Please AADHAAR (Help) Me
India has seen 67 years of independence and brags to be called as the world largest democracy, but as years go by, one question still continues to surge the minds of all. Is India still capable of counting its own citizens efficiently? Does every Citizen who deep within feels that he/she is an Indian get a formal acknowledgement of the same by the countries administrative system? Does Identity refer to mere census, something not more than an existing figure on papers or is it something more than that. The Government of India’s most ambitious project of providing its citizens an identity of their own AADHAAR is today on the verge being tried, tempered and tested. The chief question everyone wants an answer to even before being called a citizen is
What is the essence of being called a citizen of India?
- Is it having a house?
The answer to that would be a flat No. Then why ask for an Address proof. When the stark reality is that an address can change anytime. And more often than not at least once in a life time of every individual. There are a deficit of over a crore home even in our so called Metros of India. Why then are we asking for an address proof then. One may argue that having a house is not a necessity for enrolling oneself with an Unique Identification Number, but the stark reality is far more worse, as those homeless citizen are the last ones who get looked on by the UIDAI. What a disgust.
- Is it having a birth certificate?
With 2.4% annual growth rate in India, it can be calculated that India gives birth to an average of 62 children per minute. But the dark shadow also lurches over it, that is, only 34 of these births are registered every minute (www.expressindia.com) while the others go in the heap of those who are never existent in any formal book (www.wiki.answers.com). What a strange paradox, In a country where we are talking about an uncounted 28 unregistered births per minute, we also talk about a prestigious venture of having all our citizens identified with a single number. The fathers who have masterminded this venture (Aadhaar) have seemingly failed to realise that more than half the Indian population that lives in the rural area, don’t really need to know their birth dates. That is because they never make a pompous occasion of their birthdays by cutting cakes, in fact they feel much more pleased when they see a bread which they hardly get twice a day. More than half the times, the lucky ones who make themselves to school create their own birth dates, irrespective of the actual registration. In fact my own father has two birth dates, one that’s written on his birth certificate and the other that earmarks his beginning of school. The latter is used now more often.
- Or Is it having an identity as sophisticated as being hidden beneath your own palm (Finger prints) and iris scan?
This sure makes sense much more than all the other queries that were previously discussed as it identifies a person in real but just hold on before you move a bit more further. The entire process of having the entire countries bio-metrics in one place poses a huge threat, not only to individual citizens but also the Nation as a whole.
Some Limitations we need to know before we apply for an AADHAAR card?
A Devil’s Shadow Looms over.
Right from the start, the entire process of UID feels like a sham. The official web site of AADHAAR clearly states that this registration is completely based on a voluntary basis and is no ways mandatory (http://uidai.gov.in/what-is-aadhaar-number.html) thus further taking no responsibility for any misuse that may occur at a future date. UID activist Gopal Krishna points out to the ambiguities present in the National Identification Bill (The Bill on the basis of which such a venture took wings) which in the first place should have been rectified even before the process began. The UIDAI’s authority to collect the bio-metrics is questionable. There have been reports of ambiguity even within the cabinet ministry over this issue, with the Home Ministry not agreeing to share data because of the questionable channel through which the AADHAAR agencies are functioning. The official website also clearly points out that will provide responses in Yes or No to any identification authentication queries to agencies that sought to verify ones identification, what it does not say, (that’s what is more dangerous) is that one will not be informed as to when and why his/her identification information is shared. There is no way to monitor one own identity. Astonishing, but true.
A Self defeating Objective
The Congress band wagon, Rahul Gandhi in his Canvassing campaigns had been boating about how UID is meant for the poor, even for once without realising what he meant. The laborers and the poor often end up not having clearly defined fingerprints as a result of excessive manual labour, similar is the case with the old people with dry hands. Weak iris scans of people with cataract also pose problems. In such a scenario there have been cases in which agencies have even refused to register them, thus defeating the very aim of inclusion of poor and marginalised.
Recent estimates point to a figure of USD 3.3 billion (Rs. 180,000 million ) without including hardware expenses , firmware, software and data communication links necessary for inter-linkages between various secondary agencies. Besides that, maintenance, replacement of cards and training cost too is excluded from the above mentioned figure. The UK government had to recently close down one of such ventures due to unaffordable maintenance and Security lapses. The projected cost that came up to nothing less than £100 – £150 per card. Is India ready for this yet?
Puppet on a String with an untrusted puppeteer
This is what Prof. Ramakumar Ram of TISS, had to say regarding the entrusted Big brother:
The GOI, over the decades, has had a rather patchy record as far as upholding democratic norms and people’s rights, including the right to freedom of speech, are concerned. For many years, TV was under state control. During the Emergency, declared in 1975, many of the fundamental rights were suspended, a major clampdown was enforced on the print media and quite a few prominent politicians, then in the opposition, were imprisoned. During the last several years, the government has made repeated attempts to stifle dissenting voices and has embarked on doing so particularly in the digital and social media space. The various attempts to censor the internet and impose even pre-censorship on social media posts has been well documented by Shobha SV in this blog piece. Over the last couple of years, various state governments and bureaucrats, utilizing the provisions of the draconian, confusing and potentially untenable Section 66A of the amended I.T. Act, analyzed in detail here by the Centre for Internet & Society columnist, have arrested various citizens in different parts of the country, mostly for totally innocuous posts or comments in social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. In one such recent instance, a young lady was arrested merely for ‘liking’ her friend’s post.Taken together with the humongous corruption cases which have blighted this administration’s reputation and credibility for several years now and the many instances of poor government handling of projects and schemes, there is a growing feeling that the government itself cannot be trusted with all the data on citizens and residents that the UIDAI database will get to compile eventually. The possibilities of selective persecution of individuals by petty politicians, officials and even the law-enforcement authorities, to stifle criticism and exposures which could embarrass the government or certain powerful political figures and to settle scores, utilizing the data ‘available’, loom large.