The double-speak of the CPI-M is increasingly becoming clearer with the orders released by the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala. The government has decided to make mandatory biometric punching system in all government departments and schools within six months and in civil stations in three months. This also goes against the Kerala State’s IT policy which said that Aadhaar linking will not be made mandatory.
This, however, goes against the manifesto released by the state which was essentially against the Aadhaar. Knowing fully well that there was opposition to the Aadhaar-based biometric system, the Pinarayi Vijayan government gave the impression that they were against privatisation of the data of the citizens. As soon as the elections were over in the state, General Administration Department (GAD) issued the order.
In the order, GAD stated that the Aadhaar-based biometric punching system will be linked to the SPARK salary software. It is being presented under the cloak of increasing efficiency of the staff and betterment of public delivery mechanism. It will be done through the UIDAI-approved National Informatics Centre. Each department will have to buy their own punching systems and earmark funds for it from their budgets.
Though the process of linking attendance with salary was initiated eight months ago, it could not take off. The Principal Secretary Biswanath Sinha is the officer behind it; he was earlier transferred to parliamentary affairs department in the aftermath of the floods for opposing the salary contribution put forward by the Left government for reviving the state.
“This order is primarily against the state manifesto which was against Aadhaar linking. Here the government is forcing the linkage of Aadhaar with distribution of the salary. The Supreme Court in its verdict had stated that the Aadhaar is restricted to Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act. Section 7 is for receiving benefits from the state. Salary is the right of an employee, how can they make linking it to Aadhaar mandatory. What if the employee doesn’t want to link their Aadhaar? The state has no other option,” questions Anivar Aravind, an Aadhaar activist and Director of the Indic Project.
“Too much dependence on Central systems destroys the state’s own IT competence. It will kill the state’s own capacity. The Aadhaar authentication costs money. It is ₹20 for each e-KYC and ₹ 0.50 for every Yes/No authentication. Also, these rates are not fixed. UIDAI will fix the pricing. Then there is NIC also in between. There will also be a charge there. It is nothing but a money scam. It will cost too much for the exchequer. Instead the same amount of money or lesser should be used to build own attendance systems,” emphasises Aravind.
It does seem like the state has wilfully forgotten its own fiasco with National Informatics Centre’s vehicle registration plan. Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had blocked issuing of certificate of registration (RC) for all classes of motor vehicles in Kerala for not having integrated the so-called ‘high security registration plate’ (HSRP) with the ‘Vahan’ database, which is a digital national vehicle registry portal. From April 1, no vehicle in Kerala has been given RC. The only states which could issue RC were Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, because all the three were using their own software instead of ‘Vahan’.
“I understand that the government wants to ensure attendance. There are other ways to do it. Create own attendance management systems without Aadhaar-based biometrics being required,” explained Aravind.
Another Kerala-based policy watcher questioned the Vijayan-led Left government’s sudden proximity to certain businessmen with agendas. “Suddenly the Left government has turned pro-businessmen; all of this is without any plan. Why is the Nandan Nilekani-promoted UIDAI suddenly finding favour with the Left at a time when it is increasingly becoming clear that Aadhaar is failing,” he questioned, requesting anonymity.
National Herald contacted the Kerala Government for a response. As and when an official responds, the story will be updated.