As part of the Planning Commission of India’s act for better management and tracking of Indian civilians, it, in the February of 2009 established another government agency by the name Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It was the under the tutelage of UIDAI that the Aadhaar scheme, a unique identification project was to be executed. The project is well under its course in almost all of India. Nevertheless, there is a definite need to know it better and more closely because sooner or later it is going to become an integral part of an Indian identity something at par with the Indian Passport of the Ration Card. Understanding the Aadhaar scheme better would also enable both the government bodies and to the common-man to make most of the scheme launched by the Government! Aadhar Card At the core of it, an Aadhaar card is just your receipt of 12 digit number. Nevertheless, the Aadhaar card is much more than just a twelve digit number. For instance the number itself is unique. That means no two Indians can have the same Aadhaar number. As you can understand this gives a major boost in identifying every Indian individually. You can understand Aadhaar card similar to that of the Social Security Number already in existence in United States of America. Nevertheless, the Aadhaar card contains more information - biometric information about the card holder. It definitely encapsulates the card holder’s photograph and the ten fingerprints with even the high resolution iris image! Such high profile biometric information can distinctly recognize a person from any other person. When we consider the exorbitant population of India which is always soaring from high to higher, we can imagine the wealth of information that the government could muster by employing the scheme. In fact the Aadhaar data collection program is one of the biggest of its kind. However, such massive collection of information cannot be
stored inside mere files they have to be persisted inside reliable and easily retrievable databases. But there is a flip side to this and we would revisit it later in this post when we discuss the “Other Side of Aadhaar card”.
Benefits of Aadhaar Card Electoral Benefits: Government claims that through UID number (Unique Identification Number), government would be able to channelize the hitherto unorganized state of elections in India where, there lies a potential danger misusing the electoral powers; this was, heretofore, only guarded by the ink mark made on the finger (you may only remember that ink mark if you have tried hard for days to get rid of it!) By employing UID based electoral voting, a voter could easily be made to vote only once since his identifications would be registered as soon as s/he exhausted his voting chance! Benefits on Subsidy: As everyday Indians we would have to accept that major chunk of the subsidy which is actually sanctioned out of the parliament is lost in transit before it would actually reach the unfortunate flood hit area, or draught hit area or those who suffered recent riot trauma! By employing dispersion of subsidies based on the UID cards would allow a more honest distribution. Now the distribution can be tracked against each person. If tightly guarded, no government “babu” or any local “criminal” would be able to embezzle any part of the subsidy.
Curbing Miscreants It is much talked that the Aadhaar would help curb the cases of illegal immigration into India and terrorist infiltration from across the borders. It makes sense to a certain extent that it would help since an illegal immigrant would not be able to camouflage as an Indian because s/he would not possess an Aadhaar UID number to his/her name. Aadhaar as the mother of all Indian Identities It is proposed that all other standard Indian identity documents such as valid passport, driving licence, ration card etc would be linked to the persons Aadhaar card. Thereby unifying different documents into one bigger document! Such a unification would help track government bodies a particular civilian – just by the UID number every detail about the person could easily be gathered since every other important government document would be linked to the Aadhaar card! Government bodies would not have to maintain separate records once UID is completely implemented. Not merely the government bodies but even the common civilians would be benefited. They would not be spared of the hassle of providing series “supporting documents” each time they tried to access any government based/monitored service. Similarly, UID promises to encompass the those backward classes of Indian society who could make it to mainstream banking or any other government facility and opportunity. The Other Side of Aadhaar Scheme As hinted earlier there is another side of the Aadhaar card. Remember that the card encapsulates vital pieces of information about Indians. This immediately rings the bell of information security. According to a source “The Aadhaar data collection programme is the largest biometric data collection programme in the world without
any data protection law or data protection authority to provide any privacy safeguards.” This is immediately implies that the identification of Indians is not private and because of absence of any law for data protection the information can be, potentially, misused inside the house as well. And matters become worse if any external power gets access to the valuable data base. Such an untoward incident would imply that the identity of every Indian would be exposed to any foreign agency pursuing some pernicious surveillance program! There is also a debate whether Aadhaar card would be a choice for Indian civilians where they would have the option of registering themselves with the UID or not. If sections of people do not opt for UID registration, it would nullify all the proposed benefits enumerated above. Final words On the face of it, the Aadhaar based UID identification scheme looks good as it promises better distribution of subsidy and opportunity to all sections of society. However, few key issues, security of personal information for instance, needs to be settled with it in order to keep the UID floating.