Statement from Dr M.Vijayanunni, ex-Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala & Registrar General of India & Census Commissioner on Biometric Aadhaar Number
British prime minister Cameron came to office at the last general elections on the back of his promise to undo the ID number system introduced by the then government and he promptly kept his election promise by dismantling the ID machinery already in place. He further ensured the deletion of all the stored data on citizens in the national data storage so that no future government will be able to use or misuse it to spy on the citizens for any purpose. He won universal praise and a place in history by this historic step.
China, which is the other country in the world comparable to India in terms of size and diversity of population, abandoned its universal ID system midway in the face of insurmountable problems encountered during its implementation, despite the supposed advantage of their totalitarian system in pushing through such a humongous but ill-advised project.
While the USA has the social security number for all residents, it does not intrude into the privacy of the individuals and is so liberally implemented that it does not block or stand in the way of getting any deserved benefits from the state or from availing of any services from other agencies.
As usual in other state matters, India's immediate neighbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal might be sucked into the vortex of the precedent set by India and end up in the same inextricable difficulties in the implementation of the universal ID. This has been their experience in other ventures in copying India like in the never-ending constitution-framing experience in Nepal, the secular declaration in theocratic Bangladesh, the Hindu civil law in Pakistan etc.
The government's attraction to the project is the supposed reduction achieved in disbursal of subsidies through avoidance of duplicate and bogus claims. This has to be achieved through other administrative modalities in each individual scheme rather than by steamrolling it through an uncaring denial of thousands of claims based merely on faults in the biometric and data retrieval systems.
The real pressure for continuance of the scheme will be from the police and secret surveillance systems to pry into the privacy of everyone which gives them unlimited powers over the lives of helpless individuals and enjoy unchallenged supremacy in the days to come. That will sound the death-knell of freedom and democracy.
There have been umpteen complaints from the affected citizens in the actual collection and collation of the biometric and personal data in the field so far and the project is engulfed in the tears and curses of lakhs of people of all social strata up against the uncaring ways of the officials doing the aadhaar exercise. It is pulling wool over one's eyes if it were to be claimed that it has been perfectly implemented so far.
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Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731, Efirstname.lastname@example.org