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

Saturday, June 2, 2018

13631 - India's Future Growth Track Hinges on Supreme Court's Aadhaar Ruling - The Wire


The apex court's judgement would greatly influence how the 'political' will interact with the 'technological' in the construction of India's future, and whether there's any room for alternative visions of development that are truly inclusive. 

In India, there is yet no feeling of perceptible solidarity amongst the opposing groups to different technologies, such as Aadhaar, GM foods or nuclear energy. Credit: PTI/Files

01/JUN/2018

The debate over India’s biometric authentication programme, popularly known as Aadhaar, has over the last few years dissolved into a wrangle between two groups of people –  the ‘proponents’ and ‘dissenters’ of Aadhaar– involving a number of important issues, such as violation of individual privacy, exclusion of the deserving beneficiaries of welfare schemes, the security of biometric database, the real value of savings  that have accrued to the government as a result of adoption of Aadhaar and more.

However, a noticeable fact in the ensuing debate is that both sides, at least at the outset, seem to share the vision of a future which is marked with a collective good. In other words, both sides seem to desire an almost similar end but through alternate pathways. For instance, both sides envisage a future where leakages in welfare programmes have been plugged and service delivery has become more efficient and effective.
The source of contestation between the two sides lies in the way they imagine the adoption of technology through which this desired future can be possibly achieved. Put differently, the proponents as well as opponents of Aadhaar envisage the interaction between technology and the existing social order differently, which implies that their socio-technical imaginations vary. By analysing their differences, this article intends to convey that this contestation involves a much larger socio-technical imagination with regard to the development pathway that India is taking.

While the opponents of Aadhaar argue against a historically and socially dominant imagination which visualises science and technology as an instrumental form of power and a panacea to tackle almost all developmental needs, the proponents view Aadhaar as yet another technical intervention for national development and a link in a series of chains towards an incipient modernity. Led by a powerful state and a long-held naturalised ideology of modernity, the imagination proffered by the proponents of Aaadhar, therefore, is quite formidable.
Therefore, what the dissenting faction has also been challenging, apart from Aadhaar, is  the predominant notion of national development. Hence, at one level, their fight can be understood to be for strengthening democracy. Moreover, such a challenge also forces the state as well as citizens to gain a nuanced perspective on the issue, thereby, enriching them as well as our democracy.

The dissenting group argues that Aadhaar is not just another technical intervention, flagging some of its devastating consequences. In some sense, this is a re-enactment of other such episodes where nuclear energy and genetically modified organisms (GMO)-based technologies have been opposed by various civil society organisations. A number of shared characteristics can be traced in the way these three technological interventions have been problematised by different social actors. For instance, there are questions regarding sustainability related to the dangers of irreversible damages caused by their adoption. Further, many sovereign world nations have refused to either adopt or have outrightly rejected these technologies (be it nuclear, GMO or mapping their citizens’ biometric data).

However, despite commonalities of opposition to the adoption and use of these technologies, unlike other countries, such as Austria and South Korea, India has not seen a wider, people-based resistance against any of these technologies. In fact, whatever minor struggles have ensued,  remain confined to their own spheres. There is yet no feeling of perceptible solidarity amongst the opposing groups belonging to these different technological fields.

The opposition to such technologies in India has more or less remained confined to activist-intellectual groups. This has allowed the proponents of the dominant socio-technical imagination to castigate the dissenting groups as upper class, Aadhaarophobic and patronising elites. Even the Prime Minister has been quoted as saying that those opposing Aadhaar “have lagged behind in technology – either they cannot understand or are purposely spreading lies”.

However, this is not only false but also betrays a complete disengagement with the arguments from the opponents of Aadhaar. In the contemporary world, as Austrian social scientist Ulrike Felt, has written, “virtually no choices can be seen as anti-technology pure and simple because all choices are made against the backdrop of an already technologised past and with the prospect of a technologised future.”

What these opposing groups have been arguing against is not technology per se but the specific form of technologies that they find unnecessary and potentially harmful in the short and medium term. In their resistance can be traced an imagination of a future based on alternative solutions. For instance, a survey of pre-Aadhaar era public distribution system (PDS) conducted in Chhattisgarh shows that the PDS reforms, such as careful monitoring of truck movements from godowns to ration shops, grievance redressal through active helplines and SMS-based alerts among steps that emphasised on “extending coverage, improving delivery and increasing transparency”, had resulted in the remarkable revival of the PDS system.

Workers hold banners with details of delayed wage payments under MGNREGA, mostly due to Aadhaar errors, in Lohardaga, Jharkhand. Credit: Nitish Kumar Badal

Social scientist Reetika Khera, through a survey of PDS in nine states, has shown that the respondents used to receive 84-88% of their entitlements prior to the use of Aadhaar-enabled uptake system and that the adoption of Aadhaar has led to new forms of exclusion of prospective beneficiaries. In response, the state-backed proponent group has cited the figures of savings that have accrued to the government due to the adoption of Aadhaar-based cash transfers and other systems while side-stepping the allegations of exclusion as ‘minor glitches’ and a ‘statistically insignificant’ occurrence. Economist Jean Drèze, a key member of the opponent group, has responded by terming the Aadhaar-enabled savings as “nothing but government-sponsored propaganda.”

The Supreme Court judgement (in August) in the Aadhaar case is, therefore, expected to clarify on a number of differences between the two sides. However, the judgment will most likely come in the current legal-political climate where concerns have been raised regarding the Supreme Court’s autonomy and independence, including by some senior retired judges. Moreover, as  academic and columnist Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes— the Supreme Court “justices seem routinely to anticipate the effects of particular decisions on the Court’s popular authority. This makes the court’s major decisions, however the Court itself chooses to present them, something other than purely straightforward applications of high constitutional principles or values.”

In such a context, it is pertinent to analyse the likely outcomes of the impending Aadhar ruling.

Consider the scenario that the judgement does away with Aadhaar (in at least its mandatory usage/enforcement), then, given the state’s incessant backing to Aadhaar, it might place the highest court of the land again at the forefront of being a bulwark against the executive’s overreach, like the National Judicial Accountability Commission (NJAC) judgement did.
A pro-Aadhaar judgement, on the other side, would do nothing to tackle the threat to sustainability and other issues surrounding the import of technologies and would provide a boost to, and strengthen, the already formidable socio-technical imagination of development. Hence, in the absence of wider people-based resistance, the dominant socio-technical imagination would acquire an undefeatable outlook and any questioning of the dominant imagination would become even more difficult.

In both cases, however, it can be said that the Supreme Court’s judgement would influence how the political will henceforth interact with the technological in the construction of India’s future. 

Therefore, it can be argued that the Aadhaar case is not just about its constitutionality.  It involves a number of interrelated elements—alternative imaginations of technology, autonomy and independence of the judiciary, and also alternative visions of the current and future development pathway for India.

Nikhit Kumar Agrawal is a student of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics.