5 Myths about AADHAAR

Reproduced from the brilliant new Website rethinkaadhaar.in

MYTH:“AADHAAR IS IDENTITY FOR THOSE WHO LACK AN IDENTITY.”

FACT:TO GET AADHAAR, YOU NEED A PROOF OF IDENTITY AND PROOF OF ADDRESS.

In fact, 99.97% of those who have Aadhaar, used existing identity cards and proof of address to get it. According to a reply to an Right to Information request, UIDAI replied that only 0.03% of those who have the Aadhaar number got Aadhaar without showing two existing proofs of identity and address.

As far as closed doors are concerned, Aadhaar does not guarantee any benefits: work through NREGA, widow or old-age pensions or ration foodgrains. There are separate eligibility conditions for those programmes which continue to apply.

MYTH:“AADHAAR IS A VOLUNTARY ID SCHEME. NO SERVICES ARE LINKED TO AADHAAR PER SE.”

FACT:THE AADHAAR PROJECT WAS SOLD TO THE PUBLIC BASED ON THE CLAIM THAT ENROLMENT WAS “VOLUNTARY”.

Though the government stated in court and in parliament, that Aadhaar is voluntary, or it is “just a identity number” not linked to anything, it has over the years, repeatedly made Aadhaar mandatory for an ever-widening range of facilities and services: to receive scholarships, food grain and cooking gas subsidies, access pensions and provident fund, to open bank accounts, to vote, and even to register a marriage, or adopt a child.

It was made clear, life without Aadhaar would be very difficult. In these circumstances, saying that Aadhaar is voluntary is like saying that breathing or eating is voluntary.
This has suited the UIDAI very well, since it has led people to rush to Aadhaar enrolment centres.

MYTH:“AADHAAR IS BASED FULLY ON CONSENT.”

FACT:YOU MAY HAVE TO COMPULSORILY ENROL UNDER AADHAAR, DESPITE YOUR PRIVACY CONCERNS.

If a service agent asks for Aadhaar mandatorily, then as a beneficiary, citizens have no option but to get an Aadhaar number.
The new Aadhaar Act does not incorporate a categorical clause saying Aadhaar will be voluntary, or that it will NOT be made mandatory. Instead, it broadens the scope of Aadhaar. In parliament in March, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Aadhaar Act will allow the government to ask a citizen to produce an Aadhaar number to avail of any “government subsidy”.

But section 7 of the Bill is phrased more broadly, and refers to not just subsidies but any “subsidy, benefit or service” for which expense is incurred on the Consolidated Fund of India, or the government treasury. This is a sweeping scope, and we are seeing the impact in the notifications issued by the government in the past few weeks: government is demanding Aadhaar, or proof of enrolment in Aadhaar, from everyone from trafficked women seeking assistance to children in government schools for getting their school meals.
Section 7 of Aadhaar Act says:

Provided that if an Aadhaar number is not assigned to an individual, the individual shall be offered alternate and viable means of identification for delivery of the subsidy, benefit or service.

In the recent notifications, Government has got around the proviso for an “alterntate” ID, by making the proof of applying for enrolment in Aadhaar itself as the alternate ID it will recognise! Talk of arm-twisting citizens.

Aadhaar law allows private companies too use it, such as an application used by a company doing authentication for those applying to jobs, even if a prospective employee or tenant shares his/her Aadhaar number, it does not amount to free consent since getting a job or a house may hinge on providing the Aadhaar number.

MYTH:“AADHAAR LAW HAS PRIVACY PROTECTIONS COMPARABLE TO THE BEST IN THE WORLD.”

FACT:AADHAAR ACT ALLOWS AUTHORITIES TO SHARE YOUR PERSONAL DATA IN THE “INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY”, A TERM THAT REMAINS UNDEFINED.

The Aadhaar law allows sharing your ID information and all authentication record in interest of “national security”, even as the phrase “national security” is undefined in the present bill, as well as the General Clauses Act. Thus, the circumstances in which an individual’s information may be disclosed remains open to interpretation.

Aadhaar Act allows sharing your ID information, all authentication records on direction of an authorised officer of rank of Joint Secretary.

Section 33(1) permits the disclosure of an individual’s demographic information following an order by a district judge. It says that in such a matter, prior hearing will be given to the UIDAI , NOT the person whose data is being disclosed!

Section 33(2), which permits disclosure of your data “in interest of national security”, says such disclosures will be for three months initially, and a fresh renewal can be granted for another three months, with NO limitation on the number of such renewals.

This can lead to a user being under continuous surveillance, and without ANY notification to the user even after the surveillance ceases, violating one of necessary and proportionate principles on communications surveillance related to user notification and right to effective remedy. In some countries, this principle has been incorporated in law. For example, in Canada, the law limits the time of wiretapping surveillance, and imposes an obligation to notify the person under surveillance within 90 days of the end of the surveillance, extendable to a maximum of three years at a time.

Aadhaar also lacks provisions on giving notice to a person in case of breach of information, in case of third party use of data, or change in purpose of use of data, which were recommended by the Justice Shah Committee on Privacy in 2012.

MYTH:AADHAAR IS MEANT TO “TARGET SUBSIDIES.”

During the debate in Lok Sabha in March, Congress MP Rajeev Satav, raised a question on clause 57 of the Aadhaar Bill which permits private entities – airlines, telecom, insurance, real estate companies – to use the Aadhaar number. Finance minister Jaitley did not respond to the question.

UIDAI’s founder chairperson software billionaire Nilekani in an interview in 2012 spoke about creating a “thriving application system” using Aadhaar for both the public and private sector.

In fact, the authority entered into agreements with private companies well before the Aadhaar law was passed in Parliament. The companies were running ahead of legislation in a space unbounded by law, and the UIDAI supported them.

Rajya Sabha passed an amendment was to drop use of Aadhaar authentication by private companies and businesses in clause 57 entirely. This clause said that the Bill does not prevent the wider use of Aadhaar number of users by other bodies including private companies. Even while Bill was in parliament, there were instances of private companies advertising that they can use Aadhaar to collate information about citizens at a price.

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