Aadhaar bill strongest ever, but need ‘larger privacy bill’: Nilekani
Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of the unique identification authority of India (UIDAI), finds the new Aadhaar bill “the strongest that has ever come” in terms of privacy safeguardsindia Updated: Mar 18, 2016 10:35 IST
Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of the unique identification authority of India (UIDAI), finds the new Aadhaar bill “the strongest that has ever come” in terms of privacy safeguards, but emphasized the need for a “larger privacy bill” to address other concerns such as telephone tapping.
During the debate on the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill in Parliament this week, many lawmakers expressed apprehension about the possibility of misuse of biometric and other data collected under the Aadhaar scheme to give a unique identification number to all Indians.
Parliament cleared the bill on Wednesday but not before the Congress introduced amendments in the Rajya Sabha, forcing the government to take it back to the Lok Sabha. The lower house, where the NDA enjoys a clear majority, rejected the amendments, paving the way for the bill to become a law after it receives the President’s assent.
In a telephonic interview with HT on Thursday, Nilekani credited the previous UPA government for “initiating the vision” and the NDA government for “seeing the wisdom” of the project and taking it through to its “logical culmination” and putting in place a robust legal framework that will enable Aadhaar to be used in every kind of subsidy and beyond.
“We do need a larger privacy bill, not just for Aadhaar but also for many other things like privacy in telephone tapping and in other online systems,” said the Infosys cofounder. “Huge multinationals are taking data about millions of Indians abroad and nobody seems to be bothered. There are a lot of issues about privacy. That’s quite an omnibus approach.”
Nilekani, who was chosen by the UPA government to head the UIDAI and given Cabinet minister’s rank, praised the previous government for giving him “complete professional autonomy and support at critical times”.
On the Opposition’s criticism of the Aadhaar bill over privacy concerns, he said, “There is no solution that satisfies everybody…For people who are balanced in the middle and want to solve India’s problems, this is as good as one can get”.
The country is “on the verge of a revolution” as a billion people will have Aadhaar numbers. There are a few billion-plus online user systems and they are all controlled by foreign companies — Google has seven platforms with a billion users and Facebook has three. Even the Chinese have one or two such platforms, but they are in the private sector.
“This (Aadhaar) is the only case of a platform with a billion users in the government sector for public good. It has huge transformational potential,” said Nilekani, an entrepreneur who unsuccessfully contested the last Lok Sabha election from Bangalore South as a Congress candidate.
“I did...foray into politics but now I am out of it. I realise that my strength is not in politics. My strength is in problem-solving using technology and that’s where I am going to concentrate my efforts,” he said.