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Is Aadhaar necessary or not?

September 25, 2013 13:49 IST

The basic aim of Aadhaar is to make benefits directly available to people by eliminating intermediaries and fraud (for example, duplicate and fake ration cards), thereby saving the exchequer enormous leakages.

AadharThe Supreme Court has issued an interim order, not a final one, asking that no citizen should be deprived of benefits for not possessing an Aadhaar number or card and these should not be issued to illegal migrants.

This is likely to put a brake on the fast pace at which Aadhaar cards have been issued so far to more than 400 million people.

The breather of sorts now available can be used to re-examine the basics to see what is good and positive about the project and should be preserved and what is not and can be eliminated.

The final verdict of the court will no doubt ensure that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater.

Aadhaar is a transformative innovation.

However, given the United Progressive Alliance’s attempt to take credit for it in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, it has sadly become a partisan matter -- with the Bharatiya Janata Party deciding to oppose the draft Bill in the parliamentary standing committee.

A consequence of the political logjam is that Aadhaar today has no statutory backing, a fact that must have influenced the apex court’s observations.

Yet, the cost and speed with which it has been rolled out bear testimony to both India’s skills in information technology, despite being poor, and the management skills that even its low-capacity state can bring to bear.

What Aadhaar says is that when it comes to IT and management, India is a First-World, not Third-World, country.

The basic aim of Aadhaar is to make benefits directly available to people by eliminating intermediaries and fraud (for example, duplicate and fake ration cards), thereby saving the exchequer enormous leakages.

On the issue of illegal migrants getting Aadhaar cards, it has long been held by the Unique Identification Authority of India that the card or number is a proof of identity, not citizenship.

It does not have the mandate or scope to check the citizenship of a person.

Once a person is found to be an illegal immigrant, the law mandates the authorities to deport him.

The courts can finally direct the authorities not to stop deportation simply because a person has an Aadhaar card.

Next comes the issue of privacy and security of information.

Although efforts have been made to draft suitable legislation to secure citizens’ privacy, they have been too slow.

Extensive electronic snooping by the authorities goes on in India.

The courts can take an initiative to secure citizens’ privacy by being more stringent in overseeing official snooping.

On the security of information stored by the Unique Identification Development Authority of India, everything should be done to strengthen it.

Finally, the question is if there is judicial overreach in India.

A government should be able to exercise its executive authority through executive orders under extant rules.

Otherwise, it will be difficult for the government to function, which will affect economic well-being.

Business Standard
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