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No your lordship, everybody opposing #Aadhaar is not following an“NGO line”


We live in strange times. A judge in the country’s Supreme Court believes anyone challenging the government’s decision to impose Aadhar-based surveillance regime is following an “NGO line.” Another judge wonders in the court whether “one nation one identity” is not the necessary path forward. Soon, one wonders, if any opposition to surveillance, and any resistance to being spied upon by the state, will be deemed anti-national not only by the government but also by our top judiciary.

Since the hearings on the various anti-Aadhar pleas are being heard in the Supreme Court, and since such inconsiderate observations are being made regularly, let us look at a few problematic aspects of the biometry-based Aadhar idea itself—not only the technical glitches and possible misuses (of which there are many), but the central philosophy that underlines the state’s eagerness to bring every citizen under one biometric identity.

At its heart, this move is an abandonment of the very idea of the welfare state and liberal democracy because it is premised not on the promise that this system of unique identification will benefit individual citizens (which the government is eager to promote) but on the necessary criminalization of the whole citizenry. One is a criminal unless one is able to prove otherwise, and that mechanism of proving one’s innocence is Aadhar. If read carefully, every defense of the Aadhar system from the government so far has been based on the assumption that it will “weed out” fake identities across the board, and hence will be beneficial to the nation at large. This is just the inverted version of wholesale criminalization, suggesting that it is the burden of the individual citizen to prove that she is not a fake identity or not a criminal to get benefits from the state. With this, the state is also implying that all of us, including your lordships, are potential criminals, unless we possess a card to disprove it. This goes against not only our commonsense, but against the very notion of democracy enshrined in the constitution.

This idea of unique identification based on biometric data is not new. Despite the bravado claims of people who have been the architects of this current behemoth called Aadhar, each and every component of this idea was introduced in the nineteenth century through colonial governance and its entrenched racism. Indeed, this system has two different but related genealogies through two of the most prominent criminologists of the nineteenth-century France and England, Alphonse Bertillon and Francis Galton. The first major breakthrough came from Bertillon, the police prefecture at Paris, when he devised a unique system of filing data about criminals. It is equally important to remember that the context for this discovery was what was known as recidivism or repeat-offence, something that was seen in France as an epidemic or contagion du mal threatening the health of the body politic. Put simply, the initial challenge was to establish a reliable judicial identification of an individual—that is to say, when an individual was arrested, how did one establish that the same person had not been arrested and tried in the past. Bertillon realized that to establish individual identity across time one needed an archive of criminals against which each and every fresh case could be verified, and also that such an archive would need extremely sophisticated filing system so that one could find what one needed without much hassle. Initially, and even prior to Bertillon, photographs were seen as a sure remedy since they were more reliable than verbal descriptions and they could instantly establish one’s identity beyond reasonable doubts. It soon transpired, however, that individual faces changed over time for a number of reasons—age, disease, accident and so on—and mere reliance on photographs or mug shots would not take one far. Something more robust and more rigorous was needed, and this is where Bertillon made his important intervention.

He proposed an elaborate system of biometric measurements and their systematic recording in his book Identification Anthropométrique: Instructions Signalétiques(1885). According to this system (popularly known as Bertillonage), the biometric data of an individual body had to be taken at three different stages. In the first instance, “Anthropometrical Signalment,” the body was divided and measured under three different heads: “the body at large” (height, reach, and trunk), the head (skull and right ear), and the limbs (left foot, left middle finger, left little finger, and left forearm). He considered these measurements as “indisputable” signalments and designed special calipers for this purpose. These records were then carefully organized on “slips of cardboard” and arranged in “small movable boxes.” In the second stage called “Descriptive Signalment,” one had to rely on verbal description that “describes in words, by the aid of observation alone, without the assistance of instruments” and this descriptive part had to independently confirm the findings of the signaletic cards. And in the final part, these early two stages were combined as it relied on the “description” of special marks on the body like moles, scars, tattoos etc. with the “notation of their locality.”

Once this preliminary plan was laid down, Bertillon insisted that he had found a solution to the problem of judicial identification once and for all. He even claimed that from now on the “signalectic notice” would accompany “every reception and every delivery of a human individuality” within the prison system, and in the process would organize a “muster-roll” for all convicts in order to “preserve a sufficient record of the personality to be able to identify the present description with one which may be presented at some future time.” “From this point of view” he continued, “signalment is the instrument, by excellence, of the proof of recidivation, which necessarily implies the proof of identity [constatation d’identité]. So there could be no judicial records without the aid of signalment.”

Needless to say, the parallels between Bertollonage and Aadhar are striking—one just needs to replace the French criminal of Bertillon with the putative Indian citizen. This eerie sense of déjà vu gets reinforced even more with the additional justification Bertillon offered in support of his system. He suggested that the system had a second implication, and called it “non-identity.” The signaletic notice, he argued, could also be used “at the request of honorable persons […] who demand the effacement from their record of convictions unduly entered.” In effect, then, Bertillonage by his own admission was not only a system intended to “verify the declared identity” of recidivist criminals but also a vital device that could “cause the true identity to be discovered.” Bertillon gave this point further currency when he quoted Ed de Ryckère, assistant public prosecutor at Bruges in Belgium, who pointed out the larger civil use of Bertillonage—that it was able “to fix the human personality, to give to each human being an identity, a positive, lasting and invariable individuality, always recognizable and easily demonstrable.”

In other words, the system was calculated not only to find a statistical solution to criminal identity, but also to create a muster-roll of the entire population. What is equally intriguing is the source of this argument in Bertillon’s text. He developed this idea not through criminological investigations, but through his other interest in colonial anthropology recorded in his book Ethnographie Moderne: Les Races Sauvages (1883). His treatise on the “savage races” of Africa, the Americas, Oceania, and Asia deployed a similar system of biometric measurement and recorded their savagery through their physiological irregularities. The central point of this methodology was to use biometry in order to measure how much these “savages” deviated from normative European bodies, and to prepare a list of graded savageries on the basis of their distance from the norm. This deeply racist idea was then re-deployed for the purpose of Bertillonage, and marked the first instance of unique biometrical identification in modern times.

However, this system was not exactly the solution that the colonial masters were looking for. Soon, another system was proposed based on unique finger prints. Curiously enough, this idea was first suggested by an English civil servant stationed in India, William James Herschel. In a letter published in the science journal Nature (1880) he first described a native practice of using finger-prints to ascertain one’s identity. It was, however, formalized as a system of criminal identification by Francis Galton, a distant cousin of Charles Darwin. In his book Finger Prints (1892), along with the notion of individual identity, Galton proposed two other fields as necessarily related—criminology and heredity. The first one was particularly important for colonies like India which were plagued by anonymity or fictitious identity, where “the features of natives are distinguished with difficulty; where there is but little variety of surnames; where there are strong motives for prevarication, especially connected with land-tenure and pensions, and a proverbial prevalence of unveracity.” As for hereditary traits in individual finger-prints, he admitted that he had little success in his investigations so far, but his hopes were kept alive by the colonies and their “savage” inhabitants: “It is doubtful at present whether it is worth while to pursue the subject, except in the case of the Hill tribes of India and a few other peculiarly diverse races, for the chance of discovering some characteristic and perhaps a more monkey-like pattern.” The inevitable link between biometrical data and race, even when seen through “scientific” lenses, must alert one of the coercive possibility inherent in the very method, as a way of dealing with and putting under continuous surveillance the “inferior” races and potential criminals.

By the turn of the twentieth century, these two different systems of Bertillon and Galton came together to form the foundation for modern biometric systems of identification.But this system changed something fundamentally—as the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben points out, with the rampant use of biometrics, the liberal state’s relationship with its citizens has been criminalized irrevocably. Every citizen is now a “criminal body” since what was primarily intended for criminal management has now been universalized as population management.

Aadhar is perhaps the most ambitious and scariest version of this universal criminalization as it targets some 1.3 billion people within one unique system of identification. Once enacted, the Aadhar will forever change our relationship with the state, and will seriously undermine the democratic structure of India. One can only hope that the constitutional bench hearing the Aadhar pleas will spare a thought on the philosophical implications of the Aadhar Act and will not be swayed by the propaganda machine of the government. One can only hope that the bench would stick to its promise of being loyal only to the constitution and see through some illusory notion of “targeted benefits.”

No your lordship, everybody opposing Aadhar is not following an“NGO line”: Baidik Bhattacharya

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What Happens When an Extra Finger Gets Caught in #Aadhaar Process

Trikha, resident of Gandhi Nagar locality of Nashik, was struggling for the past eight months to get an Aadhaar card, but he was turned away by several Aadhaar registration centres because it was difficult to collect his fingerprints.

What Happens When an Extra Finger Gets Caught in Aadhaar Process
A woman goes through the process of finger scanning for the Unique Identification (UID) database system, also known as Aadhaar, at a registration centre in New Delhi. (Image: Reuters/File photo)

Nashik (Maharashtra): Thirty-six-year-old Gurudayal Dilbagrai Trikha and Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan have at least one thing in common: Both have an extra finger.

But when it came to getting enrolled for Aadhaar, the extra finger of Trikha’s left hand stuck out like a sore thumb, becoming a stumbling block.

Trikha, resident of Gandhi Nagar locality of Nashik, was struggling for the past eight months to get an Aadhaar card, but he was turned away by several Aadhaar registration centres because it was difficult to collect his fingerprints.

Among other biometric details, Aadhaar registration requires fingerprints of both hands.

What made the process difficult for Trikha, he told PTI, was the fact that not only he has six fingers to his left hand, but the extra finger is joined to the thumb.

“I even met government officials, but to no avail,” said Trikha, who works with a private firm.

As it was a unique case, it attracted the attention of media and a Marathi news channel reported on his predicament.

Following which, apparently because the case got media attention, he could finally register for Aadhaar at one of the centres yesterday where his fingerprints were accepted.

“I completed the whole process yesterday and hope to receive the Aadhaar card soon,” he said.

However, he feels that there would be many who would be finding it difficult to get Aadhaar card due to various kinds of disabilities, and the government must relax the rules in such cases.

“The system should be changed.

At least for handicapped people and senior citizens, it should be made easier,” Trikha told PTI.

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Enormous corruption complaints and enrolment violations, the Aadhaar agency has refused to allow CSC to continue providing Aadhaar services

“Enormous number of complaints of corruption and enrolment process violations against Aadhaar enrolment and update centres under CSC e-Gov,” says UIDAI while asking its sibling to close Aadhaar services business
In a remarkable move that exposes the deep rot within the Aadhaar enrolment process, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency assigned to issue Aadhaar numbers has rejected renewal request of another government company Common Services Centres (CSC) e-Governance Services India Ltd for its Aadhaar services. UIDIAI was concerned about the “enormous number of complaints of corruption and violations in enrolment process.” It has decided, under the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office, that Aadhaar enrolment centres would now only function at government premises or bank and post offices.
Ashok Kumar, Assistant Director General of UIDAI, in a letter dated 6 February 2018, said, “In view of the enormous number of complaints of corruption and enrolment process violations against Aadhaar enrolment and update centres under CSC e-Gov it may not be possible to extend or renew the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with CSC.”
“CSC is therefore requested to process its exit from the UIDAI system as per extant procedure and guidelines and close Aadhaar enrolment and update centres working under it in phase manner without causing inconvenience to the general public,” the letter says.
Interestingly, both UIDAI and CSC e-Governance Services, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) work under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY). The CSC SPV was set up by the Ministry under the Companies Act to oversee implementation of the CSC scheme. CSC SPV provides a centralised collaborative framework for delivery of services to citizens through CSCs, besides ensuring systemic viability and sustainability of the Scheme.
And just last month, UIDAI had joined hands with CSC India to launch door step enrolment facility in New Delhi for elderly, patients and others who could not travel to Aadhaar centres. The mobile van was flagged off by Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law and IT.
According to a 2 February 2018 newsletter from CSC, its 11,280 permanent enrolment centres (PECs) have generated 18.09 crore Aadhaar numbers with total enrolment of 26.83 crore. It has updated demographic and biometric information of 5.16 crore people, the newsletter says.
The Common Services Centres or CSC scheme is one of the mission mode projects under the Digital India Programme. CSCs are the access points for delivery of essential public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare, financial, education and agriculture services, apart from host of B2C services to citizens in rural and remote areas of the country. It has a pan-India network catering to regional, geographic, linguistic and cultural diversity of the country, thus enabling the Government’s mandate of a socially, financially and digitally inclusive society.

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“Personhood under the Indian Constitution flows from being alive, and not from registering oneself in a central database” –Shyam Divan

The Supreme Court on Thursday resumed hearing in the Aadhaar case. Here is the summary of arguments from Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, who is appearing for the petitioners in the Aadhaar case…
Existence of a person
Mr Divan told the five-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, that if a person exists in flesh and blood, then there should be no question of denying her anything. “This is at the core of Article 21 and the relationship between the individual and the State. In a liberal democratic culture, can the State say that I will choose to recognise you only in this manner, otherwise you cease to exist?
“There is no concept of eminent domain as far as the body is concerned. The body cannot be used as a marker for every service. The State has a legitimate interest in identifying a person, and so there could be a set of limited, narrowly tailored circumstances where you are required to give up fingerprints, such as for a passport or a driving license,” he said.
Mr Divan, who completed his arguments before lunch summed his contention in four points, personal autonomy, constitutional trust, rule of law and surveillance and privacy. He said, “What is at stake here? First, personal autonomy is at stake. Are we going to cede complete control of the body to the State? In a digital world, personal autonomy extends to protecting biometrics.”
“The second point is constitutional trust. We have created the State, and now the State trusts us as unworthy unless we cede our biometerics. The Aadhaar program treats the entire nation as presumptively criminal. The third point is the rule of law. Look at how this project has been rolled out. And the fourth point is surveillance and privacy,” he said.
“If this (Aadhaar) program is allowed to roll on unimpeded, think of the domination the State will have over the individual,” the senior counsel warned.
Deaths caused by Aadhaar exclusion
Earlier, Mr Divan read affidavits related with starvation deaths in Jharkhand due to failure of Aadhaar linking. He said, “The issues here pertain to exclusion, death, and dignity. The reports are about extreme situations. The basic point is that in a democracy, there has to be an element of choice. There cannot be just one method of identification imposed.”
Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud said one thing the Court needs to look at is the level of internet penetration in the country.
Mr Divan replied saying, “The point of sales (PoS) machine has a memory, so if the internet fails, the machine is often taken to another place where there is connectivity. However, all Aadhaar can do is stop a very limited kind of misuse (identity fraud), and there are other ways to weed out leakages.”
Observing that the affidavit seems to show that even after Aadhaar, the citizen remains dependant on the dealer of public distribution scheme (PDS), Justice Chandrachud said, while such argument may not furnish a constitutional ground, but the argument that Aadhaar itself is causing exclusion may furnish a ground under Article 14.
Mr Divan pointed out how persons who cannot authenticate are treated as “ghosts”, and as mere statistics, which cannot meet the tests under Articles 14, 19, and 21. “This is especially so because the system is coercive,” he added.
The senior counsel then highlighted how there is no way for anyone to opt out of Aadhaar. He said, “This is crucial from an informational self-determination point of view. There must be a right to opt out.”
He then read out affidavits filed by people who have asked to be opt-out from Aadhaar as they were not provided genuine information about consent at the time of enrolment. When Mr Divan read out collective affidavit from people, who wanted to opt-out from Aadhaar in Meghalaya, Justice Chandrachud asked about the position of Aadhaar in North-East. Mr Divan said, there are places where the Aadhaar roll out is low and they have been exempted.
Security Audit highlights risks of hacking
Dr Rakesh Mohan Goel, a computer industry expert, and an occasional writer for Moneylife who has audited enrolment centres of Aadhaar had filed an affidavit in the Court. Reading out this affidavit, Mr Divan said, he (Dr Goel) found out that those people at enrolment centres were retaining and storing biometric data and the UIDAI had no way of knowing.
He said, “Dr Goel’s affidavit says that the biometrics of Indians are available to private entities, can be and are being stored in logs. The affidavit says that because of the architecture of Aadhaar, UIDAI has very little control over this. Dr Goel has annexed a paper to the affidavit, based on 25 audits, that talks about six ways of hacking. The affidavit says that there is no way of knowing, after an audit, whether the storage is continuing or has stopped.”
“When you part with something as precious as biometrics, there has to be a fiduciary relationship between you and the person taking it. How can you trust a system like this?” the senior counsel contended.
Mr Divan, replying to a query from Justice Chandrachud, said while the UIDAI has technical specification about the authentication machines, the purchase is private.
Citing an example of credit card frauds, Justice Chandrachud wanted to know if this could be possible with Aadhaar. Mr Divan said, it is possible to hack into these systems, which are not as secure than the CIDR.
He then read out Dr Goel’s academic article that explains six ways of hacking.
The senior counsel then argued on bodily integrity and the right to control one’s information about oneself. He said, “Basic point is that this is a reason why people do not want to be on Aadhaar, and why they should not be mandated to get into the system. While some of these leaks can be plugged, but the basic design is faulty.”
He cited the recent incident from Surat where the police arrested two owners of fair price shops for using a software that contained ration card numbers, Aadhaar card numbers and biometric thumb impressions of PDS beneficiaries for creating fake records of food grain sale. The software, with bulk data of beneficiaries, was available for Rs15,000.
Mr Divan then took the Court through mechanism of producing artificial fingerprints. “The operator’s fingerprints are cloned. When UIDAI found this out, they added iris authentication. However, the hackers then found a way to bypass that as well. First point is that cloning of fingerprints is easy and it is possible, and is being done. What is the integrity of such system, and why should anyone trust this? This is a question of my right to protect my body and my identity. If the system is so insecure, why am I being mandated to authenticate through fingerprints for every transaction?” he contended.
The senior counsel pointed to a reply received under Right to Information (RTI) in 2017 that says that 6.23 crore biometric enrolments have been rejected because of duplicates. This is larger than the population of Gujarat. He says, “More the database expands, given that this is a probabilistic system, the more times you will have a match. This is indicative of exclusion, and that the system is saturated, leading to unjustified rejections.”
Mr Divan then read out an affidavit filed by Dr Reetika Khera, who is an economist at IIT Delhi, and works on the NREGA. The affidavit shows biometric authentication failure at a tribal school, where those whose fingerprints were not recognised by Aadhaar, were not marked present. “These (students) are not ghosts in the system. They are flesh and blood girls attending the school, and Aadhaar is not recognising them. Secondly, you are creating records for an entire lifetime, starting from school. Is this not a surveillance society? Thirdly, there is no statutory sanction,” he said.
Justice AK Sikri that in fact later, the teachers may be hauled up for inflating numbers.
Mr Divan said, personhood under the Indian Constitution flows from being alive, and not from registering oneself in a central database. “This degrades free individuals”.
Mr Divan and his office has been with the Aadhaar challenge since its origins in 2012, and have appeared in every hearing for the last six years.
Based on live tweets of @gautambhatia88, who is representing one of the petitioners and @prasanna_s.

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India – #Aadhaar – A Tool For Exclusion

  • If governments are serious about delivering welfare services to people, then it is time we gave up on Aadhaar and learnt from the number of other positive experiences that we have had, like the PDS in Tamil Nadu or Chhattisgarh, where leakages were reduced to a negligible level even before Aadhaar existed.

Aadhaar has shown how it can exclude, while there is no evidence that proves that it has actually improved the efficiency of delivering welfare services to people.

The Tribune report on how easy it is to acquire Aadhaar-related data has been the final nail in the data privacy coffin. While the validity of the unique identity project has finally come into question because of data security issues, what many seem to continue believing is that Aadhaar is necessary for welfare. This group argues that one cannot talk about destroying Aadhaar, but what is required is to put in place safeguards for data protection. However, it needs to be understood that Aadhaar is not helping welfare in any way; rather, it has become a tool for excluding genuine beneficiaries. And it is usually the poorest and the most vulnerable who are left out.

In several cases, one has seen the denial of entitlements such as pension or ration due to Aadhaar-related reasons. In several cases, one has seen the denial of entitlements such as pension or ration due to Aadhaar-related reasons. 

A few months ago, young Santoshi in Jharkhand died hungry. One of the immediate causes for this desperate situation was that her family’s ration card was cancelled, and they did not get any rations for five months as they were unable to get an Aadhaar seeding done. This incident should have shaken the nation’s conscience and made everyone pause and reflect on whether the havoc that Aadhaar is causing to the delivery of welfare schemes is really worth it.

All that it did managed to do was make headlines for a few days with claims and counter-claims on whether Santoshi was really starving, or if she died of some other cause. Her mother was accused of bringing shame to the nation for insisting that her daughter had died of hunger; the activists who exposed the situation were alleged to have vested interests; the minister denied that Aadhaar was mandatory in the first place, and there is not much change on the ground.

Since then, four more such deaths have been reported from Jharkhand, three from Karnataka and one from Uttar Pradesh. In all these cases, amongst the various failures of the state, one has seen the denial of entitlements such as pensions or rations due to Aadhaar-related reasons. The loss of even one life should have been reason enough to abort the project, especially when there are so many well-reasoned arguments for why Aadhaar is not the solution to ensuring better delivery of welfare schemes.

Right from the beginning of the Aadhaar project in 2009, we have been told that the unique identity would assist in identifying the poor and ensuring that the benefits from state welfare programmes reach them without any leakages. From inception itself, documents of the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) betrayed ignorance of what the actual problems in schemes such as the public distribution system (PDS) are and how limited the role of Aadhaar in solving them can be. The only way in which Aadhaar can claim to help in reducing leakages is by weeding out “ghost” or duplicate beneficiaries by the use of biometric identification. But, till date, there has been no estimate by the UIDAI or the government on how many such beneficiaries exist in the first place. Such weeding out exercises have now been conducted, and the result has been the exclusions of families such as Santoshi’s or a large number of old people in Rajasthan, who were declared to be dead, or “ghosts”, and were later found to be very much alive and deserving of pensions. The actual “ghosts” are very few!

There are a number of ways in which people are getting excluded from welfare schemes because of Aadhaar.

First, there is still a small (but significant) number of people who do not have an Aadhaar number. According to the UIDAI website, Aadhaar saturation as on 31 December 2017 is 88.5 per cent. But this number is doubtful, since the saturation data is based on total Aadhaar generated divided by the total population of the country. However, the total number of Aadhaar generated also includes persons who have died, since UIDAI has no system of deleting Aadhaar. It also includes foreigners, although the exact numbers are not known. That’s why in some states, the Aadhaar saturation is in excess of 100 per cent. It is likely that the actual saturation is less than reported.

But even if one accepts the 88.5 per cent figure, in absolute terms, 11.5 per cent population without Aadhaar translates into a large number of people. There have been notifications last year, making Aadhaar mandatory for children’s schemes, while there is a large number of children who have not yet been enrolled. In response to a recent parliament question, it was stated that only 43.4 per cent of children below the age of five years have been assigned Aadhaar numbers as on 15 December 2017. Similarly, from data in response to another parliament question, it is seen that over 23 per cent of children (six to 14 years of age) availing of the mid-day meal scheme do not have an Aadhaar number.

Second, there is a category of people whose Aadhaar numbers have been suspended. As on August 2017, about 81 lakh Aadhaar numbers had been deactivated/suspended. The UIDAI has authority to suspend an Aadhaar number at any time, and the only information that will be given to the person is through SMS. A few months ago, a group of us associated with the Rethink Aadhaar movement met an old man in Delhi outside an Aadhaar enrolment centre, whose Aadhaar number had been suspended for reasons unknown to him. This had resulted in him losing access to the monthly social security pension that he was receiving from the state government — his only source of income. He had visited the enrolment centre three times, and each time was sent away to get a different documentary proof related to his address, age and so on.

Third, there are people who have Aadhaar, but with wrong details entered. For instance, on a recent field visit to Satna district in Madhya Pradesh, a few Right To Food Campaign activists met two senior citizens, clearly over 65 years of age, in one village, whose age had been entered as 40 and 45 in their Aadhaar cards. As a result, they were being denied pension.

Fourth, there are people who have an Aadhaar number, but these have not been “seeded” to the beneficiary lists of one or more of the schemes that they are entitled to. This could be because they did not have an Aadhaar when the seeding was being done, their biometrics did not get recorded accurately, there were data entry issues or some other problem. Santoshi’s was one such case.

Fifth, there are people who have an Aadhaar, their number is seeded but they are still not getting their entitlement, because of failures that happen when they try the Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA) each month. This could be because of network errors or fingerprints not matching. There is no accurate estimate on biometric-matching failures. The government has steadfastly refused to provide information on the percentage of biometric failures, but data from Andhra Pradesh for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the public distribution system (PDS) suggests that it could be in the 15-30 per cent range. Anecdotally, however, one knows that old people and manual workers seem to be facing this problem the most. The Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan has filed over 1,000 affidavits in the Delhi High Court about people who are being denied rations because of Aadhaar-related issues.

While there are so many ways in which people can be denied their entitlements because Aadhaar is mandatory, the government does not maintain any data on each of these. Therefore, there is no account of how many attempted biometric authentications are successful, the number of times there have been network problems, and so on. Yet, there are regular estimates of “savings” due to Aadhaar that various sources in the government bring out. Most of these estimates have not withstood careful scrutiny, and it seems that the assumption is that any failure to get an entitlement is a result of the beneficiary being a fraud or, even worse, a “ghost”.

In a December 2017 article in the Economic and Political Weekly, Reetika Khera shows how the claims of deletions of PDS cards have not been because of duplicates unearthed by Aadhaar; rather these were deletions of “ineligible” cards. “…All the deletions are due to ineligibility. Digitisation or Aadhaar-integration cannot eliminate eligibility fraud. Eligibility is determined by the criteria notified by states (for instance, living in a mud house, or caste status, etc). Aadhaar does not provide this information.”

It has similarly been proven that all the estimates of “savings” by the government are exaggerations with no clear indication of how these can be assumed to be because of Aadhaar. The Twitter handle @databaazi has a compilation of claims and reality on Aadhaar savings.

It is now well established that leakages in PDS happen in a number of ways that Aadhaar does not have the ability to address. Quantity fraud, where the beneficiaries are given less grain than they are entitled to, is rampant and continues despite Aadhaar authentication. Further, along with exclusion and denial, Aadhaar is also resulting in higher transaction costs pointing to inefficiency rather than efficiency. A survey in rural Jharkhand by Jean Dreze, Khera and others, found that “when ABBA works for entitled households, it comes with higher transaction costs and little protection against quantity fraud. Those who are excluded by ABBA tend to be the most vulnerable: the elderly who cannot walk, widows with young children, etc”.

There are a number of other ways of reducing corruption, and these have been well documented.

Using technology in an empowering manner (online complaint mechanisms, transparency portals, real-time monitoring), increasing local accountability (vigilance committees, social audits, public hearings), putting in place effective and decentralised grievance redressal systems have all been found to be effective. Aadhaar, on the other hand, is not designed to address the kind of leakages found in welfare schemes such as PDS, social security pensions etc.

Aadhaar has shown how it can exclude, while there is no evidence of its having improved efficiency. If governments are serious about delivering welfare services to people, then it is time we gave up on Aadhaar and learnt from the number of other positive experiences that we have had, like the PDS in Tamil Nadu or Chhattisgarh, where leakages were reduced to a negligible level even before Aadhaar existed—a-tool-for-exclusion

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India – Aadhaar must not be made mandatory for any purpose

A strong data protection law must be enacted and penalties imposed on irresponsible handling and leakage of private data

A visitor gives a thumb impression to withdraw money from his bank account with his Aadhaar or Unique Identification (UID) card during a Digi Dhan Mela, held to promote digital payment, in Hyderabad on January 18, 2017. The Digi Dhan mela is a government initiative aimed at digital transformation in the country following the recent demonetization.
A visitor gives a thumb impression to withdraw money from his bank account with his Aadhaar or Unique Identification (UID) card during a Digi Dhan Mela, held to promote digital payment, in Hyderabad on January 18, 2017. The Digi Dhan mela is a government initiative aimed at digital transformation in the country following the recent demonetization. (AFP File Photo)

Let me start with full disclosure: the Nilekanis were among the earliest donors of the institution of which I am a co-founder. The proposals in this article are entirely my own and they have neither sought nor had any influence in the writing of it.

Much of the ongoing national heartburn over Aadhaar is due to the profound change in “the use case” between that of the UPA government which initiated it and the Modi government which seeks to proliferate it.

We thus have a governance framework that was meant for a voluntary instrument to avail of government entitlements, while Aadhaar itself became effectively a mandatory ID for a whole range of public and private services. Under the Modi government, the governance framework is playing catch-up even as use cases are sprinting far ahead into areas such as eKYC, digital payments and so on.

The governance gap has led to unscrupulous behaviour by service providers and enrolment agencies. It has also led to odd scenarios such as the email I received from my bank, requiring me to link my Aadhaar to my credit card account under money laundering prevention laws, and informing me that I will be doing this voluntarily under Aadhaar regulations.

This doesn’t mean we should undo Aadhaar. Rather, it means we must close the gap between what Aadhaar can be used for and the rules governing how it is used. There are five high-level changes that have to be made in the governance of Aadhaar.

First, Aadhaar must not be mandatory for any purpose. Indeed, given the reports of how some very vulnerable people are being denied public services, prudence demands that Aadhaar must not be the sole requirement even to avail rations and pensions. Letting different modes of identification to coexist will allow the people of this diverse country to make the transition towards an all-digital system. Of course, where Aadhaar can genuinely speed things up, it is only fair that those who provide Aadhaar enjoy expedited services.

Second, Aadhaar should move away from being a single number to a one-time token based system. Apart from a limited number of government departments (police, tax and passports, for instance) no public or private entity should be allowed to ask for or retain Aadhaar numbers. Instead, all authentication should be done on the basis of one-time tokens. Instead of offering the personal Aadhaar number, the user will give a one-time token that is freshly generated for every new authentication. This will ensure that no two service providers — public or private — will have the same number on their records, making mass profiling extremely difficult. Yes, there will be technical challenges in getting the entire population to use one-time tokens, but these are not insurmountable and will get easier with time.

Third, users should be allowed to replace or cancel their Aadhaar numbers. Like in the case of a lost credit card, if my Aadhaar number has been leaked, I should be able to ask UIDAI to cancel it and give me a new one. The UIDAI itself can issue new Aadhaar numbers to people if it determines that the privacy of their numbers has been compromised.

Further, there might be some who no longer want an Aadhaar. Allowing people to cancel their Aadhaar, together with expunging of the accompanying biometric data, will be respectful of the individual’s liberty.

Fourth, a strong data protection law must be enacted to prohibit the collection and storage of Aadhaar numbers, and impose penalties on irresponsible handling and leakage of private data. The prohibition and penalties must apply both to government and private entities, including to UIDAI itself, while allowing aggrieved citizens to register complaints with the police.

Finally, the regulatory architecture must be recast to reflect the vastly different use Aadhaar is being put to now. UIDAI cannot be the service provider, regulator, enforcement agency and adjudicator. Each of these roles must be structurally separated from the other.

We can reap the benefits of Aadhaar while addressing concerns over equity, liberty and privacy. A good, constitutional balance is possible. Of course it won’t be easy. But that is what we should demand of our technocrats and policymakers.

Nitin Pai is director of the Takshashila Institution, a centre for research and education in public policy

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Gujarat- Dead Man’s #Aadhaar card used to siphon Rs 1.53 Lakh #AadhaarFail

Dead man’s Aadhar card forged to con firm of Rs 1.53 lakh
Accused Tarun Sureja
AGota resident allegedly forged an Aadhaar card belonging to a dead man to con a finance company of Rs 1.53 lakh. Police have arrested accused Tarun Sureja, a 32-year-old resident of Silver Gardenia in Bopal. They were acting on a complaint filed by Abhijeet Dave, 27, assistant manager of the fraud control unit of the finance company. According to Navrangpura police, the incident came to light when Sanket Sharma, collection manager at Bajaj Finserv, informed Dave that the credit cardinstalment of customer Ajay Rathod, residing at Silver Gardenia, was overdue. When Dave visited the Gota house, a woman told him that no one named Rathod lived there.

The assistant manager dug into the records and realised that five loans had been issued to people living at the same address between February 2015 and November 2017. While four loans had been issued to Rathod, one had been given to Tarun Sureja.

Discrepancies found 
He checked the records and found that Aadhaar card copies submitted by Rathod and Sureja were the same, except for the difference in names and birth dates. While two of the loans (one issued to Sureja and the other to Rathod) had been paid off, three loans totalling Rs 1.53 lakh were still pending. The assistant manager realised that the first loan in Rathod’s name, which had been paid off, mentioned an address in Ankodia village in Vadodara district. “He visited the address and found Rathod’s brother Vijay who told them that Rathod had died on May 29, 2016. He also showed him the death certificate,” said police. Realising that Sureja had somehow committed the fraud, he filed a police complaint against Sureja on Tuesday.

Modus operandi 
Investigation revealed that after Rathod died, his mobile number was reissued to Sureja. When Sureja, who had already taken and repaid a loan from the company, registered for another loan from the new mobile number, he received a message that the number was already registered. “He received an OTP which gave him access to Rathod’s loan with the finance company,” said police. The company issues an EMI card with a pre-approved loan amount to its customers.

While the firm carries out a thorough check the first time the card is issued, if the customer wants to apply for a second loan, all s/ he needs to do is submit an id proof. “Realising this, Sureja first got the address on the EMI card changed to his. Then, he modified the PDF of his Aadhar card to change the name from Sureja to Rathod. He submitted this as id proof for the loans he took on December 2, 5 and 6 under Rathod’s name. The card’s limit was Rs 1.58 lakh, and he took a loan of upto Rs 1.53 lakh,” said police. Sureja, who studied till MPhil, is a graphic designer and creates websites for a living. “He bought LED TV and mobile phones on credit then sold it off to get hold of cash. We are looking into all his purchases,” said police.

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Without Aadhaar cards, hundreds of inmates at UP’s old age homes denied pension #WTFnews

Priyangi Agarwal and Ishita Bhatia

Bareilly / Meerut: Scores of inmates at old age homes across Uttar Pradesh are yet to get benefits of pension in the absence of Aadhaar cards. Many inmates have not been able to get Aadhaar cards as their fingers are oblate — with age and labour — and they are unable to give thumb impressions. At the old age home in Meerut, none of the 49 inmates have got pension, while 40 persons at Bareilly are awaiting pension.
Senior citizens aged between 60 and 79 years who are below poverty line are entitled to a monthly pension of Rs 400, while those above 80 years get Rs 500 per month. Inmates who have been abandoned by their families and forced to stay at old age homes need the pension money to meet their personal requirements.

When TOI visited the old age home in Meerut, it found that not a single person here was being given pension ever since the home was opened in March 2017. Ramesh Chaudhary, 68, a native of Muzaffarnagar, said, “After I parted ways with my son, I have been living in one old age home or the other. I haven’t been able to receive any pension here. They give us food, electricity, water and even medicines, but there are some medicines which are unavailable with them and for that I have to ask for money from my daughter, which I do not like. Only if we would have gotten any pension, things would have been different.”

Another inmate, Shashi Bala, 63, said, “If we want to visit our families and meet our grandchildren, we need money for travel expenses and purchasing gifts.”

An affidavit recently filed by the UP government in the Supreme Court said, “The state is fully committed to implementing provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 and is providing old age pension and implementing various welfare programmes for elderly citizens.”

Ashok Dixit, Bareilly social welfare officer, said, “Several inmates are not getting pension as their Aadhaar cards could not be made and they have no other identity card for address proof. According to the rules, Aadhaar cards cannot be made on the address of an old age home or any other organisation. Some of the senior citizens have not been able to register their biometric details because their fingerprints have been smoothened out by years of manual labour and sheer old age. According to the government’s policy, toe impression can be taken only for persons with disabilities.”

Raj Kumar, manager of an NGO which runs the old age home in Meerut, said, “The only budget we got is Rs 20 lakh for the furniture. Food, electricity and water is being provided by the NGO from its own funds. The procedure of pension can begin only after the social welfare officer makes a visit here and sends a monthly report but since it has not been done, the pension procedure cannot even begin in the first place. There are inmates who do not possess Aadhaar cards.”

Asked about it, Umesh Diwedi, Meerut social welfare officer, said, “I will ensure online pension application forms for every inmate is filled within this week

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India- #Aadhaar gives OUR personal info to foreign firms

‘The most valuable personal sensitive information of present and future citizens has been made available to foreign data firms and governments and non-State actors for all time to come,’ says Gopal Krishna.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/


Contrary to the claim by Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister in charge of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), in his article Aadhaar is a game-changer for India in the Hindustan Times (external link), Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar number has become an important technological instrument to empower the rich and to further impoverish and to cruelly oppress the poor.

It is subverting the most important objective of the Constitution of India: Fostering equality of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all fraternity and assuring the dignity of the individual.

UID/Aadhaar is fostering biometric and digital exclusion and financial exclusion.

The numerous testimonies of victims of UID/Aadhaar in this regard are available in the public domain. The same has been submitted to the Supreme Court. It is structurally disempowering the common Indian through its assault on citizenship through biometric identification of residents.

Out of nearly 130 crore Indians, some 119 crore Indians and other residents of India have been made vulnerable to non-State actors, foreign States and their domestic collaborators because their most personal sensitive data, the world’s most valuable resource, has been parked with foreign data firms and governments through contract agreements between UIDAI and ungovernable technology companies like Accenture, Safran Group and Ernst & Young.

This information has come to light due to replies received under Right to Information Act.

There is no transparency about how much money these companies are making from the data assets of Indians to the detriment of India’s supreme interest.

This initiative of the world’s largest biometric-digital Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of UID/Aadhaar numbers has been bulldozed down people’s throats by Machiavellian deceit, coercion and breach of trust.

CIDR has dwarfed the stature of Indian citizens by exposing them and the coming generations to an unscientific experiment. It has turned Indians into guinea pigs for clinical trials in labs.

One needs to understand the disempowerment of a poor farmer, a serving soldier, a pensioner, a student, an old woman, a child and the family of Santoshi Kumari who have been deprived of their citizens’ entitlements because of CIDR.

With the oppressive linking of UID/Aadhaar of Indians, banks are exerting extraneous influence like money-lenders of old times.

The replies under the RTI Act have revealed that more than 99.99 percent Indians had pre-existing identity proof prior to the proposal of UID/Aadhaar.


It is apparent that it was a lame excuse to pursue this project whose total estimated budget has not been disclosed even after nine years of UIDAI’s existence.

It is ridiculous to claim savings without disclosing the total cost of the project. The replies under RTI Act have shown that this project is a ‘guaranteed revenue flow’ for foreign and domestic private firms, which tantamount to squandering taxpayers’ money.

In fact, in an unbelievingly strange situation, Indians are being made to part with their most valuable resource to these companies and they are also being made to pay for it at the rate of Rs 2.75/per enrolment and for each de-duplication forever.

In an exercise of irrationality of the worst order, value of digital transactions using UID/Aadhaar is being presented as savings due to the project.

All such claims of savings are an exercise in puffery. It has come to light and has been admitted that the World Bank study that refers to ‘savings’ from the project is based on a flawed footnote in its study.

Isn’t such propaganda and misinformation campaign a cause of gnawing worry?

The most valuable personal sensitive information of present and future citizens has been made available to foreign data firms and governments and non-State actors for all time to come.

It is a cause of grave worry. In the face of documentary proof, the government’s assurances ring as hollow as their words of consolation after every institutional disaster.

The CIDR of the UID/Aadhaar project continued without legislative approval from January 28, 2009, till September 12, 2016, without any backing of a parliamentary law even after the arrival of the BJP-led government in May 2014.

The first thing this government did was to act contrary to the democratic mandate against the UID/Aadhaar project. The Narendra D Modi-led alliance won an electoral victory by promising to scrap the biometric ID project.

Barack Obama and David Cameron too had made a similar promise. Both fulfilled their electoral promise of abandoning the biometric ID project of their predecessors, but Modi has gone against his own promise and betrayed the electoral mandate.

The cover of a Money Bill with which UID/Aadhaar was draped stood exposed and uncovered in the Rajya Sabha.

Notably, the Aadhaar Act came into force after more than 100 crore residents of India have been made naked without the protection of any legislative cover.

This project has been pursued by the BJP-led government under the presumption that the Right to Privacy is not a part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous verdict of August 24, 2017, debunked this foundational basis of the project.

The Aadhaar Act and the project are in manifest contravention of the Right to Life, Personal Liberty and Privacy.

UIDAI’s CIDR database of UID/Aadhaar numbers facilitates profiling of individuals utilising technology in the most imaginative ways.

The European Union regulation on data privacy defines ‘profiling’ as any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements.

Such profiling can result in discrimination based on religion, ethnicity and caste. This has been noted in the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Right to Privacy, which dismissed the government’s submissions in this regard.

It is bizarre to witness the spectacle of the minister in charge of UIDAI paying insincere obeisance to the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Right to Privacy, but continuing to parrot arguments which have been rejected and buried by the Court.

The minister contends that because citizens have shared their details with official agencies on social media, smart phones etc on different occasions without any objection, they should not raise ‘serious objections relating to identity verification’.

The Court’s verdict reads: ‘If the individual permits someone to enter the house it does not mean that others can enter the house’, implying that if information has been shared with one entity it does not create any compelling legal logic to share it with other entities too.

It further observed, ‘… if the posting on social media Web sites is meant only for a certain audience, which is possible as per tools available, then it cannot be said that all and sundry in public have a right to somehow access that information and make use of it’.

Rejecting the government’s proposition, the Court’s observation reads: ‘Users of wearable devices and social media networks may not conceive of themselves as having volunteered data, but their activities of use and engagement result in the generation of vast amounts of data about individual lifestyles, choices and preferences’.

The Court’s verdict cites Yvonne McDermott’s paper, Conceptualizing the right to data protection in an era of Big Data, that speaks about the quantified self.

The paper underlines that ‘The rise in the so-called ‘quantified self’, or the self-tracking of biological, environmental, physical, or behavioural information through tracking devices, Internet-of-things devices, social network data and other means may result in information being gathered not just about the individual user, but about people around them as well.’

‘Thus, a solely consent-based model does not entirely ensure the protection of one’s data, especially when data collected for one purpose can be repurposed for another.’

It is abundantly clear that the minister’s argument has not been found acceptable by the Court because it is not rational to argue that just because someone has opened the windows of his house it does not create any sane logic to contend that he must open the doors of his house as well.

Giving one’s digital arm for a handshake does not create any reasonable compulsion to surrender one’s vital personal sensitive assets to UIDAI whose umbilical cord is linked to foreign firms and governments who have grabbed the citizens’ database.

Under the garb of ‘innovation’ in the digital economy, the privacy of future Presidents, prime ministers, legislators, judges, soldiers, intelligence personnel besides citizens cannot be allowed to be killed and allow national security to be compromised for good.

By the government’s own admission in the Supreme Court, it is clear that as far as UID/Aadhaar is concerned the proposed safety valves like virtual ID etc and the Data Protection Law Framework Committee’s report after nine years of UIDAI’s existence are stale, dated. cheques.

UID/Aadhaar creates a biometric-digital identity that subordinates the citizens’ identity and makes her/him a subject and a modern-day slave.

It takes away the right of an individual to exercise control over his personal data and to be able to control her/his own life including his right to control his existence on the Internet.

This project provides the structural technique by which every person is being profiled to the nth extent for all and sundry to know using both demographic and biometric information.

As per the Aadhaar Act, UIDAI is empowered to collect voice samples and DNA profiles as well which will consequent into promotion of genetic determinism and biometric casteism akin to Eugenic thinking. Coincidentally, the official forms for collecting DNA profiles seek details about caste too.

The manifesto of biometric identification promoters will read like the 1,500 page regressive manifesto titled ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’ brought out by the Norwegian gunman and neo-crusader, Anders Behring Breivik, who carried out the heinous attacks on his fellow citizens.

It refers to the word ‘identity’ over 100 times, ‘unique’ over 40 times and ‘identification’ over 10 times.

There is reference to ‘State-issued identity cards’, ‘converts’ identity cards’, ‘identification card’, ‘fingerprints’, ‘DNA’ etc as well in this manifesto.

Biometric profiling of any sort is dehumanising.

These words and their imports merit attention in order to safeguard the natural rights of present and future generation of citizens which faces an unprecedented onslaught from unregulated and ungovernable biometric and digital technology vendors.

The abandonment of UID/Aadhaar like ID projects in countries like the US, the UK, Australia, China, France and Germany and their failure in African countries create a logical compulsion for India to heed the decision of these countries.

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India – Unique ID is not Unique, does not certify anything says UIDAI in a #RTI reply #WTFnews #AadhaarFail

By- Anupam Saraph
In yet another shocking admission the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) admitted, in response to a RTI query, that it does not certify the identity, address, date of birth, resident status or existence of any individual or any Aadhaar number. The UIDAI has in a previous RTI had responded making it evident that it cannot identify anyone.
The admission that the UIDAI does not certify anything is a blow to every organisation and process that relies on the UIDAI for certifying the identity, address, date of birth, resident status or existence of any individual. It is now evident that not only is nothing identified, nothing is certified by the UIDAI.
The UIDAI also admitted that the biometric data of an individual does not pull up a unique record. This is an admission that the biometrics does not uniquely identify any person. This completely demolishes the myth of providing an unique identity to Indians.
The UIDAI has no idea about the identification documents used to assign an Aadhaar number to enrolment packets submitted by the enrolment agencies. This has damning repercussions for the genuineness of the entire Aadhaar database. In a previous RTI the UIDAI had admitted that the Aadhaar database or the processes of reduplication had never been subject to verification or audit. Now an admission that even the data about the documents submitted for enrolment are not known to the UIDAI. Private agencies were paid for each enrolment packet they submitted. Private agencies also benefit by being able to use ghost identities that they may have created to claim subsidies, park black money, do benami transactions, and launder money
The RTI replies call to question the very basis of using the Aadhaar as a means to identify anyone, to use it to establish age, resident status, address or even existence of a person. It calls to question the use of Aadhaar in governance and financial systems.
The UIDAI has refused information about the enrolment operators and supervisors registered with the UIDAI. Only 20 registrar’s 8 State Governments and 12 PSUs had hired enrolment agencies who hired these operators. The 20 Registrars put together do not have a geographical reach to the 707 districts, 600,000 villages and 5,000 towns and cities of India. With the information of enrolment operators being withheld, the entire enrolment process to create the worlds largest biometric database is called to question.
The Supreme Court of India is hearing more than 22 PILs challenging the use of Aadhaar. The RTI replies make it evident that two successive governments have been taken for a complete ride by private interests controlling the Aadhaar ecosystem. The entire Aadhaar database is not worth the cost of the media used to store it and is the biggest technology scam since the invention of computers. It possesses the biggest risk to national security as every database in the country capable of identifying the citizens and beneficiaries is being replaced or destroyed by the Aadhaar database. Linking, seeding or using Aadhaar to construct or replace existing databases will make it impossible to protect the country’s economic, social, security and governance processes as they fail to identify threats, frauds, corruption, money laundering, and cyber war.
Read RTI reply here 4(4)573302017-E&U copy

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