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The Giant Mess Called Aadhaar

January 16, 2018 12:00 IST

'First sold to us as a voluntary scheme for government subsidies, Aadhaar has since sprouted multiple heads and tails, horns, fangs, warts, and a nasty case of halitosis.'
'It is unacceptably intrusive, our data is hilariously unsafe, and fraud, corruption, and criminality is rampant,' says Mitali Saran.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

The new year is traditionally our chance to reflect soberly on what a big pile of doo-doo the previous year was.

It's a chance to admit that we stepped in poo, and there's nothing to do but to hose off our shoes, and resolve to step more carefully in the future.

Without the forgiveness of a fresh start we'd just have to keep congratulating ourselves on how clean our feet are while clutching handkerchiefs to our noses, which flies in the face of fact and only prolongs the stench, all because we have too much pride to admit that we misstepped, and not enough self-preservation to do something about it.

An example of this latter behaviour is the giant mess called Aadhaar, administered by the giant mess called the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

First sold to us as a voluntary scheme for government subsidies, Aadhaar has since sprouted multiple heads and tails, horns, fangs, warts, and a nasty case of halitosis.

It is unacceptably intrusive, our data is hilariously unsafe, and fraud, corruption, and criminality is rampant.

In short, Aadhaar is hurting people and violating their fundamental rights, including the right to privacy and the right to life, and also, it’s absurd.

For example, The Tribune discovered that for less than the cost of a bottle of fancy pants shampoo, you can access the personal details of a billion fellow citizens, including names, addresses, and phone numbers.

The Quint reported that an Aadhaar portal admin can invite anyone he or she likes to also become an admin, with the same access.

So your identity is being passed along in some huge direct marketing scheme, vulnerable to theft and fraud at every stage.

 

For example, the UIDAI said there was no breach, the data was safe, and they were going to prosecute the villains.

It also claims that Aadhaar numbers are not secret, even though it penalises those who share them.

Maybe the UIDAI just likes to prosecute people for no reason.

For example, if your data is erased, accidentally or not, you can suffer civic death -- officially cease to exist.

For example, the government is threatening to block our bank accounts unless they are linked to Aadhaar, even as criminals are siphoning money out of linked accounts.

For example, doctors swear a Hippocratic oath, but hospitals are refusing admissions for lack of an Aadhaar card.

For example, children are our future, but those who don't have an Aadhaar card are being denied their midday meal, and cannot take their exams.

For example, the government is obliged to feed those who cannot afford food, but several people have starved to death because they were refused rations because they didn't have Aadhaar cards, or because the biometric authentication machine did not work.

Let me repeat that: People have died because the government is violating their Constitutional right to food.

O people of India, imagine starving to death because, say, you did hard manual labour your whole life and your fingerprints have worn off.

Imagine calling this 'development', or 'rationality'. It is murder.

The UIDAI, the government, and the pom-pom waving tech businesses that are slavering to make scads of money off your data, have all stuck their fingers in their ears and are rocking back and forth going 'La-la-la-la-la-la', thus also losing sight of their own basic decency.

Dear UIDAI, government, and pom-pom waving tech businesses, it's a new year.

Admit that you've made a grotesque mess and that the whole thing stinks.

Destroy the Aadhaar database, and resolve never to perpetrate this cruel nonsense on us again.

Mitali Saran
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