Saturday, August 3, 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ In the name of the poor

Usha Ramanathan

In the beginning, and for some time thereafter, the UID project based its claims of legitimacy on the 'inclusion' of the poor. In marketing the project, phrases such as giving identity to those without an identity, being "recognised in the eyes of the government", the "lack of identity" as "especially detrimental (to) the poor and the underprivileged", and the people who live in India's "social, political and economic periphery" have been used liberally.

The movement away from the promise of inclusion to the threat of exclusion if a person is not enrolled for a UID came later, beginning tentatively in 2011 but becoming aggressive and vocal in 2012. It was January 2013 before the poor were led into panic when UID-linked bank accounts were made mandatory for receiving entitlements by cash transfer into banks. Many of them had IDs that recognised their entitlements, for instance ration cards, NREGA job cards, voter ID, post office accounts - but they were now being told that they could not reach their entitlements if they did not have a UID number.
Enrolling the undefined class of the unidentified poor is a complicated exercise. The N.Vittal headed Demographic Standards Committee recognised this, and suggested an approach where "approved introducers" could introduce a person to the system and "vouch for the validity of residents' information." This idea was borrowed from the account opening procedure in banks; with a significant departure. An introducer must have a UID number; must be easily accessible to the resident; must be above the age of 18 and must not have a criminal record. NGOs were encouraged to act as introducers. But, while an introducer needs to be "approved" by the Registrar, there is no requirement that the introducer must know the person to be enrolled. This might have seemed a pragmatic resolution of the issue of enrolment of the poor and those without identity, but it was bound to raise its own set of problems.
A case in point is the well-documented instance of the homeless in Delhi. In January 2011, I visited the Pul Mithai enrolment centre to understand how the poor were being enrolled. Under the Delhi Government's 'Mission Convergence' in which the government and NGOs share a platform for policy-making and implementation, a survey of the homeless had been carried out using the benignant though inexperienced services of an informal roster of young persons. At that point in the exercise, which had covered about 80,000 people, a "provisional ID card under Homeless Survey" carried the name, gender, age and a photograph along with an ID number which ran like this: 10HP 58/1G. 3042397. 'HP' stood for 'homeless people' and 1G for the place where they had been surveyed as sited on the Eicher map. 1G was Mori gate, 1B was Yamuna Bazaar and so on. On the reverse were a series of caveats and explanations, including this: "This ID card has been issued on the basis of self-reported information by the cardholder." The UID enrolment was done on the basis of this card.
The actual enrolment was a parody. The names were not complicated, but there were some discrepancies; for instance, where a card recorded a woman as Pooja Devi, she insisted that she was just Pooja. Gender was the easy part. Age was less certain. It often went by approximations and in some cases, the age recorded in the survey was plainly in error - a lady whose daughter had married recently couldn't be 26! We did a 'panchayat' to help her arrive at her age. 
The columns for the name of the father, and of the mother were left blank. The young lads doing the enrolment explained: "Yeh log NGO ke hain" or these people belong to the NGO, a new version of mai-baap. Where fingerprints did not work, and iris did, the system 'accepted' the fingerprints after the fourth try - in what is called 'forced capture'. Those enrolled had no idea of the consequences.
The address posed a problem. What is the address of a homeless person? The street where they are when surveyed? A pavement they occupy until a 'clean-up drive' chases them away? 
On the UID form, another option was used. The homeless were given the address of an NGO that out of benevolence was willing to lend its name. Except the NGOs are in places in South Delhi while Pul Mithai is near Old Delhi railway station and the address for delivering the UID letter, and for the UID linked bank account, would be that of the NGO. The two "introducers" at the enrolment centre were young and motivated but had no idea where those they were helping to enrol could be reached. 
So, many UID letters stayed undelivered - where the name and photograph did not help locate persons; or where, as in Geeta Colony, there was a 'clean up' drive between the enrolment and the UID letter reaching the NGO; or in Nizamuddin, where labourers engaged on works for the Commonwealth Games had moved to another site and could not be traced. Later, the Homeless Resources Centre became the address. But the problems are generic and won't vanish; and the HRCs are linked to projects with a limited shelf life after which they may cease to exist, or may morph into an altered entity.
This may have "enrolled" the homeless, but not in ways that gets them into an identity system that will help them.
Those in poverty live in a twilight zone of (il)legality. To them, an identity document is an especially valued possession. That is one reason that the voter ID was so sought after although not having a voter ID was no disqualification for voting; one among a plethora of ID documents would serve for the purposes of voting. The casualness with which the identity of the poor is being trifled with by the UID, and piggybacking on the poor in carrying on an experiment is, to use a euphemism, less than fair.

The dependence on an introducer who doesn't know the person being enrolled holds the potential to actually distort identity. At his World Bank talk in April 2013, Mr. Nandan Nilekani gave a description that has the virtue of simplicity but not quite of accuracy. An introducer, he said, "will say 'I know this person, he's Ram Singh approximately born in 1977, so, we give a date of birth. He has a home, he has a home; otherwise, if he is a homeless person, we'll give him an address c/o Homeless Shelter or whatever. Basically, then, the introducer stands as some sort of guarantee in some sense for that person. Then that person's data is entered, and he gets an ID. So, that's how these people get into the system… Remember, fundamentally you get only one ID in the system. So the ID that you give at the time of your enrolment is your name in this system for the rest of your life…which is why I refer to this as a 21st-century Ellis Island…what happened at Ellis Island, let's say in the 19th century or Nova Scotia in Canada in the 19th century? 
“You had all the boatloads of people coming from Europe, Eastern Europe, Croatia, Poland, wherever, Ireland, Italy, all that. And they would land at Ellis Island and they would have very complicated names. And the immigration officer would say, ah, no, I think from now on you be Sam David. And, from that day onwards, in the New World, he would be Sam David, no matter what his name was in the Old World. So, we do the same thing, you know. This person was out of the system, except physically he is in the same place, but virtually he is outside. He comes in and gets a name and that's his name in our system for the rest of his life. So think of it as a 21st-century version of the Ellis Island."
The author is an academic activist. She has been researching the UID and its ramifications since 2009.

The Statesman 26 July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ Card or number? Crow or cuckoo?

Usha Ramanathan
Four years into the UID project, on 31 January 2013, Ministers in the Central Cabinet were asking, what is the UID? A card? A number? Or both? 
There has been much perplexed questioning in these four years. Is the UID project about identity or identification? Is it about control and tracking or transparency? Is it about information or data? Is it a unique identity (UID) or a “Know Your Customer” (KYC)? Is the UID voluntary or mandatory? Is the information collected kept on a government database or with private companies? Is the UIDAI part of the state, or an entity that transits through the Planning Commission to become a private company when it reaches “steady state”? Is the UIDAI a back office for the National Population Register (NPR), or is it a competitor in the race to enrol? Is the UID part of a surveillance apparatus, or is it only to deliver entitlements? Is biometrics unimpeachable or this an experiment? Is it a game changer or an app? Is it a crow or a cuckoo? 
Despite the opacity of the project, its encounter with Parliament being disastrous, and many questions being raised about it, the project has surged ahead. How did that happen? 
Mr Nandan Nilekani answered that in his April talk at the Centre for Global Development in Washington. “Our view was that there was bound to be opposition,” he said. “That is a given. So, how do we address that? One was, do it quickly... Second was, do it quietly ... Third was, we said in any case there is going to be a coalition of opponents. So is there a way to create a positive coalition of people who have a stake in its success? So, one of the big things here is that there is a huge coalition of, you know, organisations, governments, banks, companies, others who have a stake now in its future. So, create a positive coalition that has the power to overpower or deal with anyone who opposes it.” 
Quickly.  It was announced very early in the project that the numbers would begin to roll out between August 2010 and February 2011. Enrolment actually began on 29 September 2010, well within target. This was a demonstration of efficiency which was to show up the difference between the UID project and any other such task undertaken by the government. The problem, of course, was that this haste left no time for field testing, or to verify the feasibility of the project or its details. Details such as, biometrics as unique identifiers across the swathe of population and across time; introducers who do not know the persons they are introducing to the system but who are “approved introducers” because they are known to the Registrar; “biometric exceptions”, that is persons for whom neither fingerprints nor iris work to enrol or to authenticate; the errors that rampant outsourcing was introducing into the system; the leakage that One Time Passwords has made likely, and the faked and spoofed fingerprint and the ease of identity fraud. 
These were still in the realm of the little known or unknown, but decisions to adopt biometrics had been made even before the experiment was to begin. Haste has meant that an untested system has been imposed on an entire population, and whether it will work or not will be known after a passage of time. The problem is compounded by the fervour with which the UIDAI, and Mr Nilekani, have been working to have the number seeded in all databases, and to have systems re-engineered to accommodate the UID. 
Quietly. There has, in fact, been no public debate on the project. The government has not spoken except to make the UID mandatory. Mr Nilekani and his team have been hard selling the UID to individuals and institutions, so that their adoption of the UID number would push up enrolment. The quiet on the consequences of the project is especially deafening, and no amount of questioning has produced more than a sullen silence. That explains why Aruna Roy has been speaking out against the project as being disrespectful of the poor and imposing on them a project about which they have been told nothing, the implications of which are unknown to them, and where they have been informed - after being initially told that this is an inclusive project - that they will lose their entitlements if they do not enrol and get themselves a number. 
The silence has been used effectively in the non-provision of information. When information was requested on the “full name, address and websites of the foreign companies which are of US and non-US origin or control”, there was something brazen about the response that “there are no means to verify whether the said companies/organisations are of US origin or not”. These companies were Sagem Morpho, L1 Identity Solutions and Accenture Services - with close ties with foreign intelligence agencies such as the CIA and Homeland Security! RTI activist Rakesh Dubbudu asked for the  Detailed Project Report which Ernst and Young produced for the UIDAI, but it was denied to him, citing breach of privilege of Parliament as the reason - presumably because the UIDAI had made it part of its submissions to the Standing Committee of Finance. When the contracts with companies that are holding our data were asked to be disclosed, commercial and competitive interest was cited while refusing to give information. 
Creating a positive 
coalition to overwhelm opposition: state governments, central ministries and departments, banks, oil companies, the medical establishment, schools ... the list continues to grow of those who are being encouraged to demand the UID as a prerequisite to services. On 29 June, Mr Nilekani reportedly said in a speech at the IIM Bangalore that they were in preliminary discussions with embassies to use the UID number to “simplify visa application procedures”. The passport, it would seem, is not sovereign document enough! Is 
anyone in government 
In May 2010, a team of corporate heads including the leadership from Chlorophyl, Pidilite, Future Brands, and Procter and Gamble with a few others put together a document for the UIDAI titled “Aadhaar: Communicating to a Billion”. The UID was a product to be branded and sold, and the group's prescription was to “create a simple uncomplicated construct that is not open to multiple interpretations”. The message of basic data + biometrics producing an identity was indeed simple. When it did not generate the enthusiasm that the UIDAI had perhaps hoped it would, mandatory enrolment did the trick. Alongside, by dwelling on the corruption and leakages that are commonly perceived problems in service delivery, and the `last mile' being somewhat intractable, the UID has been promoted as the wand that will wish all this away. At the Centre for Global Development, in April, Mr Nilekani fed the audience a wild fantasy: “Today, we have reached a point where large intractable social problems - not all problems but many of them - can be solved using what we have.” May be it was hyperbole; just may be.  
Mr Nilekani says to “think of this (the UID) as an app that answers the question ‘who am I?’ and then you can build all kinds of applications on it.” 
This is how the business model is being currently marketed.

The author is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009

The Statesman 26 July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ When Parliament spoke on the UID

Usha Ramanathan
There is currently no law that covers the UID project.
On 28 January 2009, an executive notification set up the UIDAI. It was to be the responsibility of the UIDAI to lay down plans and policies to implement the UID scheme, which would include giving UID numbers to residents, interlinking UID with partner databases on a continuous basis, to keep the database updated, and "take necessary steps to ensure collation of National Population Register (NPR) with UID (as per approved strategy)". It was also to "identify new partner/user agencies"; to "issue necessary instructions to agencies that undertake creation of databases… (to) enable collation and correlation with UID and its partner databases". The Planning Commission would be the nodal agency and the UIDAI “shall own and operate the database".
Since at least September 2009, concern about the consequences of enrolling and databasing people began to be voiced. At a meeting on 23 November 2009, Mr. Nandan Nilekani said that state governments, who were being approached to act as Registrars, that is those who would collect the data and pass it on to the UIDAI, were asking how they were to respond if queried about the authority under which they would hand over enrolment data to the UIDAI. Then there was the vacuum in law on privacy which no one denied was going to be impacted by a project such as this.
It was at a meeting called by the Planning Commission on 6 May 2010, that Mr. Nilekani conceded that a law would be drafted to govern the project. On 30 June 2010, a draft Bill was uploaded on the UIDAI website, and kept there for 14 days for comments. On 3 December 2010, the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha with scarcely any changes from the UIDAI's June 30 draft. The finance minister had apparently objected to a clause that would exempt the UIDAI from all taxes and duties, and that was deleted; and the definition of 'resident' was reworked with the Registrar General of India. By this time, enrolment, the issuing of numbers and databasing had already begun, from 29 September 2010.
The NIAI Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (SCF) which, after yearlong consideration of the Bill, and necessarily of the project, rejected both- the proposed law and the project itself. 'The Committee', the SCF concluded, "would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme as also the proposals contained in the Bill in all its ramifications and bring forth a fresh legislation before Parliament."
In July 2011, when some of us deposed before the SCF, its members were only talking about tweaking the law and seeing how they could help it reach a legally acceptable form. By December 2011, after they had had time to study the project and hear both proponents and detractors, the SCF had had a total reversal of opinion. What was it about the project, and the Bill, that led the SCF to this rejection?
For a start, the SCF was scathing about the UIDAI proceeding with the project when the law was still in the process of being devised; this is "unethical and violative of Parliament's prerogatives", the SCF said.
Then, they were concerned that the UID is for all residents, not only citizens.
The UID scheme, the SCF said, "is riddled with serious lacunae and concern areas". The UID scheme "has been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose ….  it is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion… [It has] failed to take concrete decisions on important issues such as identifying the focused purpose of the resident identity database; methodology of collection of data; … conferring statutory authority to the UIDAI since its inception …" Without a law, how would the UIDAI address key issues of security and confidentiality of information, the SCF asked, and how would it initiate proceedings and penalise breaches?
Overlapping of various initiatives, duplication of efforts and lack of coordination raised concerns about cost, and that it was being done in an "overbearing manner without regard to legalities and other social consequences". The committee was also "unhappy", they said, "to observe that the UID scheme lacks clarity on many issues such as even the basic purpose of issuing `aadhaar' number." And, "although the scheme claims that obtaining aadhaar number is voluntary, an apprehension (has) developed .. that, in future, services/benefits including food entitlements would be denied in case they do not have aadhaar number."
The United Kingdom had disbanded its ID cards project for reasons including the huge costs, the complexity, because it is "untested, unreliable and unsafe technology", and the possible risk to the safety and security of citizens. The SCF was impatient about the unwillingness to draw lessons from this, and related, global experience.
Reflecting the concerns that had been brought before the SCF, they were categorical that "considering the huge database size and possibility of misuse of information, the committee are of the view that enactment of national data protection law … is a prerequisite for any law that deals with large scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases. In the absence of data protection legislation, it would be difficult to deal with issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information, etc."
On 28 September  2010, 17 eminent citizens including Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Prof Romila Thapar, SR Sankaran, Aruna Roy, Justice AP Shah, KG Kannabiran, Bezwada Wilson and Prof Upendra Baxi had released a statement of concern in which they had spoken of the no-law status of the project, and of the disconcerting fact that no feasibility study had been done before launching the project. The SCF iterated these concerns.
Further, "despite adverse observations by the UIDAI's Biometrics Standards Committee," the SCF said, "the UIDAI is collecting the biometric information …. Considering the possible limitation in applications of technology available now or in the near future, the committee would believe that it is unlikely that the proposed objectives of the UID scheme would be achieved."
This severe report on the proposed law and the project provoked no response from the government. Except for a document from the UIDAI defiantly claiming that all was well with biometrics, there has only been silence. On 31 January 2013, confusion was manifest when ministers in the Union cabinet said that they were unclear about the project, whether it is a number or a card, and what its link was with the National Population Register. This was four years after the project had been set off, and a year and two months after the SCF report.
(The author is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009)

The Statesman 13 July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~ Inclusion project that excludes the poor

There are claims, and ambitions, that surround the UID project. The claims first. 
The UID, it is claimed, will be an identity that will bring down the barriers that prevent the poor from accessing benefits and subsidies. Unfortunately for the UIDAI, this claim is already being severely eroded. What was projected as a project of inclusion is already turning into a threat of exclusion. So, the poor have been told that if they do not enrol for a UID, if they do not have bank accounts, if those bank accounts are not embedded with the UID number, then they will become ineligible for the subsidies that they have been getting so far. That is the first obstacle that has been set up by the project.  
Then, a person needs to produce a pre-existing document to be able to enrol; a voter ID, a PAN card a driving licence or one of the many cards that are listed. Those who do not have a document to establish their identity or those whose documents are not accepted by the enrolment agency - and this is invariably the poor and the less privileged - will need an "introducer" to help them get enrolled. The introducer, as was explained by the Demographic Data Standards Committee that reported to the UIDAI in December 2009, would be akin to a bank introducer - with one significant difference: while a bank introducer would be expected to know the person he or she is introducing, it is different with UID enrolment. 
The state government or other agency acting as Registrar would have to appoint an "approved introducer" to do the task. That is, introducers must be known to the Registrar, but do not need to know the persons they are introducing! The accuracy of the data can be imagined. No wonder, then, that in January 2012 the Home Ministry protested that they could not accept UID data because it was insecure and unreliable. 
A second stated ambition is that of reducing leakage in the system. Mr Nilekani refers to himself as a plumber, plugging the leaks. The savings will be huge, it is said. No one would deny the pervasive corruption that has blighted many systems of distribution. 
The RTI, "transparency walls", public hearings, the use of technology to computerise, communicate and monitor the movement of goods and grain, the opening of post office and bank accounts for payment of NREGA wages, the use of mobile phones to let people know when their rations are to reach so that they may watch and collect their entitlements, the use of GPS to track the movement of vehicles carrying grain to the shops - these have already greatly improved systems. 
The UIDAI, however, suggests that salvation lies elsewhere - in a centralised system of identification. 
That, it believes, would do away with duplicates and ghost beneficiaries. There is, of course, no evidence about the extent of the leakage, and what the saving would therefore be. In fact, the first paper attempting to explain that the UID would reduce leakage appeared only a few months ago, done by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. 
The paper is littered with assumptions for, as they admit, there isn't any data in some areas and, in others, the data is outdated. 
In addition, contrary to Mr Nilekani's assertion at the talk in April 2013 that this was an `independent study', scholars at the NIPFP have admitted to "the group's research affiliations with the UIDAI (which) should preferably have been made (clear) in the study itself". 
How many us know of the One Time Passwords which are to be used to "manual(ly) override" when the biometric identification fails? When fingerprints or iris fail in recognising the person, for whatever reason, a request can be sent to the UIDAI to send a One Time Password to any mobile phone that is on hand. 
That OTP can then be used in place of the biometric.  
The potential for `leakage' and identity fraud and corruption in this, and the problem this poses for the `last mile' is undeniable, although it is not being acknowledged. 
No wonder everyone including the UIDAI is shrinking from taking on liability where there is "false accept", or "false reject", or where identity fraud occurs is a telling circumstance. 
The risk, till things change dramatically, rests heavily on the individual, while the system carries on experimenting. 
Is this too harsh a way to read the UID? Fact is, the UID project has been attempting to derive its legitimacy from the failures and corruption and non-performance of the system as it now is.
 Yet, since it is the excitement of technology, and not an intimate understanding of the poor and marginalised, that informs the project, the gap between its claims and how it is playing out on the ground is huge. 
And how much the bureaucracy and the political establishment have understood is moot; they have spoken too little for us to tell. 
With the claims not quite holding up, what ambitions are these that drive the project?
(The writer is an academic activist. She has been researching the UID and its ramifications since 2009.)

Then again, the biometrics on which this whole system hinges is still in an experimental stage. For the poor, manual workers and the old, authentication of who they are is more than likely to be a problem. This is what the DG and Mission Director of the UIDAI said in November 2011: "The other challenge we face is the quality of fingerprints. Capturing fingerprints, especially of manual labourers, is a challenge. The quality of fingerprints is bad because of the rough exterior of fingers caused by hard work, and this poses a challenge for later authentication.... Issuing a unique identity will not be a major problem. But authentication will be, because fingerprint is the basic mode of authentication." So, it seems, the idea is to expand to iris authentication - increasing cost through the introduction of a mode in which pilots are yet being run.

The Statesman 4July 2013

Aadhaar Unmasked ~A virtual monster in the cloud

Usha Ramanathan
UID is an acronym for unique identification. But first, this is not an identity scheme; it is a system that leverages emerging technologies to help various governmental and commercial agencies identify and database persons. That is why concerns about the UID project include the hugely increased potential for convergence of data, tracking, profiling, tagging and the violation of norms of privacy.
Then, as we have been told many times over, UID is not a card, but a number. Some have mistaken the paper which is used to communicate the number to the resident to be an ID card. Mr Nandan Nilekani -- Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) -- explained, during a talk to the World Bank on 24 April 2013: "First of all, this is not an ID card project. There is no card. There is a number. It's a virtual number on the cloud, and we don't give a physical card. We do send you a physical letter with your number, which you keep in your pocket, but the real value of this is the number on the cloud."
The identification is to be done by matching the number to biometrics that are collected and kept on a Central Identities Data Registry.
The uniqueness of the number depends on the biometric system being failsafe; but biometrics is still at an experimental stage. All we have for the moment are some proof-of-concept studies, and the "faith", "belief" and "conviction" of the project proponents that peppers every document and speech.
Third, while the driving licence, voter ID and PAN card may be used as
identity cards, the UID
number is different. The UID is synonymous with another acronym ~ KYC, or Know Your Customer. The UID proposes to partner with Authorised User
Agencies (AUA), which may be any agency including banks, mobile companies, LPG service providers, insurance companies, departments with the state and central governments, hospitals and so on. When the AUAs decide to use the UID, they will have to deploy fingerprint and iris scanners, which will be used to "authenticate", that is, verify if the person is who she says she is.
This is a business model, where the UIDAI proposes to make its profits on authentication -- the Strategy Overview document calculates that once the project reaches a "steady" state, it should be able to make Rs 288.15 crore.
Four, the UID is supposed to be voluntary, but that was a deliberate untruth put out as part of the marketing exercise for the project, and because the UIDAI has no power to force anyone to enrol. After all, their legal status is highly suspect.
In the first two years of enrolment, it was evident that there was little enthusiasm to get on to the database. After all, it was not even clear what the point of the UID number was. Fact is it is still not clear.At the World Bank talk in April 2013, Mr Nilekani said, in answer to a question: "Obviously people don't know what benefits will come from this -- even I don't know what benefits will come from this...But broadly, they know that this is some kind of a gateway to the future. There will be benefits. What these benefits are, they don't know..."
Declaring that the UID was mandatory changed things for people. How the idea of making the UID mandatory was sold to the various governments is not widely known. We do know that the UIDAI had banked on the UID being made mandatory by different agencies even when it put together its Strategy Overview. The strategy was for the UIDAI to continue pretending that it was voluntary. This deceit is a part of the way that the UID project has been rolled out.
Five, the words `universal' and `ubiquitous' are used to describe the ambitions of the project. By getting everyone on the database, there is to be "universal" coverage. And by getting every possible agency to subscribe to the UID as a KYC, it is to be "ubiquitous". Mr Nilekani, of course, explains that the UID is an "identity platform". It is "open architecture" on which many "apps" may be built. Unlike the driving licence, ration card, voter ID, the UID has no purpose of its own. It is just an "ID verification system" and all manner of "apps" can be built on it. Direct Benefit Transfer is such an "app". And in explanation of what it will do, he says: "You can use the ID and create a credit history...or you could build an electronic health system." Since it is on a cloud, your health record will be portable and "you can take it with you wherever you go". Of course, this also "gives you complete traceability", of persons and their transactions. "Obviously," he admits, "it doesn't solve the problem of eligibility. You have to build some other systems for that."
The casual disregard of the law, the authoritarian demands to hand over personal and intimate information, creating databases that put people at risk, and passing off half truths and outright lies as facts are some among the disturbing features of the UID.
The writer is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009.
"The real beneficiary (of mandatorily linking the UID to bank accounts to be eligible for cash transfers) is neither the finance ministry nor the nodal ministries or citizens but the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which has struggled to meet its target of covering large sections of the population. Compared with the average monthly enrolment of 7.4 million people in the last seven months, it needs to add 25 million a month to meet its target of 600 million by 2014.  In the absence of parliamentary approval, forcing eligible citizens to take Aadhaar cards to avail the existing benefits, will, perhaps, be the most pernicious legacy of this plan, which is nothing more than an effort to rescue UIDAI."
Himanshu, an economist at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University who has been studying the UID, in the context of cash transfers.
The Statesman 3July 2013