Letter to RBI Governor Dr. Raghuram G. Rajan

12-Nov-2015

Governor Dr. Raghuram G. Rajan
Reserve Bank of India
Central Office Building
18th Floor, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg
Mumbai – 400 001

[Subject: Your inexplicable support for Aadhaar]

Dear Sir,

I am noting with great disappointment the support that you are lending to the Aadhaar programme. One of the recent instances was at the Delhi Economic Conclave (The Hindu, 7th Nov. – Finance Minister and RBI Governor bat for Aadhaar). You would surely be aware of the serious concerns raised, both by the civil society and the Parliament, regarding the scheme itself and its hurried implementation. I think it would do your office and your own educational background much justice if you took a more principled stand. If you care to read further, I would like to explain to you why, other reasons apart, Aadhaar is technically a non-starter.

Aadhaar stands on the premise that fingerprints and iris patterns are absolutely unique and unchangeable markers assigned by nature, to every human ever to be born on earth. Such an assumption is fantastic enough to merit scepticism.

The first challenge occurs at the stage of Aadhaar enrolment. When one applies for Aadhaar, it is purely a gamble whether or not his biometrics will stand out sufficiently unique from the existing database of enrolees. This situation is already playing out on the field (please search “Aadhaar enrolment rejected” on Google), where many people are having their applications rejected as they are deemed to be “duplicates”. Not surprisingly, the majority of such people are manual workers, who would have long worn out their fingerprints.

To give a different perspective to the above, the first person to enrol for Aadhaar would have faced no challenge to prove his identity, but every subsequent person faces ever increasing odds stacked against him!

The second challenge is after one is issued the Aadhaar no., when for the rest of his life he would be required to authenticate himself against the biometrics he submitted at enrolment, for availing any service that mandates Aadhaar (which the govt. wants to be anything and everything).

Fingerprints and iris patterns do change over a person’s lifetime, for a variety of reasons – growth and ageing, manual labour, illness, surgery, etc. Then there are external factors, like different characteristics of the capture devices used at enrolment and at service delivery. What is the recourse, should one fine day the Aadhaar server fail to match? This situation is also playing out on the field, in Andhra Pradesh where Aadhaar has been linked to PDS rations.

It would help you to note that even infants and children are being pushed into Aadhaar. The scheme cannot survive if there is no provision to update one’s biometrics in the database, should they change later. But how will a person know when to update? Only when he is actually denied a service, which could happen any day, without warning. So you can imagine the kind of harassment the citizenry of this country is being set up for. Also, any update to the Aadhaar database would have to rely on other documentary proof of identity. In such case, what is all the fuss about Aadhaar being the “unique ID”?

The bottom line is this: it is fair to ask me to prove my identity using evidences that are in my control. I have no control over how my fingerprints and irises are going to change over the course of my lifetime. I also have no control over how uniquely they will stand out in a sample space of over one billion (and continuously growing). Hinging my identity on those will leave me at a perpetual risk of losing it.

I am writing this letter to you as you are in a position where your opinion will be heard by a lot of people. You can drag the govt. into a debate; where otherwise it seems to have made up its mind. It is obvious that you have been taken in by the utopian promises of Aadhaar, as probably most economists would have. In fact I wouldn’t have written this letter to you had I not known that you hold an engineering degree.

The govt.’s overdrive in this matter in recent months is clearly with the intent to take it beyond the point of no return, so that the due process can be circumvented. The interests are not clear, but surely vested. It is my request that you re-evaluate your support for Aadhaar with an independent mind.

I have also written to the Chief Justice of India in this matter (copy attached with this letter).

Sincerely.

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