In a strange case of conflict of interests, Nandan Nilekani, the IT czar, is either heading or part of a committee or group that is turning the ‘voluntary’ UID number or Aadhaar of residents as mandatory for citizens to access several services and benefits from the government

The Supreme Court has ruled that the unique identification (UID) number or Aadhaar is not mandatory to avail essential services from the government. What is strange is all those ministries and departments that are makingAadhaar ‘mandatory’ are doing so onrecommendations from a committee or group associated with Nandan Nilekani, the chief of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). This is pure conflict of interests as the UIDAI itself is maintaining that Aadhaar is ‘voluntary’ while its chairman is making sure that it is made mandatory to avail a number of services or benefits from the government.


Gopal Krishna, member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), has sent a letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh, defense minister AK Antony who is also the head of the Group of Ministers (GoM) which oversees the issue of resident identity cards under scheme of National Population Register (NPR). Mr Krishna has also sent it to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of Planning Commission as well as special invitee on the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI-related issues and who is also on the GoM on the issue of resident identity cards under NPR scheme, and Dr C Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.


He said, “I submit that the Supreme Court has revealed that although the attached enrolment form of Aadhaar/unique identification (UID) number promises on top of the form that it is free and voluntary, several central ministries and uninformed state governments attempted to make it mandatory, in a manifest case of breach of citizen’s trust.”


According to Mr Krishna, the Strategy Overview document of the UIDAI says that “enrolment will not be mandated” adding, “This will not, however, preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrolment”. “It must be noted that Mr Nilekani headed several committees whose recommendations made Aadhaar mandatory,” he said.


Here is the list of Committees and groups compiled by Mr Krishna, which decided to makeAadhaar mandatory and are linked with Mr Nilekani…


1) He is head of Technology Advisory Group on Unique Projects (TAGUP) that proposes “private company with public purpose” and with “profit making as the motive but not profit maximising”.


2) He is head of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is functioning without legislative approval either at the centre or in the states and has signed contracts with companies that work with Intelligence agencies.


3) He is head of Committee on Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) technology for use on National Highways that proposes Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).


4) He is head of Inter-ministerial task force to streamline the subsidy distribution mechanism


5) He is head of Government of India’s IT Task Force for Power Sector


6) He is member of National Knowledge Commission


7) He is member of Review Committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban RenewalMission


8) He is member of National Advisory Group on e-Governance


9) He is member of Subcommittee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) that dealt with issues related to insider trading


10) He is member of Reserve Bank of India’s Advisory Group on corporate governance


11) He is member of Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development


12) He is member of Prime Minister headed National Committee on Direct Cash Transfers


13) He is an invitee to the Cabinet Committee on UID related matters


14) He is an invitee to Group of Ministers (GoM) regarding Issue of Resident Identity Cards under NPR Scheme


15) He is a member of the board of governors of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)


16) He is the president of NCAER


17) He is chairman, Empowered Group, IT Infrastructure for Goods and Services Tax (GST)


“The list is not exhaustive. Mr Nilekani has many more identities as a shareholder and as a former head of a corporation,” says Mr Krishna.


Further, according to Mr Krishna, the ‘rift between Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Planning Commissions’, the UIDAI on UID and NPR was motivated and meant to take legislatures, citizens, states and media for a ride.


Mr Krishna said, “…it was reported on 6 October 2011 that Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi wrote to the prime minister questioning the need for National Population Register (NPR) by Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner. Gujarat then stopped collection of biometric data for creation of the NPR.”


In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Modi raised objections over both the UIDAI, which is creating UID/Aadhaar number and Registrar General of India, which is creating the NPR, collecting biometric data.


In his letter Mr Modi wrote, “…there is no mention of capturing biometrics in the Citizenship Act or Citizenship Rules, 2009”. In the absence of any provision in the Citizenship Act, 1955, or rules for capturing biometrics, it is difficult to appreciate how the capture of biometrics is a statutory requirement. Photography and biometrics is only mentioned in the Manual of Instructions for filling up the NPR household schedule and even in that there is no mention of capturing the iris”.


After Gujarat stopped collection of biometric data, the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram sent a letter to Mr Modi in August 2011, pointing out that creation of the NPR was a “statutory requirement” under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and “once initialised, (it) has to be necessarily completed”. The MHA had also requested the chief minister to instruct state government officers to cooperate in creation of the NPR. This was when the entire media, citizens and the political class was hoodwinked into believing that there was a rift between Mr Nilekani’s UIDAI under Planning Commission and Dr C Chandramouli’s NPR under MHA when Mr Chidambaram headed it, said Mr Krishna.


Mr Krishna says, “It appears that Mr Modi chose to side with UIDAI in an apparent rebuff to Mr Chidambaram. Mr Modi kicked off UID/Aadhaar project in Gujarat on 1 May 2012 by giving his biometric information and enrolled under the UIDAI project. Strangely, Mr Modi did not object to his biometric identification under UID as he did with regard to NPR. Mr Modi did so despite the fact that Yashwant Sinha (BJP leader) headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that rejected the UID project and the UID Bill in its report to the Parliament on 13 December 2012. However, it may be noted that one sentence of its report appears to endorse biometric NPR. Is it a case of Mr Sinha was trying to side with Mr Chidambaram? It appears that Mr Modi has been taken for ride with regard to the UID/Aadhaar and Mr Sinha with regard to NPR as they failed to see through the strategy. Now Mr Chidambaram is wearing the hat of minister of finance. This is how both Mr Modi and Mr Sinha were outwitted by Mr Chidambaram.”


“I submit that Mr Nilekani met the then deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi at Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi in August 2011 to ensure a centralized IT infrastructure for GST across the states through GST Network, a National Information Utility, a private company with public purpose having profit making as the motive but not profit maximising. This is meant to take away the sovereign function of tax collection from the state,” Mr Krishna said in his letter.


Here is the letter sent by Mr Krishna ( )….


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