So, good sense finally prevailed. The much-bragged-about Aadhar Card, which consumed the collective imagination of an entire India, is now shrouded with doubt. The Supreme Court only recently laid out that the Government’s attempts to make the procurement of essential commodities conditional to the possession of an Aadhar Card was a plot ill-conceived from the very start. There seems to be a flicker of justice.
Supreme Court Raises Pertinent Issues On Aadhar
The Supreme Court recently passed an order restraining the linking of services and benefits to the 12-digit Aadhaar number plunging into doubt the myriad of ambitious plans by the Centre and several State governments to make the ‘voluntary’ Aadhaar scheme mandatory for access to services and subsidies. The order was passed on a writ petition by retired justice of the Karnataka High Court K.S. Puttaswamy, along with two other petitions referred from the Bombay and Madras High Courts.
For all practical purposes, pooling in one’s collective ire into campaigning against the soaring prices of petrol or, for that matter, onions would make more sense. But, the Centre – irrespective of political leanings – has always been notorious for insinuating, instigating and initiating processes of the sort – to ensure that people lose the plot. If they didn’t, they may just mobilise against the State as is often seen in shades and spurts like the Delhi gang-rape case and the recent upsurge over the RTI Amendment Act.
Data Loss Triggers Need to Re-enroll for Aadhar
Launching a lofty plan like the Aadhar Card without having the prerequisite processes in place was bound to meet with disaster. The first of its lot came to light when the government conceded that it had no readily available data on how many people had enrolled for the card before April 1, 2012. The Unique Identification Authority of India has maintained that applicants will have to re-enroll under three conditions. Firstly, if their status on the e-Aadhaar website says ‘rejected’; secondly, if it shows ‘not found’ and, lastly, if enrollments were done prior to April 1, 2012 and the status shows ‘cannot be processed due to technical reasons.’
Reportedly, the website could show an applicant status as ‘rejected’ even if he had made multiple registrations. The absence of information desks and counters in Delhi led to a lot of confusion. Not many have access to the Internet restricting the option of checking and tracking status within the reach of just a cyber-savvy few. For senior citizens and those technologically compromised, things are difficult.
Apparently, ‘encrypting errors’ have been responsible for the loss of data related to applicants who enrolled for the Aadhaar unique identification number in the first phase. The UID Authority of India told the Delhi government that applicants whose status on the e-Aadhar website reads “can’t be processed due to technical reasons,” will need to re-enroll unless they had given their biometrics for the National Population Registry Card.
The Delhi government data reveals that 1.36 crore residents from a population of 1.67 crore had enrolled for Aadhar. Delhi, incidentally, had made Aadhar mandatory for more than 20 services including property and marriage registrations.
A whopping 3.84 lakh Aadhar Cancelled
The fake Aadhaar numbers generated raising huge security concerns over UPA’s new UID-based governance model. Of the total 4.10 lakh Aadhar numbers generated under the biometric exception clause, 3.84 lakh Aadhar numbers had to be cancelled.
Incidentally, Aadhar agencies were permitted to enroll people without proper fingerprints or iris scans under the biometric exception clause. Here, they were required to provide photographs of the non-existent biometrics along with demographics details of the people to be enrolled. The clause was incorporated to turn Aadhar into a truly inclusive identification generation process. However, agencies exploited the clause to make some money as for each successful enrollment and generation of Aadhaar number, the agency got Rs. 50.
This went about smoothly till a colossal number of Aadhar letters in Andhra Pradesh remained undelivered. Most of the 45,000 undelivered Aadhaar letters in Andhra Pradesh were of those under the exception clause suggesting something was seriously amiss.
Investigations revealed that of 48.80 lakh Aadhaar generated in Andhra Pradesh, 2.30 lakh were false and were subsequently cancelled. Similar situations in other states too came to light. In Delhi, the biometric exception was introduced for people with high level of disabilities but was used too frequently raising questions on the credibility of Aadhar numbers.
Similar instances of fake Aadhaar numbers came to light from Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. The authority revealed that, of the total Aadhaar generated under this clause, only 22,195 were found to be genuine. Another 6,600 Aadhaar numbers were under investigation.
For enrollment of around 90 crore residents in subsequent phases, the UIDAI has asked agencies not to opt for biometric exception without approval from a senior, preferably a government official. The UPA government has decided to use Aadhaar payment platform for delivery of its welfare schemes once the enrollment is complete, likely by April 2014.
…And then, Aadhar Cards were dumped in garbage
If there weren’t enough issues with fake cards doing the rounds, more than 200 Aadhar Cards were found lying dumped in garbage in a garbage bin at Kajheri village in Chandigarh district early in March this year. Instead of being delivered to their respective owners, the cards were dumped unceremoniously on the road triggering dissent among locals who expressed disgust at having to enroll for Aadhaar after standing for hours in long queues but find their cards thrown away in garbage.
A little earlier, 56 Aadhaar Cards were found lying with the area barber in the same village while beneficiaries were running from pillar to post to get duplicates of the cards to avail of services available only after production of the cards.
State Refuses To Give Up
The State, on its part, refuses to give up. Like a slighted lover, the Congress-led UPA government will push for passage of a long-pending bill to provide statutory status to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in the winter session of Parliament. This, despite the Parliament’s Standing Committee having rejected it earlier and the Aadhar Card, in itself, raising serious issues of privacy. Weren’t we supposed to be a free people?
But then, as Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. We probably don’t deserve it.
By Gajanan Khergamker