Aadhaar is set to become mandatory, but the opponents of the scheme are not amused. Concerns about privacy of the Aadhaar number and the authenticity of the biometric data being collected have been expressed by people right from the beginning. But the government has not done much to address these issues.
“It does not matter what legislative backing they give it, it is still a surveillance programme. How can you have a privacy Bill for a surveillance programme? Legislative backing would be band-aid. I do not agree with it,” says Sunil Abraham, Executive Director of The Centre for Internet and Society. The society is a Bengaluru-based organisation looking at multi-disciplinary research and advocacy.
Abraham says that ever since the Aadhaar scheme was implemented, there was a massive degradation of civil liberties.
“It is an opaque technology. Why should the government have such a database?” he asks.
Abraham says that the keys to the data should not have rested with the government where it is vulnerable. Instead, the government should have explored the concept of introducing smart cards issued to the citizen with the data stored on it.
Access to this data could not be had without the permission of the citizen, he says.
At present, if something goes wrong or if the data is compromised, the government can always blame a lapse in technology, Abraham adds.
He questions the government’s logic where it assumes that only the poor section of society can misuse the benefits and says that it is well known that the problem exists in the supply chain and that the government has done nothing to address this.
Mathew Thomas of The Fifth Estate, an NGO, wonders what advantage the BJP suddenly found that they decided to pursue Aadhaar rather than send it to the trash bin as they had promised before the general elections.
Thomas says Aadhaar is flawed and is a fraud on the Constitution and the government has taken the money bill route simply to avoid a debate on it.
“Just passing a Bill is meaningless. This is radically wrong and we all know that protection of privacy is nonsense. How do they plan to plug the leakages? Have they even conducted a study, because there is no evidence of it. The correct beneficiary can get an LPG cylinder, but what is stopping the person from using it for an auto or for his car? That the government can lie to its own people is terrible,” he says.
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, which is hearing the matter on privacy concerns about Aadhaar, is expected to have a hearing by the end of this month.