Polity and Governance

Aadhar Controversy

Introduction
•In 2018, the Supreme Court declared that the Aadhaar project was constitutionally valid.
•Certain provisions like mandatory Aadhaar linking to bank accounts and mobile phones were struck down by the apex court.
•The provision of Aadhaar being mandatory for filing of IT returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN) were upheld.
•Government has welcomed the decision and said the Aadhaar project had helped the government to save Rs. 90,000 crores every year.  
 
What is Aadhar?
•Aadhaar means foundation or base.
•It is a 12-digit unique identity number that can be obtained by residents of India, based on their biometric and demographic data.
•The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the government of India, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
 
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
•The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is the issuing and managing agency of the Aadhar Card.
•Prior to the enactment of the Act, the UIDAI had functioned, since 28 January 2009, as an attached office of the Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog).
•On 3 March 2016 a money bill was introduced in the Parliament to give legislative backing to Aadhaar.
•On 11 March 2016 the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016, was passed in the Lok Sabha.
 
Aadhar Act
•The Government of India enacted the Aadhaar Act on 23rd March 2016 which is the world’s largest national identity project that seeks to collect biometric and demographic data of residents and store these in a centralised database.
•It has been called the biggest welfare legislation undertaken by any government in recent years.
•The Act aims at the targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits, and various kinds of services by providing a unique identity number to every individual based on their demographic and biometric information.
 
Controversy 
•Government passed the Aadhaar bill as a money bill, therefore, the Rajya Sabha was bypassed in passing of the bill.
•Government claimed that “the government presupposes privacy as a fundamental right” and claimed that the bill has tightened privacy provisions.
•However, the bill has come under considerable criticism as activists say that here have been no clarifications as these privacy concerns are, what privacy methods are being deployed to counter them and why the resulting version is secure and guarantees no encroachment of privacy.
•The UIDAI had mentioned the security measures it has put in place but it is not clear as to how the measures are effective against potential threats and privacy breaches, resulting in an overall state of confusion about the the Aadhaar project and the debate on safeguarding privacy of citizens.
 
Data Leaks
•Government departments and various other agencies that collect this information such as banks cannot be trusted to maintain the secrecy of all this collected information.
•Another case occurred wherein Aadhaar data collected by Reliance Jio was leaked online, and the data may now be widely available to hackers.
•The UIDAI confirms more than 200 government websites were publicly displaying confidential Aadhaar data; though removed now, the data leaked cannot be scrubbed from hackers' databases.
•A report from the Centre for Internet and Society suggests that the records of about 135 million Indians may have been leaked.
 
Privacy concerns
•Several activists and social commentators have brought out the weak privacy provisions in the Aadhaar project and bill, such as
     •Questionable legal backing,
     •Identification of individuals without consent using the Aadhaar number,
     •Identification and authentication of individuals without consent using the demographic and biometric data,
     •Surveillance or tracking or profiling of people beyond legislative sanctions using the central database.
•Some of these are overtly critical and unspecific in expressing their concerns. However, there are many genuine concern as well.
 
Other concerns
•It is causing numerous disruptions and exclusions in the different social welfare scheme
•There are many issues regarding biometric matching
•The Aadhaar technology does not have strong protections against such threats,
•The threads are not neutralised by an independent administrative control supervised by a third-party accountant.
•It makes individuals vulnerable to countless privacy and security breaches due to lack of legal protection.



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