Once enrolled, a Kalawati cannot surrender or cancel her Aadhaar. To retrieve her lost Aadhaar letter or number, the poor lady would have to go through a gruelling process of providing enough details about herself to match 10 fields in the UIDAI database!
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the de-facto agency to turn every resident into a number, has admitted that retrieving a lost Aadhaar number is not without enormous pains for the holder, especially if she is from the poorer sections of the society. According to media reports, UIDAI has devised a new method, under which a person can put his biometrics and the system would then keep prompting for more demographic details till the server can zero down to 10 possible matches.
“During the entire process, none of the details of the Aadhaar holders will be shown to the person or the operator till the time an exact match has been found. This has been done keeping in mind the design of the Aadhaar project, where the system doesn’t reveal any information about the resident and only tries to authenticate the identity replying with a yes or no,” a report from Business Standard says quoting an official from UIDAI.
On paper, this looks good, but would work for those who have knowledge of their own data that was filled in while registering for the unique identification (UID) number. Most of the poor people, who acquired the Aadhaar number, falling prey to UIDAI propaganda, would, however find it very difficult to retrieve their UID number, once it is lost.
According to Dr Anupam Saraph, who is a Professor, Future Designer, former governance and IT advisor to Goa’s former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the process described by the official is an admission that UIDAI’s biometrics is not sufficient to prove identity.
“The process described by the UIDAI spokesperson is an admission on part of the UIDAI that biometrics is not sufficient to prove identity. If it did, they should have been able to retire a unique ID for the person. There should have been no requirements for asking even a single question. It is strange that they do not trust anyone’s eyes to compare the person with a photograph that their database should be having!” he said.
A government official told the newspaper that as a person can only enrol for Aadhaar once, there needed to be a mechanism to retrace the number in case the person has misplaced all possible links to it. “Enrolling again is not an option, as the system automatically rejects biometric details that have been registered once,” he said.
Dr Saraph, however, feels that there should a simple method to help the person to retrieve her lost Aadhaar number. He said, “The simplest way to replace a lost ID is to require an ‘ID Lost Form’ to be filled up and retrieve the person’s number based on demographic information. As a security measure, it (the letter containing Aadhaar number and other details) should not be handed over in person but be mailed through the postal service. As a measure of safety, duplicate numbers would need to be different as well as recognisable as duplicate and the original would need to be cancelled. A database of cancelled ID’s would be available for query to those who rely on the ID.”
Remember PV Narayanan from Kerala who enrolled and successfully received two Aadhaar numbers? According to a report in Matrubhoomi, a Kerala-based newspaper, PV Narayanan, a resident of Panatthadi panchayat received two Aadhaar numbers: 548780623023 and 356459270677. The names on both these letters issued by UIDAI were same, with slight different photos. Narayanan probably may have registered at two places or centres. But, surprisingly, his fingerprints apparently passed the so-called ‘robust’ de-duplication test of UIDAI. Since Aadhaar includes an iris scan, this too seems to have been missed. (
Coming back to the retrieval of lost Aadhaar number or letter, all the claims of UIDAI are fine in the case of individuals. But what about those Aadhaar numbers or letters lost by the UIDAI or other government agencies themselves? And how about thousands of Aadhaar letters found in garbage and near railway tracks?
“How can information lost by the government be replaced without re-enrolment? How can they even tell whose information they lost? You may recall the Government of Maharashtra had lost lakhs of IDs two years ago,” Dr Saraph said.
In March 2013, hundreds of Aadhaar letters duly signed and ready to be delivered to the concerned people have been found dumped in a heap of garbage at Shanti Nagar area in Nagpur. There have been reports of applicants being issued the Aadhaar numbers ‘twice’ over, lakhs of Aadhaar number letters being ‘misplaced’ and even being ‘issued to a dog, a chair and a tree!’
In addition, there is no scope for the Aadhaar number holder to cancel her registration. Replying to a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by CJ Karira, co-convenor of India Against Corruption (IAC), the UIDAI admitted that once allotted, one can never cancel the Aadhaar number. The Central Information Commission (CIC) in an order observed: “Two of the queries related to the procedure by which a UID number holder could surrender his UID number and card and get his data erased from the data base of the UIDAI. The CPIO informed the Appellant vide his letter dated 13th and 16 January 2014 that as on date, there was no such procedure adopted by the UIDAI to delete the UID number from the UID database.”
So while there is no way the poor Kalawati can surrender her Aadhaar number, she has to go through an impossible process to retrieve her lost UID.