Skip to main content

Ram Krishnaswamy foretold: Aadhaar not likely to provide benefits to poorest of poor

By Rosamma Thomas* 
Ram Krishnaswamy, who retired as an industrial noise control engineer in Sydney, after studies at IIT Madras, passed away in Australia on November 20, 2022 aged 75. He is mourned by a vast community of engineers who have passed through the IITs and now span the globe. He founded an organization called IIT Global. 
Deeply interested in developments in India despite living abroad, he followed the rolling out of the Aadhaar database from the outset and wrote a series of articles in collaboration with fellow-IITian Vicram Crishna.
Crishna says his “friend and inspiration” was equally if not more concerned about the enormous pressures on current students at IITs in India, and was appalled by the rising number of suicides on IIT campuses.
Krishnaswamy and Crishna had foretold several problems Aadhaar would cause. This list, from an article they co-authored published on news website Moneylife in August 2010, is worth recalling:
“Some of the potential flaws in the process are listed briefly.
(a) Digitally-stored fingerprints are not image scans of real fingerprints, they are digital maps, reduced to a finite number of ‘points’. This computerised system was designed decades ago to cut down the time and effort needed to manually match thousands of prints of previously convicted criminals with a criminal suspect, not to provide perfect identifiers;
"(b) Digital representations of biometrics invariably allow for both false positives and negatives, as the original purpose is either to facilitate security pass-through for a relatively small number of people (convenience), or to rapidly filter through large numbers of images by pre-matching each image to a reduced set of digital markers;
"(c) The value-addition of iris scanning is unknown for testing on such a scale. The immediate cost is stupendous: per-identity costs go up from about Rs 31 to about Rs 450, but the results are not known, since such testing has never been done. This is quite different from scaling up a relatively reliable known procedure; iris scanning may well be quick and reliable (even after optimising it with a digital shortcut and securing it from man-in-the-middle attacks during data transfers), but this is currently untested.”

The authors identified three kinds of database faults:
"Creational (deliberate or accidental falsification of identity, resulting in diversion of benefits from those entitled to them); design-based (incorrect verification due to compromise of the verification process, including man-in-the-middle attacks on data transfers); and procedural (for instance, when telecommunication faults or natural disasters create a need for rapid re-routing of verifications to alternate, or manual, methods)”.
There is no clarity on whether it will be possible to adequately safeguard the database, from its creation to its subsequent use
The article concludes: 
“To summarise, we have asked six simple questions here, to clear doubts about the deliverable merits of the Aadhaar scheme. We find it is not likely to provide benefits to the poorest of the poor in India; secondly, is not even designed to do so, definitely not in its first phase. on the contrary, it is likely to benefit the upwardly mobile part of the population.
"As far as solving the terrible problems that plague the delivery of benefits to the poor is concerned, a single reference point for verifications is neither the best-known solution, nor is the exceeding difficulty of building and operating a centralised database achievable at a reasonable cost and effort. There is no clarity, therefore, on whether making the effort is sensible at all.
"Also, there is no clarity on whether it will be possible to adequately safeguard the database, from its creation to its subsequent use as the ultimate reference. We found serious concerns with the methods being used to gather data in the pilot studies that point to the possibility of future abuse as well as manipulation of ill-informed people to make them cooperate.”

The Aadhaar project was initially estimated to cost Rs 45,000 crore; since its initiation in 2009, there has been no comprehensive audit of the project; in 2017, in response to a question raised in Parliament, then minister of state for electronics and IT PP Chaudhary said that Rs 9,055 crore had been spent on the Aadhaar project. 
Claims of massive savings from the project were later debunked, because the figure cited by the World Bank was shown to be the total value of cash transfers by the Centre to the poor. What could not be missed was that two engineers from the IIT could produce reports of greater depth and rigour on Aadhaar than World Bank.

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Union budget 'mum' on relief to marginalised communities facing climate change impact

Counterview Desk  ActionAid, an international advocacy group which claims to work for a world without poverty, patriarchy and injustice, has wondered if the Union budget 2023-24, which is being acclaimed for providing succour to the middle classes, has anything to offer to the India's poor. In a statement, it said, while the budget may have "prioritised inclusive development", the financial outlay for ensuring it "does not show the zeal as hoped." Stating that the Finance Minister said Rs 35,000 crore revenue would have to be "forgone" due to a reduction in personal income taxes, "fiscal prudence is not enough to expand public employment, social security, welfare, education and health expenditures considerably." "The need of the hour is to raise revenues through the reduction of revenues forgone and innovative mechanisms such as wealth tax on super accumulation of wealth", it added. Text: The Union Budget 2023 has given significant

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen