Why Aadhaar is Niraadhaar: Jairam’s objections to the bill

Jairam Ramesh questions Aadhaar’s role in plugging subsidy leakages

GN Bureau | March 16, 2016


#Lok Sabha   #parliament   #Jairam Ramesh   #Arun Jaitley   #UIDAI   #Aadhaar   #Rajya Sabha  
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh

After snubbing the finance minister in Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh of Congress questioned the government’s claim of saving Rs 14,000 crore by integrating Aadhaar for the LPG subsidy. Citing a report by International Institute of Sustainable Development, a London-based think tank, which seriously doubts the claim of savings accrued by DBT-LPG, Ramesh asked about the study on the basis of which the government is making such tall claims. 

 
“What is Aadhaar? There is enormous confusion. That Aadhaar will identify people who are entitled for subsidy. No. Aadhaar doesn’t determine who is eligible and who isn’t,” Ramesh said. 
 
It can’t be the basis of deciding whether one person will get subsidy and another won’t, he added.
 
He took a jibe on the NDA government’s “fascination” for coining new terms, like JAM –acronym for Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile. “To say that we have done subsidy sudhaar as we have made Aadhaar mandatory in subsidy distribution is wrong. It only tackles one part of the issue – of fake identity,” he said. 
 
Voluntary not mandatory
 
He further stated that position of the UPA government and the Congress party has always been that Aadhaar is “voluntary and not mandatory”.  
 
However, “It (clause 57) widens the ambit of Aadhaar. It makes it mandatory,” he said, adding that, “every individual who doesn’t desire to have an Aadhaar should have option of voluntarily opting out.” 
 
Therefore, “this clause should be dropped,” he suggested.
 
National security vs privacy
 
The use of term ‘national security’ for overriding privacy clauses gives sweeping powers to the government. 
 
Under the Telegraph Act, 1885, there is no term as national security. It carefully uses terms like ‘public emergency’ and ‘public safety’. “National security is a very broad term and amorphous,” he said.  “Instead of using this term, the legislation should use ‘public emergency’ and ‘public safety’.” 
 
Independent member in oversight committee 
 
Ramesh recommended that an independent member should be in the oversight committee that would be headed by the cabinet secretariat. 
 
No delegated legislation 
 
The Aadhaar bill also confers huge powers to the UIDAI in terms of collection of information. If the authority wants to collect data or additional biometrics – DNA for example – they should come to parliament for its approval. “No legislative power should be delegated. The suo motu power to collect information doesn’t inspire public confidence,” he said.
 
Denial of service
 
“A study points out that 40 percent of Jan-Dhan account holders could not access their accounts for want of Aadhaar. There could be problems related to connectivity, problem with biometrics of old people or labourers.” 
 

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