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200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear all,

Even as we debate the wisdom behind Unique Identification (UID) Aadhaar the Finance Ministry has written to the Chief Ministers of 16 States this month advising expansion of the number if districts where pilots will be rolled out linking UID to social development programmes. A copy of the press release issued by the Finance Ministry through the Press Information Bureau on 07June, 2012 is attached. This document is also available at: http://finmin.nic.in/press_room/2012/FM_StateUT_07062012.pdf Strangely, except for dedicated UID-watchers nobody in the mass media seems to have noticed or reported about this letter.

What has the Finance Ministry advised the States?

According to the press release the Union Finance Minister has written to the Chief Ministers of Kerala, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh(HP), Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Delhi, Puducherry, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh(MP), Andhra Pradesh(AP) and Maharashtra requesting them to expand the number of districts in their States chosen for implementing the pilots. Earlier fifty districts had been chosen. Now the Finance Ministry wants more districts to be identified for pilots.

The Finance Ministry is said to have written to the Chief Secretaries of these States requesting cooperation for the expeditious completion of the pilots. The pilots will cover social development programmes such as: Public Distribution System, LPG distribution, Kerosene disbursal, Government pension schemes, Janani Suraksha Yojana, Government Scholarships, Financial Inclusion, Kisan Credit Cards (KCCs) and MGNREGS wage disbursal.  The Finance Minister has left it to the discretion of the Chief Ministers if they wish to add any more programmes to this list. The lessons learnt from the pilots will be of help while rolling out the scheme throughout the country.


What is problematic with this advisory to the States?

UID – Aadhar is being rolled out in the absence of any law made by Parliament authorising the Governments to collect demographic and biometric data from people. The department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance which vetted the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 rejected it for several reasons as an unviable idea. The NIAI Bill would have given statutory backing to UID-Aadhar if the law had been enacted by Parliament. The complete text of the report of his committee with reasons for rejection is attached. This report is also available at: UID-Aadhar is functioning only on the basis of an executive resolution.

One of the reasons why the parliamentary committee rejected the Bill was because it sought to make the Aadhaar numbers compulsory. When linked with social development programmes and schemes anybody who does not have a UID-Aadhar number would be disqualified at the gateway. However the latest advisory to the States seems to be an attempt to make it compulsory in all the 50 and more districts that the State Governments have been asked to identify.

The Parliamentary committee noted that the standards used for collecting biometrics such as iris pattern recognition were not internationally approved. Nevertheless UIDAI claims that several crores of people in India have been given Aadhaar numbers and now these will be linked to eligibility and payments under various social development programmes in the chosen districts.

Last but not the least- there is no legal regime for the protection of personal data collected under UID-Aadhar or any other such exercise. The person whose data is collected (data subject) has no control over its use, there is no duty on the UIDAI or its agencies to tell the data subject  how his/her personal information will be used. The data subject has no legal right to correct any errors in the personal data relating to him/her collected by UIDAI. Although the judiciary has recognized that every person is entitled to the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution no legal architecture has been created for empowering the individual to control his/her data that is available with public and private agencies.

So for several reasons the urgency of implementing UID by linking it to social development programmes, particularly to PDS and MGNREGA is worrisome. When jobcards and bank/post office accounts already exist for the purpose of making payments under MGNREGA, what purpose will UID-Aadhar serve? Will a worker be denied payment of wages on the ground that he/she does not have a UID-Aadhar number? 


Will I have to enroll and obtain an Aadhar number before I can make a booking for my LPG cylinder refill?


Will an expectant mother be refused admission, medical services and monetary payment under Janani Suraksha Yojana by the primary health centre or the district hospital if she does not have an Aadhar number?


Will a farmer be refused loans under Kisan Credit Card if he/she does not have an Aadhar number?


There is simply no information about these issues in the public domain- only the rush and urgency of implementing the pilots is visible if one looked hard enough. All of this hugely problematic because the Government is not doing its mandated duty of complete proactive disclosure of facts and figures relating to the implementation of UID as is required under Section 4(1) of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act).

I urge readers to circulate this email widely and start using the RTI Act to pull out details of the actions being planned by the State Governments to act upon the Finance Minister’s advice. Kindly feed all information that you obtain, to the media so that people may debate the exercise of linking UID –Aadhar with social development programmes.

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