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UID Not In The Public Interest

By Campaign For No UID

25 August, 2010

Scheme is deeply undemocratic, expensive and fraught with unforeseen consequences

New Delhi: The technological, economic, social and political aspects of the National Identification Authority bill currently in the Parliament came under the scanner in a public meeting organized by a coalition of civil society groups under the banner of Campaign for No UID. Groups from Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi participated at the meeting held at Constitution Club.

Led by Nandan Nilekani, former CEO of IT major Infosys, the UID project has been pushed as a landmark initiative for ushering in ‘good governance’ and providing basic services to the poor.

Speakers at the meeting asserted that such claims are grossly exaggerated, false and unjustified. For instance in the case of the Public Distribution System (PDS) systemic issues such as corruption and non-inclusion of families under BPL (Below the Poverty line) ensure that it does not meet its stated objectives. The issuance of a 12 digit number to the poor will therefore hardly result in them accessing cheap food.

The claim about the UID leading to financial inclusion for NREGA beneficiaries is bogus because about 83% already have bank accounts.

On the other hand because of technical problems with biometrics, it is very likely that the poor could be excluded from accessing services. JT D’Souza an expert on biometrics asserts that using biometrics as a core authenticator is deeply flawed as it has never been tested on such a large scale (850 million people) and is easily susceptible to forgery. Research by experts shows that with the technology available today a 10 dollar investment can spoof finger-print and iris scanners with fake fingers and patterned contact lenses.

The meeting noted that the functioning of the UID has been non transparent and undemocratic. It was noted that despite setting up the UID Authority of India (UIDAI) in June 2009, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government is yet to issue a white paper on the scheme and how it is going to deliver basic social services to the poor.

Senior Member of Parliament from the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India (RSP) Abani Roy called for the launching of a massive campaign to resist this expensive and dangerous project through which several companies will gain massive contracts from the public exchequer. The budget estimates vary from 45,000 crore to 1.5 lakh crore rupees. He also noted that, the UID is yet to be comprehensively discussed or debated in the Parliament. Syed Azeez Pasha MP from the Communist Party of India also participated.

The Campaign for no UID plans to hold further meetings across the country and lobby parliamentarians in the coming months