SEPTEMBER 18, 2015


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From inclusion to exclusion: poor and marginalised adversely affected by
the UID project

Today, a press conference was held to highlight the ongoing blatant
violations of Supreme Court order in the Aadhaar case. Aruna Roy, a
petitioner in the case, said that there was no legal basis for the
existence of the UID project. Since September 2013, the Supreme Court has
passed orders five times, directing that Aadhaar is not mandatory for
accessing entitlements, and no one can be denied any service because they
are do not have an aadhaar number; yet people continue to be excluded from
services on the grounds that they do not have an aadhaar card. Guddu, from
Yamuna Khadar, Delhi, speaking at the press conference, spoke of the denial
of emergency services in two public hospitals in Delhi when he and his
friend Mewa Ram needed it because of Mewa Ram’s lack of an aadhaar card.

Reetika Khera, economist, said that the stated assumption that the UID
project will greatly benefit the poor has been repeatedly proven to be
wrong. “Rather than being a tool of inclusion, it is fast becoming a tool
of exclusion”, she said. Further, in a reply to an RTI query it is learnt
that only 0.03% of people enrolled had no form of identification before.
Those with an ID remain untouched by the project (or the numbers were very
small). Another stated aim was that the UID would help end corruption in
the Public Distribution System and the National Rural Employment Guarantee
Act. It has been seen in the past few years is that leakages have been
reduced without the use of aadhaar. E.g., in Chhattisgarh, between 2004-5
and 2011-12, leakages have come down from 50 to 10 per cent, in Bihar from
90% to about 20% in the same period.

“In the ration system in Delhi, the UID project has been used as a tool of
exclusion,” said Anjali Bhardwaj of Satark Nagrik Sangathan.  Voices from
the field spoke of how aadhaar has emerged as a barrier to the poor,
especially women and children, from accessing their entitlements. For
instance, Guddu from Yamuna Khadar, Delhi, speaking at the press conference
spoke of the denial of emergency services in two public hospitals in Delhi
because of the lack of an aadhaar card.  Ramlalli from Lal Gumbad, Delhi
had applied for anew ration card, under national food security act (NFSA). She
explained that her children’s names were not added to the ration card. She
was told at the ration office that this was because their Aadhaar cards
were not submitted with the application. Under the NFSA, entitlements have
become individual, and due to theexclusion of her children, Ramlalli’s
family now does not receive adequate foodgrain. “The reality is that
Aadhaar is not necessary for ending corruption. What we require is greater
transparency and effective systems of grievance redressal,” said Anjali

Usha Ramanathan, law researcher, explained the latest order of the Supreme
Court dated 11th August which states that the UID number cannot be used at
all except for the purpose of the Public Distribution System and in LPG. “So,
the CBSE or the UGC or banks or anyone else cannot ask for the number at
all. This is because the court recognised that voluntariness was being used
as a means of imposing compulsion to enroll on people,” she said. “If the
ask for the number, they will be in contempt of the orders of the Supreme
Court,” she added.

In addition to the problem of exclusion through the UID project and the
continuing violation of Supreme Court orders, Gopal Krishna of the Citizens
Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) explained that the status of the data
collected through the UID project has been suspect from the very start. It
is being held by companies of dubious provenance, with companies such as L1
Identity Solutions, Ernst and Young and Safran Morpho having our data
handed over to them. A contract has been signed between our government and
large private companies which says they will hold the collected data for a
period of seven years. “Everyone knows that if data is stored for even
seven seconds, it can last forever,” he said, “this is a breach of trust on
the part of the state to which people have been submitting their data.”

Aruna Roy added that by taking this issue lightly we are tacitly
surrendering our economic and social rights.

On the issue of biometrics, Usha Ramanathan explained that the use of
biometrics in the Indian context is now admittedly experimental. “A Unique
Biometrics Competence Center (UBCC) was announced on the UID website on
August 13th where it is said that the Indian working population poses
challenges to the use of biometrics, and so the UBCC was being set up to do
research on biometrics”, she said. “This is as a statement as we can expect
to hear that biometrics is not only uncertain technology but also untested
technology. It seems they only admitted to this weakness because of the
Supreme Court’s order that they may have to share the information that is
with them with law enforcing agencies. If an outsider to the project were
to see the database, it seems the unreliability of the biometric database
would get exposed, and this is a preemptive declaration” she added.A report
of the World Bank also stated that the rate of exclusion might be about 40%
if identity systems were to be made the basis of access to entitlements;
“but the report was soon removed from the World Bank website,” she said.
Ramanathan highlighted that only one government agency had acted promptly
on the Supreme Court orders – the Election Commission – which released a
statement the next day and ensured that there would be no linking of voter
ID numbers and the UID.

As the matter stands today, the cases challenging the UID project have
been referred
to a Constitution Bench. In the meantime the governmental agencies continue in
blatant violation of the court’s orders, possibly bolstered by a confidence
that the court has not taken any action in contempt so far. The panel
appealed for the swift constitution of a bench to hear the matter and wide
reportage on the continued problems faced by people due to the project.

For more background information visit & read the attached documents:

  1. Decoding the Aadhaar judgment: No more seeding, not till the
    privacy issue is settled by the court

  2. Protect the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right!

  3. The Statesman Series:

  4. MoneyLife Series:

  5. UID: from inclusion to exclusion

  6. Article in BENGALI TIMES OF INDIA (ei samay)

  7. The Big Picture – Confusion over NPR and Aadhaar
    Rajya Sabha TV

  8. Aadhaar is Dangerous

  9. Repository of aadhaar related articles:
    compiled by Ram Krishnaswamy

  10. NATGRID, UIDAI & NPR Emerging As India’s NSA