Eight reasons why you should oppose Unique Identification: Stop UID Campaign

Drafted by KALYANI MENON-SEN for the Stop UID Campaign


The National Identification Authority of India Bill approved by the Union Cabinet on Friday has sidestepped critical privacy aspects relating to profiling and function creep — a term used to describe the way in which information is collected for one limited purpose but gradually gets used for other purposes.

Here are some reasons why you should oppose this Bill:

1. False claims

The Government of India and Nandan Nilekani, Chairperson UIDAI, have been claiming that the UID scheme will enable inclusive growth by providing each citizen with a verifiable identity, that it will facilitate delivery of basic services, that it will plug leakages in public expenditure and that it will speed up achievement of targets in social sector schemes.

These claims are false and unjustified. Exclusion and leakages are not caused by the inability to prove identity – they are caused by the deliberate manipulation of the system by those who have the power to control the flow of benefits.

For instance, BPL families who have valid ration cards are unable to get their quota of foodgrains – not because the validity of the card is disputed, but because the ration shop owners exploit them and force them to take less than their due.

Scholarships meant for them are denied to children from Dalit families – not because they cannot prove they are Dalits but because teachers and school administrators pocket the money after forcing the parents to sign on false receipts.

Women workers in NREGA are paid less than their due – not because they cannot prove that they have put in the full quota of work, but because the supervisors and paymasters believe that women do not deserve the same wage as men, and pocket the extra money.

None of these problems will be solved by the possession of a UID number. In fact, a confidential working paper prepared by the UIDAI states that “the UIDAI is only in the identity business. The responsibility of tracking beneficiaries and the governance of service delivery will continue to remain with the respective agencies – the job of tracking distribution of food grains among BPL families for example, will remain with the state PDS department. The adoption of the UID will only ensure that the uniqueness and singularity of each resident is established and authenticated, thereby promoting equitable access to social services.”

In other words, the possession of a UID card can at best serve only as proof of a “unique and singular” identity and does not guarantee either citizenship or benefits. This being the case, it is strange that this scheme is touted as a step for good governance.

2. Violation of privacy and civil liberties

The UID scheme violates the right to privacy. International law and India’s domestic law have set clear standards to protect an individual’s privacy from unlawful invasion. Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by India, an individual’s right to privacy is protected from arbitrary or unlawful interference by the state. The Supreme Court has also held the right to privacy to be implicit under article 21 of the Indian Constitution (Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu, 1994 and PUCL v. Union of India, 1996) has

India has enacted a number of laws that provide some protection for privacy. For example the Hindu Marriage Act, the Copyright Act, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, the Indian Contract Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure all place restrictions on the release of personal information.

Section 33 of the draft bill empowers NIDAI to disclose personal data on an order of a court or in case of “national security” on directions of an officer not below the rank of joint secretary. This is a dilution of existing provisions for protection of privacy under Supreme Court judgements (PUCL versus Union of India) and the IT and Telegraph Acts, all three of which state that such orders can be passed only by the Union or State Home Secretary. There is a high likelihood of this provision being misused by persons in power to access private details for use in ways that may pose a risk to the life or security of the person concerned.

Personal and household data is being collected through the Census 2010 with a view to establishing a National Population Register. It is proposed to make this information available to the UIDAI. This is in contravention of Section 15 of the Census Act which categorically states that information given for the Census is “not open to inspection nor admissible in evidence”.

Moreover, although participation in the UID scheme is supposed to be voluntary and optional, Census respondents are being told that it is mandatory to submit personal information for the National Population Register. The enumerators who are collecting data for the Population Register have been instructed to flag the details of “doubtful cases” who will then be subject to further investigation to determine whether they are “genuine citizens”. Enumerators are generally not able to explain the criteria for categorising a particular individual or family as “doubtful”.

3.“Functionality creep” and misuse of data

The centralised database where personal data will be stored can easily be linked with other databases, such as the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation and databases maintained by the police and intelligence agencies. This raises the risk of “functionality creep”, as for instance the use of the UID database for policing and surveillance.

There is a serious concern that the biometric information collected as part of the UID project would be used for policing purposes. The regular use of biometric data in policing can lead to a large number of human rights violations, especially given the possibility of errors in fingerprint matching.

The proposed Bill does not contain any mechanisms for credible and independent oversight of the UIDAI. This increases the risk of ‘functionality creep’ – the government may add features and additional data to the database without informing or taking the consent of citizens and without re-evaluating the effects on privacy in each instance.

There is no guarantee that the personal data collected and stored in a centralised database will not be misused for purposes other than mere confirmation of identity. The several instances of the involvement of the state in mass carnage (as in Delhi in 1984 and Gujarat in 2002), and the Government’s support to and defence of the widespread use of “encounter killings” and other extra-constitutional methods by the police and armed forces, has already created an enabling environment for abuse of the UID database to serve undemocratic, illegal and unethical purposes.

The Bill does not have any provisions to penalise misuse of data by authorised persons (eg UIDAI officials), and therefore has an in-built potential for use of personal data to identify and eliminate “maoists”, “terrorists”, “habitual offenders”, political opponents and others who are perceived as threats by those in power.

4. Inappropriate and unproven technology

Instead of facilitating inclusion, around 150 million people are likely to be excluded from benefits because of the UID scheme.

Millions of Indians working in agriculture, construction workers and other manual labourers have worn-out fingers due to a lifetime of hard labour, resulting in what is technically referred to as ‘low-quality’ fingerprints. These are precisely the people who are currently excluded from government records and welfare schemes.

This means an NREGA beneficiary with worn-out fingers may present his newly-issued UID number as a conclusive proof of identity to claim payment, but could find the application rejected. The authentication process using a fingerprint scanner could classify the applicant’s worn-out fingers as a so-called ‘false negative’. This is a serious concern, since NREGS has been listed as one of the pilot schemes where the UID identification process will be introduced – the 30 million people currently holding NREGS job cards will be put at risk of exclusion.

This limitation is well recognised by the UIDAI in its working paper, which states that fingerprint authentication is not foolproof, since multiple factors (such as the degree and direction of the pressure applied while placing the finger on the sensor, excessively greasy or dry skin, and distortions caused by rendering a three-dimensional object into a flat plane) can result in “noise and inconsistencies” in the captured image. According to the paper, these distortions result in impairing the system performance and consequently limiting the widespread use of this technology”.

The other biometric data to be collected by the UID are iris scans and photographs. An iris scan cannot be done on people with corneal blindness, glaucoma or corneal scars. There are an estimated 6-8 million people in India with corneal blindness, according to researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. The number of people with corneal scars (caused by infections or injuries to the eyes) will be much more. It is reported that Cabinet Secretary K.M.Chandrasekhar has opposed the collection of iris scans, terming it a “waste of money.”

What is more, both fingerprint scanners and iris scanners can be easily deceived and “spoofed” – false fingerprints can be created using latex and adhesives, and coloured contact lenses can blur and obscure iris patterns.

5. Database security not assured

India does not have a robust legal framework or infrastructure for cybersecurity and has weak capabilities in this area – several of our high-security databases have been hacked in the recent past. The huge amounts of personal information collected in the UID database will most likely not be adequately protected and will be vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves. Indeed, hacker networks have already assessed the security levels of the proposed UID database and pronounced it easy to crack.

It is important to note that no country or organisation has successfully deployed a database (biometric or otherwise) of the size envisioned for the UID project, and no technical or corporate body in the world has the experience necessary to ensure its security.

The possibility of corruption and exploitation of data is far greater in a centralised database than when the information is dispersed across different databases. There is also a high risk of errors in the collection of information, recording of inaccurate data, corruption of data and unauthorised access.

Other countries with national identification systems have tried and failed to eliminate the risks of trading and selling of information. India, which has no generally established data protection laws (like the U.S. Federal Privacy Statute or the European Directive on Data Protection) is ill-equipped to deal with such problems.

The US – arguably the most surveillance-prone society in the world – passed a Federal law (the REAL ID Act, 2005) requiring the States to allow the Federal Department of Homeland Security to access State databases such as drivers’ licences and motor vehicle registration. As of 2008, not a single State has ratified this Act, and 25 States have passed legislations to exclude themselves from its purview.

Ironically, a confidential working paper titled “Creating a Unique Identity Number for Every Resident in India” was recently posted on the transparency website Wikileaks. The leaked document admits that “the UID database will be susceptible to attacks and leaks at various levels”.

If they cannot protect their own confidential documents, we cannot trust the UIDAI to protect the data they propose to collect from us.

6. Unjustifiable costs

The UID project has been launched without a feasibility study or cost-benefit analysis. The pilot to test the technology is being rolled out in Andhra Pradesh in September 2010, well after the drafting of the Bill. The current costs are estimated at Rs.45,000 crores. A budget provision of Rs. 1950/- crores has been made for the current year, of which over 200 crores has already been spent.

Nandan Nilekani claims that several thousand crores of rupees would be saved by the scheme, through prevention of duplicate/fake IDs for claiming benefits under schemes such as the public distribution system and the NREGS. This claim has not been supported with data, and is not substantiated by any studies so far.

Operationalising the UID scheme on the ground for NREGA and the public distribution system would require placing fingerprint readers at every panchayat office and every ration shop. The cost of a fingerprint reader at this time is around USD 50. The total costs of placing fingerprint readers in each PDS outlet and in each of India’s 600,000 villages have not been taken into account in official cost calculations.

Verification of identity by the UIDAI will be charged at Rs.10 per query. This being the case, several private agencies may bypass the UIDAI and give preference to other identity proofs.

7. Bypassing of Parliament and democratic processes

The UID Authority has been set up with considerable powers and resources, without any approval from Parliament or discussion in the public domain about the necessity of such a scheme. In the absence of a Constitutional provision or legal framework (such as that set out in the proposed Bill), all the actions of the UIDAI are technically unconstitutional and illegal. There is no transparency either on decisions or on expenditure, no oversight and no mechanisms for accountability in the functioning of the UIDAI.

Nandan Nilekani has been given sweeping powers, and is now demanding the right to select “good officers” to serve under him, bypassing the usual procedures for deputation of officers.

Despite the continuing debate on public platforms, and being repeatedly questioned about the risks, costs and benefits of the UID scheme, Nilekani and the Government of India have remained silent on the contested aspects of the scheme.

8. Lessons from other countries

Several countries (including the USA, the UK, Australia, China, Canada and Germany) have tried such projects and have given these up as impractical, unjustified and dangerous.

One of the first acts of the new government in UK after tasking office in June 2010, was to scrap the UID project in that country. According to Theresa May, the UK Home Secretary, “The national identity card scheme represents the worst of government. It is intrusive and bullying. It is ineffective and expensive. It is an assault on individual liberty that does not promise a great good…The government will destroy all information held on the national identity register, effectively dismantling it. The role of the identity commissioner, created in an effort to prevent data blunders and leaks, will be terminated.”

It is noteworthy that the reasons cited by the UK government for rejection of the UID scheme – higher costs, impracticality and ungovernable breaches of privacy and civil liberties – are all valid in the Indian case as well. In view of this, it is fair to expect UIDAI to present a comprehensive argument to justify why what was rejected in the UK is good enough for India.

It seems clear that the public pronouncements on the UID scheme being a step towards good governance and inclusive growth are red herrings to divert the attention of the public from the real purpose of NIDAI – to strengthen India’s e-surveillance capabilities.

The passage of the IT Act, 2008, was the first step to making India a country where “Big Brother” is watching everyone, all the time – the NIDAI Act will be another great leap forward in this direction.

Please do not remain silent – oppose the NIDAI Act to defend democracy and protect human rights.

Stop UID Campaign Secretariat:

INSAF (Indian Social Action Forum)

A-124/6, First Floor Katwaria Sarai,

New Delhi, India – 110 016

Tel. + 91.11.26517814

27 thoughts on “Eight reasons why you should oppose Unique Identification: Stop UID Campaign”

  1. UID project was started at a time when the world was experiencing its worst economic crisis after the WWII. Most of the outsourcing business which comes from the west (on which Indian software industry survives) suddenly stopped and it became very difficult for software industrialists like Nilekani to continue to make millions. The govt of India actually compensated him for the loss of the western contracts by giving him the UID business worth Rs 45000 crore. It’s more or less a bailout package for the software czar. Obiviously, Nilekani has good political connections!

    1. So outsoutrcing business to India has “stopped” after (sic) “WWII”! Any data to support that?

      Nandan Nilekani cannot make his “millions” anymore because of the above – well he is not making his millions anymore (he doesnt need to) in any case as he resigned from Infosys befiore joining the govt.

      GOI has “compensated” the software industry by giving them the “45,000 crore business”…Really? How do you know? Lets do a simple thought experiment – the UID project is expected to haev a timeframe of about 5 years..The total revenues generated by the Indian software industry in the next 5 years is going to be about USD 250 billion (assuming no growth) – 45k, or 10 billion is about 2% of that…Materiality principle??!!

      Why do you have to let basic data trump your analysis?

    2. Anurag says: “UID project was started at a time when the world was experiencing its worst economic crisis after the WWII.”
      Somnath, you read it as “outsoutrcing business to India has “stopped” after (sic) “WWII”
      In other words, Anurag characterises this current period as the worst economic crisis after WWII, during which outsourcing also stopped. You, meanwhile, shoot your mouth off, attributing something else altogether to him. Why let basic reading skills get in the way of pre-formed rants, right?

    3. ^^^ No reading skills issue (at least here, though I am not immune to those deficiencies!)…The full statement made was this:

      “UID project was started at a time when the world was experiencing its worst economic crisis after the WWII. Most of the outsourcing business which comes from the west (on which Indian software industry survives) suddenly stopped ”

      The key assumption made here is that the financial crisis resulted in a sudden stopping of outsourcing business..And my simple quesion to that is – based on what data?

      We can cavil over semantics, but basing conclusions based on fantastic, unproven (sometimes downright wrong) assumptions isnt really the mark of scholarship, is it?

  2. Kalyani Menon-Sen,

    A good draft with nice arguments. Some of them though valid, have counter arguments as well. In the spirit of a healthy debate, below is my take on the article listed point wise.

    Overall, I think we should look at UID as a system or infrastructure that will enable new methods of government – citizenship interaction and not just use it to fit into existing processes and point out at the gaps. It might not be the fault with UID, but the process in which it is put in use.

    And yes, I agree with the need for more laws and frameworks in place. But we need to work on them in parallel, rather than putting UID on hold for this to be in place.

    – James.

    Note to readers:
    I am not a spokesperson of any kind and the information I possess is all what I have read about UID from the white papers to the news articles. Added to that is my belief in the system, a dash of optimism and an attempt not to be prejudiced.

    Feel free to correct me with counter arguments not abuse. Please.

    1. False Claims:

    UID is not making claims. In its current stage it is making promises and hoping that it will bring about inclusive growth. We cannot judge them to be false and unjustified unless we see it in action. Let’s wait to see the results, atleast the initial ones. Else we are just prejudiced.

    Yes, many ration shop owners are corrupt. So why not take this UID as an opportunity to take them away from the entire picture and replace the system with food coupons granted against a UID, which the beneficiaries can use to purchase from open market?

    Similar setups can be done for Scolarships, NREGA where the benefits are sent directly to the beneficiaries.

    UID is not the panacea, but it is a step towards bringing a direct linkage between the government and the citizen. UID does not promise to solve problems and guarantee citizen benefits. It only tries to provide an infrastructure that can be used by the government’s to do them.

    Again let remember that there are many levels of government and bureaucracy in play here. Though few of the ills can be tackled at the national level by central government, the state governments will have to participate in it to take its full advantage. State Government’s should be willing to experiment with the new mode of disbursal of funds and food grains.

    2. Violation of privacy and civil liberties

    Your concerns on the possible leakages of information are understandable and YES, we need more checks on who can give permission to access such information. Possibly something like a double key method? May be.

    Having said that, I believe we live with a false opinion on privacy. The definition of privacy has changed many folds over the last decade.
    Based on the initial data structure format published by UID, there is quite a lot of overlap (except for IRIS and finger prints) of the information we share normally with our Telco operator. Now we all know how easy it is for this information to move from them to another third party.

    So do we actually have the privacy we think we have?

    3. “Functionality creep” and misuse of data

    Yes, UID could extend to add more information to its database, but my speculation of it won’t add is as good as yours that it will.

    As far as I know and you have acknowledged, UID will not share the finger print or IRIS scan or any data. It will be a central repository that will maintain the data and provide identity confirmation service. Now if you need guarantee, it should be same guarantee that we believe passport office will not misuse the plethora of information I share with them.

    And yes the policing agencies can add UID as an attribute to their databases, but that is only for the “criminal” data they have and not the entire people data in UID? But YES, there are scope for adding more checks and balances, which can be brought about only when the system starts functioning.

    4. Inappropriate and unproven technology

    Yes, there needs to be added methods of validation apart for the differently abled. But let’s understand the identity proof is of multiple level and not always require you to take finger print and iris scan. Basic validation just requires you to provide UID and name, based on which payments can be released to the bank a/c attached to the UID in NREGA.

    There are many valid and robust workarounds that can be build for the Indian conditions of life. We should work on them on a continual basis and the system runs.

    5. Database security not assured

    Someone needs to do it first, why not we lead in UID. Why do we need to depend on some country or organization proving this, for us to adopt? Why can’t we do it and show rest of the world it can be done.

    On the ligher side, did we check whether Taj Mahal was built anywhere before it was built? It was new at that time and new technology was invented to build it. So will be the case here.

    Of course, we may have gaps, but should be a good learning process. Yes I can almost hear you saying “At what cost!” . I hope it is not much.
    Purely from the technology perspective, being from a technology company I know of many measures that can ensure database security and prevent unwarranted access and leakage. (Believe me when I say, I am not promoting my employer here who proudly claims to have the best database security practices.)

    Yes, I agree with you on the framework and laws required. We will have to bolster this in parallel as UID progresses. We should not stop one for the other.

    6. Unjustifiable costs

    Yes, claims of Nandan need to be supported with data. UID needs to make it public sometime, if it exists.

    Well again, not all validations require fingerprints and iris scans. And again the USD 50 scanner might be the retail price, but when we employ economies of scale, it should be lot cheaper.

    Your fear of private agencies bypassing is unwarranted. We have always seen private agencies passing on such costs to the customers either directly or through annual maintenance costs.

    Based on what your claim, only ~10% of the allocated amount for this year has been spent, when we have near ~50% of year. Sounds OK to me. But again, that would be presumptuous to claim all is good. Let’s wait for it to get it done.

    7. Bypassing of Parliament and democratic processes

    Nandan is part of the Cabinet, with a rank of a minister. UID is also part of Planning Commission of India. That makes him and UID accountable to the parliament, doesn’t it?

    In regards to the selection of officers at will, there have long been proposals to bring in lateral recruits into the bureaucracy. I think UID is a good chance to put that into practice.

    8. Lessons from other countries

    OK, the countries that have rejected have always had another source of unique identification with them. Our need of unique identification is different from other countries. We are doing it for inclusion, not for the ability to single out.

    Well if you ask for guarantee that singling out will not happen, I would say let’s hope, as we do when we submit our sensitive data to Banks, Telco and Government agencies.

    Yes, I agree with you on strengthening of laws and frameworks around it.

  3. Original comment by Anurag: UID project was started at a time when the world was experiencing its worst economic crisis after the WWII.

    Somnath comment 1:So outsoutrcing business to India has “stopped” after (sic) “WWII”

    After Nivedita’s pointing out his misreading,

    Somnath comment 2: ^^^ No reading skills issue (at least here, though I am not immune to those deficiencies!)…The full statement made was this:
    “UID project was started at a time when the world was experiencing its worst economic crisis after the WWII…”

    By this time, he has forgotten what he wrote just a while ago! Terrific standards of scholarship, indeed! Not a simple misreading issue this.
    As for the substantive question, the original comment writer may reply, if he so wishes:)

  4. UID is surveillance project not only by government but also by private operators. Only government should store the UID nobody else. If that cannot be assured, UID is dangerous.

  5. Personally think it a great idea. For once we take the initiative and not ape. As for no other country having a similar UID, India desp needs an effective social security number types system (like the USA) that enable the system to give them benefits, healthcare, employment.
    Having said this, we need uber-strict privacy laws and security in place as a identity-theft-detterance

  6. I am responding to the post from James Ramya Rajan, whom I would like to thank for his careful reading and response to the issues I have raised on the UID.

    I agree with you that the primary question is the usefulness of the UID scheme – is it actually going to be able to make government schemes accessible to the poor as it claims (or “promises”, if you prefer)?

    As you rightly say, the UID’s own documents and media reports are not giving us any answers to this question. What we are getting is a hard sell, with very little substance. Apart from PR pieces put out by the UIDAI and media reportage of high-profile events, very little information about the technical and administrative aspects of the UID has been made available to the general public. In such a situation, many citizens are finding it difficult to take an informed position on the UID and, like you, are adopting a “wait and see” approach.

    The “answers” given by Mr.Nilekani and his colleagues in the UIDAI in response to these questions are little more than declarations of good faith. In effect, they are also asking us to “wait and see”, and promising us that wonderful things will come out of the UID magic box if only we will be patient.

    But “wait and see” is hardly an acceptable approach when large amounts of public money are being spent on an untested and unproven idea. Unlike Shahjahan, who could empty out his treasury to construct the Taj Mahal without anyone daring to question him, the Government of India is answerable to us before spending public money on something of this scale. We as citizens have the right to satisfy ourselves of the utility and desirability of the UID project before we allow it to proceed.

    It is the government whom we can question and hold accountable – not Mr.Nilekani, who we are told was “invited by the Prime Minister” to head the UID. Mr. Nilekani has not been appointed by Parliament or through any public process (like ordinary bureaucrats). He reports directly to the PM and is not legally or functionally accountable either to the Planning Commission or to Parliament. It took an RTI query to get even these basic details out of the UIDAI.

    If you are based in Delhi, please do come to our public meeting on 16th October at the Indian Social Institute, where we hope to have a wider debate and discussion on the UID and our concerns about it. Please also see the articles below, which specifically address some of the points you have raised.



  7. Valid concerns most of them. I am worried that we may be throwing a technology solution where it may not be the real solution as you rightly pointed out. And for someone who ran Infosys, I don’t expect Nandan to do a root cause analysis and provide the right solution, the whole game of outsourcing is an opportunistic business rather than doing the right thing for the customer. And it reflects here as well. Our leaders(including Nandan) are not putting the money where the priority should be. IMO, improving literacy which will make many of the poor aware of their rights itself would solve many of the problems – but that doesn’t seem to be a priority at all for anyone. For me, this is a wasted effort when we have more serious problems to tackle(corruption, illiteracy, health issue etc.) keep up the fight!

  8. Some of the reasons advocated by the article are just plain ridiculous. Like the idea that the UID project is flawed because the a fingerprint scanner may not recognize a greasy or dusty (or whatever) finger.

    Its seems funny that you’re sitting in India and have the same concerns as American and Europeans.

    We’ll start worrying about privacy when India stops being a global hub for poverty, malnourishment and disease.

    Most western countries have a national ID system, be it in the form of a social security number or an NHS card.

    I for one whole-heartedly support the project. If the UID can substitute my PAN card, voter ID card, ration card with a single access, its a good enough.

    And I’m sure the poor farmer or labourer in the rural hinterland would rather be on a national database than on the local panchayat appointed supervisor’s dusty old register.

    1. @Vivek, ‘greasy / dusty’ thumbs are not concoctions of a western mind, but a reality. And this is not something you find just in the dusty hinterland, but very much in the heart of our tier-1 cities. We don’t get that by typing away on a keyboard cleaned everyday by the housekeeping staff. We get those by working with machines, human-beings, doing nasty things no one possibly wants to do. We get callouses on our fingers, and eventually that does impact the finger-printing reliability. The people who work with heavy tools, with abrasives, wood etc., just try to feel their hand sometimes. The skin of their palm is as hard as a shoe-sole, and their finger print features are almost gone or pretty fuzzy. This is speaking from an extensive hands on experience with FP-readers.

    2. @vivek:”We’ll start worrying about privacy when India stops being a global hub for poverty, malnourishment and disease.”

      Do you really think that the arrival of UID is suddenly going to make saint out of all those in the bureaucracy honest, incapable of cheating and subverting of the monies, if you really do then well stop reading.
      The UID kind of stuff is aimed at us the working class people us who have the capability to at least stand upto the govt. The ministers in this country are erecting there own statues, setting up parks in their own names, setting up security forces to protect said parks. Guys like A Raja the telecom minister wasn’t brought to question by the govt even after 15 months since the first time allegations were made against him and even SC of India had directed govt for action. Do you think any action would be possible against such a guy if he was to have access to all the personal info against those who oppose him, because all electronic info is linkable, traceable(this is a big point ponder over it).
      Let’s be honest our hearts may go out to those who suffer due to poverty, illiteracy etc but when it comes to putting words into action the well-off have already been found wanting and the govt doubly so, which however you slice it is full off crooks.

      The slippery slope to hell is paved with good intentions.

    3. I agree with Vivek many of the reasons given in the article are ridiculous, a plain reading of the article leaves us with impression that it is an opposition just for the heck of it, there are no substantive, impacting arguments, the comparison with other countries is flawed as the problem statements, solutions present & evolution stage of governance are quite different. Attributing motives to everybody including Nilekani is not done; infy or IT bashing is another fad these days, agreed that in IT we have failed to create new knowledge & have been doing outsourced repetitive jobs of the west and are doing low jobs on the value chain but one shudders to imagine what would have been India’s economic and employment situation if IT revolution would not have happened in last two decades.

  9. Arguments are good.One basic point that has been recurrently stated is the absence of a prior practice of good governance to implement this so called good governance practice itself. I have a analogy to slightly differ with the view- just because a child is expected to fail in the examination would it be a sufficient reason to keep him or her away from the study.Wouldn’t it be better that since we know the child is going to fail we programme his or her learning so that the disabillties are overcome? Similarly with this project it would be better that constructive criticism are offered so that at least it might be incorporated in the project.Summary opposition would mean that this opposition will not cut ice with a determined government.

    1. @praveen, the analogy isn’t good or representative of what we have at hand with the UID. Also it is a question of extremely misplaced priorities and unsubstantiated ‘claims’ (or even false-promises). If one must draw the child-study-exam analogy, I’d rather say that this is a child with a chronic ulcer who has serious difficulty studying, and before you let her/him taken an exam, or force her/him to school, you better get that ulcer checked and treated. It is like saying, sorry I cannot give the Rs.1 lac treatment needed, because I prefer to spend Rs.100 lac to send him to Harvard. Once he graduates out of Harvard, things like ulcers will take care of themselves.

      The quantum of money spent/demanded and allocated is just mind-boggling. The least that UIDAI can do is to come out strongly and demonstrate that they know how exactly UID is going to solve all the problems/challenges it promised it would solve. There needs to be a perfectly logical explanation which bridges claim and promise.

  10. I am surprised that India does not already have a program like this. There probably are some benefits but in many cases, UID programs are invasive, costly and do not serve any good purpose. If I were in India I would do everything in my power to fight this.

  11. In the final analysis, schemes of this kind have to be looked at from a cost-benefit point of view. So far, all that I have read & heard seems to indicate that the considerable costs, which are to be met out of the public exchequer and hence borne by the people of India, considerably outweigh the benefits.

    After doing a fairly rigorous cost-benefit analysis, it is indeed true that both U.K. & Australia have indefinitely shelved such schemes.

    It is also true that merely propagating that giving out a UID card to each citizen of India will lead to better governance and ensure better security for the country sounds more like glib and trite talk rather than a postulate which has any merit or substance.

    While various pros & cons can be debated, many of the points mentioned here are valid. And personally speaking, though being a contemporary of Nandan Nilekani and a person who has spent most of three decades in the Information Technology & Communications industry, seeing this succeed would delight me professionally at least, I have to admit that I do have major misgivings whether it indeed will.

    Over and above all that has been said, I would like to highlight a few issues and pose some queries which may have been raised earlier, in this or some other forum. They are:

    1. I understand that the UID no. will be a 12 digit one, which does not follow any natural sequence or pattern (e.g. date of birth concatenated with some other sequence). I do not see most people, specially in the B & C category towns and rural areas, carrying a biometric card around with them all the time. How then are they supposed to recall or put down a large 12 digit number, which has no obvious sequence which helps them to remember, when asked to state or write down their Unique ID when they may not have the card with them?

    2. It is likely that on an ongoing basis, a large number of cards will be lost or misplaced by individuals. On many an occasion, loss of the card may be faked by individuals because of a host of reasons. Has a clear process been worked out for verification and issuing of replacement cards in such cases? How long would such a process take normally and who would be responsible for the costs incurred?

    3. A biometric card assumes the availability of extensive infrastructure all across the country, for its optimal use by any individual. Such infrastructure would include among many other things, efficient & secure communication networks both cable & wireless, secure database & backup servers, secure links to existing government & non-government databases, widespread availability of good quality card-readers and above all user training and familiarity with some of these automated devices that an user would be required to make use of regularly. Has any plan been presented about how exactly this is proposed to be achieved, realistically by when, what are the costs involved for installation, implementation, user training & maintenance and who exactly is supposed to pick up the tab for all the associated equipment & infrastructure required?

    4. Since the whole project is being funded out of public funds, how can the PM or any concerned minister or body refuse to answer valid questions or claim exemption from an independent audit which looks at the feasibility, total direct & indirect costs which will be incurred over a period of time and the claimed benefits, tangible & intangible which may accrue from the implementation of such a project? Since a storm has been brewing in the country on the basis of a CAG audit which arrived at certain presumptive losses for the 2G spectrum allocation, why shouldn’t there be an independent body of professionals, not owing allegiance either to the government of the day or any interested vendors or service providers who may benefit from the sale of equipments or services for such a project, auditing the whole project thoroughly and making their findings known both to the government and the public?

    I am not reiterating or repeating several other points which have already been touched on or discussed extensively in this regard. However, I hope you undertake a campaign to spread national awareness about this whole project, particularly since the amounts involved are huge and one is not quite sure whether the amounts mentioned so far, cover all the related & associated cost elements, several of which I have mentioned earlier, needed to even make this project a qualified success in the first place.

  12. Finger printing world over is for criminals only, there are less criminals in common man than there are in Parliament.

  13. Even if you dont take anyyy of the mentioned points in this article , answer this ..

    in a country where most politicians are corrupt and have criminal charges against them , would you really trust your personal info with them??

    1. The tax-payers already have a PAN with photographs but I have not heard of any “politician” misusing the same. Then what makes you think they will be interested in the personal info of the poor chaps?

      One thing I am unable to understandis when the Banks can issue Debit/Credit Cards for less than Rs.100/- why the UID costs so much? Some where there is “gold-plating” of the expenses.

  14. I am struggling from several days to get one food security card for a poor man in my vicinity , but the Hyderabad-Secunderabad mee seva can not upload his application. while inserting adhaar number, the menu pop up saying that Food Security Card already issued for this person. This person do not have any food security card issued in any district of Telangana, he is daily bread earner and aged 65 years. I went the collector offices and different ration card circles, I got the proof that no where in their system the Ration card of said UID or person issued or exists. No one is able to solve this mystery. where to find the solution. State government department are helpless. Adhaar is the mother of all scams and most corrupt thing happen in India. A single Hyderabad city 7.94 people linked adhaar with Food security cards, only 2 lakh finger print matched, now remaining 6 lakhs people are paying fees and re-submitting the data. more over every ration card circle will buy new improvised finger print scanner which will better configure the adhaar finger data base with ration card food security data base, is not this the burden on taxpayers money.

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