Aadhaar has created third civil death for citizens,says CIC Prof Dr Sridhar Acharyulu

“There are two Indian laws, that can declare a person socially dead. Aadhaar has created third civil death for citizens. This is because leakages in Aadhaar data is reality, no option (from linking Aadhaar) is a reality and that there is no opt out option from Aadhaar," says Prof Dr M Sridhar Acharyulu, Central Information Commissioner under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He was speaking at a program on "RTI, Privacy and Aadhaar" organised by Moneylife Foundation's RTI Centre at Pune.

 

UIDAI and the government have been claiming through advertisement and press releases that there are 1.2 billion Aadhaar holders across the country. "This means there are about 16 crore people who still do not have Aadhaar and around nine crore unique numbers (UIDs) are discarded by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDA). So what happens to these 25 crore citizens, in case Aadhaar is made mandatory for everything? Will they live or die?" Prof Dr Acharyulu asked.

 

Prof Dr Acharyulu, said, “There is no provision in UIDAI to prosecute offenders. And even for filing a complaint against UIDAI itself, you have to approach the same Authority. UIDAI does not share any information to Aadhaar holders, but the same it give to private parties and government agencies. UIDAI collects data from residents without explicit consent, but refuses to share their data sharing agreement with third parties under the RTI. We citizens must demand complete transparency from UIDAI, especially about data they have collected from residents.”

 

“Citizens need protection from the State,” the CIC said, adding “the State cannot claim privacy (for not sharing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, over citizens, but citizens have a right to protect own privacy.”

 

Participating in the panel discussion, Dr Pralhad Kachare, who has worked with YASHADA as Additional Collector and Associate Professor, said, "I had worked with UIDAI and know the limitations of Aadhaar project. While I recognise apprehensions in this project, I feel it needs to be revisited to make it more comprehensive."

 

Dr Kachare also mentioned that people have no issues with sharing all data with private parties, like Google or Facebook and then call Aadhaar as surveillance tool.

 

Responding to this, Prof Dr Acharyulu said, “We hear this argument several times. But just because a private party is collecting data from people cannot be a reason for the government to do so. In fact the government itself should object to such data collection from third parties.” 

 

Participating in the discussion, Dr Anupam Saraph, trustee of Moneylife Foundation and an expert on identification system, who has was the CIO of Pune city and was an advisor to Goa government, explained the difference between data collected by private parties and by the government through third parties. He said, “For example, when you open a Gmail account, there is an agreement you have to sign and there you have an option to opt-out. In Aadhaar there is neither any agreement nor an option to opt-out.”

Dr Saraph also explained the difference between data sharing between two parties and giving access to third parties. He said, “When I carry out a transaction with my bank, the data is shared and transferred between the bank and me. It also gives me data protection from third parties and saves me from a possible fraud. When Aadhaar is used, we have no control on who will get access to the data that was supposed to be between two concerned parties.”

 

Dr Saraph has used RTI for obtaining information from UIDAI, which reveals that their record is not unique and it cannot be used for de-duplication. “Nobody from UIDAI certifies Aadhaar. Identification and authentication are different and UIDAI has no definition on either of this, as per the reply I received under the RTI,” he added.

 

The panel discussion was moderated by senior journalist Sucheta Dalal, Founder-Trustee of Moneylife Foundation. She said, "We as citizens need to be alert and resist all efforts to mandatory linking of Aadhaar with several services not related with use of government subsidy. Citizens need to wake up to dangers of the way Aadhaar is implemented and raise their voices now".

 

Several RTI activist including former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, Vijay Kumbhar, Vinita Deshmukh, Sulaiman Bhimani, as well as citizens, activists from Pune and Mumbai participated in the program.

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    COMMENTS

    Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan

    2 years ago

    I am all for Aadhar, except Nilekani selling us Indians for profit

    Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan

    2 years ago

    If our lives are going to be controlled in detail by somebody, then I prefer it to be by our own, than some white skins

    Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan

    2 years ago

    Wrt to the Argument that Gmail gives you an option - it doesn't make any difference if the cat is black or white, as long as it delivers the data.

    Ravi

    2 years ago

    I was shocked to hear that even performing cremation - we have to submit Aadhar card , without that cremation process will not be allowed.

    Param

    2 years ago

    i totally agree. the purpose of aadhaar was to plug the leakages in the subsidy programs. i have no idea why i need to get aadhaar when i have already given up LPG subsidy. but now gas company is asking me for aadhaar just because there is an order from head office.
    same issue is there with getting a mobile connection. they refuse to accept my passport instead of aadhaar. when i ask what govt benefit am i asking for in the connection, they plead helplessness & say it is an order from govt (though no one knows what the order is or can show me the same). this irrelevant asking of aadhaar where i'm not availing any govt subsidy has to stop. it is as if govt believes that allowing me to live & breathe in the country in itself is me devouring govt subsidies!!!

    #RTIBachao: Activists join hands to bring transparency at BMC for empowering citizens
    Over 45 Right to Information (RTI) activists came together on Wednesday to take a strong stand on the constant devaluation of the RTI act and the propensity of politicians and bureaucrats to label activists seeking legitimate information as blackmailers and extortionists, without making any push to identify or punish those who may, in fact, be guilty of abusing the act. The #RTIBachao campaign initiated at the meeting seeks better accountability of government and demands that information, as envisaged under Sec 4 of the RTI act must be put in the public domain. 
     
    The activists met  at Moneylife Foundation's office at Dadar under the guidance of former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and endorsed his demand that the BMC publish all RTI queries and their replies on its website to prevent any information being misused by vested interests. "Insisting on compliance with Section 4 of the RTI Act in line with the Office Memorandum issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and Government Resolution issued by Maharashtra government. We demand that all RTI applications and responses be displayed on the website as mandated. This will reduce the need for RTI applications and any charge of blackmail," Mr Gandhi said.
     
    It was also decided to collectively write to Ajoy Mehta, Commissioner of BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC), and meet him personally to ask him to issue a circular that officials cannot denigrate RTI users calling them blackmailers and to strongly demand a reversal of BMC's illegal action in declaring Praja Foundation as persona non grata. Deciding to stand with Praja, several activists offered to file RTI applications on behalf of Praja to ensure that it continues to get the information it is seeking and defeat the BMC's action against it.  
     
    The meeting was attended by activists such as Gerson da Cunha, Sumaira Abdulali, Naina Kathpalia, Praja Foundation's Nitai Mehta and his colleagues, Save our Land, and Bombay Catholic Sabha's Dolphy D'Souza, Citizens Justice Forum's Sulaiman Bhimani, Moneylife Foundation's Sucheta Dalal, and individual activists like Samir Zaveri, Prakash Munshi, AV Shenoy, Shirish Shanbhag, Sudhir Badami, IK Chhugani, Kamlakar Shenoy, Mohammed Afzal and Chetan Shah. Former Assistant Police Commissioner Vilas Tupe was also present during the meeting. Pune-based Sanjay Shirodkar, who championed the anti-toll campaign, was also present during the meeting. 
     
     
    Mr Gandhi has already filed RTI applications he had used 'Shailesh Gandhi Praja' as name and received reply to one of his queries. Ms Kathpalia of Citispace said that her organisation has used this strategy effectively in the past.
     
    During the meeting, activists also decided to launch a contact programme to communicate with all municipal corporators and members of legislative assembly (MLAs) to raise this issue in the BMC House as well as the state legislature. Some activists also mooted a campaign through public meetings to make public aware of the injustice done to genuine RTI activists by painting all information seekers as blackmailers. 
     
     
    Mr Gandhi informed the activists the actions suggested by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) set up by the BMC to increase transparency and accountability. Mr Gandhi, in his letter to the BMC Commissioner had said, "...when the TAC started insisting on its recommendations being followed you disbanded it in an uncouth manner. I might point out that if RTI applications and responses were put on the website, no blackmailing could occur. Since TAC was actively pursuing these and pointing out the huge gaps, you took a decision to disband it. If these transparency measures had been followed, BMC would have gained citizen's respect and better governance would have been possible. I agree that there would have been a huge reduction in the bribes and the corruption revenue would have taken a downturn."
     
    Mr Gandhi also cited on records statements made by BMC officials Nidhi Choudhari and Devendra Jain. Mr Jain, who is Assistant Municipal Commissioner in BMC had filed a police compliant naming 70 citizens, majority of them RTI users, as 'extortionists and blackmailers'. However, Mr Jain could not provide any evidence and was reprimanded by the State Information Commission (SIC).
     
    In an order issued in October 2017, BMC Commissioner Mr Mehta allegedly declared Praja, an NGO and its employees as 'persona non grata', which resulted in BMC officials refusing to respond to RTI queries from the NGO. 
     
    Drawing an analogy with the phrase 'the chain is as strong as its weakest link', Mr Mehta from Praja Foundation stated that the BMC has become the weakest link for the city, with the undemocratic approach of the Municipal Commissioner. "BMC has no issues in supplying information asked under RTI to us. The problems occurs when we put out all this information and our analysis in public domain," he added.
     
     
    In July 2017, Praja Foundation made public its annual report on public health, which seems to have angered officials from the BMC. The Report, based on information gathered through RTI data shared by the BMC, pointed out how the Municipal Corporation had doubled its budget for TB prevention programme despite 50% of participants leaving the programme. The report also exposed how one out of three children in BMC schools was malnourished. Rejecting analysis of Praja Foundation, the BMC blacklisted the NGO and since then have been denying any information asked under RTI Act to the NGO and its employees.
     
    In the aftermath of the Kamala Mills fire, the BMC Commissioner had allegedly blamed an unholy nexus between officers and so called activists at ward level for the tragedy.
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    COMMENTS

    Krishna Gupta

    2 years ago

    Salute to Moneylife Foundation, to organize such meet with the RTI Activists to come along and join hands for the rights and justice of common people.

    REPLY

    Carlos De Souza

    In Reply to Krishna Gupta 2 years ago

    I agree 100%. Sucheta Dalal & her organisation is doing a fantastic job in exposing the multiple flaws in the Aadhaar system. NN has his head in the
    ground. Perhaps, his ego is hurt. Else he has become a thick skinned politician pretty fast.

    Meenal Mamdani

    In Reply to Carlos De Souza 2 years ago

    I agree with you that Sucheta Dalal is doing an awesome job by not only keeping an eye on the financial reforms/scams/policies, etc. but also leads the activists in exposing other malfeasance that consumers face.

    However, I do not agree with her implacable opposition to Aadhar. I suggest you read Nilekani's article http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/qoe6fAEGtcGEslnDFCGeKP/Nandan-Nilekani--Aadhaar-an-evolving-endeavour-UIDAI-respo.html

    He admits that he is a technocrat and agrees that the implementation has been poor. You must have also read recently that UIDAI has terminated its contract with a govt entity which was supposed to enroll people in the system, for poor performance. UIDAI has also recently reiterated that no essential services like food and healthcare should be denied if Aadhar does not match at the time of service. Unfortunately our babus will use any little power they get to harass the poor.
    I have no links with any of these entities so have no axe to grind. However I feel that I must share what I hear from some of my friends who work among the most marginalized like Pardhi community in Bhopal. These people migrate often, at times several times a year because they are pushed out. My activist friend says that they often have no paper id but because all of them have Aadhar, it is electronic, so a copy can be generated wherever they move.
    Aadhar cannot be all bad. The problem is that there is so little trust in India between people, between people and govt/institutions/corporations. We always assume the worst of the other. Unfortunately govt/institutions/corp. have been untruthful to us so we wonder if we are being diddled again.
    After reading the article you are still free to believe that Aadhar is bad but please do not attack the integrity or motives of a person like Nilekani.
    I don't agree with Sucheta but I would never dream of imputing her motives.

    Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

    2 years ago

    I am agreeing with what Praja Foundation found with BMC's health Department.
    If Praja Foundation digs in detail in respect of Books, Uniform, Health and Nutrition to BMC schools' students and expenditure on medicines and injections in BMC Hospitals and dispensaries, it will find several hundred crores rupees worth scandals in BMC Budget.

    Ramesh Bajaj

    2 years ago

    It is very difficult dealing with officials of the BMC.

    Meenal Mamdani

    2 years ago

    I am so happy to see that citizens are finally pooling their expertise and clout to bring about change in governance.
    I think that now Mumbai has reached a tipping point and we should see significant improvements in governance in BMC.
    I hope that activists encourage the formation of mohalla committees to monitor what is happening in their area and feed that data to a central location. If locals see improvement in their area, they will be energized. Instead of a few hundred activists, we will see thousands working to improve life for the common man.
    Wishing you all the best.

    Shailesh Gandhi explains basics of RTI to students of Vaze College
    “Right to Information is such a powerful law that it over-rides all other laws, says Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, while explaining basics of RTI Act and its practical usage to students of Vaze College at Mulund in Mumbai. He says, “This is a right which can be used by any person irrespective of his or her economic or social background and one need not provide any reason to obtain any kind of certain information.”
     
     
    Mr Gandhi was speaking at a Seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation’s RTI Centre with support from Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT) and Kelkar Education Trust’s Vaze College. It was attended by over 100 students from National Service Scheme (NSS) unit and Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) cell of the College. 
     
     
    Explaining origin of RTI in democracy, Mr Gandhi stressed upon the importance of swaraj or self-rule in India. He said, “Since we live in a democratic country and which is in fact the world’s largest democracy, it is we, who have elected the government and therefore are the badshah and begum. Also as badshah and begum, we not just have rights but we also have some duties.”
     
     
    Mr Gandhi then explained detailed procedure for filing an RTI application, difference between mode of fee acceptable at Central government and state government and word count acceptable in Maharashtra. 
     
    He also cited real live examples, where filing of RTI application have actually helped in delivery of better governance. Instead of cribbing on civic issues, one needs to file at least one RTI application every month, he added. 
    The former Central Information Commissioner then gave answers to various queries asked by students. 
     
    Replying to a question, Mr Gandhi, stated that since implementation of RTI will bring transparency and accountability, many government officials are discouraging the use of RTI and are alleging RTI activists as blackmailers, which is a very wrong and misleading impression been created by those officials in the society. 
     
     
    During the Session, Digvijay Tarte from PCGT and Krishna Gupta from Moneylife Foundation also shared own experiences of using RTI applications that lead to successful changes in the society.
     
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    COMMENTS

    Ashok Visvanathan

    2 years ago

    England tried a system like Aadhar and gave it up. Maybe Nirav Modi and his ilk will persuade the government that this Aadhar is overrated and discardable.

    Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

    2 years ago

    All students should be explained in detail, how to file an RTI complaint.
    It will help them to face the society when they face any injustice in their works.

    UMESHKUMAR RAMANLAL ACHARYA

    2 years ago

    Thanks for information on RT. At present still it requires more awareness
    from general public. I have got splendid results in my practice as Chartered accountant.

    Meera Hussain

    2 years ago

    A powerful tool that promotes democracy and promotes good governance by improving people's participation.

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