Basis of a revolution

Aadhaar Bill will enable government to go paperless, presence-less and cashless.

Written by Nandan Nilekani | Published:March 9, 2016 12:00 am
aadhaar bill, Aadhaar Bill in Parliament, Arthur C. Clarke, public policy, Aadhaar Bill in Parliament, Aadhaar numbers, paperless governmnet, LPG subsidy, aadhaar job, MGNREGA, Unique Identification Authority of India, digital colonisation, indian express The Parliament House.

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. He was absolutely right but in public policy, engineering is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the widespread adoption of any technology; it also has to be buttressed by design simplicity, a scalable architecture, an “open” platform, satisfying multiple stakeholders, privacy safeguards, and trust. India will soon cross 100 crore Aadhaar numbers, and the current Aadhaar Bill in Parliament is important infrastructure to enable government to go paperless, presence-less and cashless. This will catapult India to the front of the league of nations whose governments use technology to create an effective, efficient and modern welfare state that treats its people with dignity.

Every entrepreneur knows that if you wait for all lights to be green, you will never leave home. I took the Aadhaar job in 2009 with the understanding that a law would eventually be passed and that we had solid legal grounds to initiate the project. Because of the decision to start and not wait, today we have close to a billion numbers issued, and visible evidence of its utility with Rs 10,000 crore-plus savings in LPG subsidy in one year alone. But Aadhaar now needs regulatory legitimacy to operate at its full potential. The current bill is a balanced synthesis of various stakeholder perspectives and adequately addresses the concerns of the Supreme Court. Let’s take a look at the bill and what kinds of revolutions it could enable.

The key features of the Aadhaar Bill are in the details. Enrolment is voluntary. It shall only be used as proof of identity and not as proof of citizenship. It enables the government to prevent fraud, corruption and waste by requiring the Aadhaar number for delivery of any benefit, subsidy or service from the Consolidated Fund of India, such as LPG subsidy, MGNREGA wages, various insurance schemes, provident fund schemes, government scholarships, and much more. It does not prohibit the usage of Aadhaar for any other purpose by any public or private entity. It provides privacy protection at an unprecedented level for Indian law. For example, it has, one, “use limitation” — it can only be used for the purpose for which the user gives consent. Two, “collection limitation” — no information other than demographic (name, address, date of birth, sex and, optionally, email id/ mobile number) and biometric (photo, fingerprint and iris scan) will be collected. No other personal information of an individual will be in the Aadhaar database. Three, “access and rectification” — the user can access his own information and has an obligation to rectify it if it needs updating. Four, no demographic information or identity information received from the Unique Identification Authority of India can be displayed publicly. Five, the only exception to certain confidentiality (but not security) obligations is national security, provided an order to disclose information is issued either by a court, or by a joint secretary or higher officer, and vetted by a high-powered committee headed by the cabinet secretary. Even then, sharing of a particular piece of information will be permitted only for a limited time period. Further, that no core biometric information can be shared is a principle without exception — people saying that core biometric information will be shared are wrong because Clause 29(1) is not overridden by Clause 33(2). Finally, the bill includes stringent penalties, including imprisonment for breach of privacy and other violations. Overall, the law represents a useful synthesis of the learning, feedback and advice that two governments have received and should take care of the Supreme Court’s concerns that Aadhaar was functioning in a legislative vacuum, without accountability.

Moreover, as the recent net neutrality debate shows, there is a clear and present danger of “digital colonisation”. An important aspect of that is who manages the online digital identity that people will use to access the internet. We run the grave risk that all our online access will be in the hands of a few foreign internet “gatekeepers” that will track all our digital activities. In that context, the Aadhaar platform, which gives an open, secure and privacy-protected digital ID to a billion Indian residents to access the internet, will be a critical bulwark to ensure our digital independence.

The massive savings from a limited deployment of Aadhaar show that it is a powerful instrument against retail corruption, far better than creating another bureaucratic layer that only deepens the decision-making gridlock. Once the bill is passed, India could see a Cambrian explosion of innovation inside and outside government. It would enable unprecedented financial inclusion. It could eliminate more than 2,000 crore pages of paper (a low guesstimate). It could enable more than 300 million daily seekers of government services to save at least two hours every day. It could eliminate fraud in government subsidies of at least Rs 50,000 crore every year. It would enable linking individuals to an organisation that has a unique enterprise number and this would shift enforcement to big data rather than feet-on-street. It could unclog our highways and eliminate waiting rooms in hospitals. It could eliminate fraud in degrees and substantially improve labour market matching. And much more.

In the wonderful book, The Case for India, written in 1930 by historian Will Durant, he lamented, “…study and writing were frivolous things in the presence of a people — one-fifth of the human race — suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than any to be found elsewhere on the earth… I was filled with astonishment and indignation at the apparently conscious and deliberate bleeding of India by England throughout a hundred and fifty years. I began to feel that I had come upon the greatest crime in all history.” India has not only beaten the odds but come a long way since 1947; we are a vibrant democracy, a growing economy, and a cultural honeypot. Aadhaar can accelerate India’s rise and fulfil our tryst with destiny. It is time for legislation, action and innovation.

 

The writer is former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India.

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  1. A
    ak dev
    Mar 9, 2016 at 6:06 pm
    He should be in Modi's team but he seems to be hesitating.
    Reply
    1. A
      ak dev
      Mar 9, 2016 at 6:15 pm
      If a person can be uniquely identified electronically, why do we need to print the ID and hold it as evidence. Can somebody explain? Is ideny validating technology not yet full proof?
      Reply
      1. M
        Mukesh Mukesh
        Mar 9, 2016 at 2:05 pm
        Join Forces In Support of Aadhaar: Privacy bogey being raised by the leftists is a ploy to keep status quo on PDS and other corrupt practices. They always are deeply concerned about everything that takes the country forward. Fingerprints and iris patterns are barely distinguishable by unaided eye. Even if someone takes your iris patterns and uses it for defrauding the system he/she is going to be caught pretty soon. Outrageous arguments regarding use of iris patterns and fingerprints have been made where a hitler like dictator was invoked to cause fear in people and aadhaar was made out to be a weapon of m destruction. Opponents have used every trick to paint a horse as donkey. Postmen threw aadhaar cards in the nullah. People enrolled their dogs and cats. Some subverted enrollment station created aadhaar card for coriander s/o v etc etc. Alas they did not succeed.
        Reply
        1. J
          Jaya Hariharan
          Mar 9, 2016 at 6:32 pm
          u r right!! Right person in the wrong company of congis! He can be better utilised for the benefit of the country in PM Modi's team where he will get free hand unlike with Congis where he will be controlled, lest he becomes por than their darling Pappu!!!
          Reply
          1. G
            Girish Ramaiah
            Mar 9, 2016 at 2:49 pm
            Congratulations Nilekani, Sir. Ever since Modi Government took charge, I have been suggesting Modi to invite and offer Mr. Nilekani in a suitable post in Government. A great leader has to scout for talent wherever talent is available be it within the party or from opposition party.
            Reply
            1. G
              gopal
              Mar 9, 2016 at 7:20 am
              well said..and obviously well initiated effort..hope Aadhar gets legal sancy so that the deprived sections of society are no more at the mercy of few self serving beaureucrats
              Reply
              1. I
                India Is
                Mar 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm
                Dear responsible citizen of INDIA and stake holder for this mission - Operation -- India Is My Country or “ ओय ”, request you to spare your precious time for the below valuable reasons. Under “ ओय ” series - Project or Mission - AADHAAR -- “ A A ” or “ आ ”. About “ आ ” : This Operation -- India Is My Country AADHAAR -- “ A A ” or “ आ ” ( OI – “ ओय ” - A – “ आ ” ) is in continuation of earlier project / mission under “ ओय ” series ANYWHERE ANYTIME -- “ A ” or “ अ ” for achieving 100% voting which was released in December - 2014, herewith presenting “ आ ”. Mission of this OI – “ ओय ” - AA – “ आ ” is - How can we acheive the following A) 100% de-duplication of AADHAAR numbers - Slide no – 31 B) Zero % legal heir issues - Slide no - 25 , 33 , 34 and 74 C) Unique Ideny for every individual i.e. citizen of India D) Criteria for deciding the BPL / Economically backward cl categories - Slide no - 25 Highlights of OI – “ ओय ” - AA – “ आ ” : 1) The lifeline of India and every Indian citizen. 2) 100 % “ BAAHUBALI ” and catalyst for Digital India 3) 100% NATIONAL INTEGRATION in terms of Socio - Techno - Geographic - Economic 4) 100% de-duplication in every sector and how it can acheived 5) 100% perfect re-engineering tool with a 360 degrees view - Slide no - 120 6) Smart policing and investigation by Geo tagging the AADHAAR number and biometrics alongwith registration of date and time - Slide no - 107 7) Replacing of all existing idenies and registration numbers, whether issued by govt or pvt agencies 8) Will force to do the reconciliation of various legislation acts On Twitter iimc On Facebook On Google plus On Slideshare
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                1. K
                  kamath Ramesh
                  Mar 9, 2016 at 10:58 am
                  The person who has made the aadhar a reality is all praising the bill. Let us see now the party pioneer of the aadhar backs the bill or for the sake of opposition this will also be opposed.
                  Reply
                  1. M
                    mahesh
                    Mar 9, 2016 at 1:02 pm
                    Great work by nilekani, taken forward to a new level by Modi
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      Baidhurya Mani
                      Mar 9, 2016 at 5:51 pm
                      BJP has tabled it as a money bill. So, it will get ped
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Arpit
                        Mar 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm
                        One correction- it is still under Nilekani leadership. And BJP including Modi Ji promised to destruct AADHAAR during 2014 elections. Though Modi Ji made a U-TURN on this also, fortunately.
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                        1. K
                          KM
                          Mar 9, 2016 at 1:21 am
                          Wondeful insight
                          Reply
                          1. P
                            Parag
                            Mar 9, 2016 at 4:24 am
                            Would you be kind enough to share with us the "process" rather than the "outcomes" ????
                            Reply
                            1. R
                              raj
                              Mar 9, 2016 at 1:13 am
                              Great job, Nandan Nilekani. You should be proud of yourself.
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                Ravi Ravi
                                Mar 9, 2016 at 10:36 am
                                Great article followed by your great work, Nandan. Benefiaciaries of corruption have been fighting tooth and nail to subvert Aadhaar project since 2009. After paasage of the Aadhaar bill, corrupts will focus on to derail Aadhaar implementation. JAM should be a game changer too. I had been fighting against Aadhaar propaa for the since 2011 single-handedly. I researched and wrote article in Wikipedia on Aadhaar and Aadhaar enabled Service Delivery etc. Yet the goons have been subverting the articles too. Let's celebrate that achievement of a Billion Aadhaar this month.
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                                1. R
                                  Rohit Chandavarker
                                  Mar 9, 2016 at 6:42 pm
                                  Truly a commendable and inspiring job done by Nilekani and his team.
                                  Reply
                                  1. V
                                    vidyadhar
                                    Mar 9, 2016 at 6:42 am
                                    Yes, it will make government cashless i e bankrupt.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Srikumar
                                      Mar 9, 2016 at 10:04 am
                                      Well said Sir. But the advantages you highlight ... non corruption, efficiency and so on are precisely why politicians will slow it down.
                                      Reply
                                      1. O
                                        Observer
                                        Mar 9, 2016 at 10:57 am
                                        Some observations: (1). Many Aadhar Enrolment agencies are misguiding/misleading the public reg.preparation of Aadhar Cards ; after completing the formalities they take out print out in duplicate and take applicant’s signature; in that applicant’s print out copy his/her consent is printed; it is supposed to be there on the Aadhar application form itself. Very many applicants don’t notice it. There is no Yes/No option reg.this consent okaying at the initial application stage itself. . How many can read and understand this clever cunning technique operated on gullible applicants at the final stage only?(2). Have the Aadhar authorities conducted surprise checks on the quality of webcams deplo by enrolment agencies, , finger printing/biometric tools used etc; how many rejected, how may enrolment agencies cancelled? Have these particulars ever been shared with the public? (3). Photos on many Aadhar Cards leave very much to be desired in clarity. Can the photos be replaced afresh? (4). Why not introduce TATKAL type issuance of Aadhar Cards for a nominal extra amount? (5).Which Bank, which gas agency, which PDS center, which CENTRAL/STATE govt.agencies/depts., which banks . displa a PROMINENT BOARD SAYING AADHAR CARD IS VOLUNTARY and NOT MANDATORY? Has the print and electronic media ever published such a notice display in any of these establishments/offices? Even after supreme court judgements ruling Aadhar Cards are voluntary only and not mandatory, very many govt.depts/agencies, gas distributors, banks , post offices etc. did not bother to display the same in their offices.(Contd...)
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                                        1. T
                                          Thomas George
                                          Mar 9, 2016 at 5:58 am
                                          I believe that Aadhaar and Election Id should be merged into a single database, and entrusted with a separate statutory body. New enrollments should be allowed only during birth, and the local bodies across the nation can use this database to record birth. Police and law enforcement can search the database for fingerprints obtained from crime scenes, without having access to the database itself. It just provides the match. It can be made mandatory, and a proof of citizenship. In fact, one such id could be provided to every person entering the country. In fact, this could be used to replace every other personal number -- PAN, Ration Card, Birth and Death Certificates, Voter Id, Census and NPR. That is when its true potential will be realized.
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                                          1. T
                                            tanmay
                                            Mar 9, 2016 at 5:29 am
                                            Arguments about leaky subsidy delivery are problematic on at least two counts. One, the definition of poor itself remains problematic, and the middle cl is not sufficiently empowered by the market economy, for them to see themselves as "not poor". The ladders out of poverty should be shorter, before targeted subsidies can have broad public support. Secondly, the solution - blindly backing which I suspect, is written into Milan's job description - is unlikely to ever withstand the eventual full attention and scrutiny of India's Supreme Court. Its implementation has only achieved public discontent and accentuated the general decline in trust in government. Increasingly, as Aadhaar gets discussed as the basis for exclusion for public subsidies, I predict there will be a lot of #BurnAadhaarCard campaigns before Modi's term ends for good. All of this will culminate in a rousing judgement in defense of right to privacy by a Supreme Court Bench. The only people who will fondly remember it will be the contractors, advertising agencies, paid media and manufacturers of opinion at global think tanks, and universities. In a voluble Indian democracy, talking up "targeted subsidies" before taking substantial and highly visible action against defaulting companies of Ambani brothers, will invite black humor, derision and even lasting public anger.
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