Arun Jaitley’s “Money” Bill will immortalise his contribution to good governance and ensure that subsidies, benefits and services will be ‘targeted’ to ‘intended’ beneficiaries
The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Lok Sabha is on its way to becoming a law ignoring concerns raised by opposition parties as well as citizens and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and even the Supreme Court. The 14-day period between tabling a Money Bill in the Rajya Sabha and it being considered as cleared by both Houses of Parliament has started as far as the Aadhaar Bill is concerned, despite strong protests from the Opposition.
Here are some of the serious concerns on the Aadhaar (Money) Bill…
What is your identity under the Bill?
- Sorry, the Bill does not define your identity, address or any authority which is responsible to certify it.
- Section 2(n) defines that you can construct identity information for anyone by assigning an Aadhaar number, biometric and demographic information. Section 2 (a) explains that an Aadhaar number itself is a random number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on receipt of the demographic and biometric information.
- The UIDAI neither verifies the applicant or his information nor certifies it. It does not even store and archive the original application form for obtaining an Aadhaar number filed by any resident.
- Yes, you are right to be worried that this number is meaningless and does not prove a person’s identity, address or even existence.
Immunity from punishment
- If you are an Enrolment Agency or a Registrar, you would have submitted demographic and biometric information and received the Aadhaar number corresponding to the information you submitted to the UIDAI. You are therefore in possession of identity information as specified in the Aadhaar Bill.
- Most likely you did not inform those you enrolled, as required under section 3(2)(a), of the manner in which the information shall be used. Of course, you did not know, you still do not.
- Most likely you did not inform those you enrolled, as required under section 3(2)(b), the nature of recipients with whom the information is intended to be shared during authentication. You did not know, nor do you know now.
- Most likely you did not inform those you enrolled, as required under section 3(2)(c), about the right to access information, the procedure for making requests for such access, and details of the person or department in-charge to whom such requests can be made. You did not know, do you now? Do you know what information can be accessed by whom? Is there information of who accessed information linked to the Aadhaar number with the UIDAI? Or information about who used it for authentication, when and where?
- If you are an agency delivering any subsidy, benefit or service, you too would already have collected identity information for authentication before delivering the subsidy, benefit or service.
- Most likely you did not inform those you collected the information from, as required under section 8(3)(a), of the nature of information that may be accessible to you upon authentication. Of course, you did not know, you still do not.
- Most likely you did not inform those you collected the information from, as required under section 8(3)(b), the uses to which you may put the information received during authentication. You did not know, nor do you know now.
- Most likely you did not inform those you collected the information from, as required under section 8(3)(c), about their alternatives to submission of identity information. You did not know, do you now?
- According to section 41 of the Aadhaar Bill you have already committed an offence that is punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to one year or with a fine, which may extend to Rs1 lakh, or with both.
- You can breathe easy as section 43(1) indemnifies you as long as you prove your ignorance or claim to have done all due diligence under the MoU you signed with UIDAI to prevent such offence.
Rights to colonise the Consolidated Fund of India
- Section 4(3) of the Bill allows any Aadhaar number, in physical or electronic form subject to authentication and other conditions, to be accepted as proof of identity of the Aadhaar number holder for any purpose.
- This does away with the requirement of the physical presence of any person who may be the holder of an Aadhaar number. In fact, it does away with the requirement that the person even exists.
- Section 7 of the Bill states that the government may, for the purpose of establishing identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service require that such individual undergo authentication, or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or in the case of an individual to whom no Aadhaar number has been assigned, such individual make an application for enrolment.
- If you are an Enrolment Agency, Registrar or an agency delivering any subsidy, benefit or service, you are already at advantage. You have all the Aadhaar numbers you require to submit identity information or Aadhaar numbers and encash subsidy, benefit or services.
- When you encash their subsidy, benefit or service to your very own “targeted” accounts, you can even claim to have authenticated the Aadhaar numbers against whom you claimed the subsidy, benefit or service. Not only is authentication not happening anywhere, but even if it were, no one is maintaining a record of your having authenticated and verifying or auditing your Authentication transactions. Not only is such an audit beyond the requisite variety of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), even if the CAG did that, they have no way to establish any of your Aadhaar numbers as corresponding to real or imaginary persons. Ashby's law of requisite variety requires that the CAG would need to have at least as much variety as turned out by the authentication transactions of each agency. If this is not possible, the CAG cannot certify the authentication transactions. Rest assured no one has verified or audited the Aadhaar numbers to check if they were allotted to real or imaginary persons.
- Since the UIDAI does not even hold an archive of the original forms filled by applicants, even if the formidable costs of such an exercise were spent, it is unlikely that they ever can. Even if the really clever auditor tracked each Aadhaar you used as a fake, section 47(1) prohibits courts from taking cognizance of any offence punishable under this Bill, save on a complaint made by the UIDAI. Even if the UIDAI did make a complaint, section 43(1) has already indemnified you if you can prove this offence was committed without your knowledge or that you had exercised all due diligence to prevent such offence.
- This means that you can now colonise the Consolidated Fund of India. No wonder it is the “Money” Bill.
- You are now part of the exclusive club that will have control of lakhs of crores of rupees, lives of the 130 crore Indians, their properties, their existence and they cannot even take you to court or convict you for crimes by identity theft.
- Welcome to the destruction of the Democratic Republic of India.
The citizen is an unnecessary evil
- If you happen to be a citizen, through section 3(1) of the Bill you have just been entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number by submitting your demographic information and biometric information by undergoing the process of enrolment.
- Section 7 makes Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining any subsidy, benefit or service.
- Never mind that you already may have any or all of permanent account number (PAN) card, ration card, passport, driver's license, electors photo identity or voter card (EPIC) and were getting your subsidies, benefits or services using these ever since India got independence. Never mind that even 99.97 percent of those who have the Aadhaar have had at least two of these IDs.
- If you already have the Aadhaar number, it is too early to smile and say look at how cool governance has become. According to section 8(1) the UIDAI shall perform authentication of your Aadhaar number submitted by any requesting entity (agency promising you the subsidy, benefit or service), in relation to your biometric information or demographic information, subject to such conditions and on payment of such fees and in such manner as may be specified by the UIDAI. Therefore, if you do pass the demographic challenge, there may be a biometric one. Not only will your demographic information change in your life, but so also will your biometric. So passing this step may not be as easy as it sounds. If you pass, then there may be other unspecified conditions and unspecified charges that have to be paid in unspecified ways. Needless to say this may change from time to time and for each subsidy, benefit and service.
- If at any step you feel unequal, experience injustice or want to seek redressal of your pains, sorry, no one is listening. There is no channel to restore your dignity.
- You do not matter if your Aadhaar does not authenticate. If your demographic information is not updated or if your biometric fails, you can bid goodbye to your subsidies, benefits and services.
- Under section 47(1) of this Bill you may not even go to a court of law. Please learn to accept the government’s sentiment that raising such issues in courts does not serve any Public Interest.
- It may be quite understandable if the time, psychological and money cost of the process deters you from holding your claim to subsidies, benefits or services. Please do not worry, there are enough Aadhaar numbers enrolled to replace yours and claim the amount. Just think of it as the cost of good governance. How can the government write off a few thousand crores already spent on the UIDAI project when lakhs of crores from the Consolidated Fund of India are at stake to “targeted” beneficiaries?
Identity crimes do not exist
- Section 57 empowers anyone to use the Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose.
- Don’t be surprised if your online grocer, Uber or Flipkart ask for your Aadhaar just as your banks have been doing for some time now.
- Once they have your identification information they can undertake virtual transactions on your behalf. For example someone can sell you stuff you did not order by using your Aadhaar. Or make auto debits from your bank account. This actually happens with the Social Security Numbers (SSN) in the US. (Read: Not just Indians, the US too is worried over UID)
- Remember section 47 prevents you from going to court. Try complaining to the UIDAI, but there is no provision for you to even complain to the UIDAI.
- In fact, in order to minimize their chance of getting found out, such persons in possession of your identity information can even undertake transactions in remote villages where you may have never been.
- While impersonation is not defined by the Aadhaar Bill, it is regarded as an offence under section 34 and 35. Section 45 allows you to, however, complain to police officer not below the rank of Inspector of Police but section 47 quickly prevents any court from taking cognizance except when the complaint is from UIDAI.
- You cannot take your impersonation case to the UIDAI. There is simply no provision. If the UIDAI or its agents were the perpetuators of the crime, you have no forum for redressal.
- Surely, FM Jaitley must be telling us to let such trivialities pass when it comes to making sacrifice for the country and ensuring good governance. If there are no unnecessary complaints in courts, wouldn’t this Bill end all scams and corruption in the country? In any case how would it be possible for anyone to claim malpractices in using the Consolidated Fund of India or identify any “targeted” beneficiaries?
Equality, justice, liberty and fraternity don’t matter
With his Aadhaar ‘Money’ Bill, Jaitley has now solved the problem accounting the leakages from the Consolidated Fund of India. For sure he has immortalised himself at 3:30pm on the 11 March 2016, for having 73 of 545 members of the Lok Sabha “pass” his “Money” Bill redefining good governance to usher an era of good governance. After all it will do a lot of good. For example, now you can assign an Aadhaar number to the trillions of rupees that may navigate to targeted beneficiaries. Finally, of course, end the people of the Democratic Republic of India from worrying about equality, justice, liberty and fraternity by declaring them redundant.
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(Dr Anupam Saraph is a Professor, Future Designer, former governance and IT advisor to Goa’s former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and the Global Agenda Councils of the World Economic Forum. He has designed delivery channels and ID schemes for good governance in his previous roles.)