Historical Reasons Against UID//Aadhar Project
By Gopal Krishna & Prakash Ray
27 September, 2010
Mrs Sonia Gandhi
National Advisory Council
This is to place on record our deep sense of appreciation for National Advisory Council (NAC) which has reportedly disapproved the structural basis being laid out for future authoritarianism. Unmindful of massive opposition by citizens, the Union Cabinet cleared the introduction of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in Parliament on 24th September. This happened in a tearing hurry even as the NAC was examining the UID proposal. This was uncalled for and it provides robust grounds for scrutiny.
Not only that fearing the outcome of the NAC deliberations and its inferences, Nandan Nilekani avoided NAC to escape having to answer the questions about UID on 30th August, 2010. It appears that the chairperson of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has roped in Prime Minister to help him wriggle out by launching UID on 29th September in Maharashtra in order to present a fait accompli of sort to the NAC.
In such circumstances, it is indeed a relief to know that the NAC is opposed to UID//Aadhar project.
It is quite sad that both the Cabinet Committee on UIDAI Authority and PM’s Council are in such a great awe of a regressive idea that so far it has failed to examine the reasons of governments of US, Australia and UK to scrap similar projects. So much so that even as the Bill will be introduced in the Indian Parliament, the British Parliament will be scrapping it because the democratic mandate of UK citizens and all the democracies is against such an invasive project.
One Nobel Prize winner too has underlined how it raises questions of personal liberty. Other world renowned social scientists have termed it as akin to allotting “prisoner numbers” to citizens. This is quite worrisome that in such a context our political leaders in general are so frozen in their passivity that they are not reaching out to sincerely address and respond to the gnawing concerns about a project that have fascist roots.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) reminds one of what happened from the period preceding Adolf Hitler's arrival to January 1933 when he occupied power, to Second World War and since then and International Business Machines (IBM)’s role with its punch card and card sorting technology. The way UID project is being bulldozed in the name of PDS, Education, Public Health, NREGA and now migrant workers is highly dubious.
Unique Identity (UID) Number is a rare project which has unleashed the concept of massively organised information as means of social control, a weapon of war, and for the victimisation of ethnic groups, minorities and political adversaries. It appears that Nilekani, the co-founder and former chief executive of Infosys Technologies Ltd, India's second largest software company, has misled the key functionaries of Government of India into believing that he is deeply concerned about reaching the poorest of the poor with a 16-digit card (4 numbers are hidden?) to liberate them from poverty.
This proposed UID legislation authorizes the creation of a centralized database of unique identification numbers that will be issued to every resident of India but has failed to provide for provisions that precludes abuse of such a database for invading citizens’ rights to privacy and freedom of choice by national and transnational corporations like Vedanta and IBM. The legislation poses one of gravest threat imaginable as far as citizens’ right is concerned. It will damage citizens’ sovereignty beyond repair and has the potential to cause holocaust like situation in future through profiling of minorities, political opponents and ethnic groups.
UID/Aadhar project gives a sense of déjà vu. It is the same path which IBM (International Business Machines), the world's largest technology company and the second most valuable global brand traversed with the Nazi Germany for targeted asset confiscation, ghettoisation, deportation, and ultimately extermination with its punch card and card sorting system -- a precursor to the computer – that made the automation of human destruction possible. This is a matter of historical fact and not an opinion. Indeed in the words of historian Benedetto Croce, "All history is contemporary history" and the lessons from history present a compelling reason against the UID/Aadhar project.
Therefore, we urge you to recommend and encourage our government to abandon the UID/Aadhar project like the governments of UK, Australia and US have done to safeguard and honour the non-negotiable rights of citizens.
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL)
Jawaharlal Nehru University Researchers Association (JNURA)
Press invite- The UID Project
Venue: Press Club, New Delhi
Date: 28 September, 2010 Time: 12 noon
You are sincerely invited to the press conference on the UID Project, which will be addressed by Justice A.P.Shah, Upendra Baxi, Nikhil Dey, Uma Chakravarthi, Shohini Ghosh, Prof. Jagdeep S. Chhokar, Amar Kanwar, Reetika Khera, Praful Bidwai and Bezwada Wilson to discuss a project that has the potential to transform the state-citizen
relationship and will affect every resident.
The UID project, to give every resident a Unique Identity Number, has been initiated without any prelude: there is no project document; there is no feasibility study; there has been no cost: benefit analysis; there are serious concerns about data and identity theft. The UID project has proceeded so far without any legal authorization, on the basis of an executive order, that could change the status of the people in this country, with effects on our security and constitutional rights, and a consideration of all aspects of the
project should be undertaken with this in mind.
Concerned citizens have raised questions about the
- Undemocratic process
- Privacy (It is only now that the DoPT is said to be working on a draft of a privacy law, but nothing is out for discussion even
- Surveillance: where this technology, and the existence of the UID number, and its working, could result in increasing the potential for surveillance
- Convergence, including by companies, which may be expected to collate information about each individual with the help of the UID number.
National IDs have been abandoned in the US, Australia and the newly-elected British government. The reasons have predominantly been: costs and privacy. In the UK, the Home Secretary explained that they were abandoning the project because it would otherwise be `intrusive bullying’ by the state, and that the government intended to be the
`servant’ of the people, and not their `master’. In the late nineties, the Supreme Court of Philippines struck down a biometric based national ID system as unconstitutional on two grounds – the overreach of the executive over the legislative powers of the congress and invasion of privacy. The same is applicable in India – UIDAI has been constituted on the basis of a GoI notification and there is a fundamental risk to civil liberties with the convergence of UID, NATGRID and the National Population Register.
Seventeen eminent signatories, Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India, Prof Romila Thapar, Historian, K.G.Kannabiran, Senior Civil Liberties Lawyer, Kavita Srivastava, PUCL and Right to Food Campaign, Aruna Roy, MKKS, Rajasthan, Nikhil Dey, MKKS, Rajasthan, S.R.Sankaran, Retired Secretary, Government of India, Deep Joshi, Independent Consultant, Upendra Baxi, Jurist and ex-Vice Chancellor of Universities of Surat and Delhi, Uma Chakravarthi, Historian, Shohini Ghosh, Teacher and Film Maker, Amar Kanwar, Film Maker, Bezwada Wilson, Safai Karamchari Andolan, Trilochan Sastry, IIMB, and Association for Democratic Reforms, Prof. Jagdeep S. Chhokar , ex- IIMA, and Association for Democratic Reforms, Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD, Justice A.P.Shah, Retired Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi,
- The project be halted
- A feasibility study be done covering all aspects of this issue
- Experts be tasked with studying its constitutionality
- The law on privacy be urgently worked on (this will affect matters way beyond the UID project)
- A cost : benefit analysis be done
- A public, informed debate be conducted before any such major change be brought in.
On behalf of Campaign for No UID
A 124/6 First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi-110016