SUPREME COURT DIRECTIONS
Aadhaar is neither necessary nor sufficient to deliver any benefits, rights and entitlements. Each benefit, right or entitlement requires its own ID and information that can neither be captured by Aadhaar nor was Aadhaar ever needed to deliver these.
The Supreme Court has asked the Union of India on 11 August to give wide publicity in the electronic and print media including radio and television networks that it is not mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card. It also said that the Unique Identification Number or the Aadhaar card will not be used for any purpose other than the public distribution scheme (PDS), and in particular, for the purpose of distribution of food grains and cooking fuel, such as kerosene and the LPG distribution scheme.
In the presence of over a dozen different IDs, each of which serves a purpose that is not replaceable by another ID, there is no purpose served by Aadhaar. The passport, the driver’s licence, the PAN card, etc., serve a purpose that cannot be replaced by Aadhaar.
When issued based on already existing IDs, it only adds yet another layer of red-tape. This is further highlighted by the fact that only 0.03% of Aadhaar numbers are issued to those without any other ID. When Aadhaar numbers are issued by “introducers”, it serves no useful purpose, as it is not subject to any audit or verification.
The responsibility to address more serious issues of national security, financial terrorism and governability due to the continued use and linkages created by Aadhaar rest on the government
NOT VERIFIED DATA
No-one certifies Aadhaar as a “proof of identity” or “proof of address”. Its database has neither been verified nor audited. The agencies that did the enrolment, or their employees, did not have any security clearance. The whereabouts of most of these agencies or the enrolment forms they collected are unknown today. The enrolment agencies had no restrictions on use of data and were even given the Aadhaar numbers allotted for the data they had submitted, leaving them free to exploit the data as they will. It requires little imagination to recognise that the entire population who enrolled into Aadhaar has been made vulnerable to identity thefts. In fact, the whole country has been made vulnerable to fake identities and facilitates organised criminal activity.
Aadhaar has now become an easy route to generate passports, drivers’ licences, ration cards, PAN cards and “real” identities that are indistinguishable from genuine ones obtained without Aadhaar. This means it is now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish an infiltrator from a genuine citizen.
From the procedure announced by the UIDAI to recover lost Aadhaar numbers, it is evident that several records are returned for each biometric and demographic information, to narrow the match to 5-10 entries. This also means that de-duplication using biometrics is a mere theoretical exercise and biometrics cannot produce a unique ID. The number, therefore, proves nothing and identifies nothing and will make tracking down infiltrators near impossible.
In the presence of over a dozen different IDs, each of which serves a purpose that is not replaceable by another ID, there is no purpose served by Aadhaar.
MONEY LAUNDERING, FINANCIAL TERRORISM
The RBI has accepted the electronic submission of Aadhaar to open accounts without restriction of Anti-money Laundering Rules, the RBI’s Master Circular on KYC, the Financial Action Task Force and the Basel Standards of keeping customer data.
It is evident that thus, anyone in possession of the data collected by enrolment agencies can now open bank accounts by remote submission of Aadhaar numbers. Those whose genuine data may have been used, have no way of knowing that bank accounts have been opened in their name. Unfortunately, JAM (JanDhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) numbers and Jan Dhan accounts can be generated en-masse by anyone with access to such Aadhaar databases.
Such accounts can not only siphon away “Direct Benefit Transfers”, park black money, receive bribes, but also launder money. These money transfers through Aadhaar based payment systems are virtually unauditable and will be extremely difficult to detect or investigate. What more would be necessary for such accounts to facilitate terrorists, organised criminals and corrupt officials?
SOVEREIGNTY UNDER THREAT
When a significant number of fakes take over an electoral constituency, are used to deny or provide benefits to a class of residents by agencies under control of external agents, or infiltrate organisations responsible for national security, we are headed towards a compromise of the sovereignty of the country.
Aadhaar is often justified as a vehicle to plug leakages and weed out corruption, but that will not be the case if it is based on an unverified and unaudited database.
Claims of having plugged leakages in LPG or PDS using Aadhaar are at best hiding the denial of subsidy and benefit to real beneficiaries by restructuring schemes so that subsidy or benefit is no longer accessible. The World Bank in its recent report has highlighted exclusion caused by identification schemes. PAHAL, the LPG subsidy scheme, for example, does not provide subsidy to those who do not have an Aadhaar based bank account or a bank account linked to the LPG number. This is not plugging leakage, it is exclusion and denial of benefit. This is precisely how an external force in control of the Aadhaar databases can take away sovereignty of benefits.
The use of Aadhaar by any forces to alter electoral lists, to provide or deny benefits or infiltrate organisations is not inconceivable. This is a risk India cannot afford to sleep on.
Aadhaar has only massive costs to national security, sovereignty, financial terrorism, money laundering and stolen identity or the theft of a part or the entire registry.
A POLITICAL HOT POTATO
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been amongst the strongest critics of Aadhaar, recognising that it was running on mere executive order and not legislative sanction. In March 2014, he had referred to it as a political gimmick. He had further highlighted that neither the team that met him, nor then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been able to allay his concerns and fears about national security over Aadhaar.
India cannot afford to watch over its destruction, waste and loot, as has been happening over the last 10 years.
It will be only fitting to PM’s Modi’s commitment to minimum government and good governance that he acts on UPA’s Frankenstein Aadhaar. PM Modi must step in quickly to examine and act suitably on the entire Aadhaar programme and its entire database and linkages.
In the meanwhile, you can reduce your risks by refusing to link your Aadhaar to any database and ask for it to be delinked from PDS and LPG schemes.
Dr Anupam Saraph, a Professor, Future Designer and former governance and IT adviser to former Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and the Global Agenda Councils of the World Economic Forum, can be found on Twitter at @AnupamSaraph