October 17th, 2011
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UID: Democracy to totalitarianism

tribal women receives UID

Dr Usha Ramanathan is an internationally recognized expert on law and poverty. She is an independent law researcher and teaches environmental law, labour law and consumer law at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi. She is a member of Amnesty International’s Advisory Panel on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and has been called upon by the World Health Organisation as an expert on mental health on various occasions.

usha-ramanathan-2Dr Usha, who is an expert on UID, has imparted conceptual clarity and has made an attempt to dispel the myths attached with the holiness regarding the Aadhar or UID project. Through her, we get a glimpse of the fox hidden in the sheep’s clothing.

The UID project born in 2009 was initially accepted with no qualms by all those involved in the project, for holding or issuing of ID cards, was not a novel concept in India. We have always had various reasons for issuing cards. The voter’s ID card stood for providing voting rights to the citizen. After the Kargil war the government felt the need for a Multipurpose National Identity Card, but this project didn’t become a success.

 In 2006, the need to identify those belonging to BPL category was felt strongly by the government and various social groups. Finally in January 2009 the government decided to introduce an all inclusive UID card (unique identity card) and in July 2009 Nandan Nelakani was appointed as the chairman and face of the UID project.

The card was to ensure voluntary enrollment to identify the poor of the country and to help the poor and homeless to associate with the state. After viewing the modus operandi and scratching the shiny surface and probing deeper, well grounded apprehensions began to creep up, even among those involved with and closely monitoring the project. Some of the less known aspects of the project are to be discussed, for sadly, nothing is revealed and the masses do not have a clear picture of the banes of the project.

 Inducement of fear

Though in the beginning of the project we were assured that all enrolment is voluntary, the enrollers began employing threat and cohersion to force people to enroll. The only concern of Mr Nelakani was to ensure maximum enrollment in minimum time. From Bangalore and many other states people have complained that, they were forced to enroll as the enrollers threatened to confiscate basic necessities like gas connection.

Tempting with incentives

Another misconception is that the card holder would be provided various incentives and benefits, especially to those belonging to BPL and the lower strata. This is a fallacy and no attempt has been made to educate or inform the people. Very tactfully, UID prefers to remain mum.

The UID project is called an “open architecture” project. The card in itself does not entail any benefit but the card could be used as an ID proof to apply for various services.

Privacy breachuid-privacy

Though they had reassured that only basic information such as name, age, gender and the like would be solicited this is not what is happening in reality. The UID is collecting personal information such as your telephone number and e-mail id. In Meghalaya, the state government has demanded the post office which is an enroller to collect much elaborate personnel information. If a person goes to a public hospital his detailed report shall be made available to a rainbow of doctors across India.

At a later stage if the use of the card is made more stringent, every miniscule amount of data including the kind of toothpaste used will be registered. It would be as though an unknown eye is persistently prying into our most personal space. This privacy breach will help profile the kind of life we lead.

Every transaction with every agency, company or group will be known to a third eye.

Information leak to private enterprises and intelligence agencies

The citizen’s of this state are given a false sense of security. UID claims that they shall be the sole holder of all information. As UID cannot collect all information from such a diverse vast population they have signed MOU’s with other organisations and agencies such as banks, gas distributors and the like. These enrollers will collect the desired information and a will then send the matter to UID. UID is to duplicate the information. In the second stage the information is de- duplicated wherein UID confirms that, no two people share the same card.

A registrar is given each person’s ID number. The registrar can collect any additional information he/she desires. The kind of information to be collected is left to the discretion of the registrar. Thus this information passes through many hands and will be retained by several others.

A column in the form seeks our permission to divulge the information collected. However, the details of the array of organizations, agencies or individuals with whom the information would be shared are not mentioned.  If the information is divulged to any organization that solicits it what privacy do we have?

UID is linked with national intelligence grid. This grid was set up by Chidambaram for real time information collection. The data that is collected is converged and then dispersed to unknown people and we have no control over it.

Biometric companies that have been qualified by UID for collecting Biometric information such as finger prints of 10 fingers, photograph and iris scan are “L1 Identity Solution” and “Accenture”. L1 identity has a nexus with World Bank. The least known information is that the CIA is in the Board of Directors of L1 Identity Solutions.

This project would make us transparent before the state and the corporate market.

Transforms people into a controlled consumerist market

There is a section of society that looks at people as nothing but a prospective market for capitalistic groups. The detailed information could be used to fine tune their persuasive and marketing initiative towards target audience. There is a fine line that differentiates persuasion from propaganda and with all this information in the open that can be easily manipulated we are more susceptible and vulnerable to targeted, manipulative, and convincing advertisements and marketing strategies.

UID and national security

UIDThere are claims that UID would help to strengthen national security. What is the definition of ‘threat to national security’ in a country like India? In India everything is a national security issue. Be it peaceful protests, agitation, social movements, tribal agitation or drive against corruption. The state would be the supreme power and we would be reduced to nothing but a controlled element in democracy. The state could arrest you for even talking to a person who they feel is a threat to their concept of national security.

Today if the government is made responsible to the society through RTI then tomorrow we would be scanned under UID for their advantage. All gathered information can be used by the state against us.

 Our constitutional rights are affected

Even an accused in an offense is protected under Article 20, Sub Article 3. As per the article an accused has the right to protect his innocence. HE/ she need not divulge any information that can be used against himself or herself. However, if UID is implemented a normal citizen is denied this right. We cease to be citizens we become subjects of the state.

 Private companies will hold private information

The private sector companies will hold and manage information for public interest. Can we trust such private sector organizations to be ethical? If they have not been thus in the past nor in the present can we trust them with our personal information of our lives in the future. Any organisation that has 25% public taking can hold our information.

Complications involved in Biometric information

In biometrics the body is used as a kind of measure. Though finger print and photograph were the only two biometric data suggested initially, today they intend to take an iris scan too. DNA test would also be initiated.

Today most people think that no two individuals fingerprint is the same. But this is a false deduction for it is not confounded on large scale empirical study. We do not know whether biometrics is in fact unique or whether biometrics is static and never change. After the goof up that occurred while trying to track the Madrid bomber using fingerprint analysis, today we have reasons to believe that fingerprints need not be unique or that it is not an infallible test of a persons identity.

Besides this we realized that the fingerprints of those involved in strenuous physical labour do not work. UID itself did a test of 25000 prints of which 2-5% of the experimental group’s finger prints did not work.

UID aadhar biometric test

When a convict enters jail his finger prints are taken and after years of imprisonment when he leaves jail his finger print is taken again. This is because the finger prints of convicts change after a given span of time. This clearly indicates that fingerprints are not static and the same biometrics can’t be used for a life time.

There are reasons to believe that there is an ulterior motive behind including biometrics in the UID scheme. Biometric testing and collection and storage of information is a very expensive procedure. Biometric industries need to survive and they see India and other developing countries as a prospective market on which they could grow. Today UID has signed a deal with “Accenture” and “L1 identity solutions”.

The yardsticks used to pre-qualify these biometric companies are not yet known. On what basis has the UID taken such decisions ? When they were questioned we received only silence.

UID and identity crisis

Each individual’s identity would be decided by a third person. An Advaasi’s existence and how he is known to the state depends on how he is introduced as by a third body such as the UID. Today we have our own identity but tomorrow we are known to the world as how we are projected by UID which is an unkown, alien, distant third body.

Ambiguity in UID’s  functioning

nandan nilekaniIs UID independent or part of the state or Government? UID has been established within the planning commission by an order. The functioning of the UID, decision making and implementation is not transparent or questionable. The failure of UID is that it introduces a corporate culture into a Government set up.

UID is a result of a Xenophobic society and can catalyze a fear psychosis that is already growing. They are merely experts in branding and selling an idea.

The use of finance is not questioned. There is no feasibility report that is tabled. Their modus operandi is to remain silent when they are questioned and this is not a healthy democratic trend. They need to address individual apprehensions related to the project.

There is no budgeting of cost. Totally they have already spent 45 crores. How they spend the money or on what they spend the money is left to our own imagination. UID is not being answerable to the citizens of this country.

Why is the State so keen on implementing this project? Why there is such a large scale project with no budget and accountability?

Today people are desperately trying to check corruption but all information will be in the hands of the corrupt tomorrow. There is no law governing this project. We are meekly surrendering before the whims and fancies of the State. UID would drastically alter the relation between the State and the people.


Article prepared by Doolnews Copy Editor of English Desk, Niranjalli Varma based on Usha Ramanathan‘s speech at Aadhar: Politics and Technicality seminar organized by Solidarity Youth Movement at Calicut Press Club, Kozhikode. 


One Response to “ UID: Democracy to totalitarianism ”

  1. JAMES



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