Is Aadhaar a proof of delivery?
The Aadhaar Act was introduced as a Money Bill. To justify its being a Money Bill, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Aadhaar was required for the targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services. That’s why the National Identification Authority of India Act, 2010 was renamed as the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.
To satisfy the Finance Minister’s claim that Aadhaar is required to target subsidies, benefits and services under the Aadhaar Targeted Delivery of Subsidies and Benefits Act, Aadhaar would have to serve as a proof of targeted delivery of subsidies and benefits. The UIDAI would have to certify the delivery of subsidies, benefits or services to genuine and real beneficiaries. Unfortunately for Jaitley, the UIDAI distances itself from the use of Aadhaar for delivery of anything. It underlines that it takes no responsibility for the use of Aadhaar by anyone. Nor does it provide any certificate or proof of delivery of subsidies and benefits to genuine or real beneficiaries.
Does the UIDAI certify delivery?
The UIDAI is correct in its claim. The Aadhaar Act does not require the UIDAI, or anyone for that matter, to ensure targeted delivery of anything. It does not define any process by which targeted delivery can be certified or even proven. In fact, it does not even provide for establishing genuine or real beneficiaries are identified.
To certify delivery, the UIDAI would need to identify the parties exchanging subsidies, benefits or services. It would need to know the business process that completes the delivery of the subsidies, benefits or services and identify its successful implementation and completion. It would have to take responsibility of the delivery itself. To identify the parties as being real individuals, the UIDAI would need to be able to distinguish real from ghosts and duplicates. It would need to know the criteria for identifying a genuine beneficiary and obtain information that allows it to distinguish a fake from a genuine beneficiary.
To know the delivery business process and its completion it would need to be an integral part of every organisation that undertakes the delivery of subsidies, benefits, and services.
Let’s work through it stepwise.
Can the Aadhaar be used to distinguish real persons from ghosts?
Organisations use certified identification documents to identify beneficiaries of their subsidies, benefits and services. While rarely self certification may be accepted, never is an uncertified identification document the basis of delivery of subsidies, benefits and services.
The Aadhaar is an uncertified document. The UIDAI does not certify anyone in its database is a real individual. It cannot. It farmed out the entire enrolment process in a way that unbelievably created a billion records from data submitted by just 20 of the 157 Registrars charged with the enrolment. These 20 have no jurisdiction, presence or role in the 707 districts of India which its near 600,000 villages and 5,000 towns and villages. It is obvious that the data would need to be verified and audited to be of any value for any purpose.
Neither the UIDAI nor any external auditor, like the CAG, verified that each record in the Aadhaar database corresponds to a real individual who applied for an Aadhaar number. The database has not been audited to verify that the records contain biometric and demographic data that correctly captures real individuals who applied for Aadhaar numbers. It is no surprise, therefore, that the UIDAI does not certify any biometric or demographic information associated with any record. The UIDAI also confirms that the biometric of any individual cannot retrieve a unique record from its database. It also says that it has no idea about the number of unique biometrics, names, addresses, email IDs or cell numbers in its database. Clearly there is no basis to accept that the Aadhaar database has unique records of individuals either.
In the absence of certification of the biometric and demographic data associated with each Aadhaar, and a comprehensive verification and audit of the database, it cannot even be used to identify anyone, let alone distinguish real individuals from ghosts or to discover duplicates.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Aadhaar does not identify anyone. Identification would require the UIDAI to take responsibility to the correct or incorrect identification of individuals. Knowing that its unverified, unaudited and uncertified records can’t identify anyone, and that it can’t be present at the each point of identification, the UIDAI refuses this responsibility. Instead it replaces identification with authentication, or the matching of biometric or demographic data with the information in its records. This is treating anyone with a key to a lock or a password to a bank account as the owner of the asset or as one with rights to the property accessed by the lock that the key could open. Clearly the UIDAI cannot even establish identity of any beneficiary, let alone whether the beneficiary is genuine and real.
No wonder the UIDAI refuses to certify the delivery of subsidies, benefits or services to genuine and real beneficiaries or to anyone at all.
Can the UIDAI certify the business process of delivery of subsidies, benefits and services?
The Aadhaar Act has no provisions for the UIDAI to discover, monitor, or certify any business process of the delivery of subsidies, benefits or services. The Aadhaar Act does not have any process that can identify the initiation, continuation, or completion of any business process. It, therefore, that cannot certify the beginning, or even the end of a business process or its outcome.
The Aadhaar number cannot recognise a valid business process from an invalid one either. Nor can it distinguish a legal process from an illegal one. It cannot even distinguish the steps in a business process or even recognise a business process.
The use of Aadhaar in any business process, therefore, provides no information about the business process. It does not certify the business process as being free from corruption, leakages and fraud. It is no surprise, therefore, that the UIDAI does not certify the business process of delivery of subsidies, benefits and services.
Does Aadhaar serve the purpose stated to make it a Money Bill?
This means that the UIDAI isn’t in any position to target subsidies, benefits and services under the Aadhaar targeted delivery of subsidies and benefits Act. The use of Aadhaar is in no position to declare any improvement in ensuring delivery, plugging leakages or causing savings. Most of the Act fails the test of Article 110(1) of the Constitution.
It is all too clear that the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 does exactly the opposite of what it claims. The Aadhaar database is the world’s largest database of unverified, unaudited, and uncertified biometric and demographic information. It is the world’s largest database of ghosts and duplicates created in the shortest amount of time. It is the world’s largest database of that cannot identify anyone, and cannot distinguish real persons from ghosts. It sanctions the siphoning subsidies, benefits and services from the Consolidated Fund of India to ghosts and duplicates. It creates the perfect platform for a fraud on the people of India, to colonise them and loot their moneys. It is a constitutional fraud destroying the right to identity of every person by a sanction to identity by the UIDAI - by something that is not a proof of identity.
Aadhaar has masqueraded as what it is not. It is not a proof of identity or proof of anything. No data protection act or privacy acts can turn Aadhaar into a proof of identity or a proof of delivery of subsidies, benefits and services. No technology fixes can fix the foundations of Aadhaar. The Supreme Court of India has heard more than two dozen petitions on Aadhaar. There are dozens of issues that have been raised including the crucial issue of whether the Aadhaar Act itself is valid and Constitutional.
Three fundamental questions will beg for answer to validate the Aadhaar Act and the use of Aadhaar. Is the Finance Minister’s claim that Aadhaar is required to target subsidies, benefits and services under the Aadhaar Targeted Delivery of Subsidies and Benefits Act justified? Are rights guaranteed by the Constitution unaffected by replacing identification with authentication? Does replacing valid and certified identification documents and processes of delivery of subsidies, benefits and services with a baseless and uncertified Aadhaar, run by private interests, amount to an attack on the integrity of the sovereignty, the republic and democratic processes?
(Professor and Future Designer Dr Anupam Saraph is an internationally renowned expert on governance of complex systems)