Tuesday, March 8, 2011

265 - Rebuttal on UIDAI - Economic & Political Weekly

By: Ram Krishnaswamy, Vickram Crishna
Vol XLV No.40 October 02, 2010

R S Sharma’s “Identity and the UIDAI: A Response” (EPW, 28 August 2010) argues, in response to Usha Ramanathan’s “A Unique Identity Bill” (EPW, 24 July 2010), that “The UIDAI has stated its role and objectives in various public documents, and also outlined these in its draft bill”, but she has “fundamental misunderstandings” on the UIDAI, that her “suggestion of links to the NATGRID/DNA data banks is pure conjecture” and that her article misrepresents the UIDAI’s stated objectives.

Sharma has obviously chosen to ignore the increasing number of articles in the media questioning Aadhaar, written by lawyers, economists, technologists, security professionals, sociologists, civil society supporters, scholars, academics and biometric experts, and the list goes on.

Does he really imply that everyone who questions Aadhaar is misinformed? The very foundation of “Aadhaar” that assumes “the absence of an identification infrastructure, under which every Indian has a unique identification number, has been one of the biggest barriers for the poor in accessing welfare and social services effectively”, is a sweeping generalisation, unfounded by facts from the field.

It is not the needy who possess bogus entitlement cards, but the very public servants in charge, together with other stakeholders and vested interests. Stocks are written off as being issued to all these bogus cards and the foodgrains are sold in the black market, while the remainder unsaleable stocks rot in unprotected warehouses. It is interesting that the whole nation understands this, except, apparently, the people in UIDAI.

If there is silence from some sections of the people regarding the UIDAI, it is because of the deliberate misinformation that Aadhaar is aimed at the poor. So the educated and not so poor are under the false belief that it does not affect them.

A simple and direct question to Sharma is: will he be the first to accept an Aadhaar, and share the Aadhaar number with his bank, insurance company, passport office, regional transport authority, mobile phone service provider, electricity distributor, ration card issuing authority, Income Tax authority and property registrars?

Sharma writes, “When it comes to sharing of data, the UIDAI is of the view that the individual is an active, not a passive participant, and does not need self-appointed spokespeople to debate on their behalf”.

The individual that Sharma refers to here represents millions of the poor and illiterate queuing up for subsidised rations. Sharma apparently needs reminding that it was self-appointed spokespeople who stood up to win this nation its independence, finally wrested within three years of the most brutal, callous, deliberate and avoidable choking off of food supplies that left millions dead in Bengal.

Ram Krishnaswamy, Vickram Crishna