By Vidyut

Even as the constitutionality of citizens being coerced into providing sensitive personal data to private operators is being debated in the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has issued directives to States and Union Territories to actively involve Panchayats in identifying residents without documents and use a network of introducers appointed by the private registrars to get them enrolled in the UID Scheme.

The address information to be collected probably includes (if as per DDSVP report):

  • Care of (Optional)
  • Building (Mandatory)
  • Street (Optional)
  • Landmark (Optional)
  • Locality (Optional)
  • Village-Town-City (Mandatory)
  • District (Mandatory)
  • State (Mandatory)
  • Pin Code (Mandatory)
  • Country (Mandatory)

This is as per the report of the Demographic Data Standards and Verification Procedure (DDSVP) Committee set up by UIDAI. The private Registrar is free to include unspecified additional fields, though the Village Panchayat name is suggested as an inclusion.

This last bit becomes significant, because while the UIDAI retains limited information about Aadhaar holders, the SRDHs (State Resident Data Hubs), which currently operate completely outside the laws and in contravention of the Aadhaar Act that prohibits storing Aadhaar data, are known to maintain more data on individuals in the state that can easily be misused for surveillance.

This is already resulting in surveillance capabilities. 13 states have such databases that replicate Aadhaar data and attach more information about the residents of the state to it, as pointed out by digital security researcher Srinivas Kodali. The screenshot below, for example, is an example of how the SRDH Andhra Pradesh is able to map this data and geolocate Aadhaar holders.

That the official communication of the Union government directly mentions the development of a database of citizens at a Village Panchayat level as a result of collection of UID data – something not supported by the Aadhaar Act – is concerning.

The following is the text of the press release issued.

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has asked all the States/Union Territories to involve the Panchayats to actively involve in the scheme of uniquely identifying Indian residents to be initiated by the Uniue Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) very soon. In a letter addressed to the Chief Secretaries of All States/UTs the Ministry has highlighted that the Panchayats will have the following role in UID Scheme:

(a) In the case of residents having no documents as proof, UIDAIs approach is to use a network of “approved” introducers, appointed by the Registrars, who can introduce a resident and vouch for the validity of resident’s information. Panchayat functionaries, elected as well as officials, being the closest to residents in their areas, should be subject to certain safeguards, recognized as authorized introducers for citizens into the UID system.

(b) As per the report of Demographic Data Standards and Verification Procedure (DDSVP) Committee set up by UIDAI, the address details to be collected from the citizens will have the following fields: Building, Street, Village-Town-City, District, State, Pin Code etc. As per the Know Your Resident (KYR) plus concept of UIDAI, additional fields could be included by the Registrar. It is suggested that the name of the relevant Village Panchayat (VP) may be added as an additional data field. This will help in development of a database of citizens at VP level as well which would be desirable also because identification of beneficiaries under various schemes is generally done by VPs.

(c) As it is expected that Panchayat would have significant role in the enrollment and updation process, it would be useful to have Secretary of the Panchayati Raj Department as a Member of the State implementation Committee. Likewise in the District level Committee, CEO of Zilla Parishad could be co-opted as a Member.

Accordingly the States/UTs have been asked to initiate necessary steps and inform the ministry of the action taken.