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Idea of UID

The idea of UID lies in change in philosophy of government’s mode of delivery of services.

Previously: Earlier govt used to deliver its services mainly PDS services as material . What that means? That means a poor was entitled to get certain amount of subsidized kerosene, grains, pulses, sugar etc from the nearest PDS distributor. These PDS distributors were hired by govt on contractual or permanent basis, different in state to state.

Problems with this system: Huge corruption. These PDS distribution shops were run by profit making intermediaries who used to steal the subsidized items granted for poor sections,and used to sell them in open market. How? Through millions of Ghost beneficiaries. After all the entire system was on papers, maintained by officials (Corrupt or not). The direct disadvantage was to poor section of society ( not to the cribbing Middle Class) whose rights were sold in open market. And you need not to be an Einstein to know how much a poor family depends on PDS items for survival. Not to mention the consequences of not getting them- Malnutrition, infanticide etc (overall poor HDI of country). Not to mention malnutrition is directly related to number of deaths in a society, we all know the scene of TB in India, no need to mention the relation between malnutrition and TB and the cost of medical facilities and how much poor can afford.

So basically the theft of PDS was a trigger for a viscous cycle.

New System:  The new system envisioned by Govt targets at delivering services direct to accounts of beneficiaries. For that , basic condition is that you must have a account with banks. This is where UID concept kicks in. Because it’s no easy for poor people who don’t have even permanent address to get an account open. The formalities of getting an account open are cumbersome even for normal people sometimes. Also many a times, these people didn’t have anything except ration card or voter id as identification, and many times, not even that. There was no proper identification system for these people for delivery of services, means too much mess, means mass theft possibilities. UID solves this problem. Infact recently RBI approved the UID as sufficient ID proof for getting an account opened. Big step- from providing a guarantee to just an ID.

UID Stops corruption?:  Yes it does. First the services are now getting into your account directly in the form of money. There is no possibility of any intermediary. You withdraw money from your account, go to open market and get the items you need. No theft possible, unless your bank does something wicked here which is highly unlikely, because the penalties are huge, and RBI is the quintessential non corrupt body, and because banking regulations in India are among the best in the World. So UID eliminates the millions of ghost beneficiaries, black marketing in one go. And we are too sensitive about Black Money, aren’t we? If you want to know how? Read how Brazil has successfully done this, which is role model for our project.

aadhar-hanuman-650

What about Aadhar Card of Hanumanji? : yes, there are reports of fake UIDs being created for illegal B’deshi immigrants and mythical gods, but can the system identifies these ghost accounts? Offcoarse yes! Data mining can do that. Test Engineers in software industry do that all the time while setting up test beds.(Too much technical,need another 100 page article to explain this in full). What if we can’t identify these ghost accounts? No Problem. Hanumanji can get a UID, but can he get a bank account through it? NOPE!!! How much ghosts account like these are there? For every one lakh ghost accounts UID eliminates in previous system, you can’t create more than 100 ghost accounts in UID. Anyways, 90-99% efficiency, isn’t it? Also UID registration system can be improved , can’t it be?

Concerns: So philosophically UID is a sound solution for delivering government services. But there exists a lot of concerns in its present format.

  1. No Legal Framework Yet– The UID bill is pending in parliament for too long. There is no legislative backing for the entire project. There is no legal framework yet provided for UID, means you can’t go to court if your data gets stolen or misused.

What can be Done: Pass the Bill, with proper legal framework for UID, with the strictest of the penalties in case of misuse.Time bound inquiry and trials can be adopted.

  1. Intel Gathering: Even if the bill gets passed in its present format, it required the authority to deliver user information to Intel agencies for “National Security”. The term national security is vague,and can be misused by govt to gather information about individuals which can lead to undue harassment. Not much is mentioned to tackle this concern.

What can be done: Define national security properly, and mention exact cases. Also bring such information sharing under the review, legal action and court case on the complaint of user.

  1. Liability: Also there is a weird clause that the right to register the complaint in court lies with NIAI, not with the user whose data was stolen or misused. It’s weird because NIAI is the body itself which will oversee the implementation of project. So what of data of a user is leaked by NIAI itself? Will it register complain against itself?

What can be Done: This clause should be torn up and thrown away. 😛

  1. Technical Glitch: A lot of concern is about the possible hacking of data by private cronies and then to misuse it for their profit.

What can be done: What big banking corporations are doing? Ever heard about user data of big banks like ABN Amro or Deutsche bank or even ICICI Bank getting hacked? They invest heavily on data security, and you would know what I’m talking about if you worked for some IT firm for a bank client. Follow strictest possible norms on data security, hire professionals for data protection and response. Also it would be ridiculous to think that pvt cronies would get info so easily, as the bill clearly mentions that NIAI can only share user info with any agency (Govt or Pvt) only after written permission from the individual himself. Means you can bar even other govt agencies to get your data from NIAI, leave alone private cronies.

  1. No clarity on how much info has to be gathered about a user yet, because the bill is still pending but the process of info gathering has already been started. Some claim, they are collecting way too much data than required, breaching privacy. But in anyways, they are collecting lesser information than NSSO surveys and National Population Register.

What can be done: Pass the damn bill with this information!

  1. Making it mandatory: Its a concern of a lot of a lot of people that though there is no legal backing to entire project , how come govt is making it mandatory for things yet.

What can be done: Without passing bill, no one can make it compulsory, because the matter will land up in court eventually,which will dismiss it on Article 21, right to life- right to privacy. But can be made mandatory after passing the bill with legal framework and penalties and taking the people into confidence on issues of data security.

Yes or No??: In current form, a big No. Should the project be scrapped? A big No again. If the above concerns are addressed in a bill ?? a big Yes. All in all I believe that the project has too many benefits to ignore and concerns that can be tackled. The UID system paves way for further government services not just PDS, like universal health benefits (Right to health ?! Congress manifesto?!!) , universal insurance, fiscal inclusion, government scholarships, government loans and micro-finance etc. But then these are not that relevant for middle class or upper class but are a matter of survival for poor sections of society. The middle class specially may not bother about these benefits. But all in all, its a trade off between possibility of data theft ( which can be handled) and corruption free benefits to poor (Their Right). So I tend to believe we can pull this off, we can take this risk and make this trade off. Also, entire Europe, US, Canada, Australia , Israel and many other countries have already adopted this. And though there were incidents of data hack in may be 2 or 3 countries (only,out of these many) ,they are still continuing with the project. Why so? Because even they know that these hacking issues can be handled. And as I said, all major banks and government revenue departments are already handling that for so long. So the question is – Would you stop making houses and live in caves just because there is a possibility of house going down in earthquake? I would say, lets build strong house and if strong earthquake brings it down, learn and make even stronger house for next one. At least that way, we are not living in the caves.

*Reference: http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/UID/Legislative%20Brief%20-%20UID%20Bill%202010_June%202.pdf 

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