Aadhaar rush ---------------- Opinion The Statesman 13 Sep 2013
- http://www.thestatesman.net/news/14782-Edits.htmlAadhaar rushEdits
- The Statesman
- 13 Sep 2013
While the Government of West Bengal’s new-found alacrity in the matter of issue of Aadhaar numbers to citizens may seem understandable, it is indeed surprising that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Home secretary have chosen not to visit the basics of the project whilst urging District Magistrates to complete the process of enrolment by 28 February 2014. As disclosed in a series of incisive reports published in this newspaper, the UID project has no legislative sanction and is proceeding only on the basis of administrative fiat. It is marked by horrible confusion, to the extent that even ministers at the Centre seem unsure if it is mandatory. There appears little concern that it is being used as a device of exclusion and one that holds out a threat of invading privacy of citizens. There has been little informed debate on even the need for the process; the reasons advanced for its adoption when it was first launched appear quite distinct from those that have made it seem the monster it now does. While governments in states where the Congress rules could be expected to toe New Delhi’s line, it is surprising that Miss Banerjee’s regime is embracing the project without so much as a raised eyebrow. Surely, the libertarians in West Bengal haven’t laid their heads down in the nearest cemetery!
There are several questionable aspects to the Aadhaar project. The processes followed to collect data are under a cloud with the efficacy of both biometrics and iris recognition having come under the scanner. Questions have been raised about links of the agencies selected for data-gathering. As pointed out in these columns, hasty enrolments have led to exclusion rather than inclusion and the latest instruction from Writers’ to complete the process within the next five months throws up the risk of more such mistakes being committed. With the process outsourced, there is little accountability. But the most critical aspect of the exercise that West Bengal has decided to embrace is that it does not yet have sanction of law. Indeed a draft Bill was rejected by Parliament’s Standing Committee of Finance with the scathing observation that it was “riddled with serious lacunae and concern areas” having, as the Committee noted, “been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose” and “being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion.” The Committee had decried as “unethical and violative of Parliament’s prerogative” the manner in which the Aadhaar project was being implemented while legislation was being debated. All these facts are in the public domain and Miss Banerjee’s government cannot feign ignorance. After the Committee rejected the Bill nearly two years ago after castigating nearly all its provisions, the Centre chose to keep it in cold storage. Surely that is reason enough for Miss Banerjee to address New Delhi on a basic requirement ~ legislative sanction ~ without rushing her DMs to meet deadlines.