The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) introduced the Aadhaar programme in 2009 to provide residents of India with a unique identification number. The programme aimed at streamlining government services and facilitating the distribution of welfare benefits to the needy. However, the Aadhaar system has generated intense controversy, with critics expressing concern about privacy and security risks. This article will examine the pros and cons of the Aadhaar system, and provide answers to frequently asked questions about the programme.
Pros of Aadhaar
1. Fraud Reduction: The Aadhaar system has made it easier to identify and eliminate fraudulent beneficiaries of government welfare schemes. Before Aadhaar, instances of people creating multiple identities to receive multiple benefits were widespread. Aadhaar enables the government to unify all the schemes and grants into one database, which reduces the chance of fraudulent registrations.
2. Financial Inclusion: Aadhaar is unarguably India’s largest identity verification database, reaching over one billion people. The rural and underprivileged population can now access banking facilities, insurance services, and other financial products. With Aadhaar, individuals can open a bank account and avail of other services without the need for extensive documentation.
3. Reduced Corruption: The Aadhaar system has significantly reduced corruption within the civil service. By linking Aadhaar to various services, officials are unable to demand bribes from common people for availing services. Aadhaar makes the process of availing a service more transparent and accessible to those who require it.
4. A Tool For National Security: The database’s vast size has become an important tool for national security because it acts as a record of the country’s entire population. When agencies perform investigations, they can use Aadhaar to verify identities, reducing the chance of impersonation. Kumar Rajiv Ranjan, Director-General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development, believes that “Aadhaar has helped considerably in detecting and eliminating fake IDs.”
Cons of Aadhaar
1. Privacy Risks: The Aadhaar system has attracted widespread criticisms for its privacy implications. Many people have expressed concerns about the government’s data security measures in the face of increasing cyber attacks. A data breach could have severe consequences, including identity theft, which could lead to financial losses or loss of reputation. Critics also argue that Aadhaar lacks an adequate framework for data-sharing consent.
2. Security Concerns: With the increasing rise of cyberattacks in India, security breaches of the Aadhaar database could result in the theft of millions of identities. Moreover, an unauthorized individual could compromise the system via hacking, causing significant harm. Private companies who have access to Aadhaar data could also compromise the database through data-thieving practices with external vendors.
3. Exclusionary Impact: Critics argue that the programme has a negative impact on the poor and vulnerable groups. The lack of proper infrastructure and internet accessibility hinders many people from obtaining an Aadhaar card. Limited accessibility also means that citizens who are illiterate, elderly, or disabled would likely face difficulties registering for the service. As a result, the inability to acquire an Aadhaar card disqualifies a person from accessing essential services like welfare schemes, subsidies, or even healthcare.
4. Reliance on Biometric-Based Verification: Biometric-based verification is at the heart of the Aadhaar system. The use of iris and fingerprint biometrics during enrolment can be inaccurate, and the chances of error increase with age. Furthermore, elderly people or construction workers with worn out fingerprints may have trouble enrolling in the system. These inaccuracies could potentially lead to either false rejections or false acceptances.
1. Is Aadhaar mandatory?
No, Aadhaar is not mandatory for all citizens. However, it is essential to obtain an Aadhaar card to access certain government welfare schemes and subsidies.
2. Is Aadhaar secure?
The Aadhaar system claims to use advanced security technology to protect data such as fingerprints, iris scans, and demographic information. However, there have been reports of data breaches and privacy concerns raised by critics.
3. Can Aadhaar be used as a proof of citizenship?
No, Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship. It is only proof of identity and does not confer any special legal rights to the holder in the country or abroad.
4. Is there any benefit of having an Aadhaar card for an NRI?
NRIs or non-resident Indians can apply for an Aadhaar card but only if they are residing in India for six months or more in a given year.
The Aadhaar programme is one of India’s most impressive technological achievements, and its benefits cannot be ignored. It has helped significantly in reducing corruption in government schemes, improving access to financial services, and improving national security. However, the significant concerns around data privacy, exclusion, and inaccuracies remind us that the programme’s implementation must balance the advantages of Aadhaar with the risks. The Indian government must work to ensure that its security measures are robust, and the Aadhaar programme continues to be an essential tool for social and economic inclusion.