Benami Voters and Laundering Elections with Aadhaar
The use of Aadhaar by governments fits the classical definition of electoral malpractice as it constitutes manipulation of electoral processes and outcomes so as to substitute personal or partisan benefit for the public interest. Such malpractice threatens the integrity of an election as it is extensive, systematic and decisive.
Electoral Malpractice
Sarah Birch, author of Electoral Malpractice, defines electoral malpractice as the manipulation of electoral processes and outcomes so as to substitute personal or partisan benefit for the public interest.
Does the Aadhaar linkage to the voter ID or the use of Aadhaar to deliver subsidy, benefits and services constitute electoral malpractice?
The then chief election commissioner, OP Rawat, does not appear to have asked this question when he declared in March 2018 that 32 crore Aadhaar numbers had been already linked to voter ID cards
The government has been insisting that Aadhaar is necessary to target subsidies, benefits, and services and do direct benefit transfers to beneficiaries since the creation of Aadhaar in 2009.
The web portals of the chief electoral officer of various states have been providing voters the ablity to link Aadhaar to Voter IDs. The Election Commission has also been linking Aadhaar numbers to voters ID in different states through a process of seeding Aadhaar numbers from other databases. At least, till November 2017, Aadhaar could be linked to voters' ID cards.
(Figure 1 Linking of Aadhaar number with Voter ID)
Benami Voters and Voter Exclusion
Electoral rolls are revised under Rule 25 or corrected under Rule 26 of the Registration of Electors Rules,1960.  The process allows for filing of claims for inclusion and objections to the inclusion of anyone under Rule 13. 
It also allows for the inclusion of persons inadvertently omitted (Rule 21) and deletion of persons who have died, or are not residents in the constituency, or not entitled to be registered (Rule 21A). This process is meant to ensure each person on the rolls is a real person and a genuine voter.
What are the consequences of the use of Aadhaar for revision or correction of the rolls under Rule 25 or 26?
Section 4(3) of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 declares “An Aadhaar number, in physical or electronic form subject to authentication and other conditions, as may be specified by regulations, may be accepted as proof of identity of the Aadhaar number holder for any purpose” [emphasis mine].
It is evident that the Aadhaar may not be used as a proof of address, age, gender or relationship. It is also evident that there is no authority with which Aadhaar comes a proof of identity either. Section 9 of the Aadhaar Act declares “The Aadhaar number or the authentication thereof shall not, by itself, confer any right of, or be proof of, citizenship or domicile in respect of an Aadhaar number holder.” However, the Aadhaar is currently used as a proof of age during enrolment as a voter.
(Figure 2 form 6 uses Aadhaar as a Proof of Age)
With a view to preventing impersonation of electors and facilitating their identification at the time of poll, Rule 28(2) of the Registration of Electors Rules, requires the Election Commission to issue to every elector an ID card that is certified by the registration officer.
Unlike the Voter ID, that is certified by the registration officer in accordance with Rule 28(3)(d), the Aadhaar 'card' or the biometric or demographic data associated with any Aadhaar number is not certified by the UIDAI. Unlike the process of revising the electoral rolls, there is no process of revising Aadhaar database. In fact, there is no process for objecting to assigning an Aadhaar number to any combination of biometric or demographic data in the Aadhaar database. In the absence of such a process to clean the database, no verification or audit of the Aadhaar database has happened either.
Linking a biometric with each Aadhaar number has created impression that there has to be a unique entry of each enrolment. This is clearly not the case as the UIDAI does not have any information about the number of unique biometrics in its database. The UIDAI also indicates that it cannot retrieve a unique record with a biometric. This means that the UIDAI cannot guarantee that it has no duplicates or ghosts.
(Figure 3 RTI response from UIDAI indicates that Aadhaar is not unique, not certified and there is no information about the primary documents used to issue it)
Almost all Aadhaar numbers are supposed to have been issued on the basis of other primary documents of proof of identity and proof of address. The UIDAI however has no information about the primary ID used, making it impossible to allow the verification of the uniqueness and validity Aadhaar number by anyone who uses it.
Furthermore according to the Affidavit dated 30.10.2017 of UIDAI to the Supreme Court, at most 60 crore persons could have been issued an Aadhaar assuming everyone used the EPIC as one of their primary identification document. No other combination of primary identification documents allows to generate even as many Aadhaar. At least 58.64 crore Aadhaar of the 118 crore numbers issued by the UIDAI are, therefore, duplicates and ghosts.
Furthermore according to the CEO of UIDAI, 48% of the Aadhaar numbers have never participated in iris or finger matching. It is evident that Aadhaar is the worlds largest database of ghosts and duplicates. The use of these ghosts and duplicates gives rise to benami or fake identities and transactions.
With the dilution of KYC by the Reserve Bank of India in January 2011, it became possible to use Aadhaar as the sole basis for creating a bank account. 
Aadhaar has also been widely used as the means to issue other primary IDs like passports, PAN cards, instant PAN and driving licenses.
This means that the continued use of Aadhaar can easily generate documents that serve as proof of address for Form 6 to apply for inclusion in Electoral Roll or for shifting from one constituency to another.
The use of Aadhaar as a proof of identity, proof of address or proof of age anywhere by the government, allows to compromise the enrolment of voters into the Electoral Rolls. It allows the inclusion of benami voters in a manner that is difficult if not impossible to weed out.
The mandatory creep of voluntary Aadhaar has caused the exclusion of millions from accessing their rights. In particular millions have been deprived from birth certificates, school and college admissions, giving examinations, qualifying for interviews, getting jobs, receiving salaries, accessing healthcare, getting PAN cards, ration cards, water bills, electricity bills, gas connections, driving licenses, claiming pensions, and even a dignified burial and death certificates. This means people are even being denied not only the goods and services but also the primary identification documents that they otherwise could have, as well as their ability to enrol as a voter.
(Figure 5: Documents used as proof of address are easily generated using Aadhaar)
Those whose Aadhaar fails on authentication due to biometric change, technology failure or any other reason too are excluded wherever authentication will be used as required under section 8 of the Aadhaar Act. Even more serious is UIDAIs ability to deactivate Aadhaar numbers under section 23(g) of the Aadhaar Act. Deactivated Aadhaar numbers will allow automatic deletion of voters from beneficiary databases including Electoral Rolls.
The use of Aadhaar to discover and delete duplicate or ghost entries has also allowed the exclusion of legitimate voters by treating those without an Aadhaar or those whose Aadhaar information does not match as ghosts or duplicates. In Telangana alone, 2.2 million people were reportedly dropped from the voters rolls, after Aadhaar based “verification” was done in 2015.
The use of Aadhaar to onboard, modify or purify electoral rolls is both illegal, causes the inclusion benami voters and excludes millions of legitimate voters. Furthermore its use also cannot be harmonised with the requirements of the Registration of Electors Rules or rule 35 and 49 of The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
Targeted delivery as electoral malpractice
In 2018, there was outrage across the world as Cambridge Analytica, a private company providing services to political clients, helped influence votes by targeting messages to voters based on their psychometric profiles. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by the US Congress for enabling such psychometric profiling through the Facebook ecosystem.
Targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services is worse than targeted messaging to win elections. It is control of the electorate to ensure votes.
Part of the cost of providing a good or service to a beneficiary that is paid by the government is a subsidy. For 7 decades the government has delivered subsidies, benefits and services by providing beneficiaries access to subsidised food grains, cooking fuels, medicines, health services, education, seeds, fertilizer and other benefits and services. This has been accomplished by each ministry or department through its own empowering legislation that defines the beneficiaries of its subsidies and the delivery mechanisms. This is done without prejudice to the constituency or political vote of the beneficiary. 
In fact traditional mechanisms of delivering subsidies, benefits or services provide no means to target a voter or a constituency. This traditional process cannot target only those who vote for the ruling party and exclude those who do not vote for the ruling party. Neither can the traditional process create the illusion of delivery of subsidised goods or services as the subsidised physical good or service is made available to beneficiaries. It cannot manipulate a beneficiary list as each ministry or department’s delivery process is subject to physical verification and audits.
Targeted delivery, using Aadhaar, allows the inclusion or exclusion from benefits of persons from within a constituency. Linked to voter ID, it allows the inclusion or exclusion of voters. For inclusion of persons, into beneficiary lists, their Aadhaar is seeded to beneficiary lists. Such included Aadhaar numbers are not subjected to certification, verification, or audit of their real identity, qualification as beneficiary or even their receipt of the benefit. Neither the department, ministry, nor the UIDAI take any responsibility of the delivery to the rightful beneficiary anymore.
For exclusion of persons, from beneficiary lists, their Aadhaar is de-seeded, seeded to benami Aadhaar numbers, deactivated or its authentication is caused to fail. The UIDAI takes no responsibility to the delivery and, in fact, it is an ecosystem of private players who can decide the inclusion and exclusion of benefits.
(Figure 6 RTI response of the UIDAI indicating it has no role to ensure delivery of subsidies)
Figure 7 Department of Revenue regularising opening of bank accounts with eKYC\
Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) replaces the physical delivery of benefits by money transfers, of part of the cost of providing a good or service, to a bank account assumed to be that of a beneficiary. This means there is no longer any physical verification or audit of the subsidies. Prior to dilution of KYC by the Reserve Bank these bank accounts could not be opened by Aadhaar ghosts and duplicates. After the Department of Revenue regularised eKYC as a valid process for opening bank accounts it became possible to regularise bank accounts opened merely by using Aadhaar numbers without any physical presence of the account holders.
Bankers across the country have disclosed, on condition of anonymity, that they have been subject to coercion by local political forces to open thousands of bank accounts in their branches solely with Aadhaar. The Jandhan accounts is one such category of bank accounts that are not verified to belong to real persons or as within the control of a beneficiary that they claim to bank. The beneficiaries receiving DBT to these bank accounts become virtual. The bank account becomes a surrogate for the beneficiary. 
In February 2012, the Nandan Nilekani led Task Force on an Aadhaar-Enabled Unified Payment Infrastructure pushed for money transfers to Aadhaar numbers instead of bank accounts. This replaced the process of government payments to bank accounts of beneficiaries electronically through the Reserve Bank of India’s national electronic funds transfer (NEFT) with payments to Aadhaar numbers using Aadhaar Enable Payment Systems (AEPS) created and run by a non-government private organisation the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). According to Nilekani, who has been advising the NPCI, in violation of section 16 of the Aadhaar Act, over Rs95,000 crore were transferred ( to beneficiaries in 2017-18 using AEPS.
The transfer of DBT using AEPS creates a virtual and benami beneficiaries who become untraceable. For example, in April 2017, more than 40,000 DBT transfers to persons who were not beneficiaries of part of drought relief for farmers in Karnataka took place. Similar transfers have been reported across the country. Similarly Aadhaar eKYC and Aadhaar payments allowed Rs168 crore LPG subsidy to be siphoned into 37 lakh bank accounts in Airtel Payments Bank. This enables subtle yet very large scale money laundering for election funding across the country.
This use of Aadhaar clearly constitutes corrupt practice under section 123(1), 123(2), 123(3), 123(6), 123(7) and 123(8) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Laundering elections
The biometric and demographic data associated with Aadhaar numbers are not certified by the UIDAI as belonging to the person who is being authenticated. It has been shown repeatedly that both the biometric and demographic data associated with the Aadhaar number can be changed by both legitimate and illegitimate processes outside the control of the UIDAI or anyone relying on using them.
Neither the UIDAI, nor anyone relying on Aadhaar, have any way of guaranteeing consistent, legal valid, risk free outcomes with Aadhaar. Aadhaar is a Trojan horse that allows private interests to take control the outcome of elections.
It is evident that creating benami voters, excluding real ones, targeting subsidies to select voters, excluding select voters from subsidies, benefits and services, and laundering funds from the Consolidated Fund of India into benami bank accounts using untraceable money transfers are subtle and undetectable means for private interests to seek to alter the voluntary choices made by voters at the polls than to risk electoral fraud. The use of Aadhaar as a proof of identity by anyone citing section 4(3) of the Aadhaar Act is, therefore, sufficient to launder elections.
The use of Aadhaar by government fits the classical definition of electoral malpractice as it constitutes manipulation of electoral processes and outcomes so as to substitute personal or partisan benefit for the public interest. Such malpractice threatens the integrity of an election as it is extensive, systematic, and decisive.
The Election Commission of India is charged with unprecedented circumstances to exercise its powers in order to dismantle the extensive and systematic way in which the electoral mandate and the sovereignty of the people is being destroyed.
NOTE: This article summarises a presentation made by Dr Saraph to the Central Election Commission on 19 December 2018 on behalf Of Moneylife Foundation.
(Dr Anupam Saraph is a renowned expert in governance of complex systems and advises governments and businesses across the world. He can be reached @anupamsaraph.)
ch prakash
5 years ago
All criticism is OK. Please suggest alternate system which helps in creating genuine voters list containing legitimate voters which is essential for a decent democracy.
Sumit Singh
Replied to ch prakash comment 5 years ago
You didn't understand the main issue. The logic behind Adhaar on paper is indeed great, but it was just implemented by dumb officials who are technically illiterate who didn't do the sufficient mathematics to actually support the very purpose which it was supposed to establish i.e. make a unique id for every citizen or eligible individuals.

To make a unique id among other unique ids, the computer's software which is running the database must be configured/programmed to assign each different citizen/eligible individual a unique id and to do that it has to first know how many ids have already been assigned, so that, it 'at any cost' will not assign the same id to other person and will always assign a completely new id for the new person that has never been assigned to anyone who has already been registered. This is how it should have been doing but instead lets say the adhaar number 1234 5678 9876 has been assigned to you, this should be your unique id, but the UIDAI have created a system that it is prone to assign the same 1234 5678 9876 to other person as well. This is very dangerous situation. This is at least what I perceived when I read this article. And this may not be the only serious issue with current implementation of adhaar system.
Chandrakant Kane
5 years ago
The person to your left or right knows much more about you than Adhar card . What nonsense is people are talking about privacy
Chandrakant Kane
5 years ago
If some one like me is ready to share my information for my own ease what the problem to the petitioner or court in it. I will say this is the invasion on my freedom by Petitioner & court which is highly objectionable. This is nothing but harassment for me by the petitioner & Court.
Somsankar Banerjee
5 years ago
The article is confusing. When the author himself is saying that Aadhar can't be used to uniquely identify an individual, how the same Aadhar can be used to selectively target voters using subsidies? You need to identify the guy first whom you want to target, right?

I understand Aadhar has some issues but extending that argument to say that it can be used systematic way for electoral malpractices is probably stretching things little too far. BTW, in a country where rice/food at subsidized rate or farm loan waiver can get you votes do our political leaders need Aadhar for laundering votes?
Nanasaheb Patil
5 years ago
Same old wine in new bottle, Issues Author listed are already prevalent, just trying to bring Aaadhar angle in to existing issues to spoil image of Aadhar system. I am not giving clean chit to Aadhar, just questioning Author's logic to link Aadhar with already existing issues..

I am amused at how Author given clean chit on validation process for getting voter Id :) Everyone knows it's one of the most abused Id card in India, best recent example is in Karnataka one MLA candidate had more than 5000 voter Id's of his constituency in his house!!

Replacing Aadhar Biometric data to impersonate and replace existing genuine voters? Hmm dear author dont you know some goons were able to just replace photo on the voter id card recently in Karnataka election, and that is all was needed to deny the genuine voter their right :)

Denying services since there is no Aaadhar? Then what was the role of ration card earlier? Well several people have been denied LPG connection and ration for several years because they did not had a ration card even though they had all ID and address proofs :) Nobody questioned that practice with same intensity.

Ensuring uniqueness in Aadhar database might be next step, eventually it has to be done sooner or later, when Aadhar is still being rolled out imagine if Govt tries to do that now all hell will break loose.

Just demonizing something new blindly wont help, People are happily giving their biometric data to smartphones (fingerprint unlock, face recognition, YOUR LIVE LOCATION data) which are much more vulnerable to hacking. Nobody seems to be interested in debating how safe is that, singling out just Aadhar is propaganda of some section of people.
Replied to Nanasaheb Patil comment 5 years ago
Thanks for your comment. Request you to read more about Aadhaar before making wild assumptions and arriving at any conclusion. FYI, Aadhaar can be given to any resident (not citizen).
Sumit Singh
5 years ago
This is very precious information on this article. Why is nobody else talking about it? Why is media silent over this? Having a unique ID for each citizen is the key point or minimum requirement in making a distinct entry in the database. If this whole system wasn't designed to make each entry as unique entry then the whole point of Adhaar as any type of Identity is nothing but pure fraud. If I was a Judge in Supreme Court, I would have immediately sentenced every single person working for stupid UIDAI who is responsible in creating this kind of flawed logic of so called Adhaar card to at least 30 years. These officials in UIDAI and supporting companies are basically raping every citizen in India.
Sajal Manjhi
5 years ago
Thank for sharing such as great information, also visit-
5 years ago
Brilliant .. I do hope the new Election Commissioner listens to the logic.
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