Aadhaar body refuses info on money spent on publicity
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has declined to divulge details of the money it spent on advertising and promoting the 12-digit biometrics-based identification number, Aadhaar, over the past eight years, according to economist Reetika Khera, who had filed an application under the Right to Information Act seeking the aforementioned details.
In her application dated November 15, 2017, Khera had sought the list of enrolment agencies empanelled since the creation of UIDAI in 2009 and the amount spent in each financial year for each agency. The UIDAI responded on January 3, 2018, but refused to divulge the details of expenses incurred on advertising and promotion.
HT has a copy of the RTI application and the UIDAI’s response.
UIDAI’s chief executive officer (CEO), deputy director general (media), assistant director general (ADG) and central public information officers (CPIO) did not respond to e-mails seeking their comment.
Himanshu, associate professor in Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU, said: “There is no reason why the government should be guarded about sharing this basic information. It is not a state secret that may have any harmful ramifications. After all, public money is being used for this makeover and branding.”
The UIDAI also did not spell out the reason for its refusal and mentioned Section 8(1)’s clauses D and J of the RTI Act as reasons for not giving the information.
The two clauses rule that an information officer can reject an application if it seeks information including commercial confidence, trade secrets and intellectual property, “the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party”; and personal information, “the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual”.
The RTI application was filed based on news reports from July 2014, which claimed that the UIDAI had received a go-ahead from the government to spend up to ~30 crore a year on “image makeover” and “branding campaigns” for Aadhaar. A 2010 memorandum of the Planning Commission had said vendors and agencies would be requisitioned by the UIDAI to execute marketing and communication campaigns on the ground. It also mentioned that a lot of expenses and operational resources will flow into these campaigns.
Khera said that the UIDAI’s response is worrying. “As per the RTI Act, the UIDAI should be disclosing this (information) proactively on its website. The disclosure is in public interest and the nature of the information is such that it cannot be denied to Parliament.”