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Government allays fears on Aadhaar, says it’s safe, secure

IANS | New Delhi |

Stressing that Aadhaar is completely "safe, secure and robust", IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday slammed the opposition for trying to paint it as a "tragedy" to the country.

Replying to a short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Aadhaars' implementation and implications, he sought to allay the opposition's fears that biometric and demographic data collected for Aadhaar could be leaked and misused.

"I want to dispel all misconceptions (about Aadhaar). Aadhaar is robust, safe, secure and totally accountable," Prasad said.

He also said that "the world is appreciating it and something which is giving result needs to be respected".

"Members have raised the issue of privacy. Are we invading privacy under the Aadhaar law? No. A categorical no," Prasad said.

He said the biometric and demographic data collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to give a unique identification number to a citizen was completely safe and there were enough safeguards against the misuse of this data.

"The policy is 'minimum information, no profiling'. For instance if a bank asks for the information about a potential customer, it would be provided just the limited information for its consumption," he noted, adding that there was robust legal mechanism to check any attempt to pry into the personal details of a person.

"In the last six months we have blacklisted 32,000 operators," he said.

Rebutting opposition's charges point by point, the Minister said that Supreme Court did not put stay on Aadhaar being linked to many things.

"We are the law-making authority. We are accountable to the people of the country," he said, adding that Parliament has come up with a law — the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 — in this regard.

"When the law is there, the law will hold the field," he said, clarifying that in case anything goes wrong in relation to Aadhaar, there is a law to deal with it.

Answering Congress' charge that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when in opposition had opposed the idea of Aadhaar, Prasad said that the BJP was against it as personal information of the people was being collected in absence of any law in relation to it.

He also assured the House that "no poor will be denied benefits" of various subsidies and welfare schemes or work for want of Aadhaar.

Taking part in the discussion, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an Independent member, said the issue of rampant fake Aadhaar entries was a huge concern, which was a direct consequence of the sloppy way this database was built.

"When there is clear evidence all over of fake Aadhaars, what safeguards has the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) taken before Aadhaar is being permitted to be used as an identification card or tool? This needs answering," said Chandrasekhar pointed out.

The MP said through the entire term of the UPA, Aadhaar numbers were issued with almost non-existent form of verification.

"This involved numerous small companies becoming enrollment agencies that were paid for each enrolment and who would collect the biometrics and collect documents without any responsibility of authencity.

"There are hundreds and thousands of reports of enrollment agencies that took bribes to issue aadhaar cards. You only have to google to see the extensive reports of fake Aadhaars and data breaches," he said