Aadhaar and inefficiency

Linking it with other documents is cumbersome, ends up hurting the poor

Written by Yoginder K. Alagh | Updated: December 19, 2017 12:25 am
Aadhaar, Aadhaar Card, Nandan Nilekani, UIDAI, Supreme Court, SC, Editorial News, Indian Express, Indian Express News In the US and several other countries, different offices link up to a person’s Social Security card and financial agencies are aware of your credit card records (File)

It’s good that the Supreme Court has delayed the linking of Aadhaar with other documents until March end while it examines the issue further. Let me not be misunderstood. I have always been in favour of an identification system. When I was asked to chair a group on training and reform of the higher civil services, I wondered how the police could isolate a criminal. Without an identification system, it must be like finding a needle in a haystack. Senior police officers tried convince me that the thana and the post office are good sources of information. But their argument was thin. So when Nandan Nilekani was asked to develop the UIDAI, I was all for an unique identification system.

As a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, I was persuaded by one of my teachers who had an Indian connection to collect a Masters degree while I was pursuing my doctoral work. I was not very keen since I already had an MA in India but went along. I didn’t want to spend money on convocation robes so the degree in Latin was sent to my home in Jaipur. But I was offered credit cards for free, which is given to all degree winners in Ivy League Schools because in the developed world they really believe that knowledge is wealth. I also had to teach to make some money to finish my doctorate. That meant I had to have a Social Security card to draw my salary. My card was the marker of my identity for the next few years in the US for everything.

So, I value my Aadhaar card. So do many others, including very poor people. I was asked to read a research report on the things the poor really value. After some fieldwork, a study showed that very poor people keep their ration card under lock and key. They also keep their voter identity card in safe custody. They value their rations and the ration card gives them identity. The voter identity card gives them a sense of power because once every five years, the high and mighty come asking for votes.

In the US and several other countries, different offices link up to a person’s Social Security card and financial agencies are aware of your credit card records. All this was happening much before modern information and communication systems, so I presume that these systems have made things easier. We, in contrast, have been given a different identification dispensation by our government. Hey you, come with your Aadhaar card and link it with your Pan card. Hey you, come and link our Aadhaar card with your mobile, landline, bank accounts and other documents.

No office is willing to link all this information with the Centralised Data and Information System. That destroys their power. I live on a pension and will drive down and complete the procedures required to link my Aadhaar card with other documents. But many Aadhaar owners are poor. For them, it means a half day of wages gone down the drain — much like it was when they had to exchange old notes during demonetisation. I know it may not influence their votes. But are votes the only thing? What about efficiency? What about an information and communication revolution? What about “Maximum Governance and Minimum Government”?

Vijay Kelkar had designed tax reforms which could account for double entry when it came to market transactions — if I sell someone has to buy. But with multiple rates we gave up on that reform. It’s like airport security in India. Too many checks and so you are probably unsafe because the responsibility is diffused. In most other countries, you have one thorough check and if need be, you are body searched. Simplify and live long.

The writer, a former Union minister, is an economist

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  1. Jagdish Chander
    Dec 19, 2017 at 7:58 pm
    It is most ill conceived project of UPA govt which is being carried by Modi Govt. Can one think of the addresses of persons residing at distance of two miles is same. UIDAI has hard coded several villages in to one single locations. House numbers are common. Aadhaar Card of person residing in one village reaches another village as the house number is same. No one has applied their minds. Biometrics is another problem. Finger prints of millions of persons are not getting authenticated as same are not of good quality. No one at UIDAI analysed as to whether the biometrics captured are capable of authentication. Persons are being asked again and again to give their biometrics at Aadhaar enrollment centres. But in vain. I had given my biometrics twice but of no use. Complain was made to PMO. PMO has also not applied its mind or may be that there is no mind available for application. My complain is closed without taking any step to correct the system. there is no sign any governance.
    1. Seshubabu Kilambi
      Dec 19, 2017 at 7:03 pm
      The project has failed to assist the poor and disabled to get their rations through pds
      1. Ananda Padmanabhan
        Dec 19, 2017 at 5:59 pm
        Rather than linking with all other, make it as only ID purpose for all deals. Linking of it with others, use that time to make Aadhar foul proof, security proof, duplicate proof with 24x7 data maintenance and filtering to find fraud entries.
        1. Guptan Veemboor
          Dec 19, 2017 at 3:53 pm
          It is good to have a single iden y card which should serve each and everything. I think the Social Security of the US is something along those lines. But it seems there no biometric data is necessary for that. Here my problem is exactly that. When I went to link my mobile phone with Aadhar, my fingerprints do not match. With age it becomes difficult it seems. So also the fingerprints of those engaged in manual labour fade. I do not know why the mobile cannot be linked if you go with your own Aadhar card yourself and it has your photo also.
          1. Parapuram Joseph
            Dec 19, 2017 at 3:51 pm
            Hurting the poor? Who cares! We are concerned with rich and affluent. Jai Hind! Away from the theme, for publicity/promotion purpose, I invite honourable readers to view my video - Homage to Pandit Nehru by p g joseph - in . It is a 20 minutes tribute to the Architect of Modern India. Thank you.
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