The UID project or popularly known as Aadhaar first took initiative back in February 2009 when the Unique Identification Authority of India was setup by the Government of India to implement the Aadhaar scheme. The agency was established under the Planning Commission. The Aadhaar project was UPA Government’s one of the most ambitious projects which aimed at better governance by bringing control using existing technology and providing better basic services to all the citizens in the country.
In the last 5 years, numerous disputes have been associated with Aadhaar in terms of national security as well as the practical implications of it’s objectives. India currently has over 1.2 billion people and a project like Aadhaar that involves collection of biometric data is no easy task. It was estimated that between January 2009 till September 2013, about Rs. 3,500 crore was spent on operating costs and capital expenditure including enrollment of 50 crore personnel.
Why Aadhaar doesn’t show promise
1. Aadhaar is not a proof of Citizenship
One of the most surprising facts about Aadhaar is that it is not a proof of citizenship which itself is a big security loophole. Aadhaar is only an identification number and it only generates an unique ID for each person. The problem with this approach is the data being provided to UIDAI might be real or fake. There is no verification process to determine whether the data is correct or false.
The spending of thousands of crores doesn’t justify this approach at all. If we look at some of the other national identifications like Passport and Voter ID Card are actually proof of citizenship.
2. Aadhaar raises some serious National Security concerns
Aadhaar only generates an unique ID for each person. Since there is no verification process of the data being submitted, there is no way to validate the correctness of the data. Surprisingly, Aadhaar has also been issued to non-citizens and illegal immigrants.
India’s intelligence bureau has repeatedly raised National Security concerns over the process of how Aadhaar is issued and how it can be a threat to the country. Since, there is no control over who’s getting the UID, they are also likely to encourage terrorism even more.
On September 23, 2013, the Supreme Court of India issued an order that Aadhaar cannot be issued to illegal immigrants.
Check out the video below to see how the delivery of Aadhaar card is flawed and literally hundreds of cards were found in dustbins.
3. Aadhaar’s role in providing Basic Public Services and Social Security Benefits is a big disappointment
When the UPA Government first came up with the Aadhaar scheme, it aimed at providing Public Services and Social Security Benefits to those who needed the most. It was also aimed at reducing the misuse of the Government subsidized products most commonly Petroleum and Cooking Gas. The intention with which the whole program was launched was noble and needless to say that the project itself generated crores of employment around the country. But somewhere along the line, the program fell through and quickly gave away to a lot of disputes – social, administrative and political.
One of the recent and most widespread disputes that extends to every household in the country is linking of Aadhaar to the customer’s bank account to avail LPG subsidy. On September 23, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhaar is not mandatory to avail Public Services as well as Social Security Benefits. Soon after the judgement, there were a lot of issues that came up and very recently the UPA government decided to de-link the Aadhaar scheme to avail LPG subsidy.
The basic methodology would have been that customers pay the full non-subsidized price to the Gas Agency and the subsidy price would be credited to the customer’s bank account which would be linked via Aadhaar. The UPA Government’s latest decision to de-link Aadhaar with LPG subsidy soon raised another kicker. Those customers who took the trouble of linking Aadhaar and their bank account would have to pay the full non-subsidized cylinder price and get the subsidy price in the bank account. But those who didn’t , don’t have to do anything. They can avail the cylinder at normal subsidized price.
There have also been issues with getting the subsidy credit in the customer’s bank account. Recently, a The Hindu article stated that consumers were buying a gas cylinder for Rs. 1200 and there were delays of minimum 15 days to get the subsidy credit in the bank account. There’s no way a middle class family is able to shell out Rs. 1200+ for a gas cylinder.
4. Aadhaar and Privacy Issues
Aadhaar no doubt is a big project and it involves collection of data including biometric scans of your eyes and finger prints. So, it is very safe to say, that there’s a lot of data for a single agency.
Privacy issues have always taken up one of the most important issues and with so much data, there’s no telling how dangerous it can be in the wrong hands. There have always been reports about about tracking, tapping and surveillance on people by the Government.
Though Aadhaar’s intention was very good but some of the policies and approach have led down the project to a completely impractical road and to salvage it the Government needs to find a way bring it back on a more practical approach.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an independent Honorable Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha from Bangalore has been very active in raising awareness about the different issues related to the Aadhaar scheme.