UID "Aadhar" - Beyond the 'Rose Tinted View'
"Most of the major countries who have tried this have given it up. And only some. I think Pakistan is...is doing it and we are probably following them, which is rather silly in my view."
Dr. R Balasubramaniam (Dr. Balu): Public Policy Expert; "former Special Investigator (PDS), Lok Ayukta, Karnataka" -
"UID is very uni-dimensionally fixated. It only looks at one problem from one particular angle and thinks that solving that angle will solve the problem itself. It doesn't work that way. So, my own concern is unless we understand the dimensions, the complexities, and the diversity of the Indian population and the mindset that they come with and the expenditure pattern that they are actually having today, you really cannot find a solution for the PDS issues that we are facing through Aadhar."
J.T. D'Souza, Managing director of SPARC Systems Limited. A company also works in Biometrics technology -
"It is very, very easy to fake a fingerprint. And in fact I have my wife's fake fingerprint with me."
Satish Chandra: Former Deputy National Security Advisor -
"I was very upset after met Nandan Nilekani. When he told me this is where the idea came from..."
In May 1999, India was surprised by infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants into positions on the Indian side of the LOC. Soon after the war, Indian government set up "Kargil Review Committee" that comprised four members: K. Subramanyam (Chairman), Satish Chandra, Secretary, National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) who was also designated as member - Secretary, Lieutenant General (Retd.) K.K.Hazari, and B.G.Varghese.
In April 2000, a Group of Ministers was formed to review the national security system in its entirety, AND in particular to consider the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee. The Group of Ministers finalised their report entitled "Reforming the National Security System" in February 2001 AND it was approved by the CCS in May 2001 that mooted the idea of a national identity card.
"When I first came across the UID I thought, my God! This is not practical. Why is the government doing this? Then I started studying it. I filed some RTI applications, I got some vague replies and I felt that it will do no good. It is... It is not something which can achieve any of the objectives and they seem to promote it as something that will serve the poor, which to me appear deceitful considering the background. There is a whole history which will show that the intention of such a project is not for serving the poor. It was something else. If you look at the UIDAI website, the website only talks of the history starting with 2006. In other words, they ignore the history of almost 7 years prior to that. The UID idea starts with the Kargil war. The government felt that in the Kargil war, we were taken by surprise. That was in 1999. So, they set up a committee called the Subramaniam Committee. Dr. K. Subrahmanyam was the chairman of the committee and the purpose of the committee was to identify the causes for what the government thought was the intelligence failure which led to the Kargil war. Pakistan surprised us by about 500 or 600 trained militants crossing the border and attacking the posts at the kargil."
Mr. Satish Chandra (Member, Kargil Review Committee) -
"This is a paragraph this on illegal immigration that was the trigger. Illegal immigration has assumed serious proportions. There should be compulsory registrations of citizens and non-citizens. This will facilitate the preparation of a national register of citizens. All citizens should be given a multi-purpose national identity card and non-citizens should be issued identity cards of different colour and design. This should be introduced initially to the border districts on may be in a 20 KMs border belt and extended to the hinterland progressively. The central government should meet the full cost of the identity card. See! Many people from the neighboring countries are tempted to cross over to India and search a better job opportunities. In order to prevent illegal migration in future, a work permit of foreigner's scheme may be introduced. A proposal for introduction of multi-purpose (identity cards) to all citizens and compulsory registrations of nationals and non-nationals in the country is already under consideration. Now, I can tell you something further. And when this was taken to the group of secretaries and the cabinet secretaries, they said you know about non-Indians leave it aside for the foreigners permit. Let's at least do it for Indian nationals. So, it is very clear that it could be done for Indian nationals. The census machinery would not be used for it because the census machinery doesn't give you the conclusive evidence because they also don't look too much on the identity of a person. It has to be the local district authorities. And Nandan Nilekani is not using the local authorities. He is using the census authority and in fact, when we ask the census authority, 'Why do you have to do this?' they said, 'Look, this is not our job and we want to get confidence of people and if we start probing too much, we may not get the confidence.'"
So, what is the problem with this?
Satish Chandra - "What will happen with this card is it... there are 20 million Bangladesis here. They will all become Indian nationals and get all the benefits and... even if you have a 0.001 % penetration by ISI. You see the fun and game that will happen? Apart from Pakistanis... there will be some Pakistanis.
"And then ignoring all this background, they started projecting it as pro poor. The assumption being that the poor are not able to access services because they lack an ID. That was the assumption on this whole thing was replaced and promoted as if it was something that would benefit the poor. To my mind, that was ridiculous and deceitful and therefore, I started looking out and gathering information on the experience of other countries how welfare services are delivered to other countries.
Dr. R Balasubramaniam -
"First of all, we need to understand that the view taken by UID to me seems like force fitting a solution to the problem which they don't understand. Now they see Aadhar as a solution to every..every problem that is there. They seem to be banking on the fact that Aadhar can be a servicing platform, a delivery platform for subsidies. Well, PDS is not just subsidised food grain distribution system. PDS is strong..communicator of a particular philosophy, a philosophy of food security to this country. Subsidy is necessary because it communicates food security to the poor. How can you translate food security in the simple cash transfer scheme? That itself is a first concern.
There is a distinction between food security and cash subsidy. Food security means I make I create a system or a process to insure that this family actually gets the grain which they will eat. Now, how does Aadhar answer that question? The very fundamental question. So, this is where my difference comes in first. Difference is you are trying to force fit a solution to a problem which you have not understood. The problem is food security, nutrition security, and a sense of satiety. But you have analyised the problem as a cash-transfer scheme.
What this food means to people? Now a BPL card holder, by virtue of being poor there might be issues of mistargeting and misclassification, but that apart, assuming that all is perfect, a man or a family of five or six who is entitled to to 29 kgs of rice and 6 kgs of wheat or whatever the government of India gives this 35 kilogram of food grains mandated now by the Supreme Court and tomorrow with food security act this might change a bit, now we are looking at food, taking care of a sense of, providing a sense of satiety, providing a sense of nutrition security for him, and providing him a sense of freedom from hunger. Now that happens because you are actually giving him grains at a very highly subsidised prices that is affordable.
(...to be continued)