Petition to PM & Mrs Sonia Gandhi to halt implementation of UID, until feasibility study and cost-benefits established sign now

To: Shri Manmohan Singh, The Honourable Prime Minister of India

Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, National Advisory Council,
Government of India

Dear Sir / Madam,

This petition is to bring to your notice a huge wastage of public monies and a serious violation of rights of the people of India and to request your intervention to halt it until a proper study of all aspects, the feasibility, cost-benefits and Constitutionality, have been examined, by a Parliamentary committee and experts. We refer to the UID project that is estimated to cost Rs. 1.5 Lakh Crores. When spending such a huge sum of public money, responsible governments are to establish transparently, genuine public need and utility. This has not been done for the UID project.

All nations of the world have scrapped identical projects for valid reasons. The present government in the UK, in scrapping the National biometric ID Card project there said, вIt represents the worst of government. It is intrusive bullying. It is an assault on personal liberty. It is too expensive and would not deliver on the promises. We propose to do government business, as servants of the people, not their mastersв.

It is for the UPA Government, which prides itself of being for the aam aadmi, to decide whether they want to serve the people or be their masters.

The UIDAI Chairperson stated in a TV interview, that the UKвs National Biometric ID card project is different from Indiaвs UID project. This is absolutely false.

The UID project rests on the wrong assumption that the lack of identity is the reason for the poor not receiving governmentвs welfare benefits. UID is promoted as intended to prevent leakages of funds in welfare schemes, especially, the PDS and MGNREGS. UIDAI claims that the leakage is due to fake IDs, that UID would de-duplicate IDs and hence, prevent the leakage. This is a false claim / assumption. PDS leakages are due to several reasons. The leakage takes place at the procurement stage [by lifting quantities less than quantities for which, payments were made], in storage [writing off, as damaged, quantities greater than the actual quantities damaged], in transportation and in distribution [by false accounting, which show non-eligible people, as entitled and book stocks in excess of actual quantities]. All these are carried out in connivance with people at high levels of State governments. UIDAI has never clarified how PDS leakages would be prevented by de-duplication. One can only presume that UIDAI makes this claim on the assumption that state governments would ensure verification of beneficiary IDs at the retail end, namely, the ration shops. Such verification is not merely impossible, due to lack of electric power in most places, and lack of telecom connectivity, but also worrisome. The insistence on verification would lead to putting the poor at the mercy of the shopkeepers and petty government officials. The only way to prevent leakage of welfare funds is through honest state governments implementing the schemes using simple smart cards [no need for biometrics or central database], proper accounting and stringent action against the corrupt.

UID, promoted as it is, as a pro-poor program, raises hopes among the poor в hopes of food, jobs, shelter, bank loans etc. These hopes are, as seen above, impossible to realise. When the hopes remain unfulfilled, it would result in a severe backlash against the UPA Government.

A study by the London School of Economics [LSE] estimated the cost of the UK National Biometric ID Card scheme as, В 19.2 Billion! LSE stated that such a central database would itself become a target for terrorists.

In India, a terrorist organisation need not even hack into UIDAI's central database. They could access the data at the first stage of gathering data, since private companies are being used for this purpose and these companies, in turn, outsource the work to all and sundry.

Thus, the UID project is a serious security risk of Indian demographic & personal data falling into foreign hands. Apart from this, in issuing UID numbers, several documents such as PAN cards, driving licenses etc are being used as proof of ID and address. When several of these are known to be false, UIDAI database would merely gather erroneous data. If militants or illegal immigrants have any of these IDs, they could obtain UID numbers and even citizenship. To use the UID number database to check for duplicates in other databases would be a herculean task, almost impossible and could produce false alarms and harass genuine people. It could also ratify wrong data.

Technologically, the biometric UID project is flawed. вThe Economistв in an article on 1 Oct 2010, said, вTHANKS to gangster movies, cop shows and spy thrillers, people have come to think of fingerprints and other biometric means of identifying evildoers as being completely foolproof. In reality, they are not and never have been, and few engineers who design such screening tools have ever claimed them to be so. Yet the myth has persisted among the public at large and officialdom in particular. In the process, it has led - especially since the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 - to a great deal of public money being squandered and, worse, to the fostering of a sense of security that is largely misplaced.в

Manual labourers, the poor and factory workersв, fingerprints are вnoisyв в difficult to capture / authenticate. Iris scans of people with diseases, like glaucoma, are not possible. Both these biometrics could be faked.

The possibilities of abuse, [targeting of minorities, whistleblowers, etc], misapplication of data are serious enough to warrant a halt of the program and public examination of all aspects. It is never too late to take corrective steps. The UK Government went to the extent of destroying the data that had been captured.
It appears that you have been misled by the UIDAI into believing that issuing UID numbers linked to peopleвs biometrics and storing these in a central database would facilitate better targeting of governmentвs welfare benefits and prevent leakages. If people could be вTargetedв for providing welfare, they could also be targeted for other purposes. While UID's use in preventing leakages is questionable, its abuse in targeting sections of society & individuals for nefarious purposes is the real danger.
In view of the above, we request you to halt the program immediately and have it re-examined. You would then find that it is better to scrap the program rather than proceed with it. This would not only save the exchequer from colossal waste of public money, but also eliminate security risks to the Nation and prevent abuse of vulnerable sections of the population and individuals.

Thanking you,


Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore; Citizens Action Forum, Bangalore; Center for Internet and Society, Bangalore, Peopleв Union for Civil Liberties, New Delhi and other civil society organisations, leading citizens and people of India
Delhi and other civil society organisations, leading citizens and people of India

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Corinne CraneBy:
FoodIn:
Petition target:
Prime Minister & Sonia Gandhi

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