In a setback to the Nandan Nilekani-led UIDAI's Aadhaar project, the Intelligence Bureau has told the government that Aadhaar-enrolled numbers were not a credible proof of residence.
The IB has also questioned the Unique Identification Authority of India’s liberal system of enrolling people under its introducer system, something that P Chidambaram had also flagged as home minister.
The report comes in the backdrop of UIDAI successfully hard-selling the Aadhaar number as an acceptable proof of identity and proof of residence, right from opening bank accounts to applying for driving license and passport.
The intelligence establishment has indicated that these decisions appear to have been taken without resolving basic problems highlighted during the peak of the home ministry-planning commission tussle in 2011. And then, some more.
Security sources said they remained uncomfortable with Aadhaar numbers being taken as gospel truth despite its system of data collection that is as prone to abuse as it is inclusive.
“The Aadhaar number is not a proof of residence... but only where a person claims to live,” a security source said.
He added this concern was addressed to a certain extent as long as Aadhaar numbers were delivered by speed post. “If a person received the Aadhaar number by post, it meant the address was accurate,” the source said. But once UIDAI allowed people to print their Aadhaar numbers from its website, even this safeguard is no longer present.
Besides, the security establishment has been severely critical of the UIDAI’s introducer system where anyone with an Aadhaar number can introduce others without any documentation to get the identity number. This means that a person can introduce someone, say a terrorist, with a fake name and address.
"This is a country where phone companies carry out antecedent checks before giving a phone... but there are no checks and balances before giving a terrorist a new identity," a government official said.
Sources said the IB had initially told the home ministry that Aadhaar should not even be treated as a proof of identity and had expressed fears about the manner in which the data about residents was handled by private parties. In the discussions that followed, UIDAI officials were, however, able to allay these concerns.
Sources said the IB’s concerns were still being scrutinised and discussed within the government whose direct benefit transfer project rides on the Aadhaar platform.