8 Jun 2011

Five truths you didn't know about UID

Truth #1: UID scheme can never be implemented for ALL residents of India
India's population is growing at a healthy clip of about 2.4%. That is compounded every year, i.e. If it is 2.4% of 1.2 billion in 2011, it will be 2.4% of 1.2 billion + 2.4% in 2012, and so on.

It is MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for the UID scheme to catch up to this exponential population growth curve.

If someone says otherwise, I suspect, they lie.

Truth #2: UID is meant to be eventually made COMPULSORY
The UID is NOT a voluntary scheme... It is designed to be inescapable. It is primarily aimed at the most vulnerable sections of society and the largely uneducated rural populations. The aspects of life tied most closely to the UID scheme are Employment (NEGRA), food (PDS), healthcare (public hospitals), and education (public schools). Exclusion from any of these can easily be used as an threat to submit to the UID.

The threat is already VERY REAL for some.

Truth #3: UID can easily be used as a tool for ostracising anyone, and even deny services they are entitled to
The UIDAI has NO SET PROCEDURE to deal with the dead and deceased. The current idea is to retain the data and ID number for at least 10 years of inactivity. Essentialy, the identity will exist - but only in a binary limbo.

Theoreticaly, a living person can be a made - to borrow a word from Orwell's 1984 - an "unperson"... or, a more Latin American theme - someone may "disappear" from the database - and technically, cease to exist!

Truth #4: UID is near-useless as a national security tool
The biometric scans of 10 digits (all fingers on both hands) and scan of irises of both eyes are stored as jpeg images. E.g. If an investigation turns up a fingerprint, unlike what you see on CSI, it is nearly impossible to retrieve the identity of the individual. It would mean matching it to over 10 billion fingerprints (10 digits of 1 billion individuals).

A highly onerous task unless the UIDAI also profiles India's residents (which they claim they would not do) by sex, age, demography, ethnicity, domicile, etc. But even then, given the size of India's population, it helps narrow the database only slightly.

Despite claims of both the government and the UIDAI, the UID is near-useless as a national security tool!

Truth #5: UID is useful almost EXCLUSIVELY in two situations
UID is a passive proof-of-identity. Meaning, it can ONLY be used to prove you are indeed who you claim to be.

Nandan Nilekani and the UIDAI will spend about Rs3000 crores of government money for a type of ID that is useful ONLY in two situations: 1.) Immigration and 2.) Financial transactions (KYC).

Since the poor of India are not going to have much to do with immigration services... it all points to the possible REAL objective of the UID: IT IS A BANKING TOOL!

Hmmm... Could this be related to the utterly strange fact that the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of ICICI - a private foreign financial institution - sits on the Biometrics Committee of the UIDAI?

(Below: No. 5, Mr. Pravir Vora, ICICI)

Since so one has bothered to tell the public, about how this strange connection has come to be, I am going out on a limb and draw another hard-to-believe conclusion of my own.

ICICI has strong historical, and much more current, association with the rapacious Wall Street Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase. J.P. Morgan was a co-founder of ICICI in 1955 - and more recently, there was a sizeable migration of Top Management from ICICI to J.P. Morgan India.

Now for some fact about J.P. Morgan. They run, and of course, profit from the largest proportion of the 'food stamps programme' encompassing 43 million Americans for the US government. That's nearly, 1 in 8 Americans - and growing! And the 'destination' for the 'food stamps' are the mega retail chain. Like, Walmart, Costco, Carrefour, Tesco, etc.

Now WHAT has food stamps possibly got to do with India?
- The Government of India is actively considering dismantling the Public Distribution System of food (PDS) and replacing it with a cheaper (albeit less effective) 'targeted food subsidy' - euphemism, for food stamps.
- The Government of India is pushing (I might add, pushing very hard) for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Retail Sector - euphemism for opening the floodgates for Walmart and its ilk.
- Much of J.P. Morgan's food stamps business is already being processed in India.
- ICICI is actively looking to expand banking to rural areas. And J.P. Morgan sees the untapped potential too.
- J.P. Morgan is looking to acquire banks / financial institution in India, and ICICI's long association makes it a strong contender, I would guess.

The connections I've drawn are tenuous, my conclusion may be wrong, and my concern completely unfounded. But facts are facts... I invite you to connect them any way you want to, add more information that you may come across, and arrive at your own conclusion.

But here's how a well-connected financial institution, a highly-controlled food subsidy programme, and mega retail stores - all mesh together beautifully in the guise of a (heavily identity-dependent) social security system...

Oh, and before we exit the twilight zone, here's another nugget: ICICI Bank is quite the pioneer in Bioinformatics too.

Addendum: A look at the vast untapped potential that UID opens up for corporations.

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