The UIDAI is the nodal agency which was setup back in 2009 to overlook the Aadhaar project by the Planning Commission. But since then, thousands of crores of taxpayer’s money has been spent with very little results. Aadhaar linkage with various services soon became baseless only because of the policy adopted by the UPA Government.
Why Aadhaar Linkage with Basic Services in the First Place ?
Before I get into the details of how a good intention backfired, let’s discuss some of the reasons to adopt this policy in the first place.
Aadhaar scheme was launched with the mission to provide an unique identification number to all the people throughout the country. Aadhaar was supposed to be similar to how the Social Security Number works in the US. The basic difference between Aadhaar and other legal documents like Driving Licenses, Passport, PAN Cards and Voter ID is that they are all entitlements which entitles you with some facility. However, Aadhaar is supposed to be an “all-in-one” package. In the US, you can obtain everything with someone’s SSN.
Another reason to make Aadhaar mandatory was to make it usable in people’s daily lives. Aadhaar will also act as an Authentication Gateway. For example, if you went to a bank to create a bank account, you would need carry all sorts of legal documents like address proof, identity proof etc. But what if you didn’t have to be anymore ? The Aadhaar card would provide authentication of your fingerprints and your iris. It would have been a foolproof method to prevent misuse and false activities.
This was one of the top reasons that Aadhaar was made mandatory for availing basic services like LPG Subsidy, Scholarships and even Pensions & Provident Fund. Like Banking application, it could have been extended to the other areas of people’s daily lives. The aim of the scheme was very genuine and noble however several issues raised some serious concerns.
Why the idea of Aadhaar Linkage with Basic Services was scrapped ?
Apart from security concerns there were also legal factors based on which the Supreme Court gave a verdict that Aadhaar should not be mandatory for availing government benefits and services like pensions and provident fund. The idea was to provide pensions and provident fund to bank accounts linked with Aadhaar via a scheme known as the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme.
The first legal point came up against the the policy was that the collection of biometric scans of fingerprints and iris were violating the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The second reason was that there was no safeguard to protect the sensitive data that were being collected. The responsible of gathering data was given to third party organizations and there was no way to monitor their activities ( if they did something illegal ). The data can be easily released in the public domain by miscreants or even by someone in the inside.
The third reason was that Aadhaar was being issued to illegal immigrants in the country. The Supreme Court specifically asked UIDAI not to do so because it would legitimize their stay in the country. With so many highly sensitive schemes attached to the Aadhaar, this came up to be a serious National Security concern. Using it, the illegal immigrants would have been able to gain access Government benefits and services.
The most important reason in my opinion would be the validation of data that were being submitted. The data was submitted using the already existing documents that the people already possess even though they may not be correct. There were even instances where Date of Birth which is an eligibility parameter to avail services like Pensions and Scholarships.