Tracking Unique ID

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UIDAI_Image_2Very recently the Supreme Court of India has directed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) not to share any information relating to an Aadhaar card holder with any government agency. This was announced while staying the order of the Goa bench of the Bombay Court directing sharing of data with the Central Bureau of Investigations for cracking a rape case.  The investigating agency had demanded from the UIDAI data base biometric information of some individuals from Goa to compare with the evidences incurred from the crime scene regarding the investigation of rape of a minor girl in Vasco. A petition was filed by the UIDAI challenging the High Court order which had asked to consider sharing biometric data with the investigating agency. The petition is a timely exercise from UIDAI, which has been a subject of criticism since its inception. It has its origin in the National e-Governance Plan adopted by the Government of India in 2006. This e-Governance is supposed to offer “a seamless view of Government” to bring service delivery to the doorsteps of the citizens. In tandem with that UIDAI was constituted in 2009. It promises better targeting of beneficiaries by uniquely identifying the citizens; reduce identity frauds for efficient utilization of funds allocated through central schemes etc. Aadhaar or the UID number is issued on the basis of extensive biometric information including photo of the individual, two iris scans, ten fingerprints and a set of demographic information. Civil liberty activist, Gopal Krishna firing salvos against the project, has termed it as ‘the same path which IBM (International Business Machines), the world`s largest technology company and the second most valuable global brand traversed for targeted asset confiscation, ghettoisation, deportation, and ultimately extermination with its punch card and card sorting system – a precursor to the computer – that made the automation of human destruction possible.’ In a representation to the Parliamnetary Standing Committee on Human Resources, he further argued that ‘UID scheme is an opposite of Right to Information. The latter makes the government transparent before their masters, the citizens. The former makes the citizens transparent before their servant, the government. It is a fascist plan – a naked declaration of war on civil liberties.’ Dr. Usha Ramanathan, a human right lawyer who has been doing extensive research on UIDAI has been critical of the project on many counts. One important area is the relation between the state and the people besides the profiling, tracking and surveillance. This is relevant with the expose of surveillance carried out by USA and its associate countries that has been poking their noses on other countries. India on the other hand took a bold step to imprint data of one billion plus population without any study on its feasibility, cost benefit analysis and giving little attention on the constitutionality of the project. The unique purposes of profiling were made loud and clear in a state like Manipur. Road side hoardings encouraging citizens to register themselves for UID were installed at important junctions of the town and elsewhere. On the hoarding are sketches of security personnel frisking passersby. One of the personnel says that those possessing Aadhaar card will not be frisked. Despite the barrenness of cerebral ingenuity of the picture and its text, however it serves one pointed agenda. The agenda of arousing fear among the citizens with threat and intimidation by the state to its people. A better text of the picture could have been: “you will be shot if you do not have a Unique ID”. Gopal Krishna argues that such UIDs have been abandoned in the US, Australia and UK. The reasons have predominantly been: costs and privacy. In the UK, the Home Secretary explained that they were abandoning the project because it would otherwise be `intrusive bullying’ by the state, and that the government intended to be the `servant’ of the people, and not their `master’. Is it a realization that the Government has put a halt of the project giving reason of financial shortage?

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