Sunday, June 2, 2013

Aruna Roy's call for questioning legality of UID/Aadhaar Number welcomed

Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) welcomes Aruna Roy's call for questioning legality of UID/Aadhaar Number

Collection of biometric data is illegal and illegitimate 

State Government should unsign the MOU with UIDAI

Patna, June 2, 2013: Delivering the Pradhan Jwala Prasad Memorial Lecture on "The Challenge of Transparency and Accountability in Indian Democracy", at A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies she appealed to citizens to question the legality and need of Unique Identification UID/Aadhaar, which is the world's biggest biometric database project. She categorically stated that cash transfer and UID is not working on the ground. Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) welcomes Aruna Roy's call for questioning legality of UID/Aadhaar number.
Roy, a former member of the National Advisory Council has long held that "The UID is a dangerous thing." She has said in the past that "How can you force the people to give all this information? The real intention of UID was integration with the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID). There should be a political debate on whether the state should collect all data about us and store it in a central silo."
She said that it is one of the biggest mistakes this country is making i.e. linking Aadhar to welfare delivery. 
She has stated that there is a definite agenda to push (implementation) before legislation. How can the UID/Aadhaar be implemented when Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance rejected the Bill that was meant to legitimize the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
A compelling logic has emerged for the Bihar Government to put a stay on the execution of the aadhaar related projects in the state following a revealing report of a multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance that considered the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 and following the grave concerns expressed by eminent citizens, former judges and academicians. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had signed a MoU with Bihar Government on August 20, 2010 without any legal and constitutional mandate.
This disdain for the law has been characterized by the Standing Committee as `unethical and violative of Parliament's prerogatives'. Citizens have been protesting against the UID and NPR based MINIC project across the country from the very outset but prior to PSC’s report it was ignored. By now it is clear that it is an unnecessary project which must be stopped.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance considering the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 presented its report to the Parliament on December 13, 2011. The report rejects biometric data based identification of Indians. The report is a severe indictment of the hasty and `directionless' project which has been "conceptualised with no clarity of purpose". Even the functional basis of the Unique Identification Authority of India UIDAI is unclear and yet the project has been rolled out. The Standing Committee found the biometric technology `uncertain' and 'untested'. As early as December 2009, the Biometric Data Committee had found that the error rate using fingerprints was inordinately high. In a recent interview to the press, the Director General and Mission Director of the UIDAI had admitted that fingerprints are likely not to work for authentication. The error rate could end up excluding up to 15% of the population. Yet, the UIDAI has gone on with the exercise.
There is no data protection law in place. Even though the government had recognised the need for a law to deal with security and confidentiality of information, imposition of obligation of disclosure of information in certain cases, impersonation at the time of enrolment, investigation of acts that constitute offences and unauthorised disclosure of information, the Unique Identification (UID) project was allowed to march on without any such protection being put in place.
The Parliamentary Report has raised questions of great severity about the legality and constitutionality of the Unique Identification (UID) project. It has acknowledged the many concerns that have been voiced in the past two years about the absence of a feasibility study, no cost-benefit assessment, uncertain and untested technology, an enrolment process that has national security repercussions, the lack of data protection and privacy legislation and the disrespect for Parliament by going ahead with a project that was pending parliamentary approval. It is also noticed that the data that is being collected is not being held by a government agency, about which the National Informatics Centre has expressed anxiety.
During the conversation with Roy, Shri Ajay Singh, a former public service official informed how biometric identification was used by KGB, an intelligence agency of former Soviet Union to keep track of foreigners and suspects but it was not used for citizens. 
Earlier, in a significant development, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), Bihar organised a day long dharna on May 29, 2013 on Bhagat Singh Chwok, near Gandhi Maidan, Patna comprising of leaders and participants from nine minority communities of Sikh, Christian, Jain, Bengali, Buddhist and Muslims wherein an appeal was made by CFCL to boycott UID/Aadhaar else all kinds of minorities including political minorities will get profiled and tracked through biometric identification. The key participants in the Dharna included Triloki Singh, Rajendra Kamal, Irfan Ahmad, Pushpraj, Surendra Ghosh, Surendra Bodh and Mahendra Bodh.  
Roy has said in the past that "I'm shocked minorities and other communities are not boycotting it." Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) had given testimony to the Parliamentary Committee which sent  the Bill back to the drawing board.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 8227816731, 09818089660

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