Cash transfers: UIDAI’s newest battle is with finance ministry #uid #biometrics #aadhar

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200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





In its short life, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has seen its fair share of skirmishes. Its latest skirmish is with an arm of the finance ministry, thedepartment of financial services (DFS), the genesis of which can be traced back to their different models to make payments.

Under the UIDAI model, Aadhaar forms the basis of every transaction. UIDAI plans to capture every person’s fingerprint and iris scan and store it on a central database.

Also read: How Congress can use cash transfers as a main weapon in the 2014 elections

So, when the government transfers money, to avoid duplication, it does so only to Aadhaar-verified accounts. Likewise, for transactions. When a villager wants to, say, withdraw money from her bank account, her fingerprint will be verified on a handheld machine of an agent. That scan will travel for instant verification to the central database.

On verification, the agent gives her the money. The DFS has other ideas. Under its current secretary, DK Mittal, it has been aggressively pursuing its mandate of financial inclusion. A senior official of DFS says, on the condition of anonymity, its thinking is that Aadhaar will take time to reach everyone and that cash transfers can be rolled out without Aadhaar. A senior UIDAI official, who did not want to be named, describes this as a purely “anti-Aadhaar play”.

The DFS plan rides on an architecture created by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which was set up to create a national payment architecture. This National Accounts Clearing House (NACH) can make cash transfers into beneficiary accounts using their IFSC codes and bank account numbers. This system, which is essentially a beefed up version of the Electronic Clearing System (ECS), can handle 10 million transactions a day now and 40 million transactions per day after six months.

Eventually, says M Balakrishnan, chief operating officer of NPCI, the Aadhaar payments bridge will be subsumed into the NACH. “This will give the government flexibility to use either Aadhaar or bank accounts to make payments,” he says. But the story gets complicated as one moves closer to the field. NACH is not Aadhaar-dependent-it doesn’t use Aadhaar to identify the beneficiary’s bank account, but rather uses IFSC codes and bank account numbers.

As such, it is akin to the systems already being followed by the government to make NREGA payments electronically. District administration and panchayat officials send to the state department a list of those who worked on a worksite, their bank account numbers and the amounts to be paid to each of them. The state department, in turn, asks the lead bank to credit the money into the workers’ accounts.

The UIDAI official says the DFS-NPCI model does not close the payment loop. “Aadhaar has created a system where biometric authentication at the last mile also tells us the correct person got the money,” he says.

“In the DFS system, that loop of confirmation-the targeted beneficiary received the money-will not be closed.” Put another way, the UIDAI system uses biometrics to verify twicewhen money is deposited into an account and when money is withdrawn from it. By comparison, the DFS-NPCI model does it only in the second leg, by verifying biometrics with the bank; in the first leg, it relies on bank account number.

Adds Himanshu, a professor in JNU: “If the government later decides to migrate everything to Aadhaar, we might well find that the biometrics captured by the banks cannot be compared with those in the Aadhaar servers. We might need to capture biometrics all over again.”

UIDAI feels its way is the best. The UIDAI official points out that Mittal of DFS, who has stamped his personality on many recent decisions on financial inclusion, is due to retire in January. The UIDAI, he adds, might wait for him to retire or escalate the matter with finance minister P Chidambaram now. How this plays out will determine the cash transfers architecture that finally takes shape.


Immediate Release- Journalist assaulted in Assam for exposing corruption


A local newspaper reporter was severely assaulted in Cachar district of Assam state in North East India while he was returning home after collecting information, and taking photographs, of alleged irregularities in works under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) in Borkhola development block area. The victim was severely beaten up that caused serious injuries including breaking of his teeth. The incident happened at a place a little away from a work site at Sonapur Gaon Panchayat (GP) on 28 February 2012 allegedly by workers of a political party. Although the police registered a case against the attackers, instead of investigating the case, they registered another false case against the victim allegedly due to political interference. The victim is still traumatized and can not go out for work for fear of loss of limbs and life.

The case:

The BHRPC received a written communication from the victim Mr Sibir Ahmed Barbhuiyan on 7 April 2012 giving details of the incident and other relevant information. Mr Barbhuiyan is aged about 34, son of late Basarat Ali Barbhuiya and a resident of village Chandpur Part-III under the jurisdiction of Borkhola police station (PS) in Cachar. He is presently working as a local correspondent with the Dainik Jugasankha, a local daily news paper published from Baidyanath Sarani, Rongpur, Silchar-9. He also does a part time job as an insurance agent with the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). It is also stated that Mr Barbhuiya also works as the president of a village level non-government organization named Borkhola Gram Bikash Parishad that aims to work for equitable and sustainable development of the villages in Borkhola block particularly by ensuring proper implementation of the government rural development schemes. It is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 vide No. RS/CA/243/G/32. However, the BHRPC could not thoroughly inquire into the works and activities of the NGO and its members.

According to the information provided by the victim, on 28 February he went out for works in the morning as usual. After the day’s work when he was returning home at about 9 pm some job card holders under the NREGA informed him that the GP president (elected head of the village level local government body) Ms Nazima Begum Laskar and its secretary Mr Shew Kumar Pandey caused deployment of Excavator and Tripper machines for soil excavation at the construction work of a village road from Dispur to Ashrab Shah Mukam in Sonapur GP and that the machines were at work at the time.

The work was sanctioned under the NREGA which is an Act of parliament of India enacted to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The use of machines in such works defeats the very purpose of the legislation. The operational guidelines for implementation of the law issued by the Ministry of Rural Development, the nodal ministry of the government of India for implementation of the Act, also categorically say that no contractors and machinery is allowed and a 60:40 wage and material ratio has to be maintained. Therefore, Mr Barbhuiya felt he was duty bound as a working journalist and social worker to capture the evidence of violations of law in camera. Accordingly he went to the work site immediately and shot some photographs.

According to the information, after taking photographs when he reached Ashrab Shah Mukam a group of about 12 people led by one Liakat Ali Barbhuiya attacked him. Some of the attackers were identified by him as (1) Liakat Ali Barbhuiya, son of late Mujibur Rahman, (2) Abdul Mannan, (3) Jelu Mazumder, son of Gousul Mazumder, (4) Gousul Mazumder, (5) Anor Uddin, (6) Manjurul Haque, son of Nur Uddin, (7) Babul Ahmed, son of late Mujibur Rahman and other 4/5 unidentified persons. All of them are residents of village Sonapur under Borkhola police station and local workers of the congress party, the ruling political party in Assam. The victim stated that the attackers started beating him and continued to box and punch him till they broke one of his teeth and he fell unconscious. The victim alleged that the attackers then took away all his belongings including a camera (canon 14:4), a gold ring (4 Ana), two mobile handsets (Nokia 3110) with SIMs bearing numbers 9401311524 and 9854901235, one HMT wrist watch and Rs. 33,000.00 (thirty three thousand) cash of insurance premium that he collected that day and some important documents etc.

The victim further stated that when his senses returned he found himself confined in a nearby house belonging to one of the alleged attackers Gousul Mazumder and he sensed that they were preparing weapons to kill him. At this point in time the officer In-Charge (IC) of Bhangarpar police outpost Mr Robin Hazarika reached the spot who rushed after receiving information about the incident and rescued the victim but did not nab the attackers and recover the stolen stuffs and thus they fled away at his arrival. Mr Barbhuiya was then taken to a local hospital and later shifted to the Silchar Medical College and Hospital, Silchar (SMCH) where he was admitted in the surgery department and received treatment until he was released on 5 March.

The police officer told the victim that he needed to visit the police outpost in order that his complaint was registered while the victim was in severe need of urgent medical attention. Mr barbhuiya could not visit the outpost that night as he was at the Sonapur primary health centre (PHC). However, he managed to file a written complaint on 29 February at the Bhangarpar outpost. Still the police did not register the case promptly, let alone taking any actions. When the health condition of the victim deteriorated and he had to be rushed to the SMCH on 1 March and the police was repeatedly urged to take actions the Borkhola PS registered a case against the alleged attackers vide Borkhola PS Case No. 29/12 dated 1 March 2012 under sections 341, 326, 506, 379 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) for wrongful restraint, grievous hurt, criminal intimidation, theft and joint commission of the offences respectively. Sub-inspector of police Mr Robin Hazarika has been made the investigation officer (I/O) of the case.

Mr. Barbhuiya, however, alleged that even after registration of the case the I/O did not take any actions against the accused and investigation of the case did not proceed at all. No statements of the witnesses recorded. No stolen goods recovered. No arrest of the accused was made though they were roaming free. It is alleged that the police facilitated grant of pre-arrest bail of the accused persons from the Gauhati High Court by sending a biased and false report of the case to the court without investigations. After being repeatedly urged to take actions as per law, the officer told that he could not take any actions as he was asked by Dr Rumee Nath, the member of Assam legislative assembly (MLA) belonging to the ruling congress party and representing Borkhola constituency, not to take actions, the victim alleged in his written communication addressed to the BHRPC.

The victim further alleged that he believed that the attack on him was carried out at the behest of the MLA who wanted him to be killed because as a scribe he reported at different times stories containing allegations of corruption made by the people against her. He also mentioned that foundation stone of the particular NREGA work where he found violations of laws was laid by her and the local monitoring body is comprised of party workers loyal to her including the GP president and Liakat Ali Barbhuiya and some other attackers. However, when the BHRPC contacted Ms Nath for her side of the story she did not respond.

It is also alleged that under political influence the police registered a false case against the victim based on a complaint filed by one Ms Champarun Nessa (aged about 45 years) of village Sonapur Part-I vide Borkhola P.S. Case No. 30/12 under sections 341, 354, 376 and 311 of IPC on 1 March 2012. The sections invoked provide punishment for wrongful restraint, assault or criminal force on woman to outrage her modesty and rape. Although the case involves serious offence of rape the self-proclaimed rape victim was not medically examined and her statement was also not recorded by a judicial magistrate. The BHRPC believes that this case against Mr Barbhuiya is absolutely false and malicious filed with malafide intention of abusing the legal process to subvert the object of law, to weaken the case against the alleged attackers of Mr Barbhuiya, to harass and intimidate him. It goes against reasons and common sense that a person who sustained injuries amounting to grievous hurt within the meaning of section 326 of the IPC would be able to commit offence like rape soon thereafter. In fact, it has become a practice for unscrupulous influential persons to procure some complainants and cause registration of serious offences against human rights defenders and anti-corruption activists.

In view of the position and intent of the people against him and the negligence of the police in their duties and their abetment in harassing and intimidating the victim, he is apprehensive of more attacks and seriously concerned for his life and limbs and police harassment as well as for those of his family members and members of the Borkhola Gram Bikash Parishad. He said he always feels that his life and liberty is at risk as the alleged perpetrators are at large and consequently he could freely move and work.

The rights:

The BHRPC thinks that the information reveals a prima facie case of violations of fundamental rights of the victim to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a), the right to practice profession of one’s choice guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (g) and the right to security and physical and psychological integrity under Article 21 of the constitution of India as read by the Supreme Court of India. The non-investigation of his case by the police also entails violations right to truth, justice and reparation.

It is also a prima facie case of violations of human right ‘to freedom of opinion and expression’ as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. The rights violated in this case are also guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 to which India is a state party. This covenant including this Article is a part of the Human Rights Protection Act, 1993 by virtue of section 2 (1) (d).

It is obvious that the attack was carried out, if not to kill him, to take away the sense of security under which comfort Mr Barbhuiya works legitimately and peacefully both as a journalist and president of the Borkhola Gram Bikash Parishad against corruption and irregularities in implementation of rural development scheme of the government for practical realization of the rights of the people, particularly their social and economic rights. These circumstances make the definition of human rights defender as understood in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (also known as the declaration on human rights defenders) applicable in the case.

Human rights works including socio-economic and cultural rights by peaceful and legitimate means are both duty and rights of every individual as spelt out in the declaration on human rights defenders. Particularly Article 12 of the declaration imposes duty on the State to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or dejure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration.”

The Protection of Human Rights Act also mandates the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to inquire, suo motu or on a petition presented to it by a victim or any person on his behalf, into complaint of (i) violation of human rights or abetment thereof or (ii) negligence in the prevention of such violation, by a public servant under section (a) 12. It is also the mandate of the NHRC to encourage the efforts of non-governmental organisations and institutions working in the field of human rights under clause (i) of the same section, which includes protection of defenders.

The actions:

In view of the circumstances the BHRPC wrote to the authorities including the prime minister of India, the chief minister of Assam, the president of the All India Congress Committee and the chairperson of the Press Council of India and also filed a complaint at the NHRC urging them to cause the relevant authorities:

1. to conduct a prompt, objective and exhaustive investigation into the alleged assault on Mr Sibir Ahmed Barbhuiya, failure of police to perform their legal duties in investigating the allegations and the role of MLA Dr Rumee Nath in the alleged violations of human rights;

2. to take all necessary measures to protect the physical and psychological security and integrity of Mr Sibir Ahmed Barbhuiya and his family and all members of Borkhola Gram Bikash Parishad and their families;

3. to provide adequate reparation in terms of monetary compensation to Mr Sibir Ahmed Barbhuiya for loss of his equipments, documents and other valuables and for suffering physical and mental agony;

4. to guarantee that human rights defenders in Assam are able to carry out their legitimate human rights works without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including assault by goons and police harassment;

5. to guarantee that citizens and particularly the journalists in Assam are able to exercise their right to freedom of thought and expression without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including assault by goons and police harassment.

10 April 2012

Guwahati, Assam

For any clarification or more information you may contact

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Mobile: +91 9401942234


Worked under NREGA 6 months back, No payment yet

Raja from Satna district in Madhya Pradesh says his family members worked in some work under National Rural Employment Gaurantee Scheme ( NREGA ) in August last year but all the 15 workers have not got their wages. They have complained to administration this year about non payment but there is no action. He requests administration to made the payments asap. For more Raja can be reached at 07828395946

Listen to Him

Enrolment saga – Usha Ramanathan

People who had turned up at a school in Hubli, Karnataka,  to apply for Aadhaar.

People who had turned up at a school in Hubli, Karnataka, to apply for Aadhaar.

The incentive of inclusion appears not to be sufficient to get people to enrol for the UID, so the strategy has shifted to the threat of exclusion.

THE Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has ambitious targets to meet. The Unique Identification (UID) number, or Aadhaar, has been marketed as a number that will give the poor and the undocumented an identity so that they can tell the state they exist. It is being promoted as a means of reaching services to the poor. It has been projected as voluntary, with the UIDAI not imposing any compulsion. It has been presented as potentially easing the way to fulfilling Know Your Customer (KYC) norms. It is, then, something to which every resident is entitled – a sentiment that is reflected in Clause 3 of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 – and not something that will be mandated. That is how the project was presented to the public.

The UID, unlike the United States’ Social Security number, carries no guarantee of any service or benefit. Among those who have multiple identification documents, its appeal was bound to be limited. These aspects – of voluntariness and lack of sufficient incentive to enrol – explain the shift in strategy that was effected early on in the process with one objective: to increase enrolment. While the UIDAI continued to insist that enrolment was voluntary, it worked on agencies within the government to make the UID mandatory before services could be accessed.

The strategy to increase enrolment is reflected in the UIDAI’s document on “Public Health and UID”. The aggregation of records from various population databases such as those for the census, the public distribution system (PDS) and voters’ lists would still leave a large percentage of the population uncovered. Therefore, “every citizen must have a strong incentive or a ‘killer application’ to go and get herself the UID, which one could think of as the demand-side pull…. Helping various ministries visualise key applications that leverage existing government entitlement schemes such as the NREGA [National Rural Employment Guarantee Act] and the PDS will (1) get their buy-in into the project (2) help them roll out the mechanisms that generate the demand-pull and (3) can inform a flexible and future-proof design for the UID database…. Health and health-related development schemes could offer a killer application for the UID.”

In October, the Ministry of Rural Development indicated in a tender that it intended to link access to NREGA jobs with the possession of a UID. Academics and activists working on the NREGA protested that loading the UID agenda on the NREGA would cause harm to an already fragile system. On May 17, senior activists responding to media reports that had begun to circulate that the UID was to be made compulsory for NREGA benefits in Mysore wrote to the Ministry characterising such a move as “unfair, illegal and dangerous”. “It is also disturbing to read from the same reports that the main purpose of this move is not to provide a facility to NREGA workers, but to facilitate the completion of UID enrolment,” they wrote.

In September, it was the turn of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to declare by notification that refills of cooking gas cylinders would be available only to households that had enrolled for a UID. The incentive of inclusion was clearly not sufficient to get people to enrol, so the strategy has shifted to the threat of exclusion. Actually, though, given that 1.2 billion people cannot possibly be enrolled in the immediate future, this notification is unworkable.

In Kerala, the government has set out to enrol six million students spanning 15,000 schools so that the UID may be used to track them through their years in school. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has ordered an inquiry into this potential violation of the right to privacy and dignity of the children in the State.

Admittedly the UID project is an experiment – not a solution.

In the process of experimenting with biometrics, the UIDAI has enlisted registrars with whom it has memorandums of understanding and enrollers who it has “prequalified” to do the work of capturing data. Interestingly, while recognising that biometrics is “sensitive information”, it has washed its hands of responsibility for the safety, security and confidentiality of the data during enrolment and passed the buck to the registrars.

The “Guidelines” that the UIDAI has unilaterally framed for the registrars set out “principles and procedures”, but there is no evidence that there is any seriousness in enforcing these. For instance, it reads: “The individual from whom data is being collected should be informed the purpose for which information is being collected and how the data will be used.” There is no evidence of registrars or enrollers giving this information. In fact, it seems that neither registrars nor enrollers have any idea of what use the data will be.

The enrolment process has thrown up a host of issues already.

In January, reports emerged about working-class women in Mumbai being unable to enrol because of blisters and calluses and the effect of abrasive detergents on their hands. More recently, in August and October, there were reports from Bangalore and Delhi that senior citizens were unable to get enrolled because their fingerprints did not work. The credibility roadblocks that these reports were setting up were sought to be removed by the UIDAI by threatening enrollers with “action” if they turned any person away.

“Under Aadhaar, there is no provision to turn away residents who come to get themselves enrolled, and the quality of their biometrics can’t be decided by the operators on their own,” the Deputy Director-General of the UIDAI reportedly wrote to the newspaper that had carried the news. This is a prescription for “forced capture”: when the fingerprints do not leave an impression the first time, they are pressed against the plate a second and a third time, and when a fourth attempt fails, the machine gives up, records what is on offer, and the programme will let the rest of the enrolment proceed. The UIDAI has been silent on the consequences of forced capture.

Questions have arisen about persons with disabilities, some of whom may not have fingerprints or irises that meet the biometric standards required by the UIDAI for enrolment. A citizen journalist described the difficulties she had in getting an enrolment centre to accept her data – it needed the intervention of an official of the UIDAI in Delhi before the exercise was done.

In Pune, a man received his UID with his wife’s photograph appended to it. An article in The New Yorker describes how this embarrassment is sought to be averted: a computer operator sits in an office running through enrolment forms to make a cursory judgment whether the image matches the demographic information. “That day,” the journalist reports, “he had already inspected more than 5,000 photographs, and he had clicked “incorrect” 300 times: men listed as women, children as adults, photographs with two heads in them.” It seems there are infinite variations to the theme of error.

In May, “unidentified persons” walked away with two laptops and a pen drive which held data pertaining to 140 persons from an enrolment centre in a school in Hadaspur, Maharashtra. The back-up information was also on the same laptop. The data included “sensitive details” relating to passports, voter ID cards, bank accounts, photographs and a range of other information.

In July, five persons were arrested in Bangalore for issuing fake UIDs. The UIDAI heard about the racket when they were approached with complaints that “Global ID Solutions” was selling franchises to customers to take up Aadhaar enrolment for a non-refundable fee of Rs.2.5 lakh an enrolment kit. This episode exposed the perils of indiscriminate outsourcing.

In October, a software error resulted in hundreds of residents of Colaba in south Mumbai having their addresses recorded as Kolaba, Raigarh district. The enrollers claimed that this was a software glitch and that enrolees would just have to return another day to re-enrol. Only, the guidelines of the UIDAI do not have a provision for re-enrolling any resident.

One of the “documents” that can be used for enrolment is a “certificate of identity having photo issued by a Group A Gazetted Officer on letterhead”. On November 1, a doctor in a Tilak Nagar Hospital in Bangalore was found blindly signing certificates presented to him by touts who were collecting Rs.100 a certificate.

The list grows, indicating an array of problems, and these are only the visible and obvious errors. It raises questions about how infallible and incorruptible this system is. The problems being encountered behind the scenes are not yet known, and there is still no information from the UIDAI about how the de-duplication process is functioning, or how many have fingerprints that will not work to authenticate their identity.

Approved Introducer

The Demographic Data Standards Committee of the UIDAI had created two demographic categories: those with documents and those without. For the latter – and the poor are the primary constituents of this category – the committee recommended a system of “approved introducers”. The committee drew an analogy with the opening of a bank account without documents but with the help of an introducer. The account retains a link with the introducer. This was “generalised and expanded”, and the idea of the “approved introducer” was institutionalised.

Since the early days of enrolment, the awkwardness of the introducer idea has been evident. In January, the Pul Mithai enrolment centre in Delhi, which was located in a makeshift shack, was host to those whose jhuggis had been destroyed in the many demolition drives the city administration undertakes. Some of them had voter ID cards and ration cards and one of them brought along a driving licence, but these were not used in the enrolment.

As homeless people, they had been the subject of a survey conducted under the direction of a “Mother NGO” (non-governmental organisation) as part of Mission Convergence by which process the Delhi government drew NGOs into their executive fold. The survey resulted in a temporary card which carried their name, gender, approximate age, a photograph and an “ID number” that held a coded key to the point in the map where they were surveyed. It also declared: “This card has been issued on the basis of self-reported information by the cardholder….” In the UID enrolment process, it was found that errors in age, especially, were quite common. Since they were officially homeless, they were assumed not to belong to an address even when they believed they were residents of an identifiable spot in the area.

The enrolment form is not complete without an address to which the UID can be sent. So, an NGO lent its address. The columns asking for “information sharing consent” and for being given an Aadhaar-enabled bank account were ticked without anyone asking the enrolees whether they had other views on the subject. A young man of about 21 years had been the introducer for 70 people already – but knew none of them. He had no idea what his responsibilities or liabilities were should the information about the people he introduced be found inaccurate.

Some while later, the NGO received the UID numbers at its office. A visit in March revealed that over 250 letters from the UIDAI were addressed to various homeless people who were proving difficult to locate. Some months later, a similar situation arose in Geeta Colony in East Delhi where, between the date of enrolment and the time that the letter of information was received, the pavement had been cleared of dwellers. If banks do open accounts on the basis of UID enrolment, information will reach as far as the address on the enrolment form – the poor may never learn of it, and banks will find themselves answerable for misdirected mail and inoperable accounts.

It is no secret that the introducer system is failing the poor and exposing them to the probability of exclusion. Any alternative that is essayed, which does not care to know the poor as individuals may well end up stripping them of the identity they currently possess.

Usha Ramanathan works on the jurisprudence of law, poverty and rights.

Frontline Volume 28 – Issue 24 :: Nov. 19-Dec. 02, 2011


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