UID Aadhaar project is said to be “not mandatory - Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)
Though UID Aadhaar project is said to be “not mandatory”, it appears to be aimed squarely at being made non-optional, and is being forced on the public by using threat of exclusion from availing benefits and services, and threat of denial of rights like salary or pension, amounting to devious coercion unbecoming of a democratically elected government.
Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd) in a letter addressed to President of India with copies to the Prime Minister of India, Governor of Karnataka and Chief Minister of Karnataka further pointed out in his letter that UID Aadhaar project is technically deficient (bio metrics unproven), a security risk, and invasive of privacy, besides directly going against the advice of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (PSCF), which has people's representatives from all political parties.
Given below the full text of the letter addressed to the President of India is given below:
The cause for this letter
1.1 I am a pensioner, having retired in 1996, living in Mysore, Karnataka. Mysore is one of the districts chosen for the first phase of implementation of the UID Aadhaar project, under which, according to Deccan Herald, Bangalore, newspaper dated September 24, 2012, UIDAI claims that about 95% of the population has enrolled into the scheme. The same newspaper report states that “the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS) and the Rajiv Gandhi Awaz Yojana, the Ashraya housing scheme, Bhagyalakshmi and the social security and pension scheme“ will be implemented as a pilot project in Mysore district commencing January 1, 2013.
1.2 I have been informally advised that I should enroll myself into the UID Aadhaar scheme to get myself a UID Aadhaar card and number, since I may be unable to draw my pension without it. However, I understand and believe that my pension is protected by extant law, and Article 21 of the Constitution of India which protects my personal liberty, and hence my pension cannot be denied to me on the basis of not enrolling myself into the UID Aadhaar scheme.
1.3 The reasons I object to enrolment in the UID Aadhaar scheme are that:
1.3.1 Even though enrolment is stated to be “not mandatory”, provision of civic services like LPG supply, and now disbursement of pension, are unfairly and coercively being made contingent upon enrollment in the UID Aadhaar scheme, in violation of my rights, and
1.3.2 My right to privacy will be compromised by providing my biometrics and other personal details to the UID system, whose data security is in doubt.
1.4 I apprehend that I will personally be confronted by this unethical, devious manner of forceful enrolment into the not-mandatory UID Aadhaar scheme, and be denied my pension. I am presenting my detailed arguments below, which I request you to peruse.
2.1 UID Aadhaar scheme is not mandatory.
2.1.1 UIDAI has announced that enrolment in the UID Aadhaar scheme is not mandatory, but it also mentions that it will be difficult for people to access public services in the absence of enrollment. Far from offering inclusion, the UID Aadhaar scheme threatens exclusion from rights, benefits and services. Thus, obviously based upon instructions issued by functionaries of the central and state governments, citizens' rights or government benefits and services are being linked to the UID Aadhaar number.
2.1.2 The following few examples suffice to show the links over a variety of instances connected with the not-mandatory UID Aadhaar enrolment:
184.108.40.206 Registering a marriage at the Kapashera Sub-Magistrate's Office was not permitted without an Aadhaar number, even when other documents of identification were made available [“To register marriage, get Aadhaar first”; Indian Express, New Delhi, January 23, 2013;
220.127.116.11 The Employees Provident Fund scheme has become Aadhaar-linked [“Provident fund to be Aadhaar-based now“; Times of India, Nagpur; January 23, 2013]. This has been objected to, by trade unions and others.
18.104.22.168 Aadhaar number has been linked to jobs, housing and MNREGA in Karnataka [“Aadhaar to be linked to jobs, housing, pension schemes”; Deccan Herald, Bangalore, September 24, 2012], and people are protesting against the UID Aadhaar scheme. The Deccan Herald report goes on to state, “Despite wide protests against UID, the official believes its second phase will generate interest when it starts enrolments from October 20”, and “'Had it not been for large-scale protests, the UID?project would have covered at least 85 percent of the population across the State,'?he said”.
22.214.171.124 The Times of India, Ranchi, August 28, 2012, reported: “Several months after the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) started its project for enrolment and distribution of Aadhaar cards to citizens in Jharkhand, the state government has now decided to make it mandatory for payment of salary and pension to state employees. The move seems to have given the necessary impetus to the enrolment process which was, otherwise, slow during the second phase”.
126.96.36.199 Teachers in Thane, Maharashtra, were denied salaries in the absence of Aadhaar number [“No UID, no salary, Thane teachers told“; Times of India, Mumbai, August 26, 2011].
2.1.3 The foregoing few representative examples demonstrate how government functionaries or officials are using the threat of exclusion from authorized benefits and services, or actually denying the rights of salary or pension, to force enrolment. This appears to be a ploy to give impetus to the not-mandatory UID Aadhaar scheme which would otherwise not attract people. Indeed, after using such devious coercive means, UIDAI has announced that the UID Aadhaar scheme is popular among people because the enrolment is high. But since enrolment into the UID Aadhaar scheme is not mandatory, as a citizen of a democratic nation, I am opposed to being forced into it by such extra-legal, unethical, coercive methods.
2.2 Biometrics, data security and privacy.
2.2.1 It remains unclear, even doubtful, whether biometry-information technology – the technological cornerstone of the project – is capable of the gigantic task of de-duplication in a billion-plus population. This is true in view of UIDAI's Biometrics Standards Committee itself having noted that retaining biometric efficiency for a database of more than one billion persons “has not been adequately analysed” and the problem of fingerprint quality in India “has not been studied in depth”. Further, it is well established that fingerprints of people who do manual work are often worn out or even missing, as with rural agricultural workers or urban domestic workers. These people, who are in enormous numbers and declared beneficiaries of the UID Aadhaar scheme, will not be able to receive social and other benefits even if they succeed in enrolling into the UID Aadhaar scheme.
2.2.2 The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (PSCF) had expressed concern on biometrics, stating that collection of biometric information and linking it with personal information is not within the ambit of the Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship Rules 2003, and hence “needs to be examined in detail by Parliament”. The PSCF urged government to “reconsider and review the UID scheme as also the proposals contained in the Bill in all its ramifications and bring forth a fresh legislation before Parliament”.
Further, the PSCF has opined that the UID Aadhaar scheme is “full of uncertainty in technology as the complex scheme is built upon untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions”. Indeed, the PSCF found the UID Aadhaar project to be “conceptualized with no clarity” and “directionless”. The reference is to biometrics technology, which has been found to be unreliable in several scientific studies. To neglect the opinion of Parliament and not even review the UID project amounts to contempt of Parliament, the supreme organ of our democracy. It is incumbent upon government to reveal the steps taken to protect the privacy of citizens before acquiring biometric information.
2.2.3 The security of biometric data and other information acquired by UIDAI is in question for the following reasons:
188.8.131.52 The UID Aadhaar system can provide the link between various data bases and it will inevitably be at the core of a system which will enable profiling and tracking any citizen, to serve the clandestine purposes of India's security or intelligence agencies, or to corporate business interests.
184.108.40.206 UIDAI and UID Aadhaar promoters claim that access to its data base will not be permitted to any agency, and will be secure from intelligence agencies. However, this claim is hollow, because the Aadhaar project is contracted to receive technical support from L-1 Identity Solutions Inc., a US-based intelligence and surveillance corporation whose top executives are acknowledged experts in the US intelligence community, as revealed in the corporation's website. According to the UIDAI website, among other companies awarded contracts for collaboration in the Aadhaar project, are Accenture Services Pvt Ltd., which works with US Homeland Security, and Ernst & Young (which will set up UIDAI's Central ID Data Repository (CIDR)). Further, it is well known that US law requires all agencies to provide any information demanded of them to the US Homeland Security Agency, when asked. Thus, it is arguably impossible to ensure the security of sensitive national information when the technical provider or consultant is not a government body but a business corporation with strong connections to the intelligence organization of another country,K/u> and which may, according to law, be constrained to part with information that it may have legally or illegally acquired when it worked as UIDAI's contractor.
2.2.4 If biometric data and other information of people falls into the hands of unauthorized agencies, personal privacy is unequivocally compromised. The fact that UIDAI has no answer to the security hazards pointed out to it, and is silent or evasive on the subject, does not inspire confidence in the capability of UIDAI or the UID Aadhaar system to maintain personal privacy rights. This is quite apart from the plethora of scientific data available that shows how fingerprints are not reliable indicators of unique identity. In view of all the foregoing, I fear for violation of my personal right to privacy by enrolling into the UID Aadhaar scheme.
3. My earnest, urgent requests
3.1 I have argued above that the UID Aadhaar project is technically deficient (biometrics unproven), a security risk, and invasive of privacy, besides directly going against the advice of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (PSCF), which has people's representatives from all political parties. Though the UID Aadhaar project is said to be “not mandatory”, it appears to be aimed squarely at being made non-optional, and is being forced on the public by using threat of exclusion from availing benefits and services, and threat of denial of rights like salary or pension, amounting to devious coercion unbecoming of a democratically elected government.
3.2 Further, the UID Aadhaar project is unsupported by law. You would be aware that when the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 was presented to Parliament, the PSCF did not merely reject the Bill, but also stated that the UID Aadhaar project itself should be returned to the drawing board.
3.3 In view of the foregoing arguments, and since my pension is likely to be denied to me because of my not having an Aadhaar number, I urgently and earnestly request you to
3.3.1 Issue immediate, unambiguous orders to the concerned union ministries and state governments, that making UID Aadhaar enrolment necessary for receiving rightful entitlements like pension and salary, and food-and-water, health, education, civil supplies and other welfare benefits, be stopped with immediate effect.
3.3.2 Widely publicize the orders at central government and state government levels, so that people may make a personal choice whether or not to enrol into the UID Aadhaar scheme to obtain a UID Aadhaar number.
3.3.3 Monitor the implementation of these orders in the best interests of the freedom of Indian citizens.
(Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd))
- Asian Tribune -