Guest Post by USHA RAMANATHAN
On September 23, 2013, the Supreme Court ‘s directed that “no person should suffer for not getting the aadhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory”. Reacting to an argument of Mr Anil Divan, Justice Puttaswamy’s counsel, the judges added that “when any person applies to get the Adhaar Card voluntarily, it may be checked whether that person is entitled for it under the law and it should not be given to any illegal immigrant”. The order regarding making the UID mandatory was made in the context of the questionable legality of the project, and the instructions being issued, as it has been in Maharashtra, that teaching and non-teaching staff and judges of the High Court would not get their salaries unless they have a UID. The latter part of the order on `illegal immigrants’ echoes those who wanted, and got, an amendment to the Citizenship Act in 2003 authorising the creation of a National Register of Citizens. This was inherently illogical and opportunistic; for, the rhetoric of threat from the outsider drew upon the Kargil standoff in 1999, when it was Pakistan that was seen as sending in terrorists who needed to be identified and dealt with, but the politics of the day made the migrant from Bangladesh the `threat’. The Home Minister of the day saw them in every shadow. The UID project is a part of this enterprise.
The UID Project, with Mr Nandan Nilekani at its helm, has developed ambitions of its own in the four years since it was set by executive notification. In these four years, what observers and analysts have seen of the project has produced disturbing questions around what constitutes identity and how it will be established: 
Continue reading Casting a backward glance after a court order – the UID project: Usha Ramanathan →
Guest Post by KALYANI MENON-SEN
Poor Mr Nilekani. Just when everything was going swimmingly for him – adulatory interviews in the foreign press, tantalising rumours of a Congress ticket for the 2014 polls, lots and lots of votes on a poll to select the Greatest Living Indian – comes another well-aimed spanner in his works from that bunch of litigacious Jokers who have been playing rasta roko with his Batmobile for some time now.
The Supreme Court ruling of 23rd September is curt and unequivocal – a) two other challenges to Aadhar in the High Courts of Chennai and Mumbai to be clubbed with this one and heard by a Constitution Bench; b) an immediate freeze on linking Aadhar to benefits under social schemes; and c) a direction to tighten up the registration process to make sure that only Indian citizens are enrolled.
Every line of this ruling is a painful blow for Aadhar. It’s bad enough that the Court has taken seriously the charge that Aadhar violates Constitutional rights. The implication that there are serious errors in the registration process is even worse, and pulls the plug on one of the main arguments in support of the UID – that it will stop leakages in government schemes by weeding out bogus beneficiaries. Worst of all is the decoupling from the “Apna Paisa Apne Haath” bandwagon. If the UPA decides not to jettison the cash transfer scheme – its big-ticket strategy for the 2014 polls – it will find a way to keep it going without Aadhar. Whether or not this strategy pays off, Aadhar will be the loser. Continue reading Aadhaar – What next after the SC ruling? Kalyani Menon-Sen →
This is a guest post by Ram Krishnaswamy For the last three years activists opposing Aadhaar/UID have argued that it can lead to communal targeting, can aid illegal migrants, can invade privacy, is unconstitutional, does not have parliamentary approval, is illegal, etc. Yet all such objections and more have been successfully stonewalled by UIDAI and UPA leaders.
Further, Aadhaar is not compulsory and so such allegations are considered invalid. The middle and upper class Indians have remained silent about the UID debate, as it does not affect them in the least. The long lines of persons stretching before UID enrollment centers must be proof, then, of the popularity of this concept.
Nandan Nilekani and UIDAI Director General R.S Sharma have repeatedly told the nation that UID, now called Aadhaar, is not mandatory. Yet, over a period of time, they say, it could become ubiquitous, if service providers insist upon it compulsorily, in order to receive their services. To quote UIDAI Chairman, Nandan Nilekani, “Yes, it is voluntary. But the service providers might make it mandatory. In the long run I wouldn’t call it compulsory. I’d rather say it will be come ubiquitous.”
Continue reading Do you know why Aadhaar is NOT compulsory: Ram Krishnaswamy →
This long guest post by TAHA MEHMOOD, who has been independently researching surveillence, biometrics and identification techonologies for a long time dissects the discussion and discourse around the Unique Identification Database scheme of the Government of India
- The Discreet Charm of UID
The January 2012 issue of The Economist, a magazine published from London, has an article on India’s national ID card scheme, titled, The Magic Number. The article focuses on how UID is progressing. The brave hero of the story is of course Nandan Nilekani and villain is ‘India’s stubborn home minister, P. Chidambaram,’ who ‘is now blocking a cabinet decision to extend the UID’s mandate, which is needed for the roll-out to continue’. According to the unnamed author of the article, ‘Indian politics hinge on patronage—the doling out of opportunities to rob one’s countrymen. UID would make this harder. That is why it faces such fierce opposition, and why it could transform India.’ This article appeared in The Economist days after the report of Standing Committee of Finance was released. What went on in the deliberations of this standing committee?
Continue reading The Unique Identity of a Standing Committee – The UID in Parliament: Taha Mehmood →
Guest post by TAHA MEHMOOD
A pilgrimage to the cave
One day Cleinias, a Cretan invites Athenian and Megillos, a Spartan for a religious pilgrimage. Cleinias proposes to visit the cave of Zeus, just as Minos used to do. Minos was the legendary Cretan king. Every nine years Minos would walk along a path to the cave where he will hear revelations on the laws from Zeus. Perhaps the act of a man going to the cave to seek revelations from God was part of an ancient Cretian tradition. In the islandof Crete Minos played the role of a Lawgiver, in Athens– Zeus, while in Megillos’s state Sparta this role was played by Apollo.
Magnesia: The last idolum of Plato
This was the setting of the last dialog of Plato. He called it The Laws. In this dialog Plato tries to define the legal framework of an imaginary state named Magnesia. Throughout his life Plato was preoccupied with the question of how to name and define things. He believed one could even name abstract entities like numbers and define it as even or odd. In this dialog Plato makes an attempt to name various types of laws and define it.
Continue reading The Utopian Instinct – Aflatoon, Kiran Bedi and Nandan Nilekani: Taha Mehmood →
Guest post by TAHA MEHMOOD
Simon Bar Jona was a fisherman based in small town called Bethaida. They say one day Simon’s brother, Andrew, led him to a man who called himself Jesus. They say Simon and Andrew became disciples of Jesus.
One day Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you think I am?”
His disciples looked at each other. They did not know anything about him. They did not know who he was. Some disciples said Jesus was actually John the Baptist: some said he was Elijah; and others though he was Jeremias. Jesus could have been any of these or none of these. But Jesus was not satisfied with the answer, so he asked again, “Who do you think I am?”
At that point Simon Bar Jona, the fisherman answered, “Are you not Christ, the Son of the living God?’“
Jesus was pleased, he replied, “Bless you, Simon Bar Jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Continue reading The gospel according to a divine identifier – An essay on the biblical origins of UID: Taha Mehmood →
Guest post by TAHA MEHMOOD
I – The spread of Identity cards in Southasia:
An identity card virus seems to be spreading across south-Asia. The pathogen emerged long ago in 1971, when Pakistan established a paper based personal identity system. !971 was also the year when Pakistan was engaged with India in a military conflict which led to the creation of Bangladesh. In 1972, a year later, the Department of Registrations of Persons located at Colombo, Sri Lanka, was entrusted with the responsibility of issuing a national identity to citizens who were over sixteen years of age. In 1972 the name of the island was changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka and Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran formed the Tamil New Tigers (TNT), which later became LTTE or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The state of Sri Lanka was at war with LTTE for the next three decades. Nothing new happened on the national identity card front for the next two decades. Continue reading On the fuzziness of Personal Identity: UIDAI and the national identity card of India: Taha Mehmood →
Drafted by KALYANI MENON-SEN for the Stop UID Campaign
AN APPEAL TO CITIZENS
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.
Continue reading Eight reasons why you should oppose Unique Identification: Stop UID Campaign →