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10 big problems with the Aadhaar UID card project

While there is no denying that in a country like India, there is a need for identification that people can create easily and use nationwide, the Aadhaar card project goes way beyond that, and in the process, messes up the basics as well. There are several problems I have with the Aadhaar card. Chief among those are:

Privacy concerns from Aadhaar leaks

Biometric data is not something you can change if cases of misuse crop up. There does not seem to be appropriate care taken by the government to protect the data from unauthorized access.

  • The data is to be privatized through NIUs (National Information Utilities), where once the data is stable, it would not even belong to the government but private utilities, controlling it as a monopoly. The citizen, urged by the government to create the cards is not informed about how their personal information will be used or controlled.
  • Recent revelations show that data once entered in the UID system cannot be removed. This basically means that once you get an Aadhaar card made, your information is out of your control and you will not be able to cancel your own identification data.
  • Storage on servers in the US. The US is getting increasingly data hungry and alarming disclosures of illegal access to databases, where even Google had to encrypt internal traffic to protect privacy have come to light. The US can legally get access to data stored on servers within the country – regardless of your permission or the permission of government of India.

The cost of the Aadhaar project

India is a developing country. We have many priorities on our funds, and it is unclear how an expense of an estimated 150,000 crore rupees helps the Indian citizen or does anything that a far cheaper identity card couldn’t. For example, the cost of India’s census was 2200 crore in 2011. And the census reached every citizen (at least in theory), and has produced information that is of tremendous utility and diverse applications. This is several times our entire health budget encompassing subsidized education, running hospitals, vaccinations, medicine costs, teaching hospitals and what not nationwide.

In contrast, India seems to have spent some 2,500 per card so far, though the citizen is not required to pay anything. Much of this large cost appears to be due to the expenses involved in collecting and working with biometric data, yet the biometric data is neither collected in an efficient manner, nor used at all in verifying identification. Then why is the expense done?

Additionally, while the investment is done using government funds, ready databases will be controlled by private entities (who will profit from offering identification services), and the government will be paying customers of the databases it has already spent a bomb to create. Of course, no citizen has been given any power to refuse his or her information being used for profit by private entities with the blessings of the government.

Coercion to register for Aadhaar – voluntary and mandatory?

What is increasingly evident as a project that will profit specific entities is being forced on citizens who wish to avail of their rights as citizens. Attempts to tie UID identification with everything are increasing. The idea of government subsidies is being replaced by citizens buying at market prices and being reimbursed by the government into their “Aadhaar linked” bank accounts. In other words, spend more on food and fuel, or give us your biometric data. Several instances of schools requiring Aadhaar card details of students have come to light, which is probably a violation of the Right To Education act, since refusing education to children for any reason is punishable under the RTE.

In a country where a fifth of the population is under a poverty line that belongs on “extreme survival” type shows rather than a Planning Commission planning for the well being of a country, essentially this amounts to a direct order to spend what it takes on travel to your Aadhaar card center, get whatever proofs are needed or pay some corrupt officials, invest some money in creating a bank account, raise the money to purchase necessities at market price and wait for the refund to come. Or you can buy at market price and not get a refund. This is as good as holding a gun to the stomachs of the poor and telling them to register for an Aadhaar card.

No legal basis for the UID project

There is no legal basis for UID. The draft bill was rejected by a standing committee in 2010 and has never seen the Parliament ever since. Courts have ruled over and over that people cannot be forced to create Aadhaar cards and they cannot be refused their rights for the lack of Aadhaar cards, but it has no impact on a rogue government that continues to push more and more essentials into dependency on Aadhaar identification, regardless of lack of any legal authority to do so.

False claims of preventing corruption

India is a country where the corrupt are the first to get false papers made. The idea that an Aadhaar card will prevent corruption is bogus. Completely bogus. It has been demonstrated over and over that false Aadhaar cards are being made. These Aadhaar cards can easily be used to create bogus bank accounts or gas connections and so on. With elections coming up, one only wonders how many Aadhaar cards were used to create multiple voter IDs in different places by various elements engaged in election rigging. Replies to RTI clearly demonstrate that the Aadhaar card number attached to various accounts is not verified using the very expensive biometrics. Unsurprising, considering that earlier exposes of fraudulent cards have demonstrated cards for a coriander plant and cards for people who never visit the Aadhaar center as long as they provide a photo. So what biometrics would they be verified against?

The new bailout plan for banks

As bad loans and debt in banks make news, only to fall silent quickly, the government bright idea of forcing citizens to make bank accounts if they want their right to affordable food and fuel is not something to be sneezed at. In a country of the size of India, people keeping a token balance in a bank account will also rapidly total up to a large amount of money. This is in addition to the various entities that will earn interest from the citizen’s investment of the additional price that will later get refunded (only for other citizens to make the investment and so on). This clearly provides the controllers of various services close to power cartels a quick source of cash. At the cost of the citizen, the poorer among which will have no credibility for proper loans and may end up caught in vicious cycles with loan sharks to raise money for the expensive purchase. I am not joking. I imagine over half of India’s population won’t be able to come up with a thousand rupees for a gas cylinder without borrowing from someone to be repaid when salary happens and so on. The refund they will eventually get will earn interest to some already powerful entity for the duration till they get it.

Potential for misuse

As stated earlier, Aadhaar cards can be made very easily and with little verification raising potential for criminals to create alternative identities easily. In a state where police are often found complicit in crimes, syping and persecution, it may be possible for vested interests to plant records of biometric details matching someone they want to target among evidence. Multiple identification can be used to get around limits to profit from government schemes, like getting employment under multiple names under MNREGA or getting more cylinders of gas using subsidies under multiple identities.

Considering that the biometric data is not used to verify identity, there is nothing stopping a person from making several cards in several names at different places – say – in one place for each phase of the polls… to take Sharad Pawar’s “joke” into completely realistic possibility.

Illegal immigration and terrorism

Aadhaar cards could facilitate regularization of illegal migrants or terrorists leading to cartelization of such practices and exploiting government facilities and adding burden on the state. They could be used by political parties for election rigging by manipulating demographics of a place. Given some time, it will be impossible to distinguish an Indian citizen from a migrant, since all their documentation will essentially be authentic.

Unauthorized use of Aadhaar cards

There have been instances reported in newspapers where banks contacted people who got their Aadhaar cards made offering to open a bank account that would link to the card. How the bank got the person’s information including name, Aadhaar card number and address to send the offer to…. should be a thought that will get any sane person paranoid.

And the obvious problem

If at some point we start using the UID data to verify people, there is no proof that it will work, given the extensive problems with the data revealed so far.

There are many other reasons. Basically Aadhaar is a project that has profited many with interests ranging from profiteering to “a historic experiment” and the “largest biometric database in the world”, but it has little to offer the common man that simple registration and cards without biometrics wouldn’t. It isn’t even like we are using the biometrics, or that they are reliable anyway.

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28 thoughts on “10 big problems with the Aadhaar UID card project”

  1. I am unable to link my Aadhaar Card to my PAN CARD as the site shows that ” Aadhaar Card is valid but not active” What does this mean and what can I do? Please help.

  2. Excellent article my friend. Hope these points are heard by dumb people who blindly follow the mainstream media.

  3. Many people are not able to link aadhar card and PAN card due to mismatch in names.

    PAN card and Aadhar card are showing abbreviated names which are matching (name with initial) whereas PAN data shows full name. Hence abbreviated name on aadhar card is not matching with the full name on PAN Data.

    Unless Govt helps common people to clear this mess up how can these people link both the documents within the stipulated period to avoid dissolution of PAN card. An appeal to authorities to allow to link the documents with names printed on PAN card and Aadhar card by modifying the linking portal or the authorities may correct the PAN data as per aadhar card and link both documents.

  4. Aniruddha Kumthekar

    My father is my POA (power of attorney) for all legal matters like my house leave/license contract registration. Recently, we are faced with a trouble that my father’s finger print which was given for aadhar card is not getting verified in the e-registration process. What is the option for him now? Does he have to reapply for a New Aadhar card or can he get his biometrics updated for his current Aadhar card? If Yes, what is the procedure for that?

  5. My aadhar card often shows that it is invalid. This comes to be a big problem when I am in some official work because I need to wait and some time it doesn’t even show. So I like to ask is there any solution of this issue?

  6. Sometime my aadhar card number seemed to be invalid on trying in the internet. This problems really creats a big issue when in bank in order to withdraw some amount. Is there any solution for this type of problems that I am facing often

  7. Above all if the so say adhar or UID is the only best thing of data base for the country.. Is the government trying to say that the EPIC is not perfect because if so the it means our very important right in a demogracy is being compromise.. 150000 crores of estimated amount for the project is all crap.. And the sadest part is that the lower class of the country are being put through a ride.

  8. I have read your article and have also read articles on same issue from other sites. It appears to me that as soon as we get hands on something, we first start looking into its flaws without recognizing its importance and necessity. Not a single scheme or approach in this world can be perfect and will not find its opponents. Same is the case here. Now the question is should we wait indefinitely for such a perfect scheme to come or take a pragmatic approach and start with the best we have.
    I have heard a lot about why we have to go for another identity scheme when we have many already existing, i.e. passport, voters ID, driving license, birth certificate etc. Did we think that out of these various IDs, which is a uniform one which everyone would possess. Does every citizen has a passport? Does every citizen has a voters ID? The answer is NO. In such a situation, when there is no identity card which every Indian citizen holds, isn’t the UID approach a sensible one. And this identify is provided free of cost to all citizens. Why not go for it when available??
    Now come to the security aspect. The UID dept was headed by Nandan Nilekani, whom we can consider as one of the pioneer in computer engineering. In his stint with Infosys, he would have carried out many commendable jobs. Now, the question is whether we should doubt his integrity that he would have designed a system which has security flaws? The issue is our approach has become first to doubt and then to trust. I do a comparison here, though not the best one, but think if our missile program was headed by late APJ Abdul Kalam, would we have doubted his integrity? Then what is the reason that we doubting that a program which is led by Mr Nilekani has security flaws, what made to think that, do you have any proofs with you or you are shooting in air?
    Coming to potential misuse, which other scheme is not misused in this country? But does that mean that we stop that service or scheme? You will find many instances where a driving license is issued wrong or a voters ID is issued in the same manner but does that mean that we stop that service. If your answer is no, then why you are not giving the same discount to UID scheme? A scheme needs time to get matured and eliminate its flaws but you are not ready to give UID this time. The problem is again the same, you want a perfect thing but nothing else. My dear friend, finding perfect things in this world will result in indefinite wait time but you need to think what to do till you wait for that perfect thing, will you wait idle or start with something which promises to be near perfect with time.
    And I do not understand your bailout point, what is the problem in linking your bank account. What you want to hide in your bank accounts that you do not want to link? Any credible agency (i.e. IT, SEBI) may get your account details in case they need it, so it is not that if you hold a bank account then you are immune to all the agencies and no one except you will know whats in your account. Then why you have fear here? Does the UID scheme say that they will review your balance sheet periodically? They just ask you to link your account in case you want some subsidies to be transferred. Of course, if situation arises, they can ask the banks to provide details on account balances etc. but think who will like to do this and who will review it until and unless they have someone specific to be tracked. Therefore have no fear, and in case you have fear to be tracked then of course you doing something which you want to hide.
    I encourage you to provide some proofs of your points so that we can get more information and correct ourselves in case we are wrong on some points. Just writing the points does not help my friend until your points are supported with some real life examples and cases. What was the basis on which you came up with these points is of much interest, I hope you understand this and provide some more details on these points.

    1. It is an old article. A new one will be out soon. Waiting for some data to come together. It won’t have opinions, just information to do with as you want.

    2. Nothing is legal or illegal in this country my dear,yes me also paid Rs. 100 for getting each card,you can make a video but then you can get nothing out of it as because govt. is not giving you adhaar card in smart card format,it is solely done by some privates so taking it or not taking it as you wish,secondly my mom’s original adhaar card given by mine they never posted,actually we shifted address so old address cards are sent for us both but new address only my mom’s they sent,who has time to run after these issues I called to their no 1947 several times,they never took my complian seriously.

    3. stupid prediction, clearly revels the lack of knowledge of the author about the concerned issue…this kind of people can never understand the planning & will remain crying “ki angoor khatte hain”…

  9. how can you be so sure about your information?
    On what basis are you judging the Aadhar card system?
    What are your sources?

  10. I guess the argument that privacy of an individual is more important than governance. Grow up! We need to mature from rumor mongering to intelligent analysis.

  11. Shreekanth Prabhu

    The Aadhar data is stored in servers in India only. Most people who complain about Aadhar do not understand IT well, though we can never underestimate the risks or ignore any issues.

  12. I have found spelling mistake in my name and facing problem to fill return. Spelling of my name is Laxman Singh Samant but mentioned in Adhar Card – Lakshman Singh Samant which is not accepted by IT dept.

  13. A married lady opened an account with pancard and voters Id some ten yrs ago and now she obtained addhar card in her maiden name. How is it possible and what is the legal status of such addhar card. I want reply

  14. A married lady opened an account with pancard and voters id card ten years ago and now she has obtained addhar card in her maiden name. How is it possible and what is the legal status of addhar card.

  15. aksanm90@gmail.com

    Yes it is right. We have not not received my mother aadhar card via post so I got it printed by downloading pdf from its website to get my mother aadhar card linked to her bank account. I got it in just plain black and white format. but the bank clerk refused to verify it stating that she needs original to verify. I replied we have not received original one so she asked to get it printed in colored format and then photocopy it. Now I simply can’t get that an efile is an efile whether I simply get a printed copy or first get it in colored and then photocopy it and show her. what is sense of the whole exercise? What is the same pdf downloaded could be breached and false printout shown to her? How will she now verify it? IF we still need original than what is difference between having Pan card, voter Id and other documents and this hi-tech aadhar card? The bank which already has our Pan card, voter Id, ration card proof needs the so called original aadhar card. When this scheme was announced I thought now we no longer need to carry documents just give your aadhar number and the concerned authority will verify it online.

  16. I am from Andhra Pradesh, near Vijayawada and I recieved my aadhaar card but when i am trying to connect it to my bank acount it says that my aadhar number is not valid .

  17. If you go to Sadh Nagar, Palam, Aadhar Card Centre, they send you to a place where you can get the card for Rs. 100. Is this legal?

    1. Nope. You should probably shoot a video of such a transaction so that you can expose them and bring them to justice or at least make information public so someone else can use it to take action.

  18. Today morning I have visited the adhar card office, village sadipur, Post Chakand,Dist- Gaya, Bihar, to make our adhar card, he asking the money to get the adhar form, each form cost will be 5 rupees, once i refuse to pay then he has refuse to hand over the application form, please suggest us goverment has any provission to take the money for application, if not then why loot is goin on openly , where i have to complain.
    Regards
    Shamimuddin

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