Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Project Aadhar- Don’t we deserve something better?

Social Security Number. I was asked to apply for one as soon as I landed in the US. My medical insurance, my drivers’ license and all my details are tied up to this one single number. Some people went up to extent of saying that I cannot continue for long in the US, without this number. I always wondered why would something called a social security number be my national identification number. I started looking out for some gyan on this and to my relief I found that facts are different!

The Privacy Act of 1974 in the US clearly ruled out mandating SSN for identification purposes when it stated “It shall be unlawful for any Federal, State or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number.”

Now that leaves it at a par in purpose of use where we use our Indian voter’s ID, or a PAN number or even a ration card which along with serving a particular purpose identifies a citizen, it being a government issued card. Its nothing more than a number assigned to a wonderful system of government that brings you the benefits against old age, health, unemployment, and other risks.

Now the SSN is only a number, mistaken for national identity of an individual because of heightened dependency of the agencies that want to recognize an individual. Now, I always find it tough to understand the utility of a Multipurpose National Identity card, an initiative by Government of India’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) division, which has a conservative estimate standing at 150,000 crore rupees budget.

The primary purposes , the masterminds from the government claim, are save elections from rigging, stop widespread embezzlement of funds, prevent illegal immigration and hence terrorism from external sources. I say, elections that come once in a blue moon does not need a massive program like this one, embezzlement is primarily due to corrupt politicians and administrators, Internal security is a bigger risk than external threats for India now with the rise of Maoists and Naxalite movements.

Civil liberty is a big blessing of any democracy. Now, is someone wants to centralise everything and want to see what I do to eat to what I do to save. And from where I get treated to where I invest, my liberties are at stake. UIDAI itself admitted that there is no legal framework supporting this massive budget, overly ambitious project. Clearly civil liberty is at stake!
If that were not enough, if some corrupt politician or an administrator sells this information even in little chunks, it’s a huge security issue. Security of the system and hence the individual is at stake.

No doubt the best of minds have been roped in to lead this project. I am proud India wants to do something of this scale. Jingoism aside, shouldn’t I be thinking the real usefulness of this project. Shouldn’t we first think about creating a social security system like that in the advanced countries, for ourselves. India needs it more than any other country with majority of the population under poverty line and earning less than a dollar a day. So called benefit programs are limited to people in formal working sectors only. Most of the India population is not in that segment. Like in the US, UK, Japan, France and other countries, we should have a system which protects all, and not just who are self sufficient already, from old age, retirement, health, employment and other risks.

Now that is what is called a justified budget and useful investment by a responsible government, and see how everyone applies for a card for themselves, which can then be used for identification or whatever you need to do.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. may be this is the start... or are we talking two different things here... may be thats the reason they didn't name it as SSN and named it Unique ID. social security per se, its high time we should have something in place... and I agree with you that it will most useful in countries like India where kids have the right to own anything and everything that their parents have... as against countries like US - where there is no law that talks about heritage (read it 'vaarasatvam')...

    regarding, UID, i was wondering when is the government rolling out this... just checked out http://uidai.gov.in/ and found that its coming in the next few months...

    i am hoping to see a strict enforcement and security around this as people start using their ID's. everyone should be made aware of the importance of this total mission... i have doubts on how its going to fly with the people living in villages... hope nandan and team would come up with something interesting... chak de india