I’m Saying NO to Aadhaar
We the undersigned wish to place on record our opposition to the Aadhaar scheme which is being aggressively pushed by the government in complete violation of norms, procedures and Supreme Court orders.
Many of us have resisted enrolment. Many of us are already enrolled under pressure. But today, we stand together to say NO To Aadhaar.
1. Aadhaar has been foisted on us under false pretences.
When it started, it was touted as a fool‐proof mechanism to streamline delivery of social benefits. Then, we were told that it was a tool for good governance. Then, it was marketed as a weapon to eliminate corruption. Then we were told that it is the vehicle to create a “digital society”. It has finally revealed itself in its true colours as an instrument of surveillance and government control over the lives of citizens.
2. It is useless.
Aadhaar has spectacularly failed to achieve any of its stated aims of plugging leakages in welfare schemes, of serving as a single window to access entitlements and benefits, of eliminating corruption and making life easier for law‐abiding citizens. Official data and figures confirm that grandiose claims about “huge savings” enabled by Aadhaar have no basis whatsoever in fact . Not a single government agency or private company accepts Aadhaar as the sole proof of identity – in every case, it must be backed up by at least two other documents.
3. It is destroying the lives of the poor.
By making essential services conditional on Aadhaar, children have been deprived of school admission and mid‐day meals, pregnant women have been deprived of hospital admission, TB patients have been denied medicine, workers have been denied job cards under MNREGA, retired senior citizens have been denied their pensions, and starving families have been denied foodgrains under the PDS scheme. Aadhaar has now been made mandatory for more than 50 welfare schemes. Surveys and public hearings across the country are confirming the scale and seriousness of exclusions created by Aadhaar.
4. It is coercive.
Millions of people have enrolled not because they wanted to or chose to but because they were told it was required for exercising their rights such as getting a passport, filing tax returns, operating a bank account, renewing a driving licence, booking a train ticket, getting admission to an educational institution, getting an income certificate, registering a land deed and anything else that anyone chooses to come up with. Once enrolled, there is no way out of the database.
5. It is technically unreliable.
The Aadhaar scheme is based on the naive and unscientific notion that fingerprints and iris scans are unique and infallible personal identifiers. This claim has no basis in fact. The biometric database is full of errors and the authentication process is riddled with “false positives” and “false negatives”.
6. It is insecure.
The claim that the Aadhaar database is secure and tamper‐proof has been repeatedly debunked by data security experts, who call it a “honeypot for hackers”. UIDAI itself has taken action against Axis Bank for storing and using biometric data for multiple transactions. The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) and others who have blown the whistle on the vulnerability of the Aadhar database have had charges filed against them by UIDAI.
7. It puts sensitive data into unreliable hands.
Thousands of fly‐by‐night operators have been authorised to run enrolment centres and collect biometrics and personal data. These private agencies are also collecting demographic information such as name, age, address, mobile number, bank account numbers and other personal data. As many as 34,000 operators have been blacklisted for malpractices. Contracts for de‐duplication and building the database have been given to foreign firms, some of them closely linked to intelligence agencies in the US and Europe. Citizens have no recourse in case of leakage, tampering or misuse of their personal data.
8. It is creating the infrastructure for 24×7 surveillance.
Banks, mobile networks, internet providers and digital payment companies have been roped in to get their customers onto the Aadhaar database. The linking of these databases via Aadhaar enables the government to track a citizen’s geolocation, travel, employment, financial transactions and social media activities. This tracking, profiling and surveillance can be carried out without the permission or even the knowledge of the individual, even if there is no suspicion of any illegality or criminality. And not only government agencies ‐ private companies such as “BetterPlace” proudly claim that they are “leveraging multiple data sources, including Aadhaar …to create a unique profile of every citizen with accurate and comprehensive personal, professional and social information.”
9. It is allowing privileged insiders to profit from personal data.
The government is giving private developers free access to the Aadhaar database, ostensibly so that they can create apps to facilitate social goals. In fact, these developers, most of whom are Aadhaar “insiders”, are using Aadhaar data to enrich themselves. For instance, Khosla Labs, the developer of an “Aadhaar‐based authentication service” (Aadhaar Bridge) was set up by UIDAI’s former Chief Product Manager and former Head of Technology, and its present Chief Product Manager. Similarly, AngelPrime, a venture capital fund that holds Aadhaar “hackathons” to expose developers to Aadhaar, includes three former employees of UIDAI among its backers.
10. It frees the government from accountability.
The government has insulated itself from any responsibility or accountability for the mess created by Aadhar. The Act gives UIDAI possession and control over citizens’ data, but is silent on the question of liability. The Act does not require UIDAI to notify or compensate citizens whose data has been compromised, or used for identity theft and financial frauds. Government agencies and service providers do not take any responsibility for authentication failures and the consequent exclusion from entitlements, even when they have fatal consequences. We are being forced and coerced to close our eyes to these concerns and sign up with Aadhaar. The government is racing ahead with making Aadhaar mandatory for all kinds of activities, hoping to present it as a fait accompli when the Supreme Court hears the Aadhaar petitions in a few weeks.
We are no longer willing to stand by and let this scam go unchallenged.
We demand that the Aadhaar scheme be completely scrapped.