UID isn’t painless but neither is the status quo

India risks backlash hurrying through Aadhaar project

The pilot project in Beelaheri, a village of 2,000 people some 130 km (81 miles) southwest of Delhi, replaces kerosene subsidies with cash rebates and has been running since December. It has massively lowered demand for the subsidized fuel, which weighs on government finances.

But teething problems are immediately visible.

The headline’s a bit harsh but the piece is well worth reading in its entirety.

UID & Corruption in India

Nilekani slams Kejriwal, says passing a law can’t solve the corruption problem (IBN Live)

Speaking to CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, Nilekani said, “I m as much for fighting corruption as the next guy. But, I certainly don’t believe that by passing a law or putting more penalties on bureaucrats or creating more inspectors is going to solve the corruption problem. That’s absolutely the wrong prescription. Fixing delivery system is more important. Fight corruption by having a bunch of OB vans is not going to solve the problem.”

There’s a short video at the link. Sorry, I couldn’t embed it. I tried. I failed.

In a separate matter — i.e. the minister in the next article isn’t the person Nilekani “slams” above…

India minister denies theft rampant in $14-B food program (Business Mirror – Philippines)

India’s system of distributing food to the poor isn’t corrupt, according to Food Minister K.V. Thomas, who rejected findings by the World Bank, Supreme Court and news investigations that rampant theft is depriving as many as 160 million families of nourishment.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of the food meant for the poor is lost, and that is due to mismanagement, Thomas said in an interview at his office in New Delhi.

The World Bank pegged the figure at 58 percent, in a 2011 report based on government data, and blamed it on graft and wastage. A Supreme Court fact-finding commission declared in the past year that the distribution system in major states had failed in its mission.

UID Benefits: Better compliance, Reduced leakage, Increased efficiency and accountability

Move to plug loopholes in India’s welfare schemes (Gulf News)

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi will launch the nationwide Aadhaar Enabled Service Delivery on October 20 to plug loopholes in implementation of welfare schemes.

The applications will be launched from Dudu in Rajasthan, marking the second anniversary of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

“This will lay the foundation for cash transfers… The prime minister has already launched an architecture for the purpose,” Nandan Nilekani, chairman of UIDAI, which gives the Aadhar numbers, told reporters Friday.

India: Biometrics help make Old-Age pensions easier to collect

Micro-ATM using Aadhaar data delivers cash to villagers (The Hindu)

Rampati Debbarma, a 71-year-old tribal woman of Burakha village in West Tripura district on Thursday pressed her finger on an Aadhaar-enabled micro-ATM to get her old-age pension in cash.

“Earlier, I used to walk about 10 km from my village to Mandwi Block headquarters for withdrawal of my pension from Gramin Bank, but today I got it at my doorstep,” she said.

Friday Roundup

INDIA: It’s good to have goals — ‘Aadhaar’ card for everyone in Punjab by March (Daily Bhaskar)

ZIMBABWE: Biometrics in Border Migrant Reception Centre (African Press Organization) There seems to be a lot of migration within Africa. Biometrics can help countries gather better data about what’s going in that regard.

APPLE: Patent applications suggests hidden sensors suitable for biometrics (UK Register) “‘Electronic devices are becoming more and more sophisticated, capable of performing a multitude of tasks from image capture to identity verification through biometric sensors,’ patent application 20120258773 notes. That’s the good news; the bad news is that each new sensor clutters up the seamless shiny-shiny of an iDevice.”

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: Apple Wants To Use Your Fingerprints to Unlock Your iPhone (gizmodo)

Hope for a Grand Bargain among India’s ID Bureaucracies

PAN, AADHAAR, NPR govt looks at grand alliance (Business Standard)

The thought of making PAN the national identification number has lost its fizz but the government is now taking steps to link it to AADHAAR and NPR (National Population Register).

A provision has already been made to provide AADHAAR number allotted by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to the Indian citizens in PAN application Form 49A on voluntary basis.

The existing PAN holders can also add information of their AADHAAR number to the I-T department while applying for a new PAN card or making some changes or correction in their existing PAN details.

The Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India also proposed to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) recently to link PAN with NPR. Under the proposal, Ministry of Home Affairs will store PAN information along with the NPR data on the smart card to be issued as Resident Identity Cards.

That just might be crazy enough to work.

UID Update

It has been a while since we’ve had occasion to talk about India’s UID project and the Times of India has published a couple of articles that refocus our attention on it.

The two Times of India articles illuminate the way forward for UID. The first one linked below is very detailed and explains the bureaucratic arrangement between UID and the NPR (National Population Register) as well as the general outline for the permanent status of the initiative.

The second covers similar ground from a more sensationalist perspective. Both are worth reading because they rely on different sets of facts.

The third article linked below shows why UID is so important to India’s development. The goal of universal electric and natural gas service is only achievable in an environment of accountability fostered by a system where everybody has an ID.

Stand up for the count, no escaping the card (Times of India) 

In case you’re scared of missing the Aadhaar bus, count on the National Population Register camps.

The state Directorate of Census Operations and the UID Implementation Committee will set up permanent NPR centres for those left out in the first or second phase of data collection. The directorate, with its limited funds, has been publicising the compulsory registration for NPR, of which Aadhaar is a crucial part. But several residents have either been left out or have opted out because they don’t yet understand how important it is to be counted.

“NPR will continue forever, because every child over five years must be enrolled…”

Got Aadhaar number? Now wait for the real card (Times of India) 

Elated to be one of the “fortunate” few to have received the 12-digit Aadhaar number? Call us a spoilsport but it isn’t of much use. The glossy strip of paper is certainly not “the card” that everyone has been talking about for nearly five years.

Bengal is not among the 19 states where the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) directly issues the Aadhaar numbers. If you live in this state, your UID number has to be ratified by the Census Directorate before it is embossed on a Resident Identity Card (RIC). That’s at least two years away.

As of now, the UID lies as the victim of flawed policy. Those who had their fingerprints taken and retinas scanned a year ago are clueless about what happens next.

Affordable electricity for all in next 5 years: Manmohan Singh (Business Today)

He said in one pilot scheme in Mysore district of Karnataka, 27,000 deliveries of subsidised cylinders have been made after successful biometric authentication of any family member present at home.

“In the next phase it is planned to transfer the subsidy amount directly to the bank accounts of bona fide beneficiaries,” he said.

India: UID begins to incorporate iris, improves fingerprint results

UIDAI’s Iris Authentication proof of concept study successful (UIDAI Press Release – pdf)

The UIDAI has successfully conducted the proof of concept Iris authentication study in Mysore district of Karnataka. The study brought out the high accuracy levels (above 99.2%) achieved by iris authentication. A combination of iris and fingerprint authentication can further the goals of universal inclusion and pave the way for successful applications based on Aadhaar authentication.

The study was conducted in semi urban setting in Nanjangudtaluk in Mysore district of Karnataka between May 27th and July 30th 2012. 215,342 iris authentication transactions from 5833 residents were studied. 8 models of iris cameras through 6 different OEMs participated in this study.

This study has also brought out the specific improvement areas that biometric ecosystem needs to work upon to further improve the accuracy and coverage percentage. The detailed findings are documented in a report which is being published on UIDAI’s website. This will be followed by a workshop with the device vendors to guide them on the specific actions to be taken by them to improve algorithms and devices. UIDAI will then take up further field studies. These studies would also lead to formulation of iris device specifications for certification and deployment purposes.

It may also be noted that as a result of feedback to the biometric ecosystem, the performance of fingerprint authentication improved substantially from the time UIDAI conducted its first fingerprint authentication PoC to the last PoC. Same is expected in iris authentication domain too, which points that iris authentication has a scope of providing accuracy levels above 99.5%.

[CORRECTION] India: NGO [not NIAI] Sends UIDAI a Nasty-gram

Notice to UIDAI for issuing cards without due procedure (Deccan Herald)

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has been issued a legal notice for issuing Aadhaar cards even before the National Identification Authority of India (NIAI) Bill has even been tabled in Parliament.


@securlinx typo in tweet? Notice was not issued by NIAI. It was by one Matthew Thomas.
— Sastry Tumuluri (@sastrytumuluri) August 27, 2012

Thanks to alert reader Sastry Tumuluri for making me aware of my mistake. The letter was indeed sent by Matthew Thomas of the Citizens Action Forum. I couldn’t find a web site for the Citizens Action Forum. All I could find was this blog, last updated in 2005.

If I find their site, I’ll post it a link here.

UID & India Post: Delhi Edition

Lost in transit: UIDAI says cards dumped in bulk in city (Express India)

…UID cards issued to Delhi residents are being lost in transit by the postal service.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asked India Post to immediately plug the gaps in the distribution network, Kumar Alok, Deputy Director General for Administration, Logistics and Media, UIDAI, told Newsline.

He said the UIDAI has faced such problems across the country during the project’s first phase “but the issue was bigger in Delhi”.

This has been a problem for a while now.

India: UID May Ditch India Post (March 5, 2012)

UID news In and Around Mumbai

After a lull, UID is all over the news today reviving the All-India-All-the-Time aspect this blog occasionally takes on.

These two articles are pretty no-nonsense looks at UID in and around Mumbai.

Maharashtra’s Aadhaar model of linking govt data to be replicated (Business Standard)

The Maharashtra government on Monday got a boost from Unique Identification Authority chief Nandan Nilekani, who said the state’s model of linking UID data with citizen-related data compiled by various departments would be replicated across the country. Multiple departments “have data in silos which do not talk to each other” and linking this data with UID would bring in an integrated view and help governments to provide better service to citizens, believes Nilekani.

Maharashtra extends deadline for UID card by a year (Times of India)

Nearly one-and-a-half years after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched the ambitious scheme to provide unique identity (UID) cards at Nandurbar in Maharashtra, the state government has extended its deadline to complete the programme by a year.

The government now aims to cover at least 80% of Maharashtra’s population before March 31, 2013, as opposed to the earlier target of 100% enrollment by March 31, 2012.

“This Or That Person”: New film dwells on the notion of personhood

ID please? (The Hindu)

The Unique Identity number (UID or aadhar) project was introduced in India in 2009 and through the lens of the UID, the film looks at what identity documents means to people, and how the aadhar project is perceived.

The documentary dwells on the notion of personhood as seen by the India State, or as the director puts it, “It is a conversation with the State about ideas of inclusion, exclusion, surveillance and citizenship, and it does so by interrogating the Unique Identity number project.

“The Unique Identity Number that the State will give each citizen is meant to be the solution for a lot of problems, but in a system that is already suffering from structural problems how effective will the UID be?” questions Subasri.

Biometrics is about people.

If anyone knows anything more about this film or how to see it, please let me know.

The notion that UID is a threat to India’s security is absurd

It looks like they outsourced the headline writing to P Chidambaram. Nevertheless…

Fake enrolments in Aadhaar Phase-I spark security fear (Indian Express)

The first half of the article asserts security threats without exactly backing up the assertion.

The second half of the article actually describes some of the improvements upon Phase I sought by the UIDAI for Phase II. This part of the article is more instructive.

As for those who fear for the security of India, which environment is more secure?

STATUS QUO: Up to 500 million people (more than the total population of all but two countries) about whom the government knows nothing, whose status (or lack thereof) increases their likelihood of poverty and susceptibility to communicable disease, whom government’s attempts at assistance provide a magnet for corruption and graft, and whose lack of status increases vulnerability to person trafficking or other exploitation (I could go on and on).


GOOD: A 99% accurate national identity management regime ensuring access to public support, banking, telecommunications, and investment markets to all Indians. BAD: Some liars, cheats, scoundrels, illegal immigrants and spies will receive a legitimate ID with fraudulent information. BUT: From there forward they should be unable to maintain more than one identity.

So you’ve got to pick your poison. While no human system attempting to account for over a billion other humans can ever be perfect. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to see how UID can increase insecurity.

Even if there are a million terrorists hiding out among the 500 million undocumented people, and even if they all get Aadhaar numbers with fake details, at least he government has the fingerprints and aliases of a million terrorists and if those same fingerprints show up somewhere else with a different name, some questions for further investigation present themselves. That sounds like a security improvement to me.

The most prominent UID antagonists have consistently relied upon the “UID is bad for security” argument which essentially posits that it’s safer to remain ignorant about a third of the population than to make some mistakes in learning about it.

See also:
India: How Much Fraud is Acceptable in NPR, UID
Perfect is the Enemy of Good
Biometrics “Fix” Identity

Securities and Exchange Board of India: UID Valid

Sebi allows Aadhaar as valid address proof for investors (Times of India)

Market regulator Sebi today said investors can use ‘Aadhaar’ cards as a valid address proof for their accounts with brokerage firms, mutual funds, portfolio managers and other capital market entities.

‘Aadhaar’, a 12-digit individual identification number issued by UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), is already permitted as a valid identity proof document in the capital market.

Offering investment opportunities to the poor should be good for both the poor and the economy in general.

Data Don’t Have Feelings

This is an odd way to spin a fire at a server farm…

Fire at UID data centre, 20cr citizens’ data at risk (Times of India)

The data centre on the third floor is a small subset of the main data centre in Bangalore, said the spokesman.

“Little data was being stored here. Nonetheless, no data is harmed as we have a back up at 3-4 locations across the country,” the spokesman said.

So as not to single out the Times of India, it’s worth noting that the Economic Times is running essentially the same article.

My question is how exactly, as asserted in the headline, is citizen data at risk?

Only two possibilities make sense.

The first possibility is that the data is at risk of being lost, deleted or destroyed by fire. If that’s the case the “risk” is that all the staff work and the effort of those who waited in line to get an ID is wasted. But since it’s backed up at 3-4 locations, that’s not the case.

The other possibility is that is is less secure because of the fire, but burning data and/or destroying hardware doesn’t make it less secure in the sense that it can be abused, it makes it more secure in the sense that it is useless. Even NO2ID knows that.

Another funny quote from the article…

“The accident puts a big question mark over safety of data being collected from about 1.2 billion Indian residents and being housed in risk prone facilities.”

The only way this makes sense is if data have feelings. If they do, they might care about fire safety out of a sense of self-preservation but then again, they might not.

The Times of India and The Economic Times frequently do top-rate work on UID. This article is just strange. Fun, but strange.

Go-Time for UID in 46 Districts

Delivery test for Unique ID (Yahoo – India)

The rural development ministry and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) yesterday decided to use the unique identity (Aadhar) numbers with in-built biometric data for delivery of payments to individual beneficiaries under all ministry schemes.

To start with, the ministry has selected these 46 districts where the Aadhar coverage has been substantial.

“Payment of individual beneficiaries under various schemes is to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore per annum.

500,000,000,000.00 INR = 8,953,599,435.1083 USD
Indian Rupee US Dollar
1 INR = 0.0179072 USD 1 USD = 55.8435 INR