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HomeOpinionGod, please save India from our 'wine ‘n cheese' Aadhaarophobics

God, please save India from our ‘wine ‘n cheese’ Aadhaarophobics

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If your sarkar wants to keep track of you, it doesn’t need Aadhaar. But the poor need it for their rights and that’s why they aren’t protesting.

There are two aspects to the Aadhaar/The Tribune controversy. One is the thoughtlessly stupid FIR which names reporter Rachna Khaira and the newspaper, among others, though not as accused – a shot fired in anger by an almighty bureaucrat furious at having his weekend ruined. The other is the scare-mongering over Aadhaar, which rivals the Gaul fear of the falling sky in Asterix comics.

Activists of the upper crust, upper class, wine ‘n cheese, Netflix-watching social media elite—mostly of the Left, but some of the Right too—see a final vindication of their view that Aadhaar is becoming the most diabolical mass threat to India since the bubonic plague was banished. They wouldn’t want the two issues, the FIR and “dangers” of Aadhaar, to be seen as distinct.

Which is precisely what I am going to do. So help me God, from Aadhaarophobic cyber-warriors (I never use the description “troll” for any humans).

It’s also perfect timing for the activists. The Aadhaar case comes up for its final hearing on the 17th of this month. So the five good judges, watching and reading this, “should know” what to do. Not to leave it to chance, there’s been a flurry of articles by respected activists in equally respected publications over the past few weeks. Again, hoping that the judges would heed these, if not the million dire warnings each day on Twitter.

The first issue is settled easily. The government has tried damage-control on the FIR with a statement by the IT Minister. The honourable thing to do is to amend the FIR to leave out the reporter and the newspaper. They can be summoned later as witnesses if the case progresses. Anything else would be, for want of a stronger yet printable word, idiotic.

The second is the fear-mongering on Aadhaar. The biggest fear is, this will put governments on the inside track of our lives: where we go, what we eat, who we meet, which hotel we checked in, which flight we took, what our political, ideological or sexual orientation is, did we bitch about our bosses, are we cheating on our spouses, and if so with who or who else’s spouses, what is my blood pressure and cholesterol count, is my pet a dog or a cat and is it neutered, and if so, who’s the vet and what does he eat, who is he dating, and so on.

Here’s a reality check. And some reasons why elite phobia of Aadhaar as the ultimate surveillance state is 99.99 per cent exaggerated.

All governments are hungry for information on citizens “of interest” and will misuse it. But surveillance on 134 crore Indians? Any sarkar would need/want to keep track of just some specific categories of citizens – political, bureaucratic, media, intellectual, judicial, activist and the creative elite. I am sure that I am among them and fully work on the presumption that governments keep track of what details they want on me.

That use of the plural, governments, is deliberate. All governments do this. Congress governments were no angels. Would any government need me to have Aadhaar to do this any better? I’d be delusional to think that. If I need to protect a source, I’d be a dangerously incompetent journalist to call her from my phone. I shall borrow someone else’s. This is basic hygiene of a journalist’s life. Similarly, others must have their rules too.

Does a government need Aadhaar to keep track of our honourable judges? Ask the judges. Every Collegium meeting for years reads an Intelligence Bureau report on each candidate that comes up for judicial appointment. Those Charlies work on “reputation”, pure hearsay, and can make or mar careers or the quality of the judiciary. They never needed Aadhaar.

Top bureaucrats? What is the new “360-degree” system of reputational check that the government has set up? It is all about what people say about so and so, so we can decide whether to elevate him/her to a full secretary or not. All hearsay, some of which will also come from party or RSS workers on the ground. Does this need Aadhaar?

Activists? Did Aadhaar enable the government to muck around with Teesta Setalvad’s credit card bills? Hotel check-ins? From British times, every hotel has its registers checked by the local police special branch each evening. After recording a ‘Walk the Talk’ at the Gateway of India one early morning, Sushil Kumar Shinde, then Maharashtra chief minister, took me to the Taj Mahal Palace hotel coffee shop for breakfast, looked almost wistfully at the reception and said: “When I was a sub-inspector in special branch, I used to come here every day to copy the guest register.”

So if you’ve been up to interesting things lately, and are a person of interest to the government, chances are they already know more than you’d want them to. Not having Aadhaar wouldn’t have helped.

Fact is, every time you use your credit card, check into a hotel, take a flight and thereby cut a PNR, make a bank transaction, a phone call, pay tax, send an SMS, write/do/say anything that goes through a server, watch a movie (even on Netflix in your bedroom or somebody else’s) you leave an indelible trail.

Each PNR can enable a government to get a track on every flight you have taken at least in the past 7-8 years. This is the reality in a post-9/11 world and a post-26/11 India, hyper-paranoid about terror. If you still want true privacy and anonymity, find yourself one of the 500 uninhabited islands in the Maldives. But hurry, before they drown due to global warming. Or even earlier, before the Chinese get there and build a naval base.

The short point is, if a government wants to keep track of a citizen, it can do so quite easily. It is just that the government does not need to, and cannot keep track of the 119 crore citizens who already have Aadhaar and the rest are coming in at a quick clip of 2.5 lakh per day.

Fear-mongering has reached such fantastic proportions that confirmed nihilists like Julian Assange (who believes there is more democracy in China and Russia than in America and India) and Edward Snowden are being quoted in support. It is touching to believe our judges would be influenced by those hiding from judicial scrutiny in their own democratic countries. Nor do I believe our judges watch tech-phobic British TV series Black Mirror (neither do I). And the poor of this country aren’t impressed by any of this. Certainly they do not watch Black Mirror or read Weapons of Math Destruction.

There are three kinds of opposition to Aadhaar.

First, from those who find the very idea of the state revolting. Those we can do nothing about except to say that they should be happy they can say all they want in their own country rather than hide in the Ecuadorean embassy or be the great Gandhian Putin’s guests.

Second are those fearing for privacy, whose concerns I have already argued with in detail.

And third, the well-meaning anti-poverty activists who worry that mandatory Aadhaar-linking of subsidies and entitlements would hurt the poor. They also quote cases of misuse, glitches or denial of services often. Unlike the first category which detests the very idea of the state, these love the state, especially a physical, touchy-feely one. How can you leave the poor to technology? The sad fact for them – the poor have moved on. More than 10 crore poor have Aadhaar-linked LPG connections. Rs 75,000 crore has already been delivered to the poor people’s Aadhaar-linked bank accounts. Tell them now Aadhaar is their curse.

They should know the greatest curse in a poor Indian’s life is a lack of identity. Each time a poor Indian needs something from the government, she has to go to someone, a chhota bureaucrat, sarpanch or MLA for attesting evidence of her identity. Friction and arbitrage is built in the system. The new Aadhaar identity liberates and empowers. Or millions of the 119 crore already with it would have been out on the streets protesting and not leave it to 3,229 (or thereabouts, I just made up that number) social media elites to wage this Great War for their liberty. How come no poor people are out protesting? Or not chucking their Aadhaar cards? Try and take it away from one.

How would the paranoid respond to that? Arrey, these poor gullible ganwar villagers, inko kya pata? We have to protect them, because we know better, what with our fancy education in great Ivy League—and some more revolutionary—Indian campuses. We know better, and they need our protection.

So here is my suggestion to this distinguished but gratuitously patronising lot. Go to YouTube, watch Saala main to sahab ban gaya… from Dilip Kumar-Saira Bano starrer Sagina. Then stop at the line: “Tum langoti waala na badla hai na badlega/tum sab kaala logon ki kismat hum saala badlega.” Replay it a few times.

Amazing how Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote these lines just for you in 1974.

Postscript: Anti-Aadhaarism is happily a lost cause. Even if the Supreme Court says it isn’t compulsory for government services, the poor, a few more numerous than activists (!), won’t stop using it. A privacy law is needed, Aadhaar or no Aadhaar. The paranoid rich can go back to paper-tickets for air travel. But remember, even then there will be a PNR and data will be accessible for all aviation security and anti-terror organisations across the world: at the flick of a button on a common database.

Disclosure: Nandan Nilekani, the founder of UIDAI, is among the distinguished founder-investors in ThePrint. Please click here for details on investors.

This piece first appeared on ThePrint on 9 Jan, 2018.

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  1. Excellent ! You have amply justified the title of your column : “In National Interests ” . For years some vested interests never wanted to be accountable nor allow any misuse and abuse of welfare measures of any Government for the poor to be checked ? They are for decades used to be under the smug feeling ” Sab Chaltahai…”. There was practically no way to put an end to this kind of irresponsibility in the Government Echelons and no accountability whatsoever . No tax evaders , no bogus companies , no illegal properties could be traced and the country has become a virtual haven for thugs and saboteurs to go scot free . And now , while some restrictions are welcome , all the State and Union Governments should implement their schemes and verification more earnestly .

  2. I used to actually trust and respect Shekhar Gupta. I’m honestly disappointed with this piece which is of less value than something written by a college student who read 3 articles about Aadhaar on google and spend their whole lives on Twitter.

    “How would the paranoid respond to that? Arrey, these poor gullible ganwar villagers, inko kya pata?”

    ^These lines are demeaning to all those activists who have been trying to get the government to accept that there have indeed been denial of services, and exclusion due to this system…so that it can actually be remedied. There are no people out there forcing the poor who have befitted from Aadhaar to give it back. there are activists who are raising valid concerns which basically they want the government of the day to acknowledge and fix.

    Your are resting you entire argument on the fact that if the govt wants to surveil you, they will anyway. So why not just hand over all our rights without even trying to ensure that there is dependable legal framework which can redress issues rising from it? Marna toh sabko hai boss, toh helmet ke bina gaadi chalao. Your research team needs maybe one researcher who does more than google and twitter Sir. Please do invest wisely.

  3. I don’t even know where to begin. This is a fact-free article, so it makes little sense to respond with the now thousands of data points that indicate that this whole Aadhaar exercise is designed and run by people who can, at best be described as incompetent and at worst, as complicit in what is the biggest surveillance machinery ever attempted in the world. So I will simply leave Mr. Gupta, mr. Undone Nilekani and anyone else who thinks Aadhaar is a good idea with this thought:

    Do you actually believe that the current ruling party will stay in power forever?

    Someday, someone else will win, it will be (God forbid) congress, it could be someone else. Do you really want that person to have the power to pull the plug on your life? If you think I’m exaggerating, just imagine Your life if all the threats for non linkage we are already receiving are carried out.

    • I agree. I want to actually provide links to data points and facts that even UIDAI and the AG have accepted in court. But I don’t think it’ll matter to them because to write something like this, you either have to truly naive, blind or just dependent on Nilekani for survival.

  4. Not only India ‘s aadhaar, my apprehension is regarding all the multi purpose national id cards like Malaysia’s my card , Canada’s social insurance number etc.. I presume Shekhar Gupta knows the first guy who introduced tattooing numbers on humans is hitler of course with the help of IBM watson on poor jews.. Let’s assume this huge database of every nation goes to a dictator as my Bible says so.. A particular community will be hunted easily

  5. The people who are indulging in illegal , anti social, anti human activities,these people’s are,into my opinion, are opposing Aadhar !!

  6. When the elite give you shit about being elite. Entirely laughable. (Moderators, if you can allow the word ‘bitch’ in an article you publish, you can allow for shit being called shit in your comments)

  7. “Each time a poor Indian needs something from the government, she has to go to someone, a chhota bureaucrat, sarpanch or MLA for attesting evidence of her identity. Friction and arbitrage is built in the system. The new Aadhaar identity liberates and empowers.”

    Such hand waving. Aadhar is empowering — how ? Just take the author’s word for it I guess.
    This article reads like a poorly written propaganda piece that attempts to divide and isolate critics rather than actually address / discuss / counter criticisms meaningfully.

  8. Mr Gupta if it so very important and crucial pls write to GOI and advocate to link AADHAAR with voter ID cards. This will eradicate most of political corruption. We Indian will be more open to to idea of linking it with other lifeline particles in. And your article does not address why are we being Loaded with taxes when govt claims that they have saved huge because of AADHAAR linking with Gaa subsidy, gist employees and broaden the tax net.

  9. Also, I ve never had wine and cheese together in my life. Rum and paneer sticks, yes. So please spare me your silly Dilli references. Aadhar has wrecked havoc, and you want to settle scores with wine & cheese?

  10. What a colossal ego Mr Nilekeni must have to defend his product in the face of a dozen misuses, some deaths, the Airtel scandal? Why is it that as an engineer – and of some repute – that Nilekeni refuses to acknowledge that Aadhar is not watertight? That there are problems that need to be solved and gaps that need to be plugged? Why does it offend him so much when someone is poking holes in what is considered his core competence? Why are Indian men of science so casual about perfection? Any engineer worth his salt would’ve taken this up as a challenge and made the necessary changes to reassure citizens that the product is not some quack service. But the hubris in those providing this unique identification, is phenomenal. The fact that they have blood on their hands – those lives lost in Bihar because they couldn’t furnish Aadhar, doesn’t bother these people, is it? Even one death in a democracy is worth a rethink of policies. So, please. Keep your ego to one side. And use your engineering IIT (no doubt) brains to fix this mess. Don’t sit on your laurels. Good engineers are thorough. Forget the press and activists – who are doing you a favour – atleast be honest to your own engineering credentials. Fix this. And do it quietly. Don’t let the ego yak.

  11. Going through the comments ,the upper class concern seem to be linking accounts/pensions etc will lead to difficultly for tax invasion.

    They are worried about future notional misuse than real savings. Appreciate Sekhar to take this stand and I am sure you would have got a drubbing from your journalistic friends.

  12. It’s good to have a unique identification number of all Bhartiya citizen for millions of good reasons,many of which are well explained in this article.All advanced countries including USA gives an identification number called social security number to all its citizens.Once some one has important other cards ex Driver license ,PAN card,Passports,ration cards,many other cards like voting card ,credit cards,personal telephone .Now so many important other situation if linked to Adhar Pancards for ex. like pay checks,donations,properties buying or selling,income tax payments,income of temples ,mosques,Gurudwara,churches etc its all for good of that person or buisness.However all those peoples making millions and pocketing it selfishly for themselves but not paying taxes to our Indian govt will be identified easily and can be punished with evidence and our govt needs money for all the kinds of project ,could be for supply of electricity ,clean water ,hospitals ,medicines,roads,security forces,cleanliness of cities,parks,streets,rivers ,Internet and IT services,air pollution control,farmers welfare and insurance help to 10 corores poor people,schools,libraries,food program for children etc .Secondly govt can have more and more inspectors throughout India to random check various govt and private dept from food, pharmacy, hospitals ,banks,visa and passport offices,airports,security,income tax dept etc.To bring law and order in our country we need it very strictly then only country will be able to offer jobs to all capable young people and security and cleanliness and comfort to all of us ,which brings happiness ,less crime and security which attracts foreigners to visit our country,which brings money in several thousand corores ,and their shopping ,eating in restaurants,staying in hotels,using car,buses,trains,planes helps several other industries and buisnesses.
    Only those peoples will worry about having Adhar cards and its linkage to Pan cards are peoples who are involved in fraud,makes millions but do not want to pay income tax,peoples and terrorist organisations,giving money or donations for illegal activities,illegal immigrants people living in our country ex.millions of Bangla deshi ,? pakistanis in kashmir,in W.Bengal peoples ,peoples doing illegal money laundering deals to buy properties,use of fake money etc.
    I am very happy with several strong correct steps present ruling govt is taking for the benefit of our nation and its citizens and without worry keep going ,you will have some opposition but all intelligent honest bhartiya are very happy that what you are doing is ,once we all thought is impossible things to do in Bharat.Mera desh badal raha hae.

  13. If Aadhaar database has not already been compromised, it will be the first target against India an in a cyber attack by a nation or a group. A leak will be devastating because it’s so deeply integrated into all the system etc. Aadhaar is revolutionary, I agree but we should think hard and fast if risks outweigh the benefits.

  14. unfortunately seems to be biased arguments in favor of the extension of aadhaar for every one and for everything. we , the middle class salarieds, know all our data is with the govt and dont care as long as we are not hurt. now with potential large scale identity theft and financial frauds using our sold-out profiles, we’ll be the most hurt. the financial cos or the govt isnt gonna compensate if our money or property gets stolen. assuming that the poor welcome aadhaar and if the stories of starvation deaths now linked to refusal of pds provisions due to aadhaar issues were true, someone explain why people have to die. again, pds theft by the shopkeepers is old story, but aadhaar just gave one more twist. and now why people are removed from pds due to aadhaar issues? to make matters worse, this cruel govt is counting those as fraudulent users dropped while the truth is different. bottom line, for a basically morally corrupt govt and people, all such documents are a farce. for a people with at least some amount of dignity and righteousness, such docs are useless. from a concept that 100 criminals can go free but 1 innocent shouldnt be punished, now deaths of innocents are just collateral damage. shame on such an establishment

  15. While I can only agree on the points you’ve made, I feel you’re forgetting the primary point that a majority of us “Aadhaarphobics” are worried most about.

    The linkage with banks and UPI system:
    A Disclaimer before I start on this: I might be wrong on a few things here but the fear of it is still justified)

    A simple Google search with the works “UPI fraud” should be enough to let one know the dangers of this system in the wrong hands. Banks liked to Aadhaar are mandatorily enabling the feature weather the customer asked for it or not. I understand it’s all great that all the accounts are linked and allows for easy transaction and the Government’s best of the world cyber expert Android and iOS developers created the BHIM app with Zero loop holes. I don’t think any of those affected in those misuse reports would remotely agree.

    I belong to the middle class tech savvy population where every step we take is measured post checking each and every risk around it. If we need to invest in a mutual fund or open a bank account, we run a 100 checks with friends and search engines to check every risk to ensure our hard earned money doesn’t go anywhere we didn’t intend it to. The app’s authentication system was so fool proof (probably designed to cater to the simplicity needs of the non-tech savvy) that they have caused losses in “non-middle class level” amounts including absolutely no tractability on what happened with it. Unless you’re one of those wine and cheese sipping class who have a bank account on every continent, you’d have every right to worry about those emergency savings you’ve safely tucked away too.

    My request here on this is simple. Link and trace the bank transactions if you need to. But don’t force Aadhaar linked transfer methods such as UPI etc on everyone unless they opt for it in writing with the bank. Also if linked the bank or NCPI should immediately refund 100% of any fraudulent transactions. If not just deactivate the feature availability. We’re happy with what banking methods we have.

    Incorrect/swapped identity information:

    I don’t really need to say more about this as N.V. Bhat has already provided us with one such instance. The simple incompetence of some enrolling staff just spells chaos in someone’s life. And should the incompetence be replaced by malicious intent, this just results in absolute destruction in someone’s financial or personal life.

    How safely are these credentials/biometrics stored:
    Even the most secure system of today is due to for breach by a new found vulnerability tomorrow. The world constantly revolves around further advancements in security. Which in turn is a resultant response of advancements in cyber crime. If the system protecting aadhaar even stumbles a step in this race its bound to open up the information and Irreplaceable biometrics of billions of citizens (Something that can’t ever be replaced and is often used more frequently for authentication).

    Finally, while intent around Aadhaar might be noble, the mischief elements just gleefully awaiting the linkage deadline to unleash their chaos on the citizens is far more reason for worry. We’re not really bothered by who see’s what we’re really upto but we’re definitely bothered about something that can easily allow up to lose everything we’ve earned so far. We have every right to not be forced to use such a system that we don’t see beneficial in any way. As mentioned we’d be happy to link our bank accounts to aadhaar so that the government can track who’s evading taxes or involved in illegal transactions, but we ABSOLUTELY will not agree for it to slowly become the ONLY identity and in turn become an instrument to be siphoned off everything we own or be declined a non-govt welfare service as even our insurance providers(who happily loot us every year with increased premiums) have now caught the fever!

  16. I did not expect a senior journalist like Mr. Shekhar Gupta to join the likes of Nandan Nilekani by indulging in petty name-calling.

    It has only exposed his prejudices and reduced his stature in the public’s mind.

    The fundamental flaw is that under the Aadhaar Act, UIDAI can unilaterally execute an resident of India without due process resulting in his/her civil death.

    Imagine the predicament of an individual who is stripped of his/her basic amenities like mobile telephony, banking, public transport, etc. without any possibility of recourse to justice.

    No wonder anti-Aadhaar activists morbidly dread enrolling for this Frankenstein’s monster which can devour residents of India with remorseless savagery.

  17. Many have stated practical problems in Aadhar implementation, these can not considered the idea of Aadhar.
    Obviously, there is a concern no more hidden properties, cars, extravagant spend etc….Once all financial transactions are liked and IT department can create Form 16…So this is clear voice of the corrupt who would like to continue the status Quo.
    In our country inefficiencies are to be removed. Innumerable duplicates everywhere being removed.

  18. Poorly articulated article. This sounds more like a rant that may take the cake in street chat conversation.
    I see a pattern in these boutique media startups that is quick to jump the guns / provide cover fire to any tom .. harry that opposes the current dispensation.

  19. Whenever the Govt tries to do something good,the sickularist cannot stand it,must stop the Govt by hook or by false stories,from getting a good name.

  20. It appears to be obvious that Sekhar Gupta has totally sold his soul to the powers be in the GOI.
    The Issue at hand was and is: The Security aspect of Aadhaar card that has every personal particulars of every Indian National and also that of his /her very close family. When the GOI is so incompetent that it can’t ensure the Security of the data which could ; as it has happened, be very easily compromised by any one spending pittance to get these personal data that are directly linked to Banks/Financial institutions/ and umpteen number of both public & private utility services for which linking Aadhaar
    has been made mandatory or slowly getting encircled with its toxic tentacles.
    On the one hand the GOI makes it mandatory to get Aadhaar linked to these unsafe agencies, totally compromising individual’s
    finances & societal standing and on the other hand Not even taking adequate action to set right the loop holes as genuinely brought out by the Media. Horror of horror is when they set the thief loose among the population , the GOI has the nerve to
    prosecute those who brings out this abomination called a Compromised Aadhaar data bank.
    When the cat closes its eyes, it swears the Planet to be a Dark environment, by closing its eyes to this criminal goings on in the
    ill conceived & poorly executed and by high handedly threatening those who bring out the monstrous effect the Aadhar brings in its wake in its present form of execution ; is nothing less than criminal on the part of the GOI. This smacks of an absolute fascist mindset if the GOI thinks it can coerce its nationals into abject submission to its half baked ant-people actions..

  21. Thank God NRIs are not eligble to get Aadhaar card, they cannot get new phone while visiting India, use borrowed sims

  22. The government has already been using PAN for bank accounts. Why add the Aadhaar? If duplicate PANs are matched against the Aadhaar, then there are no bad PANs, right? Why not ask banks to use a verified-PAN or a verified-Driving License or anything verified? Why use the actual delicate number indiscriminately? Sure, when I buy my plane ticket, my PNR is accessible. Passport data is also entered for cross-border risk assessment. But how much I earn should not be a tool to decide whether I am a risk or not (as long a the minimum bank balance for the visa is maintained). The mandatory use of a single number makes it very valuable. The second issue is an Aadhaar Card. A card is valid on its face unless its verified electronically. Since Aadhaar is digital, the number should be memorised and authenticated electronically only. (With due reservation to the people with fingerpint issues). The use of the card without verification renders any benefit useless.

  23. What a massive ego the engineer Nandan Nilekeni must have to not have the humility to accept there are massive loopholes in the technology he created. As with everything else, we are supposed to say “chaltaa hai” to all the gaps in this tech, and be indulgent of this “identity giver”. Any half decent engineer would have accepted that there is potential scope of misuse – and every misuse is not some filmy, silly government snooping on its citizens — but the very many issues that are regularly reported. Any engineer worth his salt would want to plug those tech glitches. Forget the policy and the politics, doesn’t it bother Mr Nilekeni that his team has delivered a half baked product? Does it not bother him as a man of science that his tech is not foolproof? Or is India supposed to just be OK with poor quality roads, bad government services, a not-so-bright political class and now technocrats who are so stubborn and full of hubris that they don’t even want to respond to a challenge thrown at them by random hackers? There bursts the bubble – about India’s great software engineers.

  24. I cannot waste my time here just to make my arguments. I would request all of us (including myself) to be honest to ourselves at the core of our hearts. Every one of us afraid that if every thing is open how can we cheat ourselves. Every one of us want to cheat ourselves (Government) through some means. Please let us not cheat ourselves.

  25. It’s so surprising that so called highly progressive ranks are objecting for Aadhaar but supporting porn sites, gay marriages, etc. But they all should introspect that are these so called progressive modern ideas are totally acceptable for the entire Indian society? Do they totally harmless for the Indian Culture and for an average Indian Citizen?? We should all have to examine which of these two, Aadhaar or porn sites & gay marriages are the most welcome feature for India’s & Indians’ bright future??? #SatyamevaJayate!

  26. I cannot waste my time too much just for the sake of arguments. I would request all of you be honest your dealings. Every one of us afraid that if every thing is open how can we cheat others. Every one of us want to cheat ourselves (Government) either by tax evasion or by doing unauthorized transactions. Please do not cheat ourselves.

  27. I guess I was wrong when I thought Shekhar Gupta was a journalist that still had some functioning grey cells. What exactly is the role of Aadhar in social welfare programs? As any person working on the ground in this area (for example Jean Dreze) will tell you, the Aadhar does ZERO to improve performance or eliminate corruption, on the contrary creating several new barriers in their functioning. It is therefore Shekhar Gupta’s view that is elitist and out of sync with reality in this regard. Regarding his analysis of privacy concerns of Aadhar, it is at not at the level of someone in Kindergarten; nothing is surer to undermine democracy and turn India into Putin’s Russia than the availability of a complete personal profile of every citizen in a central database to the government. Can’t decide if the irony in this article is comic or tragic.

  28. Why create a class divide that’s not even present? The upper class is definitely NOT opposed to the poor getting government benefits. If Aadhaar cards help the poor get the support they need, then they should be able to get the cards issues.

    What’s the point of linking Aadhaar to more than one bank account to avail subsidy? How is linking mobile numbers to Aadhaar going to help the poor? The poor deserve as much privacy as the upper class. Just because they are more dependent on the government and thus more vulnerable doesn’t mean that they should be forced to reveal every detail of their lives.

    Even today the poor are being taken advantage of by government services because of Aadhaar. Why are there multiple news articles about poor people denied treatment in government hospitals because they forgot to bring the Aadhaar card. Aren’t they supposed to be treated as humans even without an Aadhaar number attached to them?

  29. This is all bloody foolish talks
    Modi Govt is already selling private data of Bonafide Indian Republic to Allied Countries @₹500 per person data including fingerprint and iris print

    Modi Govt. wants Independent Citizens to be digital salves of Modi Sarkar..

    If Modi thinks, He is the shrewdest on this earth to fool my Fellow Indians, giving open challenge to Mr Modi, His Bank Accounts would be hacked and the figures would be shown to Indian Republic. That how much Money Mr Modi and his Govt is swindling away just by selling private data of Republic of India, without the consent of the people of republic.

    If Modi wants Aadhar let the Minister have Aadhar, their bank balance be brought open to public.

    Actually aadhar should be only for those who are beggars and depend on subsidies with Money Monger Modi Govt for their needs.

    Y the Govt is harrasing people who are welloff and donot take subsidy from Govt.

    Bcoz with Aadhar Govt is creating digital slaves, if u speak against govt, Govt files FIR or does vendetta with an independent republic citizen of india.

    Pathetic, Pervert, Cunning and shrewdly devised plan by Modi Govt to eyewash republic Citizens in the name of Aadhar, sell the data to Allied Countries and fill the pockets of Politicians including Mr Modi

    If Mr Modi is not afraid, He shud 1st add Aadhar to voterID which he ia not doing that procea 1st itself that Modi Sarkar is doing bogus voting manipulating EVM’s

    If Mr Modi dares, I pray to God a son of Soil from India should skined alive this self-centered Modi


  30. very good article …clearly written how the govt is aadharophobic and there is no need to be one and asking everybody to link aadhar with everything…

  31. It is totally unclear why aadhar card is needed at all…about linking aadhar to anythings comes next…no reason at all….

  32. So if all this is true why aadhar card linking is necessary…as you have so very well described govt. does not need aadhar card details at all…so why is it insisting on linking aadhar to everything…simply put there is no reason at all that aadhar be linked with anything…

  33. Shekhar Gupta says the main thrust of aadhaar is delivery to poor. But why link all financial transactions, insurance, mutual fund, pension from LIC, mobile phones et all?

    Let me tell him that apart from 3 kind of persons listed by him opposing aadhaar, 4th kind of persons are also there like me who oppose the big umbrella called aadhaar-linking-spree, who point out that with the kind of weak security of data and weak working method, compulsory linking of bank accounts with aadhaar is a big scare. I have nothing to take from Government- subsidy etc- so why I should link my aadhaar with all my bank accounts, MF folios, insurance and pension, phone number?

    Since now I know that great Nandan also peeps into great Shekhar’s column (he seems to exclaimed “Bravo”), I hope he reads the comment section and reads my personal experience about what happened with my spouse’s aadhaar number, touching on the robustness of aadhaar working:

    Because some one in the family wrongly gave her aadhaar number at the time of on-line updation, her aadhaar number has the other person’s name, address, phone number but her own photo and therefore presumably other biometrics. How on earth you should be able to on-line change name and such details corresponding to a particular aadhaar number without giving proof for such change? For the last more than two and a half months I am trying to extract a guidance to correct these details on my spouse’s aadhaar number but to no avail. Aadhaar centre in my city is unable to guide me, aadhaar helpline sends out routine, mechanical, unhelpful reply mails. God please save us from this aadhaar muddle!!!

    • NV Bhat, a vast majority of Indians, which include honest tax payers and law abiding citizens have no problems in getting or using aadhar card. The problems are for those who want to evade taxes, purchase benami properties for several of their future generations. As regards data confidentiality, we in day to day life provide for which you have no control. So what is the big deal about aadhar data. Providing Aadhar card is one of the biggest exercises ever undertaken anywhere in the world and there are bound to be glitches. I believe this is being managed efficiently and we should congratulate the Aadhar team for a fantastic work they have done. It is only a small percentage of our population who are crying but the government can not stop something great as aadhar for a few percentage when it is beneficial for a very large section of the society. The complaint you have on aadhar center is unfounded as I have been able to get my aadhard in 10 days flat. It was mailed to me in four days and the original card delivered in 10 days to my house. Therefore, your complaint cannot be taken as a base for measuring the performance of aadhar team.

      • Mr. Ravi, you have dismissed my complaint about aadhaar as unfounded with left hand, without, I think, even reading or understanding what the complaint is.

        It is not about getting aadhaar card but about some one being able to change on-line some one else’s aadhaar details like name, phone number address etc without submitting corroborating evidence. And about there being no satisfactory redressal of grievance. If only I could upload the image I would have shown you how one name has two different aadhaar numbers. If that is not cause for worry about the working of aadhaar system, God save us!!

  34. This is about the most definitive pieces written on why Aadhaar is an absolute necessity. This article must be read and widely circulated.

  35. Well of course, the use of Aadhar as an empowerment/subsidiary distribution tool is to be encouraged. However, that could be accomplished by making the linking of Aadhar to bank accounts and mobile phones optional, as is currently the case.

    It’s the forced coercion that is scary – not having a bank account, mobile connection or getting married without Aadhar? Something like that raises concerns about the level of surveillance that the government wants to have.

    Of course the author is right that the government can track you even without Aadhar, but is that a reason to make it even easier for them? It’s a self defeating argument

    • Try putting your child in school without Aadhar ! It’s not just the government, every private agency has suddenly made Aadhar mandatory to get all sorts of random services – it’s like every other identification document has been made invalid overnight…

  36. hi Shekhar — a few questions on privacy. What if it is not govt accessing personal info that folks are worried about? What if the problem is that data protection safeguards are so low that any civil servant/administrator/clerk can tap into the personal/financial data of millions and sell that on? The kind of social engineering going on across the U.S./UK via targeted ads and the like (which are a DIRECT consequence of personal data being bought and sold) surely must give you some pause for thought? I think disregarding this threat as upper class anguish is silly.

    • Vikram, any decision of this nature has pros and cons. For example, airplane travel is very risky and if an accident happens the chances of survival is remote. Does that prevent from using aircraft for travel? Most of these apprehensions are unfounded and have no relevance. As Shekhar said, if the government wants to put a surveillance on any citizen it can and will do it whether you have aadhar card or not. Additionally, we share lot of personal information when you open a bank account, apply for a mobile connection, apply for your visas and if required people can misuse it. But the advantages of Aadhar card is manifold. It allows government to account for each and every citizen of the country, devise welfare schemes towards targeted section, direct bank transfers of various subsidies and many other government sponsored initiatives. Until now there have been misuse of these funds and the deserving people are not getting the benefits. Things have changed. What Shekhar said is correct. Most of the rich and upper class people want to evade tax, make benami investments etc which are not possible if aadhar card is made mandatory for every transaction. These are the crying babies. Who should the government support? The former category of deserving people or the category of crying babies. The journalist in question should have also written a page on the advantages of aadhar card. If she had written about that too then people would have thought about her good intention. Here in this case she has a questionable integrity and apparently writing on behalf of some one else or have ill gotten wealth. After all, there are several bad journalists in this country – the Radia tape scandal made it clear how our journalists acts as conduits between rich and powerful politicians.

      • Ravi, may I suggest that you please have a look at the behaviour of rich and famous. They are not going to be deterred with Aadhar being mandatory. They don’t steal themselves, they steal through companies. Every one in the government knows who the thieves are – in each city. They are all together in it. Aadhar or no aadhar, they will steal. The US has SSN, what makes anyone think that there is no stealing in the US. It is done through corporates – tax havens and our fellows also do the same. It is fraudulent argument by the self-serving politician that aadhar will help reduce thievery. It is about stealing data, profiling people and harassing them as and when required. Modi’s Gujarat has liquor smuggling and it continue, what Aadhar number will help that. So does Bihar. Drug smuggling – how does aadhar help. Vypam and Mining scam – how does aadhar help. Let us stop being fooled by the crooks. They invent new ideas to pull wool over our eyes. Modi did not even tell us that he was married, we expect such a man to be worried about honesty. If I know it right, it is only in 2014 election form that he mentioned about him being married – earlier times the column was left blank. Expecting too much. We are still not sure about his education in “entire political science”. Electoral bonds are bearer bonds – how does aadhar help in hiding election funding. I am using Modi as an example, as he keeps telling us that he is the only honest man in the country. No where the politicians can be trusted. Let us keep our eyes and ears open – question their intent and then decide what is right. Otherwise, we will have these frauds conning us even more. Media is their friend – in most cases.

    • Thanks, Vikram. You have a very valid point. What India needs is a robust privacy law, Aadhaar or no Aadhaar.

  37. The way MODI/GOVT. is making AADHAR mandatory ,the day is not faroff,when WIVES will start demanding AADHAR from their HUSBANDS every night before they proceed further.

  38. Mr. Gupta has very conveniently ignored the basic fallavies of overall aadhar system. Some of these are-
    1. The lack of robust privacy law has made the data of the citizens susceptible to be accesed by the private people. These data are like assets which will be monetised by the private corporates and might be used against the interest of these citizens.
    Mind it, there should be discretion in the hands of the data owning citizens how much of it to be provided to “other persons”.
    2. The Aadhar system provide a convenient platform for Govt to effeciently collate various information and profile a person and target any political adversary.
    3. The infrastructure required to efficiently utilise the Aadhar project for the poor people. Please note that BharatNet phase 1 has connected only around 1lac villages with the high speed internet.
    Also there is no alternative in case when the fingerprint of the poor which can be damaged by hard labour is not recognised by the device. The poor in such case will be denied of his deserved entitlement.

    We have to be aware that State in any case should not be given excessive powers. Only those powers which is required for functioning of society has to be transferred and that too with strict scrutiny.

    • Since now I know that great Nandan also peeps into great Shekhar’s column (he seems to have exclaimed “Bravo”), I hope he reads the comment section and reads my personal experience about what happened with my spouse’s aadhaar number, touching on the robustness of aadhaar working:

      Because some one in the family wrongly gave her aadhaar number at the time of on-line updation, her aadhaar number has the other person’s name, address, phone number but her own photo and therefore presumably other biometrics. How on earth you should be able to on-line change name and such details corresponding to a particular aadhaar number without giving proof for such change? For the last more than two and a half months I am trying to extract a guidance to correct these details on my spouse’s aadhaar number but to no avail. Aadhaar centre in my city is unable to guide me, aadhaar helpline sends out routine, mechanical, unhelpful reply mails.

    • Bravo my foot, Nilekani. Afterall you being the author of this poorly conceived model of the Aadhaar Card full of holes regardless of the harm & ruin it can bring on to the Indian Populace are responsible for this sham. At best you can remain silent if not offering apology to the common man instead of mouthing nonsensical utterences such as ” Bravo” for a patently biased article by Sekhar.

    • “Printline Media Pvt Ltd, a venture founded by Shekhar Gupta, is pleased to announce the conclusion of its first round of funding with a stellar list of investors.

      N.R. Narayana Murthy, Ratan Tata, Nandan Nilekani, Uday Kotak Family, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Bangalore-based tech entrepreneur Rajiv C. Mody, Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Chairman, LVMH Asia Ravi Thakran, IIFL founders Nirmal Jain, R. Venkataraman, Karan Bhagat and Yatin Shah are eminent investors in the venture.”

    • If the person saying Bravo is real Mr Nilekani indeed. It is not surprising to see the expression. Some one who has been party to the decisions and implementation is not expected to say something else. I am also not surprised by Mr Gupta’s arguments as I see him as someone who is more on the right than being objective. If the State is anyway indulging in spying on its citizens (does not matter the colour of the party indulging in the spying), it does not mean that we make it easier for them and handover all the information through a single number to anyone including that from the private sector. Just because US has a single id, does mean India has to have, which is still not mature democracy, regulation is weak and politicians don’t care about people (not that we have saints in the US). We know that some of the biggest names have had data at the core of business model and they have been indulging in illegal data mining for years. How does Mr Gupta or Mr Nilekani pretend that it is not going to happen or it is the business model. You give me the backing which social media and search giants of today have had (financial investors – willing to throw many at bleeding other to non-existence and giving everything free and willing to take losses for a few years, regulators – keep their eyes closed when the risks are written all over, analyst who will sing for me, media that will only talk about the virtue of technology without bringing in the issues that involve discussing the risk), I will also create a FB or Google equivalent (not necessarily in the same time period). Give it free (anywhere in the world) and you can access all the information, as in most cases an ordinary citizen trusts companies and the government.

      I am willing to debate with Mr Nilekani and Mr Gupta if they are willing to go beyond beliefs and opinions. The article in the present form is a bunch of opinion without any serious effort to build a coherent arguments – from multiple perspectives. An example of the nature arguments that we need to look at – why does the bank hand over our phone number and email id to third party providers and they harass you all day to sell some service or the other? What is the guarantee that the Bank or the telecom company will not do that to my aadhar number or any other detail? Protection that is offered is a consumer complaint when the act is criminal!

      Disclaimer: I use a free mail service for uses where I know my id is likely to be stolen and handed over to people of all manner.

  39. A very poorly written article which is just rambling and incorrect information. I would have expected much better quality from an editor in chief. sigh.

    • You put it too mildly , No1 . What does class have to do with id card ?
      second people get SSN in USA or SIN in Canada which is just a paper or plastic number id ,Adhaar is more comprehensive and better id system which other countries will stive to get in future.

  40. The main thrust of rationale behind the oppose, is the coercion with which this government is heading on towards the Aadhaar inclusions.
    The writer is not worried about the life threats caused due to efficacy of the UIDAI’s Aadhaars securities.
    Let the government/RBI give an undertaking that any kind of personal loss, including the financials, caused due to the Aadhar will be compensated on thd spot.

    • absolutely. if rti was established, the practitioners of that should have been given special protection by the govts the then govt (and even now) they should make punishment to criminals who harm rti activists immediate and reciprocal – u kill a rti activist, u will be hung. u maim or burn them , u will lose limbs too. the govts left them high and dry. similarly if aadhaar is misused, the govts should punish immediately – both dont seem to happen. the govts shifted monitoring their own wanton inefficiency and corruption on the citizens without taking responsibilty for governance but tomtmming as if they are achievements. rti was just saalva-judum witout guns

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