Is Aadhaar (Unique Identification Number) Too Dangerous?

Aadhaar: A Gate To Disaster?

Aadhaar: A Gate To Disaster?

 

The Aadhaar project started with great fanfare, but it’s now on the verge of meeting an untimely death. It became the converging point of great expectations, to an extent that it was hailed as image of “new and modern India”. That’s why  it created great chaos among middle classes, which like always, showed vain excitement to have it by hook or by crook, bothering least about the pros and cons of owning unique identity (UID). This project, bearing close resemblance to similar scheme in United Kingdom, was mired in contradictions right from the beginning. On the top of it, continuous conflicting statements from government, regarding its utility, kept the average mass guessing about its actual worth.

It needs to be informed that several experts in the West have already given enough signals that such project of this type having sensitive data based on biometrics could be used in a wrong way. In fact, they could be used to eliminate and target a large community not serving the interest of people in power. However, in countries like India, where we know how government agencies function, it’s always a great possibility that data could be misused, even if there is no such threat of this magnitude as apprehended by experts in West. It would be interesting to know that similar project in United Kingdom met tough resistance on part of British citizens for many years, which left British government with no other option other than to quash it. A report prepared by London School of Economics made mockery of  tall claims made by the government about its significance and it revealed that “biometrics was not a reliable method of de-duplication.”

However, neither the government nor Nandan Nilekani made Indian citizens aware of such serious flaws inherent in this project. On the contrary, it created tension by giving the impression that not owning it meant losing benefits and subsidies involved in various government run schemes. Ironically, just visit any camp where Aadhaar cards are being prepared and one would be taken aback by the mess which prevails there. It’s hard to believe that government has enough will power (forget about enough infrastructure)  to keep the data safe! I am sure ones whose data get stored either in wrong way or with wrong sorts of details would definitely face huge issues in coming days. Even at infrastructure level, the picture that emerges is quite threatening since its budget has increased phenomenally from nearly 32 billion rupees to over 88 billion rupees for coming phases.

That’s why Supreme Court’s judgement came as a whiff of fresh air. It directed the government not to make it mandatory for Indian citizens, and that it could not be a ground to deny services introduced by government. Above all, it made it clear that details collected by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) would not be shared by it with any other government agency without prior permission of the concerned individual. At this point, it would not be out of place to refer to Social Security Number (SSN) used in USA, which does not compromises with right to privacy. The most shocking thing is that despite strict provisions there to stop identity theft such cases keep happening there leading to huge revenue loss. Now imagine the state of affairs in India where rules can be easily manipulated to benefit the vested interests! Who would guarantee that data protection and privacy would always remain a top priority in India?

The Supreme Court made this observations in PIL filed by retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice KS Puttaswamy and Maj Gen (retd) SG Vombatkere which dealt with constitutional validity of Aadhaar. As per their counsel even if there was any statute to provide validity to this project, it would still be violation of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution. The project facilitating surveillance of individuals was a direct assault on the dignity of any individual. The main arguments rested upon these concerns: “…the (Aadhaar) project is also ultra vires because there is no statutory guidance (a) on who can collect biometric information; (b) on how the information is to be collected; (c) on how the biometric information is to be stored; (d) on how throughout the chain beginning with the acquisition of biometric data to its storage and usage, this data is to be protected; (e) on who can use the data; (f) on when the data can be used.” (As quoted in moneylife)

In fact, Goa case had already made it clear how could biometric data be used against the interests of any individual. In this case UIDAI had challenged  a decision of Goa Bench of Bombay High Court. It had  asked it to share biometric data with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) so that the case involving gang rape of a seven year old girl in Vasco reached to its logical culmination.

Anyway, the Supreme Court’s decision to not to make it mandatory is enough to make Indian citizens heave a sigh of relief. It’s high time that before government embarks upon sensitive project it needs to take enough measures to ensure its appropriateness, relevance and significance quite well.

How will it keep intact the privacy of an individual in such a huge country devoid of infrastructure?

How will it keep intact the privacy of an individual in such a huge country devoid of infrastructure?

6 responses

  1. Many thanks to these readers for making their presence felt on this post:

    Chandrapal S. Bhasker, United Kingdom; Raja Sharma, Sydney, Australia; Kripashankar Pandey, Mumbai; Rekha Pandey, Mumbai; Prakhar Pandey, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh; Pintu Kumar Pandey, Dhanbad, Jharkhand; Vijay Krishna Pandey, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh; Deewaker Pandey, New delhi; Mra Chetan Joshi and Hindu Vinit Saran, New Delhi.

  2. Prakhar Pandey, Poet, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, said:

    Main to pehle se hi is unique id ke khilaaf tha.. It is disaster only….Nothing else
    Maine isliye abhi tak nahi banwaya…..

    *************

    Author’s Response:

    बहुत अच्छा किया जो अब तक इससे बचे है!!

  3. Author’s Words For Few Readers:

    ********************

    Author’s words for Nikhil Garg, Noida, Uttar Pradesh:

    That’s the way how government fools us all the time..And we still keep believing like a lunatic that government is for the people!! Imagine people who join bureaucracy imagine themselves to be owner of best intelligence..And what they deliver? Such absurd policies involving huge loss of exchequer’s money! And what do individuals like us (who are so involved in improving the quality of governance at all level) get? Just nothing…That’s why this nation offers little hope now for any conscious individual…

    **********************

    Author’s words for Rohit Mehra, New Delhi:

    I really worked hard on this post..Glad that a conscious person like you came to have a look at it…

    **************

    Mra Manish, Madhya Pradesh/ Raja Sharma, Sydney, Australia:

    Happy that you both decided to share it..

    ***********

    Author’s Words For Narmada Prasad Pandey,RSS Activist:

    Glad to notice that some well- informed senior citizens have taken note of this post…

    *************

    Author’s words for Rashmi Saini, Assistant Professor, Sagar, Madhya Pradesh:

    I really had to read lot during preparation of this post…And now in the aftermath of its publication a huge response on part of readers makes me feel that efforts did not go in vain..Coming to the content, it’s obvious that in democracy people are always kept in dark about the real intentions of any project initiated in their name…The words of Anna Hazare sound so appropriate that even though we got independence in 1947, the people of India never came to rule!!

    ***************************
    Author’s Words For Anjeev Pandey, Writer/ Journalist, Nagpur, Maharashtra:

    A lot of research was involved in making of this post..Needless to state presence of people like you makes me feel elated🙂

    ***********************************

    Author’s Words For Suresh Ram ji, Chennai, Tamil Nadu:

    The undercurrents had to be revealed…

    *******************
    Author’s Words For Manoj Joshi, BJP’s Activist, Udaipur, Rajasthan:

    It’s all about beating around the bush!!!

  4. Vidya Bhushan Pandey, Senior Prosecution Officer, High Court, Allahabad , Prosecution Department, Government of U P, said:

    Good Information….

    ******************

    Author’s Response:

    Yes, it has become need of the hour to expose misdeeds of government..Unless you do not offer tough resistance nothing is going to change..

  5. Nirbhay Mathur, Jaipur, Rajasthan, said:

    In what way it could be dangerous? May I know?

    **************

    Author’s Response:

    I have given enough hints in subtle way in my post…And if you still need to know more about it in detailed way then just follow the links in reference column of the post, especially the Hindu Newspaper one.

  6. Thanks Sucheta ji for being such a conscious Indian🙂 Your appreciation is so encouraging🙂

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