NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed for universal enrollment under the ambitious Aadhaar project by the year-end. At a recent high-level meeting of PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation), Modi asked Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and chief secretaries of states such as UP and Bihar which are lagging behind to accelerate and complete enrollment of all residents by December 2015.
Modi’s emphasis on the ‘JAM (Jandhan, Aadhaar, Mobile) trinity’ in his Silicon Valley outreach, is a clear indication that he wants Aadhaar to be one of the pivots of his anti-poverty strategies ensuring entitlements meant for poor and rural masses actually reach them.
On its part, the UIDAI, which has enrolled around 91.68 crore citizens since it issued the first Aadhaar number five years back, is confident it can rise to the PM’s expectations. As Aadhaar emerges as a tool to check pilferages in entitlements of welfare scheme, the government too seems to be increasingly convinced that the issue of privacy will withstand the scrutiny of the law.
Privacy rights activists argue that biometric information collected from all those who sign up for an Aadhaar number can be abused if not backed by adequate legal safeguards. The government, which feels that without Aadhaar, targeting of social welfare schemes will be hard, thinks otherwise.
An expert said there is no credible apprehension of breach of privacy if this were to be permitted as the UIDAI doesn’t share any personal information of an Aadhaar card holder, including biometric details to any other person or government agency. “The IT Act 2000 has every safeguard to protect the privacy of all sensitive information and Aadhaar is already compliant with the Act,” he said.
For instance, he said, the UIDAI refused to share with CBI the biometric details of everyone who was enrolled in Goa and the Supreme Court gave the verdict in its favour. The authority had moved the apex court after the Goa high court ordered it to share biometric data with the CBI which was investigating a 14-month-old rape case in Goa that is yet to be solved.