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Aadhaar Watch: Running report of Aadhaar-related questions in Parliament Winter Session 2019

This running report will document all Aadhaar related questions asked during the Parliament Winter Session 2019. We will keep updating this on a daily basis.

Direct benefit transfers

MeitY doesn’t know the impact of Aadhaar-ration card linkage

On November 22, Minister of State for Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Danve Raosaheb Dadarao, acknowledged in Rajya Sabha, that “a few” media reports said that beneficiaries faced “difficulties” in receiving their entitled quota of food grains because their ration card was not linked to Aadhaar. But, he added, these “allegations” of deaths between 2017-2019 due to starvation have not been substantiated. He had been asked about the number of starvation deaths that have been reported between 2017-2019, ever since Aadhaar became mandatory to avail subsidised food grains and cash transfer of food subsidies.

Dadarao added that MeitY has directed states and UTs to not delete eligible people only on the ground of not possessing an Aadhaar number. If Aadhaar/biometric authentication fails due to technical reasons (such as network/connectivity/linking issues/poor biometric of the beneficiary), people cannot be denied benefits under NFSA (National Food Security Act). However, people will still have to produce a physical copy of their Aadhaar number.

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More than 10 million children in elementary schools don’t have an Aadhaar

As of March 31, 2019, 12,822,322 students at the elementary level (class I-VIII) do not possess an Aadhaar number. In 2018-19, 119,827,939 children had enrolled in the government’s mid-day meal scheme, and 113,906,555 of those are elementary school students. 101,084,233 students in elementary schools have an Aadhaar number.

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This information was provided by Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal in the Lok Sabha on November 18. He had been asked about the number of children who had linked their Aadhaar to avail benefits of the mid-day meal scheme, but he only provided numbers for children in elementary schools. Also, these numbers don’t include children from Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya.

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Responding to questions raised by BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje, Pokhriyal further informed the lower house that 670,818 proxy/duplicate names had been deleted from the scheme after Aadhaar authentication. He added that “no eligible child” has been deprived of mid-day meal but did not specify how that was ensured.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) is covered under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, and beneficiaries are required to furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication.

Aadhaar linkage

No Aadhaar-social media linkage on the cards

The government is not considering any proposal to link Aadhaar to social media accounts of individuals, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written response to Lok Sabha MP S. Jothimani. In September, MeitY had sought UIDAI’s opinion on linking social media accounts to Aadhaar to know what is legally possible.

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He also highlighted some steps taken by UIDAI to protect the biometric data that it stores. Read more about it here.

More than 290 million PAN cards linked to Aadhaar, deadline Dec 31

As of November 11, 293,074,520 PAN cards had been linked to Aadhaar number, Anurag Thakur, Minister of State for Finance, said in the Lok Sabha on November 18. He also informed the house that linking PAN and Aadhaar is mandatory, and has to be done by December 31.

“The objective behind this move is to ensure unique identity of the PAN card holders and to weed out undetected duplicate PANs. This is also essential to prevent misuse of PANs and potential tax frauds. It will ensure uniqueness of PAN and prevent applicants/entities from obtaining multiple PANs.” —  Thakur

Thakur did not answer how the government would ensure that the safety of such sensitive data. Instead, he just said that the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Income Tax Act, 1961 and other applicable laws ensure confidentiality of data.

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Thakur also said that the “security assurance” of Aadhaar was “strengthened” by the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, and that the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019 has stringent penalties/punishments for offenders. He clarified that senior citizens who are 80 years old or more and don’t posses an Aadhaar number or Enrolment ID are exempt from this mandatory linkage of PAN and Aadhaar.

The requirement to link Aadhaar with PAN was first introduced by the Finance Act, 2017.

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Data sharing

Aadhaar data is not shared with private companies doing govt e-projects

Aadhaar data is not shared with private companies doing government e-projects in “certain states”, MoS in MeitY, Sanjay Dhotre, said. The question was ambiguous about which states were being talked about, and the answer provided no clarity. He was responding to questions raised by Congress’s K. V.P. Ramachandra Rao in the Rajya Sabha.

Rao also asked for particular references of cases of Aadhaar data theft in Telangana, and if the government had examined the issue of how Aadhaar data was captured by private agencies and stored on foreign servers.

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“Based on the Report of Inspector General of Police, West Zone, Hyderabad and I/c SIT, a complaint was lodged by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which has been registered vide FIR No.278/2019 on 12.04.2019 at Madhapur Gutalla PS, Cyberabad against Management of M/s IT Grids India Pvt. Ltd and others,” was Dhotre’s remark.

Context: In April 2019, 78 million Aadhaar records from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were found on the hard disks of IT Grids Pvt. Ltd, the firm which operates the Telugu Desam Party’s Sevamitra app. IT Grids’ possession of extensive Aadhaar data likely meant that the data was sourced from either the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) or the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH). Further, forensic investigation by the Telangana State Forensic Science Laboratory (TSFSL) found that IT Grids’ stored Aadhaar data of crores of people on the AWS cloud.

Aadhaar metrics

2,800 Aadhaar numbers generated for NRIs

As of November 14, more than 2,800 Aadhaar cards had been generated for Non Resident Indians (NRIs), IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed Lok Sabha on November 20, in a written response to questions raised by BJP MPs Ram Shankar Katheria and Ravi Kishan. Aadhaar enrolment for NRIs has been active since September 20 and they can obtain Aadhaar number after arriving in India, Prasad further said.

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To get an Aadhaar, NRIs need to have an Indian passport to establish their identity, which is also acceptable as proof of address and date of birth. However, other valid PoA and DoB documents as mentioned in Schedule-II of Aadhaar (Enrolment & Update) Regulations, 2016 and further amendments, will be accepted from NRIs, Prasad said.

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