The history of Aadhaar, what it is meant for and its current state in India part-1

A complete encapsulation about what the Aadhaar is meant for, what its history is and what the allegations about its security lapses mean for you.

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Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identification number that is issued to all Indian citizens by the Central government of India under the aegis of the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India). The UIDAI is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016 on 12 July 2016 by the Government of India, under the MEITY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology).

Salient features of Aadhaar

  • Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric identification system and the most sophisticated ID program in the world, under which an identification document (the 12-digit Aadhaar Card number) is issued by the UIDAI after it records and verifies every Indian resident’s details.
  • Aadhaar is not a proof of citizenship. It is a simple record of biometric and demographic data. It has not replaced existing identification documents like the PAN, passport, driving license, etc., but it can be used as a single identification document throughout the country.
  • As of 28 February 2018, 1.123 billion people and arguably over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above have been enrolled under this system.
  • In the above-18 category, the ratio of the population enrolled under the program is – men (37.52%) and women (35.43%). States like Delhi, Telangana, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh Punjab, have reported over 100% of Aadhaar coverage.
  • As of February 28, 2018, the total expenditure incurred in the implementation of the UID scheme since its inception is currently around Rs 8,537.92 crore.
  • The government is now planning to link the Aadhaar with over 537 State and Central entitlement schemes to do away with the concept of middlemen and to improve the subsidy/pension/grievance disposal system.
  • As per the Aadhaar Act 2016, the UIDAI is responsible for all tasks related to Aadhaar enrolment and authentication, and is required to ensure the security of personally identifiable information and authentication records of individuals.
  • The Aadhaar is now being used as a mandate for availing welfare programs and official programs in a step to curb corruption and check lapses in the PDS (public distribution system). It is also being forcibly introduced towards linking financial records of individuals anywhere from bank accounts to e-wallet payments, with services like mobile connections, KYC norms, and other non-governmental schemes, etc.
  • The matter of forcibly making ‘Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes’ is currently under the purview of the Supreme Court of India which in the past has been repeatedly rejecting a push to make it mandatory for anything and everything in India.
  • Another issue of concern is the rising number of reports about Aadhaar data breaches and potential of privacy abuse, misuse of biometrics and impersonation through the Aadhaar database.
  • Only authorized agencies registered with the UIDAI have access to the UIDAI database called the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR). The CIDR is used for various purposes like e-KYC services and transmits the authentication requests to and from the database using secure applications through encrypted channels. The CIDR, in turn, returns a response to a KYC application either in the form of a “Yes” or a “No” and if the response is yes, it sends back a digitally signed and encrypted e-KYC which comprises the demographic data (photograph, name, gender, address etc.) of an individual.
  • There is also a Udyog Aadhaar which is a unique 12-digit Government identification number that is provided by the Ministry of MSME/SSI for small and medium enterprises to help them get the status of MSME/SSI by registering themselves as an MSME/SSI, but it is only for business purposes.

Detailed features of Aadhaar: https://uidai.gov.in/your-aadhaar/about-aadhaar/feature-of-aadhaar.html

FAQs about Aadhaar: https://uidai.gov.in/your-aadhaar/help/faqs.html

What data is collected under the Aadhaar?

Check this link for details related to Aadhaar enrolment: https://uidai.gov.in/enrolment-update/aadhaar-enrolment.html

There is also a ‘blue-colored’ ‘Bal Aadhaar’ for kids in which mandatory biometrics will be recorded when the child turns 5 (when fingerprints begin to form). After this, an update of biometric Aadhaar data of the child will have to be repeated at the age of 15 years (when fingerprints generally attain a final form). It is not mandatory (https://uidai.gov.in/images/news/aadhaar-card-nahi-to-admission-19032018.pdf) for children of below 5 years to get an Aadhaar card, but it is still needed for attending overseas educational programs and for availing government scholarships.

History of the Aadhaar – Timeline of Events

  • 23 May 2001 – Erstwhile PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee recommended in a national security report that identity cards should be designated for citizens of India living in border areas. Later, a “multi-purpose National Identity Card” project was proposed.
  • 28 January 2009 – The government establishes the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Prior to the enactment of the Aadhaar Act of 2016, the UIDAI functioned as an attached office of the Planning Commission (now called the NITI Aayog) since 28 January 2009.
  • 23 June 2009 – The government of India appoints Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys as the Chairman of UIDAI and the head of the Aadhaar project’s planning committee.
  • 2010 – The enrollment drive begins across the nation to register generic, biometric and location details of Indians.
  • 29 September 2010 – Ranjana Sonawne of Nandurbar, Maharashtra is issued the first-ever UID (Aadhaar) number in India.
  • 20 November 2012 – Matters of Aadhaar’s legality and purpose in Legislative and State procedures reaches the Supreme Court of India which hears petitions regarding the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 (bill seeking to establish a National Identification Authority), and the possibility of Aadhaar overstepping Article 73 of the Constitution (what the Parliament can do by way of legislation under the Central Govt.’s actions)
  • 23 September 2013 – The Supreme Court rules that governmental scheme benefits to citizens cannot be denied to anyone on the basis of ‘non-possession of the Aadhaar card’. The court ruled that Aadhaar registration is ‘voluntary and not mandatory’.
  • 1 July 2014 – The NDA assumes power in a landslide victory over the UPA in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. Nilekani meets PM Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to push for the UID’s benefits for Indian citizens. Earlier, when the UPA was in power, the BJP was strongly opposed to the Aadhaar concept and wanted the drive to be scrapped.
  • 5 July 2014 – PM Modi retains the project after much deliberation and decides to link all Indian passports with the Aadhaar database.
  • 11 March 2016 – The Lok Sabha passes The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Bill, 2016. The Rajya Sabha sends it back, but since it was a Money Bill, the Lok Sabha rejects recommendations by the Rajya Sabha and eventually, the Aadhaar Act, 2016 comes into force.
  • 15 September 2016 – In a sudden turn of events, the NDA government announces that to avail government subsidies and benefits, the Aadhaar card will be made mandatory.
  • 4 October 2016 – For availing cooking gas (LPG) subsidies, possession of an Aadhaar card was made mandatory.
  • December 2016 – Over 300 million biometric entries were linked to Indian citizens’ bank accounts for a DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) of government subsidies worth about $40 billion a year.
  • January 2017 to March 2017 – Aadhaar card is made compulsory for availing over 30 central government schemes.
  • 7 February 2017 – To combat counter-insurgency and to create a database of mobile number owners in India, the Supreme Court of India directs the central government to link all mobile numbers to the Aadhaar database.
  • 7 March 2017 – The SC rules that the government cannot make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes, but does not opine on the scope of Aadhaar in relation to non-governmental services.
  • 17 January 2018 – The five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India begins hearing cases or the extension of Aadhaar Linking Deadlines to various schemes in India and takes into view the opinions of civil liberty groups such as the Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties and the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) who have outright opposed the Aadhaar project over its privacy concerns and its threat to biometric security.

Countries that have/had similar systems to the Aadhaar

  • Countries like Malaysia (MyKad – kad pengenalan Malaysia), Sri Lanka (NIC – National Identity Card), Pakistan (NADRA – National Database & Registration Authority Card), Mauritius (MNIC – Mauritius National Identity Card), Rwanda (NIDA – National Identification Agency), Bangladesh (SNID – Smart National Identity Card), Nigeria (NIC – National Identity Card), Afghanistan (Tazkira), Argentina ( Documento Nacional de Identidad), Belgium (Personalausweis), Botswana (Omang), Brazil (Cédula de Identidade) to name a few, have a biometric system for social transfers. Countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand do not have such a system currently. However, the Australian conservative party is constantly pushing for a national biometric ID card for the Aussies.
  • The United Kingdom had a National Identity Cards Act, under which biometric-based national identity cards for all citizens were to be made, but the project was repealed after it was termed wasteful, unnecessary, and that it invaded the privacy of all registered citizens. All information which was collected during the initial years of this project was later destroyed.
  • The famous Social Security number (SSN) of the USA is used to track American individuals for Social Security purposes and has become mandatory for taxation and other purposes, but since it does not have a biometric system, it is sometimes susceptible to impersonation and identity theft. To combat this, the US government’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes tax return preparers obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and an EIN (employer identification number) to validate their identity.
  • Americans are encouraged by the Social Security Administration to ask which law requires the use of SSN (§7213 of the 9/11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004 and 20 C.F.R. 422.103 (e) (2)) if someone asks for the SSN number.

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