Home Ministry, UIDAI Misleading State Govts & citizens

Mahatma Gandhi had opposed biometric identity card

State Govts pretend ignorance about Parliamentary Report rejecting central Govt’s UID/Aadhaar

Contrary to the recommendations of the Yashwant Sinha headed multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance that has rejected the UPA government’s UID/Aadhar Project, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Union Home Ministry is endangering citizens rights and national security by pursuing UID/aadhaar project. Their disdain for the law has been characterised by the Parliamentary Committee as “unethical and violative of Parliament’s prerogatives”. While these two central agencies are misleading the state governments and citizens, some state governments have stopped enrollment in their states taking cognisance of the questionable legal status of the project.

PSC report reveals that UIDAI’s activities like signing of MoU with State Governments is without any legal and constitutional mandate. The recommendations are relevant for Home Ministry’s National Population Register for Multipurpose National Identity Card. The 48 page PSC Report is attached.

The Parliamentary Committee is categorical that the Central Govt’s Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) constituted for the purpose of collating the two schemes namely, the UID and National Population Register (NPR), has failed. Together with UID, Central Government is creating NPR by collecting information on specific characteristics of all usual residents in the country. The NPR would also have photographs, 10 finger prints and 2 IRIS prints of all usual residents who are of age 5 years and above.

Citizens’ opposition to UID and NPR has a historical context. It is also a historical fact that Mahatma Gandhi was against identification based on biometric data in his days of struggle in South Africa in the early part of last century. He had burnt the biometric identity card. A government which insincerely swears by his name stands exposed because of launching projects which were opposed Gandhiji.

In a recent interview to the press, the Director General and Mission Director of the UIDAI had admitted that fingerprints are likely not to work for authentication. The error rate could end up excluding up to 15% of the population. Despite this UIDAI is going ahead with the exercise.

In the absence of a law to deal with security and confidentiality of information, imposition of obligation of disclosure of information in certain cases, impersonation at the time of enrolment, investigation of acts that constitute offences and unauthorised disclosure of information, the UID project is a dangerous project. The Parliamentary Report notes the absence of a feasibility study, no cost-benefit assessment, uncertain and untested technology, an enrollment process that has national security repercussions, the lack of data protection and privacy legislation and the disrespect for Parliament by going ahead with a project that was pending parliamentary approval.

The Parliamentary Committee considering the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill has presented its report to the Parliament. The report rejects biometric data based identification of Indians. The report is a severe indictment of the hasty and `directionless’ project which has been “conceptualised with no clarity of purpose”.

The Parliamentary Committee has found the biometric technology being used by UIDAI and National Population Register is `uncertain’ and ‘untested’.

• The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the State Governments with the UIDAI had no prior consultation with the citizens and was done in the most non transparent manner. This must be immediately cancelled.

• UIDAI has entered into contracts with companies like Accenture and Safran Group that are providing similar services to Security Departments of US, France, China and South Korea. This has dangerous possibilities. Is it a coincidence that Lyon, France based Ronald K Noble, Secretary General, INTERPOL, world’s largest police organisation too has called for global electronic e-ID identity card system?

• UID/Aadhaar/National Population Register projects do not have any constitutional, legal or democratic basis. There is a growing civil disobedience movement against the Unique Identification/aadhaar number project and protect individual liberty and dignity of the citizens.

• Parliamentary Committee on Finance has held that UID project is against all accepted norms of Rule of Law and fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India;

• UID Number project is in violation of Right to Life and Personal Liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India;

• The collection of sensitive Biometric and personal data of the citizens of India by a number of private organizations is an assault on civil liberty and must be immediately halted;

State Govts and other agencies ought to note that UIDAI has been trying to push for the adoption of the UID through multiple committees of several ministries and for the re-engineering of current systems to fit the requirements of the UID.

Aadhaar and NPR is based on biometric and retinal profile procured from people. This is the most repulsive aspect of UID/Aadhaar project. Any biometric profile directly violates the very dignity and privacy of Indian citizens which is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. What is normally used for terrorists and criminals is now sought to be used against the common citizens of this country. Does it mean that the state has lost confidence in its people and wants a criminal profile of all its citizens? Can there be a more shameful aspect of the state intrusion into individual privacy? Supreme Court’s judgement dated July 4, 2011 upheld Right to Privacy as Right to Life. Disregarding this government seems to be acting under the influence of surveillance technology companies and biometric technology companies.

It should be noted that the Parliamentary Committee has taken on board studies done in the UK on the identity scheme that was begun and later withdrawn in May 2010, where the problems were identified to include “(a) huge cost involved and possible cost overruns; (b) too complex; (c) untested, unreliable and unsafe technology; (d) possibility of risk to the safety and security of citizens; and (e) requirement of high standard security measures, which would result in escalating the estimated operational costs.” Countries like China, Australia, and Philippines have also rejected it. Why is there deafening and inexcusable silence about it?

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties, Mb: 09818089660, E-mail:krishna1715@gmail.com