Parliamentary Panel asks govt for fresh law to give legality to UIDAI #Aadhaar #UID


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By PTI | 22 Apr, 2013,

 

 

 

NEW DELHI: Concerned over the functioning of UIDAI in its current form, a Parliamentary Panel today asked the government to come out with a fresh legislation to provide legality to the Authority.

 

 

“The Committee strongly feel that in the absence of legislation, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is discharging its functions without any legal basis,” the Standing Committee on Finance headed by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said while presenting a report in Parliament.

 

 

The Committee in its earlier reports had urged the government to reconsider and review the UID scheme to bring a fresh legislation before Parliament.

 

 

The Committee said it is also concerned that during the last three financial years (up to January, 2013), a huge sum of Rs 2,342 crore has been spent on the scheme and Rs 2,620 crore has been allocated in BE 2013-14, out of which Rs 1,040 crore is earmarked for ‘Enrolement Authentication and Updation’ pending legislative sanction of the scheme.

 

 

The Committee has asked about cost per card incurred by the government to generate Aadhaar cards by UIDAI.

 

 

That apart, the report said, despite an average growth rate of 7.9 per cent in the 11th Five Year Plan, there was no substantial increase in employment opportunities.

 

 

“The Committee are of the view that skill development is a highly serious area of concern and need to be given priority … The mismatch in terms of demand and supply of skilled workforce is widening rapidly.”

 

 

It said the government needs to more than double its existing skill training capacity of 45 lakh to achieve the ambitious target of skilling 5 crore people in the 12th Plan (2012-17) including 90 lakh in 2013-14. “The Committee also recommend that like Right to Education there should be compulsory skill development programme,” it said.

 

 

The Committee was, however, satisfied that 173 of centrally sponsored schemes (CSSs) at the end of 11th Plan will be restructured into 70 schemes. It will help streamline, restructure and rationalise such schemes to enhance their productiveness, it added.

 

Also, the Committee supported the 12th Plan’s goal for faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth. It said that to achieve the goal of sustainable growth, various schemes in field of health, education, water and protection of environment should be reviewed. It added that more funds should be allocated for treatment of cancer.

 

 

Among others, the Committee observed that the targets in the field of electricity generation, coal production and gas production could not be met during the 11th Plan. “The Committee also desire that an Action Plan may be formulated for giving thrust to renewable energy as an alternative source of power,” it said.

 

 

It also observed several deficiencies in implementation of Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana ( RGGVY) aimed at providing electricity to all rural households. It said that in certain states, even the minimum required hours of supply of six to eight hours of electricity could not be met.

 

 

“The Committee, therefore, recommend for the comprehensive review of the Scheme and rectification of deficiencies to ensure…improvement in supply of electricity.

 

 

 

 

#India – Why is #Aadhaar being shoved down our throats? #UID


 

Why is Aadhaar being shoved down our throats?

 

At Tembhli village in Nandurbar district, a day before the launch of the UID in 2010.The village received the first numbers under the project.

At Tembhli village in Nandurbar district, a day before the launch of the UID in 2010.The village received the first numbers under the project.

by  Apr 15, 2013

 

Electoral logic is driving the UPA towards a patent illegality: forcing people to part with sensitive private information such as biometric data or finger-prints without having any law to protect privacy in place.

As things stand, getting yourself an Aadhaar card issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is voluntary; you are not legally bound to part with this information to anyone, leave alone the UIDAI. A report in The Times of India today also flags off privacy concerns and emphasises that citizens are essentially being “coerced” to get themselves an Aadhaar number.

Is Aadhaar effective? Image courtesy UIDAI

Is Aadhaar effective? Image courtesy UIDAI

 

At last count, nearly 320 million Indian residents have been enrolled under Aadhaar – and all of it despite a warning from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance which wanted the scheme shut down.

Driven by its own electoral compulsions, the Centre is pushing states to make Aadhaar the norm for every kind of entitlement so that it can proceed with its direct cash transfers (DCT) scheme before the next elections. Aadhaar is supposed to provide foolproof identification of subsidy beneficiaries and weed out duplications and bogus entries.

The UPA thinks DCT is a vote-winner and a game-changer. This is why late last year the Congress announced that scheme would cover the whole country by the end of 2013 after starting out with only a few schemes in 51 districts.

To convert Aadhaar into a voter ATM scheme, you need to roll it out really fast, since elections could happen either later this year or in April-May next year. To make sure that cash is given out to people using Aadhaar, you need bank accounts to be linked to this ID number, and also marry it with data from the ministries advocating these schemes.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram has already announced that cooking gas (LPG) subsidy is next on the list for coverage under Aadhaar and direct cash transfers, but the linkage to bank accounts is taking time. Banks, in fact, are not chary of depending too much on Aadhaar, and The Economic Times today reports that if money is transferred on the basis of this identification, anything going wrong should be the UIDAI’s responsibility.

Why this tearing hurry?

Cooking gas subsidy is a big ticket DCT initiative because of the amounts involved: subsidies amount to Rs 430-440 per cylinder at current international crude prices. Since each family is entitled to nine subsidised cylinders a year, a shift to DCT would mean putting nearly Rs 4,000 into the bank accounts of beneficiaries annually.

While the political advantages of giving money to voters in the name of economic efficiency is understandable, the UPA has completely lost sight of one simple thing: there is currently no legislation in place to make the Aadhaar scheme’s collection of private biometric data legal; even though the scheme is being promoted through administrative fiat, the fact that so much personal data will be obtained using private agents is giving privacy advocates sleepless nights.

In fact, there is a good reason to stop Aadhaar in its tracks—it is already supposed to have covered 320 million residents—before the project is put on a legal footing. Reason: there is simply no protection if your biometric data falls in the wrong hands and your ID has been commandeered by someone else.

A public interest litigation in the Supreme Court has challenged the constitutional validity of the UIDAI headed by former Infosys scion Nandan Nilekani. As Firstpost reported earlier, the petition alleges that “There is no regulatory mechanism to ensure that the data collected is not tampered with or remains secure. When there is no legislation, there is no offence in parting with this information. And when there is no offence, there can be security issues.”

Ankit Goel, one of the lawyers for the PIL, has gone on record to say that “the state is asking for biometrics of an individual. The mere asking of biometric data is encroaching into someone’s privacy. It is tantamount to phone tapping. Whereas in phone tapping there is legislation, there is no legislation here… In the absence of a law passed by Parliament there can’t be any collection of private information. This is against the law laid down by the Supreme Court.”

The parliamentary standing committee on finance headed by Yashwant Sinha, which looked at the National Identification Authority Bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha, also came to the same conclusion: “Despite the presence of serious differences of opinion within the government on the UID scheme…the scheme continues to be implemented in an overbearing manner without regard to legalities and other social consequences.”

The committee rejected the bill, and Mint last December quoted Gurudas Dasgupta, MP, as saying that there was no need for it: “We found that the project is not necessary as there are many other ways of identification such as BPL (below the poverty line) card, voter identification card, etc. There is no merit in the project, it is just a wastage of government money.”

The point is this: isn’t it downright irresponsible for the UPA government to ask citizens to share vital personal information when there is such little political support for it and when there is no guarantee of how the information will be protected?

 

 

#India – It’s time to give women more tax sops #budget


Women & The Budget

It’s time to give women more tax sops

Prabhakar Sinha TNN

New Delhi: It isn’t just foreign investors who would have remembered the last Budget as a tough one. Even women lost out as the government withdrew tax benefits that were introduced in the form of higher tax exemption limit in 2000-2001.
In 2000-01, Yashwant Sinha, the then finance minister, had introduced a special provision under which the basic tax exemption limit for women was pegged higher than that for men. This resulted in lower tax liability of up to Rs 5,000.
While P Chidambaram retained the provision in 2004-05, his first budget of his second term in North Block, in 2005-06, he reduced the benefit to a maximum of Rs 3,927, including surcharge and cess. Chidambaram reduced the differential benefit further before Pranab Mukherjee finally withdrew it.
While introducing the provision, Sinha had said that the additional rebate of Rs 5,000 for women tax-payers “is equivalent to increase in the exemption limit by Rs 50,000 over that of men”. However, tax experts say that a preferential treatment for women is needed to encourage them.
Kuldeep Kumar, executive director (tax and regulatory practices) PWC India, said a preferential tax treatment to women is highly desirable as it helps in empowering them. At a time when government is giving financial help to girl child, a preferential tax treatment to them will not be off the mark. When the government has given reservations to women in Panchayats and is trying to extend the same in
Parliament, why is it shying away in giving special treatment in taxes to them, he added. In fact, the government should increase the exemption limit for women. This will certainly help women in acquiring productive assets. In fact, if the differential tax benefit is increased substantially, say up to Rs 20,000, a number of families will like to transfer fixed assets on their women members’ name to bring down their tax liability on their income.
A senior tax consultant, who do not wanted to be quoted, said even if such provision might lead to misuse to save taxes, it’s worth trying. She said in the short term, the misuse of the provision would be more pronounced than its benefit, but in the long term it will certainly help women empowerment. Another tax consultant said any move to give special treatment to women in taxing their income would be welcomed as it will ultimately help society. Kumar pointed out that such special treatment should be increased for single woman parent as a separate category. As it has become an accepted norms in cities, the government must give them concession to enable them to meet various challenges which they face as single parent.

 

If UID is voluntary, why is it used to deliver services? #Aadhaar #Nandanilekani


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200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

October 19, 2012 20:06 IST

 

 

How can Aadhaar be deemed ‘voluntary’ if service delivery is being made dependent on it, asks Gopal Krishna

Biometric data based 12-digit Unique Identification — Aadhaar number — linked welfare schemes are being bulldozed with 2014 elections in mind with the ulterior motive of altering voter’s behaviour by creating a ‘universal identity infrastructure’ linked to ‘unified payment infrastructure’.

Ahead of the next parliamentary elections, the launch of the 21st crore UID-Aadhaar number and Aadhaar enabled service delivery on October 20 contemptuously ignores Parliament, parliamentary committees, the National Advisory Council and eminent citizens and the lessons from the belated report from the Planning Commission’s group of experts on privacy dated October 16. What is evident is that there is an open war declared on sensitive personal information like biometric data which includes fingerprints, iris scans, voice prints, DNA samples etc. The fact is a centralised electronic database of citizens and privacy, both are conceptually contradictory.

The launch exercise of October 20 stands exposed because it is officially admitting that the UID is mandatory contrary to what was claimed at its launch in Maharashtra [ Images ] on September 29 last year. Making this compulsory by threatening to discontinue services has been roundly castigated by Bhartiya Janta Party leader Yashwant Sinha-headed parliamentary standing committee on finance.

On its website the Unique Identification Authority of IndiaImages ] continues to claim that UID-Aadhhar is ‘voluntary’ and not ‘mandatory’. The million dollar question which Sonia Gandhi [ Images ], Manmohan Singh [ Images ], P Chidambaram [ Images ], Montek Singh AhluwaliaImages ] and Nandan Monohar Nilekani need to answer is: how can Aadhaar be deemed ‘voluntary’ if service delivery is being made dependent on it. This is a grave breach of public trust. This is a deliberate exercise in deception.

The proposed ‘electronic transfers of benefits and entitlements’ through ‘Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of the beneficiaries’ is crafted to make it mandatory. The claim was that each Aadhaar number will be unique to an individual and will remain valid for life. The Aadhaar number will help provide access to services like banking, mobile phone connections and other government and non-government services in due course” is fraught with creating a platform for convergence of government and corporate sector as is aimed by the ‘transformational government’ project of the World Bank‘s e-transform initiative launched in partnership with the governments of South Korea and France [ Images ] and six transnational corporations like Gemalto, IBM, Intel, L-1 Identity Solutions (now part of Safran Group), Microsoft [ Images ] and Pfizer [ Get Quote ].

This scheme is unfolding despite the fact that the Parliament has not passed the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 proposed by the Congress-led United Progressive AllianceImages ] government. It is noteworthy that the Sinha-headed parliamentary committee in its report to Parliament has rejected the UID and biometric data collection terming it as an illegal and an unethical project.

One day ahead of the launch of UID in the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra on September 29, 2010, the statement of eminent citizens had asked for the project to be put on hold till a feasibility study was done, a cost: benefit analysis undertaken, a law of privacy put in place and the various concerns of surveillance, tracking, profiling, tagging and convergence of data be addressed. None of this has happened till today. The parliamentary committee endorsed these concerns and recognised that the project cannot carry on till this is set right. Many countries — the United Kingdom, China, United States, Australia [ Images ] and the Philippines — have abandoned such identity schemes.

Nilekani, as a member or chairperson of multiple committees of several ministries, has been trying to push for the adoption of the UID, and for re-engineering of the current systems to fit the requirements of the UID. There have been attempts to withdraw services such as LPG and other essential commodities if a person has not enrolled for a UID.

The state governments and citizens have been kept in the dark about the harmful ramifications of the world’s biggest data management project and how it linked with hitherto undisclosed other proposed legislations and initiatives. The UID number and related proposals pose a threat to both civil liberties as well as our natural resources like land as is evident from the Land Titling Bill and Nilekani’s book that aims to create a common land market to reduce poverty.

Notably, such UIDs have been abandoned in the US, Australia and UK. The reasons have predominantly been: costs and privacy. In the UK, the home secretary explained that they were abandoning the project because it would otherwise be `intrusive bullying’ by the state, and that the government intended to be the `servant’ of the people, and not their `master’. The Supreme Court of Philippines struck down a biometric-based national ID system as unconstitutional on two grounds — the overreach of the executive over the legislative powers of the Congress and invasion of privacy. The same is applicable in India.

Besides influencing the voter preference, once the Planning Commission’s Central Identities Data Repository of 600 million citizens is ready by 2014 and the related National Population Register of the remaining 600 citizens is ready it will emerge as a potential threat to minority communities of all sorts by some regime, which finds them unsuitable for their political projects.

The only saving grace has been the parliamentary standing committee that has taken on board studies done in the UK on the identity scheme that was begun and later withdrawn in May 2010, where the problems were identified to include (a) huge cost involved and possible cost overruns; (b) too complex; (c) untested, unreliable and unsafe technology; (d) possibility of risk to the safety and security of citizens; and (e) requirement of high standard security measures, which would result in escalating the estimated operational costs.

It may be recalled that S Y Quraishi, former chief election commissioner, had sent a dangerous proposal to Union Ministry of Home Affairs asking it “to merge the Election ID cards with UID”. Such an exercise would mean rewriting and engineering the electoral ecosystem with the unconstitutional and illegal use of biometric technology in a context where electoral finance has become a source of corruption and black money in the country.

The results of the October 2012 World Bank paper find that “voters respond to targeted transfers and that these transfers can foster support for incumbents”. The UID-Aadhaar and unified payment infrastructure proposed is an act in designing political mechanisms to capture pre-existing schemes for political patronage in spite of the absence of ‘legislative mechanisms’. It is apparent that non-UPA parties have been caught unawares into implementing the programme, which is designed to their political disadvantage.

 

 

 

 

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