With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) dismissing media reports that claimed it was not necessary to link national identity card numbers i.e. Aadhaar numbers to bank accounts, the controversy over the right to privacy and the recent judgment of the Supreme Court again started hovering over the conscious psyche of common people.
RBI said that the mandatory linkage of Aadhaar to bank accounts is already under force under anti-money laundering rules since the presentation of the budget, when the Finance Minister applauded the achievements of his government in the Parliament, defended demonetization and stimulated the members of the Parliament vicariously about the process of curbing corruption, by linking Aadhaar to every mode of transaction and making it omnipresent in our lives.
“The Reserve Bank clarifies that, in applicable cases, linkage of Aadhaar number to bank account is mandatory under the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017,” it said in a statement.
The RBI also said that anti-money laundering rules announced in June 2017 have “statutory force” and banks have to implement them without awaiting further instructions.
Facing criticism on the decision of demonetization and Goods and Services Tax, the government seems to be in a hurry to keep its promises of curbing corruption, by taking quick steps the way it has been done in the case of GST and demonetization, envisioning that the linking of Adhaar with bank account and properties would lead to curbing of corruption.
Though it is a marvelous step towards identifying the citizen and his/her deeds, it is equally important to give them security from the misuse of such identification. The news of cloning of the Aadhaar number and the consequences of it we can perceive easily. In fact, their manifests fear of increase in crimes related to duplication of numbers.
Adhaar initially was not envisioned to be implemented in such a wide scale. It was basically done for the better implementation of the targeted Public Distribution System (PDS) and other benefits of the government, such as old-age pension and widow pension schemes. This is because other modes of targeting like stamp-based PDS were not up to the mark.
Undoubtedly, the linking of Aadhaar to these schemes will benefit the nation at large.
However, the question arises that if the government already has a scheme for creating a unique identity of every citizen in the pipe line, which will not only give the database of the citizens to the government, but it will also give people the pride of being identified citizens like in the United States of America and other Western European countries, which provide their citizens a Social Security number.
That scheme is the National Population Register, by which every citizen will be given National Identity Cards.
The National Population Register (NPR) is a ‘register’ of usual residents of the country. It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-district, district, state and national level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars
The data for National Population Register was collected in 2010 along with the houselisting phase of Census of India 2011. The data was updated in 2015 by conducting a door-to-door survey. The digitisation of the updated information is in process. The status of digitisation can be found here.
What is the point of running 2 identification schemes, with both having demographic and bio-metric data? If the data in National Population Register had already been collected, why forced continuation of Aadhaar? Even if Aadhaar is continued along with National Population register, why make it absolute compulsory? Incidents where the poor are refused ration due to lack of Aadhaar and they starve to death, is that the motto of Aadhaar?