How the push for Aadhaar and Cashless enhances surveillance

The National Democratic Alliance has stated that the decision to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes is aimed to make India a “cashless economy”. 

Aadhaar, is being presented as a crucial tool in the hands of the government and financial institutions to enforce a transition to digital payments and new opportunities built on “digital footprints” of individuals.

The coercion and illegal manner in which the biometrics-linked digital identity number which in the last few years has been been made mandatory for accessing essential services is now being repeated in forcing a switch to electronic payments, rather than this being a matter of choice of users.

National biometric identifications projects have been discussed and debated in other countries such as the United Kingdom (the UK started and then dismantled its biometrics database in mid-2000s). But an important difference is what is being built upon and surrounds UID/Aadhaar, is initiatives like India Stack being built by software “think-tank” and lobbyist group ISpirit, that several former UIDAI employees have now joined as “volunteers”: IndiaStack is building layers of applications on top of Aadhaar for use by financial services sector companies. Aadhaar is being designed such that citizens' data will be collected coercively by the government but made available for use both by the state, and private companies through systems that are built upon Aadhaar.

Where are citizens’ rights and freedoms within such a system?

Where are the safeguards and what are the protections? What have we learnt from the massive bank data breach experienced earlier this year when over Rs 1 crore of individuals savings were wiped out? Did Aadhaar-based system play a role in it?

With the attempt to route all payments through UPI which comes under the NPCI, lack of clarity about legal safeguards, data protection etc, it is time to think through these issues.


1. Legal scholar Dr Usha Ramanthan points out the links between Aadhaar and new fintech (Financial technology) firms.

Fintech firms are fighting to acquire specific data of individuals; to use it to market their products among other things. Citizens are being made to enroll in Aadhaar by linking essential government services to Aadhaar. The creators of Aadhaar have built Aadhaar to be an open platform on which fintech firms can build apps, at grave risks to citizens' privacy and right to life. Why is personal data of citizens being compromised and monetised on a mass scale, she asks.



2. Dr Anupam Saraph points out the violations and risks in which Aadhaar systems have been pushed on to the RBI in last five years:

RBI had maintained that the use of the Aadhaar number was in conflict with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the Basel Standards for maintaining customer information and its own extant guidelines. Not happy with the restrictions, the UIDAI pressed to push the RBI to lift the restrictions placed on accounts opened with Aadhaar numbers under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Professor Saraph also examines if the common point in the 3.2 million customers compromised in the alleged debit card hack of the 17-19 banks was the link to NPCI’s RuPay and UPI initiatives. 

Just weeks before the breach, the NPCI had denied a major breach of customer data of banks on its Aadhaar based platforms, he points out.



Kiran Jonnalagadda on lack of safeguards in use of Aadhaar in banking:

"Would you share a photocopy of your credit card and pray it’s not misused?...

The “Aadhaar card” is at best a receipt acknowledging a user’s enrolment. It is easily faked—far more easily than a plastic-backed PAN card or driving license—and should not be trusted as an identity card without corresponding digital verification (based on biometrics or demographic data), and yet the Aadhaar card is widely accepted as id proof thanks to the government’s own push"


3. Nandan Nilekani switching from advocating Aadhaar for welfare systems to pushing for Aadhaar systems use by business sector for profit in this foreword to a Credit Suisse Report. 

Remember, the last time Nilekani came to town, it was all about slaying corruption in welfare programs with Aadhaar. Having been exposed, with Aadhaar leading to exclusion in social schemes and high rate of biometric failures, he reinvents himself and Aadhaar, jumps on #cashless carriage. Now its become about being "data rich."  FinTech is unregulated, poorly regulated field, these companies want to make a windfall, disguising it as nationalism.


4. Global discussion on how cashless systems enhance surveillance: 

A future without money would mean a surveillance state where every transaction is tracked by banks and the state.

Poor people and small businesses rely on cash. A contactless system will likely entrench poverty and pave the way for terrifying levels of surveillance

Banks, governments, credit card companies and fintech evangelists all want us to believe a cashless future is inevitable and good. But this isn't a frictionless utopia and it's time to fight back

भाजपा सरकार का यह कहना है कि 500 व 1,000 रुपये के नोट वापस लेने का उद्देश्य है भारत को "युद्ध स्तर" पर एक "बिना नकद की अर्थव्यवस्था" बनाना. 

डिजिटल भुगतान के लिए आधार को सरकार व वित्तीय संस्थानों के हाथ में एक महत्वपूर्ण औज़ार के रूप में प्रदर्शित किया जा रहा है.   

पहले आधार, जो एक बायोमेट्रिक आधारित डिजिटल पहचान संख्या है, को ज़रूरी सामाजिक सुविधाएं प्राप्त करने के लिए गैर कानूनी रूप से लोगों पर थोपा गया. उसी प्रकार अब आधार का प्रयोग करते हुए लोगों को डिजिटल भुगतान करने के लिए मजबूर किया जा रहा है, न कि उन्हें अपनी सुविधा के अनुसार भुगतान का तरीका अपनाने की आज़ादी दी जा रही है. 

आधार-आधारित प्रणालियों में कंपनियों व सरकारों द्वारा लोगों की जानकारी माँगी जा रही है. 

पर ऐसी प्रणालियों में लोगों के अधिकार व पसंद कहाँ है?

सुरक्षा व बचाव के क्या उपायहैं? हमने इस वर्ष बैंक के डेटा के भारी उलंघन से क्या सीखा, जिससे 1 करोड़ रुपये से अधिक लोगों की निजी बचत उड़ गई? क्या इसमें आधार-आधारित प्रणाली की कोई भूमिका थी?

नोटबंदी को लेकर सरकार जो दावे कर रही है, उसे परखने की जरूरत है। एक फीसदी गलत लोगों की कीमत निन्यानबे फीसदी क्यों चुकाएं?

नोटबंदी के फ़ैसले के बाद से भारत के अधिकांश शहरी और ग्रामीण इलाकों में पैसे की कमी के कारण अफरा-तफरी का माहौल है. मुकेश दारा सिंह खेत में काम करने वाले मजदूर हैं. लाखों भारतीयों की तरह मुकेश दारा सिंह के पास भी किसी तरह का कोई बैंक खाता नहीं है. अब जबकि बाज़ार में मौजूद करीब 90 फ़ीसदी नोट बेकार हो चुके हैं, उनके पास पैसे का कोई दूसरा उपाय नहीं है. कई गांवों में तो अभी तक बैंक पहुंचे तक नहीं हैं. भारत में लोगों को अभी भी क्रेडिट कार्ड और डेबिट कार्ड के इस्तेमाल की आदत नहीं हो पाई है.

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