Aadhaar shows India’s governance is susceptible to poorly tested ideas pushed by powerful people

This series has flagged a puzzling trend. State governments are struggling to use Aadhaar-based fingerprint authentication in ration shops. At the same time, a rising number of companies are integrating Aadhaar into their databases. This is puzzling because from its inception, Aadhaar, India’s Unique Identification project, was pitched as integral to the modernisation of social […]

What happens to privacy when companies have your Aadhaar number?

Out today, the second part of my story on companies, aadhaar and privacy. As the previous story in this series reported, some companies are using Aadhaar to share customer and business partner information. This could aid the rise of data-broking companies like Acziom in the United States that hold ever more detailed profiles of people. […]

How private companies are using Aadhaar to try to deliver better services (but there’s a catch)

Aadhaar, as India’s Unique Identity Project is called, aims to give a 12-digit unique identity number to all residents by collecting their fingerprint and iris scans. As of September, its database, maintained by the Unique Identity Authority of India, held the names, addresses and biometric information of more than 105 crore people. The project was […]

why we need to talk about the companies building authentication apps off the aadhaar database

Monika Chowdhry, who heads the marketing division of Swabhimaan Distribution Services, the company that created TrustID, defended the app, saying it offers the valuable service of verifying people’s identities. “In our day to day life, we do a lot of transactions with people – like maids or plumbers. Till now, you would have to trust […]

By limiting Aadhaar, Supreme Court may have given government a way to expand its reach

By now the contours of the events are known. On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench the question of whether Indians have a fundamental right to privacy. The same afternoon, when the judges reconvened, they restricted the use of the government’s biometrics-based identity project Aadhaar to only the public distribution system […]

on aadhaar, npr and the nda

my colleague and friend vikas dhoot and i have this update on the continuing aadhaar and npr saga. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has backed the UPA’s Aadhaar programme for now, but that may not be the final word on whether it will be retained. The government has asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), […]

fresh trouble for aadhaar

Agencies contracted to enroll people into the Aadhaar fold have joined hands to protest heavy penalties levied on them by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that was steered by tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani till three months ago. The enrollment imbroglio is the latest in a series of shocks for the project in recent […]

on how the upa’s development initiatives might fare under the nda

out today, a story on the possible outlook for the upa’s major development initiatives — aadhaar, cash transfers, npr, rights-based legislations, the proposed environment authority, the land acquisition bill — once the modi government takes over.  It’s a space the incoming BJP-led government will need to .. Read more at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/35353059.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

the follies of rushing in…

yesterday was profoundly anomalous. i filed two stories. both, as it were, on aadhaar. one on a sting by cobrapost which flagged faulty enrolments. and the other where the supreme court said aadhaar cannot share its database with anyone without consent from the number holders. this is a significant development. over the last five years, […]

bad for aadhaar, good for cash transfers?

What is the future of one of India’s most high profile government programmes after Monday’s Supreme Court interim ruling on Aadhaar? And is there a collateral damage on election-facing UPA’s ambitious welfare schemes? The answers are starkly different. Aadhaar, unless the Supreme Court changes its ruling in the final judgement, has received a body blow. […]

enter, contingent liability

The government’s plan to make the Aadhaar number the centrepiece of the cash-transfer system is now facing opposition from a new quarter: banks. Several banks, led by State Bank of India, have expressed reservation against jettisoning their current systems in favour of the platform created by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues […]

india’s payments dilemma. continued.

The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC) could recommend that the Reserve Bank of India should grant limited purpose bank licences to telecom firms and other industries in order to promote financial inclusion. A working group led by Morgan Stanley India chairman PJ Nayak, tasked by the Commission to propose changes to the country’s payment […]

in which upa races towards its india shining moment

D-day is 18 days away. On January 1, the Congress-led UPA government will start migrating the delivery of welfare services to a new architecture: straight into an individual’s bank account, verified by a unique identification (UID) number called Aadhaar. It’s a soft launch. The first of the three stages will unravel in 43 districts where […]

In which the Congress starts thinking Cash Transfers could be its salvation in 2014

About ten days ago, a very interesting public meeting took place in a village called Dudu. Senior Congress leaders, including party chairperson Sonia Gandhi, PM Manmohan Singh, FM P Chidambaram along with five other cabinet ministers, not to mention Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, flew down to this Rajasthani village to tell a 30,000-strong audience about […]

india’s developing biometrics mess

today’s ET carries a story that i had written a while ago. essentially, a rising number of government agencies and private companies are moving around collecting fingerprints and iris scans. you always had the UIDAI and NPR. now, you also have different states’ PDS departments, NREGS, banks and their banking correspondent companies, post offices, pension […]

biometrics, banks and this seemingly ignored question of data security

In the beginning, only the National Population Register – and, a little later, Nandan Nilekani’s Unique Identification Authority of India – were supposed to capture and store biometrics. However, over the past few months, India has come to a point where myriad central ministeries, state departments and others are camping in the country’s villages and […]

a friend turned foe?

Anyone watching the telecast of the 2012-13 budget would have concluded that the Finance Ministry was solidly backing Nandan Nilekani’s Unique Identification Authority of India. The budget speech mentioned Nilekani by name. It mentioned the UID programme ten-odd times. And spoke about how Aadhaar would be used to overhaul existing subsidy regimes in India — […]

“Na Na Na”, said the government, “I Cannot Hear You Standing Committee”

A committee of MPs has questioned the budget’s endorsement of the Aadhaar project despite the panel’s rejection of a draft law which sought to give it legal backing. The 31-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, chaired by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, has asked the government to explain the proposed increase in budgetary allocations to […]

haryana’s tryst with e-payments

Haryana is one of the first states in India to move towards e-payments of welfare programmes. Early last year, it began stopped disbursing its social sector pensions through sarpanches, and began using banks and banking correspondents instead. However, after six or so months, the state government called off the project and went back to the […]

UID or NPR? NPR or UID?

The government’s indecision on which of its two arms should capture the biometrics of all 1.2 billion Indians is causing collateral damage. Frustrated by the issue not being resolved quickly and difficulties in the business, Wipro, one of the largest enrolment agencies empanelled with the Unique Identification Authority of India, is considering quitting the business. It’s […]

What I talk about when I talk about Jharkhand

Watch Jharkhand. It is the testing ground for two pilot projects that challenge the historical templates for delivery of welfare services and banking services. Jharkhand is trying to use technology to retool the delivery of these services so that every citizen in the state can access them – easily, efficiently and corruption-free . What it […]

Why the Banking Correspondent companies are unhappy with the UIDAI

Today’s ET carries this story about the ongoing tussle between the UIDAI, the body tasked with developing the architecture for delivering cash transfers, and the banking correspondent companies, which will have to do a part of the actual delivery. Broadly, the UIDAI thinks villagers should be able to access their bank account through any BC […]

Civil Liberties in an Age of Biometrics

Biometrics are the latest craze in Delhi’s crumbling corridors of power. The census department is capturing them. So is the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). As are a myriad others – banking correspondents, state governments, government programmes like the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, the ministry of rural development for NREGA workers, the home ministry […]

UIDAI runs into flak

as a followup to last week’s story about india’s spectacularly uncoordinated lurch towards cash transfers, my colleague vikas (dhoot) and i wrote this story about why nandan nilekani’s much-feted uidai is running into fresh opposition.  opposition, interestingly, coming from an unexpected quarter — other government departments. the complete story, here.

india’s inchoate journey towards cash transfers

and, at long last, a good combative story. A World Bank study released earlier this year enumerated the rot in Indian welfare programmes. About 91% of subsidised grain meant for the poor in Bihar never reached them. Only 32-51 % of the pensions for the elderly, destitute, widows and the disabled reached them. These are holes […]