Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Aadhar/UID: The Myths behind the National Identity Project

Col (Retd) Mathew Thomas happens to be one of the many crusaders who are trying to bust the myths surrounding the Adhar/UID. As per Col Thomas and the many anti-UID activists, UID number is highly invasive and raises serious concern regarding the critical personal and biometric information. What Adhar does is ask for one of the 14 identities recognized by the Government of India and an address proof and issues a number against those proofs of identity. UID number or fingerprints or irises do not identify the person like the passport does, until the person handling the database vouches for your identity. The government's tall claims of arresting leakage of subsidies also falls flat since the government has conducted no studies on how the leakage has happened.

As opposed to the government's promises of issuing cylinders against a UID number, and directing subsidies to lower income groups, the cylinders are being distributed to the public sector against the UID numbers of citizens. The exemption given to commercial consumers was not accounted for. Also the need for UID for the transfer of subsidy to bank account is ridiculous. Only the bank account number is needed to transfer the subsidies as against the popular notion of a UID number. The money doled out for the project is a waste as biometrics is a probablistic answer. It is difficult to capture the traits of a human in real time. The quality of fingerprints may be poor in elderly people and those who do manual labour. Also for people with visual impairment like retinopathy or glucoma etc. iris prints may not be as perfect as for those with empirically average eye sight. Then how can biometrics be considered a full proof method of identifying a person. More so, Adhar doesn't recognize the migrants or the mobility of population that moves around in search of livelihood. Thus UID in no way grants citizenship to the citizens of India. It is also being issued to foreign nationals and illegal immigrants putting the national security at stake. Justice Puttaswamy filed a PIL against the UID seeking its conversion to a citizenship card like in USA to weed out illegal immigrants. Moreover no parliamentary approval on UIDAI was sought. The bill rejected by a 30 member panel was bulldozed by an Executive order. 

Similar PIL's have been filed by Citizens forum for Civil Liberties and The Beghar Mazdoor foundation, an NGO working for the upliftment of the poor. Aadhar is therefore violating the right to privacy and dignity which forms part of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. How then can this national identity project be deemed rightfully constitutional and in lieu of the laws laid down to guard the citizens of the country? The project therefore be halted to conduct: A feasibility study to cover all the aspects of the project, with the main focus on the workability. Experts must be asked to verify its constitutional significance. The law on privacy should be urgently worked on to protect the rights of the citizens. A cost benefit analysis of the project should be conducted while giving an account of the costs incurred. A public, informed debate be conducted through newpapers,television, neighbourhood meets etc before any such major change is brought in.

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