No UID Campaign in New Delhi - A Report

Posted by Prasad Krishna at Aug 26, 2010 02:35 PM |
The Unique Identification (UID) Bill is not pro-citizen. The scheme is deeply undemocratic, expensive and fraught with unforseen consequences. A public meeting on UID was held at the Constitution Club, Rafi Marg in New Delhi on 25 August, 2010. The said Bill came under scrutiny at the meeting which was organised by civil society groups from Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi campaigning under the banner of "No UID". The speakers brought to light many concerns, unanswered questions and problems of the UID scheme.

Since 2009, when the UID Bill was presented to the general public by Nandan Nilekani, the project has been characterized as a landmark initiative that will transform India, bring in good governance, and provide relief and basic services for the poor.  The scheme is rapidly being put in place; the draft Bill has been put before the Parliament of India and the resident numbers and data have been collected.

The UID proposes to take the finger prints and iris scans of every resident of India for authentication of each individual. J. T. D'Souza, an expert in free software technology exposed the flaws of the entire technical aspect of the UID project.  He presented the risks and loopholes that technology such as iris and fingerprint scanners pose, and the risks in using a biometric system as a form of identification system.  Contrary to the claim of the UID authority, that a scheme based on biometrics is foolproof, he explained how fingerprints  are not unchanging, both fingerprints and iris scans can be easily spoofed (with a budget of only $10), and there are many ways in which the technology can break, be inconsistent, or be inaccurate.

From a human rights perspective the lack of democracy in the entire project was stressed. Usha Ramanathan reiterated the fact that  no white paper was issued, the Bill has not gone through the Parliament and yet citizens’ data is being collected, citizens were given only a two week period to comment on the Bill, and in practice the UID number will not be voluntary for individuals.

The UID authority has posited the scheme as bringing benefits to the poor, plugging leakages in the Public Distribution System and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), as well as enabling inclusive growth by providing each citizen with a verifiable and portable identity. These claims were debunked. An identity number will not fix the waste of grain that takes place every day, the portability of the number raises new problems of accessibility and distribution of resources, and the MGNREGS system is already working to be financially inclusive with a majority of its members already having a bank account.

In response to hearing the presentations of the speakers and the comments by the audience, senior Member of Parliament of the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India (RSP), Abani Roy called for the launching of a massive campaign to resist this expensive and dangerous project through which several companies will gain massive contracts from the public exchequer.

The campaigners for No UID plans to hold further meetings across the country and lobby Parliamentarians in the coming months.

For more information contact: Mathew Thomas (Bangalore) [email protected], Elonnai Hickok (Bangalore) [email protected] , Sajan Venniyoor (Delhi): +91-9818453483 - Bobby Kunhu (Delhi): +91-9654510398