Aad­har­less in 2012

Voice&Data - - EDITORIAL - <ibrahima@cy­ber­me­dia.co.in>

Even though 2011 had its own ups and downs, I still wanted to say Happy New Year to wel­come 2012. But I am not.

In fact, I am dis­turbed at the uncer­tainty that seems to be build­ing around Aad­haar (and I am sure there are mil­lions like me). For the first time in the his­tory of In­dia this unique ID num­ber plan would have given all In­di­ans an iden­tity, and a chance to get in­cluded in In­dia’s growth story—even if this growth story is for a hand­ful as many of us would ar­gue.

I know and ev­ery­body knows that a project of the size of Aad­haar (ID num­ber for 1.1 bil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in In­dia) is Her­culean. Just con­ceiv­ing a project of this size re­quires guts. And it needed even more courage to sit on the driver’s seat. Con­sid­er­ing that right from Anna Hazare to Man­mo­han Singh to LK Ad­vani to Si­taram Yechuri, ev­ery­body wants to reach out to In­di­ans and help them grow and pros­per, is get­ting a data­base of each and ev­ery In­dian not the first and most fun­da­men­tal step in the di­rec­tion? How on earth will any­body plan schemes for them and de­liver those schemes if in­for­ma­tion about them is not clear.

The Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee has con­demned Aad­haar and it has ev­ery right to. But if that re­sults in dis­band­ing the project, it will be one of the most un­for­tu­nate things to hap­pen in a coun­try that is teach­ing the world how to lever­age in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy. I strongly be­lieve that if re­quired, team UIDAI should go back to the draw­ing board once again, spe­cially to re—work on the tech­nol­ogy, pri­vacy, du­pli­ca­tion, and project man­age­ment aspects. These are valid ob­jec­tions.

An equal em­pha­sis will be re­quired to get all other min­istries in. I have been say­ing for a long time that there is a lot of op­po­si­tion—ma­lig­nant as well as be­nign—to the Aad­haar project from within the govern­ment. As of now Nan­dan Nilekani seems to have been left on his own to de­fend and sell the project. We need a pas­sion­ate leader to sup­port Nilekani, so that he can fo­cus on the project’s ex­e­cu­tion. Anna Hazare should be­come the cru­sader for Aad­haar.

Anna Hazare and all those who sup­port him want to end cor­rup­tion in pub­lic life and gov­er­nance. If they be­lieve that they can get rid of cor­rup­tion with­out cor­rect and up­dated in­for­ma­tion about In­dian cit­i­zens, they are sadly mis­taken. If peo­ple are de­nied their rights, if they can­not ac­cess many of the things avail­able to oth­ers, no amount of Lok­pal will save them from ex­ploita­tion, or pre­vent them from tak­ing re­course to il­le­gal meth­ods. I ap­peal to team Anna to sup­port Aad­haar rather than Lok­pal. About 80.70 mn peo­ple have al­ready reg­is­tered and 5.75 mn Aad­haar ID cards have been is­sued across In­dia within a year of the start of the project. And there are long queues out­side Aad­haar reg­is­tra­tion booths. Surely peo­ple want it and hope it will do them good.

Let’s not get bogged down by the ques­tion if Aad­haar is for very very poor peo­ple, very poor peo­ple or just poor peo­ple. Let’s have the data­base in place and then de­cide where and how to start us­ing it.

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