Without Digital Security, can there be a Digital India
“I supported GST when I stood there and I support GST when I am sitting here (alluding to the Treasury Benches and the Opposition Benches). I supported Aadhaar when I was there and I support Aadhaar when I am here. I supported the Land Acquisition Bill there and I support the Land Acquisition Bill here. On all these three, the former Leader of the Opposition and his Party have changed their minds when they have gone from here to there. So, I need no certificates of my intellectual integrity from the Leader of the House.”
These were the words of former Union Minister, Jairam Ramesh, as he led the discussion on the Aadhaar Bill in the Rajya Sabha for the Congress party (INC) in 2016. The then Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh had said back in 2012, “Our Government wants to use new technology in a big way to curb dishonesty and bring transparency in governance. Aadhaar is an important step in this direction.” INC has been consistent in its stance on Aadhaar. We have always believed that it is an important tool in ensuring better targeting of subsidies. We always maintained that it is a proof of identity; it doesn’t determine that just because a person has an Aadhaar number, he or she is entitled to a subsidy.
But, the Narendra Modi Government is trying to link Aadhaar to almost every Government service, without ensuring that it is capable of keeping the data secure, or strengthening our privacy laws. There are media reports which show that that Aadhaar data of Indian citizens are with companies like Accenture and Microsoft. A recent report by the Centre for Internet Society said that nearly 13.5 crore Aadhaar data was compromised. While Prime Minister seems to be in a hurry to force everyone to get an Aadhaar number, his Government has failed to provide the necessary safeguards required to ensure that there is no breach in security and that the guilty party will be punished.
The new Aadhaar law also gives sweeping powers under the name of National Security. If we look at the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, it doesn’t use the word national security. This might be because the word “National Security” can be misused because of its very broad nature. And we have seen how this Government has attacked citizens under the guise of ‘national security.’ Instead we should use the words ‘public emergency’ and ‘public safety’, which are present in existing legislations.
INC has always stood behind the concept of Aadhaar, and from 2010 onwards we were open to discussions to better improve this historic legislation. We have remained consistent and not let petty politics determine our positions on this issue. The same cannot be said of the BJP. Engaging in the crass and petty politicking and policy flip flops that he has now become famous for, Shri Narendra Modi had initially dismissed Aadhaar as ‘political gimmick.’ But, as his party formed the Government, Shri Modi started singing a different tune as he tweeted in favour of Aadhaar.