FM Arun Jaitley, unveiled his budget in Lok Sabha making Aadhaar compulsory to pay taxes, even if a tax filer has PAN. If Aadhar number is not there the Government has the authority to cancel PAN. According to Mr Jaitley, Aadhar-PAN link will remove the problem of multiple PAN cards and black money. Having multiple PAN cards is a crime and the wrongdoers can be prosecuted; but why are we harassing honest taxpayers with Aadhar.
Black money has become a magic password to push through this Aadhar surveillance agenda through a money bill. And Aadhaar is not foolproof either. There are reports of a single person having multiple Aadhar cards, even reports of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi illegals getting Aadhar. Apart from such fraud, there are other serious issues with the Aadhar.
Surveillance and Privacy issues
A blogger, St. hill mentioned in his tweet that by typing ‘aadhar number name filetype:xls’ a lot of ‘private’ Aadhar information is available in public. A single search of ‘aadhar number name filetype:xls’ gave over a thousand results. Files of land records of people of Karnataka along with Aadhaar number, Bank Name, account holder name and amount in account. This is a grave security risk. This info is available for any lay person. Imagine, the amount of personal information a person with access to the Aadhar DB can have?
Also, Aadhar collection centers have been outsourced to different companies – there is no guarantee that the company did not store any of the personal information it collected. Adhar-PAN link provides a convenient mechanism for companies, and govt to track your spending, travelling and other habits. The BIG BROTHER is watching you.
A naive frame of thinking is ‘I did not do anything wrong, why should I worry?’ Lutyens’ elite from across party lines do not have to worry even after humongous crimes like 2G, 3G, coal scams. It is the common citizens who should be worried about the state overreach. With Aadhar-PAN link, a nameless faceless babu can know where your kid goes to school, by tracing your check payment or bank transfer. This is extremely dangerous in states where crime, kidnapping are rampant.
All this information is lethal for an ordinary citizen and an existential threat when the state tries to use non-state actors as in 1984 anti-sikh riots. In a tweet Harnindh Kaur said:
“… insidious way Aadhar is creeping into our lives, … all I can think of is 1984 and how the mobs ran amok in West Delhi, all [had] voter ID lists. So many Sikh families were saved because they stayed in Hindu families homes or in rented places, imagine them having biometric data …”
Her fears are well founded, and anyone can be at the receiving end. Not too long ago in 1975, there was emergency imposed in Bharat by Indira Gandhi and civil liberties were suspended. Many people were jailed and tortured; many others went underground. With Biometric data in the hands of govt, and govt tracking us at every step of the way, anonymity will not exist any more and escaping the state wrath becomes even more difficult, if not impossible. Bharatiya citizens also need protection from state tyranny. The intent of the current Government notwithstanding, there is no guarantee that a future Government will not revert to Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial mindset – after all, dynastic politics is still alive and kicking even today.
This is the main reason Western nations do not collect biometric data of their citizens at all. Criminals, pedophiles etc are fingerprinted. And any person looking for a job in the schools or where they come in contact with kids are fingerprinted and checked against the existing DB (database). US social security number is just a number and does not have biometric data. Even then, their privacy laws are strict and are implemented vigorously.
SC of Bharat in 2015 reiterated its earlier order dated Sept 2013 against making Aadhaar mandatory. And in Feb 2017, the Karnataka High Court Justice AS Bopanna ordered the Karnataka government departments to provide subsidised foodgrains even without an Aadhaar card, in response to a writ petition filed by Sukanga GS. So, making Aadhar compulsory for paying taxes goes against these judgments.
The back-handed way the FM Jaitley is bringing this insidious PAN-Aadhaar link to file taxes is insidious. CM Modi on 8 Apr, 2014 had said:
“On Aadhaar, neither the Team that I met nor PM could answer my Qs on security threat it can pose. There is no vision, only political gimmick”
Master communicator PM Modi did not explain why Aadhar is good, now. If PM Modi thinks Aadhar is ‘necessary’, he could put the topic up for debate and discuss the issue and address the privacy and surveillance concerns of experts and citizens alike. Pushing Aadhar as a money bill is not consistent with either minimum governance or transparent governance.
Universal identification and its drawbacks
If one credit/debit card is compromised, it is bad enough to recover financially. If all your information is linked to one universal id and if that id is compromised, all your financial information is compromised. In compartmentalized systems, risk is reduced. In universalized systems, risk is complete and total. In a country where courts take take decades to give judgment in criminal cases, ID theft cases do not even form a blip on their radar. Hapless victims of ID theft are left to fend for themselves.
It is unfortunate that the Modi administration is not building strong institutions that can withstand an autocratic or despotic PM. Institutions that protect individual rights and liberty are needed in the country because too many institutions have been compromised by the dynasty. Instead, the Modi admin is ushering in an era of surveillance stealthily.
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