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Explained: The common complaints about Aadhaar, which CAG has now flagged in UIDAI audit

There are issues of data-matching, errors in authentication, and shortfall in archiving, the CAG has said in its 108-page audit report on the functioning of the UIDAI.

Written by Aashish Aryan , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 9, 2022 9:37:03 am
A child registers for an Aadhaar card at a centre in Mumbai. (Express Photo: Pradip Das, File)

The country’s top auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, has pulled up the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for “deficient data management”.

UIDAI is the statutory authority established in 2016 to issue Aadhaar to all residents of the country. As of October 31, 2021, UIDAI had issued 131.68 crore Aadhaar numbers.

What are the problems with UIDAI that have been identified by the CAG?

There are issues of data-matching, errors in authentication, and shortfall in archiving, the CAG has said in its 108-page audit report on the functioning of the UIDAI.

The CAG has said the data of Aadhaar card holders have not been matched with their Aadhaar number even after 10 years in some cases.

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It has also criticised the absence of a system to analyse the factors leading to authentication errors, and said that even though UIDAI was maintaining one of the largest biometric databases in the world, it did not have a data archiving policy, which is considered “a vital storage management best practice”.

“UIDAI provided Authentication services to banks, mobile operators and other agencies free of charge till March 2019, contrary to the provisions of their own Regulations, depriving revenue to the Government,” the CAG noted.

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What about personal information with UIDAI, the security of which has been a persistent concern?

The CAG has flagged that UIDAI has not ensured that the applications or devices used by agencies or companies for authentication “were not capable of storing the personal information of the residents, which put the privacy of residents at risk”.

“The Authority had not ensured security and safety of data in Aadhaar vaults. They had not independently conducted any verification of compliance to the process involved,” the CAG said in its report.

What about concerns raised by some that Aadhaar numbers may have been issued to people who ought not to have one?

The government’s auditor has noted that the UIDAI has not prescribed any specific proof, document, or process to confirm whether a person who is applying for Aadhaar has resided in India for the period specified by the Rules.

Therefore, “there is no assurance that all the Aadhaar holders in the country are ‘Residents’ as defined in the Aadhaar Act”, says the report.

In the conclusion of its report, the CAG has said that UIDAI generated Aadhaar numbers with incomplete information, which, along with the lack of proper documentation or poor quality biometrics, have resulted in multiple or duplicate Aadhaar cards being issued to the same person.

The UIDAI should go beyond self-declaration, and “prescribe a procedure and required documentation other than self-declaration, in order to confirm and authenticate the residence status of applicants”, the CAG report has said.

What about complaints that Aadhaar cards sometimes don’t reach people, and that the data have errors, causing difficulty to residents for no fault of theirs?

The CAG has noted that the UIDAI does not have adequate arrangements with the postal department, due to which a large number of Aadhaar cards were returned to the government after they could not be delivered to their intended recipients.

Also, the report says, “Aadhaar numbers with poor quality biometrics induces authentication errors. UIDAI takes no responsibility for it and transfers the onus of updating the biometrics to the resident and also charges fees for it.”

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