Aadhaar

The UIDAI has taken two successive governments in India and the entire world for a ride. It identifies nothing. It is not unique. The entire UID data has never been verified and audited. The UID cannot be used for governance, financial databases or anything. It’s use is the biggest threat to national security since independence. – Anupam Saraph 2018

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 scholarUsha Ramanathandescribes 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

In the Supreme Court, Meenakshi Arora, one of the senior counsel in the case, compared it to living under a general, perpetual, nation-wide criminal warrant.

Had never thought of it that way, but living in the Aadhaar universe is like living in a prison. All of us are treated like criminals with barely any rights or recourse and gatekeepers have absolute power on you and your life.

Announcing the launch of the#BreakAadhaarChainscampaign, culminating with events in multiple cities on 12th Jan. This is the last opportunity to make your voice heard before the Supreme Court hearings start on 17th Jan 2018. In collaboration with @no2uidand@rozi_roti.

UIDAI's security seems to be founded on four time tested pillars of security idiocy

1) Denial

2) Issue fiats and point finger

3) Shoot messenger

4) Bury head in sand.

God Save India

Sunday, May 20, 2018

13553 - How India’s Welfare Revolution Is Starving Citizens - New Yorker

By Rahul BhatiaMay 16, 2018



For the past two years, food campaigners have watched in alarm as the Aadhaar I.D. system has taken hold in India’s bureaucracy.Photograph by Ruth Fremson / NYT / Redux

One morning last December, Uttam Kunwar awoke from a terrible dream in which his mother had died. Any relief he felt lasted only until he turned over on the floor, beneath the blanket he shared with her, to find her dead. We spoke on the last day of February, in a tiny settlement at the eastern edge of Jharkhand, an Indian state near the Bay of Bengal. Uttam sat on a khatiya, a bed of bamboo and cord mesh, beside logs left from the pyre. “She died of hunger,” he said. I asked how he knew, and he stared at me. “She died of hunger,” he said.
The bulb above us sputtered. Uttam brought out a passport picture glued to his mother’s bank-account book. Villagers offering directions to her home had spoken of her madness, and I looked for signs in the photo. Premani Kunwar confronted the camera with a frown, the drape of a patterned sari falling on a lean, oblong face. Uttam folded his arms and pressed his curled toes into the ground.

Three days after Premani died, members of the Right to Food Campaign, a loose partnership of activists, economists, and researchers, drove down from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. They scattered over the open country for two days, interviewing neighbors, family, and the rations supplier who gave the village its monthly share of subsidized food. One of the researchers, Siraj Dutta, a former engineer who has studied people living beneath Mumbai’s bridges, said that he was jolted by the Kunwars’ poverty. “They had no utensils to store grains,” he told me. “In most homes, you find some kind of storage for food.” Uttam and Premani had subsisted on a diet of rice and salt. Occasionally, if lurking rats hadn’t pruned their supplies first, they sold a portion to splurge on dal, sugar, and oil.
Dutta’s investigation found that Premani hadn’t received food from the rations supplier, but that the final nudge had come from elsewhere. When the researchers visited her local bank branch—“a typical, small rural branch where everyone is confused,” Dutta recalled—the manager showed them his screen in surprise. At some point, Premani’s pension had been diverted to the account of a person who died in 1992. This happened, the manager declared, because someone had linked the dead person’s account to Premani’s twelve-digit national identification number, known as Aadhaar. Premani, who was almost sixty-five, knew nothing of this. During the last week of her life, she was driven quiet by hunger, and her movements were strained. The fact-finders concluded that she had died “hungry and penniless.”

Aadhaar, which is the largest biometric identification database in existence, has lately been the subject of intense debate in India. The system, launched in 2009, was created by the billionaire software entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani, who was Profiled in this magazine. It uses an individual’s photograph, fingerprints, and iris scans to generate a unique I.D. number, which is then linked to a range of services, including welfare benefits, traffic tickets, cell phones, and pensions. Nilekani’s belief, as he wrote in a 2011 report, was that India’s future could be dramatically improved if the government’s resources were managed by “private companies with a public purpose.” Aadhaar is a federal effort, operating under the Unique Identification Authority of India, but when it came into law, in 2016, it was formalized as an independent entity, in keeping with that spirit. When questioned about its workings, Aadhaar’s officials often invoke national security, and Nilekani recently alleged that there was a “an orchestrated campaign” to “malign” his creation.

The linking of Aadhaar to welfare benefits has proved especially controversial. Originally, the idea was meant to address the system’s talent for making food disappear. In parliamentary records from the eighties and nineties, ministers ask how food meant for one district ended up in Bangladesh, whether officers subverting welfare would be punished, and if the whole system should be shut down “to dismantle a huge chain of vested interests.” In one instance, a minister wondered why New Delhi had more recipients of welfare than actual residents. Nilekani was in his twenties then, but not much has changed. Subsidized food leaks at every stage of the process. In 2018, India set aside $24.9 billion, just over one percent of the country’s G.D.P., to buy and deliver this food, aware that a significant portion would vanish.

For Nilekani, Aadhaar was the answer to “ghosts,” the fake or duplicative identities that haunted the system. What could better authenticate a recipient of welfare than their very body? But under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the system has further expanded its purview. Registration, first promoted as a voluntary scheme, has gradually become mandatory for many public and private employees. So far, more than a billion citizens have surrendered their biometric data. This has turned privacy-conscious holdouts in to a conspicuous minority and put them on the defensive. Over the last year, in interviews, conversations, and messages on Whatsapp, activists and lawyers fighting over Aadhaar’s limits in India’s Supreme Court expressed a half-expectation that they would eventually lose. They mentioned the weight of disapproving neighbors, friends, and family. “ ‘Don’t questions elders’ is the line we’re taught at school,” Anantha Subramanian, a project manager, said. “That’s why a majority of people take the government at face value.”
Nilekani claims that Aadhaar has saved India over nine billion dollars by eliminating fraud. But Reetika Khera, an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, wrote, “What passes as ‘savings’ is often the result of denial of legal entitlements for lack of Aadhaar.” The idea of Aadhaar—technology uniting a nation, purging it of corruption and fraud—can often seem more important, to the government, than the reality on the ground. In Nilekani’s book “Rebooting India,” he begins with a rousing anecdote, from 2010, about Aadhaar’s first registrant, a housewife named Ranjana Sonawane who lived in the remote village of Tembhli. In 2016, Sonawane told the Times of India that her Aadhar card was “useless.”

In February, I met Swati Narayan, a researcher for Right to Food, at a coffee shop in Ranchi. She told me that had been keeping a spreadsheet tracking “a wave of deaths” that came after welfare recipients were told to link their benefits to Aadhaar. In September, a child died after her family’s ration card was deleted because they hadn’t linked it. A paralyzed woman who couldn’t visit the ration shop for an Aadhaar fingerprint authentication died of hunger, as did a seventy-five-year-old man after his daughter’s biometric authentication failed. In all three cases, as in others, the government denied that starvation was at fault, often blaming sickness instead. (“Yes, she was sick,” one of Premani’s neighbors told me. “But she fell sick because there was no food.”) Starvation is not new in India’s villages, but Narayan’s spreadsheet was revealing: the ‘caste’ column of the victims brimmed with those people that the country tends to shun, including Muslims, Dalits, and members of remote tribes.

For the past two years, food campaigners have watched in alarm as Aadhaar has taken hold in India’s bureaucracy. In Jharkhand, it’s now mandatory to link rations to Aadhaar, which campaigners say has led to people's removal from ration lists. In public hearings, people from the state have spoken about their problems with biometric readers—some reject thumbprints outright, while others don’t get mobile reception—and describe a system that has turned accessing their monthly supply of food into a game of chance. “Why have the deaths happened here in Jharkhand? Because people here are starved. They’re at the edge of survival,” Narayan told me. “Logically, it was going to happen.” When I asked her about Nilekani’s frequent references to “ghosts,” or fake beneficiaries, she laughed.
Aadhaar’s reach is only growing. In October, just outside Ranchi, the local government announced that it would conduct a limited experiment: instead of giving people food, it would deposit money directly into accounts linked to Aadhaar. Campaigners told me they heard of the scheme, called Direct Benefit Transfer, when villagers began to protest. At Upar Kudlong, a village near a coal plant, I talked to Salgi Devi, who hushed her teen-agers who were standing nearby and said that she only learned about the new ration system when her food didn’t arrive. She said that no one had prepared her for D.B.T. “There’s no benefit in this,” she said. Devi said that she now spent money to get the money she was due. As we spoke, others gathered around to share their stories. Several people hadn’t received money or food, and had visited banks several times over half a year. At the banks, officials couldn’t say why the money hadn’t come. One man said that he stood in a winding line for three days to withdraw a thousand rupees. To him, those were three days of missed work. In three months, he had taken ten days off to stand in line. The woman beside him was startled. “Ten days in three months!”

D.B.T, a simple solution in the minds of its inventors, had met reality: devilishly rule-abiding rural bank officials, an inconsistent flow of information, poor transportation networks, and everyday dysfunctions familiar to residents of the country’s interior. I asked people from four villages across a half hour’s drive why they hadn’t complained. The answer everywhere was virtually the same: “Who do you go to?”

Aruna Chandrasekhar, a journalist and former researcher for Amnesty International who’s studied land conflicts in Jharkhand for the past six years, told me that she was mystified that the digital experiment took place in Jharkhand. “Of all the states . . . ” she said. “You’re providing no governance, people are struggling to prove ownership over their own land, and you want to do this to their food?” Narayan said the experiment was a violation of rights. “People would not allow this in a normal democracy,” she said. “ ‘Let’s try things out on people and see how it works.’ It’s like they’re guinea pigs.”

For those who favored digital intervention, the new system hunted people who had no business receiving welfare. For the recipients of cash transfers that hadn’t arrived, the system erased lines of responsibility and authority. As for the hungry, the system removed them from its ledger altogether. I asked Chandrasekhar if Aadhaar’s lack of a mechanism for redress had created another barrier between people and the government. “This is a place where you’ve seen the state, forest departments, and miners take control of your village and your land. You have the feeling that you don’t have the right to complain,” she said. “And so you assume that the state is not going to help you.”