Biometric identification is modern day enslavement -Part 2

The Database State is an exercise in outsourcing of government through technologies that govern individuals to admittedly undemocratic entities wherein biometric identification is being made a pre-condition for citizens to have any rights

Database State, a report from the UK revealed how the old maxim, 'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' has been given a very public burial. The report states, ”In October 2007, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs lost two discs containing a copy of the entire child benefit database. Suddenly issues of privacy and data security were on the front page of most newspapers and leading the TV news bulletins. The millions of people affected by this data loss, who may have thought they had nothing to hide, were shown that they do have much to fear from the failures of the database state.” Likewise, creating database containing biometrics is a giant leap towards authoritarian control by data mining companies. It turns citizens into subjects and suspected criminals, who can be kept under leash by control over sensitive data. Through convergence each data can be transformed into sensitive data.


If consent for it is granted by uninformed citizens then citizens become a number on a computer of a state actor or non–state actor engaged in ‘welfare’ services. This would automatically create a file on each citizen. In an effort to appear harmless, the claims are that the file would contain very little information like but as has now come to light it is being linked to ‘preventing terrorism’, ‘stopping crime’ or ‘protecting children’ etc. This in turn creates logic for profiling and tracking citizens based on their financial transactions, mobility, religion, caste, region, orientations, health records and driving record.

Right to privacy and freedom belong to citizens by right. It is not granted by government. A government is the servant of the citizens, not its master. Governments are supposed to seek the permission to limit these rights in certain circumstances. It signals a break-down of a democratic government if it chooses to engage in indiscriminate surveillance of citizens or to impose a system of compulsory identification or to open a file on each citizen or to criminalise citizens who refuse to comply as is proposed to be done by the Indian National Congress (Congress) led government with the connivance of the opposition parties.

When political candidates of Congress party and its allies stood up for elections and sought votes did they seek the mandate to put the voters under surveillance?  

The 'database state' is the tendency of the state and non-state actors to use computers and biometrics to manage society by putting people under watch by mouthing benevolent schemes and excuses.

Databasing people is akin to modern day enslavement by those who are wedded to the faith in property-based democracy. Slavery by whatever name is wrong on principle.

Non-state actors have prevailed on state agencies to adopt "Transformational Government" initiative. It might sound good unless one comprehends that what is being transformed is not government but it is power over citizens under the dictates of non-state actors.

This was attempted by UK’s Tony Blair government, which misled the world and its own citizens about Iraq having nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme although it knew that it was not true. Not surprisingly, the British citizens could see through the fraudulent misrepresentation and voted for the coalition of David Cameron-Nick Clegg. UK's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said, “This government will end the culture of spying on its citizens. It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop. So there will be no ID card scheme. No national identity register, a halt to second generation biometric passports” in the British House of Commons.

Clegg added, “We won't hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so. Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question. Schools will not take children's fingerprints without even asking their parent's consent. This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.”

But the Sonia Gandhi-led coalition government in India chooses to follow the discredited path of Tony Blair and his UK's Identity Cards Act, 2006. Both, Blair and UKID Act, have been abandoned. 

Given the fact that ‘radical restructuring of the security architecture at the national level’ is underway, when Nandan Nilekani, the chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was asked more than two years back as to how tracking of citizens can get facilitated once different databases like National Population Register (NPR), National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), central monitoring system (CMS) , Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), National Investigation Agency (NIA), national cyber coordination centre (NCCC), national critical information infrastructure protection centre (NCIIPC), telecom security directorate, Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations and UID are converged, you can actually track all the information. He responded saying, “I don't want to talk about that.” His silence is deafening. But intelligence agencies be it UIDAI or any or any of it incarnations are known for adopting such stances.

Under NATGRID, 21 sets of databases will be networked to achieve quick, seamless and secure access to desired information for intelligence/enforcement agencies, it is quite clear that the biometric databases under creation are meant for such agencies in India and elsewhere. The Rules made under the Information Technology Act, 2000 in April 2011 provide access to any data held by any "body corporate" in India. This does not apply to body corporate of foreign origin.

In such a backdrop, there is a compelling logic for VS Sampath, the Chief Election Commissioner, to rescind the dangerous proposal of Dr SY Quraishi, his predecessor, to Union Ministry of Home Affairs asking it “to merge the Election ID cards with UID”. Such an exercise would mean rewriting and engineering the electoral ecosystem with the unconstitutional and illegal use of biometric technology in a context where electoral finance has become source of corruption and black money in the country. This would lead to linking of biometric UID/Aadhaar, election ID and electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are not as innocent and as politically neutral as it has been made out to be. It is noteworthy that all EVMs have a UID number as well. This will amount to electoral surveillance.

Surveillance is a “shameful act” of supervising and imposing discipline on a subject through a hierarchy system of policing. Michel Foucault, the author of 'Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison' examined the systems of social power through the lens of the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the originator of the now iconic Panopticon. This Panopticon was/is a design for a prison in which the inmate's cells are arranged in a circular fashion around a central guard tower. The architectural configuration allows for a single guard's gaze to view all inmates, but prevents those inmates from knowing exactly when they are being watched.

It was aptly observed, “The major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” This design is a “generalised model of functioning and a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday lives of men.”

In initiatives like biometric identification the subject, the citizen is seen but he/she does not see. He/she is the object of information, but never a subject in communication. Foucault's Panoptic model is quite valid for biometric database because these databases are meant to ensure real time tracking and profiling of citizens and turns them into subjects and in a slave like situation. Tumultuous colonial history of the technologies associated with surveillance reveal that the origins of surveillance happened during free trade of slaves.

Biometric identification treats Indian citizens worse than slaves. It is an act of identification prior to any act of omission and commission.  It is a case of a deepening of everyday surveillance. It is similar to what was done under the Britain's Habitual Criminals Act of 1869 required police to keep an “Alphabetical Registry” and cross-referenced “Distinctive Marks Registry. The first held names and the latter descriptions of scars, tattoos, birthmarks, balding, pockmarks, and other distinguishing features. This registry of marks was systematically disaggregated into nine general categories pertaining to regions of the body. Therefore there were files for the head and face; throat and neck; chest; belly and groin; back and loins; arms; hands and fingers; thighs and legs; feet and ankles.

The proposed convergence of biometric information with financial and personal data such as residence, employment, and medical history heralds the beginning of the demolition of one of the most important firewalls in the structure of privacy. Such convergence of databases poses a threat to minorities and political opponents as they can be targeted in a situation where government is led by any Nazi party like political formations.

Late Roger Needham, a British computer scientist aptly said, “If you think IT is the solution to your problem, then you don’t understand IT, and you don’t understand your problem either.” It sounds like he was addressing this observation to gullible citizens, political class and the likes of Capt Raghu Raman, the CEO of NATGRID Grid, Sam Pitroda, the head of Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, Nilekani and C Chandramouli, the Registrar General of India for National Population Register & Census Commissioner.

Safeguarding of citizens' privacy and their civil liberties in the face of an unprecedented onslaught from collection of biometric data and other related surveillance measures that are being bulldozed by unregulated and ungovernable technology companies by overawing the Governments through its marketing blitzkrieg is emerging as fight between the David and the Goliath. Database State cannot be the aim of any democratically healthy government. It is an exercise in outsourcing of government through technologies that govern individuals to admittedly undemocratic entities wherein biometric identification is being made a pre-condition for citizens to have any rights.

In effect, right to have rights is all set to be made dependent on being biometrically profiled and not on constitutional guarantees and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a regressive step that takes citizens to pre-Magna Carta days (1215 AD) or even earlier to the days prior to the declaration of Cyrus, the Persian King (539 BC) that willed freedom for slaves. Should it not be resisted?  

You may also want to read…

Why biometric identification of citizens must be resisted? Part I


(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)

  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.



    Ravi S

    7 years ago

    Privacy or subversion?
    Some privacy champions raise the privacy issue which is irrelevant in a poor country like India where about 750 million people starve for 2-square meal, where illiteracy is high, where religion & caste-based-bias continues, rampant corruption & exploitation exists. They forget that India has a law called Information Technology Act 2000. It has been in existence since year 2000 that protects Aadhaar information along with other laws.

    Aadhaar registration collects biometric data and bare minimum information (proof of identity, age, and residence) through enrollment form. Peruse the Enrollment-Form with data fields on page-1 and instructions on page-2. No profiling information is collected, like religion, caste, income, property-holding, education etc.

    Privacy issues and risks equally apply to information and data (with or without biometrics) provided by people to census office, tax office, passport office, driving license, vehicle registration, land and building registration,
    registration of birth, marriage and death, employers (current, past and prospective), banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, telephone service provider, television service provider, internet service provider, internet services (email, video, social media, search engine, chat, voice, file-storage and transfer etc.), registration at school/college, marriage bureaus, post-office and courier services, hospital registration and medical records, visa of US and UK etc.

    In India, government departments, public and private sectors have been using biometrics (fingerprints and face photo) for years, decades and centuries in some or all offices. Examples of fingerprints usage are: Land and building registration (since British rule), Defense departments (fingerprints as service record of civilian as well as service
    personnel since British rule till now, also for access and attendance now), Planning Commission of India (for access and attendance), census office (for compulsory NPR), Passport, RTO (for driving license), insurance companies, IT, BPO and healthcare companies (for access and attendance), visa of US and UK etc. Aadhaar does not violate any privacy or fundamental right.

    India has seen anti-modernization protests in the past too. Some people caused bandh & hartals in protest against modernization and computerization of Banking & Rail-ticket 25 years ago. Today people are very happy to enjoy bank ATM and to book rail-ticket from anywhere. Then they had argued that paper records were better than computers. Now those protesters never want to reveal that they ever protested against computerization.
    Ironically, there is no opposition to collection of biometric data at other points of services. People stand in long queues to imprint biometrics for obtaining Indian passport, US, UK visa. The attendance & access of most of the IT & ITeS companies are biometric based. The attendance & access of the Planning Commission of India is also biometric based. People have been imprinting all ten-fingers plus details of eyes and other identification marks on body on the first day of joining employment in Defense department of India (civilian as well as service personnel) since British rule of India. Yet one never opposed all that.
    The use of electronic devices provides no privacy; such as mobile phone, internet (particularly social network media), email, television, bank card, traffic camera. At any moment the government and the service provider knows of geographical location of people, of conversation on phone, with whom, what we are reading, writing or watching on internet, and what TV channel we are watching, when and for how long. All this is done under electronic surveillance thru device identifiers like IMEI, IP address, GPS etc.

    Embassies have switched over to mechanical type-writers in 2013 after CIA worker Snowden’s disclosures. Government also knows our movements thru the traffic cameras on roads, our vehicle number plate, our face etc.
    Despite this knowledge, the privacy champions do not want to stop using mobile phones, internet, TV etc. Their sole objective is subversion of Aadhaar, nothing else, and they will not succeed because Aadhaar has already crossed the critical-mass on 15-Aug-2013 by enrolling about 450 million people, assigning 400 million Numbers and linking 30 million bank accounts for Direct Benefit Transfer across many states. And as of November-2013, 500 million Aadhaar have been assigned.

    Ravi S

    7 years ago

    Who is afraid of Aadhaar & Why?
    As the public databases are getting inter-linked one by one thru Aadhaar Number in various States (particularly Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra), we see the following effects:
    1. Middlemen & Officials are finding difficult to continue with corruption in public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
    2. Ineligible, duplicate and fictitious beneficiaries are getting eliminated from public welfare pensions, scholarships, public health, NREGA, subsidy on PDS Ration, Kerosene, LPG etc.
    3. Corrupts will find difficult to buy & sell Benami land & building (i.e.under fictitious name).
    4. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami companies for money-laundering.
    5. Corrupts will find difficult to open & operate Benami bank accounts for keeping black-money.
    6. Tax-evaders will find difficult to evade taxes.
    7. Impersonation & proxy will be difficult to commit.
    8. Criminals & Terrorists will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc.
    9. Illegal Immigrants will get detected and tracked thru inter-linked databases of mobile phone, bank account, travel documents etc. They will have no place to hide on Indian soil.
    10. It will get difficult for Criminals to hide as records are getting accessible to Police from any State of India.
    11. It will get difficult to obtain another new Driving License and Arms License from another State once it got impounded.
    12. Fraudsters will not be able to steal Provident Fund money.
    13. Onion Hoarders will get tracked easily.
    14. Dummy candidates will not be able to write competitive exams for others for the sake of money.
    15. Ineligible people will not be able to misuse the certificates of income, domicile, education degrees and caste to deprive the eligible people.

    Deepak Gupta

    7 years ago

    The database state already exists for the common man doing a permanent job and paying income tax. Most transactions require some form of identification.

    Now the identification is being extended to all residents. Doing it with a PAN and making it mandatory everywhere and using a biometric ID has one major difference - properly designed biometric ID is harder to avoid and fudge for most people.

    In case of any universal ID, we need basic protection against use of data for purposes other than those specified in law.

    In case of biometrics, we need an additional safeguard - that its use as a password of any kind must be optional and the option supported by additional methods of authentication in addition to biometrics.

    In other words, even if the bank requires me to use fingerprints to operate an ATM, I MUST retain the right to also make mandatory for my account an additional password/secure token of some kind.

    Why do I say so?
    Passwords or any form of secure token are supposed to be private (Only I know mine) and dynamic (I can change it at will, if you somehow copy mine)

    Biometrics are neither - they are not private as your prints can be easily picked up by someone following you around. Even more importantly, they cannot be changed once copied by someone. So, they can be used for identifying people, but are "complete nonsense" if used as only method of authenticating a transaction.


    7 years ago

    Dear MDT / Mr Gopalkrishna,

    Privacy is among the least understood concept in public. Most of the people simply abide to the "I have nothing to hide" argument and willingly submit themselves. I personally feel that what makes matters worse is impedance mismatch between the privacy advocates and the readers / audience. Whatever the privacy advocates say, is either too technical that it doesn't help the audience or it comes back to the same argument "I don't have anything to hide". For example

    It would be better if you could do a writeup on privacy and why it is important and one which is for the layman.


    7 years ago

    Despite your praise of UK, they have implemented a spy network over email and social networking, on the lines of the US system exposed by Snowdon. We have to get used to surviellance in the electronic age. It is a choice between corrupt and leaky systems which we have experienced so far and against which there is much popular grouse and agitation, and the efficient systems of UID with updated databases which can be interlinked to plug leakages, ensure rightful services/subsidies and ensure compliance to regulatory filings such as of tax returns. The later will see the country benefit and grow quickly, and also see the improvement of internal security. At a later stage, once things are better streamlined and computerised, the inter-linkage and privacy issues can be given greater attention and addressed.


    Sanjeev B

    In Reply to Deepak 7 years ago

    Deepak, it doesn't work that way.

    Privacy is like virginity, once you lose it, you lose it. Ask any film actor whether they have any privacy.

    The State has my Permanent Account Number. If I want state entitlements, I should register to pay my taxes (even if I don't need to pay anything). Once this is established, the Permanent Account can be used for debit as well as credit transactions. I think we forget that PAN stands for Permanent Account Number. If it's an Account, let's use it as one. So this will stop dishonest people from extra entitlements. If you want entitlements, show your track record on the payment side too.

    To ensure one PAN per citizen, you need to keep track of collections and account for it.

    You don't need the biometrics and DNA of your citizens, you just need a one-individual-one-account system.


    In Reply to Sanjeev B 7 years ago

    Wrong. PAN has proved insufficient with people having multiple PAN nos. in different spellings of name or different names. Biometrics is a must for unique identification to a single person.

    Mumbai One

    In Reply to Deepak 7 years ago

    First you need to understand what is leakage in a system like PDS. All AC room czars think it has to do with ID system need their brain mapped. The leakages are happening not due to lack of an ID, but because of greed and corruption. And believe me, nothing can stop the corruption, bribe at grass root levels.
    Secondly, here is something from the minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, Prof KV Thomas. He said, "door-step delivery of foodgrains is very crucial and it needs to be ensured by State Governments as provided in the Act. States should create infrastructure for doorstep delivery to prevent leakage and diversion of foodgrains."
    He also stressed the need for creation of scientific storage capacity and intermediate storage facilities at various levels.
    Dont you think this speaks a lot than your arguments about UID helping plug leakages?


    In Reply to Mumbai One 7 years ago

    Wrong. It is clearly seen in the existing system that people are able to make multiple LPG connections, multiple ration cards, multiple voter cards, etc. especially if they have residences in two states. Often, the combination or spelling of names is different. This makes it very difficult to trace duplicates across the nation as there could be even hundreds of people with the same name combination so there is no way of knowing whether they are the same person or different people. UID makes identification of such people a very simple matter as a person will be able to register only once with his biometrics and any duplicate registration in the same name or differently spelt name will immediately show up from his biometrics. Similarly, a person who is a high earner and income tax earner, will not be able to claim a benefit under a scheme for BPL as his tax details can be cross-verified through a single UID, which would not be possible in the present system where linking the income tax details with the BPL scheme details would not occur as they will be in two separate databases with no common reference.


    In Reply to Deepak 7 years ago

    If you claim biometrics to be foolproof then how do you justify an Aadhar card for coriander (dhaniya patti) and mobile phone? Aadhar cards have been created with these name and photographs also.

    Aadhaar ID or internal passport?

    PS Deodhar is former advisor to Rajiv Gandhi on electronics, but even his article in 2009, highlighting the problems with Aadhaar, was ignored in a hurry to push through Nandan Nilekani's ambitious and expensive UID scheme

    On 1 July 2009, in a Delhi seminar on the subject of national identification (NID) card, I opposed the proposal to get into national ID cards for every citizen in the country. I fully endorsed the need to create “Citizen Data Base” by allocating a unique national identity number (NIN) to every citizen and resident of India as was suggested by our former President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, sometime ago in context of voter’s list. Let me also first establish my credentials by adding that I am a technologist who had brought smart card technology to India 23 years ago and I have followed ID card technology since, having personally developed India’s own smart card pay phone as well as applications for smart cards in financial and health sectors. Smart Card Forum of India in 2002 named me as “Smart Card Pioneer in India.”  Yet I opposed this move. Here are some of my relevant comments:


    Socio-political realities and limitations 


    NID card becoming an ‘internal passport’

    An ID card, by definition, is a form of internal passport. Virtually all ID cards worldwide develop a broader usage over time, than was originally envisioned for them. This development of new and unintended purposes is becoming known as function creep. Without care, the card becomes an icon. Its use is enforced through mindless regulation or policy, disregarding other means of identification, and in the process causing significant problems for those who are without the card. The card becomes more important than the individual.


    Loss or lack of NID card

    Virtually, all countries with ID cards report that their loss or damage causes immense problems. Up to 5% of cards are lost, stolen or damaged each year, and the result can be denial of service benefits, and - in the broadest sense - loss of identity. Imagine illiterate Indians in city slums, beggars on the street, farmers in the field, adivasis, illiterate women and shining India NID Smart Card.


    Replacement of NID

    The replacement of a high security, high integrity card involves significant administrative involvement. Documents must be presented in person to an official. Cards must be processed centrally. This process can take some weeks. However, a low value card can be replaced in a lesser time, but its loss poses security threats because of the risk of fraud and misuse.


    People who lose a wallet anywhere or their passport in foreign county will quickly understand the misfortune and inconvenience that can result. A single ID card when lost or stolen can have precisely the same impact in a person’s life


    Countries that have opposed National ID cards and their reasons

    US: In the United States, successive administrations have refused to propose an ID card for every citizen. Extension of the Social Security Number (SSN) to the status of an ID card has been consistently rejected since 1971 by the Social Security Administration task force as well as by the Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush Administrations. In US, issues of individual autonomy and national sovereignty have dominated the Identity card issue, despite a high level of anxiety over fraud, tax evasion and illegal immigrants.

    Australia: In 1986 Australian Government planned to introduce NID, after a fierce resistance from citizen that formed the biggest civil campaign, the government abandoned the plan in 1987.


    New Zealand, UK And Philipines: All dropped their plans for the reasons of cost and complexity as well as the popular resistance. 


    France: France has ID cards but it was stalled for many years because of public and political opposition. Public debate intensified in 1980, with the judiciary expressing concern that an ID card had the potential of limiting the right of free movement. Francois Mitterrand expressed the fear that the creation of computerized identity cards contains a real danger for the liberty of individuals. The plan was re-introduced under a later conservative government.


    Canada, Ireland, Nordic Countries and Sweden: All these countries too do not want national ID for one or other of the above reasons.


    TN Seshan’s failed voter ID initiative

    This task was indeed Herculean and our Election Commission has a first-hand experience of it.  TN Seshan and many others, who followed him, know it well from their experience with the administrative disaster related to Voter’s ID card with a photo. Experience of voters in the recently concluded election will tell us of the reforms we need in this basic task. Like our former President observes, we need at first a reliable Voter’s Digital List and only then we can hope to have Voter’s ID. A Unique National Identity Number for every individual and making it accessible on a public data base is all that we need to derive the desired objective.


    Effectiveness of NID Card

    Containing terrorism: Of the 25 countries most affected by acts of terrorism 80% have national ID cards. One-third of those include a biometric element. In addition, it is reported that almost two-thirds of known terrorists operate under their own identity, and that most enter countries using tourist visas, which, because of their popularity, are subject to low levels of scrutiny. Since 1986, Pakistan, which also has a national ID card program with a biometric element, has suffered thousands of terrorist attacks, killing several thousand citizens. During the same time frame, India, which has no national ID card program at all, suffered fewer attacks, killing less than 1,500 people. National ID cards are not new in Britain. During both World War I and World War II, citizens were required to carry a national ID card at all times and produce it when demanded by police. In 1951, however, Britain's National Registration Act was repealed and ID cards were no longer issued. It is good to know why.


    Assisting law enforcement: Law and Order is a key motivation for the establishment of ID cards in numerous countries but their usefulness to police has been marginal. In the UK, Association of Chief Police Officers observed that instead of NID Card they are in favour of a voluntary system and police would be reluctant to administer a compulsory NID Card possession since it might erode relations with the public. The major problem in combating crime is not lack of identification procedures, but difficulties in the gathering of evidence and the pursuit of a prosecution. Criminologists too have not been able to show any evidence that the existence of a card would actually reduce the incidence of crime, or the success of prosecution. In reality, only a national DNA database as has just been suggested by Dr Kalam or a biometric database now used in Canada might assist the police in linking crimes to perpetrators. In Brazil, all residents are obliged to carry at all times NID Card, of the size of a credit card bearing a photograph, thumb print, full name and parents' names, national status (Brazilian national or alien resident) and a serial number. Is this feasible in India?


    Controlling illegal immigration: Although the immigration issue is a principle motivation behind ID card proposals in continental Europe and the United States, the impact of cards on illegal immigration has been patchy. The use of a card for purposes of checking resident status depends on the police and other officials being given very broad powers to check identity. More important from the perspective of civil rights, its success will depend on the exercise of one of two processes: either a vastly increased level of constant checking of the entire population, or, a discriminatory checking procedure which will target minorities. The argument most often put forward to justify the quest to catch illegal immigrants in any country is that these people are taking jobs that should belong to citizens.  The image of the illegal immigrant into Indian cities is a powerful one, and it is used to maximum effect by proponents of ID cards. In India, getting a false ID for a bribe will in any case defeat the purpose.


    Increasing police powers: A Privacy International survey of ID cards found police abusing NID cards in virtually all countries. Most involved people being arbitrarily detained after failure to produce their card. Others involved beatings of juveniles or minorities. There were even instances of wholesale discrimination on the basis of data set out on the cards. Cards are often alleged to be the vehicle for discriminatory practices. Police who are given powers to demand ID invariably have consequent powers to detain people who do not have the card, or who cannot prove their identity. Even in such advanced countries as Germany, the power to hold such people for up to 24 hours is enshrined in law. The question of who is targeted for ID checks is left largely to the discretion of police. The wartime ID card used in the UK outlived the war, and found its way into general use until the early 1950s. Police became used to the idea of routinely demanding the card, until in 1953 the High Court ruled that the practice was unlawful and that led to the repealing of the National Registration Act, and the abandonment of the ID card. The Chief Justice remarked, “ although the police may have powers, it does not follow that they should exercise them on all is obvious that the police now, as a matter of routine, demand the production of national registration identity cards whenever they stop or interrogate a motorist for any cause. In this country we have always prided ourselves on the good feeling that exists between the police and the public, and such action tends to make the public resentful of the acts of police and inclines them to obstruct them rather than assist them”.


    Facilitating discrimination: The success of ID cards as a means of fighting crime or illegal immigration will depend on a discriminatory checking procedure which could indeed target the poor and minorities. The irony of the ID card option is that it invites discrimination by definition. Discriminatory practices are an inherent part of the function of an ID card. Without this discrimination, police would be required to conduct random checks, which in turn, would be politically unacceptable. All discrimination is based on one of two conditions: situational or sectional; Situational discrimination targets people in unusual circumstances. i.e. walking at night, visiting certain areas, attending certain functions or activities, or behaving in an abnormal fashion. Sectional discrimination targets people of certain section i.e. poor, women, youths, illiterate or the homeless. ID cards containing religious or ethnic information make it possible to carry this discrimination a step further. Several developed nations have been accused of conducting discriminatory practices using ID cards. Ironically, the Parliaments of several European nations, including France and Holland, have accepted a law introducing the obligation to identify oneself in numerous situations including, for instance, at work, at football stadiums, on public transport an in banks. While the card is voluntary in name, it is in effect a compulsory instrument that will be carried at all times by Dutch citizens. Moreover, foreigners can always be asked to identify themselves to authorities at any moment and in any circumstance. French police have been accused of overzealous use of the ID card against blacks, and particularly against Algerians. Greek authorities have been accused of using data on religious affiliation on its national card to discriminate against people who are not Greek Orthodox. In India, what could be in store?

    Please let’s not rush. There are things to do before we invest and squander thousands of crores of much needed resource.


    (PS Deodhar is founder and former chairman of the Aplab Group of companies. He is also the former chairman of the Electronics Commission of the Government of India and was an advisor to late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on electronics. He also was the chairman of the Broadcast Council in 1992-93 that set in motion the privatisation of the electronic media with metro channels.)

  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.




    7 years ago

    I fully agree and endorse the views and objections for "Aadhaar"card as elaborated by shri Deodhar .


    7 years ago

    There is a basic confusion about treating Aadhaar as an Identity Card; which is wrong. Aadhaar is similar to the social security number of the US and is certainly not an ID Card. Aadhaar is an identity system based on biometrics which is verifiable online.
    Primary aim of Aadhaar is to empower the citizens and prevent misuse of identity. For example it is highly possible that ration is being consumed in one person name without one knowing about it. How else is it possible to have more ration cards than the number of families? Similarly, impersonation is rampant in other identity system like passport, voter id card, license etc.
    A smart card as the writer mentions is waste of money. No card can substitute an online id system.
    Aadhaar is the only online identity system in the world which is not only accurate, efficient and reliable but also acting as a financial address. It is not only harmless but empowers and protect the common man like a Raksha Kavach.
    There are some critics of Aadhaar. The reasons are easy to guess. Nation is waking up to accuracy and transparency… there is bound to be some opposition from the people who benefited from impersonation.

    Mukesh kamath

    7 years ago

    @Joseph Korah: NPR is a terrible scheme and mysteriously critics have let it run and concentrated all their efforts in stonewalling aadhaar. Probably no one wants to attack a weak scheme. That aside aadhaar card once lost it should be possible to retrive it by submitting the biometrics of a person. I suggest all permanent enrollment stations have a procedure to scan biometrics of a person who lost his card. Then run a 1:n match in the database and pull up his record and issue him a duplicate card then and there. For a person who has lost his aadhaar card to the police it should be possible for him to live with just the print of the e-aadhaar and the number alone.


    7 years ago

    In chennai the Aadhaar Card enrollment is based ONLY on the Census taken in 2010. If a resident does not have this census slip of 2010 then he will have to get his name included in the NPR Schedule form which has to be submitted to the Zonal Office of the Corporation,After which the officials will come for checking and then a new census slip will be issued after which enrollment under AAdhaar can be done. So no other documents like Passport or PAN Card or Driving License is valid proof for enrollment for Aadhaar.

    Public Interest   Exclusive
    Aadhaar: The number that makes a nation ‘Niradhaar’

    Is UIDAI’s Aadhaar, the same thing that it claims to be? Here is a simple analysis of the UID project from Dr Anupam Saraph, who designed and implemented identity schemes for government and private organisations

    "In the meanwhile, no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card in spite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Aadhaar Card voluntarily, it may be checked whether that person is entitled for it under the law and it should not be given to any illegal immigrant."

    -Supreme Court Order in WP 494 of 2012 on September 23rd 2013


    How safe is the UID?


    1. Enrolment agencies, sub-registrars, registrars and UIDAI have no legal liability for any theft, fraud, crime, and compromise of your security or privacy that may be perpetuated through Aadhaar

    2. The use of Aadhaar by various agencies will now expose all your IDs, information, properties, entitlements etc. to misuse in one go thus exposing you to unprecedented risk

    3. You have neither control on who uses your Aadhaar nor any way to know or verify its use by anyone

    4. Your entire data and biometric is handled by non-Indian companies


    How safe is your money in the banking system with UID?


    1. Banks have been directed to open accounts with Aadhaar numbers instantaneously—they can no longer verify if the number links to real and unique individuals

    2. Money transfers from Aadhaar accounts will not be audited if there is less than Rs10 lakh transferred in a year. This means subsidy, bribes and black money may go to shell accounts that may never be traced!

    3. Money can be moved from Aadhaar-to-Aadhaar electronically without your knowledge


    How protected are your entitlements and rights with UID?


    1. Aadhaar does not guarantee anything. It merely becomes yet another obstacle in obtaining services from the government

    2. If your biometric verification fails, you will lose all benefits across the government till you re-establish your credentials. Re-establishing credentials may be at the mercy of netas and babus


    How legal is the UID?


    1. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Aadhaar card has rejected the Aadhaar exercise. There is no legal sanction or budgetary sanction

    2. The Planning Commission has no mandate for such projects

    3. The Executive order is bad law under the constitution as it violates fundamental right

    4. Under the Citizenship Rules of 2003 it is the Registrar General of India who has to maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens and issue National ID cards


    Some fallacious UID Premises


    1. Each UID number corresponds to a unique real person

    2. Each person can have only one UID

    3. All issued UID numbers are genuine

    4. No identity theft is possible with the UID

    5. Existing identity databases are full of fraud and duplication

    6. UID database made by the same agencies/documents has no fraud or duplication

    7. Identity is the barrier to service

    8. Cash transfer is more effective than the service it was meant to subsidize or deliver

    9. Cash transfers will reach real beneficiary

    10. Several trillion Rupees can be transferred directly without any scam

    11. Financial inclusion is about having a bank account

    12. 18,950 rural branches can service 593,731 villages or 31 villages to a branch or 40,000 persons per rural branch through UID

    13. 38,592 branches can service 5,161 cities and towns or 7,500 persons per urban branch through UID

    14. Corruption in India is because the common man fakes identity

    15. UID will simplify the processes to access fundamental rights, entitlements and services


    Additional References













    (Dr Anupam Saraph holds a PhD in designing sustainable systems from the faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the Netherlands. Dr Saraph has held CxO and ministerial level positions and served as an independent director on the boards of Public and Private Sector companies and NGOs. As a Professor of Systems, Governance and Decision Sciences, Environmental Systems and Business he mentors students and teaches systems, information systems, environmental systems and sustainable development at universities in Europe, Asia and the Americas.)

  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.



    Priyanshu Yadav

    2 years ago

    thanks for sharing this useful information with us.
    udyog aadhar

    Sudhir Jatar

    7 years ago

    Another aspect has come up. I understand that the subsidy that is credited to the account is taxable. Hence, 20 to 30 % tax will be deducted, which would come to about Rs. 630 to Rs. 930 per year, depending on your tax bracket!

    Sudhir Jatar

    7 years ago

    In today's Marathi news paper, "Sakal", there is a letter to the Editor that direct bank transfer of subsidy portion is actually punishing the poor and is meant to benefit the rich. Here's how!
    It is difficult for a 'poor' person to shell out Rs. 1000/- at one go for a cylinder and then wait (indefinitely?) for the subsidy to be credited to his or her account. The problem becomes acute if the cylinder comes at the end of the month because most are living a hand-to-mouth existence.
    This is a very valid point, which has not been brought out so far.

    Ramani Venkatraman

    7 years ago

    It is a stupid idea to link subsidy payments to accounts linked with the Aadhaar all likelihood, it will lead to a scam of huge proportions. And why should the common man be made to run around to avail the subsidy which is part of what the Govt decides as legitimate to him.. more corruption in the offing with this facility. It fails anyone's comprehension as to what was wrong with the way subsidies were paid all these days..has this been only to accommodate scamsters who would innovate the way to pump money out of government coffers?



    In Reply to Ramani Venkatraman 7 years ago

    Current systems involve issuance of subsidy by either cash or cheque via some Govt office where cash is to be distributed. In cases like LPG they are directly paid to the distributor.

    Problem with cash/cheque subsidies given currently is, unless you give some "babu" a cut of it, he will make sure you won't get it.

    For subsidies like LPG, people buying it at subsidised rates and selling in black or using it for commercial purposes are the problems.

    These things can be drastically improved if Govt transfers various subsidies directly to the recipient.

    True, there can be loopholes in this, but it is still far better than the current systems.


    7 years ago

    Mr Saraph - your article on Aadhar is good, but may I suggest that the section on fallatious claims of UID should each have an explanation for each of the statements. It would make the matter clear to many people.


    7 years ago

    Biometric uniqueness could be a misnomer. That doesn't necessarily make UID useless.

    At any point of time non-matching bimetries outnumber matching ones by orders of magnitudes.

    In other words, while biometry may not be enough to prove 2 persons identical, on great many occasions it proves two persons to be non identical.

    Let us leave the uniqueness debate to theoreticians. I like to look at UID as an extension of the PAN notion. True, there could be implementation issues, which does not make the basic idea flawed.

    Mandar Mukund Diwakar

    7 years ago

    very apt title to the article. Aadhar is actually making people Niradhar. i would like to give you a live example. My father received a SMS stating that his Aadhar no (actually a wrong one, not his) has been linked to his HP LPG consumer no (again a wrong one). The whole UID initiative should be scrapped. Very unfortunate that a person like Nandan Nilekani chaired this project and created a complete mess of it.

    Ramesh Iyer

    7 years ago

    Thanks Dr. Saraph for sharing all critical information, including myths about this dubious project of the UPA govt. From the very beginning, the Project had no legal or statutory approval, yet the govt is believed to have spent over Rs. 50,000 crores on it already. Wish the SC had intervened earlier to save this precious public money.

    Anyway, now that the SC has ruled that Aadhar is not mandatory to avail of govt welfare services, it's better NOT TO enrol for it, until things become more transparent. I believe this entire Aadhar project is someday going to be exposed in a mega-scam, much larter than the 2G spectrum one.

    Ajay Chaudhary

    7 years ago

    Aadhar is illegal and unconstitutional.. For those who have any doubts please read the excellent, must read article.. you may feel enlightened...


    Jain Thomas

    In Reply to Ajay Chaudhary 7 years ago

    The above article lacks indepth study. It is assuming the third party is using and misusing the common people's identity. The biometric data collected by the the third party send directly to the UIDAI SERVER which is located in Bangalore. The server room can survive the heavy bombing. Actually Indians are the enemy of Indians. The adhaar project is a good move and it will empower Indians to run before the world. I am afraid that the Indian people been misguided and used by the hoarders and burglars. It will definitely remove the fake and duplicate identities, so we can save crores of rupees. The people those who are aginst this project is in the side of loosers (I mean they might be loosing money). If Yaswant Sinha wants to get an American visa, he needs to submit his biometrics to American embassy. In our context everyday Every single person giving their identity to unreliable persons for services in day to day life. But through adhaar KYC the service provider deals with adhaar server which is heavily encrypted and it gives only yes or no answer and never share the biometric data.


    In Reply to Jain Thomas 7 years ago

    You are spot on, dude. Moneylife and most of its contributors have only one mission in life: anything the government does must be trashed. Where did this man, who claims to be an expert, get the idea that all identity will be compromised. How? The identity is based on biometric authentication. I think such diabolical writings need to be exposed

    Mumbai One

    In Reply to Iconoclast 7 years ago

    Hey Iconoplast...try providing answers to the two simple questions I asked (I mean if Nandan has enlightened you guys only).


    Does Professor John Daugman, for example, agree with UIDAI when they say that “… although [the false positive identification rate of 0.057%] is expected to grow as the database size increases, it is not expected to exceed manageable values even at full enrolment of 120 crores”? It seems unlikely—Professor Daugman is the man who first pointed out that any attempt to prove uniqueness in a large population of biometrics must drown in a sea of false positives, please see

    And does Professor Jim Wayman, for example, agree with UIDAI when they say that “… based on the [receiver operating characteristic] model, the UIDAI expects the accuracy of the system to remain within the same order of magnitude as reported above. Hence it can be stated that system will be able to scale to handle the entire population without significant drop in accuracy”? It seems unlikely—Professor Wayman is the lead author of a paper which concludes that biometrics is a discipline out of statistical control, the results gathered so far tell you nothing about what to expect in future, please see
    Three scholars who have provided the academic foundation for the biometrics industry, particularly in the Western world, say that the level of uncertainty in biometrics is so great that tests prove nothing.

    The academicians have, in a paper titled "Fundamental issues in biometric performance testing: A modern statistical and philosophical framework for uncertainty assessment", argued that the level of uncertainty in biometrics is so great that they cannot be used to predict how well the technology will perform in the real world and therefore this cannot support a valid argument for investment in biometrics.

    The academicians are James L Wayman from San José State University, Antonio Possolo, head of the statistical engineering division at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Anthony J Mansfield from UK National Physical Laboratory, all recognised as stalwarts of the biometrics industry.

    However, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which has embarked on a tagging programme that is based on biometrics, is silent on the report. The institution has, till now, been quick to associate with other academic groups.

    While UIDAI claims that biometrics will allow it to deliver a unique identification, it has goofed up its own test results while pushing its ambitious Aadhaar project. (Read, 'How UIDAI goofed up pilot test results to press forward with UID scheme'.) For more READ (if you can, I mean)

    Mumbai One

    In Reply to Jain Thomas 7 years ago

    Just two simple questions.
    1. How many contractors, sub-contractors collect and share American embassy data?
    2. Are you willing to take responsibility for the data loss/theft of any individual? (FYI...UIDAI is not ready, so pls pls pls take the responsibility)

    Adc.Rishi Bhujade

    7 years ago

    Aadhar is nothing but the conapiracy of Government against the people of India...pls dont aatach aadhar no. to any of your bank account...

    Adc.Rishi Bhujade

    7 years ago

    Aadhar is nothing but the conapiracy of Government against the people of India...pls dont aatach aadhar no. to any of your bank account...

    Sudhir Jatar

    7 years ago

    I am afraid the people should scrutinise the Aadhaar order carefully and study Justice Puttaswamy's PIL petition. There are a number of other aspects. Apart from undermining the very basis of democratic functioning by the creation and use of an ID for electoral registration that is not a proof of citizenship, the Aadhaar number seeks to violate the citizen’s right to life and liberty by linking it not only to subsidies but also to rights and entitlements e.g. marriage registration, property documents registration, salaries etc. Further, in so doing, the government is creating a vertical divide as those who choose not to be part of the system will be the modern-day equivalents of outcasts only to be left out and left behind. And the worst hypocrisy is that when the scheme commenced, Aadhaar Enrolment / Correction form started with the following statement, "Aadhaar enrolment is free & voluntary..." This morning when I downloaded the form from UIDAI website, this particular statement is missing! To open an Aadhaar-related bank account, the usual need for physical presence is done away with so is KYC. Banks have thus refused to bear any liability for frauds related to Aadhaar accounts. Further, India has less than 32,000 rural banks and almost 600,000 villages while this entire scheme is based on direct bank transfers. Recently, newspapers have reported rampant corruption in the VVVIP constituencies of the royal family in Rai Bareilly and Amethi ranging from Rs. 20 to Rs. 50 per Aadhaar enrolment form. DBT has failed in these two constituencies. What would be the fate of the ordinary constituencies where the rest of the population resides? There is no doubt that the real intention of pursuing Aadhaar is not direct transfers to the poor but some thing related to the recent ordnance sent to the President but squashed by the Crown Prince.



    In Reply to Sudhir Jatar 7 years ago

    On the face of it, the idea to have a unique identity seems good.

    Not an exact anology, but imagine life without PAN today... PAN is a good example of how the IDs help.

    Now Adhar is much more complex, expensive, uses biometry, has privacy and security issues etc. and arguably has a lot more other flaws.

    These flaws should be brought up, debated and resolved.

    If your articles debate the premise separately and the implementation flaws separately, they will be much more balanced.

    Sudhir Jatar

    In Reply to Mayuresh 7 years ago

    Precisely. Why do you want an additional number when you have so many other identity documents and spend hundreds of thousands of crores?
    Aadhaar number can ensure money in your bank account and that Aadhaar number is not secure and your bank account is opened on the basis of an insecure number and the RBI has said that Banks will not take any liability in case of fraud due to an insecure number. Will you feel comfortable especially when that number also has all your bio-metrics as well as your personal data? World-wide losses of identity cards can go up to 20 %. If you are dependent on one number for all your entitlements including registering of property documents and even your marriage, imagine the havoc it will create!
    And isn't your privacy compromised?

    We have written to the Cabinet Secretary giving an exhaustive analysis in July 2013. We haven't had even an acknowledgement. We shall now use the RTI Act to get government's point of view.


    7 years ago

    This is shocking.

    But wouldn't it be prudent if you do a couple of more things:

    1. Explain "fallacious UID Premises". Why do you think them to be so.

    2. Conduct an interview with Nandan Nilekani and let the nation hear his views on above points.


    Sudhir Jatar

    In Reply to Mayuresh 7 years ago

    You have raised points, which bother the aam aadmi. I have studied the references at the end of the article and find that the doubts do get resolved. Justice Puttaswamy's petition in the Supreme Court read with the Supreme Court judgment also throw light on our doubts.
    If you are one-to-one with Nilekani, please advise him to talk to us. He was invited for a panel discussion at Pune. He refused.


    7 years ago

    This is shocking.

    But wouldn't it be prudent if you do a couple of more things:

    1. Explain "fallacious UID Premises". Why do you think them to be so.

    2. Conduct an interview with Nandan Nilekani and let the nation hear his views on above points.

    We are listening!

    Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

    To continue

    Sign Up or Sign In


    To continue

    Sign Up or Sign In



    online financial advisory
    Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
    online financia advisory
    The Scam
    24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
    Moneylife Online Magazine
    Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
    financial magazines online
    Stockletters in 4 Flavours
    Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
    financial magazines in india
    MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
    (Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)
    FREE: Your Complete Family Record Book
    Keep all the Personal and Financial Details of You & Your Family. In One Place So That`s Its Easy for Anyone to Find Anytime
    We promise not to share your email id with anyone