Nir-Aadhaar Card

By Ashwin Tombat
23 April 2017 13:00 IST

The Goa Directorate of Education (DoE) has asked schools to record the Aadhaar card numbers of its students. Director of Education G P Bhat said this is to prevent duplication of benefits of government schemes like mid-day meals, free raincoats and notebooks,  incentives to girl students, etc.

Students need to submit their Aadhaar card numbers when declaring the annual results for the current academic year. Those who do not have an Aadhaar card must get one by 30 June.

This implies that those children whose parents do not have the documents required (proof of identity and proof of address) to get an Aadhaar card may not be allowed to join school in the coming academic year. What happens to their 'Right to Education'?

The circular is in blatant violation of the Supreme Court order that the Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory for government welfare schemes. It even violates the letter and spirit of the The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, which nowhere mentions that it is compulsory to have an Aadhaar card.

The Central Government has, controversially, made Aadhaar mandatory for a number of welfare schemes. This includes availing house subsidy; crop insurance benefit or soil health cards for farmers; people eligible for subsidised foodgrains; the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme; pregnant women's subsidy and Integrated Child Development Scheme benefits; students availing central scholarships; women availing vocational training, loans and other schemes; mid-day meals in schools, disabled children between 6 to 14 years who are eligible for benefits under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan; and even Bhopal gas tragedy victims who avail government compensation...

Apart from that, Aadhaar is now mandatory to book online Railway tickets, and to file Income Tax returns or apply for a PAN card. Any PAN card not linked to the Aadhaar card will become redundant after 30 June.

This last issue is a major problem, especially for Goans. The Aadhaar database does not recognise special characters like an apostrophe, while the PAN card does. This means all D'Souzas, D'Silvas, D'Cunhas and D'Mellos could face major problems when filing their Income Tax returns this year, as their names in the PAN database may differ from their names in the Aadhaar database.

There is no doubt that Aadhaar is a brilliant concept to plug leakage and theft of public money and resources. By taking two biometrics — fingerprints and iris scans — it reduces duplication and fraud to negligible levels. But it has a big problem, of data security.

 

Recently, Former India Cricket Captain M S Dhoni's Aadhaar data was leaked over social media. It could happen to any of us. Though the Aadhaar biometric and other data is stored in highly encrypted secure servers, it was originally collected by thousands of so-called 'enrolment agencies', mostly private firms, paid a fee for every card they processed.

So while the government's claim that Aadhaar biometric and other data cannot be leaked from the IT ministry may be true, there are thousands of other potential leakage points.

According to an article by Aditya Madanapalle in Firstpost.com, a simple Google search can reveal thousands of databases that contain Aadhaar numbers with personal data, including names, names of parents, PAN numbers, mobile numbers, religion, marks, status of rejection of applications, bank account numbers, IFSC codes and other sensitive information.

In February, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which administers Aadhaar,  filed a complaint against Axis Bank, Suvidhaa Infoserve and eMudhra, alleging they had attempted unauthorized authentication and impersonation by illegally storing Aadhaar biometrics. The fraud was noticed after one individual performed 397 biometric transactions between 14 July 2016 and 19 February 2017.

RTI data indicates that the UIDAI received 1,390 complaints about Aadhaar enrolment agencies between 29 September 2010 and 31 October 2016. But it filed police complaints in only three cases. Alarmingly, all other complaints — over 1,300 — were 'resolved', 'dropped' or 'closed'.

Minister of IT and Law Ravi Shankar Prasad recently told the Rajya Sabha that in the last six years, the government had cancelled and blacklisted 34,000 operators. "Since December 2016, we have taken action against 1,000 operators," he said. Obviously, there is no shortage of unscrupulous operators in the Aadhaar firmament, but "action" is restricted to blacklisting in the absence of a proper privacy law.

When you got yourself a Sim Card recently, you may have used your fingerprints to authenticate your Aadhaar card at one of the thousands of dealers. How confident are you that your biometrics cannot be misused?

Before it makes Aadhaar compulsory, the government must get its act together. It must make sure that Aadhaar, PAN and other documents are completely compatible. It must pass a tough privacy law with stringent criminal penalties for violation. It must make citizens confident of their data security.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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Previous Comments

Aadhar Card should be scrap!

It should be Passport Copy for NRIs and Citizen Card for non-NRIs.

- Jack De Goan, Goa | 15 th May 2017 20:13

 

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