20 lakh people from 3 states denied ration due to #Aadhaar; Savings claims also doubtful: Report
Aadhaar is claimed to provide identification to more than 1.2 billion Indian residents, or more than 90% of India’s population. However, a study report from three states, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal, reveal that almost 20 lakh people were denied food distributed through public distribution system (PDS) or ration shop due to Aadhaar. In addition, it also raises question about the government claims on savings of Rs83,000 crore due to Aadhaar. The report also found that majority of the respondents care about their right to privacy and how their Aadhaar information is used by the government. 
 
According to the "State of Aadhaar Report 2017-18" prepared by IDinsight, and sponsored by Omidyar Network, exclusion from food ration (PDS) due to Aadhaar-related factors is significant. "Exclusion from receiving benefits due to Aadhaar-related factors significant 0.8%, 2.2%, and 0.8% of PDS beneficiaries in rural Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal, respectively, are excluded from their entitlements due to Aadhaar-related factors. This extrapolates to 20 lakh individuals monthly. However, non-Aadhaar reasons, such as ration unavailability, contribute much more to exclusion from," the report says.
 
While Aadhaar-related reasons include, Aadhaar seeding, Aadhaar authentication failures, non-availability of point of sales (PoS)-able member and e-PoS connectivity or electricity issues, non-Aadhaar related reasons include, non-availability of ration and other reasons such as dealer not being present.
 
 
According to the report, biometric authentication failures are often cited as a reason for exclusion. In Rajasthan, 1.2% of all PDS beneficiaries face exclusion due to Aadhaar authentication failures. Note that the incidence of biometric authentication failure is much higher as revealed by UIDAI's own data. 
 
"Since fair price shop owners are supposed to use a manual override mechanism for genuine beneficiaries, exclusion due to authentication failures should technically be zero. However, our data reveals the intersection of biometric failure and the manual override (incorrectly) not being employed, leading to exclusion. Of those who are able to successfully authenticate themselves, 1.9% 3% of PDS beneficiaries in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively, required more than three attempts to do so," the report says.
 
 
Unsubstantiated claims of saving due to Aadhaar
 
The Government of India claims that Rs83,000 crore ($12.5 billion) has been saved in four years from FY2014-15 to FY2017-18 because of Aadhaar, direct benefit transfer (DBT), digitisation, and other initiatives. The main source for savings is deletion of fake, duplicate, or ineligible accounts. For a breakdown of the savings figure, along with data on the corresponding number of non-genuine programme beneficiaries deleted.
 
 
“This estimate, however, suffers from three lacunae,” the report says, adding, “One, the government has not provided the underlying data backing the number of non-genuine beneficiaries claimed to be deleted. Two, there is no clarification provided on whether the number of deletions excludes genuine beneficiaries and how that figure was calculated. Finally, no evidence is provided regarding Aadhaar’s specific contribution to the deletion of non-genuine beneficiaries, which is valuable to ascertain the precise cost-benefit of Aadhaar’s use to plug leakages.
 
Privacy and usage concerns
 
Last year, a nine-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement recognising Right to Privacy as fundamental right. The judgement came in light of a series of individual petitions linked to Aadhaar combined with the writ petition filed by retired High Court Justice KS Puttaswamy challenging various aspects of the Aadhaar project, especially its potential violations of individual privacy. Privacy was deemed an undeveloped and elitist concept in the proceedings of Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd.) case.
 
"However," the report says, "findings from our survey do not support this view. To a question asking respondents whether they consider it important (or not) to know how the government uses their information, more than 96% of respondents in the three surveyed states contended that it was indeed important, for all three types of information. These findings are in line with qualitative interviews conducted with low-income individuals in a collaborative effort between Dalberg, CGAP, and Dvara Research. One of their key insights was that respondents were 'highly protective' of their personal information, including their Aadhaar numbers (Privacy on the Line 2017)."
 
 
Data entry errors
 
The Report also highlights errors in data quality. At the peak of the enrolment process, the UIDAI was facilitating enrolment of nearly 10 lakh people a day, it says, adding, “This raises the question about whether the scale of the enrolment made the exercise vulnerable to data entry errors. When asked, 8.8% of people stated that their Aadhaar letter contained an error. The errors are self-reported and there is reason to believe these are a lower-bound estimate for errors Aadhaar data has more self-reported errors than the voter ID database.”
 
 
The most common source of error in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal was the name of the respondent, while in Rajasthan date of birth contained the highest number of self-reported errors.
 
The report says, “The magnitude of error(s) also matters in terms of how the error affects people. Of those who reported an error in their name, about one-third claimed their full name was wrong while two-thirds noted an incorrect spelling.” 
 
“We also asked respondents about the perceived source of the error. About 89% reported their error(s) was due to data entry mistakes while 10.3% stated a pre-existing error in a source document. The remaining errors were attributed to mistakes made by the respondents themselves,” it added.
 
 
 
96% paid more than the designated fee to fix errors
 
The UIDAI has established processes for the correction of errors in Aadhaar. Most who tried to get their error rectified claimed to be successful. However, only 53% of those with errors actually reported trying to get the error corrected. An important concern that emerges from the data on the enrolment process is that of the respondents who paid to get the error fixed (82.4%), 96% reported paying more than the designated fee of Rs25, the report revealed.
 
UIDAI regulations state that enrolment in Aadhaar is free and no entity can charge a fee for this service. “However, findings from our survey show that this regulation has not always borne out in practice. The highest incidence of deviation was found in Rajasthan, with 23.7% of people stating that they paid to enrol in Aadhaar. Those in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal experienced this issue as well with 9% and 5.7% of people, respectively, paying to enrol. Those who enrolled in an Aadhaar camp were less likely to have paid for enrolment in all three states.”
 
In Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, a relatively small number of people were wrongly charged an enrolment fee. However, in Rajasthan 24% paid a fee. People also encountered more challenges with the process of updating their Aadhaar, compared to the process of enrolling, such as paying higher-than-required fees. 
 
“Of those who paid higher-than-required fees, majority were unaware of the actual cost. Conduct awareness campaign around fees and processes, especially for vulnerable groups. This highlights requirement of setting up of a strong grievance redress mechanism,” the report says.
 
Updating Aadhaar is lifelong process
 
According to IDinsight, people in the three states, where it conducted its survey, faced greater challenges when fixing mistakes or updating information. It says, “Updates will be required as long as the system is in place. As the administrator of the world’s largest biometric database, the UIDAI will face significant challenges ensuring Aadhaar data remains current and updated. A system containing errors is likely to cause problems, ranging from minor inconveniences to serious threats of exclusion.”
 
e-KYC not yet picked up
 
The Survey found that Aadhaar's analog version (the letter) is much more widely used to open bank accounts than its digital version (e-KYC). It says, only 17% bank customers have used
Aadhaar e-KYC while 67% used Aadhaar letter while rest used other IDs to open bank account. 
 
The report from IDinsight says, "As for the prevalence of e-KYC in the opening of bank accounts in rural settings, our data suggests uptake is fairly low. According to our survey results, for those who opened an account in the last three years, e-KYC usage was 12.8% and 11.5% in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively. Uptake was higher in West Bengal, with 26.7% of accounts opened within the last three years using e-KYC."
 
 
"The gap between the proportion of people who used Aadhaar as a means of identification and those who used e-KYC may be explained in part by the lack of a differentiation factor of e-KYC in the opening of bank accounts. In our survey data, using Aadhaar e-KYC is not correlated with a higher likelihood of accessing one’s bank account within one day of opening. Thus, we have no evidence that e-KYC expedited the process of opening an account, which is contrary to the stated benefits. This held true for all three states," it added.
 
Use of microATMs remains low
 
According to the report, only 17% of account-holders surveyed had recently used a microATM. In Andhra Pradesh, 33.4% of respondents who used their bank account in the last three months reported having used a microATM. In West Bengal and Rajasthan, it was 14.7% and 5.1%, respectively.
 
“Too few people currently have access to alternatives to brick-and-mortar banks. Ready access to microATMs could change this; however, the network supporting business correspondents (BCs) needs to be strengthened. A recent study by MicroSave highlighted issues that may be leading many to continue to transact at a bank. About 65% of BCs who carry a microATM experienced service downtimes in the previous month, which was higher than those who do not use a microATM at 50%. In addition, uncertainty of a successful transaction with a BC was higher. An overwhelming majority of BCs (94%) currently do not offer services to customers of other banks (i.e, those who do not have an account with the specific bank employing the BC); 76% reported having faced problems in maintaining liquidity. If the usage of BCs and microATMs is to be encouraged, reliability of the branchless network must improve,” the report says.
 
 
 
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    Denial of food ration due to #Aadhaar significant: Report
    Even as the government promotes Aadhaar as an enabler to ensure that food and other subsidies reach the poor, a new report on Thursday said that a large number of people do not get food ration under the Public Distribution System (PDS) due to factors related to the biometric identification system.
     
    State capacity also has a bearing on the functioning of PDS, with wide variation between Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, said the report by IDinsight, a global development analytics firm working across India. 
     
    Expressing concern over the privacy of their data, almost all of the respondents (96 per cent) said it was important to know what the government would do with their Aadhaar data. 
     
    The "State of Aadhaar Report 2017-18" is based on the largest household survey since Aadhaar's inception, covering 2,947 rural households in 21 districts across Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal. 
     
    Overall monthly exclusion from PDS in Rajasthan is 9.9 per cent, whereas it is 1.1 per cent in Andhra Pradesh. 
     
    Of this, Aadhaar-related factors contribute 2.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively, showed the results of the survey conducted between November 2017 and February 2018. 
     
    "PDS exclusion due to failure of local administration, though small, should be taken very seriously by the concerned agencies," Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which is mandated to issue Aadhaar, said in a statement.
     
    "They should ensure that not a single beneficiary is denied. The Aadhaar Act and Government instructions provide for alternate means of identification for genuine beneficiaries who encounter problems in authentication," he added. 
     
    Despite this, the report found that a majority of PDS recipients prefer Aadhaar-based PDS delivery in both states, as they perceive biometric authentication prevents identity fraud.
     
    At the same time, 87 per cent of respondents approved of mandatory linking of Aadhaar to programmes like PDS, according to the report.
     
    "The goal of the State of Aadhaar Report is to catalyse the Aadhaar debate and policymaking to be more data-driven," said Ronald Abraham, Partner, IDinsight.
     
    The report found higher coverage of Aadhaar than voter IDs. 
     
    It said that 8.8 per cent of Aadhaar-holders reported errors in their name, age, address, or other information on their Aadhaar card. 
     
    Compared to voter IDs, the error-rate in Aadhaar was 1.5 times higher, the report said.
     
    "Issues such as protecting privacy and eliminating exclusion are serious and require rigorous evidence to carefully unpack and address," Abraham added.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
     

     

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    Moneylife's Fight Against Aadhaar Goes Back to 2010, and It Continues
    The fate of the Aadhaar will be decided after a marathon hearing that was also historic, because the arguments and proceedings in the Supreme Court of India (SC) were avidly followed and commented by tens of thousands of Indians on with the same fervour and interest as a cricket match. For the first time ever, the proceedings were live-tweeted by a few intrepid lawyers. (Read: Historic Aadhaar Hearing, Second-longest in SC history, Concludes)
     
    Unlike the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which had done an about-turn on the Aadhaar identification and then brazenly flouted a Supreme Court stay order, Moneylife has been among the earliest publications to take a strong stand against this identification system. In fact, as far back as nine years ago, when discussions happened in small e-mail groups that our managing editor participated in.
     
    Moneylife Foundation organised a workshop by pro-privacy activist and IITian, Vickram Crishna, who was among the many petitioners in the recently concluded hearings. Crishna made the point that Aadhaar’s biometrics based identification  would not address and of the structural issues that lead to chronic poverty (Read: A workshop on Aadhaar / UID with Vickram Crishna).  This is now established by innumerable reports of citizens being deprived food at shops run under public distribution system (PDS) scheme due to failure of Aadhaar biometrics authentication. (Read: Starvation death highlights flaws in Aadhaar-bank linkage https://www.moneylife.in/article/starvation-death-highlights-flaws-in-aadhaar-bank-linkage/52610.html)
     
    Moneylife followed it up with a series of articles and seminars and hundreds of articles on the many problems with the biometrics based Aadhaar and the international experience with such identification. 
    (https://www.moneylife.in/public-interest/aadhaar ). Those days, the involvement of billionaire technocrat, Nandan Nilekani, gave the project its star status, but the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) the main opposition party was strongly against it, with current Prime Minister Narendra as well as Dr Subramaniam Swamy and others speaking out against it in the run up to the elections. 
     
     
    Moneylife followed up the talk with a series of articles from July 2010 on Aadhaar or UID by social activists, technology expert. This series dissected issues related with identification, biometrics as well as highlighted several lacunas in the functioning of Unique Identification Authority of India, (UIDAI). (Read: UID Issue: Numbers Game -1)
     
    The Aadhaar project was supposed to eliminate corruption in welfare schemes and provide the poor with an identity. It is, however, clearly spreading into areas that dangerously intrude into our lives and rights. We organised a talk by Colonel (retd) Matthew Thomas, a former defence veteran and missile scientist on 12 January 2013 in Mumbai. He spoke on the evils of the Aadhaar project. Col (retd) Thomas, said that Aadhaar was conceptually flawed, deceitfully promoted, dangerously structured and ignorantly applied. For the first time, he exposed how the project give access to highly sensitive Indian data to foreign countries and contractors with dubious antecedents. One of UIDAI’s contractors, for example, is L1 ID Solutions, which was formed by merging two entities, one of which was under investigation by US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for certain offences. (Read: UID/Aadhaar – Medicine better than Disease?) Col Thomas is one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court in the Aadhaar case. 
     
    At that seminar in January 2013, technology expert Jude Terrence D’Souza, an expert in design and development of microprocessor-based embedded electronic systems, conducted a live demonstration of how a simple Fevicol mould, created either in collaboration with another or under deceitful circumstances, can be used for authentication. 
     
     
    Unfortunately, both the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and UIDAI were in such a hurry that they neglected basic principle of pilot testing and size of sample. UPA promoted UID as a pro-poor initiative to gain political mileage and acceptance. UID was projected as a device that would prevent corruption in welfare schemes. Both were plain deceitful. 
     
    For over 1.2 billion UID numbers, they used data from just 20,000 people, in pairs, as the sample and have on the basis of the results gone ahead with the UID number through the 'Aadhaar' project. According to test results of UIDAI’s biometrics-based Aadhaar project, there could be up to 15,000 false positives for every Indian resident. Moreover, this figure was just for identification and not for verification at that time. 
     
    Mr D'Souza, also analysed the pilot study conducted by the UIDAI, and felt that given the well-known lacunae in our infrastructure and massive demographics, biometrics as an ID will be a guaranteed failure and result in denial of service. "The sum of false acceptance rate and false rejection rate (EER) reveals only part of the problem, which is rejection or acceptance within a short duration of enrolment. The bigger problem is ageing, including health and environment factors, which causes sufficient change to make biometrics completely unusable and requires very frequent re-enrolment," he said. (Read: How UIDAI goofed up pilot test results to press forward with UID scheme)
     
    In September 2013, Moneylife Foundation bought together bank employees union, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as prominent activists and citizens to raise voice against Reserve Bank of India (RBI)'s move to install biometric enabled automated teller machines (ATMs). These NGOs, activists and citizens were startled at the complete lack of clarity on the huge costs involved in complying with RBI’s diktat on e-KYC. Also, lack of clarity on the issue of whether each biometric based transaction would involve a transaction cost to UIDAI – who pays this cost? Will it be distributed among all? These NGOs, activists and citizens then submitted a memorandum to the then RBI governor Dr Raghuram Rajan (Read: ATMs with biometric readers: Who will bear the cost: Round-table discussion)
     
    Later in December 2016, Dr Usha Ramanathan, an independent law researcher, called the UID project as an attempt by technocrats to turn everyone into a customer for their financial technology-related products. We published a series of her articles (Read: Aadhaar: Private ownership of UID data- Part I  and Aadhaar: Who owns the UID database? –Part II) . “These days, we often hear the term ‘disruptive change’. However, in the case of UID, this is disruption for destruction, where ambitious persons are using every means to allot a random number to every Indian citizen whose profiles, once created, can be exploited for offering a number of services or products,” she had said.  (Read: “Aadhaar is an attempt to turn everyone into a customer”) 
     
    In the meanwhile, Moneylife continue to publish several articles that pointed out several serious issues with Aadhaar and its enforcement by the government. 
     
    On 28 January 2009, the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh headed Planning Commission issued a notification creating UIDAI, which failed to get Parliament’s endorsement despite repeated attempts. It functioned with Ram Sewak (RS) Sharma as its Director General from August 2009 to March 2013 under whose tenure Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat was biometrically profiled for Aadhaar in spite of the fact that he himself had categorically questioned the legality and legitimacy of biometric data collection by Dr Manmohan Singh-led UPA government. (Read: Is Narendra Modi right in going back to Aadhaar? https://www.moneylife.in/article/is-narendra-modi-right-in-going-back-to-aadhaar/38576.html)
     
    UIDAI was a creation of a Congress government under Dr Manmohan Singh and it gave UIDAI enormous power and resources without even the pretence of statutory safeguards. Mr Modi was against Aadhaar, until he became Prime Minister. After that, it took him a 15-minute meeting with Nandan Nilekani, the first chief of UIDAI, to do a sharp about-turn without so much as an explanation to the people.
     
    Ironically, BJP supporters were prominent attendees at our Aadhaar seminars before 2014. But after the government did an about-turn, many of these have remained mute spectators to the government forcing it upon citizens for almost every activity from sports, to exam, birth, death, property registration, insurance or stock market transactions.  The Modi government has been pushing Aadhaar on the pretext of ‘Digital India’.  
     
    Aadhaar, which is used as a tool under the Digital India movement, is ending up excluding rather than including eligible beneficiaries of government subsidies and programmes and has the potential to unleash undetectable financial crimes, was the broad conclusion of Prof Dr Usha Ramanathan and Dr Anupam Saraph. They were speaking at a seminar on “Legal issues that will arise if individual identity and biometrics are compromised” organised by Moneylife Foundation at Mumbai. (Read: How fool proof is Aadhaar? Does it serve the purpose that was claimed?)
     
    On 3 March 2016, the Aadhaar Bill passed as money bill by side lining Rajya Sabha, which can only make recommendations unlike the Bill that UPA tried to pass in 2010. Aadhaar now has the much-needed legislative backing. However, unlike UPA, which passed it as a regular bill, got it reviewed through the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government decided to completely bypass Rajya Sabha. All the concerns raised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Yashwant Sinha at that time, are still valid.
     
    Even before Aadhaar had the backing, it had been linked to direct benefit transfer (DBT), used to check attendance in Government offices, made mandatory for matrimonial sites, added to PDS, used for passport verifications, EPFO, and sim cards by the current Government.     
     
    Be it birth or death, the government had tried every trick to make Aadhaar (which still is issued to ‘residents’) mandatory for citizens. Also this was not limited to subsidies, or benefits given to the citizens. The government even tried to force Aadhaar on private services like mobiles, investments and many others. 
     
    Despite the matter reaching the Supreme Court, the Modi government continued with its mission to mandate Aadhaar for everything. In fact, as stated in the apex court, the government had issued as many as 144 notifications to make Aadhaar mandatory for over 200 services or benefits. This includes those services or benefits totally unrelated with Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act for which money needs to be spent from the Consolidated Fund of India.
     
    While citizens were raising several issues about Aadhaar, in a remarkable move that exposes the deep rot within the Aadhaar enrolment process, UIDAI, the agency assigned to issue Aadhaar numbers has rejected renewal request of another government company Common Services Centres (CSC) e-Governance Services India Ltd for its Aadhaar services. Interestingly, both UIDAI and CSC e-Governance Services, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) work under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY). According to a 2 February 2018 newsletter from CSC, its 11,280 permanent enrolment centres (PECs) have generated 18.09 crore Aadhaar numbers with total enrolment of 26.83 crore. It has updated demographic and biometric information of 5.16 crore people. (Read: Enormous number of complaints of corruption and enrolment process violations against Aadhaar enrolment and update centres under CSC e-Gov, says UIDAI while asking its sibling to close Aadhaar services business)   
     
    Unfortunately, even today, the harassment caused to citizens for not having Aadhaar or fingerprints not matching shows no sign of abating, even as the government vociferously denies any problems with the Aadhaar scheme and stoutly defends this extraordinarily invasive programme. (Read: Aadhaar’s Unabated Harassment and Disempowerment
     
    All eyes are now on the five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan. The Bench will decide whether Indians can continue to live as citizens with a right to privacy and dignity or be turned into digital slavery under the pretext of an unverified and unaudited number (Aadhaar) issued by third party vendors. 
     
     
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