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Why UIDAI must be dismantled NOW

September 27, 2013 08:17 IST

Image: UIDAI Chairman Nandan Nilekani
Gopal Krishna

Amidst leakage of files from the Prime Minister’s Office and leakage of public money in scam after scam in the Congress-led government, the claim of attempting to reduce leakage in the system by using questionable plumbers like Nandan Nilekani using UIDAI does not inspire even an iota of confidence, says Gopal Krishna

The Supreme Court has exposed the ulterior motives behind ‘voluntary’ 12 digits Biometric Aadhaar/Unique Identification Number for creating a Central Identities Data Registry of ‘usual residents’ of India and for "doing government process re-engineering" through its order dated September 23.

The questionable intentions of Planning Commission’s Unique Identification Authority of India face yet another legal and constitutional scrutiny. UIDAI has failed in the earlier examinations.

The Congress, non-Congress parties and the opposition parties appear complicit in the unconstitutional, illegal and illegitimate exercise because they failed to demand its scrapping and maintained silence when in breach of trust the Congress-ruled states and the Centre attempted to make it mandatory.

It may be recollected that Punjab and Haryana high court bench headed by Chief Justice A K Sikri passed an order March 2 after hearing a matter challenging a circular making Aadhaar mandatory.

The moment the court raised questions of law, the circular was withdrawn by the central government. The decision underlined that UIDAI is legally assailable and indefensible.


Why UIDAI must be dismantled NOW

Image: A government advertisement listing benefits of the Aadhaar card
Gopal Krishna

UIDAI and related projects treat every Indian as a subject of surveillance unlike in the UK which abandoned a similar project because it is "untested, unreliable and unsafe technology” and the “possible risk to the safety and security of citizens.”

The UK home secretary explained that they were abandoning the project because it would otherwise be 'intrusive bullying' by the state, and that the government intended to be the 'servant' of the people, and not their 'master'.

It seems state governments especially those ruled by non-Congress party are so deaf they do not seem to hear even when the verdict shouts. In the aftermath of Supreme Court’s order they must withdraw from the MoU they signed with UIDAI.    

All the non-Congress ruled states are opposed to National Counter Terrorism Centre citing erosion of state’s autonomy but quite strangely so far they have failed to see the link between CIDR, National Intelligence Grid, National Counter Terrorism Centre and Sam Pitroda’s Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations which are part of the same political culture that leaves intelligence agencies beyond the ambit of legislative scrutiny.

Such identification exercises have rightly been abandoned in UK, Australia, China, USA and France.


Why UIDAI must be dismantled NOW

Gopal Krishna

Notably, UDAI chief Nandan Nilekani has admitted, "To answer the question about what is the biggest risk" of centralised database of biometric identification, he said "in some sense, you run the risk of creating a single point of failure also" in his talk at the World Bank in Washington in April 2013.

No one knows who would be held legally liable for such failures. Who is being held accountable for leakage of data from UIDAI at present?

The biometric number is an identifier which is used to "authenticate" and verify whether or not the person is what the person claims to be.

The ridiculous thing about the Congressmen in general and supporters of the project in particular is that they do not even know as to what is Aadhaar? On January 31, 2013, it came to light that members of Union Cabinet were unaware as whether it is a number or a card. Instead of facing the issue upfront, a Group of Ministers was set up to resolve it but no one knows whether it has been resolved.

Almost five years of advertising and marketing by UIDAI with help of a negative coalition of bankers, biometric technology companies and a section of mainstream media that holds rights of citizens in contempt created an illusion among the uninformed citizenry that what pre-existing 15 identity proofs could not do, this illegitimate and illegal biometric identifier will be able to do.

Notably, the strategy overview document of UIDAI said that "enrolment will not be mandated" but added, "This will not, however, preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrolment". It must be noted that Nilekani headed several committees whose recommendations made Aadhaar mandatory.


Why UIDAI must be dismantled NOW

Gopal Krishna

Tricked by the marketing blitzkrieg, some political parties are wary of taking a position that would appear to be against pro-poor schemes not realising that come what may the real beneficiary of this biometric identification is UIDAI which wants to meet its target of 60 crore Indians by 2014. 

Amidst leakage of files from the Prime Minister’s Office and leakage of public money in scam after scam in the Congress-led government, the claim of attempting to reduce leakage in the system by using questionable plumbers like Nilekani does not inspire even an iota of confidence.

The Supreme Court order must be looked at in the light of what the government of India’s approach paper on privacy states. 

It says, “Data privacy and the need to protect personal information is almost never a concern when data is stored in a decentralised manner. Data that is maintained in silos is largely useless outside that silo and consequently has a low likelihood of causing any damage.” 

However, all this is likely to change with the implementation of the UID project. One of the inevitable consequences of the UID project will be that the UID number will unify multiple databases.

As more and more agencies of the government sign on to the UID project, the UID number will become the common thread that links all those databases together.

Over time, private enterprise could also adopt the UID number as an identifier for the purposes of the delivery of their services or even for enrolment as a customer.

Once this happens, the separation of data that currently exists between multiple databases will vanish. On this ground alone, the project should be abandoned as it concerns not only the present generation but future generations as well. 

It is noteworthy that attorney general had submitted to a parliamentary committee that UIDAI will function only till the passage of the UID Bill. The Bill was not passed. Now the UIDAI should cease to exist because it is legally invalid.

How can a notification of Planning Commission be deemed legally valid when even the ordinance issued by the President of India becomes invalid if the bill is not passed within six months.