Saikat Datta and Mahesh Langa, Hindustan Times New Delhi/Gandhinagar, April 19, 2014
Narendra Modi may have criticised Aadhaar, but official documents show the Gujarat government has implemented the central programme efficiently, while collecting more personal data than required in some cases.
The Gujarat government also warned people of “penal action” if the data was not submitted, the documents said, adding chief minister Modi was appointed as the chairperson of the committee overseeing the implementation of Aadhaar.
These documents were made available to HT by Venkatesh Nayak, a Right to Information (RTI) activist and the programme coordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. He accessed the documents from websites of various state departments and through RTI applications.
Besides, parliamentary data shows Gujarat registered 22 million Aadhaar card holders as on December 31, 2013.
Aadhaar is an ambitious project of the UPA government to provide a unique 12-digit identity number to the citizens. The SC had recently said Aadhaar card was not mandatory for any of the governmental schemes.
When asked, a top Gujarat official said the state had implemented the scheme efficiently, but refused to comment whether more information were collected than required. “We have collected details that were required for the project.”
Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party‘s (BJP’s) prime ministerial nominee, had recently criticised the Aadhaar scheme at an election rally in Bangalore, stressing he had warned the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of its faults but was ignored.
He had added the UPA had “failed to convince the Supreme Court” and thus the scheme failed.
Nayak told HT that Modi’s criticism was at variance with what his government did, but pointed out there were several problems with the Aadhaar project.
“I checked how much and how often the state government under Mr Modi had opposed the rollout of Aadhaar in Gujarat.”
On the other hand, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman told HT that Aadhaar was being pushed by the Union government through an executive order and as the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi was expected to implement the programme in the state.
“But that does not mean he will not question it and underline what is wrong. If he had not implemented it in Gujarat, he would have been blamed for delaying it.”
The documents said a resolution was passed by the Gujarat government’s general administration department on March 23, 2010, to set up a council to implement Aadhaar. Modi was later appointed as its chairperson.
According to two resolutions passed by the general administration department on August 25, 2011, the state government had decided to seek “additional information about the residents”.
These were PAN card numbers, election identity card details, ration cards, disability cards and details of LPG/PNG gas connections. The “non-inclusion” of these details, the resolutions said, “will lead to penal action”.
The Aadhaar scheme only seeks proof of identity and address and collects the biometric data of the citizen.
“Aadhaar is… an attempt by the governments to collect more and more data about people without telling them how and who will use it. This is the grandest project in India of the surveillance state,” Nayak said.
(With inputs from Moushumi Dasgupta)