fter too much of debate and data compromise, the government is now to amend the Aadhaar Act, following the Supreme Court order upholding it but with conditions. The Union government is in the last stages of finalising a proposal to amend the Aadhaar Act to give all citizens an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and data. This follows the Supreme Court judgment in September that upheld the validity of Aadhaar, however, with certain riders. A Constitution Bench had struck down Section 57 of the Act that allows private entities to use the unique number for verification. The Bench also declared that seeking to link it with bank accounts and SIM cards was unconstitutional. The way the Modi government has tried to push the use of the Aadhaar number, or UID, into all facets of life, shows a harassment that is discomforting– Aadhaar was giving more trouble than expected.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has now taken a decision on the validity of Aadhaar and whether the State can compulsorily link Aadhaar to various programs and all financial transactions. Aadhaar project has created a vulnerability to identity fraud, even identity theft. Easy harvesting of biometrics traits and publicly available Aadhaar numbers increased the risk of impersonation, especially online and banking fraud. A centralised database was compromised. The progressed countries have already denied such cards. US Social Security Number (SSN) card has NO BIOMETRIC DETAILS, no photograph, no physical description, and no birth date. All it does is confirm that a particular number has been issued to a particular name. Instead, a driving license or state ID card is used as identification for adults. The US government DOES NOT collect the biometric details of its own citizens for the purpose of issuing Social Security Number. The US collects the fingerprints of only those citizens who are involved in any criminal activity (it has nothing to do with SSN), and the citizens of other countries who come to the US. Indian government needs to understand the importance of public security.
In the recent past, the Maharashtra government’s attempt of online registration for loan waiver implementation has sent the authorities into a tizzy as names over 100 farmers have been found linked to a single Aadhaar number. The state government had earlier stressed on online registration by the farmers with their Aadhaar, which is a unique identification. Chief Minister Fadnavis had to call an urgent meeting with the bankers to address issues like this that crop up in the way of speedy implementation of the scheme. The officials of some banks also admitted that the data they received from the online registration portal, Aaple Sarkar, varies the data as per their records. The names of some farmers are missing and some do not match with the land size or type of loan. In many cases, the principal amount and the interest are not matching. It leads to suspicion!
Actually, the Aadhaar is a good concept but UIDAI should visualise/anticipate the dangers from the hackers by seeking an opinion from the experts and to make the system full proof to avoid data theft. At the same time, with regard to the right to privacy, the Supreme Court should come up with some checks and balances to address the concerns of people i.e. if their Aadhaar is de-activated, their identity will be lost! In such cases, before doing this, the SC should instruct the government/UIDAI to issue show cause before de-activating Aadhaar and further the government should give assurance to the SC that the Right to Privacy and identity will be protected at all costs of law-abiding citizens while taking step against the people indulging in tax evasion, money laundering, holding Benami property, indulging in anti-national activities, etc.
Moreover, the government can also create a separate agency comprising IT experts and anti-hackers in consultation with UIDAI to deal with the various challenges being faced especially by creating firewalls to minimise the possibility of hacking of data and making Aadhaar linked accounts more secure so that the scammers are unable to dupe people. In India, Aadhaar is still evolving and UIDAI will come up with more ideas to make the system more secure. There are good and bad sides of having Aadhaar Card; we thought corruption can be eradicated, there would be a check on black money, people can be kept in surveillance—but no such thing happened! Corruption had doubled, black money has multiplied, and rich are becoming richer and the poor are still the sufferers. What I mean to say is that Aadhaar card has not brought any remarkable change but it was one good initiative taken by Congress and implemented by BJP.
If you look at the global powerful countries, UK scrapped it seven years ago. Australia could never implement the “Australia Card”. The USA is yet to implement the Real ID Act of 2005. We are borrowing their technology. Only Pakistan and India were implementing it until recently. Bangladesh and Nepal may join too. There are many more serious reasons to scrap this unwise project. Good that the SC had stepped in and finally we can withdraw our details from Aadhaar. The reason given by the government on why it is necessary to insist on the Aadhaar number in addition to the PAN Card was the alleged vast duplication of PAN Cards which made it easy for people to avoid paying tax. But going by the government’s own figures, the number of fake cards is just 0.4 per cent of the total number. While this may not be insubstantial, given that, a few crore PAN Cards have been issued, it does compare to the discrepancies within the UID itself.
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