperwork marriage; we had literally earned that phrase beloved of government: retrospective effect.

Several years later I had to renew my passport. By then we had moved from the National Capital Region to Goa. Everything went well, till I received a letter a couple of months later mentioning my application was held up. Upon enquiry at the local passport office, I was told that the number of one of the several passports issued to me earlier had also been issued to someone else, as it turned out, in London to an Indian lady.

I explained that the particular passport number issued to me in New Delhi had been done as an emergency measure as I had to accompany a prime minister of India as part of the media delegation, and the Ministry of External Affairs had correctly used its authority to issue me a perfectly legal passport — to bridge the gap between my expired passport and a new, long-duration one that could take a month or more to issue through ordinary channels.

The stand-in passport officer (the regular chap was 'on leave') looked at me as if I had committed a grave crime. I showed him all passports ever issued to me by the Government of India, all with perfectly legal entry and exit stamps, all perfectly, legally imprinted with official stamps of the passport issuing authority.
"Are you telling me that we don’t know our job?" he said. "Go. We will get back to you," he added.

I told him that he ought to be reborn as a wart on a salamander’s tongue, and stormed out as elegantly as I could.

As my effort to follow due process had come to nothing for several months, I gave up on being a citizen who generally refuses to use any influence, and follow undue process. This time I invoked that rare God of journalism, a well-known — and actually honest and thoroughly professional — television anchor. We had been colleagues during my time as an editor with a media house. I sent him a detailed email. He passed that on to a friend, who happened to be the boss of New Delhi’s passport office.

Within a week I received a call from the passport officer in Goa, who sounded as if he would be delighted to caress my little toe with his (soon-to-be) salamander’s tongue. Two days after that I had the brand new and perfectly legal passport in my hands — as perfectly legal as all my previous passports.

There is no real need for me to possess an Aadhaar card, issued by a firm that now resembles a firm of stormtroopers, the Unique Identification Authority of India. I don’t need any subsidy from any government of India, central or in the states. I have a Voter ID — the same one — a PAN card, a passport and a driving license.

But the government wants that I absolutely must possess an Aadhaar card or else I should soon be illegal despite my several perfectly legal and perfectly adequate IDs issued for various purposes.

Of course it has not explained its own illegalities, such as insisting that I cannot pay my electricity bill without an Aadhaar card. This actually happened to me as far back as 2012 when Manohar Parrikar was the chief minister of Goa, and I went to pay the utility bill at the branch of a local cooperative bank in Moira village.

"Where your udder card?" the lady at the counter demanded.
"I don’t have one," I replied.
“No-udder-card no bill-men,” she pronounced.

I had to request my housekeeper, who had got herself such a card to benefit from several subsidies, to pay the bill on my behalf.

Later, I encountered a very close friend of Nandan Nilekani — the man behind it all — at dinner during the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2013. He laughed a little embarrassedly, and confessed Parrikar and Nilekani had been buddies from their days as students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. 

Belonging to different political parties would hardly come in their way. And now, with the government having adopted Aadhaar with ill-disguised fervour of the control-freak, such political lines have long since blurred. After strenuously resisting Aadhaar for several years, I may now be compelled to give in, be denied my rights to question the illegal activities of the government.

So, one Friday in May this year, I joined the queue at the local Aadhaar enrollment centre for North Goa in Mapusa. It is on the first floor of the large and busy district hospital, and it seems apt, as it is still unclear whether Aadhaar is a disease or partial cure or political prophylactic.

The queue was long. When I got to the door manned by an outsourced security fellow, I was told to arrive on a Saturday, as a 'token' was given out only on a Saturday. I showed up the next day, to be a given a token for the following Thursday. But I would be out of the country then — so another day perhaps? No. Go.

I didn’t have the Hindi word for salamander. Besides, it wasn’t his fault.
I returned to the same place, and familiar odours of rot, helplessness, and seemingly ineffective disinfectant, on 21 July, even though it was not a Saturday. The queue had gotten longer. Indeed, there were two queues, one for folks who had arrived for biometrics, and a longer one for those who had come to get errors in their Aadhaar card sorted out.

But they gave me a token for 11 August to complete my biometrics. There was simply no slot before that. I will have to break a travel schedule decided several weeks earlier in order to not be deemed illegal in my own country, even after possessing four legal, digitally recorded IDs of which three are also biometrically recorded.

Are they dumb? Can’t one bit of artificial intelligence talk to another? If so many people are still queuing up when the Goa government has repeatedly claimed the highest enrollment numbers for Aadhaar, could this claim have by some chance been faked? Or, executed with a massive volume of error?

I don’t know if I should wish Nilekani to be reborn as a wart on a salamander’s tongue. He’s a nice guy, a go-getter, bright. I like him. But Parrikar and his kind already have forked tongues. For them it wouldn’t even be a leap of faith.


The author is an award-winning writer, columnist, and consultant to think-tanks and the media. He tweets @chakraview