Aadhaar – Boon or Bane?

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Akhil Verma, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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In a historic moment for India, landmark project Aadhaar has reached the 1 billion enrollments, fastest of any digital initiative in history. This makes it biggest bio-metric data in the world with 95 percent of the adult population already being covered. However, this news in itself is not a reason to celebrate as there are many challenges which lie ahead.

Firstly, the pace of implementation of Aadhaar-based identification process in the government schemes and services remains a big concern area. Secondly, availability of devices that support entry of biometric data and the enrollment of the target resident population is another critical challenge. Thirdly, there are concerns that once citizens share sensitive stuff such as fingerprints, they may be vulnerable to data theft or misuse by the authorities.  It could also potentially profile protesters or agitators in the future if used as a tool for mass surveillance.

The massive savings from a limited deployment of Aadhaar show that it is a powerful instrument against corruption, far better than creating another bureaucratic layer that only deepens the decision-making gridlock. There is little doubt that India needs to streamline the way it delivers benefits, and to empower citizens with a basic identification document. But this cannot be done without ensuring the strictest protection of privacy. There should be a watchdog which ensures that such a massive collection of data is not misused against the citizens; and hackers are not able to get access to it.

 

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