No party's got a clear stand, Aadhaar's fate hangs in balance

A non-UPA government for sure will review the multi-crore UID programme, but none of the parties have yet talked about scrapping it

pratap

Pratap Vikram Singh | April 13, 2014



Since inception, Aadhaar’s foundation has been shaky. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has been functioning on an executive fiat, without parliamentary ratification. When the government first came up with a bill on the UID programme, it was rejected by the parliamentary standing committee, which questioned the purpose of the programme.

Aadhaar’s acceptability as proof of residence and its issuance to the illegal immigrants too has courted controversy. The opposition and the ministry of home affairs have repeatedly flagged the issue. Recently, the supreme court (SC) instructed the government to withdraw all orders mandating Aadhaar number for service delivery. In September last year too the apex court had ruled that no one should be denied a service for want of Aadhaar.

While the Congress hasn’t changed its position on Aadhaar and wishes to continue with Aadhaar-linked benefits transfer, the BJP hasn’t mentioned it even once in its 52-page manifesto. On April 8, Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, in an election rally near Bangalore was quoted as saying, “I asked several questions on the Aadhaar project. I asked them questions relating to illegal migrants and national security. They (the government) did not have any answer.”

Rajendra Pratap Gupta, member of BJP’s core committee on manifesto, told Governance Now: “If we come to power we will review this in totality. There is scepticism around the whole project and even the SC has ruled against mandating it.” He called Aadhaar one of the ‘biggest scams’ of the UPA. “We have found people owning multiple Aadhaar cards. It (Aadhaar) is not a very secure system,” he added.    

On the other hand, Aam Aadmi Party doesn’t oppose the idea of Aadhaar, though it is critical of its linkage to delivering food and other subsidies. Atishi Marlena, the party’s manifesto committee chief, said, “In principle, we don’t oppose the Aadhaar programme. If it’s about providing an identification proof to the poor who don’t have other documents, we certainly welcome it. But Aadhaar’s linkage with benefits-transfer needs to be questioned. Who gets what and who doesn’t should be determined by gram sabhas and mohalla sabhas. It should be done via people participation.”

The CPI(M), in its manifesto, called for halting the project unless it gets parliamentary approval. It also underlined the need for a privacy and data protection law prior to the rollout of the UID programme. “The moment Aadhaar is linked with service delivery, the scope for exclusion widens. You need to have universal coverage of Aadhaar and banking before you roll out the benefits transfer programme,” CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member Tapan Sen said.

In its manifesto, the party has talked about ‘constituting an independent high-level expert panel for an appraisal of the technology of biometrics used in the project’.

Sunil Abraham of the Centre for Internet and Society said, “The centralised online authentication automatically raises issues of privacy infringement. The authentication, in a decentralised fashion, with help of smart cards, is less intrusive, as the logs are stored in a local fashion and not centralised as in the case of Aadhaar. It will be a welcome move if the next government selects resident ID  (smart) card, issued by the home ministry, as proof for identification and service delivery.”

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