The Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) of Indian Constitution mandates government to provide various kinds of welfare measures to the people. These initiatives like old age pension, scholarships, food supply at cheap prices suffered from issues of leakages in absence of proper universal identification tool. Aadhaar initiative uses the advancements in technical fields to sort out the legacy issues of exclusion, corruption and provide many other ancillary benefits. The Aadhaar Bill gives statutory backing to whole process.
What is the Bill all about?
• The Bill intends to provide for targeted delivery of subsidies and services to individuals residing in India by assigning them unique identity numbers, called Aadhaar numbers.
What is Aadhaar?
• It is a 12 digit individual identification number issued by UIDAI (Unique identification authority of India), on behalf of Government of India.
• It will serve as identity and address anywhere in India.
What are the Features of Aadhar?
• It is available in 2 forms, physical and electronic form (e-Aadhaar).
• Any resident (a person who has resided in India for 182 days, in the one year preceding the date of application for enrollment for Aadhaar.) of India irrespective of age, sex, class can avail it.
• Information to be submitted:
a. biometric (photograph, finger print, iris scan)
b. demographic (name, date of birth, address) information.
• At the time of enrollment, the individual will be informed of,
(i) the manner in which the information will be used,
(ii) the nature of recipients with whom the information will be shared, and
Process of Authentication:
• The UID authority will authenticate the Aadhaar number of an individual, if an entity makes such a request. A requesting entity (an agency or person that wants to authenticate information of a person) has to obtain the consent of an individual before collecting his information.
Security measures taken to maintain privacy are:
• Privacy: only minimal data (Name, gender, email, residence, biometrics, DoB, etc) is collected (on the recommendations of N Vittal Committee). No data can be collected on religion, economic status, PAN, passport, etc.
• Strong security and data protection measures including highest level of encryption make it impossible to mine data from field computers.
• During the authentication stage UIDAI will only tell whether authentication was successful or not. No biometric information will be shared.
• UIDAI will record the entity requesting verification of a person’s identity, the time of request and the response received by the entity.
• The purpose for which an individual's identity needs to be verified will not be maintained.
• All operators/supervisors are also mandated to have UID. In case of any lapse, they can be blacklisted.
• Electronic field audit enables traceability of operator.
• There are strict penalties for unauthorized access to the centralized data-base, including revealing any information stored in it and requesting and enrolling agencies can be punished for violation of rules.
Cases when information may be revealed:
In two cases, information may be revealed:
• In the interest of national security, a Joint Secretary in the central government may issue a direction for revealing information.
• Such a decision will be reviewed by an Oversight Committee (comprising Cabinet Secretary, Secretaries of Legal Affairs and Electronics and Information Technology) and will be valid for six months.
• On the order of a court, (i) an individual’s Aadhaar number, (ii) photograph, and (iii) demographic information, may be revealed.
What are the uses of Aadhaar number?
• Aadhaar will be used for the purpose of authentication of the identity of a person receiving a subsidy or a service. Any public or private entity can accept the Aadhaar number as a proof of identity of the Aadhaar number holder, for any purpose. For example Ola cab can use it for authenticating the identity of cab drivers, PDS cardholders identity can be authenticated.
• If a person does not have an Aadhaar number then government will require them to apply for it, and in the meanwhile, provide an alternative means of identification.
• Aadhaar number cannot be a proof of citizenship or domicile.
Benefits of Aadhar
• Easy hassle free access to services (banking, LPG, phone number, etc).
• Migrants: Provides identification to large number of migrant labours to avail services.
• Financial inclusion: The identification enables easy opening of bank account leading to financial inclusion of rural folks and ease of operations for banks through Banking Correspondent.
• Online cost effective verification of beneficiaries leads to Good Governance (minimum government maximum Governance).
• Unique and robust platform to check duplication and ghost cards.
• Subsidy costs can be hugely reduced by cutting down intermediaries and eliminating ghost cards.
C. Reduction in fake identity:
• As only one identity card is provided to a person (linked to individual biometrics), there is incentive to be genuine.
• Misuse of Data by government: The provision that access to information will be at very high Government level, there is an apprehension that this data can be misused.
• Mandatory nature of Aadhaar:
a. Sec 7 gives sweeping power to Government to make Aadhaar mandatory for wide range of services, which goes against the spirit of Supreme Court 2015 judgment that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory to avail government services.
b. Sec 57 gives power to government to impose Aadhaar in any other context, putting concerns over individual privacy and rights.
• Aadhaar is not panacea for all kinds of leakages. As duplication and ghost card related losses make only one part of the bigger issues of pilferage and corruption (e.g- selection of beneficiary, coercion by local politicians). This cannot be considered as a silver bullet to the malice of corruption.
• Exclusion: Experts have repeatedly pointed out the instances of exclusion of beneficiaries for want of Aadhaar. For e.g. in Jharkhand, MGNREGA functionaries have cancelled job cards to arrive at 100% Aadhaar job seeding.
• Internet connectivity is essential for authentication, which is not available in India. So there are many a times problems in authentication.
• Passage as money bill: This has been considered by some to be an attempt to bypass debate(As Rajya Sabha can only make recommendation but no amendments to a money bill and the present government enjoys majority to pass the bill in Lok Sabha)
To serve 1.2 billion citizens in a time bound manner and to curb the menace of corruption in service delivery, technology platform like Aadhaar can act as a catalytic force to achieve the goal of Good Governance. However genuine concerns regarding privacy and data security must be addressed to through awareness building, discussions and democratic dialogues with all stake holders.
• 2012: Justice Puttaswamy files PIL in Supreme court asking for a stay on Aadhaar as it violates right to privacy and lacks legal backing
• 2014: Supreme court restrains UIDAI from transferring bio-information to any other agency without individual consent
• 2015: Supreme court (3 judge bench) restrains Government to make Aadhaar mandatory to avail services
• Supreme court (5 judge bench) Allows extension of Aadhaar to MGNREGA, Jan Dhan Yojana and Employee provided fund).