It is with a sense of deep concern that as per the investigative journalism done by Ms. Rachna Khaira of The Tribune, Aadhaar data base has been compromised at just Rs. 500/- as stated in the report that “It took just Rs. 500, paid through Paytm, and 10 minutes in which an “agent” of the group running the racket created a “gateway” for this correspondent and gave a login ID and password. Lo and behold, you could enter any Aadhaar number in the portal, and instantly get all particulars that an individual may have submitted to the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email.”
And has some one said in the Mirror Now TV live panel discussion on 04 January night, “… once data is compromised, it is compromised forever” as this is the biometric system resorted to for collecting data of a person for Aadhaar enrolment. How to recall, just like the old children’s story of Pondora’s box. And yet, privacy is being compromised and shared openly and defyingly despite the 24 August 2017 unanimous Ruling given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Nine Judges’ Constitution Bench that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right as per Art. 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Aadhaar Act, 2016 states that Aadhaar is voluntary as also the 23 September, 2013 interim order of Hon’ble Supreme Court that “Aadhaar is not mandatory but voluntary” but just the opposite is happening when almost everything requires Aadhaar linkage, despite the Five Judges’ Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is yet to take final hearing and Ruling on Aadhaar and which date of hearing, has been scheduled for 17 January, 2018.
And here comes the shocking news from The Tribune. Yet, as usual, UIDAI is in a state of denial, claiming that it was a case of “misreporting” as The Tribune has come out with the following facts:
- ‘Aadhaar data has been accessed by unauthorised people, and the UIDAI claim that “there has not been any Aadhaar data breach” flies in the face of that.’
- ‘UIDAI has admitted to the fact that a facility on their website has been “misused” so as ‘to steal data —– personal information such as names, date of birth, address, PIN, photo, phone number, email —— at will, for any Aadhaar number.’
- UIDAI, in para 3 of its reply to The Tribune ‘is suggesting that giving away of personal data is of no serious consequence.’ What could be more shocking, to say the least when earlier, it (UIDAI) had asked ‘210 websites of Centra;l and state governments that had mistakenly displayed personal details of Aadhaar number holders on various websites to remove information from public domain’ and that such a position expounded, defies the Honourable Supreme Court’s Ruling on Right to Privacy.
- UIDAI submits that Aadhaar is not a secret number to be shared with authorised agencies but the fact is ‘that unauthorised persons have gained access to peoples’s personal information.’
- Perhaps, given leeway by Aadhaar Act, 2016, UIDAI continues to deny facts staring at the face, no matter what the consequences Aadhaar holders have to bear and pay.
However, despite this rote denial by UIDAI, ‘multiple security agencies were understood to have got into motion as several made contact with The Tribune to get information.’
We sympathise with those who are Aadhaar holders in good faith but this investigation by The Tribune journalist and earlier news of leakages, fake Aadhaar and any one having resided in India for 180 days can have access to Aadhaar enrolment make several questions crop up.
- Can the Government guarantee safety of data ?
- Is Aadhaar fool proof ?
- Is Aadhaar making identity theft easier ?
- Is Government putting citizen’s data at risk ?
- Why is Government in a hurry to mandate Aadhaar ?
- Is Government unable/can’t control Aadhaar leaks ?
We need answers to the mentioned questions and sale of data base in any manner, must be stopped and that all holes must be concretely closed.
For those who are still not Aadhaar holders and/ being pushed by various means for Aadhaar enrolment, have a little bit more patience and await for the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s final hearing and final Ruling on Aadhaar which is to begin on 17 January, 2018.
In the meanwhile for Aadhaar holders, please do not comply with any request from unknown sources through voice call and/ SMS or person-to-person approach on sharing data base information, including verifying OTP without proper and valid authentication.
Rev. Dr. P. B. M. Basaiawmoit
For and on behalf of members,
Meghalaya Peoples’ Committee on Aadhaar (MPCA)